Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘SILA Trust’ Category

Diane and baby Tehillah Timbiti

There is much more that I want to write about in this blog, including many of my post-Africa musings on Scripture, the state of the world, and my life in general. But before I go any farther, I would be remiss to not post a public thanks in memory of Diane Grey.

When I left Eldoret on August 10, it was Diane who dropped me off at the small local airport. Little did I know it would be the last time I would see her–in this dimension at least.

Jesse's nickname for Diane was "Pinky."

I owe Diane a huge debt of gratitude. It was because of her hospitality that I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in Kenya.

I met her in early September of 2010, about a month after the passing of her husband Jesse. They had been living in Greenville, SC, waiting for him to recover from kidney complications due to diabetes–and then they planned to return to Kenya, where they had spent the past 20 years. After Jesse’s passing, Diane immediately began to make plans to return to her beloved adopted homeland. That’s when I entered the picture.

My pastor, Wendall Ward, connected us, knowing that I was praying about returning to Africa for a longer visit. (I had previously visited the nation of Niger in the Spring of 2010 for a 17 day trip with a group from our church). After chatting on the phone with Diane and spending a day together in Greenville, we both agreed for me to make plans to come to Kenya in 2011–and that is how my whole wonderful adventure began.

Left to Right: Abraham Tarus, Margaret Tarus, David Kipyego, Ruth Kipyego, Joseph Kibet. Front row: Ann Fyall, Diane, Judah

She showed me a lot of the ropes of living in Kenya, introduced me to some wonderful people, including everyone I met through SILA and EERC. (Both these ministries are direct fruit from their ministry, Kweli, and I told Diane I saw Jesse’s footprints all over the place in people that I met—even in remote places like Barwessa).

I never got to meet Jesse in person, but I was able to know him a bit in the spirit through his African family, as well as Diane. In addition to being a Bible teacher with a prophetic edge, he was also an artist–and his paintings and drawings of Kenyan wildlife filled Diane’s beautiful African-themed house. (I miss her big, sliding glass window/doors that filled the living room with light and opened directly into her yard. I miss those beautiful ever-flowering trees, in whose shade I used to pray…I miss the grove of sugar cane outside the kitchen window. I also miss her wonderful cooking, especially that Nigerian Peanut soup).

Diane loved to giggle. She had a wry sense of humour and a practical outlook on life and ministry. She loved children and served them in many practical ways, like paying school fees for them to go to school, making curtains for the children at Dominion Home or filling 300 bags of popcorn for the EERC kids when they went on field trips. Limited in some ways by her health challenges, she did what she could. She was a strong support and mother figure to SILA, and also greatly assisted Ann Fyall in overseeing the Dominion Home. (Ann lives in the United States and comes to Africa several times a year to manage the Home and connect with the kids, etc). She was a wonderful and generous hostess.

Diane and spiritual son, David Kipyego

Together, Jesse and Diane did a great work in Kenya, teaching believers the gospel of the kingdom. They played a foundational role in teaching and discipling the core group of SILA (David Kipyego, Joseph Kibet and Abraham Tarus and their families—as well as many others).

While other missionaries and aid workers, as well as Kenyans themselves bemoaned the rampant corruption in the Kenyan government and church (I heard piles of horror stories from the first day I arrived in Kenya, believe me), SILA truly stands out a solid ministry of integrity, transparency, righteousness, humility and true service.

Crammed "bus" ride home from school

I see EERC as not only a model school for Kenya, but Africa as a whole. If a school in the USA was doing some of the things that EERC is doing (ie, organic garden on the school property that the kids eat from, power generated by bio-gas from the local cows, etc.) they would be considered cutting-edge…and that is to say nothing of the loving, nurturing and supportive environment that the school provides not only for the children, but also for the teachers and the rest of the staff. It was amazing to see such an incredible model of how great a school can be–in Africa no less!

Diane showing some kids how to use a computer

Of course, the school–being quite young–is still in need of many basic supplies such as matatus (busses or vans) to transport the kids to and from school, books for a school library, computers, and other similar classroom items. (Notice how I am cleverly making a plug for donations for EERC in the midst of a blog post about Diane? Somehow, I think she would be pleased!)

Diane passed away on October 3 of 2011, just about 6 weeks after I had returned back to the States. She had several long-standing health issues, but her passing was sudden and unexpected. I know that her many friends in Kenya must still miss her greatly.

The last I talked to her, she was still planning on building a house on her Kweli property (next to the children’s home) and growing an acre or two of coffee–the blossoms of which she said smelled like jasmine or orange blossoms. She had spent part of her life in Florida, and the blossoms would remind her of home. She was looking forward to their fragrance blowing through her bedroom window at night.

Our first day in Nairobi, Diane took me to her beloved "Java House;" a great European-style coffeeshop

Though she initially hated Africa, (she told me that she cried most of her first year there) her life is a testimony to the transforming power of God…In those early days, she would have never believed it if someone told her that she would happily live the rest of her life in Kenya, even returning alone to the place she once loathed to spend the rest of her days there.

As her husband had requested before he died, she carried his ashes with her across the ocean and scattered them over the Kerio Valley. Less than a year later, she joined him. But through the lives of those they touched, Kenya will never be the same–and the legacy continues, even in their absence.

I think that is a most happy ending to a wonderful story.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Dirt Road into the future coffee farm

Yesterday was an amazing day. I had the opportunity to travel with David and Joseph and their friend Joel (pronounced “Joe-el”) out to the traditional family area in the Kerio Valley where Joseph and Joel grew up. They are planning to start an organic coffee farm in the jungly hills ascending from the valley; a farm that the whole community will be participating in to some extent.

