Saturday, January 29, 2011

Traditional Dancing Grounds

Kiambethu Farm, Tigoni, Kenya

This Saturday, we travelled up into tea country to visit one of our favourite parts of Kenya, where Fiona and Marcus Mitchell run one of the first commercial tea estates in East Africa. Over four generations of their family have been apart of one of Kenya's largest industries. According to Fiona, "Kiambethu" is a Kikuyu word for "traditional dancing grounds". For ages, this land has been a place of celebration and bounty. We had the joy of visiting today with our friends Kevin and Atalie, and Erica's mum, who is staying with us.
Aaron, Emma and Mary walking along
the beautiful lush tea fields of the farm

Erica and Atalie in the Mitchell's home,
ready for Fiona's talk on the
history and production of tea

Atalie and Kevin Dougherty in the beautiful gardens
of Fiona and Marcus' home

The girls in the garden

Zombie Invasion...

Attack of the Zombies

We knew that our kids were "dead tired" after a long sports day in the hot sun, but we had no idea how bad it was. Once we got home from the Rosslyn sports day, they disappeared to Emma's bedroom only to return in a strange condition.

"Brains! Brains!"
Naomi Godwin was transformed into this creature of terror!

The zombies corning poor frightened Erica...

...Beware of the Zombies!

Sports Day 2011

Tristan and Ezra Enns, giving their pal Robert Brown a boost as they cheered on their team mates in this year's Rosslyn Academy Sports Day.

Nana and Erica cheering on the Reds!
This was our fifth "sports day" at Rosslyn Academy since we moved to Kenya in 2006. Each year the elementary and middle school students are divided into three teams (Green, Red and White) and compete in various track and field and pool events.

Ava running in the preschool race
for the red team

Way to go Ava!

Tristan on his mark

Emma running in the 400 m relay

Emma and her buddy Naomi Godwin

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Training for a better future!

Faisa Abdukadir in her first week of her tailoring course

We had the joy today in Eastleigh to visit with a few of the Somali women of Iftin who have benefitted from vocational skills training scholarships within the Eastleigh Community Centre. Thirty members of Iftin are now learning technical skills that will help them gain employment or start small businesses to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families.

In the tailoring class, four of the Iftin ladies have begun a year long course. "We come each day from 8am until 4 pm," shared Ayaan. "We are just beginners but someday we will start a shop together and make dresses!" She and her friends laugh together as they continue their class work. Having completed the Iftin English literacy program, they have the basic language skills needed for a class like this and to operate within the Kenyan market place.

On behalf of the women of Iftin, we want to thank everyone who has prayed for them and helped support this project. It is exciting to see how far they have come and the hope on their faces!
Farhio Ahmed, Ayaan Duale and
Faisa Abdukadir with their instructor

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

CBM Africa Team

Laura, Erica, Pauline, Karen and Ruth
at the Godwin's home, Nairobi

Today was our monthly team meeting with our Canadian Baptist Ministries colleagues within Kenya. This has been a great way to stay connected with the different aspects of the work of CBM and our partner churches.

In Prayer:
* Please keep our fellow CBM missionary families in prayer. We especially remember Diane Bannister as she returns this week from Uganda where she working on community health studies.

* Please remember the Africa Brotherhood Church as they seek a new person to fill the vacancy of their Guardians of Hope project officer.

* We are also praying for the many churches affected by low rains this past fall. Although unseasonal rain is falling in Nairobi, Eastern Kenya is extremely dry. We pray for the millions of subsistence farms who desperately need rain.

* We are looking forward to a number of short term volunteers who will be joining us in Kenya this Spring from St. Stephen University, Crandall University, and several churches in Eastern Canada. Please pray for us as we work with our partners to pull the details together for these guests.

Headbangers and Happy Birthday!

Erica and Patty Card visiting Guardians of Hope
with the Africa Christian Church & Schools

This past week, we wrapped up two weeks of meetings with the Guardians of Hope as we worked together in discerning the direction of the program in Africa. It was great to have Patty Card, the founder of Guardians of Hope, with us during this time of looking back over where the program has come from and ahead to consider how Guardians might respond to the ever changing challenges within the diverse communities where Canadian Baptist Ministries are serving.
Meeting with our CBM team mate, Ruth Munyao
the CBM Development Manager for Africa

We especially appreciate the input of Ruth Munyao who joined our team almost two years ago, when she came on to assist with CBM's projects with the Canadian International Developement Agency. Ruth's perspective and experience has been invaluable.

"I wanna Rock!"

On Friday evening, we said goodbye to Malcolm and Patty before they left for the airport the next day. Tristan, Emma and Ava put on a great show -- wigs and all -- as they danced, sang and air-guitared to the School of Rock soundtrack.

