Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Correction to recent post...

Life in Abundance will continue to accept donations for the Kenya Children Project until the IRS approves eduKenya for tax exempt status. Will update this page when that has happened...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.." Psalms 145:12

As some of you know the Kenya Children Project is just the beginning. Throughout these three years it has been a privilege to be partnered with Life in Abundance International. They have been a blessing as they have served as a conduit for funding, as well as accountability, and have served in an advisory role. We have been blessed by the relationship, and I feel fortunate to have been involved with them. Without them, the KCP would have never happened, and I never would have been able to ease my way into the Mathare community.

With that said, we have come to the end of our 3 year partnership. As of January 1, 2010, LIA will no longer be accepting donations for the KCP. In discussions with my co-workers and friends in Nairobi, we decided that it would be wise to replicate the model we have used in the KCP. We also recognized that we have only touched a tiny portion of the Mathare community - Jangwani is comprised of roughly 20,000 people and Mathare as a whole is 600,000+. Therefore, we have a passion to reach out to the rest of Mathare one small community at a time, initiating and developing holistic education projects through the church, and leaving them in a place of self sustainability. We can then move on to new communities once the work in Mathare is brought to completion. Therefore, we have formed a new organization, eduKenya to do this. eduKenya will basically take on the model used by the KCP and tweak it slightly in areas which it was weak to make it an even more effective model.

We will go into communities through the church, and will do as we have done with the KCP - develop a school program, skill training and micro loan programs and home based care programs and help create self sustainability. We have already been approached by a number of churches in Mathare to come and partner with them. So, we will take the next year to develop a relationship with the new church that we are led to.

Additionally 2010 will see us continue in our relationship with the Believers Centre Mathare Church, as eduKenya will add one more year to the KCP. Financially, we are not in a place to leave the KCP self sustainable, and from a management perspective there is still a bit of work to do with the Believers Centre. Therefore we have added one more year to the project.

eduKenya is founded by myself and Pastor Bob Kikuyu. This is very much a Kenyan organization, and therefore our board is made up of 4 Kenyans and 3 Americans. We would like to ask for your prayers...a lot of prayers. We have incorporated in the state of Pennsylvania as a non-profit, and have completed all of the forms we must submit to the IRS and the Federal Government to receive 501 c3 status, which makes us a tax exempt organization. We need this process to move quickly, and when calling the IRS the other day, I found out they are backed up, still working on June applications. So, please pray that God would act in a mighty way and streamline the process for us, so we are able to continue the work that He has placed before us. For any more information on this transition, you can contact me at 724 992 8609 or email or, for Pastor Bob. Our website which will be up in the next couple of months will be There is currently a holder page there.

We look forward to see what the future holds for eduKenya, and God's work in Kenya and here in the US. Blessings on each of you in this holiday season. While Christmas is a festive holiday, we remember the symbolic celebration of Christ's birth, and the purpose his life gives to each of us.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Coming and Going...

I'm sitting here at Apt C7 at Gemina Court in Nairobi, waiting for my friend Davey to come pick me to take me to the Cheges before heading to the airport. I realize, many of you have no idea who I am talking about, but all names mentioned are very dear friends here in Kenya. I have been in Nairobi for nearly a month, and have found little time to post something on here, though a significant amount has gone on.

The first thing being my sister Emilie and brother in law Josh came for a visit in early November. It was a real blessing to have them here. They had the opportunity to see the project, interact with my friends and go on safari. I have been and continue to be incredibly blessed to find the support of my family in the work we have been doing in Kenya.

Well...that was Dec. 2, and now I am sitting in suburban Philadelphia back in the United States, with thoughts still lingering from my recent trip.

To update you on a few things that were the most recent blog items...I am so excited to share with you that Safari, while he has been in and out of the hospital, is doing quite well, and will actually be joining the school January '10. I cannot tell you how excited that makes me - I have had the opportunity to see the transformational power of God in Safari's life. In addition, his mother has become very involved, and is now part of our home based care program. She is taking initiative to care for her children and herself.

Mwikali, the young girl who had such bad burns, was back at school this time when I arrived. She is fully healed...what a joy it was to see her running around with the other children, not suffering in pain...

Those are a couple of the joys... In Jangwani though, generally joys are accompanied by sorrow...Mercy, one of the little girls in Class 1, who lost her father last year, lost her mother in late October. Her grandmother has taken her in. Keep Mercy in your prayers...

One of the greatest joys, possibly of my lifetime, and I do not exaggerate when I say that was being at the school this year for the end of the year program and graduation...