Joel

A devout and godly man, Joel had lived and studied in the United States and is a professor at Moi University. Before he went to the States, he promised God that after he received his education, he would return to Kenya to help his people. He was true to his word, even after being offered a green card and a nice job in the States. I really enjoyed getting to know this humble and interesting man who was full of information about the Kerio Valley.

Amazing Tree

The Kerio Valley is a part of the larger Great Rift Valley that is almost 4,000 miles long, running from Syria to Mozambique. The Jordan River actually begins in the northernmost area of the Rift Valley, as does the Sea of Galilee. This explains why there are traces of a Judeo tradition and ethic that has been a part of the traditional cultures of the Rift Valley peoples for countless generations. Many of the tribes practiced circumcision, and had other biblical practices. The word “Kerio” actually evolved from the Kalenjin word “keiyo” meaning, “the people who give life.” These life-giving people migrated from Sudan over 2,000 years ago, and their oral history traces them back to ancient Egypt. (Thanks, Joel and Wikipedia!)

Sun in the papaya trees

The whole valley really has a “life giving” feeling. The valley floor is a lush desert and as one ascends upwards, the incredibly fertile land yields just about anything you would plant in it. An executive from the Kenya Coffee Board recently assessed the land and the soil and said it was an exceptional area for growing coffee.

medicinal plant used to treat asthma

The people plant millet on the terraced hills, and there is also a wide variety of medicinal plants, as well as fruits like mangoes and bananas growing prolifically. Joel told me that this area was a place that barren women and impotent men would come to be healed; thus the name “the life giving” valley.

Maybe that is part of the reason that I love it down there so much. Literally every time I go into that valley, it is like something opens up and relaxes on the inside of me. The cliffs also remind me a tiny bit of Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona–as well as Hawaii.

Cliffs shrouded by clouds

My friends explained to me that the Kerio Valley has become to most Kenyans, a place to get away from. In modern times, the beauty of the valley has been overshadowed by its poverty and lack of clean water–quite tragic really, when one considers that in addition its other natural resources, the Valley also has oil, platinum, and other precious gems that have not been mined. (God, I hope no mining company comes in there and destroys all that beauty–surely there is a way to extract natural resources without destroying everything beautiful along the way).

Apparently an oil company is coming in to begin mining in another part of the valley, where David is from. Our concern is that they will not fairly share the profit with the people who live there, whose land it is. Even Libya is trying to get in on the oil. (“Oil Libya” is one of the main gas stations in Africa. I saw it in Niger, and it is also here in Kenya).

young boy at work

After getting down into the Valley, we took a dirt road off the highway that led us to Joseph’s childhood hometown. Cars are very infrequent here, and the dirt roads are more likely to be populated with sleeping cattle and prancing goats than anything with wheels.

butterflies on ground

Along the way, we passed through several large swarms of butterflies, all blue, yellow and white. We had to stop the car several times just to get out and walk in their midst (like walking through a whisper of a gentle tornado of fluttering flower petals). We were even able to get a few pictures of them on the ground.

After travelling a while, we took an even more primitive dirt road, which made the previous one seem like a highway. This new road was recently made by the community—the old fashioned way—by hand, using hoes. I have no idea how many cars have actually driven down it.

Slowly following a herd of goats on the primitive road

We slowly climbed the escarpment until we reached the end of the road, where the terraced farming begins; still well below the sheer cliffs above.

Planting millet with her grandmother

Women—ranging from grandmas to children–were planting millet, each in their traditional family plot that has been theirs for untold generations.

Each plot is marked off by stone boundaries which have not been moved for over 1,000 years. The family plots were originally created by one member of the family throwing a stone behind him as far as he could throw it. Where it landed was the first stone in the boundary line of that particular piece of property.

Ancient stone boundary

Joel found his family plot, which will be part of the coffee farm, in addition to the surrounding hills that are currently not being cultivated, according to the will and vote of the community.

Boys in the burned wood

The whole area had been recently cleared by burning. While we waited there for the village chief to meet with us, I wandered around and met some of the people. Without a doubt, I was the first white person that some of the kids had ever seen, and several times during the day, I made babies cry simply by showing up! The people speak Kalenjin first, and a bit of Swahili after that. A few spoke some English. Somehow we managed to communicate a bit.

After we left the terraced farms, we began to descend back into the valley. About halfway down, we stopped at a farm, where a man had agreed to use a large portion of his uncultivated land for coffee seedlings.

farmhouse

He had a beautiful little farmhouse, with three girls weeding maize in the yard, one of them with a little baby tied to her back. (This particular baby screamed and hid his face from me. I never even got to see what he looked like!)

Farmer’s daughters

Farmer and I

The farmer and I became great friends as I chattered in the little Swahili that I have picked up. He loved seeing pictures of him and his children on my camera.

Village kids

I also met a lot of children and village women up on the road above his house.

The girl with the red collar is named Daisy

Kids were running down the road making all kinds of noise. When I asked my friends what they were being so loud about, I was told that they were yelling and screaming about a white person being in their midst. Eventually they gathered around me, along with their mothers.

Scholar

One friendly lady named Scholar was especially talkative and obviously prophetically named since she spoke more English than anyone else there!

When we made it back down to the village, David, Joseph and Joel gathered with the chief and village elders under a large tree. They sat there for several hours as different ones took turns speaking and presenting their views and questions.

Elder’s meeting under the tree

Everyone was excited about the prospects of having the coffee farm in their midst. I sat in the meeting for a while, but since I didn’t understand anything, I decided to explore around the community.

