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Sunday, September 30, 2012

September 30, 2012 Kakamega


I would like to thank all of you that wrote back to me with your thoughts and comments on my various forms of communication.  Since I posted my last post on a Saturday some of you won’t see it until Monday.  I truly believe everyone that believes in God’s word wants to take care of all Orphans and anyone else in need.  What I also believe is that the power of money has made it almost impossible to reach those that needed it most.  In America it takes only a moment to get our child a glass of fresh, clean, sparkling, clear, and for the most part bug free water.  To top it all off if we go to the fridge with its water dispenser we can get some ice either crushed or cubed to make it cold.  All this in less time then it took me to write these sentences.  This morning I went to get my morning cup of Joe.  One of the waiters asked where I was sitting and commenced to bring me a cup and some hot water for my 3 in 1 coffee mix bags.  He put the cup on the table and opened the thermos bottle.  He poured some water into the cup and behold some floaties.  Plenty of floaties and I am not even sure what kind of floaties they were.  He took the cup went to the side of the porch and threw the water and the floaties onto the grass.  He then came back to my table and put my cup back on the table.  He started to pour me some more water.  Well some more floaties came out.  Still not sure what they are but this time he took my cup and thermos back inside.  He came back with a different thermos and I am not sure if it was a different cup or not.  He then poured me some hot water.  This time there were no floaties in the cup.  However there are still floaties in the cup they are just too small to see.  This is the same water that Kenyans drink and if it wasn’t boiled properly I would be paying the price for days to come.  I know because it did not take but my first meal to become a victim.  I looked down into my cup to make sure that it was ok to put my pre-mixed coffee into.  I could see to the bottom of the cup so in my mind it is ok to drink.  However how many of you would drink this water when you looked in the cup and noticed that the water is not exactly clear and it is not exactly colorless?  Trust me that this water that I received this morning even though it was a little brown in color and you could still see small particles in it was much better then what the majority of Kenyans drink on a regular basis if they get any water at all.  Something so simple for us and yet for millions of Kenyans the ritual of getting any kind of water can take most of the day.  Be reminded that this happens in many more countries all over the world and here in Kenya I would say they have it better then some other countries.

I apologize if it took so long to get to the point since I tend to go off and tell a story.  My point is that something so simple for us “water” is a real chore for most people her in Kenya.  The same is repeated with food, for clothing, for shoes, for just about everything we take for granted.  Every morning we send our children off to school either because it is free or we can afford to pay private tuition.  Even though school is free here in Kenya many parents still can’t afford to send their children to school because they can’t get past the school fees, the cost of uniforms and other expenses.  On top of all this what if someone gets sick?  So what does all this have to do with the power of money and those that need it most?

Yesterday I met with Bishop Hezron for hours to discuss Orphan care and projects.  As I continue to write my blogs I will be trying to convey back to you the problems that the Hezron’s of the world face when some aid comes in.  We talked and talked about as much as we could of Orphan care and the pitfalls that come with it.  Hezron asked a question and I will try to put it in a fashion that we can understand.  “I have been entrusted with $30,000 to build a new beautiful bricks and mortar church”.  “I have been told that all this money has to be spent to build the church”.  “However I am a very poor man and my wife Melissa is dying”.  “I have all this money what do I do”?  Hezron probably does not need the whole $30,000 to save his wife so what does he do?  Please before you answer take yourself out of your situation and try your best to put yourself into his.  What would you do?  I know what I would do.  I would take some of that $30,000 and then try to figure out a way to return it.  Some of you might be more creative then I but I am sure you get the point.

Let’s face the facts and realize that most everyone would take some of that money to save their wife or their child.  We know our Lord and our partners will forgive us.  It is also true that my partner might abandon me but that is the risk I take.  I will somehow find those replacement funds.  Now let’s take that $30,000 that has been reduced to let’s say $25,000.  I am now going into the community to build the church.  That left over $25,000 is a fortune to those that have little or nothing.  Everyone knows that Hezron has been given plenty of money to build the church.  How does everyone know this?  Well some missionaries came a year ago and told us they want to build us a church.  You should not have to praise God under the trees and in the rainy weather.  To most Kenyans “you want to do something for me ok I will take it”.  It doesn’t matter if it is something they need or not.  You want to give me something, fine, and thank you.  To most missionaries coming over for their first trip have no idea on what it takes to get a glass of water in Kenya or much anything else we take for granted.  It’s a non thought.   They went home to raise funds because they were told that it would take $30,000 to build our new friends a beautiful new church.  Our missionaries are overjoyed we can do this.  Our transparency has opened Pandora’s Box.  Before you know it everyone has a hungry or dying child.  What does a man of integrity such as Hezron do?  As Joe states in his report integrity to us is much different to integrity in another country.  We now have lost some more funds maybe all the funds to build the church.  Our missionary friends come back for a return visit and see the church started but nowhere near completion.  Our missionaries are so disappointed that they become four of the five missionaries never to return again.