As I sit here recalling the events in my mind I am absolutely overwhelmed with emotion by it all. As many of you were celebrating the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I was experiencing my own Kenyan version of thanksgiving the same day. It was that day we had the end of the year program and graduation. When I am in Kenya, I rarely wear anything other than t shirts and jeans or very casual button down shirts. For graduation, I wore the nicest clothes I had with me- khakis and a button down shirt and loafers. The graduation was at a church hall next to the slum, as our numbers were too many to have it in our own compound. So, when I arrived and walked into the church hall where the event was held, I was totally put to shame by the parents of the children. They were completely decked out in dresses, traditional garb and nice trousers and dress shirts. There was no hint of a slum that day, just dignified people with pride in their eyes as they watched their children.

I sat down at a table at the front of the room with Pastor Bob (my representative on the exec. committee), Muema (representing Life in Abundance), Pastor Isaiah (Believers Centre Mathare Church), and Anne Chege (trustee for the KCP). Esther, one of our teachers led worship with great vibrancy, and the support of joyful yelps and clapping from all in attendance. Then the students who were involved in scouts did a performance. Then, each class did a performance: Baby Class (3-4 yr olds) recited scripture memory in English and a poem in Swahili; Nursery Class (4-5 yr olds) recited a poem in English; Pre-Unit (5-6 yr olds) recited scripture memory, a poem and individuals recited the role of different prophets in the Bible all in English; Class 1 (6-7 yr olds) recited scripture memory and performed a short play in English about the Birth of Jesus; Class 2 (7-8 yr olds) recited a 2 minute long social justice poem in English and then performed a song and dance.

The Pre-Unit class wore graduation robes and hats, as they were graduating from pre-primary to primary school. Right now we have 120 children in the school, with the expectation of 150 in January. We had roughly 100-125 parents and guardians show up for the event. Awards were handed out to the children receiving top marks in the school, but also to those who were the most active, the cleanest (to encourage parents to take good care of their children), as well as an award going out to the top teacher. Our head teacher/principal, Faith did a fantastic job of organizing and running the event.

Pastor Bob, was the guest of honor and was asked to share a few words. He spoke to the parents encouraging them in what they have done for their children, but also challenging them to provide for their children. He referenced Obama, saying that there could be a president in this group of children, or a musician, an athlete or entrepreneur. The police chief for our area also showed up and shared a few words. She said how excited she was to know that there was a place doing such good things in Jangwani with all of the bad there is around, and that it always brought a smile to her face when she saw one of the little red uniforms walking by her office in the morning on the way to school. She also called out parents about being better examples for the children and not drinking and doing drugs. She too spoke of the potential of the children, and the possibilities that are ahead of them. Then, we had a time of more singing and dancing, as Teacher Joyce played the goat skin drum. I was pulled up on three occasions to show off my dancing skills, I passed (with a C, but I still passed, haha).

As I sat there and looked out over the crowd of parents, dressed to the nines, and looked at our children as they performed I couldn't keep from feeling immense pride and joy at the work God has done in the last 3 years and what He will continue to do. Seeing the children in class two, the ones that were there from the first day I stepped foot in Jangwani, and thinking about their situation then and now, I had to fight back tears. I am absolutely overwhelmed by God's grace and provision. He asked us to step out on a limb in 2006, and at the end of 2009, I can't imagine what life, mine and theirs, would be like without having been obedient at that point. This whole experience has been an eternal blessing.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Safari njema...

I remember going back to my servant's quarters in Funguo Estate after visiting Jangwani and sobbing. That was over 3 years ago when I visited the community for the first time. I was crushed and overwhelmed that such places existed in a world which I had lived for nearly 24 years at the time. As I continued to go in and out of Jangwani, I began to realize that in order to be effective in dealing with the problem of extreme poverty and the devastating circumstances of people's lives, I was going to have to become slightly numb to my surroundings. This is not to say, I totally threw compassion out the window, but it is to say that I wouldn't let me self cry everytime I would go into Jangwani. It still broke my heart to see people suffering physically, socially and psychologically (spiritually would tie in at times as well), but it became "normal" enough to work through it.

For three years I have been writing emails and posting on this blog my experiences and the "life" of the Kenya Children Project. While I was often crushed and overwhelmed by the circumstances that I encountered in the lives of the children at the school and my brothers and sisters in Jangwani, I never cried. Tears filled my eyes at times, but I never cried. That has changed. I have seen some tough things over the past three years, particularly during my most recent time in Kenya. As I shared with you last time we have had dealings with the Mungiki gang, and then had some children really suffer with burns and breaks.

