Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wasini Getaway!

Sunrise at Diani Beach, Kenya

This past week, Erica and I had a wonderful getaway on the coast of Kenya. We are so thankful for our good friend Melanie who moved in with our kids and enabled us to enjoy this week of holiday together. We are also glad that our friends Wayne and Maureen Morgan were able to join us over the weekend with their son Michael. It was a beautiful place to enjoy with friends!

Exploring Wasini Island on the border of Kenya and Tanzania

We relaxed in the small community of Ukunda and had great adventures exploring the beautiful Kisite marine park and Swahili communities of Wasini Island. Sailing on traditional dows and snorkelling on the reef were amazing. One of the highlights was meeting pods of dolphins on our trips around the island. We were also blessed to have a sea turtle swim with us one morning while we were snorkelling on the reef.

Tourism is a major industry for Kenya, but over the past year the country has suffered greatly from security threats that have kept many tourists away. On Kenya’s southern coast alone, over 5000 workers have been "let go” as hotels, restaurants, and tourist centres cut back. Recently Jonathan and Angie Scott, of "Big Cat Diaries” fame, have been calling people to visit Kenya. Scott argues that tourism is vital to both Kenya’s economy and its conservation efforts. Without travellers bringing much needed money into Kenya’s marine and wildlife parks, there is not enough resources, or incentive, to protect Kenya’s natural wonders.

Erica with our local guide, Jumo, 
at one of the historic mosques in Wasini

Living in Africa has been a blessing to our family in so many ways, but we are continually amazed by the incredible people that we meet and become friends with along our journey. Over the past week, we have met several wonderful people who have shared with us their love for life and the people of their community. Above all, every where we went we met people who are praying for Kenya. Praying for peace. Praying for rain. Praying for God to heal the brokenness that they have experienced.

One of our most memorable moments from the week was sailing with a group of about 25 strangers in boat on some pretty choppy seas. Out of no where one man pulled out an empty water can and started beating out a song. Soon another man jumped up with a coke bottle and an old nail, tapping out a rhythm as people joined in. The minutes fades away as everyone laughed and sang together. We weren’t strangers anymore.

"Pamoyo Pa Mtima"

Swahili Proverb

"If the heart loves a place, 
it's a good place for the heart."

Monday, September 15, 2014

CBM Africa Team: Andrew and Alamu

Andrew Rob and Alamu Liban
serving in the CBM Adult Literacy Project, Nairobi

A major part of Canadian Baptist Ministries’ work in Kenya is our outreach ministries in the Muslim majority areas of both Nairobi and the North Eastern Province. In the urban centre of Nairobi, our project officer Laura Muema coordinates various community development ministries with church and community partners in the Eastlands estates of Eastleigh, Haruma, Pangani and Kariobangi. 

We are thankful for the many team members that are a part of this important ministry in helping to strengthen local churches in their ministry with their Muslim neighbours.

Today we are excited to share with you a brief interview that Laura recently had with two of our adult literacy teachers working with CBM’s partners in the urban slum area of Kariobangi. Both Andrew and Alamu are genuine guys who are examples of what it means to live out the Christian faith in word and in deed.

      Laura: Thank you for taking the time be interviewed today. I know how busy it is between classes. Can you tell us what you feel are the best parts of your Ministry with the literacy classes?

Andrew: Serving the community through a Christian organization has been the best part of my ministry with the literacy class. I can relate to my walk with Christ and serve the community with the aim of sharing God’s love and developing them in literacy which I know will eventually change their lives in other ways. Also, seeing the commitment of the students from the church and community encourages me and makes me enjoy teaching.

Laura:  Alamu, I know that you have told me how being raised by a single mother has helped you to respect women. What has it been like teaching the all women’s classes?

Alamu:  As much as I teach them English, I also learn from them. They are experienced in many aspects of life and I enjoy learning from, working with and serving the women who attend my classes. I love teaching. The women’s passion and commitment to learning moves me and encourages me to work every day. 

I really find it fun teaching the women new words and phrases. It is especially fun when the words are almost the same as in their language as the students find it funny and interesting.

      Laura:  How have you seen the transformation in the people attending your literacy classes?

      Andrew: I have seen quite a transformation in my students: They have gained confidence to participate in class as opposed to when they first started. They can now read and write simple words and sentences and even draw. Some of the students have bought and can read their Bibles. Those with businesses can comfortably understand and communicate with their customers.

Alamu: I have seen many changes in the lives of my students. They have transformed academically, most of the students are learning fast and well. They can now read and write and are even using their knowledge of English in their businesses and places of work, and also in relating with other people in the community. 

Socially, the students are bonding with their children at home, taking part in their homework and having fun using English words and phrases with their families. They are also friendlier in class and interacting with each other which was not the case in the beginning. 

Economically, the women can now understand how to bank their money from their businesses and group activities and also how to sign on important documents concerning their finances. 

Spiritually, they are able to communicate in church and even read and understand the bible.

Laura: What are the greatest challenges facing the people you are serving?

Andrew: Some of the challenges facing my students are: Poverty. Some students lack concentration in class, as they have many worries about their lack of school fees for their children and even at times rent.

Another issues is insecurity. The level of crime in Kariobangi is high. At times we have to end classes earlier for those that live further from school as it is not safe to walk at night. Also, some students are business people and fear theft of their products/goods/livestock. 