As it was Malcolm's birthday, we had a little party. We will miss Malcolm and Patty as they return to Canada. The Cards are retiring to Moncton, New Brunswick, where they will continue to share in the ministry of CBM within the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches.

Ava helping Malcolm with his birthday candles

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Urban Guardians

The Urban Side of the Guardians of Hope

Walking the labyrinth of narrow streets that make up the sprawling Zimmerman Estate in Northeastern Nairobi, we are on our way to visit three groups of women who are accessing micro credit through their Guardians of Hope groups. These loans make it possible for them to support their families through small business.

While we often think of the Guardians of Hope as a rural program, that helps groups caring for AIDS orphans and supporting people living positively with HIV and AIDS, urban ministry is an extremely important side of the GOH.

AIDS is a dire issue in urban centres throughout Africa, where millions of people come to find work and a better future for their families. But in reality, unemployment and poverty lead to high rates of prostitution, addiction, and violence. Without a little land to grow a basic kitchen garden, families desperately need cash to feed themselves. The steadily rising food prices in cities like Nairobi make this even more difficult.

Earlier this week, it was encouraging to meet with Guardians in places like Eastleigh, Haruma, and Zimmerman. Impoverished corners of Nairobi, where Guardians of Hope are determined to make a better life for themselves and their community. From a couple of women selling beans and maize on the street to day labours, to a patient mother knitting school uniform sweaters and hats to sell to her neighbours, Guardians are accessing small low interest loans to build sustainable incomes that provide for their families.

Beautiful Creations
Patty and Erica meeting with Joyce & Agnus in their two room apartment that they share together with another woman and eight children. Together they have taken loans to build a stock of socks and underwear that they buy at wholesale and sell throughout Zimmerman walking along the streets. Over the past few years, they have expanded their business to also sell sandals and homemade necklaces that they make together in their home.

Patrick Miana (ACC&S Guardians of Hope project officer) and Henry Mwangi (ACC&S director of developement), with Erica, Patty and Guardians of Hope beneficiaries in Zimmerman, Nairobi.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Overcoming Our Fears

Africa Brotherhood Church, Kaiani, Kenya

On Monday, Aaron and Patty Card travelled East of Nairobi into the hills of Ukambani to meet with the Guardians of Hope of Kaiani.

Ann Muteti a Guardian Hope

When Ann joined the Guardians of Hope, she never thought they would get this far. Along with her own four children, Ann cares for her younger brother and two HIV/AIDS orphans of her late sister. As Ann shared about her struggles, an incredible joy and humour continued to burst through.

"Before this group, I was not as hard working in my faith, I wasn't much of a home maker, or farmer, I couldn't take care of my own family," she laughs, "I don't now where I'd be! I was soooo pathetic. My husband was sick. My children were sick. My younger brother couldn't afford school. Even my house was unclean! But then the group of Guardians came from the church and they would not leave us. They stayed with me until my husband got better. The community health worker trained me on health and hygiene. We received two goats and got help starting a business." She starts to giggle. "And I got help with family planning and we looked much better off than before!" She continues to laugh. "I am so happy now. I am in control of my reproduction. I can care for the needs of my family. And now I get paid by the government to tell other people about HIV and AIDS. My life has changed because of the Guardians of Hope. I am so very happy with the support I have received!!!"

It was the free tea!

Josephine Mumo shared how the Guardian of Hope training on writing a business plan changed her life: "I had a business but it was losing money. I didn't understand how my work gave me nothing. Then I took the "business plan" training and I realized my problem. Everyday I use to give free tea and mandazi (donuts) to my friends who visited me. I realized that I was losing my business by giving away my profits. I didn't know why!"

Climbing a nearby hill
to visit a Guardian's home

Patty with members of the Kaiani
Guardians of Hope on our steep trek

Nervous Laughter

I (Aaron) am not a friend of birds... I have a mild phobia. Needless to say, it was with pure terror that I watch this young man crawl into his family chicken coop and pulled out a hysterical, red necked, wing flapping chicken. It was a gift for me. Despite my best efforts, I could not disguise my fear, much to the delight of the crowd of Guardians who exploded in laughter at my reaction. The gift of a chicken is a major sacrifice. With deep gratitude, we accepted the bird and then offered it back to the group. They will use it to support another vulnerable family in Kaiani, perhaps another woman like Ann, or Josephine, whose life will be changed because of these courageous women who live out their faith in simple and generous ways.

Pastoral Visit -- High Five!

Visiting in Eastleigh with our friend
Patrick and guests from Canada

This past week, we had the joy of visiting with a group of Canadian pastors who are on a short term mission trip with Terry Smith and Malcolm Card visiting a part of the work of Canadian Baptist Ministries in Kenya and Rwanda. We especially appreciated getting to connect with Rev. Bob Knowles from New Minas Baptist Church, Nova Scotia, and Rev. Jerry Reddy from Hillside Baptist Church, Moncton, New Brunswick. Both Bob and Jerry joined us for a quick trip into Eastleigh, where we had a chance to share with them a bit of our experience in Muslim outreach in Nairobi.