A glorified ant hill

I met more beautiful children and was finally able to look inside a small termite mound (the heat wafting out of that thing could cook a meal!)

Tobacco lady

I sat with this old lady under a tree for a while. She had a small plastic container tucked inside her hat. During our “conversation,” she pulled out the container, and poured some brown powder into her hand, which she then sniffed up her nose. I found out later it was tobacco.

I also met a young college student named Carol who was home visiting her family from a university in Nairobi. She invited me into their little café and took me back into their yard.

Carol and siblings with hand-made bricks

After feeding me a hot chapatti and introducing me to her younger siblings, she showed me the bricks that they make and sell and gave me some mangoes from their trees. I went back to the car and brought her some small Italian almond cookies that I had found at the grocery store (quite a treat–those are some of my favorite cookies). Soon, I was sharing the bag with everyone around there; young and old.

When I came back to the Meeting Under The Tree, it was winding down, so I sat in on the rest of it. I was privileged to be asked share a word with the group and close it in prayer, so I spoke and prayed out of the love of God that was burning in my heart for them.

Karen

After the meeting, a young lady came up to me—the only other woman who had attended the meeting, or at least part of it. I immediately had such a love for her. She shared with me that she was a single mother trying to raise her two children alone and in desperate need of a job to take care of her kids and maybe save some money to go to school. She was wondering if the coffee farm would hire her. I introduced her to my friends and they told her to check back next month. I saw a strength in her that would not be held back; a beautiful boldness in her heart. We prayed together under the tree. I hope I see her again next month…Please pray for her. Her name is Karen.

After we left the village gathering, we had another appointment to keep. There is a local farmer who is already growing some coffee in his jungle-farm, so we went to check it out.

The enchanted entrance

After parking the truck, we hiked on a tiny trail through some beautiful terrain, until we came around the corner to the most magical entrance to any property that I have ever seen.Hidden under and large natural arch of overgrown pink and white and yellow flowers was a tiny gate made of sticks that you had to duck down to enter.

In the coffee farm jungle

After entering the enchanted gate, we found ourselves in a virtual jungle, all damp and shadowy with coffee plants randomly growing everywhere. (I hope this farmer is getting good money for his organic, shade grown coffee from the fertile Kerio valley, but the looks of things kinda told me otherwise).

There were all kinds of other edible plants back there, including a profusion of mulberries, which we snacked on as we walked.

Porcupine quills

This farmer had a cute little son who solemnly followed us around. After we warmed up to each other, he began chattering in Kalenjin to me. I could tell he was wanting me to follow him, and so we left the group. He took me up a little hill, and showed me his cool treasure—a pile of huge porcupine quills. He generously gave one to me, which I am keeping for a memento. I don’t know how that little boy knew that I would like to see something like that, but I am glad he did!

Steps leading up to restaurant

By the time we got back in the truck it was almost dark and we were starving. Amazingly enough, there is a nice restaurant/hotel in the area—the only one for miles. It was started by a former UN Ambassador from Kenya to Australia and Europe. This man built a really nice place in homeland, and if I lived in that valley I would go there often to eat—it has the best “nyama choma” (roasted goat) that I have had since I have been here. Usually nyama choma is so tough I don’t know how people even chew it, but this was tender and delicious. We also ate a big plate of ugali and kachumbari.

We were all every excited and satisfied with the events of the day and felt the Lord’s blessing and presence with us throughout. I really think our coffee is going to be some of the best in the world. The soil is mineral rich and the climate is perfect. Our coffee will be organic and shade grown—and tended to by a wonderful community of people from the “life giving valley.” I can’t wait to drink a cup of it!  ~Mercy Aiken

More photos from the day:

African Dog

Another Ordinary Daisy

Beautiful smile

beautiful young girl

Big sister and baby brother

Burned wood

Ripening coffee beans

Grandma farmer

Strong young woman

Man with dog

David, Joseph and Joel speaking with the Chief on the mountain

Eating a tuber

Farming girls

Emmanuel

Peeking through the fence

With the kiddos

Flower covered tree

Site of future coffee farm

I am never one to turn down a nice stem

Snacking on mulberries

A village eldeer

Village elder

Village elder

Sad puppy

Tobacco lady

Tobacco

Mud shack

Joel, Joseph and David (speaking) at meeting under tree

Scared baby

David eating off the land

These chickens had strange-looking red necks

Cute building in town

Cows sleeping on road

The tall man is the Chief

Porcupine quill boy

Some things are sadly ubiquitous

Some things are ubiquitous

Termite Castle

I love her yellow dress

Read Full Post »

Monday morning student assembly

SILA is doing so many great things! I really don’t think I have devoted enough time in this blog to properly explain what an amazing work this ministry is doing–and so I want to devote one whole blog to nuthin’ but SILA and its multifarious ministries.

EERC Motto

What is SILA? A “coat of many colors.” It is a rainbow umbrella ministry under which the school–EERC (Eldoret Educational Resource Center)—and many other programs sit. Among other things, SILA drills wells in areas where people still lack an adequate supply of clean drinking water, manages several businesses, (including a new European-style coffeeshop in the works for downtown Eldoret—YAY!!), distributes food and clothing in disaster areas, helps oversee the Dominion Children’s Home, and is now getting ready to launch into organic coffee farming. Diane will be growing some of it on the KWELI property, and another coffee farm will soon be set up in the impoverished Kerio Valley; providing new jobs for an economically-depressed community. SILA also has several other businesses in Nairobi, all helping to fund this giant venture.

Since I spend so much time at the school property, I wanted to give you a better overview of what it looks like and how it operates. The school itself is situated in the midst of a big organic farm, providing healthy food for the children and staff and also providing a source of income. From the plants to the cows to the chickens—everything is organic.