I find it amazing how Hezron’s question parallels the analogy that Joe explained in his report when talking about scraping, community leakage and aid inflation.  Here in America our instructions were clear and precise.  This money is restricted to the construction of the church period.  I do a project at the factory every dime I spend better be related to that project or mister CFO will be putting me through the grinder.  I have literally spent many millions of dollars during my career in Maintenance and Engineering without once taking a dime to pay for my dying wife or child.  Was it because I had integrity or was it that my other needs were taken care of or both?  Believe me in my line of work I had plenty of chances and opportunities to skim if I chose to do so and I would have probably never been caught.  Granted don’t think I have not taken my share of gratuitous gifts or free lunches.  In my line of work there was no such thing as a free lunch and part of the vendor’s budget was earmarked for customers like me.  It’s all part of doing business.  All the major corporations that I worked for had a strict ethics policy that dictated how we were to accept the gifts.  However here in Kenya integrity for Hezron is that he has taken a promise to his people to help the poor.  What is Hezron to do?  His integrity is on the line his people are starving and some of them are dying.  He has all this money.

My answer to Hezron is what I have been trying to tell him since I arrived a few years ago.  We want to do projects to help those that need it most.  I have been doing projects for over thirty years and not once has my integrity been questioned until now.  Our definitions of integrity clash and the Kenyans have no clue of our definition only theirs.  They might not say it to my face for fear of offending me and them being cast as the one whom ran away the mzungu but it has happened.  I will talk about their closed door mentality in a different blog.  During my discussions with my partners I have been telling them that I need them to become self sufficient before we can make others self sufficient.  That is why I have concentrated on getting some of these projects to the pastors and other leaders.  I can see that they live in poverty, I can relate to the temptation that this money will bring them, and I have seen my friends here in Kenya hand out money sometimes like candy to those that have less because that is what is required of them.  One of our main goals is that all our partners/leaders within the church are able to sustain themselves until their congregations are able to do so.
My integrity and their integrity are at odds with each other.  As the go between it is now my job to get answers to this problem.  Of course one of my answers was to address the needs of my partners the pastors and leaders so they will not be compelled to skim a few shillings for themselves.  Another answer is to address the other needs of the church or community so our partners do not feel compelled to skim a few more shillings to help those in need.  I know you might be saying these are simple answers but they are not in any way simple answers.  The need is so great that there will always be people coming out of the bush in need.

True I gave an example of money going to build a church however the same is with any money or aid that comes in.  This is only one of many examples of how the power of money and all its ability makes it almost impossible to reach those that need it most.  There is only so much of the pie and there are too many people in front of those at the end of the line. 

I do believe if we are going to try and get to those Ones at the end of the line we are going to have to make the pieces of the pie smaller so everyone can get a piece.  Did the community really need a $30,000 church?  Could a couple thousand dollar church have the same effect?  As Joe puts it we tend to try and Americanize what ever we do.  We need to get in the habit of doing it as if a Kenyan was doing it. 

Our goal is not to come here and make anyone rich or have what we have in America.  Maybe our missionaries that raised the $30,000 could have raised a couple of thousand for a church, a couple thousand for a school, a couple thousand for a clinic, depending where they are a few more thousand for a well etc.  After all is said and done hopefully five to ten thousand could be set up to fund a locally ran micro-finance and savings enterprise to get everyone in the church community to a modest sustainable level.  Then maybe once everyone is adequately sustained based on that communities norm this community of believers can be taught that those in the shadows, those that have the least, and those that can’t fend for themselves should be brought to the front of the line.     

Take care and God bless you all


Saturday, September 29, 2012

September 28, 2012 Kakamega


I missed a day on my blog.  I got on the computer last night and couldn’t bring myself to write anything.  This morning I am still having problems as my mind continues to race a mile a minute.  Not only is the micro-finance venture on my mind the Orphan project is eating me alive.  There is so much to say about Orphans and this blog is really not the place to spell it out.  However it is my blog and I need to say something.  Here goes!

Yesterday I spent the day continuing my reading assignment “The Orphan Report” by Joe Knittig of the Global Orphan Project.  I actually finished the report and found it to be exactly what I was looking for.  I spent the last three years hiding from what I saw on that back street in Uganda and kept pushing it off and pushing it off.  After reading this report I realize that even though our idea of Church based Orphan care was the way to go our implementation would have failed miserably and would have had dire consequences.  Joe explains in chapter twenty two on a scale of one to ten with one as a terrible phony orphanage to ten as a well executed perfect Orphanage the best he has seen executed is a seven.  He goes on to say that he has been involved with some very painful level one orphanages as well.  As Aaron and I travel to Uganda with Bishops Hezron and Moses we will need to realize what we are up against on both sides of the pond.  My expectations of a first successful Church based Orphan care project will probably not be a level ten execution and as Joe states it might not even be close.

