Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Life from the Ashes

A woman bagging charcoal for market.

It's easy money. When you have a family to feed, what are a few trees anyway? 

Charcoal burning is common practice across Kenya. From cities slums to rural villages, people use charcoal as a ready fuel for jiko stoves and small fires to boil water and cook their food. 

In Northeastern Kenya, it is common to see families chopping down Acacia trees and saplings to feed smoldering earthen mounds built to make charcoal. On the long drive from Nairobi to Garissa, you pass dozens of roadside stands selling tall feed sacks bulging with the charred wood made by desperate families.

The practice has led to mass deforestation and soil erosion throughout Kenya. In the Northeast, the practice is threatening the very environment that people rely on. 

Over the past six years, our Canadian Baptist Ministries' team has been helping communities address the issue of food insecurity through conservation agriculture. An important aspect of this is has been training and support in agroforestry. In Garissa we are helping farmers and entire villages develop tree nurseries and establish a culture that values and protects the trees that provide shade, soil stability, and nourishment for their communities.

Halima and her son, Mohamad, at her farm in Bulla Pamoja. 

Over a year ago, in January of 2016, Halima and her family made charcoal for a living. Their days were spent gathering firewood to stoke the ever smoking furnaces of their charcoal mounds. Today her soot-stained land has been transformed.

Halima's farm near Bulla Pamoja.
"Halima is already reaping the fruits of her work," shared our colleague Geofrey Mwita. "In her farm she currently has, maize, cowpeas, green grams and tomatoes and water melons. Among them she is harvesting maize, cowpeas and green grams, with that she are able to get food for her family and surplus to sell. With farming she spends a few hours in the farm and get enough time to be with her family comparing with the charcoal burning business which took almost a whole day and she did not get enough time to be with her family."

The transition from charcoal to farming has not been easy. Halima and her fellow farmers have encountered several challenges. From the struggling with muddy irrigation canals to learning the methods and standards of conservation agriculture, Halima has to invest a great deal of energy.  Furthermore, unlike charcoal burning, Halima's new farm is attracting some unwanted attention.
"As we see the farm growing, we need to keep it safe!" shared Halima, who has seen scavaging baboons and grazing hippos threaten her harvest. "I have to stay awake all hours of night with my sons to watch and guard our crops’’
Despite the challenges, Halima and her family are grateful for the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge, a water pump, and seeds. Each week, our colleagues William Wako and Geofrey Mwita visit Halima's village and spend a day in the fields with Halima and the twenty-five new farmers in her cooperative. Together they identify pest and diseases, troubleshoot, share, and pray for their farms and families.

Through this project, Halima's son Mohamed has committed to bringing his two children to start school this May at Bulla Pamoja village school that CBM has helped the village elders establish. Halima prays for a better future for her son and grandchildren. 

William and Aaron at our recent CBM programming meeting in Nairobi

Please join us in praying for the work of CBM in Kenya and throughout Africa. We especially remember families like Halima's that are making major transitions. We pray for our colleagues embedded in these communities.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easter is Coming -- Little signs of great things!

"Do not despise these small beginnings, 
for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin..."
Zechariah 4:10a NLT

Early before dawn, the women gathered and went to the tomb. 

As the Gospels are read in churches around the world this Easter weekend, Christians will remember this pre-dawn march by a faithful group of women. We will join them as they approach the open tomb and encounter the wonder and mystery of the resurrection. 

The importance of women in the life and ministry of Jesus is a testimony to the significance of women in the mission of God in the world. 

Over the past decade, it has been remarkable to witness the transformation within our African partner churches on their understanding and practice of gender equity. In the last few months alone, we are seeing the attitude toward the leadership of women shifting within our South Sudanese partner.

This Holy week, we have been meeting with pastors and women leaders from the Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches of South Sudan. We are thrilled by the way that the church is working to improve education and empowerment of women in their congregations and community.

Akur Mayiik, church treasurer 

Erica spent today in a planning meeting to introduce the self help group approach among the South Sudanese refugee community in Nairobi. Since the beginning of 2017, FEBAC has been engaged in church planting among the South Sudanese diaspora living in the slum areas of Nairobi. Their new church in Kawangware has already risen to 84 members.

We are excited to see the interest of the FEBAC women to embrace the SHG approach to strengthening women and reaching out to their neighbours. 

During our meeting today, Rev. Saphano Riak Chol (Secretary General of FEBAC) encouraged the leaders, saying "It is like the prophet Zechariah told us, 'Do not despise small beginnings!' This is an important day, God is bringing about something new in our church. Something we have never seen before."

Erica teaching today in Saika, Nairobi

Please join us in praying for the women leaders within the Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches. Lack of access to education and leadership roles has hindered women throughout this country, but we are so thankful for the desire for change.

