Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Farming God's Way

Timothy Bannister explaining the basic principles
and methods of Farming God's Way

We had the pleasure today of joining our colleagues Tim and Diane Bannister on an STM trip into Kenya's Central Province with Pastor Wayne and Sandy Dickaus from Kingsway Baptist Church, Toronto. The Africa Christian Church & Schools (ACC&S) were our hosts as we visited their headquarters in Thika and ventured into the beautiful area of Kigumo with members of their development team.

The maize stalks on the left were planted and cared for in the traditional way, while the ones on the right were planted and cared for according to the Farming God's Way method. As you can see the Farming God's Way method resulted in plants that tower above the older method of farming with maize stalks nearly twice as thick and as high.

While in Thika we visited the ACC&S show garden and were impressed with the results of the Farming God's Way initiative that The Sharing Way introduced to ACC&S this past year. The maize stalks pictured above were only planted in October 2009 and already have soared above the expectation of the church members. Through simple farming principles of low tillage, targeted fertilizing and generous use of mulching to protect the soil and retain water, the Farming God's Way approach produces 3 times the yield with 90% less irrigation and fertilizer. It sounds incredible, but seeing is believing!
Maize is the main staple of the Kenyan diet.
It is much dryer and heavier than the varieties of sweet yellow corn that we are use to in Canada. Kenyan's love it roasted, boiled in dishes, and most commonly crushed into maize meal and made into Ugali a heavy dough-like dish that looks like mashed potatoes. You can't come to Kenya without eating Ugali!

Erica and Diane Bannister in Kigumo Lower
We traveled from Thika towards the Aberdares in Kenya's central highlands to the beautiful lush forests and cultivated hillsides of Kigumo to visit development projects of the ACC&S. It was inspiring to see how these little churches are able to make a big impact in helping their most vulnerable neighbours through love and generosity.

ACC&S committee member Francis Chegay, ACC&S Guardians of Hope coordinator Patrick Miana, Rev. Dickaus, benefecary Rebecca Wairimu & Sophia, and Aaron

Through very simple interventions, the ACC&S churches are working together with The Sharing Way to improve the lives of people living in poverty. One of the most effective strategies has been helping people grow their own food. In places like Maai Mahiu, where the ACC&S has been worked with Canadian Baptist Ministries and Canada FoodGrains Bank to feed over 7500 people for the past eleven months, they are now helping people establish gardens and are distributing seed for next months expected rains. The success of such food security projects can be seen in places like Kigumo where agriculture programs have empowered people to feed their own communities. The challenge will be helping vulnerable people in drought affected areas like Maai Mahiu to make the most of their environment. Perhaps some of the lessons from Farming God's Way will be part of future success in areas like this.

Some of the local kids cheering us on as
we climbed the steep paths in Kigumo Lower

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Welcoming the New IFTIN Program Officer

Erica and Laura Mwikali Muema, the new program officer for the IFTIN Women's Empowerment Program

Today we had the joy of welcoming Laura Muema as the newest member of the Iftin program staff at the Eastleigh Community Centre. Erica and I are helping her through orientation as she begins her new leadership among the refugee women and children served by Iftin. Laura has a diploma in community development and social work, and is currently completing her bachelor's degree in community development here in Nairobi. She also brings with her great experience from community work in her home community of Machakos.

Noor Jewelry Project members glazing ceramic beads

Erica and Patrick working in the Noor project.
We are very excited to be bringing back jewelry from the project to Canada this Spring. The women have been working very hard and are very excited at the thought of their creations being worn a world away from Eastleigh!

Well well

The Eastleigh Community Centre is seeing a much anticipated answer to prayer today as water flows from a bore hole well being dug on the Eastleigh compound.

Children playing and dodging foamy water from the digging spill way, as the bore hole crew dig the 230 meter well.

The digging crew began their work last Friday and anticipate that the well will be completed and delivering water in another week. The community centre will use the well to supplement the water needs of the centre that serves over a thousand people every day within the various programs and projects that run within the compound. The well will also provide low cost water for distribution to vulnerable community members during times of shortage within the city. Access to clean water is an extremely important ministry in places like Eastleigh.