Ann Fyall with her "Dominion" cow. The ever-present birds are on the roof.

Like much of Africa, the property is “off the grid,” but there are solar panels around the property to generate enough electricity when it is needed. The manure from the 4 or 5 cows is recycled into fertilizer and biogas. The bio gas is stored in a big “balloon” in a room all by itself and used when necessary. Instead of spraying “cow town” with poison to keep pests away, there are some special birds who were brought in to live around the cows and feed off of the flies, keeping everything very sanitary and pleasant. We recently made new homes for the birds to keep them safe from prowling cats.

The eco-choo

The eco-choo (pronounced “choe”) is basically a new and improved outhouse, with the human waste also recycled into fertilizer. (I didn’t know such a thing was possible until I came here). The eco-choo is a miracle of modern innovation, because it hardly stinks at all! And like all true Kenyan toilets, the choo is a big hole that you squat over (men and women alike). Toilets for sitting on are a western idea and quite a luxury around here.

The "bathroom sink"

Outside of the choo is the washroom consisting of four little sinks attached to a big tank of water that is refilled every day; complete with a bar of white soap that we all share.

Cute little calf

Wandering around one section of the school property are cows, which are regularly let out of their pen to graze in the fresh grass. In addition to fertilizer and gas, they also supply fresh milk for the school, staff, Dominion Children’s home, and others.

Big pots of chai

Milk is mainly used in chai (tea) which is offered several times a day (mid morning and after school) to students and teachers alike. Everyone eats two unbuttered slices of bread with their chai, both in the morning and afternoon. (I don’t mind drinking this milk, knowing that it is free of all the junk that is found in our overly-processed milk back home).

Lunch in the dining hall

The school kitchen also provides one big meal in the middle of the day for everyone. It is usually ugali (cornmeal porridge eaten with the fingers, like masa or polenta) and some kind of vegetable like cabbage cooked with tomatoes and onions. We also often eat githeri (beans and maize), or something else with beans, maize, rice, potatoes and/or veggies. The maize is NOT the corn that we have back home. The kernels are bigger, like corn nuts, and always a bit tough and chewy. Occasionally we get goat stew. We also eat a lot of “green grams” as they are called around here—-stewed green mung beans. Cilantro is a popular seasoning. Other than that, the food is rather bland but tasty. Salt is served in a big bowl, from which everyone grabs a pinch or two.

the school kitchen

Unlike the United States, there are virtually no picky eaters amongst the Kenyan kids. They eat what is put in front of them and I doubt it ever crosses anyone’s mind to complain about the food or ask for something else. There IS nothing else, so they know it is eat up or go hungry. Everyone eats pretty much the same thing here. As far as sweets go, candy and soda are very rare and special treats. Cakes and biscuits (cookies) are not nearly as sweet as they are in the US.

Looking through kitchen window into dining hall

The ladies in the kitchen work all day long, making chai and the big daily meal that feeds over 200 people. The wood stoves they cook on were especially designed to be fuel efficient and use less wood.

Staredown behind the henhouse

The farm also has about 1,000 chickens. (“Cluckety-Cluck Central,” I like to call it). The amount of hens is soon to double, after another new big hen house is finished. The eggs are of course, organic, and sold for income as well as given away. Just for fun–and for the hand’s-on education of the kids–there are also a few ducks wandering around, a rabbit house and a large desert tortoise which we found crossing the highway in the Kerio Valley.

The farm grows Cabbage, Sukuma Wiki (a green leafy similar to kale), Managua (a native green that is somewhat bitter and delicious), carrots, onions and tomatoes (in the greenhouses), green beans, and other vegetables, including some from Korea.

Passionfruit is a climbing vine

We also have a special variety of passionfruit that we bred together—one variety being sweeter and the other being more fruitful. The seedlings have been growing in a greenhouse and were just planted out in the fresh air.

Wesley and Apollos

In addition to all this, the school is getting its own climbing wall! They say it is the first of its kind in Kenya. The wall is being built by Wesley Eom, from Korea.

Wesley examining some coffee equipment

Wesley and his friend Apollos Shim have been here for over a month, helping the ministry and working in the Kerio Valley. These Korean brothers are gentle, godly and humble, and have added so much to SILA. Wesley was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis years ago, but he has made it a point to exercise every day since his diagnosis; running, stretching, rock climbing, and hiking in the Alps and Himalayas. He is a walking miracle, defying all expectations from his doctors. Of course, he is a great advocate for daily exercise and it was his idea to build the kids a climbing wall. It should be done soon and I will post pictures. Wesley is involved in many global trading businesses, including coffee. He can often tell just by tasting a bean, where it was grown.

Apollos with my guitar

Apollos is an incredible musician and technological genius. He can make my guitar say a lot more than just “thumpa thumpa.” These men, along with business partners back in Korea have invested much into SILA, helping it to provide the finances to build it from the ground up.

In addition to all this, we also have a huge closet full of clothing and shoes donated from Korea, to be distributed at Kakuma refugee camp and elsewhere. On slower days, I muddle through the boxes in that room and sort out the clothes for upcoming distribution.

Teacher Grace and class--learning about ducks

EERC has only been open for one year and has already accomplished so much. Every area of the school is still growing and being developed. In the days ahead, EERC is expecting the shipment of 2 pianos. Pianos, like any other musical instrument, are scarce as hen’s teeth ‘round these parts. I am excited for the kids and look forward to seeing how their Arts Department continues to develop, as well as every other area of the school. For all my friends and family who might be thinking about coming over here and helping out sometime—I can assure you that you would have something to give here, and you will be a great blessing.