I was hosting one of our groups from the US, and we were having a difficult, but encouraging day. We briefly encountered Mungiki (not in a hostile way directed towards us), and then after visiting our skill training programs we went to hang out with the children and staff at the school. We were sharing some laughs and enjoying each other's company. Then I noticed a change in one of our staff after receiving a phone call. She left and came back, and something was wrong. Our home based care officer, Joyce, came in walking with a young child. At the oldest, the child looked to be six years old. I walked out of the office to find out what was going on. I was told this was Safari.

Safari is a 10 year old boy, then the next thing I was told was that he was HIV positive. He was born with the disease and had suffered with it all of his life. He had taken a great turn for the worse in the last 3 weeks. I was told Safari's mother, who has basically given up on him, has 6 children, at least 3 of which were born after she knew she was HIV positive. Safari's mother had been told to bring him to the school for our feeding program. His mother never brought him. He was on antiretroviral drugs, but had never been properly checked out by a doctor. The antiretroviral drugs don't always work, but in order to have the chance to be effective, nutrition is extremely important. Joyce had been visiting Safari, and checking in on him on a consistent basis, trying to be of help to him. When she went and noticed that he was not doing well and not being taken care of, she brought him to the school. One of our staff members provided some funds for milk and bread. As the milk was handed to Safari I sat down next to him and said hello. He glanced my way, but did not have much energy to give much of a response. As he drank the milk and ate the bread he was given, not only could I hear, but I could feel on the bench, the struggle to catch his breath. This boy was so ill it was a struggle to breathe. I actually just had to stop typing for a second, because it took me back to that moment and I began to cry again. That moment broke me...again...

Three years after I wept, God reminded me of the frailty of the human existence, and broke through my tough exterior to send me a reminder that I must continue to love his children, that I must pursue justice for his people. After Joyce returned from taking Safari back to his mother, overwhelmed by the situation, I asked our visiting group and staff to pray together on behalf of Safari. Bella prayed with passion and compassion, in a way that was expectant of God's intervention. Completely broken at this point with tears running down my cheeks, I looked up as we said a collective AMEN, and saw watery eyes and heard sniffles. In the midst of that sadness and frustration I was so encouraged by that moment. I was encouraged to be reminded of what an amazingly committed and compassionate staff we have at the school. I was encouraged that what breaks God's heart was breaking our hearts. We need to have our heart's broken by situations like Safari's. Often when we do not have a direct connection to someone we generally feel bad for them when they are suffering or going through a difficult time, but our heart's don't break. God's heart breaks for those who suffer, etc. and therefore our hearts should also break.

When I think I have God, poverty and suffering figured out I am reminded of how little I understand. I left that day encouraged by the response of our staff, etc. and encouraged by the fact that I could still cry, but I was so angry, frustrated and sad by the circumstance. I have reconciled a number of the tough situations, at least in my own mind, in Jangwani over the last 3+ years. I recognized that God has asked us to represent him on this earth and care for his children and that we are responsible for responding to the ways in which he leads us. Yet, in Safari's situation I continue struggle. I question God on how he could let a child who had no choice at all in being born, or in the decision of his mother to have sex knowing she was HIV positive, suffer. Safari was born into suffering and will likely die young suffering. I pin it on the fact that I cannot fully understand the way God works, and I can't explain God. We have to put faith in Him because of that, but Safari's situation is one that causes me to struggle.

God has provided in His impeccable timing in the midst of this struggle. A visitor who came in May and another visitor who was there in June and actually met Safari, within two days of one another gave me a significant amount of cash to be put towards the school. God revealing himself at the perfect time. Osteen, the little boy who broke his arm and was never treated that I spoke of in the last post, as well as Safari, the mother and a baby who both are HIV positive were able to be taken to the hospital with the funds left by these individuals. Osteen's story is one of encouragement. His arm is healing, though it will require surgery to permanently fix it, but that does not need to be done until he is older. Safari didn't have the encouraging outcome we were hoping for. When all of the tests, etc. that were done it was revealed that he now had tuberculosis as well as being HIV+. Tuberculosis is a very common cause of death in HIV patients. Fortunately, the social worker at the hospital was able to connect Safari's "family" with an organization that will cover all of the medical costs for individuals who suffer from HIV.

