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Friday, March 25, 2016

It's been way too long

Greetings




It has been way too long since my last post and my last visit to East Africa.  On February 11, 2014 I married my lovely new wife Svitlana whom I call Sveta.  However it's hard for some people to pronounce so you can call her Svitlana.  Sveta is from the Lugansk region of Eastern Ukraine.  In Ukraine she was a practicing Dentist however here in the states becoming a licensed Dentist is very difficult and extremely cost prohibitive.  For the most part of 2014 time was spent keeping Sveta out of harms way and getting her to the states. Sveta has now been in the states for over 16 months and it is now time for not only me but us to start the mission again.  We will be heading to Kenya in a few weeks to review the projects that were started a few years ago.


I am very anxious and excited to be going back to Kenya.  Sveta on the other hand is anxious in another way.  She really doesn't know what to expect and all she has to go on is what I tell her along with some of the pictures I have shown her.  I believe once she gets a taste of mission work she will want to do it some more.


Please stay tuned as I will do another post before we leave and then a post every day while we visit with our friends in Kenya.


Take care and God bless


Dave


       

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11, 2013


Greetings
 

It’s been over 7 months since my last blog and much has happened since then.  I tried to write a blog back in April then again in May and I actually wrote the majority of this one after the 4th of July.  I have been trying to write to this blog for many months but have not been able to get the thoughts I want out of my head onto paper or should I say blog.  I am not sure why every time I come back from Africa my enthusiasm dwindles a little more.  It is only after I start to think about returning that I start to get motivated again.  There was a plan to return in August but that did not happen.  I would like to go in late October or early November but that too looks like it might not happen.

 

First I would like to give my condolences to the Ososo family on the loss of the youngest son Romeo last month.  I met Romeo on my first visit back in 2009 and found him to be so full of energy, well spoken, and ready to take on the world.  I am not sure exactly how old Romeo was but I am sure he was in his early to mid 20’s.  Every time I met with him he was about as upbeat as anyone could be.  I have spoken before about how life can be taken at such early ages in Africa.  Many children die before the age of 5 however getting sick in Africa at any age can be deadly.  Again my heart goes out to the Ososo family and I will miss Romeo on my future visits.

 

Bishop Hezron was here in the states for two months back in April and May.  I had the pleasure of meeting with him the end of April and early May.  I left Chicago and took a quick trip back to Delaware for a few days.  I then headed west and picked up Hezron in Louisville, Kentucky.  After Louisville we headed west to Olathe, Kansas where Hezron met and spoke at Olathe Wesleyan Church.  After a few days in Olathe we headed further west to Colorado Springs, Colorado to meet with my brother Steve and family.  While we were in Colorado Springs we took a quick trip up Pikes Peak to enjoy the view.  I am not sure what I was thinking but there seems to be less air up there and it was really quite chilly.  On the drive up the Bishop told me to watch the road and he would watch the scenery.  After our time in Colorado Springs we then took a 14 hour drive to Minnesota to meet up with Aaron and the folks in Wilmar.  After Minnesota we then drove another 12 hours down to Cincinnati where he was to meet with some friends from his days with CFO (Camps Furthest Out).  The next morning I returned back to Chicago.  Total trip was close to 5000 miles.
 
 
Bishop Hezron on top of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, Colorado
 



 

As you know we have been experimenting for the last couple of years with ways to help the people of East Africa become more self sufficient.  Back in the summer of 2011 Pastor Ososo and the UMC Matasia church started YSAVE.  Two years later the micro-finance venture is still doing very well.  This last March we injected some funds into the venture to give it a boost.  As of the last time I heard money is being saved and money is being loaned out.  Some of the projects they have been doing include tailoring, catering, the cereal shop, jewelry making, security services, and other projects.  Our intent is to loan the money at no interest to YSAVE and the other ventures payable back to us in a time frame that is manageable to them. 
 