Baby, Middle and Top Class havin' church

It is exciting being a part of something that I can so wholeheartedly believe in and give my energies to. I love the creative, hands-on learning environment that has been fostered at EERC and I honestly see it as being a model for schools all over the world. With an understanding of need for righteous stewardship of the land and animals, respect for the individual gifting and talents of each child, and the healthy working environment for the teachers and staff, EERC strives to bring glory to God in everything that it does. An unashamedly Christian school, there are Bible studies held every day for different portions of the staff, some of which I lead—as well as two wonderful “kid’s fellowships” every week. In a board meeting last week, Joseph made a few profound statements that really impacted me, and show the heart of the school:

“There is no more supportive environment than an environment where God is”

and

“As you do for these children, you do for yourself.”

Amen and amen! I only wish that there were more schools/ministries around the world that operated like this one.

Field trip on the school property

Little Ramona, whose mother died a few weeks ago

shoes neatly lined up outside of class

Entrance to "cluckety-cluck-ville"

Looking at the rabbits

Read Full Post »

This has been a wonderful weekend.  SILA held a weekend-long “Workers Empowerment” meeting that went for most of the day on Saturday and until about 3 or 4 this afternoon (Sunday).  In addition to the weekly training and discipleship meetings, the “workers empowerment weekend” is designed for intensive study and to help bring everyone on to the same page.  The entire SILA staff comes, from farmers to teachers.  Others also come who are just hungry to learn more about God.  One man drove from a town several hours away to join us. There were probably about 60 or 70 people there, and many, many kids—including the staff and children from Dominion Home.

Yesterday, Joseph, David and I all spoke. Their desire is to help everyone understand that whatever they are doing is sacred–rather than secular– and that they are called into ministry in whatever they are doing.  David spoke for at least three hours straight!  The man can preach! I was so happy to hear how they are teaching a mature word of the Kingdom and I felt great freedom to share from my heart. I spoke on the “planting of the Lord.”  It was what the Lord specifically told me to teach on–the Seed of Christ being planted within us and our new nature in Him, as a Tree of Life. He said to tell them that they are His planting, the planting of the Lord.  I spoke last and all of our messages seemed to build upon one another…it was like one long message with many voices—which is how it should be! (I suppose my message was “short” since I only spoke about an hour).  

I also brought my guitar and was able to lead worship in my first Swahili song, as well as several others in English.  It was so exciting to be able to bless them by singing in their language, but I know that I was the most blessed!

I love how they worship in these meetings.  In between messages, everyone prays and someone might stand up and share what they got out of the message.  Someone else might break into prayer.  Another person will just spontaneously start singing, often in the traditional “call and response” style and then someone else in a different part of the congregation will launch out with a different song. Without making a big deal about it, the services are all directed by the Holy Spirit and everyone is free to participate and speak and lead in song. The songs are probably about half English and half Swahili. And what worshippers they are! I felt right at home with them and the presence of the Lord was very sweet in our midst. 

After the meeting we had beans, rice, ugali, and goat stew as well as nyama chuma: roasted goat.  They slaughtered a goat just for the meeting, so it was fresh!  And delicious!  We also had “chai,” which is the basic word for tea..…with milk and sugar, just the way I like it. (Chai Masala is what we think of in the US, with the spices in it).

I discovered last night that I would be speaking again this morning, so when we came home, I got together my next message.  Again, the Lord told me specifically what to share:  His desire for relationship with us, and His desire for the 1st commandment to be in the first place, leading into the second. It is all about love. This is our highest call, and this is what brings us to maturity in Him. It is open to everyone. I knew that He really wanted to touch their hearts and let them know how valuable their love is to Him. He wanted to set them free from living before the eyes of man, and live in confidence and joy before the eyes of God.

When we got there this morning, everyone was so ready, and so hungry in the spirit. All the early birds broke into spontaneous worship and we sang and sang until everyone else arrived.   Diane spoke first this morning–on faith.  She shared a lot of her testimony with Jesse and their walk of faith.  It was very encouraging to us all.   The Lord’s presence was so strong and sweet all day.  At the end of my message He gave me a prophetic song from His heart to sing to them.  I could see the Holy Spirit ministering to many.  It was so beautiful to see some wiping away tears of joy. Afterwards, we all ate again.  It was a wonderful time and I am glad that I am starting to get to know everyone.

I just want to thank you all for your prayers for me, because God is really showing up in a wonderful way here.  He has taken me past so many fears—and given me such joy and confidence in what I am doing here.

I drank fresh boiled organic milk today with my meal—from one of the cows on the property.  It was good!  There were loads of kids at the meetings.  They would always come in for part of the service and then be released early so they could run and play in the big school yard.  I got tears in my eyes each morning when the orphans from Dominion Home came walking in all properly and took their little seats in our midst, some glancing over at me with shy, excited little smiles.  I spent time playing with them outside between meetings.  There were four little girls named Mercy in the big group of kids.  It is a VERY common name here.  They were all surprised to discover that my name is very unusual in the United States.  There were also several kids named “Praiser,” (I love that) as well as many names like, Faith, Hope, Joy, Patience, etc.  I held a little baby named Joy, and everyone joked that Joy and I looked just alike, except our hair was different! Ha!

Tomorrow afternoon, one of my new friends, Ruth–who is a teacher at SILA– is going to take me to buy African fabric and then over to a seamstress, so I can have some traditional dresses made.  I hope I look very “smart” in them.  (If you are told your hair looks “smart” or your outfit is “smart,” that is a big compliment around here.  Everyone wants to look “smart” including myself.)

