Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Transforming Mission: Collaborative Teams

Canadian Baptist Ministries' Kenya Team
(Aaron, William, Andai, Ruth, Laura, Pauline, Erica and Geofrey)

Teamwork is essential to the success of Christian mission whether in the local church or within the broader community. Serving cross-culturally on five continents, Canadian Baptist Ministries has embraced a team approach to integral mission, positioning groups of Canadian and international staff  to work in and through partnerships with churches and other Christian organizations. 

Together we rely on one another for support, expertise and insight. Over the past two days, we have been meeting together with the CBM Kenya team at Acacia Camp, near Athi River.  Our time has been spent in prayer, reflection and sharing as we review our progress so far in 2015 and work through our plans for rest of the year. 

Sharing together has been so important in times like this. We recognize that it is more than a truism that great ideas do not come from organizations - they come from people. Leaning on each other for perspective, encouragement and prayer is critical. 

Geofrey and Andai

In Margaret Heffernan's recent TED Talk, "Why it's time to forget the pecking order at work," she observes that social cohesion of collaborative teams consistently out preforms groups that revolve around one or two 'superstars'. Her illustration of experiments with breeding "super chickens" is both hilarious and insightful. Heffernan's research into productivity reinforces the importance of teamwork and building a foundation of social support and trust with your colleagues. We all need to give and receive help from each other. 

Teamwork doesn't mean that we all need to agree all the time. In fact, effective teams learn to disagree and value candour. We make better decisions when we are free to challenge one another and question the options before us. The important thing is that in the midst of our different views and convictions, that we are held together by a common identity and purpose. 

Healthy teamwork understands the importance of working hard together and laughing hard together. It is the balance of tackling big tasks and nurturing essential relationships. 

We are deeply thankful that many people who read our blog uphold our family in prayer. We are also extremely grateful for the way so many of you pray for our colleagues and friends. Here are a few brief items for praise and petition on behalf of some of our team members.

William Wako, project office community development

"Our presence, of weekly meetings in the community, has been so good. Walking through the fields training farmers in their farms has strengthened trust. We share personal challenges and encourage one another through struggles and disappointments. We praise God for the improvements we are experiencing. Early adopters are seeing benefit, and for others we are helping them move from the known to the unknown. Thank you for your prayers." 

Laura Muema, project officer urban self help groups 

"For me the relationship with each other as a team and the acceptance of CBM within the community has been so important. Seeing men and women helping each other, social networking and investing in each other is where progress is coming from. In so many of the things we do with the self help groups it is amazing to hear people saying, 'We can do this!'."

Andai Jackson Ahole, project assistant and logistics facilitation

"I have worked for many years with CBM, but I am so glad for the support of my colleagues here. They have a passion for the neglected people and this has had a big impact on me. Seeing kids going to school, kids who use to just stay at home and do nothing, this makes me so happy. Today the school we built is full. The toilets we built with the community are being used. We use to see human waste lying around, but not any more. Together, with the people, we are reviving the desert. It is very hot and insecure in these places, but we trust God for the work."

Geofrey Mwita, project officer relief

"I am so encouraged by the impact of CBM's ministry in the small villages of Northeastern Kenya. There has been a culture where women do not sit and talk with men. Men make the decisions and women are not welcome. But this is changing. Now men and women are meeting together and sharing their ideas. This alone has led to change in the communities where we serve."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Canada Day 2015

Canada Day 2015

This Canada Day, our family camped out on the shore of Lake Naivasha, about 100 km Northwest of Nairobi in the beautiful Rift Valley. The lake is home to dozens of pods of hippopotami (also known as bloats). We had the fun of boating around them by day in the rippling waters of the lake and watching them lumber along the shore a few meters from our tents at night, safely separated from us by a 1x1 meter ditch (apparently it is all that is needed to keep these giants away).

