Monday, September 16, 2019

Imagine children ...

We have this mob of really great kids at our church, and we do a lot of things just for them.  Classes and events and celebrations.

Their parents do much more, of course. If you think about all the work involved in taking care of all those kids, there's so much laundry and meals and school attendance and activities.  If you try just to imagine all the groceries, it's pretty impressive.

Then you imagine them sitting down with their families to eat and talk at the end of the day.  It's worth all the effort, of course.

Now, imagine those same families suddenly moved to a world where there aren't any grocery stores.  Imagine the parents now with no jobs, no wealth, and no ability to change things.

This precious young lady is a friend of ours.  She's the youngest in her family of nine and they live in eastern Africa.  They're gracious, hospitable, and hard-working.  Magnificent folks, really.

What is life like for her family?  They don't have running water or grocery stores or washing machines or electricity.  They don't have a car or phone.  They do have a small flock of goats and two camels.  They're perhaps nicer than most folks in the developed world.  The difficulties they face - keeping kids in school and fed.

About 15% of the world lives like she does. An income equivalent of at most $2 per person per day is the common circumstance.  It's the same for most children where she lives.

Things you might do if you're inclined to make a difference:
  • Go.  Go see for yourself.  Across town or across the ocean.  Stay long enough to get to know some folks.  Then go again if you can. 
  • Give.  Figure out how much is generous.  Then double that.  If it isn't difficult, there's no sacrifice, and you're unchanged.  Include your children in the discussion; that's essential. Re-work your budget for next year and increase your giving again.  Give until you have to adjust your comfortable lifestyle to keep it up.  Do that from now on.
  • Help Find out where the practical needs are and pitch in; work with those who are effective.  (World Vision, UNHCR, UNICEF, Salvation Army, and churches often have local and international assistance work)
  • Hope Push back the hopelessness for just one family by giving them a hand up.  Or two families.  Or ten.
  • Learn.  Study deeply enough to get past your emotional response and get practical with your efforts.  Helping without hurting isn't as easy as it sounds. Pity isn't helpful.  Friendship is. 
Rinse.  Repeat.

Friends of ours since the early days, three here
are siblings; can you pick them out?
(click for larger version)
Kids in Kenya with food
provided by the churches.
If you're middle-income in the west, you're in the world's top 10% for wealth.  It's something we need to understand.

Rethink, adjust, do differently.  Or not. 

Don't let me persuade you; go see for yourself! It's a life-changer and includes more joy than you can imagine!  :)


The following is a quote from “Africans – Altered States, Ordinary Miracles” by Richard Dowden. 

“If you go you will find most Africans friendly, gentle and infinitely polite.  You will frequently be humbled by African generosity.  Africans have in abundance what we call social skills.  These are not formally taught or learned.  There is no click on have-a-nice-day smile in Africa.  Africans meet, greet and talk, look you in the eye and empathize, hold hands and embrace, share and accept from others without twitchy self-consciousness.  All these things are as natural as music in Africa.

“Westerners ... often find themselves cracked open.  They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves and they try to understand why they have only half lived.  In Africa the essentials of existence - light, earth, water, food, family, love, sickness, death - are more immediate, more intense.  Visitors suddenly realize what life is for.  To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives we have lost human values that are still around in Africa.”

You might appreciate The Life of Samuel.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Life of Samuel

"I was maybe three when I first attended school," my friend Samuel tells me.  "We had no building, so we met under a large tree.  The schoolmaster was an Anglican Christian fellow.  He invited us to come back on Sundays and promised to teach us about God and his son.  We learned to pray and sing."

As the first-born son, Samuel's responsibilities grew over the years to be a heavy burden.  He took on the task of feeding the family and helping raise his eight brothers and sisters.  He did his best while trying to keep up with his own schooling.  When he became a Christian, his father threw him out of the house, and "I lived three days in the bush."  He tells the story with a smile now, "until my grandmother came and stood up for me to my dad."  "You let him stay in the house and you let him be a Christian," grandma demanded though she herself wasn't a believer.