 
One of the roadside Kiosks
 
 
 
Inside the cereal shop started in Summer 2011

 
 
Security guards doing their training

 
 
Tailoring shop

 
 
Some of the bone jewelry

 

 

The Freedom Ministries micro-finance venture was initiated during the October 2012 visit and finalized during the January 2013 visit.  We also injected some funds this last March into their venture.  Bishop Hezron spent April and May in the states and upon his return to Kenya he had been very busy through July getting caught up in his ministry.  I have asked him to have the committee include me in some of their proceedings so I can get a feel of what they are doing.  I have told them success is paramount.  My understanding is that they are meeting monthly to review applications and distribute loans they deem viable.  I hope to get some more reports soon on their progress.

 

There had been some discussions about putting a micro-finance venture into a church environment.  To some this is contrary to what the church is all about.  However in order to stay away from creating a separate NGO and our desire to help the people in the church we need their legal framework to operate.  The church as a legal entity in Kenya or Uganda has under its charter this ability.  In order to help protect the ministry and the leaders of the ministry we felt it best to remove voting rights for the leaders of the Ministry.  Bishop Hezron is on the micro-finance committee however he has no vote. 

 

The original intent was to institute a few different micro-finance ventures and there are others we are still waiting to do.  I am not sure what happened to the fish farmers in Busia and hopefully with one of my return visits I can pick this back up.  With Freedom Ministries in Uganda we will proceed with their micro-finance venture after we get a good feel on how well the Freedom Ministries Kenya venture works.  Pastor Robert and Wamulu finished their micro-finance by-laws back in January.  However something just did not seem right and I sent Pastor Robert an email to explain my concerns.  We would also like to institute a micro-finance venture in Maralal. 

 

Last October when Aaron and I were in Uganda we promised to do a 3 month trial by providing some funds for church based Orphan care in Uganda and Kenya.  We spent a couple of days hashing out numbers and came up with 42 cents a day per child.  The number of children was determined and the funds were distributed for the 3 months.  However what we quickly learned as with most anything we do in Africa our intent has dire consequences.  I guess to put the main problem in one word it would be envy.  The need is so vastly overwhelming and we definitely do not have the ability to service everyone in our realm of influence.  Once word got out that we were helping by providing support for a given number of children more came out of the bush to receive the blessing.  This put a real burden on Bishop Moses in Uganda and I am still not sure how he resolved it.  I think about these problems all the time and maybe this is why I get so depressed upon my return from Africa.  I don’t have an answer and my desire is to help without creating any harm to my partners in the ministry.  The easiest thing to do would be to just give up.  Trust me it crosses my mind all the time.  Any way there is an answer out there and I will continue to look for it.  In the mean time we will be addressing the Orphan situation here in the next few months.

 

Take care and God bless

Dave   

Sunday, January 20, 2013

January 20, 2013 Eldoret

Greetings

Well today was another long day.  Started the morning on our way to church services at the base of Mt. Elgon in the little village of Mitoto (Me Toe Toe).  Made it to Webuye (We Boo Yey) before we had to have the car repaired.  We finally made it to the church sometime after noon.  The church had already been going for quite a few hours before we arrived.  Everyone had some tea and mendazi before we headed down to the church for services.  Not sure exactly what time we started after we arrived but I do believe church services were a good four or five hours.  I probably took an hour of the time myself.  Before we were to head back to Eldoret the staff had some business to take care of with the leadership of the church.  I excused myself to play some word search and angry birds on my phone until the battery went dead.  Luckily it was about the same time they were done so I wouldn't be bored just sitting there.

The roads today were especially brutal.  We did not get very far down the road before the muffler busted.  The potholes, the dust, the ruts, the mountainous speed bumps everywhere, and once it gets dark I can't see anyone.  We had just passed Webuye and there was a lady walking in the middle of the highway.  I didn't see her until we were right on her.  The Bishop is pretty good about dodging all the obstacles that come about so he missed her.  I pray that she finds her way off the highway tonight before one of the semi's hits her.

Tonight is my last night here in Kenya and I head back to the states tomorrow night.  We made it to Eldoret around nine pm and should be heading to the airport in the morning to start my journey back home.  I am so looking forward to four flights and almost two full days of no sleep.  So that is it this trip is almost history. 