Ava ready to welcome the sunrise on the dock of Carnelley's Camp

A family of hippos under the shadow of Mt. Longonot

The lake is also home to hundreds of bird species from Great White Pelicans and Fish Eagles, to Kingfishers and Hamerkops. While the nights are filled with the boisterous grunts and calls of the hippos, by 5 am the predawn light is met with a chorus of bird song. It is a great incentive to get up and meet the rising sun.

Back at the camp

A little woodpecker visiting our campsite

This year, our Canada Day was a wonderful time just for us to be together as a family. We explored the beautiful shores of the lake, cooked together over our camp stove and fire, and played lots of games. It was a great time of appreciating the gift of our children and our identity as Canadians -- yes, we had lots of maple syrup with our early morning french toast!

Our family

Losing to our kids in games of Love Letters, Euchre and Bonanza

Fun on the water

Emma, Tristan and Ava making supper

The Ants Come Marching!!

Canada Day 2015 will also go down in the annals of the "fivekennys" as the adventure of surviving the ATTACK of the SAFARI ANTS. It began around the campfire as our marshmallow roasting was interrupted by a sharp bite from the pinchers of a safari ant (an aggressive army ant in East and Central Africa). Whether they were attracted by the sweet marshmallows or crumbs from our picnic table, the column of ants had swept through our camp, and we had to quickly pick up Tristan and Emma's tent and moved it a "safe" 20 feet away. 

Lesson One. Respect the Ants! Little did we know that this was only the first wave of their attack. This scouting group must have gotten word out that these sweet maple syrup loving Canadians were camping out by the water. When we got up early the next morning, streams of these black and red little monsters were pouring into our campsite. Two and half inch wide columns of hundreds of thousands of ants were coming from practically every direction. We were surrounded.

Lesson Two. Safari ants don't just bite, they climb. They climb up your pant legs, up your back, and about anywhere you could imagine. Think getting jabbed with a thumb tack. 

Lesson Three. Safari ants are the pit bull of the bug kingdom. They bite and don't release. There is no brushing these little monsters away. You have to pull them off, and for the big ones you can pull the body off and the head will still be biting you. Seriously,... they are like the hordes of Mordor.

Lesson Four. Run! We have since learned that pioneer missionaries (and entire Masai villages) have been known to vacate their homes for more than two days as they waited for armies of millions of these ants to vacate. The ants would actually have the benefit of eating nuance vermin and other pests in their feasting.

As for us, we pulled up our stakes early this morning and picked the little biters off each other. Our morning coffee at Delamere's on our way home was never so sweet! 

Pre-ant invasion bliss!

Wishing you all a wonderful summer!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Life On the Edge (A visit to Haruma and Kariobangi slum)

Self Help Group members discussing 
challenges facing their children 

In Kenya, slums are home to tens of thousands of people. These informal settlement areas are found throughout Nairobi on the edge of residential and business areas, often in steep valleys and along drainage gullies. Most of Nairobi's slums have little to no sanitation, poor access to fresh water and electricity. 

Here extreme poverty is felt every day as people gingerly walk along narrow streets and allies that flow with human waste and refuse. Open sewers run alongside homes and schools, seeping into life spreading illness and disease. Slum life is rife with challenges from limited access to health care, to crime and addictions. It is life lived on the edge.

Earlier today, Erica and I travelled to Kariobangi and Haruma slums to meet with members of the Canadian Baptist Ministries' self help group program in Nairobi. Over the past two years, nine new self help groups have begun in these two communities. Our meeting today was with leaders from seven of the women's groups, namely: Rai, Rehobote, Ebeneza, Emmanuel, Neema, and Faruq. Together the mothers were discussing the challenge of raising children in their community and working together to find ways to improve their common future.

"Sisterhood is about experiencing support and solidarity." 

As one woman shared, "We bind together to meet our problems." Money is one issue, but so much more than this is the fact that their children face insecurity, drugs, poor environment, and the dangers of living on these streets. Just walking to and from day school is a major concern, as children encounter others who have given into the despair of glue sniffing and other addictions. 