There is so much more I want to share with you; about the elegant Blue Gum trees that are a type of Sycamore, with pale trunks and peeling bark…the orange and fuschia bougainvilla, the roses—of every color—that are imported to Europe (you can get a dozen delivered to your house for just a little over $3), the huge sisal agave cacti and cactus trees all mixed in with the pines, palms, and perpetually flowering trees (pink, purple and orange/red).  There are plant nurseries all over the place, and this is a great part of Kenya to grow coffee; one of SILA’s next projects. 

In climate, this is a city of eternal springtime and it is hard to believe that Eldoret is the site of such a horrendous massacre that took place just a few years ago during the last presidential election.  (Eldoret is accented on the first syllable by the way—for those who like to know how to pronounce the words they are reading, even if only in their mind!)  In those days, they created a makeshift refugee camp out on the fairgrounds…and on Friday, those fairgrounds were used for a huge agricultural show; clogging up traffic in town so badly that all we could do was inch along to the “roundabout” where a muzungu and about 100 Kenyans were arguing over a fender bender.  I think the roundabout (a big circle with 4 or 5 roads leading out of it like spokes on a wheel) is a rather horrid chaos-breeding British import. I suppose they work OK if people follow the rules, but here it is nothing but a free for all.  Kudos again to Diane for her amazing driving skills!  She can hold her own with the best of them!

After almost 2 weeks here, I am amazed at the resiliency of the Kenyan people; all the African people, really.  They have endured things that would send many Americans into a therapy cycle for the next 20 years, but somehow they just keep going—and they do it with a smile on their face.

Read Full Post »

March 1

One week ago tonight I landed in Nairobi!  It is a beautiful, sunny morning here in Eldoret with blue skies and soft winds blowing.  Temperatures have been in the 70’s ever since I got here…maybe occasionally the very low 80’s. The rainy season should begin this month, though some are predicting that it will be delayed because of the ongoing drought in this region.  Rainy season is “cold” season.  They do not think in terms of summer or winter, but in terms of rainy or dry season.

I spoke this morning at the Bible study that the teachers have out at SILA’s EEC (Eldoret Educational Center).  We spent a long time singing, which was wonderful.  I was only able to share a part of the study I had prepared on being a person of “One Thing,” like David, Mary of Bethany, and Paul (Psalm 27:4, Luke 10:38-42, and Phil 3:7-15). I will probably share more along the same lines this weekend.  We will be having meetings all weekend long, with many different speakers.  I am really looking forward to it.

Since I have been here, I have felt the desire and heartbeat of God to bring people out of religious ritual and into a living relationship with Him.  We were created to experience a dynamic, fulfilling adventure with God.  Our hearts were designed to be exhilarated in His presence and to revel in His love and the knowledge of His delight in us. I can tell that many people here (as everywhere) are bored with God and bored with their faith. My heart’s desire is to help people come into a deeper, more vital walk with Him…to know His presence; to enjoy Him, and to know they are enjoyed BY HIM.

I am especially excited to have a part in helping the orphans at Dominion Home to grow up in the knowledge of the fatherhood of God…that they will no longer see themselves as motherless or fatherless, but they will be so confident in His love and care for them, and be richly fulfilled with a new identity as whole-hearted lovers of God and man–and be nation-changers.  The verse that has been in my spirit so strongly as I have prepared for this trip is 1 Sam 2:8 “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory.”   I can hardly read this verse without weeping, as I think of the little smiling faces out at the orphanage–some of whom would probably be dead right now, if they had not been rescued.…and the many others that have caught my eye and heart in the short time that I have been here. 

Blessed are the poor….the poor in spirit….those who know their need and are open to God—for theirs is the kingdom of heaven….their inheritance is the throne of glory!  Not just pie in the sky, but right here, right now.  As Jesus said, the kingdom of heaven is near you—even within your grasp (at hand).

Thank You Lord, for Your kingdom coming to Kenya, Africa, and all the world!

Read Full Post »

Kweli/SILA/Dominion  Feb 25

This has been an amazing day.  Diane and I went out to visit the SILA headquarters in Eldoret.  They have – acres, housing a primary school, several large greenhouses, two huge gardens, a home for 1,000 chickens, and several cows, as well as a large kitchen for the school, play area for the kids, cafeteria, and a processing station which converts cow manure into biogas and fertilizer.  The whole operation runs on bio gas and is completely self-sustaining.  Everything is organic.  They also have dry toilets which converts human waste into fuel and fertilizer.  Nothing is wasted anywhere. Even the kitchen uses fuel-efficient wood burning stoves. There are about 40 employees, from farm workers to teachers.  All of the produce from the farm is used either to feed the kids and workers, or to sell.  Among the plants they grow are native Kenyan vegetables and greens, tomatoes and onions in the greenhouse, and passion fruit, which they are just starting. (They are grafting two versions of the fruit into a new version of the fruit which should be sweeter and more fruitful than other versions). In addition to all of this, SILA also drills new wells, advocates and sells dry toilet systems such as they use, and many other projects that are focused on demonstrating the heart of God in practical ways and serving the people of Kenya.  Their goal is to “take church outside of church” and make it real and practical in everyday life. 

As part of their desire to bring the kingdom of God to every facet and area of life, they have many discipleship meetings (about 15 to 20 a week) for the staff.  Some are just for the teachers, and some are for the employees and some are special meetings for the kids. I have been invited to speak and minister at as many of these meetings as I want to…and I will start next Tuesday by sharing with the School teachers in their devotional meeting early in the morning before school begins.  I think I will probably teach a series based on the Sermon on the Mount. I told God I wanted to be stretched, so here we go!!!