Gracious help along the way allowed his survival and that of the family.  His two youngest sisters were married young; sold actually, in exchange for cows.  The family was in need and couldn't refuse the offer.  One was married to a much older fellow who died after fathering six children by her.

Samuel's studies led him into business and economics, an unlikely path until you hear the story.  Once settled into life, marriage, and employment with an income, he felt God was telling him to leave and begin to build the church.  He did, and everyone told him he was crazy.  (the business he resigned, a multinational corporation that had groomed him for advancement,  closed their doors in Kenya soon after.)

Build the church.  Preach the gospel, do the gospel, feed the hungry, clothe the naked ... and encourage them to pursue the grace of God as they worked together and helped one another.  He established small groups, not for bible study but for business study and cooperative effort.  They each brought the little they could spare to the group and deposited it in a bank account until there was enough to borrow for a small business attempt.  Selling charcoal (went well), selling vegetables (much more difficult), with good results.  They continue in their success to give back for the sake of others.

"I'll build you a house," Samuel told the widow.  He'd walked the two hours to the village where she lived to meet her.  She'd come to the church, walking the two hours each way, so he went to inquire.  He found her living under a tree with her children.  She'd been driven from her husband's land after he died, sent back to the village she'd come from, but none would take her in.  Now living on the bare ground, she had nothing.  "What can I do to help," he inquired.  "I need a safe place to live with my children."

Samuel and the church raised enough for the framework and built her a modest two-room house.  For roofing tin, Samuel gave the roof from his own house to cover her new home, but that's another story.

The community was thrilled.  "These people are real; look at the things they've done."
The church reaches out practically and effectively.  Sometimes the message is simple; we don't have money but we'll teach you how to live in God's blessing.

"I've no time for being religious," he says with a smile.  Bishop Samuel Kazungu Mkambe oversees twenty-one churches in Kenya now, and has established four churches in Burundi.  And each one is another story.  (first posted in 2013)

Update, 9/2019 - There are now 37 churches in Kenya and 9 in Burundi.  Each has a pastor and leadership which Bishop Samuel and his fellowship have trained and equipped.  Each has stories to tell of lives being changed and hope being restored.  God bless you, brother.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


Kupunguzwa kabila langu nywele kila mwaka.

"Once a year, my African friend told me. My tribe cuts hair once a year. Scruffy fellow, seemed sincere, and the yearly haircut thing seemed like an interesting cultural element. I joined them in the once yearly hair cutting thing, and looked scruffy for awhile before I found out he was talking about sheep hair. Sheep shearing. My Swahili leaves a lot to be desired." stupid joke, of course

Understanding another culture can be a challenge, like discovering what's really happening in the communities you might visit, and it's even more difficult to understand what's needed and what works as a solution.  
World Vision tops the list of world-changers and help-bringers.  They invest years in the community, learning and helping where it's needed. The Salvation Army is also among the most effective crisis-assistance organizations.  Do the research.  The large-scale, top-down development programs often fall short of the intended goals. Community-based efforts like the WV model are well managed and continually refined to meet the need and make a way forward.
We're connected to some effective aid organizations in eastern and western Africa if you'd like an introduction. Drop us a note.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Going to Africa

If making the trip to sub-Saharan Africa hasn't crossed your mind, you're probably normal.  You don't need to go, really.

On the other hand, if you'd like to see it up close and personal, there are some easy introductions.

You can, for example, make friends with a camel in Djibouti;  the little ones are polite enough.  And with a little coaching, you can travel safely for a large part of the country.

There are places with stunning vistas, like the (only) road going north from Doraleh.  It ends at a nice beach and bar area which tourists will never find unless somebody tells them about it.
Bring a friend, of course.  Groups are safer.

It is Africa, and it's often hot, but it's a dry heat.  😀  Carry a case of bottled water with you when you wander around outside the city.  Bring small money for the kids, too.  Most of them will ask very politely for a donation to their family.