Take care and God bless

Dave

January 20, 2013 Turbo


Greetings

Yesterday we left Kakamega and headed our way to Turbo which is on the main road from Eldoret to Webuye.  I have passed thru here on numerous occasions but the last time we stopped was way back on the very first trip in 2009.  We met up with Beatrice and after four years she remembered my name.  In fact she remembered all of our names that paid her a visit that day.  I am lucky to remember a name at the end of the day.  She pulled out some pictures from the visit and she told me I was now fat.  I really thought I was on the Kenya diet losing some major weight.

Beatrice and the four Turbo churches have eleven Orphans that are presently in Bishop Hezrons program.  Actually there are another nine more that are being helped to some extent.  A few years ago Hezron had hundreds of children in his program and over the years he has had to reduce the number for lack of funding.  What I am finding out is that once the funding decreases the rules have to change to adjust to the situation.  The Orphans do not disappear just because the money stops coming in.  Since the program here in Turbo is more for helping with their education the children are only helped through a certain grade then their assistance stops.  If there is a little extra money then some food will be given.  All of these children here are placed in a guardian’s home.  Some of the guardians are relatives and some are not.  Some of these children have both parents gone some only one parent gone.  It is my understanding that most or all the children here in Turbo that still have one parent alive do not live with the surviving parent for one reason or another.  All of the children live in the slum area of Turbo.  Hezron is going to have a meeting with the guardians on Wednesday to find a way to distribute the funds he has based on needs versus just handing everyone the same amount of money.  I am anxious to see how this works out.

After we left Turbo we paid a visit to Lumakanda to see the progress on the Freedom International Church main headquarter complex.  Since my last visit there are some more columns put up.  Seven thousand five hundred bricks are ready to be fired.  The church has been added on to.  There is now a three room school house for the little ones of the village.  A new toilet is being constructed and a kitchen was added on to the Pastors residence.  While we were visiting the church there was a young lady that had been selected to give the church a fresh new cow poop floor.  It seems that every two weeks this process is repeated by one of the members mostly by the youth.  In the states I am not sure if this would be a good recruiting tool to get kids to join the youth group or maybe it would.  I must say she did a really good job at it and she was fast too.

Freedom International Church compound Lumakanda



She really moves fast putting in a new floor



She did an excellent job



Bishop Hezron and some of the kids in the area



New three room school house



My guest for the evening



Yesterday’s blog I mention a guy in line that kept invading my space.  The guy in yesterdays blog is nothing compared to the guy in today’s blog.  I think God was reading my blog yesterday and thought it quite funny and decided that it was not funny enough.  So he throws in a new character.  You know God does have a sense of humor.  Here we are at the Lumakanda church and the neighbor guy sees us so he decides to pay us a visit.  Talk about being a space invader let me tell you that it is a real treat to be a captive audience to a drunken Kenyan.  You know Jim it is all about the relationshipJ

Today it is off to Mt. Elgon to visit a small town called Mototo (I think) for church services.  Also some of the Freedom International leadership will be there to speak to the members about tithing.  After the services I assume we will have some lunch and then I will say my goodbyes to the area and head for Eldoret so I can be near the airport tomorrow morning.  

Take care and God bless

Dave 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

January 19, 2013 Kakamega


Greetings

Today was a really long day.  We got off to a late start.  Earlier I could not get my ATM card to work or the machine was out of money so I had to make the adventure to the bank to get some shillings.  I don’t know what it is about some people and lines.  Sometimes I wonder if people are taught proper etiquette while standing in a line.  Each of us humans we have our own personal space and when I can feel your breath on my neck you are way too close.  I stood in that line for what seemed like forever with a guy who kept invading my space.  I always make sure that I give the person in front of me plenty of room.  So here I am inching my way closer to the person in front of me so I can give the guy behind me some room to breathe on someone else.  Every time I inched forward the dude behind me inched along with me.  Even if I moved a half and inch he was right along with me.  Finally I had to realize that we were going to be inseparable for the duration of our time together in line.  I made sure that before I left the states I had 2006’s and above.  Not sure how many more years 2006’s will be valid here in Kenya.

After we fueled up we were on our way to visit a small church near Busia to see some of the Orphans that this church is taking care of.  The number was supposed to be five and yes they had five.  However it seems like they had another five that I assume were vulnerable children or partially orphans.  One of the Orphans in attendance was still considered an Orphan but she had a small child of her own.  Of course the father is no where to be found.  I still need to think about that one.  While I was at this small church I started to get sick and really did not feel like doing anything but going to sleep.  We still had a long day ahead of us and luckily I started to feel better a little later on.  I am not sure how much more Orphan information I can digest on this trip.

