Archive for the ‘poverty’ Category

There is a lot more to write about the ministries we saw in Kenya, but it is time to move on to the Uganda portion of our trip!

20130725-133140.jpg Adventure Village
Our first stop was Adventure Village, an orphanage our church helped build and has worked with for many years (I think we’ve sent teams there every years since 2007). We spent a few days there, helping to distribute backpacks and clothes that were collected and sent over by generous folks at our church. It didn’t matter how organized we’d been in collecting the goods (life groups were assigned different homes at the village–group members all picked one child to “sponsor”). But, unbeknownst to us, there had been a bit of a shuffle at Adventure Village, with most of the children living in different homes.

So chaos reigned, as it is so apt to do in Africa, but a joyous chaos it was as children received their gifts from afar.

20130725-133331.jpg A happy camper, waiting for his new shoes!

The highlight of our visit to Adventure Village was spending time with Resty, a young girl sponsored by our oldest daughter (who met her on that first trip in 2007, shortly after Resty had come to the orphanage). We’d met Resty three years ago, when Greg and I flew over for our youngest daughter’s wedding. In fact, Resty and a teacher from Adventure Village were able to attend the wedding and join in the fun. Resty regularly sends us letters about her life at the village–she even sent a short version of her life story recently.

20130725-133707.jpg Eating my first beans and posho with Resty

Not all of the children at Adventure Village are true orphans, Resty included. According to her account, her mother and father separated when she was young. Her mother remarried, and her husband did not want the children from the previous marriage. He beat the children (Resty had two brothers that I know of) and life was so miserable it was decided that they would go live with their father. The details are a little sketchy at this point, but their father was murdered around this time. And shortly after that, their mother brought them to the orphanage.

Losing both your parents would be a terrible trauma, but my heart breaks at the rejection and abandonment experienced by Resty and her siblings. Resty has mentioned to me several times how much it meant to her that my daughter chose her, closely following the heels of her own mother’s rejection. Even though Lindsay hasn’t been back to Africa or seen Resty since, there is an incredibly strong connection there. Such power in being chosen!

20130725-134556.jpg Resty and her brother Michael, enjoying ice cream!

My prayer for Resty–and all the “orphans” of this world–is that she would know she is chosen by her Heavenly Father. And that this truth would fill and heal her heart. It hit me hard on this trip that all the backpacks, all the shoes, all the ice cream couldn’t fill the empty part of their hearts. Sometimes I wonder if the stuff we give them even makes the emptiness worse.

There is a song that we often sing at my church, “Only You can Satisfy.” Every time I hear it, I think of Resty and all the little children I met on our travels and pray that the love of Christ will satisfy their hungry souls.


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Our last ministry tour with Missions of Hope was a visit to their secondary schools. Both the boy’s and girl’s schools were located in rural areas outside Nairobi, and were a good 20 minute drive apart (definitely no sneaking into the dorms of the opposite sex at these schools!).

We visited the girl’s school first. The facilities were quite simple–in fact, the buildings reminded me a little of the structures in Mathare (although minus the squalor). Small rooms, attached in long rows, covered by the corrugated tin roofs that turned each classroom into an oven during the heat of the day. The dorms were in a nicer building, with about a dozen girls in a room, each with a bunk bed and trunk for her belongings.

As we toured the grounds, though, I was totally amazed by the projects we saw. A beautiful garden, filled with vegetables and fruit trees, providing much of the food consumed by the girls and staff each day. There was a large tilapia pond, brimming with the delicious fish. And here’s the best part: water from the fish farm circulated through the hydroponics center in the greenhouse next door. The fish waste fertilized the veggies, creating super-healthy food without the need of soil!

And the students were learning all about these food-producing systems while enjoying the immediate benefits!