The report makes a very good argument of why not to proceed and as I sit here with tears in my eyes and my hands shaking I still can’t bring myself to say no.  During our whole lives we are conditioned to believe that orphans are simply children without both living parents or just one of them gone.  This seems to be the standard that is used.  However is this the standard that our Lord uses?  What about those street children that I saw in Uganda?  Many of them have parents that are living and are not really orphans according to the secular standard.  What about a young girl maybe ten or eleven years old caring for her multitude of younger siblings while her mother is gone for long periods of time looking for work or food to bring back to her children.  Years can go by before the mother or father comes back.  Are these children not Orphans?  As Joe puts it a true Orphan is a child without a Champion.  Thanks Joe for helping me understand.     

I have seen plenty of orphans during my visits to East Africa.  However I have seen them in what I would say is a state of contentment.  I might be using the wrong word but that is the only one that comes to mind right now.  It was the street children that hit me the most.  It was the street children that God beat me over the head with.  It is those children in the shadows that nobody wants that God is telling us to help.  So out of ten orphans as Joe states there is One Orphan that is being left in the shadows.  Those Ones are too hard to manage and do not fit into the model of the secular global orphan scheme.  As Joe states the word orphan brings peoples emotions to a heightened level and the more gruesome the marketing the more money flows in.  This has become a multi billion big business with high expectations and you better get results.  When working with the Ones you are almost guaranteed bad results.  Why would anyone want to invest in a loosing proposition when the other nine (or the many) will perpetuate the money flow?  The Ones are cast aside as collateral damage and left to fend for themselves.  The ends justify the means?

The other day before I finished reading the report I had asked Hezron about the street children and he told me that we wanted to stay away from them because they were too much trouble.  That struck me as odd at the time and today when I meet with him I am going to dig further into his thinking.  Back in December 09 was Hezron just pointing it out to point it out or was God telling him to point it out.  I would of never realized what I was seeing if Hezron wouldn’t have pointed it out.  I guess this is why they are in the shadows.  How many more shadow children are out there?  After reading Joe’s report I can understand why Hezron would want to stay away from the Ones.  It’s a loosing proposition.  The internal and external forces on both sides of the pond are going to certainly crush anyone that tries to help.  I don’t believe God is calling on me and the people that he has put in front of me to continue to perpetuate the nines.  Granted the nines can use some help but there is plenty of organizations, people and money helping all ready. 

We also need to remember that Satan plays a role in this and he is a liar.  He will use anything in his means including good people to tell his lies.  Every trip I make I get a little wiser.  It has come to pass that some around me have other agendas and that is to be expected.  I will still love them for in my own mind and my own situations I can relate.  My prayer is that the lies will eventually be exposed and we will all grow more powerful in God’s word to expel the evil that is all around us.   

The good news is that there are many others out there that are hearing the call to help the Ones.  I would put Katie Davis in this group and if you haven’t read her book “Kisses from Katie” please do so.  I am not looking for the orphan that is living in a loving relationship with her grandparents or other relatives.  I am not looking for the orphan that is in a single parent home being adequately taken care of.  I am looking for that Orphan that One Orphan nobody wants.  Granted some of our projects will benefit and help sustain some of these orphans however I am not looking for them since they are in plain sight and out of the shadows.  I hope I made that clear to my friends on this side of the pond (Africa).  God calls on us to help all Orphans and all Widows.  Of course our Lord also tells us to help anyone in need.  When we go into a community we will be helping orphans, Orphans, and others as well.  There would be dire consequences if we just went in to help the true Orphans and no one else.  As I continue to blog on this subject I will try to explain using Joe’s words (I hope you don’t mind) and my own words to convey the multitude of challenges ahead.

During our discussions in the next couple of weeks with Bishops Hezron and Moses I am going to pose the questions and I am going to tell them that this could get really ugly.  If we are not up to it we are not going to do it.  I believe their job is going to be much harder then mine and if they feel they cannot do it I will completely understand.  I have read the dangers that Joe presents on the There side and many would say only a fool would attempt to rescue the Ones.  My prayers are with you two Bishops as I prepare to make your lives more miserable then they are now.

To any of my friends on the Here side (First Worlders) (is Worlders a word?) that will be willing to help with prayers and/or support be forewarned that this could be a complete failure and many lives could be hurt in the process.  Getting into this our first goal was to cause no harm.  However we have already caused some harm and our intention will be to continue to cause no harm.  Going forward we will most likely cause some more harm.  I pray that it will not be intentionally done on any of our parts.  I ask all that are involved and those that aren’t.  Is this worth it?  Please respond to this blog, message on my facebook, or any of my multitude of emails with your comments.  I don’t want to move any further without at least a little more input.     