Pastor and Bishop with some members of Busia church
(the five children in front are the Orphans)



After we left the church it was off to see Pastor Robert in Bulimbo to discuss micro-finance and see his passion fruit orchard.  We went over his by-laws of the micro-finance program and spoke with some of the members of his committee to help them finalize the program.  After the meeting we took a stroll to the passion fruit orchard.  They still look great however Robert tells me that the vines are in a state of dormancy while the dry season continues.  This is what took us out last year when the drought hit here in Western Kenya.  The vines were not sufficiently large to withstand periods of no water.  Robert told me once the rain starts again the vines will start to produce again.  As we went through the orchard there still seemed to be a large number of fruit on the vines and there were also some flowers meaning more fruit will be coming.  The main problem for the orchard is theft.  It sits right next to the road and it is easy picking for all.  I think there are some witch doctors not far from here that can put a spell on the vines so if anyone steals the fruit they will be frozen on the spot.

This trip was not much to do with passion fruit since any future passion fruit will have to go through the micro-finance entities we are setting up.  However my understanding is that the surviving orchards in Bungoma area are doing quite well.  The vines that made it through the drought have survived the second dry season.  Some of Mumias orchards are still alive and a few of the churches are going to replant in other areas.  Kakamega took a hard hit and most of them switched back to maize.  I still feel that passion fruit is a viable crop and my prayer is that once the micro-finance programs are up and running passion fruit orchards will be back on the agenda.

Pastor Robert explaining dormancy during times of little rain


Young man showing me a passion fruit flower


Some of pastor Robert's family


The passion fruit orchard from the road



After we left Pastor Robert and family it was back to Kakamega.  On the way we stopped in Mumias to pick up Mr. and Mrs. Ometi to have dinner with the Bishop and Melissa.  Melissa has been sick for the last week or so.  She had been in the hospital and they could not find out what was wrong with her.  Everyone thought it was malaria but the doctors would not confirm it and sent her home.  She still does not feel well but she is doing better then she was.  My prayers are to you for a speedy recovery.  Maybe she has the flu that is going around in the states.  Do they have the flu here?

After dinner we started to discuss church based Orphan care and how we are going to undertake such a task.  I told them we need to take this from the ministry level and move it to the church level.  It has become obvious to me that there are some that have Orphans in their care that might not need any help.  It is also obvious to me that there are some that have Orphans in their care that could use a little help.  It is also obvious to me that there are people that have Orphans in their care that need a lot of help.  Now the question is we have this little or God willing large pot of money to help and to whom are we going to help?  I am not sure if I would ever be in a position to answer that question but as Maurice said last night with proper training and discipleship the church can.

This morning Hezron had called me and said we are going somewhere but I am not sure where we are going.  I know we will be going to the Elgon area tomorrow for church services and then to Eldoret so we can be close to the airport for my departure on Monday morning.  There is only one flight out of Eldoret and I need to be on it or there might be a problem getting back to the states.  The Bishop does not have the most reliable car at times but it serves its purpose well when it does.

An Eagle that landed on a branch while I was typing this blog


Take care and God bless

Dave

Friday, January 18, 2013

January 18, 2013 Uganda part two


Greetings

Before Bishop Hezron and I left Uganda on Wednesday we traveled west to Iganga to visit with the Orphans that Bishop Moses and his wife Esther house in their rented small two room apartment if you want to call it one.  It is essentially two rooms with each room about eight feet by ten feet if that.  The living room or sitting room doubles as the boys sleeping area at night.  The other room is the bedroom for Esther and the girls.  Moses and his wife have five children of their own and care for another twelve Orphans in a space smaller then my hotel room here in Kakamega.  There is no kitchen so Esther has to cook outside under a tree.  There is no bathroom and the facilities available are communal for all the families living in the complex.  I did see a bathing area next to the toilets and as I was walking around I happened to see a young boy in a bucket cleaning himself with absolutely no privacy.  Everyone sleeps on reed mats at night with no blankets or pillows.  We arrived right before the meal of the day which consisted of some rice, posha (ugali), and minnow soup.  This area of Uganda is a major rice growing area near Lake Victoria.  With the posha and minnows the meal is about as cheap as one can get.  However getting enough to feed nineteen people every day is a challenge.