Poor sanitation leads to a host of waterborne diseases in Kenya's slums. There is hardly a family represented in the meeting today that doesn't struggle with diarrhoea, skin infections and respiratory disorders, not to mention the threats of typhoid, cholera and other diseases that flourish during the flooding that comes during the rainy seasons. 

The pressures of being a mother in such a situation are almost unbearable, and yet these courageous women are meeting that challenge together. As Erica says, "Self Help Groups form bonds of sisterhood among these woman that is even more important than the financial savings. Sisterhood is about experiencing support and solidarity. It is what self help groups are all about."

A child accessing clean water from the 
Evangelical Victory Church School

Hope and faith go hand in hand. As Christians, our hope is that God holds the future in His hands. But faith is putting that hope into action. Faith is what gets people out of bed and into the new day. It is about living into our hope. 

Faith in action is what ministry is all about, it is about walking together in word and deed as participants in God's transforming work in the world. And we believe that God's work and great hope is for everyone and for every community. 

Here on the edges of a city, the women of the Haruma and Kariobangi SHGs are working together to bring hope into the lives of their children and neighbours. Through water filter distribution, nutritional training, health education, the micro savings and loan program, small business creation and child scholarships, self help groups are working in partnership with CBM to improve the lives of their community.

Praying Together

The women of the Haruma and Kariobangi SHGs covet your prayers. Just knowing that people from other parts of the world know and care about their lives and families means so much. Please pray for peace and security in Kenya. A recent rash of robberies and street crime is of great concern to the groups. Please pray for the government of Kenya, that the responsibility for proper sanitation and infrastructure would be taken by the leadership of the civic authorities.

You can join these women in solidarity through your prayer and support. To learn more about the work of Canadian Baptist Ministries in Africa and throughout the world, please see our website at www.cbmin.org

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Faith in a Refugee Camp

Kakuma Refugee Camp, Turkana County, Kenya

"Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what
has happened to me actually served to advance the Gospel."

These words of the apostle Paul, from Philippians 1:12, were written from captivity, to his friends in the church of Philippi. Despite the suffering and persecution he endured, Paul wanted his fellow Christians to be encouraged. "Because of my chains," he wrote, "most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear." Throughout the trials he endured, Paul held on to his faith that God was at work and that his sacrifice would contribute to the furtherance of the Gospel.

Over the past few days, Erica and I have been in the far North of Kenya along the border of South Sudan. It was our great pleasure to share time with our brothers and sisters in Christ of the Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches (FEBAC) of South Sudan, who have thousands of their members living as refugees in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Every person we met had a story of faith of how God had brought them through horrendous struggles to new life and hope.

Kakuma Refugee Camp is administer by the Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs in partnership with UNHCR. Similar to the size of the Dadaab Refugee Camp back in 2006 (when we first joined Canadian Baptist Ministries' work in Kenya), Kakuma is approaching 200,000 people. The camp is home to displaced people from East Africa and the Middle East, but the fastest growing population is from South Sudan which has exceeded 80,000 since conflict erupted in December 2013.

Standing in Solidarity Together

A few days before the failed military coup began to spiral South Sudan into civil war, Canadian Baptist Ministries signed a formal partnership agreement with FEBAC. It has been our joy to to walk together in fellowship and mutuality with our South Sudanese brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Our partnership grew out of years of assisting FEBAC in theological education and community outreach. Over the past two years, we have had the privilege of assisting the relief efforts of FEBAC in Upper Nile State and in Narus, as well as strengthening the church through education, leadership development and food security projects, thanks to the generous support of Canadian Baptist churches and individuals. 

Faith Evangelical Church, Kakuma Camp I

Seeing the sincere faith and hope of the three FEBAC congregations embedded within the Kakuma camps has been a transformative experience. Their stories and courageous trust in God has encouraged us deeply.

Erica speaking to FEBAC members

During a worship service, choirs from each of the FEBAC churches presented songs of faith, but one of the most moving presentations was group of orphans that had walked miles across three camps to attend the service. 

Praising God as their forever Father

This group of orphans represent thousands of children who have lost parents and family from the fighting that has engulfed their country. By God's grace, the local church has become their new family. We were moved to tears as they sang of their love for God who has become their father. 

