Saturday, November 27, 2010

Rites of Passage

Rite of Passage -- Irua

Every year at the beginning of December, at the end of the Kenyan School year, Kikuyu boys "enter manhood" through "Irua" -- a traditional rite of passage through male circumcision.

Just over a generation ago, both adolescent boys and girls within the Kikuyu tribe underwent circumcision (genital cutting) as a transition from childhood to adulthood. Our friend Henry shared how boys at 13 to 15 years of age would be taken in the middle of the night to the icy rivers of Kenya's central highlands to numb their bodies for the ritual, by submerging themselves in the cold waters. At sunrise, the village would gather as the boys entered manhood under the sharp knife of an elder.

"You showed your neighbours that you were ready to become a man by not screaming," laughs Henry, "that is how it use to be done. No injection or drugs to help with the pain, only the numbing water and courage." Then he gripped Aaron tightly by the shoulder, "...but usually others would need to hold you down like this."

After the cuttings were over, the entire community would dance and sing by the river. Sadly, over time these customs began to include weeks of drug and alcohol abuse. The Kikuyu community became quite concerned over the reckless and rowdy behaviour of youth during the time of Irua.

Today Irua is still practiced by the Kikuyu people, but it looks a lot different from the days of dipping boys into the river at puberty: This very evening hundreds of Kikuyu boys are entering into Rite of Passage Camps within the African Christian Church & Schools. After dark, a medical doctor will come and with pastors, counsellors and other respected men present, the boys will be circumcised in a clean and safe environment with local anaesthesia.

As the wound heals, the young men will remain in the church for ten days where they will receive counselling and training on subjects important for becoming a man, such as: Sexuality, abstinence, HIV and AIDS, marriage, education, finances, choosing a career... etc.

Although the Kikuyu people no longer circumcise women, adolescent girls do join in the last four days of Irua. The girls also receive special counselling and training from pastors and respected women from the community. At the end of the ten days, the young men and women are presented to their community in a special ceremony, much like a graduation. Typically, these are students who have completed standard 8 (eighth grade) and will be entering form 4 (the beginning of high school) in January.

Guardians of Hope, Nairobi

We have a new podcast available as we share a brief conversation between Patrick Maina and Aaron about the role of hope and spiritual transformation within the GOH.

To listen or download this or any of our podcasts please visit

Campfire Season

Campfire Season
With the end of the fall rains (which didn't amount to much unfortunately), our family marks the beginning of Advent with campfires in our backyard. It has been a fun tradition to share in as we approach Christmas, singing Christmas carols around the campfire and lighting our Advent candles within the wreath.We kicked off the first campfire with our friends Mel and Kerry who joined us for a hot dog roast.

Last night, we also had a great evening with our friends Amy and Sammy, their families and wedding party as we had a rehearsal party campfire at our home. We are excited for their wedding this Saturday.

Tristan firing up his dog

Emma and Kerry

Melanie and Erica

Fun around the fire!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kangundo Blind School

Jennifer is pupil in the Kangundo Blind School, Kenya

Today Aaron returned to the Kalimani Africa Brotherhood Church to meet the members of the Cove Community Church, from the Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada. The Cove team have been in Kenya over the past week learning about the ministry of CBM and the Africa Brotherhood Church. We had the pleasure today of visiting the Kangundo District Education Board Primary School: founded in 1924, it is the oldest day school in this region of Kenya.

Our connection with the school is through the Kalimani Guardians of Hope who are helping 25 blind children with school uniforms and basic assistance with the Kangundo Blind School.

Brail class notes from one of the Kangundo students

The Kangundo DEB Primary School has over 1200 students from grades 1 to 8. As a government school, their class sizes run from 45 to 51 students per teacher, but classes like their sixth grade classes have 170 children to only three teachers. The forty visually impaired students come from a wide catchment area, some as far away as Nairobi.

