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

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

 Kakuma Refugee Camp

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

CBM Bridge Program, Kenya

Canadian Baptist Ministries' BRIDGE Certificate
Garissa, Cohort

This week is our second course in the CBM's "Certificate of Integral Mission in a Majority Islamic Context". We have called this the "Bridge" certificate program as it seeks to strengthen Christian leaders and the local churches of a community in building transformative relationships with their neighbours and broader community. It is a joy to have representatives from nearly every church in Garissa participating in this time of training and encouragement.

 Geoffrey, Pauline and William

We are especially thankful for our wonderful colleagues and friends who are the key facilitators for this week's course. Geoffrey Mwita and William Wako are leading CBM's ministries in Garissa in the areas of relief, food security, and integral mission. We are also joined this week by Pauline Kariuki, who is our main lecturer for this emphasis on project design and management. Pauline has both a strong academic background in community development and five years of experience in hands-on project management. Over the past two years, she has been managing the Guardians of Hope ministry with the Africa Brotherhood Church in Kenya.

 Pastor Ibrahim, of the East African Pentecostal Church

We are also thrilled to have some of our good friends from the Garissa Church Fellowship join as students in the program. Today was our first time, in over two years, to see pastor Ibrahim, who has been recovering with friends outside of Kenya. He praises God for the healing that he and his family have experienced, and shares his joy in being back at home in Garissa. Ibrahim, who began his ministry in Garissa in 1976, is the longest standing Christian minister to have served in Garissa County, and perhaps in all of the former North Eastern Province.

"I am so thankful for this training with my brothers and sisters, and the Canadian Baptists," shared Ibrahim. "I can tell you how practical this has been for our churches. The Farming God's Way training, in farming, has changed so much for us all. We are benefiting from what God is doing among all of his people!"

In Prayer

Please join us in praying for the church in Garissa, and throughout the Muslim world. In a time of great persecution and upheaval, we pray that God's Holy Spirit might spring up in each of our lives bringing healing, restoration, and peace.

Please remember the students who have left family, ministry responsibilities and personal commitments aside in order to participate in this time of training and reflection. We also pray for Pauline as she leads us through this week of training.