I entitled this post "Safari njema", because Safari in kiswahili means "journey". Throughout Kenya you often see signs that say "safari njema" which just means "safe journey". The irony of Safari's name haunts me in a way - journey. How do you describe the "journey" of a child who comes into the world to suffer, only knows suffering and goes out suffering. You certainly cannot describe it as safe. In the midst of this struggle, and this difficult journey, God remains in charge and redeems even the worst situations. It doesn't mean I can always make sense of it, and that I won't continue to question, but it is the reality of the situation. I know this was long, but I wanted to share that story with you. Keep Safari, our staff and children, as well as their families in your prayers. Blessings on you, and may your journey be one that is not safe, as we follow a God that is not safe. May your heart be broken by the things that break God's heart.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cruel Realities and Remembering the humble beginnings...

Hello everyone - my apologies for taking a month in between posts, it has been a very busy month to say the least. I basically gave an overview of what has been going on at the KCP in my last post. Today, I want to share a bit about some of the very cool things that have gone on in the past month, as well as things that are the cruel realities of slum life.

As I had said in my previous post we were trying to identify property to purchase to house the school. That which we had identified was sold to another buyer without our knowledge about 2 weeks ago, so we had to go back to the drawing board. Fortunately, the landlord of the sold property showed us a couple of other properties for sale in the same area. A few days after being told of the new properties, Consolata (our project manager) and I went to check them out. Upon arrival I saw a familiar face that I had not seen in a few years. It was Nicodemus, the very first parent I met in Jangwani. Nicodemus still has a small carpentry shop, and a wide smile, just as he did when we met back in 2006. Nicodemus' daughter Janet is in class 2 of our school and his son Timothy is unfortunately 1 year ahead of where our school is at the moment. In the midst of the frustrations with finances, and having a property sold which we planned to purchase, seeing Nicodemus was a good reminder of where we started. We started out simply depending on God and trusting that obedience would see this thing through. Now as I have my questions about funding and properties, it is important for me to continue to remember the obedience and dependence on God with which we started the KCP, and embrace it in these moments.

While there are those very clear moments goodness, there are also the very frustrating moments. One has no one to blame, it is just a difficult circumstance. One of the little girls in our school Mwikali, who is in class one, had an accident a little over a month ago. She was walking past a jiko (a small charcoal stove) and her dress caught the flame of the stove. The dress melted into her skin on both of her legs from her waist down to her knees. That saddens me a great deal, and Mwikali and her family could really use your prayers as the medication is quite expensive to take care of the wounds. The really frustrating part is that it took 3 different hospitals to offer the correct treatment (that is in no way indicative of the medical care in Kenya, I have had very good experiences). The first place wrapped her wounds directly with gauze, causing great amounts of pain. The second place gave her medication that was incorrect and made her skin begin to rot. Finally, the last place treated her properly, and she is definitely healing. When I went to see her, she was unable to really move and sits in the same position all day in a great deal of pain. Last week our whole staff went to visit her after school to be supportive. They were very upset by the situation and were really feeling for her. Again, a horrible thing and a very difficult thing to see a child suffer, yet in the midst of this terrible thing, a ray of light - people caring. Our whole teaching staff cared enough about one of the students that they took their free time as a group and went to visit the child. That compassionate caring is what transforms. That is an extension of Christ's love and is an encouragement to me.

The two things that have frustrated me recently have been drunkards and parents who do not care about their children. While we have a number of amazing, caring parents, we have others who seem as if they wouldn't care if their child existed or not. Without giving names one of the little boys broke his arm in April. The mother didn't take care of it during the April break, then sent a note in with the boy at the beginning of the term telling the school to take care of it. While trying to force the mother to take responsibility of her child, she has been irresponsive. Now if we do not take him to the hospital and get his arm taking care of, he may lose the use of it. This is a child, not a toy. When an arm breaks you fix it. That has been a difficult thing to observe.

Drunkenness...It has been something I've noticed in the past, but it hasn't been as frustrating as it is this time. The more time I spend in Jangwani/Mathare North, the more I become known as Adam, not just mzungu. Outside of the school I am often called by name even before I enter Jangwani, then even more so as I enter. Because of being better known, it also means I'm known to the perpetual drunkards. I have been deemed 'Jonny' by one, 'Kamau' by another and when I refuse to give them money, nasty names in the local dialects, ha. I have noticed myself being more and more frustrated by this behavior this time for a couple of reasons. The first being they are becoming a little too "friendly" with myself and others and I hate the way they treat women. The second aspect is that it is some of the fathers of the kids in our school. One man in particular, who is very nice when he isn't drunk, is sad to watch when every other day he is intoxicated. I, along with a visiting group, saw him get the crap beat out of him, because he was so wasted he kept trying to start a fight. He has two sweet sons, one in class 2 and one in pre unit. I sat there feeling so sad for those two boys, knowing that is the example of a man that they have to go home to. The unfortunate reality is that he is one of the few fathers that exist in the families of the children in our school. That is why it is such a blessing to have two male teachers - Dominic and Michael, to be an example for the boys.