Tim Bannister chatting with a little boy playing with a box (I think it was his imaginary truck) in the the narrow road near the Kalimani Church, Kangundo

Tim and Diane Bannister are our CBM team mates who facilitate short term missions in Kenya. Tim has been a bridge between the team and our partners in helping the volunteers understand the ministry and context in which we serve. They have had a very busy trip so far connecting with the various projects and leaders within the Africa Brotherhood Church and community.

Peter Kenward and Aaron walking along coffee fields
in Kangundo Village, Kenya

Rebecca Kenward visiting along the road

Principal Bernard Kivuva demonstrating the various teaching aids used in training visual impaired children in reading brail.

Each student learns to type their
class notes on a brail type writer

Brail Photocopier!
One of the five instructors in the blind school demonstrating their thermal form machine that is used to make copies of brail lessons and notes. Thanks to the generous gifts of various churches and organizations in Canada, the United States and Germany, the school has a good variety of equipment and tools for the blind school. During our visit, we met several teachers from across Kenya who were learning to use the brail type writers so that they could better serve visually impaired students in their schools.

All forty of the visually impaired students in the Kangundo Blind School live on campus among the 300 boarding students. As part of each students orientation, they walk every inch of the school's campus and become familiar with every nook and cranny.

The laughter and giggles of the visually impaired students were like music as we met with the teachers and school administrators. As we sat down with the children, they expressed gratitude for the help of the Guardians of Hope and the love of the Church. Please remember these children in your prayers and their school as it seeks to empower and equip this generation in Kenya.

Jacinta thanking the Guardians of Hope for their support of mattresses, uniforms and sanitary napkins that have helped her and the other students attending the blind school.

"Disability does not mean inability!"

Tim Bannister, Sean Graham, Rick Cook, Peter Kenward,
Lori Thicke, Rebecca Kenward, and Wendy Brown
singing to the visually impaired students

The beautiful hills of Ukambani, Kenya

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kigumo Upper

Guardians of Hope Kigumo Upper chairman,
Joseph Mwangi Njagu,
addressing today's meeting in Kangari

Today Aaron and our friend Sammy Miana travelled into Kenya's Central Province to encourage and evaluate the work of the Africa Christian Church & Schools Guardians of Hope program in the Kigumo Upper Region.
Aaron interviewing Ruth and Lucia Wanjiku
for an upcoming fivekennys podcast

Guardians of Hope

Our friend Sammy interviewing
Guardian of Hope Grace Njeri in Kikuyu

Grace Njeri is a Guardian of Hope caring for five children
She was diagnosed with HIV
and has been on ARV treatment since 2003

Cows grazing in Kigumo Upper

It was very encouraging to hear how the 37 dairy cows distributed within the Guardians of Hope in Kigumo Upper have impacted lives of Guardians and orphans. Already, ten of these recipients have given back the first born calf to become a gift to another family affected by HIV and AIDS within their community.

Richard Kiharg a beneficary of the Guardians of Hope

AIDS orphans, like Richard, who have lost both parents from HIV and AIDS, are being cared for by grandmothers and widows within communities like Kangari. Richard was born HIV positive and by age six had lost both his mother and father from AIDS. At nine years of age, he takes antiretroviral medications each day. With the help of the GOH, Richard travels to the district hospital to receive his free medications and regular check ups from his doctor. The local guardians help his family with food stuffs that ensure he receives three meals a day to accompany his medications.

Richard has completed the third grade and as he works hard in school, he dreams of one day becoming a pilot. "I want to move through the clouds!" he shared with us in Kikuyu. Richard struggles with his health, but with the aid of a good diet and medication he can live a full and long life. He asked us to pray for him, his grandmother and his older brother. Perhaps one day, by God's grace, Richard will live out his dream.

The majority of the ACC&S churches also support primary and secondary schools attached to their churches. The church has an education board that works hand in hand with the Kenyan government to provide Christian education to thousands of children throughout Kenya.

Aaron with Reverend James Karanu,
Regional Minister of Kigumo Upper Region

Rev. James oversees twelve pastors who minister within the 24 churches that form the four parishes of the Kigumo Upper Region. Within this region, the Guardians of Hope are serving over a hundred beneficaries.