We also pray for Veronica Chuang who will be representing the women of FEBAC in the upcoming Africa Leadership Exchange that CBM is sponsoring in May. We are thrilled to see women leaders from all of our participating partner denominations joining this program.

We also pray for peace in Africa. We especially remember the Church in Eygpt as it reals from the terrorist attacks of this last week.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Overcoming Obstacles

The Anole Women's Self Help Group
Meeting in Kariobangi/Haruma, Nairobi

Lack of access to clean drinking water is a major problem in Kenya where 3,100 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation. Seventeen million Kenyans do not have access to safe water. The current drought is only making matters worse. The struggle for water is a major obstacle to life and wellness.

For the women of the Kariobangi and Haruma slums, in the Eastlands region of Nairobi, finding water is a daily challenge. 
"There is no water where my family lives," shared group member Chukulisi. "At night there is a pipe where water will come in for a few hours. At around two in the morning, I walk to the pipe to fill containers with other mothers and then carry the water home."
Community water spigots, like the one Chukulisi accesses, are commonly crowded and insecure. Women face great vulnerability walking at night through the slum. Moreover, the water they carry home is also unsafe as it is often contaminated by ground water and open sewage that enters the pipes. In many instances, these pipes are susceptible to ground water contamination after having been damaged by people who have scabbed onto the system to access free water. 

Boiling or treating the dirty water are both expensive and time-consuming. As a result, many families in this community drink unclean water that leads to stomach infections and diarrhea. 

Self help groups are mobilizing women to gather water together safely and through the help of Canadian Baptist churches, women are receiving water filter systems that they are using in their homes to ensure that their families are drinking safe water.

On Tuesday of this week, we brought our executive director, Terry Smith, with us to Eastlands, where he participate in a water filter distribution for six members of the Anole SHG group.

It was encouraging to hear how these women are supporting one another and to see God's love and joy so evident among them. 

Community facilitator Patrick demonstrating 
how to assemble and care for a ceramic water filter

We are so thankful for the many churches and individuals that are supporting this project and for your interest and faithful prayers. As groups like the Anole SHG come to understand and adopt strategies for improving the drinking water for their children, we believe that the no child in Kenya will needlessly die anymore of preventable waterborne diseases. 

Erica and Terry Smith at the Sisal Basket 

Before leaving Eastlands, we also brought Terry to see a basket enterprise that is working with women's groups from the Ukambani region of Kenya where CBM works with the Guardians of Hope HIV/AIDS ministry. Each hand woven basket is an important income for the women of these rural communities that are turning the fibers of the local sisal cactus into works of art.

African Christian Church and Schools Moderator
Rt. Rev. Jeremiah Ndumo with Terry in Ruiru

"A True friend accepts you for who you are, 
but also helps you to become who you should be."

Our partnership meetings have also gone very well this week as we prepare to celebrate some significant milestones with the ACC&S and the ABC. We are so thankful for the opportunity to have Terry with us as we affirm the great legacy of shared ministry with our historic Kenyan partners.

To learn more about the work of Canadian Baptist Ministries in Africa and around the world, please see our website at

Africa Brotherhood Church Archbishop 
Rev. Dr. Timothy Ndambuki with Terry in Machakos

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Partnering Together

Erica greeting pastor Rose at the ACC&S Ruiru Church

Since 1970, Canadian Baptist Ministries' has been walking in partnership with the African Christian Church and Schools, an indigenous Kenyan church. 

Over the past 47 years, there has been incredible growth and change within the denomination. The ACC&S is the first African partner of CBM to ordain women as pastors and has been one of our strongest partners in the area of food security helping communities in establishing sustainable conservation agriculture practices.

We and our Canadian Baptist Ministries' executive director, Terry Smith, are meeting this week with the leadership of the ACC&S to renew our partnership agreement. Together we are working through joint projects that are strengthening the holistic witness of the church.

CBM Executive Director Rev. Dr. Terry Smith
 preaching at the ACC&S Ruiru Church

Ruiru is one of several newer churches that the ACC&S is establishing in Kenya, as the denomination is working to plant new congregations in urban areas. It is wonderful to see how the ACC&S is striving to bear witness to the love and power of Christ through word and deed.

ACC&S Moderator Rt. Rev. Jeremiah Ngumo

Moderator Ngumo is leading the church in deepening its spiritual vitality and empowering young people to carry the joyful hope of Christ into their professions and community as a part of the great transforming mission of God.

Praying for the Little Ones

During the worship service in Ruiru, Moderator Ngumo spontaneously invited all of the children to the front of the church, where he led us in a moving time of prayer and dedication.
"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" Matthew 19:14

Please join us in praying for the ministry of the ACC&S and for the children of Kenya. We are so thankful for church partners that are investing in the lives of the little ones.

Please remember us as we enter into partnership discussions. We pray for wisdom and discernment as we seek to support our friends in the important ministries that they are engaged with here in Kenya.