Their story is a part of a much larger story,...

Pastor Simon Nyok 
of FEBAC Kakuma III Church

In 2013, Pastor Simon was caught in a crossfire during fighting in Malakal, he was shot and nearly died. While the war had torn his body and world apart, it had not destroyed his faith. Although he lost his left leg, by God's grace Simon survived and was able to recover for two months in a Juba hospital where he received a prosthetic limb. "We lost everything," shares Simon. "All our belongings had been stolen, many died and our home was no longer safe. It was very bad. So bad! With my family we camp to Kakuma and registered as refugees. We did not come alone. Thousands of us came. Where there are people there are churches, and soon we began to meet together for prayer and worship." 

Today there are more than 800 members worshipping in Simon's church, and another 2000 more in the other two FEBAC Churches in the camps. "We have built the churches from clay and sand that we made into bricks, and have made our own instruments," shared Simon. "But it is difficult to find materials for the roofs and such. Iron sheets are expensive, but we praise God that we no longer worship together under the hot sun, but have the shade of a roof over us."

Pastor Nyok at his newly built church

"Our church keeps growing as new people arrive every day from South Sudan and my congregation is now reaching 870 people, most are widows and orphans. This week we are meeting for two days of prayer and mourning to comfort the orphans, widows and widowers of the deceased families. It is not easy for the widows to stay alone, but they encourage each other. God is at work! The people are supportive of one another and we have not lost our faith. Please pray for the orphans and widows of our church. We are doing our best for each other, but the needs are so great."

Dabora Ajok

Although tens of thousands of South Sudanese refugees have come to Kakuma over the past two years, there is also a large group that have been living here since the conflicts of the 1990's. In 1992, Dabora Ajok fled the war in Sudan and came to Kenya with her husband and their six children. Since that tumultuous journey, Dabora and her husband have been blessed with two more children born in Kakuma. "It has been a challenge to raise our children here and serve God, but God sustains us. It is very hot, the climate is harsh and we have felt the hostility, even here, but we are in God's hands." 

Dabora gives thanks for her church family in the midst of life in the refugee camp: "Coming to Kakuma has changed our experience of the church. Here we have a community with many different tribes. We have become one in our Lord. This shows that God is working, it never happened in South Sudan, but here we hold onto our faith no matter where we came from."

"Please pray for us. Pray for the widows in the camp, that God will help them go through widowhood. And pray for the orphans who are in the refugee camps. There are so many. And pray for peace, because peace is paramount!"

Reverend Saphano Riak Chol with
the pastoral leadership of FEBAC, and the Presbyterian pastor 

The weight of the needs of the people and the church of South Sudan are crushingly huge, and yet the leadership of this church demonstrate profound trust that God will transform their country and their lives for the good. "There is a Dinka proverb that says you can not eat an elephant," shared Rev. Saphano, "but you can, you can eat the elephant, if you eat it piece by piece. By God's grace, even though our challenges are many, piece by piece God is able." 

Aaron with pastors and elders of the Dinka community of Kakuma

Kakuma is surrounded by hundreds of miles of arid lands of sand and thorny scrub. Rain is a rarity, and everywhere we went we found children and women congregating around water points pumping water into jerry cans and used vegetable oil canisters. Churches like FEBAC are working to bring people together across tribal lines, to live in peace and harmony together.

Church leaders taking Erica and I through the camps

 At water points and churches, we find people from every tribe coming together.

Please pray for South Sudan. 
Pray for peace and reconciliation. 
Pray for healing.

Where ever we went, people asked us to pray for the children. Not only for their experience of losing their families in the war, but for their future. "They are the next generation of leaders," share Rev. Saphano. "They are the pastors, the politicians, the men and women that will inherit South Sudan. What are we giving them?"

If you would like to learn more about the work of Canadian Baptist Ministries in South Sudan, or if you feel led to contribute to this ministry, please contact CBM or visit our website at www.cbmin.org

 Kakuma Refugee Camp