A young boy shows us some of the "fizzy water" that he captured from the drilling run off. "Why is it so white?" we asked him. "I don't know! But I'm taking it home to show my sister!"

In Prayer:
We thank God for the generous contributions of Kindernothilfe that made this well project possible. We pray that God might use this well to meet the physical needs of many vulnerable families within this community who do not have reliable access to water, and that through this project that the love and hope of God would flow through this community.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Team Kenya

Today we joined our CBM team mates for a time of fellowship and worship at the Carline's home.
Along with our CBM family, the Chute family from Nova Scotia joined us. We had a lot of fun singing some old Sunday School songs together. Here we are doing the actions to "I wanna be a sheep... Baa Baa!"
With our worship theme of "Tips for the Journey", we all shared from our experiences of transition in life and ministry. It was wonderful to hear each other's stories of God's faithfulness as we looked back on the journey that brought us all to this moment.

Erica and Patty Card sharing about struggles and joys of ministry and partnership in Africa

In Prayer:

* We want to thank everyone who has been remembering our family and recent health concerns in prayer. Both Erica and I are feeling much better after a difficult week.

* Please pray for our colleague Yattani Gollo as he travels to Somalia this week with a medical program. We pray for his safety and for the effectiveness of this project.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

February 2010

Our little Rock Star at today's Rosslyn Elementary Chapel

The third grade science classes performed on their homemade instruments in chapel. They sang, strummed, tapped and trumpeted together to make a joyful noise.

At home, Emma and Ava are making a different kind of art. Emma is creating her dream car out of an old cardboard box...

... Ava is just creating

Prayer Update:
* Erica is feeling much better today. Her appetite is back and her strength is starting to return. Thank you for keeping her in your prayers.
* Aaron was back to the hospital today as the dog bite is still infected. Please pray that the infection clears up quickly.
* Praise God, the Iftin Self Help groups have issued their first micro credit loans to help some of the women begin a camel milk business in Eastleigh. We pray that their venture will be a great success and an inspiration to other vulnerable women in the groups trying to create a sustainable livelihood.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What a Weekend!

Crowned Cranes at the beautiful Lord Errol

Fortunately we celebrated Valentine's Day early this year as Erica and I enjoyed dinner at a quiet restaurant near our home on Thursday evening. Little did we know it would be Erica's last meal for quite some time.

On Friday morning, we joined Patty Card for meetings but by 11 am Erica was beginning to feel unwell. At first we thought she might be coming down with the flu and went home for her to rest. By Saturday, the abdominal pain was so severe that we rushed to hospital. The doctor ran tests and determined that she has E Coli poisoning. The bacteria could have stayed undetected in her system for anywhere from 3 to 10 days before surfacing. Despite medications, she has been in a lot of pain. We thank God that last night she was able to sleep for the first time since Friday. She is drinking more today and has even been able to eat a little.

I have been getting lots of help from the kids and our CBM team who have been concerned for Erica. In the midst of all this, our dog Reese got into a scrap with a large German Shepherd that lives next door. The shepherd was literally chewing her paw off when our neighbour's two guards and I came to her rescue. While the guards were trying to pull the shepherd off of Reese, I went to grab Reese away and was bitten on the forearm. The vet has patched her up, and our friend Melanie took me to the hospital. I'm doing okay but I'll certainly have some interesting looking scars.

All this to say that we had a Valentine's Day that we won't soon forget!

In Prayer:

* Please pray for Erica as she recovers at home this week.

* Pray that my dog bite doesn't lead to any infection.

* Please pray for the new program officer for the Iftin program. We were successful in hiring for this position last week. This will be a huge step forward for the Women's Empowerment Program at the Eastleigh Community Centre.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Kids Art

Emma's Charlotte's Web farm project

Emma's third grade class has an art display this week in the Rosslyn Elementary library on the children's novel Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. Emma chose to build a three dimensional farm. Emma had a lot of fun putting her farm together.

Rosslyn Elementary Cubism Art Display:
"Cubist Christmas Memories in Warm and Cool Colors."