Our micro-finance venture is on hold as we review our successes and failures.  My belief is that the micro-finance venture is workable and will be successful in due time.  Right now it needs some more tweaking.  Any church based Orphan care project that we implement will need to have a micro-finance component to the equation. 

Thank you Joe for allowing Aaron and I to read your report before it is published.  The insight you have acquired is priceless.  You have stated that you are still miles away from perfecting Orphan care ministry.  In my realization I was hundreds of miles maybe light years away and I appreciate you bringing me closer to understanding what is really going on in the realm of Global Orphan Care.

Hezron is going to join me for lunch soon and he does not realize I am going to feed him a peanut butter and fluff sandwich.  If he likes it he can have another or two.  TSA left me a card right next to my fluff but did not take any.

Take care and God bless you all


Thursday, September 27, 2012

September 27, 2012 Kakamega


Yesterday after my return from the orchards I decided to go and have some beef filet.  I think I have said it before but I will say it again.  Ordering beef filet is a tricky business.  I must say most of the time I get a piece of meat that is flavored very well and as with last night you can cut if with a fork.  Sometimes I am not so lucky and get a piece of someone’s shoe.  While I was sitting down last night to write my blog and get a meal I sat at a table next to a group of five missionaries from the states.  One of them turned around and struck up a conversation.  Again I do not believe in coincidences and God had put us together at that very moment to meet each other.  It just so happens that this group is providing low to no interest micro-loans through local micro-bankers to fund various projects world wide.  The group is called Heavens Family and they are out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  They were in Kakamega to look at some of the area projects that their area micro-banker was initiating.  They invited me to join them to view two of their projects today and I gladly accepted.

Heavens Family is much further along then we are and I was so appreciative to gain such a wealth of knowledge today from all of them.  This morning after breakfast we went to look at a tomato greenhouse that had just been erected outside of town.  Part of their program is to use farming techniques from an organization Care of Creation that our group in 2009 had visited when Care of Creation was based at Brackenhurst.  So I was quite familiar with the concept and had seen the results when we visited Craig back in 09.  Now I got to actually see the application in the field.  The greenhouse is the project of a group of ten widows whom have each taken ten percent to stay within the limits of the programs loan limits.  I believe the total cost of the project was about two grand without the Care of Creation training that Heavens Family provides.

Maize at Care of Creation in Brackenhurst 2009

Heavens Family tomato greenhouse project Kakamega

Inside view of tomato greenhouse with widows

Dick Samuels of Heavens Family addressing widows

After the tomato greenhouse we came back into Kakamega to see a new sewing center of a group of about twenty widows.  If anyone is interested to see more of this organization you can visit their web site at and tell them Dave sent you.  Sadly the group was only in town for the rest of today.  They were on their way up to Bungoma and Kitale to view some projects being implemented by that area micro-banker.  Thank you Heavens Family for allowing me to spend the morning with you reviewing your projects.  It is much appreciated.

Inside the sewing center with Pastor John and widows

Two of the widows at the sewing center

After the projects it was back to the Sheywe to capture all the thoughts racing through my mind and asking God what that was all about.  It still amazes me that while I am in the states I can go eons with virtually no idea on what God has in mind.  It’s like being in a void.  I work and I sleep.  But once I get into mission mode the doors start to open, bells start to ring and the action begins.  It is as if my every step has already been planned out ahead of time.

I did get a chance to talk with Hezron today about orphans and street children in Uganda.  Hezron has a good 30 years of experience working in orphan care throughout the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and The Congo.  As I continue to read my other assignment “The Orphan Report” I will continue to ask questions of my friend to help me prepare for our journey into Uganda in a few weeks.

As promised I am including a few more pictures of the orchards from yesterday.  I did not mention that right before we were to head back to Kakamega from Bulimbo yesterday Pauline had stopped by to see us.  Pauline had some personal issues with her family and had to leave for an extended time and had asked someone to take care of her orchard while she was gone.  The caretaker did not do a very good job and virtually all of her vines had died.  Robert was gracious enough to replace all of her seedlings so she could start over.  She doesn’t have to walk very far to see the results of a well maintained orchard.

Pauline and her orchard

Pastor Robert and Bishop Hezron at Pastor Roberts Orchard

View of Pastor Roberts orchard other direction

Another picture of the Mumias widows orchard

Another picture of Charles's orchard

As you know we lost one of our passion fruit farmers Stephan and his wife in a car accident earlier this year.  I asked Robert what had happened and he said they had been killed in a head on collision with a semi-truck.  The truck actually ran over them since they were in such a small car.  Such a horrific tragedy and they left behind a few children that are now living with their grandparents.  It sounds as if the children are in good hands and will be adequately taken care of.  Please keep this family in your prayers.

