Monday, February 23, 2015

Weekend at Amani Cottage

A beautiful morning at Amani Cottage
in the dense forest escartment of the great Rift Valley 

This past weekend, we enjoyed a getaway for a few days with our kids and two of their friends. This was our first time back to the Amani cottage since we stayed there with the Spring Forth STM last March. 

We had such a great time building campfires, cooking out, playing yard games, afternoon naps and losing to our kids in board games. We also saw lots of curious monkeys in the forrest. We were on the look out for the notorious cape buffalo, but fortunately we never crossed paths.

Michael, Tristan, Ava, Caroline, and Emma 

We are so thankful for our children and their friends. 
Times like this are some of our favourite moments of life in Kenya.

Caroline and Ava had a lot of fun practicing rhythmic gymnastics 

on the lawn, where we had some great shows!

This week, Ava is participating in Rosslyn Academy's Annual 
Elementary School Spiritual Emphasis Week. Emma is back to
swim team practice (after the close of the Middle School play 
last weekend), and Tristan is into full on rehearsals for
Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

An Update from South Sudan

Rev. Saphano Riak Chol, General Secretary of the
Faith Evangelical Baptist Churches of South Sudan 

Erica and I spent this morning with our dear friend Reverend Saphano Riak Chol, the leader of FEBAC, Canadian Baptist Ministries' partner church in South Sudan. Saphano travelled from Juba on the weekend and will be in Kenya over the next few days before returning for ministry in Narus, South Sudan.

Currently, CBM and FEBAC are preparing for a second relief distribution among vulnerable internally displaced people sheltering in the community of Narus. We wanted to share with you a part of our conversation, and are asking you to join us in prayer for the people of South Sudan.

Aaron: We along with our Canadian Baptist Churches and friends have been following the news updates about South Sudan. You and the FEBAC churches have been in our prayers. Is there any sign that the conflict will be resolved?

Saphano: No. Sadly, no. A "unification accord" was just signed in Tanzania, but fighting continued uninterrupted. Shelling continues in Renk, Upper Nile State, and in Unity State. Before that a "succession of hostility agreement" was signed, but broken the same day. Peace talks keep happening outside of South Sudan, but on the ground the fighting is only getting worse. Both sides of the conflict are distributing weapons among people. It is very disheartening. We faithfully pray for peace to come, but we do not know when... We have many indications that hostility will continue for some time, unless God changes the heart of all of our leaders.

Erica: So many people from South Sudan have become refugees over the past year. How is the situation now in the large refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya?

Saphano: Tensions were very high in December and January, but the situation is calm and normalcy has returned. Our FEBAC church was at the centre of the camp where the worst of the violence took place. The church was looted and there were many killed. Many of our people fled the camp during the December clashes and they have returned to Narus, crossing the border from Kenya back into South Sudan.

Still we have thousands more who remained in Kakuma. The camp authorities and the National Church Council of Kenya gave us new land to rebuild in a more secure area. We are now building a simple church with corrugated iron sheets. We still have two pastors and a unordained pastor serving three FEBAC churches in Kakuma... This is an international refugee camp with almost 180,000 people. It is a strategic place to build peace among our people who are divided by their Nuer and Dinka identities, but we need help in this.

Erica: I think it is wonderful how you are already working with other churches in these ministries of peace and reconciliation. It is a sign of your leadership that you are reaching out to other Christian leaders.

Saphano: Yes, our vision as a church is not so narrow that we would think only of ourselves. We see the much broader picture, and we are so glad that CBM shares this perspective. With your support we are helping many denominations come together. Next week in Narus, CBM is funding us as we host a training workshop among leaders of several of the churches in that community. We will be hosting a second training like this in Baliet, later in the year. There is a major need for this type of training. We know that God must be at work changing people's attitudes and transforming their hearts if South Sudan is to have a future.

Aaron: How can we be praying for you and for the Church in South Sudan?

Saphano: We need your prayers.

Prayers for safety as we travel. Prayers for the relief work in Narus. Prayers for the farming that is being started in Mareng, Galdara, Pigi, and in Jaach. Prayers for rain.

We are seeking a well digger to make a bore hole in Jaach. They need water now, but at this point we may not have an available well digger until June. 

We also need your prayers for peace. We hope the war will not persist, the South Sudanese people are very tired of war.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015

Tristan and Katie on the way to the Rosslyn High School
2015 Sadie Hawkins' banquet and dance 

A Great Friday Evening!