Religious differences is another issue. I mean the differences between the Islamic and Christian communities and also between Christians of different churches and denominations. However, the classes and Self Help Groups have brought the people together and slowing fading the differences away.

Alamu: Most of the challenges faced by the women in my class are: Some women find it hard and challenging to attend class since they have no one to leave their children with at home. So, at times are not consistent with class. Those that work are willing, but find it difficult to attend classes as well. 

There are some slow in class. Others join and find fellow students ahead in the curriculum and find it difficult to catch up. There is need for makeup/special classes. Expectant mothers also find it hard to be consistent with classes and thus fall behind in class. The women are sometimes withdrawn and do not open up. At times their children get sick, other times there is no one to watch their children at home and are these cause them to be absent from class. 

Other women will bring their small children with them, but I am very concerned about the filthy environment. There are open sewage trenches all around us and some mothers who bring their children to school will leave them outside to play in the sewage and unclean surrounding.

      Laura: How can Canadian churches specifically pray for you?

Andrew: I am requesting prayers for peace in Kenya; for love and unity to prevail, for the growth and interaction of the churches of Christ in Kariobangi, for eradication of poverty in the community.

Alamu: On a personal level, also pray for me to excel in my studies and for God to strengthen and encourage me in my work and walk with Him. I am requesting the Canadian churches to pray for me for patience to handle all the issues in the class and outside class, for my family’s well being and safety, my success as I am the sole bread winner of my family (mother, myself and sister) and mostly for God to bless CBM in abundance for their continuous support in the literacy project in Kariobangi.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

September 2014 Update Letter

You can now read our most recent update letters on line. They are a more detailed way for us to share some of the stories of the ministry that we are a part of with CBM in Africa.
Link Here

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

CBM Africa Team: Ruth Munyao

Ruth Munyao in Nairobi, Kenya

Food insecurity is one of the most critical issues facing Sub-Saharan Africa. Among our main areas of intervention, Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM) works to enhance sustainable conservation agriculture in order to strengthen local churches and communities. We are so thankful that this crucial area for sustainable well being is being led within our Africa team by our colleague Ruth Munyao.

Ruth coordinates all of our CBM and Canadian Food Grains Bank (CFGB) projects with our African partner churches, primarily in Kenya, Rwanda and Eastern Congo. As our CBM food security specialist, Ruth brings a high level of education from her Masters degree in environmental development, as well as decades of experience working with both government ministries and faith based organizations in several countries.

Over the past few years, Ruth has also coordinated annual agronomist trainings between Canadian volunteer specialists and our project officers and field workers. In addition, Ruth’s passion for professionalism and excellence has strengthened food security hubs within East Africa where the efforts of several international NGO’s and local organizations come together for collaboration.

For anyone who has visited CBM’s work with agro-forrestry and conservation farming, they have no doubt been impacted by Ruth’s contagious joy and her love for people.

We are very happy to share with you some of a brief interview we recently had with Ruth.

"I was brought up in a small rural home in Kenya where agriculture played an important contribution to the livelihood of the people. My family kept Christian values, had respect for human life and believed in hard work. 

My passion is to have a family become food secure and stop living at the mercy of someone else’s “pocket”.  

The verse in John 15:8a,“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear MUCH fruit……” tells us not just to do things casually (which everyone is doing) but to bear “much” fruit. This verse encourages me to think objectively, live independently and work with the spirit of “above average” without giving room to mediocrity.

My joy is to see a smile on a mother’s face as her children get enough food to eat and sustain their small bodies. My joy is in mentoring the young people who work as field supervisors and see them take charge of their lives as they lead communities to great transformation.

Some of the main challenges that people I work with face are the extreme climate changes which have discouraged the farmers despite the trainings that are given on improved crop husbandry practices. We face major setback as farmers work on climate change adaptation practices, sometimes in vain. 

We need integrated interventions to make farmers more resilient to the shocks of climate change. Women contribute over 70% of the food produced in Africa without much recognition from their families, their church and their governments. Together with other NGO networks, we still struggle to bring into light the plight of the African woman."

How have you seen God at work in your ministry?

"God has been our protector and shield amongst some of our field staff who have been through years of war and uncertainties. 

There are times such farmers left their homes to sleep in the forest area so that they escape the wrath of rebels as they trekked across the land in eastern Congo. Being a tropical forest area with lots of rain, families with small babies suffered sleepless nights which resulted to malaria and many diseases. God is faithful because Christians across Canada and Africa prayed, we saw victory at the beginning of the year as rebels withdrew, calm returned to the land and families went back to their homes.

North Eastern province of Kenya is a desert area with little and most times, no water is available for domestic use as well as for their livestock. Since time immemorial, Kenya has been known as a water scarce area. However in October last year, in Turkana county, northern Kenya, two powerful water aquifers were discovered with so much water (they say enough water to sustain Kenya for the next 70 years) out of nowhere. How else are we going to see God at work if not with such miracles?

How can our friends and churches be praying for you and your ministry?  

·      "Pray for peace in Africa. Pray for families who have members with terminal diseases and may not access medical care. Pray for appropriate interventions to hasten the climate change adaptation in the region. Especially, pray for rains which help us produce enough food. Kenya’s inflation has risen from 7.67% (July 2014) to 8.36% (August 2014) due to the poor rains of the last season. Kenya needs rain.