Tomorrow I will continue to do some reading since I acquired another book to read.  Luckily is looks pretty short.  I was told that once I read it I would be compelled to take off all my clothes and give them away.  I will however keep a pair of shorts and maybe a tee shirt.  Also some shoes because the rocks here are pretty pointy and my feet are so delicate.

Take care and God bless


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

September 26, 2012 Kakamega


Today was one of those days that I have been waiting for quite some time.  Hezron and Robert picked me up this morning around nine.  Had a cup of tea and proceeded to go and visit some of the orchards that were doing well.  Our first stop was to the orchard of Pastor Ambula in Kakamega.  Upon arrival Pastor Ambula was working the orchard.  We went around looking at the vines and the fruit.  They looked pretty good to me but you could tell that something was wrong.  Robert informed me that the vines needed food which I believe to be CAN.  This is one of the chemicals that we did not purchase in the beginning since this is a maintenance chemical that is used to feed the passion fruit for the next few years every two weeks.  Tomorrow Robert is going to work out the chemical needs now that the orchards are starting to harvest.

Pastor Ambula's Orchard

After we left Pastor Ambula we stopped by John Imala’s for a quick chat.  Poor John has been in a worried state for quite some time dreading the day that our paths would cross again.  Upon our greeting John quickly asked for my forgiveness upon the failure of the three orchards around his home.  I tried to tell him that there was no need to ask for forgiveness and that we all fail sometimes.  I tried to explain to him that during my preaching’s I told everyone that we were going to have some failures but we would learn from them and make improvements or adjustments as needed.  He begged me not to leave him and I told him that I am still in it for the long haul.  John told me that he purchased some other seedlings but they died too.  He promised that it wasn’t from a lack of trying and I quickly told him that I understood.  As I have said in some of my earlier blogs that it might be me that should be going around asking everyone for forgiveness.  I am the one that brought up the passion fruit project for them in the first place.  I am the one that projected hope and opportunity.  I still question myself (I am kinda new at this) did I do enough?  My answer is still no I did not.  God had a different plan for John and it was evident upon walking down to what used to be the orchard.  On about half of it was a new bricks and mortar school building with a nice tin roof.  Sorry I did not get a picture but I will before the trip is over. 

After we left John’s place it was off to see the widow’s orchard in Mumias.  We arrived in Mumias and the first person I noticed was her.  Was she going to ask me to eat some live termites?  Was it rude of me to not remind her that I promised to try some on my next visit?  Maybe she did remember but termites might be out of season.  Anyway we toured the orchard and the surviving plants looked pretty much the same as Pastor Ambula’s with plenty of fruit but it needed CAN.  The ladies showed us some areas where the birds have been eating the foliage.  As with Pastor Ambula Robert explained to the ladies on where they could improve their orchard.

Mumias Widow's Orchard

After Mumias we were to go visit the Jerusalem church and see their two plots but it was decided to head to Khabukoshe to see their two plots and venture to see Roberts’s orchard to end the day.  Upon arriving at the first Khabukoshe orchard we noticed that some of the vines were on the ground.  We were told that a cow came running through the orchard yesterday and knocked down two rows.  This orchard was not very big in the first place and to knock down two rows was a major blow.  However upon further review only one vine was damaged and since it was broken above the graft it would be able to re-grow.  Peter will fix the posts, supports, and get it all back in order in a few days.  Even though they were on the ground they looked very healthy and with plenty of fruit about ready to start harvesting.  Robert also suggested that this plot will be in need of CAN soon.

Khabukoshe Number One Orchard

After we left Peter and his wife we went to Khabukoshe orchard number two.  Upon arrival we met up with Charles to show us what he had done with his orchard.  This orchard was by far the bushiest of all so far with plenty of ripe and unripe fruit.  I have already tried some passion fruit at the other orchards but they were just turning purple as for picking.  Since Charles had a boat load of fruit I went searching for a nice ripe purple passion fruit to try.  Of course I found some and the same is true as with any fruit left to ripen on the vine.  Green purple good and sweet however purple purple much better.  Robert was great that everywhere we went he started to explain where improvements could be made.  Robert explained to him that he should be letting the tentacles hang down eventually to a couple of inches above the ground.  You can see by the pictures of this plot versus Robert’s below.  Half of Charles plot was bushy and green while the other half was showing the signs of the other orchards or what Robert says is a lack of CAN.  I had previously thought that this orchard had lost more seedlings then what I saw.  I think this orchard only lost about ten percent of the seedlings we planted.