This Valentine's Day weekend was a lot of fun with 
High School Sadie Hawkins and the Middle School Play. 

On Saturday evening, we celebrated little Zuri's third birthday

Around the World in 8 Plays

The Rosslyn Academy Middle School Presents
Around the World in 8 Plays

Penelope and Maria (Emma) 
telling the Japanese story of
"My Lord Bag of Rice"

Hidesato walks over the Dragon King 

Each of the eight plays were funny adventures
from the cultures of Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America

The three shows were all big hits with families 
and friends from the Rosslyn Community

This was the fourth Rosslyn Middle School production 
directed by Mark Statler. We are so thankful for this great school 
and community and the opportunity our children 
have had to be a part of such a great arts program.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Update: CBM Food Security Project (NEP, Kenya)

Garissa District, North Eastern Province

"Give us this day our daily bread" 

The words of the Lord's Prayer take on new meaning when one lives through drought and famine. Over the past four years, the Canadian Baptist Ministries' team, serving in Kenya's North Eastern Province, has been focused on helping vulnerable communities become food secure through conservation agriculture approaches along the Tana River. It is an answer to prayer to see these beneficiaries growing their own food. 

Our friend and colleague William Wako has been working in these communities and in cooperation with Red Cross and the Farming God's Way group in Kenya. In his most recent report, he shares about the wonderful transformation that is taking place in the lives of twenty farmers who embraced conservation farming this past year.

We are so thankful for the support of individuals and Canadian Baptist Churches that make these ministries possible.

Village in anticipation of of bumper harvest  
Report from William Wako, CBM NEP Food Security Project Officer
For the families in the Northern region of Kenya, food security has never been a reality because of the unreliable rainfall, poor soil and prolonged drought. Garissa is one of the main towns in North Eastern Province and it is within Garissa County that we have been engaging with local communities of Somali and Waliwana to practices conservational agriculture along River Tana.

In our attempt to improve food security, last year we undertook various training among our local target communities living mainly along River Tana. Among the many activities we undertook with over 20 farmers of Bakuyu, Dollowyne and Bula Pamoja was Conservational Agriculture training, certified seed distribution, and distribution of irrigation pumps and pipes to our model farmers. All the trainings and farming implements were geared towards equipping and motivating local famers to embrace farming practices to produce their own food and promote long term care for soil.

Beyond the intensive training workshops, we embarked upon a routine of regular farm visitation and mentorship. One year later, we are so encouraged particular by the progress and effort of Waliwana farmers in Bula Pamoja community. 

Bula Pamoja village is situated on the eastern part of Garissa town about 23 KM along Garissa – Korakora road. The village is resident of both Somali and Waliwana communities, who now co-exist peacefully, this wasn't always the case. The Somali’s are pastoralist, they keep goats, cows and camel, and these animals are their source of livelihoods. Whereas, the Waliwana depend on causal labor and burning of charcoal as source of income, besides doing rain fed agriculture along the bark of the river.

Following our different agricultural trainings, weekly mentorship and distribution of supportive farming implements the Waliwana farmers from Bula Pamoja did extremely well -- beyond others target farmers. Their effort and zeal could be seen in the huge maize plantation along the bank of the river. We are so encouraged to see excited farmers inviting us to walk through their maize plantations and appreciate their hard work. It is joyous to see farmers practicing the skills and technologies taught in the trainings we offered. 

Several of the farmers not only planted maize but they intercropped maize with various legumes crops that cover the soil and also add nutrients to the soil. Walking through two month old maize plantation is not easy but even cover crops planted with it made it more difficult. However, we are confident that irrigational farming has improved food production in Bula Pamoja. 

Talking to one of the farmer about the harvest his expecting towards the end of this month he said in his own words: 

“Alhamdulillah! (Thankfully) we do not have hunger now, we have plenty of food’’ 

Although we did not achieve much, the words of this farmer gave us satisfaction and assurance that we have not invest in vain. On the other hand, seeing the effort and zeal they put in with our small support, left us wondering what they can do with big bumps and over head pipes and working as farm groups.

In conclusion, successful agriculture is dependent on water and, while you can't control the weather, you can make it rain whenever necessary through irrigation.  Thus, irrigation agriculture has proven to be viable with Bula Pamoja community and farmers are expecting more bumper harvest to come!

Our CBM colleague Andai Jackson Ahole encouraging a family of Malakote farmers near Korakora, Garissa District.

You can learn more about the work of Canadian Baptist Ministries in Africa and around the world by checking out our website at