Patrick, Henry and Aaron

Henry and Aaron taking a look around
the new ACC&S Kangari sanctuary

The new ACC&S church in Kangari will seat 400 parishioners. The present structure will be used for a community hall to serve the youth and various children's programs in the community. Kangari is the largest congregation within the Mwarano parish, one of four parishes in the Kigumo Upper Region.

Please pray for the ministry of the ACC&S as they care for the most vulnerable families within their church and community.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Feeling Better!

Tristan, Emma and Ava up and ready for school
after a long week at home with illness

Ava was very excited to go school and show her friends her new purple hair extensions that our friend Carol gave her on Sunday afternoon.

Erica with our friend Atalie in the Iftin Literacy Class

This is a festive week in Eastleigh as the Somali and Oromo community prepares for three days of celebration around Eid. Although the number of students in the English literacy classes are down, there is still much activity going on within the Iftin Women's Empowerment Program as the Self Help Groups work on strengthening their micro enterprise development initiatives and 30 of the Iftin women have begun community based skills training courses in computer technology, tailoring and hair dressing.

Please be keeping the Iftin women in your prayers, as they prepare for a Women's Empowerment Conference coming up in December. This will be an opportunity for the Iftin members to share all that they have been doing with their community and local leaders, and a chance to encourage the women to keep moving forward as they hear from local and international leaders who will be coming to spur them on.

Atalie getting to know the girls in class three

What do women wear?

Atalie and Tunis at the front of the class exchanging Somali and English words for common women's garments in Western and Muslim culture. Anyone wear a gorgorad, hijab, or dira lately? Along with these Muslim terms, the ladies have some wonderful slang expressions as well -- a face covering that only shows the eyes -- a "ninja"! Leggings -- "Skin tights".

What they are: a gorgorad is a petticoat, hijab is a headcover, and a dira is a flowery dress.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Harries' Farm, Thika

The beautiful Harries Dam, lined in feathery Palms
about 20km outside of Thika, Kenya

On Saturday, with our kids feeling much better after a week of being home with aches and fever, we enjoyed getting out of our house and taking a drive with our friends Amy and Sammy into the rolling coffee country of Kiambu, Ruiru and Murram Road, near Thika. We were on our way to visit Rev. Mike and Pauline Harries, a white Kenyan couple who live on a beautiful farm in the heart of coffee country.

Sammy, Pauline, Amy and Mike

Over the past few months, we have had the joy of sharing pre-marriage counselling with Sammy and Amy. As the November 27th Wedding date draws near, we travelled together on Saturday to meet with pastor Mike, who will be officiating at the wedding with Aaron. It was very interesting to get to know the Harries and hear about their perspective of living in Kenya.

We are praying for Amy and Sammy as the next two weeks of preparation will be intense with family coming from the United States and around Kenya.

Love is in the air!

Ready to head back to Nairobi,
as the sun dropped low in the sky

Tiny Frog

Our Tiny House Guest

For about a week now, we've been enjoying the presence of a tiny green frog who has been living in our bathroom. He likes to stick on the wall of our shower or on the shower curtain where it is damp. We haven't seen him eat yet, but we are guessing that he must hunt very small flies or mosquitos.

He is an incredible hopper. Despite his stature of only a centimetre, he can leap a couple of feet into the air and stick to whatever he lands on -- its quite amazing!

Still no name for this little guy yet...
...but he does seems very much at home!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Ava under the weather...

The Kenny home has become a little sick ward this past week, as all three kids have stayed home from school with fevers and fatigue. They've been to the hospital for tests, but it just seems to be some sort of virus going around. Poor Ava has become a bit of a rag doll, but today she seemed to turn a bit of a corner. Emma was well enough to go back to Rosslyn Academy today and we are praying that they'll all be well enough to return to school on Monday.