Khabukoshe Number Two Orchard

After we left Charles it was off to our last stop in Bulimbo.  Every time we go to Roberts the storm clouds come in and it rains.  I am always worried about being in the ditch.  Robert told us that the roads are much better now and it was true to some extent.  It was raining when we arrived at Roberts.  He suggested we go in and sit before we toured the orchard.  I said no let’s get out there before it gets worse.  We hopped back in the car to visit the orchard.  Robert originally planted around 800 seedlings and has since added another 200.  Robert was the last to plant his orchard last October and he has just harvested his first batch.  He told me he made about 2800 shillings on about 80 pounds.  He is already for the next harvest and he is expecting more fruit then the first.  This will continue for a few more months until the yield will be pretty steady for a few years.

Pastor Robert's Orchard

I asked Robert at what time he will be self sufficient.  To me he is sitting on a beautiful one and a half acre one thousand vine orchard full of fruit.  By my calculations in a few months he should be yielding one kilo or two pounds per plant per harvest.  Let’s just say he gets around 75 ksh per kilo.  That is about $900 per harvest.  If he harvests every week that is quite a bit of change and if it is only every two weeks it is still quite a bit of change for Kenya.  The orchard was so big that I really could not get it all in one picture.  It follows the road and there is no good spot to encompass the whole orchard.  I took a boat load of pictures but I will only publish a few but they are indicative of the whole orchard except the last 200 that are just now approaching the wire.

Robert had suggested that we bring the other farmers to his orchard for a couple of days to get a better idea of what to expect.  Robert is able to accommodate about 30 people and I think it would be a great next step.  Getting them all there at the same time might be a problem but if we are to continue to plant passion fruit in and around Western Kenya we need to have able passion fruit farmers in every area to help out the newbies.  Robert also explained that he is now the victim of theft as his orchard sits right next to the road.  Robert also stated that he needs more middle posts now that the vines are starting to get really heavy on the wire.  Tomorrow I will post some more pictures.  They take quite a bit of time to download.

Today I saw our first orchard planted last July empty.  Today I saw a few of the other orchards in various degrees of success.  I saw that a cow took down some vines.  I saw that birds are eating the foliage.  But what I saw that pleased me most was tons of passion fruit and I also have a bag of purple passion fruit to eat.  Today has been a mixed review for me and I ask all of you to continue to pray for these people as they continue to work the ground to make a living.  I do want to take a moment and give all the glory to God.  It is Him that makes all this possible and I take as my reward to be a servant of His people.

Tomorrow might just prove to be an interesting day.  Tonight at dinner another God thing just so happened.  Aaron you will be interested to hear about this.

Take care and God bless you all


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

September 25, 2012 Nairobi


Now that I am on the ground I should be able to blog a little more often.  Last night I arrived safely in Nairobi after such a long long journey.  As with any trip there always seems to be surprises to add some excitement to the trip.  I gave myself plenty of time to get to Newark International from Wilmington and I am glad I did.  My commuter train out of Philly to Trenton was canceled and the alternative means took almost three hours to complete.  I made it to my gate with about 30 minutes to spare.  Of course I can not sleep on planes.  After being fed I took in a movie, Men in Black 3.  After the movie I thought I could possibly get a wink of sleep.  Not a chance so I took out a book that was highly recommended to me “Kisses from Katie” and started reading.  My eyes were already burning from lack of sleep and now I have enough tears running down my cheeks to fill the ocean that I am crossing.  I finished about half the book before it was time to be fed again and land in Brussels.

Brussels has two terminals and like last time I arrived in one and had to go to other.  But in order to go to the other terminal you have to go to a special place where there are lots of people waiting to take a shuttle to the African terminal.  The lady checking passports told me that the shuttle leaves every 10 minutes.  I already knew this since I had done it before and there is a LED timer on the wall that says next shuttle is leaving in 10 minutes.  The first thing you notice is that there are no empty seats and much of the floor is taken up as well.  But not to worry the next shuttle leaves in 10 minutes.  Then the next thing you notice is that the timer still says 10 minutes and about 50 minutes go by.  Since I was standing I positioned myself near the door for whenever the shuttle did come I would not be the one they closed the door on.  It would be safe to assume that everyone in that room has had a lengthy first or second part of their journey.  While I was standing waiting I was talking with three guys that were headed to Freetown, Sierra Leone.  Somewhere in the conversation I asked one of the guys where he was from and he told me that he lives in Claymont, Delaware.  Small world I lived in Claymont for 10 years.  So Bobby if you are reading this I think I got you another vote.