All of the work that we do in Africa is made possible by the support and encouragement of churches and individuals in Canada. It was great to see both Jerry and Bob wrestling with issues and challenges that face the church engaged in cross cultural outreach in a Muslim context. And for anyone reading our blog from these communities -- your pastors are doing fine! These intrepid guys have had some amazing experiences from the Somali communities of Northeastern Kenya to the narrow mountain paths of Rwanda! The team return to Canada tomorrow.

Enjoying lunch at the Mitchel's Tea Farm in Tigoni,
with the members of the Pastor's Short Term Mission Team.

Robert Knowles, Malcolm Card, and Jerry Reddy
with Tristan & Ava back at Heart Lodge
our favourite guesthouse in Nairobi!

Gisenyi, Rwanda

Visiting families in Gisenyi, Rwanda

Patrick (17), Mutesi (16) and Clementine (19) in their small room

There are so many orphans and vulnerable children in Rwanda, that there are not enough Guardians to care for them all. Clementine is a member of the Guardians of Hope group in Gisenyi called "Taking Care of Our Health". After the death of her parents from AIDS, Clementine and her siblings had no home. Through the help of the church, they found a small room and a Clementine received a loan to start a small business.

Please pray for Clementine as she supports her two younger siblings with her business of selling potatoes. She cannot go to school herself, because she has had to become their mother.

Entrepreneuring Rwandese carrying goods for sale into the sprawling city of Goma, just a few hundred meters over on the Democratic Republic of Congo's side of the border.

Starting a business is not an easy venture anywhere, especially in areas of poverty. For Guardians of Hope in Gisenyi, it has meant looking for every opportunity where they can turn a small profit. Given their proximity to the Goma, the capital of the strife-torn Congolese province of Nord-Kivu, the people of Gisenyi have access to a market of around 250,000 people (a population larger than any Rwandan town other than the capital of Kigali).

Isaie and Aaron with Bernadette
in her charcoal business

For the chairwoman of the Gisenyi Guardians of Hope, Bernadette, a small loan of of about $25 Canadian dollars enabled her to purchase bags of charcoal, a precious fuel source for cooking food and boiling water, from outlining rural communities and sell it for a higher price in Gisenyi. As her business grew, she repaid her loan and was able to take a second loan to expand her business and rent a small room on the Congolese border where she could sell her bags to merchants interested in carrying it into Goma where it would fetch an even higher price. Now she sells a minimum of ten 70 Kg bags to Goma each day. The heavy sacks are hoisted onto the heads of local men who walk the great weight across the border and over 3 kms to the Goma market. With this steady income, Bernadette pays rent for a room, feeds her family, and sends her children to school.

Erica and Patty with Bernadette
Please pray for Bernadette, as she desires to expand her business to also selling bags of "Irish potatoes". Pray for her health and the health of her children. "I can not miss a day in my business" shared Bernadette. If I do not work today, my children will have nothing to eat."

In Prayer:
Please continue to pray for the Guardians of Hope in Rwanda. According to Rev. Damascene of the Gisenyi Church, the border town of Gisenyi, like most urban centres in Rwanda, are rapidly expanding: "Our town grows up daily and life is hard". With more and more poor rural families turning to large towns, issues of employment, shelter, and access to food are deep concerns.

The Guardians of Hope are banding together to pool their little funds to help each other start small businesses, but according to the pastor "their profits are so low" and the business are extremely vulnerable.

"We will continue to hope things will be more better," shared Rev. Damascene. "We pray for a better future!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ruhengeri, Rwanda

As we continued in our travels with the Guardians of Hope in Rwanda, we visited with a group in the Northern town of Ruhengeri.

This AEBR Secondary School just North of Ruhengeri
was built by Canadian Baptist Churches

Community members taking care of the upkeep of their school

sorgum fields under the shadow of the Sabyinyo Volcanoe, home of the great silverback mountain gorillas.

Some local boys showing us their moves as storm clouds quickly descended over us from the volcanoes

Erica sharing with the gathering of Guardians about the strength of working together and the power of God's love seen through their lives.

Patty Card sharing words of appreciation to the Guardians

Some of the members sharing their harvest of organic pesticide that they both use and sell as an income to help HIV and AIDS orphans within their community.

Erica and one of the group members

Three barefoot neighbourhood children come in out of the rain to join the dancing and singing of the Guardians of Hope.
The clapping and drumming of the Guardians joined with the rhythm of the rain and the crashes of thunder as the storm rolled over the village.

The little dancers dry and out of the rain!