It has ended up being a good week to catch on reports and work at home in the office. A big part of our new responsibilities involves reviewing progress reports, financial statements and proposals. During the kids better moments they were interested in "comfort" things -- we ate soup, watched old 1980s TV shows, played cards, and even started making our annual Christmas wrapping paper. Today Erica and Tristan sat at the dining room table listening to Michael W. Smith Christmas music and drawing snowman on wrapping paper.

The power has been flickering on and off lately with sudden high winds and thunder storms sweeping in and out of the city. Another comfort thing has been lighting candles and wrapping up in blankets together. We had our friend Atalie over for supper tonight and had a bit of a challenge with wet candles. The power had gone off this afternoon and one of the kids had accidentally left the kitchen faucet open (with the power off the tap was dry). While Erica was gone to school to pick up Emma, I took Tristan and Ava to nearby store to grab some groceries. While we were gone, the power came on and the water started to gush flooding the kitchen. Wouldn't you know that when we got back and started the clean up the power went off again. The wet candles from under our sink were tricky to start!

On the fivekennys podcast this week we have a short audio interview with Isaie Gakwerere, the Guardians of Hope program manager in Rwanda. You can download this and all of our audio interviews on iTunes or directly from our podcast site at

Saturday, November 6, 2010

November Days

Anne of Green Gables
Comes to Africa

This past week, Tristan dressed up as Anne of Green Gables for a language arts presentation on the fictional orphan girl from Prince Edward Island created by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Tristan and his sixth grade class had a lot of fun as each student presented on the "quest" plot devise found in many popular novels.

Way to go Tristan! We are so impressed by
your confidence and good humour.

Africa Brotherhood Church
headquarters, Machakos, Kenya

This week, we also had some great success with our partners in the Africa Brotherhood Church (ABC) as we work together in strengthening the ministry of the Guardians of Hope in Kenya. Laura Muema joined our leadership meetings on Friday in Machakos as we met with leaders from eleven of the thirteen GOH projects with the ABC. Please pray for Triza Mulandi, the director of development within the ABC, and Elizabeth, the acting GOH manager for the ABC. They are both helping us evaluate and access the strengths and weaknesses within each of the projects and setting priorities for our shared work in 2011.

We are also remembering each of the project leaders in prayer as they struggle to help guardians and AIDS orphans live better lives with dignity and renewed hope. It was great to hear how some of the ABC GOH projects are making strides toward micro enterprise development. In groups, such as Kaiani who have created a dynamic catering business, Guardians are helping to improve the lives of vulnerable families in their community. Likewise, the Uthithuni Guardians of Hope in Kibazi are working together in activities such as brick making to raise the funds within their community to care for AIDS orphans. Through the generosity of churches and individuals in Canada, every Guardian within this community have been given dairy goats and are growing their own vegetables in a kitchen garden.

Children attending school with the Africa Brotherhood Church

Thursday, November 4, 2010

St. Paul's University

Aaron in Eastleigh with Joseph Wandera and
Willem Jansen from St. Paul's University, Limuru

Earlier this week, we had the pleasure of introducing two faculty members of St. Paul's University to the Iftin Women's Empowerment Program and the ministry of the Eastleigh Community Centre. Joseph and Willem are both teachers in the Muslim and Christian Relations Department at this ecumenical University. Together, they are seeking ways to build a practical component into the theoretical course work of St. Paul's Islamic studies. Joseph has been working with local Muslim Imans in interfaith dialogue and with Willhem, they are hoping to establish a strong connection with the university and the Eastleigh community.

Erica with the students at the Eastleigh
Community Centre's Preschool Program

As part of our morning together, we took the guys through the rowdiest part of Eastleigh -- the community centre's kindergarten!

The preschool kids were especially full of energy...

...they all wanted a chance to play with Erica's golden hair. I'm sure some of the little boys took handfuls with them, but Erica didn't flinch. They giggled, petted & brushed her hair until the teacher called them back to class.

Please pray for Joseph and Willem as they discern how best to integrate their program into the Eastleigh community. May God honour their heart for the Muslim community, and their desire to build bridges of understanding.