This week the Rosslyn Elementary art classes have an exhibition in the High School art gallery. Tristan was very proud to have one of his pictures chosen for the display. We thought it was great that his Christmas memories were focused on the snowmen of our Canadian Christmases. Both he and Emma are hoping that they will see snow when we are back in Canada this April. Making a real snowman would be far better than drawing one!
By Tristan
Fifth Grade

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rock On!

Emma rocking out on her home-made purple guitar.

Among our favourite family movies is School of Rock with comedian Jack Black. In the film, a washed up lead guitar rocker (Black, aka - Dewey Finn) masquerades as a substitute teacher and turns his homeroom class into a rock band. While Emma isn't running out to join battle of the bands, she is having a lot of fun in her third grade science class at Rosslyn. This last week they completed a unit on sound and the entire class created their own musical instruments. Among the drums, xylophones, and castanets there is a strong guitar section forming in this third grade science experiment. We are looking forward to next Wednesday's chapel service when the kids perform for the elementary school.

Rock on, sister!

For all those who follow the blog... Any suggestions for what Emma's teacher should name her band? We'd love to read your comments!

Rolling, rolling, rolling...

Hawa Haji hand-rolling ceramic beads
for the Noor jewelry project.

The Somali women of the Noor Creations ceramic bead project have been busy preparing beads and Solidarity necklaces for us to bring to Canada this spring. No doubt, our suitcases will be brimming with beads!

Our friend James showing the latest batch of ceramic water filters. Thanks to the generosity of many individuals and churches, every member of the Iftin women's empowerment projects will be receiving ceramic water filter systems this year. These particular plastic systems filter and store six litres of drinking water using a ceramic candle filter produced at the Eastleigh Community Centre. The effectiveness and safety of the filtration systems are tested and approved by the Kenya department of health.

Erica and Joanne Moyer in the garden
of the Mennonite Guesthouse, Nairobi.

Early this week, we also hosted Joanne Moyer, a Canadian student carrying out doctoral research on Religious Non-governmental Organizations doing environmental and development work in Kenya. There is a remarkable number of Christian organizations and churches that are involved in both social and environmental development as part of holistic ministry.

Monday, February 8, 2010

New Growth

Students in class two review a homework
assignment with Iftin teacher Farhiya Rage.

The IFTIN Women's Literacy Project has grown from three to four daily classes. Presently there are 77 students and new arrivals joining daily. While students are very thankful for the opportunity to learn and improve their lives, a common concern among them has been an increased insecurity and police harassment as the Kenyan government cracks down on Somali refugees living outside the refugee camps. In the past month over 800 Somalis have been arrested and deported from Nairobi. Please continue pray for peace among the Somali people and for the Iftin members.

Recess at the Eastleigh Community Centre's Kindergarten program

The children in Eastleigh seem very happy as water is finally flowing once again in Eastleigh, as well as much of Kenya. One notable difference has been the appearance of the beautiful rich colours of fruit and vegetables for sale on the streets of Eastleigh.

Children learning about gardening took it upon themselves today to start their own seed bed. Using some seeds from a teacher, they prepared some soil and gathered some water. "We are farmers!" one of the girls proudly proclaimed.

We can never be too young to learn about food security!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Emma and the other red team girls
circling up with their coach Mr. Dunning

Along with swim team, Emma began her after school intramural basketball season this Monday. This is her first year to play basketball and she is picking up all sorts of new skills.

February is often a beautiful sunny month in Kenya -- the perfect weather for outdoor sports

Prayer Requests:

* Please continue to pray for the Iftin Women's Literacy Project. We have had a large new enrollment this last month and have begun a new afternoon beginner class to accommodate the new students. We are very thankful for Farhiya who has been doing well in her new role as a teacher.

* The Self Help Groups continue to meet and have been encouraged by their success in monthly savings. Please pray for them as they seek innovative ways to create sustainable micro enterprises.

* Erica and Tristan left this morning on a three day field study with the fifth grade classes. We pray that they all have a fun and safe journey as they hike through beautiful savannas near Acacia Camp.