The flight from Brussels to Nairobi was just about empty.  Most everyone had an empty seat next to them and a few lucky souls had a row of four all to themselves.  I still can’t sleep, it’s daylight and every announcement is repeated in a couple different languages so they take extra long to complete.  I decided not to do any reading until I felt that the announcements were over.  I started out reading another of my assignments “The Orphan Report” and after an hour or so I thought it be best to finish “Kisses from Katie”.  This time instead of filling an ocean I could have turned the Sahara Desert we just so happened to be flying over green with the amount of tears flowing down my cheeks.  It was good that I had an empty seat next to me.  What an inspiration she is and if you haven’t read her book take the time to do it.  The book is by Katie Davis and it is called “Kisses from Katie”.  It started as a life changing mission trip.  She is now mommy to a whole village in Uganda and in the process of adopting 13 orphan girls.

I finished the book as we were landing in Nairobi and the thought of getting to sleep soon was filling my mind.  However once I got off the plane I needed to get a few shillings and fill up my cell phone and modem with some air time.  I went to Safaricom but the nice young man told me that both my sim cards had expired.  I guess you only get ninety days before they deactivate your number.  They told me they could reactivate them but it would take a few days so I plucked out a few bucks and got new numbers.  By this time the eyes were feeling the pain but I still had a few more chores to do.  My next stop was to get a Kenyan Visa and to my surprise when I went to the bottom of the ramp was there were absolutely no other passengers but me.  How lucky can one be?  Of course I had my choice of whatever line I wanted so I picked the one with the pretty smile.  I asked her what was going on and where were all the people?  She told me that all the jumbo jets except the one I was on were running really late.  Well my joy was short lived.  I went down to find my one and only piece of luggage.  I looked everywhere, had others looking and it could not be found.  Too tired to be angry I went to the baggage guy and started to fill out the forms for lost baggage.  Just as I was finishing the paper work some other guy came up behind me and said “Mr. Wood”.  I turned and he had my bag.  Again how lucky can one be?  He told me that my bag had fallen off the belt in the back.  Being half asleep and thanking the gentleman I proceeded to hunt for a ride to the hotel.  This guy just saved my day and I was walking off.  I quickly turned around ran back and called out to him.  This time I pulled out 500 and thanked him again.  The smile on his face made my day again. 

After a little haggling I got a taxi to my hotel in downtown Nairobi.  Not the best place in the world but it was finally a chance to get some sleep.  I quickly checked my emails and found one from Pastor Ososo and he was called to Kampala so I was not going to be able to meet with him today.  I then had a change of plans and decided that I would be heading to Western today instead of in a few days.  I checked the Easy Coach website to see when the bus leaves and it was at 9 am.  It was already past 1 am and I knew that in order to get a bus ride I needed to be there early enough if the seats were not already booked.  I set the alarm for 6 am and tried to get some sleep.  Why is it when you really want to go to sleep and you can’t because your mind is racing like wildfire?  I was too tired to pull down the skitto net and before I knew it my hand was itchy in like two spots.  It was either bed bugs or those nasty little things with buzzy wings.  Then I heard it flying around my head.  You know those little critters have a distinctive noise about them and it was pretty upsetting that I now had to get out of bed to pull down the net.  I jumped back in thinking this is it, sweet, finally some sleep time.  Not so, I couldn’t go to sleep as long as those two bites on my hand were taking my attention from falling asleep.  Not sure what time I finally went to sleep but I can tell you that the alarm went off way too early this morning.

Breakfast consisted of one malaria tablet and some passion fruit juice.  The other items on the menu did not look that appetizing.  I was able to get a ride to the bus station and my luck was coming back.  There just so happened to be a couple of extra seats on the Kakamega bus and one of those was a great seat.  It was right up front next to the driver and the door.  Plenty of leg room, no one sitting next to me and no one close enough to close my windows.  For an eight hour bus ride across Kenya this was the seat to have.  I had a nice cool breeze and a great view of the countryside.  The only draw back was the bus would only do 80 kph max.  There are other buses that take only 5 to 6 hours to get to Kakamega if it doesn’t break down like a few I saw on the way.

Both Hezron and Robert were at the bus station in Kakamega to meet me.  The Sheywe is booked for a couple more nights so I am staying at another place.  Hezron and Robert suggested that I look at the room first before I accept it.  Last night I stayed at a place that wasn’t that great for like 4000 shillings.  This place is only 700 shillings (~84 ksh to a $) so my expectations are not that high.  We check out the room, a few bugs smashed on the walls, the windows won’t close, and the toilet doesn’t have a seat.  I asked Hezron to ask the lady if there was a room that has a toilet with a seat other wise it was adequate.  She came back and said all the rooms have toilets with no seats.  This is nothing new I have been to quite a few hotels in Kenya that don’t have toilet seats.  In America people run off with the towels but here the prize is toilet seats.  Since my windows don’t completely close there are now mosquitoes stalking me so it’s time to cut this off.