I am also thrilled that I have been invited to join David and some of the others as they venture up to the Kakama refugee camp on the Sudan border next month. I had been wanting to go there and praying much for that place but had decided to drop my push to go there since I heard that it was dangerous (bandits, thieves and murderers around there) with treacherous roads. Missionaries have been murdered while driving there.  I told the Lord I would not bring it up again and that if He wanted me to go, someone would invite me.  Well, that has already happened!  SILA received a ton of clothing, medicine, vitamins, shoes, etc from a ministry in South Korea that he is friends with.  I mean a whole room full of boxes of stuff to be distributed.  I saw it today at the SILA property.  They are going up to distribute it and I get to tag along! 

SILA is run by a team of talented Kenyans with a BIG vision.  It was started by David Kipyego, who is a close spiritual son of Diane and Jesse Grey.  He is a nation changer who thinks outside the box, as well as an anointed minister and apostolic in mindset and calling.  To boot, he has a total servant heart and is really humble.  They are all a great team of people. Several of them were over for dinner last night and I played my guitar and we all sang and worshipped together in the evening.  The presence of the Lord was sweet. 

(God bless Joann Varner, by the way, who told me on Sunday that she wanted to pay for me to bring my guitar with me.  I can see that I will get tremendous use out of it while I am here).

 After visiting SILA, we went to the Dominion Children’s home and school, started by my friend Ann Fyall from Greenville, SC.  SILA also helps to oversee Dominion, and together with Kweli they all work as a team.  Really, you could say the whole thing is one ministry with three different aspects to it. 

I had seen pictures of the Dominion kids, but I was totally unprepared for how much it would impact me to see them in person.  They are all soooo cute, with amazing smiles.  I made it a game to learn their names and ages.  There are two 9 year olds (Naomi and Solomon) and the rest are younger, with the majority of them being 6 years old.  The newest addition is Titus (6) who joined the home in Dec.  He was found dying in a maize field but today he is a bright and smiling, affectionate little boy.  Before long they were climbing on me and letting me tickle them and play games with them.  We came inside the house and all ate lunch together—cooked cabbage (with tomatoes, onions and cream.  It was dee-lish) and ugali, which is basically cornmeal porridge cooked until you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers which is how all the kids ate it.  They love ugali.  It was basically a cross between masa (used for tortillas and tamales) and polenta. We hung out with the kids for several hours. 

I am really looking forward to going back to visit and work with them when class is in session, as well as coming over in the evenings to read them stories.  Some of them don’t even know their ABC’s, and none of them speak English too well, so we will be starting from the beginning.  Can I just say again that I am soooooooo glad I brought my guitar?  It is going to be a ton of fun to sing with the kiddos. SILA had just dug a new well on their property and everyone is so impressed with how clear and clean the water is.  The well will service not only the home and school but also the surrounding community.

The foods here are delicious.  My kind of food—heavy on the vegetables and flavorful.  My favorite dish so far might be katumbara—a mix of grated beets, chopped tomatoes, onions, and chilies.  I never really liked beets much, but I could eat katumbara all day.  Diane is on a major health kick and losing weight, so we eat lots of “spinach” (it is actually another leafy green that is similar to spinach, but everyone calls it spinach), lentils, salads, fruit (mangoes, papaya and pineapple mostly), butternut squash soup, etc.  I feel great and am eating better than I did in the states! They make lots of homemade yogurt here, from fresh cow milk.  I can’t wait to try it. Kenya would be a perfect place to open the Healing Center that I have dreamed about…land and labor is cheap, etc.

A common means of public transportation here is the “tuk tuk” (pronounced “took took”).  It is a piece of “technology” as one Kenyan explained that is created from the parts of a motorcycle.  A tuk tuk hauls 6 people around, including the driver, in a tiny carriage with three wheels that is started like a lawnmower—with a pulley to crank the engine! It putzes along and wheezes and seems to be on the verge of breaking down constantly, but nevertheless manages to get people where they need to be going.  Imagine how fast a motorcycle would go if it was hauling 6 people (uphill), and you get the idea.  Imagine being squeezed in so tight, you might as well as be on the lap of the person next to you…Now add in the smells of B.O. and diesel fuel and you have a pretty good feeling of what it is like to ride in a tuk tuk. I rode one downtown yesterday with Anna, Diane’s helper.  It was an experience…so was the glue sniffing gang boy who tried to con me with a smile so that his friends could steal my camera from behind.  I am glad Anna was with me, who explained to me how the street kids work and what to watch out for.

Kenya reminds me much more of Mexico than Niger. Niger was far more rustic, isolated-feeling, and quieter.  Diane told me today that Kenya is roughly 80% African, 12% Asian (mostly people from India) and 8% white (mostly from the UK).

Read Full Post »

Feb 23

I am finally here in Eldoret, after 24 hours in airplanes and airports, a night in Nairobi, and a 6 hour drive over the equator up into the mountains, where we are nestled at 7,000 feet, amongst tropical pines, frangipani flowers, and cactus trees.

My plane ride from Amsterdam to Nairobi yesterday was very interesting.  I was nestled in the middle aisle between a Kenyan man and a Sudanese man and his American wife.  We all had wonderful conversation the whole way and the 8 hour plane ride literally “flew” by!  Heh heh….