Only thirteen of the seventeen kids were present as some of the older children were attending a youth conference with their church.  Moses started to explain the story of each child but my mind just wasn’t into it.  Does it really matter how each parent died or what happened to them?  The fact is that they are dead or gone and usually at a very young age since most of these children are very young themselves.  Some have died in the violence that has plagued this country for many years; some have died from the nasty diseases like aids, drowned in Lake Victoria fishing, or whatever.  In the last two days I have seen close to a hundred Orphans that are being housed within eight church families.  God gives us such a simple command but we happen to be so numb to it.  There are so many mouths to feed.  No telling what some of these kids have had to go through.  Granted the whole world has these same types of problems however Uganda has some of the worst of it.


Bishop Moses Wanyama and family 



 Esther Wanyama preparing the days meal



This is where they cook and eat every day 



Poshe (ugali) and minnow soup for dinner



 This is where the boys sleep at night



 The neighbor lady wanted her picture taken and published
(now I need to find a way so she can see it) 



Uganda has been in a civil war for a good twenty years with the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) mostly in the northern part of the country but the whole country has been affected at one time or another.  If you have not heard of this Kony guy look him up on the internet.  His army will raid a village and leave a path of death in a moments notice to acquire the children he needs to breed his army.  The girls are usually forced into sex slavery until they are no longer needed and discarded.  The boys are forced into the rebel insurgency by any means at their disposal.  The atrocities that these people have done are of the worst magnitude.  They go so far as to mutilate their enemies, their discards, those that try to escape, and they even cook them up for dinner.  Does cannibalism still exist in Uganda?  There are only a handful of places on this planet that might still harbor the practice.  Northern and eastern Uganda is included.  My understanding is that some villages had two types of butcheries one for the regular types of meat and ones for the other type of meat.  It is also my understanding that the excuse was not because they were hungry.  Let’s pray that this behavior no longer exists and that Joseph Kony is captured or killed in the near future.

This Monday night I will be going back to the comfortableness of my existence while so many of my friends and their families will continue to eek out an existence here in East Africa.  Every time I come here I get so darned depressed on the enormity of it all.  Who are we going to help and whom is going to be left aside?  There are those that have obvious needs and there are those that think they have needs but are they really just something they want?  As I travel the country side I see the good works of some of the missionaries that come here and I wonder.  Oh I so wonder why we do what we do.  We drove by this huge compound the other day just west of Busia of at least a hundred acres being fenced in with the construction of a huge church and a bunch of buildings being built with what looked like all the trimmings.  Is this what we are about?  Is this what God is asking us to do?  I can’t imagine the amount of money going into this project to help how many people?  I can’t remember the organizations name and I am sure they have great intentions but is this really addressing the needs of these people or is it something else entirely?  If we build it bigger and to our standards does God favor us more then if we come in with a measly amount of money to help as many people as possible because our hearts tell us to?  What is it going to be people?  Bigger and better or taking the same amount of money and making it adequate for as many as possible.  My friends here in East Africa hear this also.  What would Jesus have us do??  I think you know my answer or at least I hope you do.  Amen

Today we will be off to see some more Orphans on the Kenya side of Busia.  We will also pay a visit to Pastor Robert in Bulimbo to discuss micro-finance and passion fruit.

Take care and God bless

Dave 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17, 2013 Uganda part one


Greetings

Well I am back from Uganda after a few days.  This will be Uganda visit part one blog.  Today I want to just go over the details of the Orphans a little and tomorrow I want to get into something a little bit more difficult to discuss.

