Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Transforming Mission: Water in Kitonguni

Kitonguni Community Water Weir
Africa Brotherhood Church Maiani, Kenya

Water is fundamental to life. Without it nothing in creation lives.
But for many communities in Africa, access to water is a great struggle.

In Kenya, twenty-five percent of the population lack access to clean drinking water. In the community of Kitonguni, for instance, women like Esther used to walk four-hours a day to carry water from a stream to her home.

"Bringing water to my home use to take me so long, and when I returned home I was exhausted and hungry from climbing the hills with water from the stream. Thanks to the help of CBM, and the ABC Church, I can now go out and bring water home in twenty minutes. And the water is sweet, never dirty."

Esther and her community benefited from the construction of a sand dam, or "water weir", constructed with the help of the Canadian Baptist Ministries' partnership with the Africa Brotherhood Church in Kenya. Esther's group of forty-eight neighbours pulled together to help build the dam that is bringing new life into their community.

Canadian Baptists Randy and Cheryl Vandervene 
visiting with members of the Kitonguni 
Community Based Organization

Sand dams are not a new technology. In fact, they are based on an ancient Roman approach to capturing and purifying rain water in arid areas. In the hill country of Ukambani, Kenya, communities like Kitonguni receive 150 millimetres of annual rainfall, but most of it rushes away in heavy rains that carry water and top soil down seasonal mountain streams away from the people living on the hillsides. 

Walking on water. 

After constructing a reinforced stone and cement dam wall, the people of Kitonguni started to see sand and gravel become trapped behind the wall in there community. And with the sand there was a lot of water. Soon fine silt was washed over the wall, but the heavy sands remained trapping precious water.

When you first see a sand dam, it appears as if the dam has failed. People can walk a kilometre back and walk on fifteen feet of captured sand, but just under the surface is an abundance of fresh water.  

The genius of the sand dam is that it safely stores large amounts of water protecting it from contaminants and evaporation. Once the rains have ended, people like Esther can dig a foot down into the loose sand and find fresh water.

Months later, the community will move below the dam and dig into the lower river bed to find more fresh water that has been sifted through the sand.

"We are thankful for the project," shared project chairman Sammy Mulandi. "We have come a long way. It use to be very dry, but since the dam was built you can see how green it is here. We are growing food, everyone has a garden. People use the water for the kettle, for cooking, for washing, for livestock, for gardens and even construction. Before it took a walk of two kilometres to find water, but now it is right here at our feet."

Learn More about Sand Dams: Sand dams voted best solution in water crisis debate

Read more: A Snapshot of Drinking Water and Sanitation in Africa

Cheryl Vandervene receiving a gracious gift 
from ABC farmer David Mutwota

Farmers, like David, have benefitted from increased access to water in his community. Along with the introduction of the water weir, he is using training on poultry farming and fruit tree tree grafting to provide for his family and care for his grand children. 

In appreciation for the change that the CBM/ABC project has brought into his family, David gave us one of his hens to pass onward to another family in need. 

 Julius Kiyoko serving as the food security program officer for the 
Africa Brotherhood Church'a community development department.

"Water is the key," shared Julius. "A student needs a book, but a farmer needs water. My prayer for the future of Ukambani is that everyone will have access to water. Everyone has land, but without water they can not grow food. With water there is abundance!"

Please pray for the people of Kitonguni and the region of Ukambani.
Pray for improved access to water for other communities in this region.
Pray for leaders like Julius, who are working with local farmers encouraging them in faith and conservation agriculture.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Allens in Kenya

A curious orphaned elephant
marching over to us after his mud bath
bringing greetings to the Allen family

Mary Jane, Troy, Colton, and Carter Allen

Over the next two weeks, we have the joy of hosting Erica's sister and her family from Riverview, New Brunswick. We are so excited for the Allens to experience life in Africa. Along with joining us for some of our work, they'll be going on Safari encountering the wild side of Kenya. Yesterday morning, they had fun seeing the baby elephants and affectionate giraffe of Karen.

Erica and her sister Mary Jane

A cheeky giraffe giving Mary Jane a smooch

Colton and Carter learning the Masai Warrior Dance

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Kenya!

We rang in 2016 last night after a great evening of board games and a campfire with our family. We are so thankful for the past year and the blessing of life and ministry in Africa. There are so many reasons to give thanks: our wonderful colleagues, the health of our family and great friends. We are also deeply thankful for the churches and our supporters in Canada that are partnering with us and Canadian Baptist Ministries in our shared work of integral mission. We wish you all a blessed New Year!

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, we celebrated with our church, singing carols and reading scripture. This year, Tristan joined the Christmas Eve worship team and sang O Holy Night with his friend and class mate Janet Lee. As we drove home, the clear night sky was filled with the light of a brilliant full moon. It was a peaceful night together as we lit our advent candles together and opened our Kikoyi pyjamas -- another great tradition.

Christmas morning at the Kennys

On Christmas day, we had lots of fun with our children and our friends Kerry and Zuri, and Melanie and baby Angel. We were able to try out some of the new board games that our children received for Christmas, and the girls had lots of fun colouring.

Christmas Trifle

We enjoyed all of our traditional Christmas goodies, but this year we added Erica's homemade marshmallows to our campfires and hot chocolate! 

Making Peanut butter balls with Malcolm and Patty
in the week leading up to Christmas

The view from the tree house in Naivasha

On the weekend before Christmas, we had a great weekend retreat with the Slaughter and Gilmer families near Naivasha. Our family stayed in our friend's treehouse cabin amongst the curious monkeys and beautiful tropical birds. Since Christmas is the start of summer here in Kenya, this is the season for camping and beach getaways!

Aaron and Emma under the treehouse

Erica and Tristan in the treehouse

The beautiful tea hills above Nairobi

Leading up to Christmas, we also enjoyed some time with our great friends Malcolm and Patty Card who were visiting from Canada. The Cards joined us for CBM partnership visits in Kenya, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but they also had a few days to enjoy some of their favourite spots here in Nairobi.

Exploring the gardens at Kiambethu Tea Farm with Malcolm and Patty

Christmas Eve

We have had a full day connecting with friends and family over Skype. Being far apart from our Canadian family at Christmas is certainly the most difficult part of living in Africa, but we are grateful for the wonderful memories that we are making together.

We wish you all God's richest blessings and fullest joy throughout 2016.