So, I realize that was long, but I wanted to share a bit about my thoughts and interactions over the last month. Please continue to pray for all of the issues, as well as all of the wonderful things taking place in Jangwani...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Back in Kenya...

Hello everyone! I hope this finds you well. I arrived in Nairobi last Tuesday, it is great to be back. I have been to visit the school and it is an incredible encouragement to see the progress. We have 125 children, a new male teacher and the equivalent of a school principal. The new staff are great people. The children are as joyful as ever, and melt my heart as always.

Our skill training program is really thriving, as we have developed our own dressmaking training as well as hairdressing training. We have rented two small rooms, and we are able to employ local individuals skilled in these areas to lead the trainings. This keeps us from having to outsource to other training programs. I have observed the dressmaking training, and am so impressed by the ability of the people involved and as always, by the incredible resourcefulness of the people in the program. Those involved in the training use recycled paper bags to practice on with the sewing machines, to avoid wasting or the added expense of using cloth. I have never seen more beautiful paper dresses. Once the individuals have completed this program they will be eligible for the micro loan program in which we will provide a microloan of a sewing machine, which they will gradually pay off.

The second great thing I have been able to check out was the permanent structure for our classrooms. Our executive committee has identified a building to purchase. It is beyond what we originally budgeted, but would not require any additional building as we had originally anticipated. Additionally there is enough space for the school to grow all the way up to high school, and there are enough rooms for our skill training programs. Another positive is that we will still have additional space to rent out a number of rooms for additional generated income.

So things are going well in the school and connected programs, I am very encouraged. I would like to ask you to be praying for the incoming teams which will be coming to Kenya over the next couple of months. There will be twelve individuals coming to Kenya and prayers for safe travel would be appreciated. Also, pray that these individuals would be open to whatever and wherever God may lead them throughout their time in Kenya. As always, your prayers are appreciated for the children, families and staff of the KCP.

The individuals coming will be traveling the following dates, so you can pray for them specifically:

Sheila Bell and Micaela May - May 9-18
Steve and Sherrie Gould - May 9-24
Ian Noyes and Larry Smith - May 14-30
Sarah Homan - May 24 - June 6
Luke and Abbie Michael, Wendy and Cara Turner - June 10-22
John Rosacker - July 22-31

Lastly, as many of you know we are in the midst of a lull in the economy. As the markets continue to recover, I realize many people are out of work or are a bit more hesitant to part with the funds they do have. This has also impacted giving to the KCP. Though we continue to be blessed by many people's generosity, we still have a significant hill to climb to gather the funds needed to achieve self sustainability. I would ask you all to pray regarding supporting the KCP either again, or for the first time. We are still in need of roughly $375,000. If you are unable to support the KCP financially, please be a voice for us and share with friends and colleagues of the work God is doing here in Nairobi. Thanks for your continued prayer and financial partnership. You continue to be an encouragement to me and to our Kenyan staff. I will continue to report what is going on here in Kenya.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ending Year 2 of the KCP well...

Hello everyone. I have arrived back in the United States following a great trip to my other home in Kenya. It was a very productive 12 day trip. Of course it was great to catch up with friends and family. I was able to have an end of the year meeting with our executive committee. It was a very productive meeting, as we addressed any internal issues and then began looking ahead. We worked on the budget for 2009, discussed the sustainability aspects of the project and took a look at the initial steps of phase out. We nominated 3 professional individuals and 3 members representing the Believers Centre to be trustees for the trust which will own the apartments which we will purchase in 2009. We are in the process of working with a lawyer on the legal aspects involved in establishing the trust. The Believers Centre contributed 8,000 Kenya shillings towards the sustainability projects which was a great encouragement, showing their committment. We also decided to purchase more permanent structures for the school. I am only addressing a few of the decisions that were made, as many conclusions were made in the meeting.

We once again finished under budget in the project due to wonderful and frugal work on the part of the project staff. Even in the midst of a global food crisis, we were able to feed the children for roughly $5 per child per month, simply amazing. Thank you for your continued prayers. We look forward to seeing what God has in store in 2009 as we begin the phase out process and look to turn the project over fully to the Believers Centre. Thank you for walking with the KCP! Blessings during this Christmas season and into the new year!