On Monday we crossed the border into Uganda met up with Bishop Moses and made our way to the Executive Hotel in Bugiri.  This border crossing was a complete surprise versus my other crossings.  I was the only one in line to leave Kenya and I was the only one in line to go into Uganda.  What seemed strange was that there were a large number of people on each side of the border and in no mans land in between.  For those of you who do not know what no mans land is let me explain.  This is the area between the two countries about the size of a football field where there is no jurisdiction whatsoever.  Crossing the border is actually going through a total of four gates.  Coming from Kenya into Uganda you pass the first armed gate into a staging area to fill out departure papers and have your visa exit stamped with customs.  The second armed gate is the gate to no mans land where you walk about a hundred yards to gate number three.  I assume that you enter this area at your own risk since none of the armed guards on either side are allowed to enter the area.  The third gate is the armed gate where you enter Ugandan customs fill out the form give them fifty bucks for a visa and they tell you to have a great visit.  Once past the customs area you then go through the last armed gate upon entering Uganda.  The return trip is the opposite except if you have a valid Kenyan visa the cost is nothing.

On Tuesday we were off to see some of the Orphans.  Our first stop was just outside of Bugiri to meet with 3 pastors whom have a total of 8 Orphans among them.  One pastor has four, another one, and the last three.  I am not that great with names since I meet so many people when I do these excursions.  The pastor/wife that has four Orphans also has three of their own.  The four were not in attendance since they were visiting their grandmothers while school is out of session here in Uganda.  My understanding is that the children are from two different families where as both sets of parents are dead.  The pastor/wife that has one Orphan also has five of their own.  Both parents of this child are dead and it appears that there are no other relatives to assist with her. 

The last pastor/wife whom is also the General Secretary of Freedom International Uganda Masava Samuel have taken in three Orphans to add to the three of their own.  These three Orphans are from the war torn north that had wandered into the area with a few others.  Their little village in northern Uganda was raided and their parents/relatives killed.  The violence in northern Uganda has subsided in the last few years as the rebels have been pushed into the Congo.  It is my understanding that in the bush many children do not get birth certificates or other documents until they are older if they get any at all.  So I guess once the relatives of these children are killed off no one else knows they exist making them virtually invisible and easy recruits for the rebels or others to take advantage of them. 

I was told of the neighbor woman living near Masava whom has aids and is close to death.  Her husband has already died of aids and once she is dead then there will be four more children left without parents.  I asked him what would happen to the children once the mother is gone.  He told me that they are already helping where they can since the mother has no income and no way of earning any income.  So they assist with food and some other essentials when they are able.  I am not sure what will happen to the four children upon the death of the mother but my assumption they will be absorbed into the community somehow. 


Pastor/wife that has four Orphans (not pictured)




Pastor/wife with one Orphan and five of their own



Pastor Masava/wife with three Orphans and three of their own



We made our way to the next stop just south of Busia and we were greeted by a large number of children.  Of course I was clueless to what was going on and I quickly found out that the 5 pastors of the area had brought their Orphans to this one church to greet us.  Aaron and I were here just a couple of months ago and there were only supposed to be 76 Orphans scattered among the 19 churches here in Eastern Uganda.  Earlier in the day I had met 3 pastors with 8 Orphans easy enough.  The numbers seem to be what we believed them to be.  Well now I have met 5 pastors with 72 Orphans with 4 more just added on today.  If I do my math correctly I have now met 8 of the 19 pastors with a total of 84 Orphans.  If I add the 12 that Bishop Moses has the new number is 96 Orphans.  There are still 11 churches with how many Orphans?  Did I ever tell any of you that communications here in Uganda is a little more difficult then Kenya?


Busia area Orphans singing in the church



Bishop Hezron and the Busia area Orphans

(not sure why I missed Bishop Moses in the picture)



Overall the meetings went very well.  During my speech to the children I asked how many of the children were looking at a mzungu for the first time.   After my question was translated I was surprised to see that at least half if not more were seeing their first mzungu.  At the end of the meeting with the children I invited them all to shake my hand.  I think I have mentioned this before and it needs repeating for those that plan to come and pay a visit.  Once you offer to shake some hands be prepared to shake a lot of hands multiple times. 

After the group meeting we met with the 5 pastors to discuss church based Orphan care and a little about the micro-finance project to be started later.  Obviously there seems to be a little problem with the number of children and hopefully Bishop Moses and his staff will be able to come up with a resolution.

I will discuss Wednesday’s agenda and some more discussion on my time in Uganda in tomorrow’s blog.

Take care and God bless

Dave