The Kenyan man (Jessi) works in the US and was on his annual trip home to visit his wife and two daughters.  Apparently it is an arrangement that works for them and is not too uncommon!  The Sudanese man (Tok) had an amazing survival story.  Growing up in war torn southern Sudan, he was taken from his family at the age of 4 and trained for war, along with many other young boys.  By the time he was 10, he was a full-blown soldier.  When he was 15, almost his entire group was killed in a horrific battle that he did not want to talk about.  He and a few other boys escaped and lived on whatever food they could find to eat and water they could find to drink.  They made their way to Kenya, where they were placed in the Kakuma refugee camp.  (This was the camp that I had earlier talked to Diane about possibly visiting but she assured me that it was very dangerous up there).  Tok lived in the camp for the next four years, where he basically survived on UN rations of one meal of rice a day.  They were always hungry and it was just enough food to keep everyone from dying. 

When he was 19, he got a special offer to come to the US with some of the other “lost boys.”  He was placed in Fargo, North Dakota, speaking very little English, and given a job as a butcher, killing pigs.  He tried to join some local high schools but they would not take him.  He studied on his own and focused on learning English.  Finally a school in Minnesota allowed him to attend…and for the next few years he focused on his butcher job and getting an education.  Little by little, he worked his way up, eventually getting a job at Walmart, where he met his wife.  She is also from Fargo and her accent was so strong I initially thought she was from another country.  Both of them were very soft spoken.  After she married an African, her parents stopped speaking to her.  They were moving back to Sudan to open a school.  He had somehow found his parents after being separated from them since he was four years old and this was his first time to see them again, as well as his first time back to Sudan since he escaped into Kenya.  I got their contact info and plan to keep in touch with them.  I was so moved by the whole story, I asked him if I could pray for him and he said yes. He believes in God but had not been raised up in any religion particularly since he had been in the army and in survival mode for so long. His family had been animist.  So I layed hands on him right there in the plane and prayed for him in the name of Jesus and spoke life and the will of God over him….and he openly recieved it with a big smile on his face. 

He has the humble heart of a true king and I know God has preserved him for a reason.  I believe he will do great things for his nation and felt honored to sit by him.  I thanked God because I had had such an interest in the Kakama refugee camp.  Ever since I learned of it, I have been praying for it and asking God if I could visit it.  It was very special to me that out of everyone on the plane, God sat me right next to someone who had been in the Camp.

I also shared the Lord with Jessi, who had been downing one bottle of wine after another. I think he was nervous to see his family again for the first time in almost 2 years.   After he saw me pray for Tok, I could tell his heart was softened.  He is Presbyterian, he told me.  He knew his bible very well and we talked about the Holy Spirit.

When I got through customs and got my bags, Diane, David Kipyego and a few others were waiting for me with a bouquet of roses.  It was too dark to see anything of Nairobi.  We went straight to the guesthouse and went to bed.  (All the beds here have beautiful white mosquito netting around them.  I love it—for some reason, it makes me feel like a princess!)

Today, I ate uji, among other things for breakfast.  Uji is ground millet porridge and it is supposed to be the thing that all Americans hate because it is so tasteless.  I had it with milk and a bit of sugar and thought it was delicious!

Nairobi is full of matatus (public transportation vans and small busses) and huge clouds of diesel smoke…churches and mission schools on every corner…as a former British colony, they drive on the opposite side of the road.  I had a lot of fun writing down the funny names of the matatus.  (Apparently each is named by the driver or owner).  Standard names were, “Integrity,” “Diplomat,” “Leisure,” “God’s Blessing” and the like.  More amusing names included, “Hold Me Tight,” “Sweden Special,” “Boy Zone,” “Obama,” and my favorite, “Neo-Colonialism.”

As we drove from Nairobi to Eldoret, we drove passed groves of plum trees, peppercorn trees, lots of sycamore-willow looking trees, jacaranda trees with big purple flowers, tropical pines and huge cacti, and the awesome acacia trees, which are basically a smooth greenish trunk, with branches spreading wide and flat at the very top of the tree…Standard African looking trees that I have seen in photos.  When we passed through the equator we were at 9,000 feet. A man there demonstrated how water drained one way on one side of the equator and then drained the opposite way on the other side of the equator.  When we stood right on the equator the water just drained flat, with no whirlpool in either direction.  I videoed that and will upload it at some point.

We also passed wild baboons by the side of the road!

David Kipyego is such a great guy.  He is the one who drove us all around Nairobi and back up to Eldoret.  We had wonderful discussion talking about the kingdom of God and how it is meant to be part of everyday life and lived powerfully outside the walls of the church.  Most Kenyans, he said, have the idea that they can go to church on Sunday and live as corrupt as they want to all week long.  They think nothing of doing horrible things and then coming to church the next day, where the general idea is to sit and listen to “the minister” speak…no involvement beyond that. 

His way of discipling people at the moment is to train them in integrity in the marketplace.  He has started a Christian school and owns many businesses all under his Ministry, SILA (Serve In Love Africa).  His focus is on breaking down the walls between “church” and “regular life” and to break out of the walls of religion, denominationalism, and into true holisitic, Kingdom living.  He invited me to speak next weekend at some weekend meetings that he holds for all his employees.  He also invited me to come and speak to the teachers at his school.  They have a chapel/prayer meeting every morning for ½ hour before school starts, and he said I can take as many of those as Iwant to teach basic kingdom principles—for the next few months if I want to. Exciting! 

Diane has done so much to get my room ready for me and she is so easy to talk to and be with.  I feel like I have known her for much longer than I have.  She has a lovely home in a neighborhood where lots of other missionaries live.  I have my own room and bathroom. A lady named Anna comes in every day and helps with cooking, etc.  I have not met her yet, but I did meet several more of the KWELI/SILA crowd tonight.  Everyone is very warm and friendly and they all say that they have been anticipating my arrival for months.

I can’t believe I have only been here for 24 hours.  It seems like a week has gone by!

Read Full Post »