Tomorrow Hezron, Robert, and I are going to go visit a few of the orchards that are doing well to see if there is some magic formula to making this work.  Robert told me that today they harvested 42 kilos of passion fruit from his orchard or about 85 pounds.  It is still quite a few months away before the vines will be producing at their maximum yield but harvesting some is good.

Take care and God bless


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Getting ready to leave

Hi all

Crunch time.  I am down to my last night here in the states.  Tomorrow morning I will be heading to the train station for a short trip up to Newark International for my flight tomorrow evening.  It is always a chore trying to figure out what to bring and how much of it.  So I always over pack somethings and under pack others.  There is a great bread that I get at the Nakumatt that makes for great sandwiches.  Since there is a lack of refrigeration it's not so smart to bring any jam or jelly.  This time I am going to be having peanut butter and fluff sandwiches to remind me of home.  I have my jar of Jif peanut butter and two jars of Kraft Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme.  I am bringing two in case TSA decides to take one.  You never know about TSA they always seem to leave me a little card in my suitcase letting me know that they have been snooping around.  No telling what fluff looks like on the X-ray.

A day before I leave and I am still trying to figure out my agenda for the first two weeks.  The second two weeks are already determined.  I have the arrival night covered but I am not sure exactly how long I will be staying in Nairobi before heading to Western.  I haven't even figured out how I am getting to Western yet.  Plane service to Kakamega was great but it did not last very long and service has been discontinued.  I could fly into Kisumu, Kitale, or Eldoret but the logistics of it aren't that appealing to me right now.  So I think I am going to take the 11 hour kidney busting bus ride.  Some day I am going to be very adventurous and take a Matatu to get a real feel for life on the road in Kenya.  I hear the Matatu ride to Maralal is a blast.

I am getting really excited to see how the surviving passion fruit orchards are doing.  The last couple of emails that I have received have stated that fruit is being harvested and sold.  I know the pictures that I have seen show not only vines in the foreground but also in the background.  I saw quite a bit of green fruit and by the time I arrive there should be a few for me to sample.  What I do not understand is that the passion fruit is a vine.  So if there were gaps between seedlings because of death why not just let the vines grow further out the wire and fill in the gaps?  I am so happy that my wait is almost over.

Not much else to say except keep up the prayers and stay tuned.  I should be posting every day.

Take care and God bless


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

September 4, 2012


I hope that everyone had a great Labor day weekend to officially end the summer here in the states.  Just think Christmas is just around the corner.  I am starting to get really hyped up about my upcoming trip to Kenya and Uganda in a few weeks.  It seems like an eternity since my last visit a year ago.  I received a few more pictures and an update from the passion fruit orchards in Kamakoiwa at the base of Mt. Elgon near Bungoma.  Last year we had planted about four hundred seedlings on four orchards.  Out of the four hundred we lost slightly more then fifty percent due to a variety of reasons.  I do not have a complete count of the total amount of vines lost of the six thousand or so that were planted.  But from the looks of it up to half of the vines have died. 

Of these four orchards in Kamakoiwa some passion fruits have started to be harvested.  It seems that we have a slight problem with the volume of fruit harvested.  So far the stakeholders have been able to sell their fruit at local markets and hotels.  However there is not enough fruit being harvested at each area to warrant a pick up from the USAID truck.  Once I arrive in Kenya later this month I will look at what it is going to take to get the fruit to a more secure and profitable market.  By the looks of the pictures of the surviving plants they are healthy and appear to be full of still green fruit.  I also added a picture from each orchard as it was six months ago during the height of the drought.  Maybe if the vines had been a little more mature they could of withstood another couple of months of no water.  Anyway the last six to seven months have been a blessing.  Thanks be to God.

Doricus's orchard this last February

Doricus and her passion fruit now

Doricus's passion fruit orchard today

Pastor Augustine's orchard this last February

Pastor Augustine's passion fruit orchard today

Another view of Pastor Augustine's passion fruit orchard

Pastor Jeremiah's orchard this last February

Pastor Jeremiah's passion fruit orchard today

Pastor Paul's orchard this last February

Pastor Paul's passion fruit orchard today

I am beginning to feel a bit more optimistic of our ability to grow passion fruit.  Once I get on the ground I will want to review where we are and what we are going to do about getting each of these orchards back to where they started.  My assumption is that once some income starts to come in on each orchard the orchards will be able to be somewhat self sufficient even with half the vines lost.  I did notice in one of the pictures above that Pastor Augustine has a chemical feeder on his back so there must be some level of income coming in to help with the treatment of the vines.

Please continue to pray for my friends in Kenya and the harvesting of these fruits.  This will most likely be my last update on the orchards until I arrive in Western Kenya later this month.  In the next couple of weeks I should be able to speak to what the agenda is for this next trip.  Stay tuned.

Thank you all and God bless