There's a stoplight in the city now.  Nobody really pays attention to it, so be careful.

Djibouti is pretty safe, especially if you're in a group of two or more, but don't go to the slum areas after dark.  Driving? It is easy to get comfortable in the moderately paced traffic.  They're a bit imprecise when it comes to staying in their lane, but they're more polite than in D. C.

In Kenya, north along the coast from Mombasa, I stumbled into this flock just minutes from the tourist area.  This is the real world, by the way.  Most of the world lives similarly.

Do not drive in Kenya.  Along one of Kenya's coastal highways, this van is on the shoulder doing about 40 Kph (25 Mph) with a passenger holding on in the open doorway.  They do drive on the left, mostly sort of, but it's a bit non-conventional.  Rent a car with a driver included for the days you want to wander, or join a professionally conducted safari.

Do go see the wildlife.  Hippos are incredible as are the giraffes.

In the mostly-undiscovered Sao Tome & Principe, children play at one of dozens of nearby beaches.  Most beaches are gorgeous and undeveloped.  It's the only country in Africa where you cannot get lost, no matter what.  (It's very small.)  They speak Portuguese and perhaps a few words in English, but that somehow doesn't seem to be a problem for visitors.  A little Spanish is fun; they pretend like you're intelligible, and somehow it works out.

Of the countries in Africa, this is among the safest and perhaps the friendliest as well.  Nice folks, and driving is fairly normal, sort of, if you're careful.

If you're very polite about taking pictures, folks usually will play along.  Kids love to pose for pictures; adults not so much, perhaps.  If you carry a camera you can let the kids use, they'll take fun pictures of all kinds of things that you otherwise wouldn't see and certainly not get photos of.

If you go slow and take the time to talk to folks, some may invite you home for coffee and conversation.  These are friends in Ethiopia, a neighborhood I've visited several times.  They took me home for coffee with mom and dad.  Their English is quite good.  My Amharic is non-existent, but no problem.

If you'd like to understand the world you live in, it takes a little thought and effort.  Just a little is a fine beginning.

Friday, April 26, 2013

APR '13 - Milagrosa community project

Update from Africa today!  Encouraging stuff; made my day.

Our friends are well along with building a community center and preschool.

Nestled in an overgrown former-plantation, Milagrosa is a small community of hard working folks with an associated mob of children. 

The community center/preschool project is their idea and they are doing the work as you can see.  After a year's prep, they offered their plan to our NGO associates.

Materials and other costs were covered by a generous folks in NC.

For those curious about Africa, the Milagrosa community is here on Google maps.
Staged cinderblock for the project

A few miles back from the ocean's edge, Milagrosa is a long way from anywhere to walk and the only transportation is the occasional taxi that makes the trip to the city most days.

Interestingly, despite their small size, the community has a wealth of skilled workers.  These folks have a strong work ethic and are willing to invest personally in their community's advancement.

If you'd like to join in on projects like this one, let me know.  We're connected to folks who actually manage the projects here and in southern Kenya as well.

In Sao Tome, Roberta dos Santos is the
NGO's coordinator.  She's the one who
pulls it all together and oversees the 
Our onsite management is provided by a small NGO (STeP UP) in Sao Tome and Principe and by a church group (Jubilation Ministries) in Mombasa, Kenya.  Both are recommended for their accountability.

We've got about 60 kids on scholarship, total, most who wouldn't be able to attend otherwise.  We'll have 100+ next semester.  We have a number of family assistance projects as well.  These are all places we've been, people we've met, and help is applied directly where it's needed.  Feel free to join us.  You'd be welcome to visit personally. (Leave a comment or a note; I'll get back to you with details.)

Stories from Sao Tome & Principe aren't really complete unless you mention the beauty of the place.  Beaches are magnificent, unspoiled, and undiscovered yet by the tourist world.  Here, some of our friends play in the sand while us old folks relax in the sun.  An impressive culture, gracious people; all of them it seems.