20130723-111935.jpg (teacher in the hydroponics hut)

We happened to be there on a Sunday, so we all gathered in the large church building in the girl’s compound (the boys and girls each have their own church building and separate services each week). After an hour of rousing, interactive worship, we heard a sermon by a visiting muzungu preacher (which kind of relieved us, since we knew he’d only preach about 20 minutes, compared to the typical 2 hour sermons delivered by our African brethren). Just when we though church was over, the girls came to the front–one class at a time–and treated us to worship dances, special music and heart-wrenching skits (when was the last time you saw domestic violence and child trafficking acted out in church?).

20130723-111616.jpg (more…)

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I’ve been to a lot of places during my ministry travels–mostly to villages–but I’ve never been to a slum. I hate to even use that term, but I looked up the definition and it certainly fits the area we visited in the Mathare valley.

Slum: (noun) A heavily populated urban neighborhood characterized by substandard housing and squalor.

The Mathare slum is home to about 800,000 people, all crammed within an area less that 1.5 square miles. The housing consists of rows of ramshackle shacks, absorbing the African heat through their corrugated tin roofs. The average wage is less than two dollars a day, with most of the work force comprised of single moms.

As for squalor, before we embarked on our first visit of the slum, our guide gave us this warning:

“There are few latrines, so some folks have taken to relieving themselves in plastic grocery bags, then tossing them through the windows. So be careful where you step and watch for flying toilets . . .”

So we trod carefully, following several social workers from Missions of Hope as they took us through the neighborhood they serve. There were people everywhere, milling about, making lunch, selling random wares. Chickens and ducks darted in and out of doorways and kids played in the streets with creative, homemade toys (two little guys had made a sled out of a garbage can lid).


I quickly forgot about the “squalor” and became absorbed in the souls who lived there. Instead of the despair I’d expected to encounter; I sensed the ebb and flow of an often difficult, but always communal, life. And I also felt a rising tide of hope.


That hope comes through the increasing knowledge of Christ, which is being imparted to the children via the schools built in several Mathare communities by Missions of Hope.

We got to visit one of the schools later that day. We walked into a classroom of about 20 children, all in P4 (our 5th grade, I think). The students rose and greeted us, then asked us a few questions: “What is your favorite food?” “What is your favorite color?” “Do you love Jesus?”

Then the class sang us a song that just made my day. I wish I could recall all the lyrics, but the song basically stated that without Jesus, everything else we accomplish is in vain. We can be doctors and lawyers and wealthy and strong–but if we don’t put Jesus first, we’ve not really accomplished anything.

I love that while these little ones are being educated, they are also being taught about the love of Christ. And as their lives are transformed from the inside out, these children take that love and peace back home with them, where their families and neighbors feel His presence, too. How awesome that community transformation is starting with these little ones!


As I mentioned earlier, many of the women in the Mathare Valley are raising their children alone. Besides educating the kids, Missions of Hope provides job training for the moms–we visited a sewing class, a jewelry shop and a beauty salon. These are all services the women can provide from their homes or communities. To help fund these small businesses, Missions of Hope recently started a micro-loan program called Big Dent.


In my next post, I will write about a unique ministry offered by Missions of Hope–and outreach to families with disabled children. Of all the experiences I had in Africa, one brief encounter I had in the Mathare slum is permanently etched in my heart . . .

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During our drives around the park, we’d noticed several Masai men in traditional red garments, herding their cattle. When we asked if we could take pictures, Sammy said “no”–he explained that somehow the Masai figured out some of those pictures were being sold for big bucks back in the tourist’s homeland.

But if we really wanted pictures–and to know more about the Masai–Sammy said we could tour a small village in the game park. For 30$ each, we could take all the photos we liked 😉

We wanted to know more about this colorful tribe, so we shelled out or thirty bucks to Andrew, our Masai guide. He was 17, the youngest son of the chief of this particular village. Andrew’s dad was approaching 100, had multiple wives and about 60 children. This young man had been to secondary school, spoke great English and was being considered to serve as the next chief when his father retired.

This is Andrew, who is showing us his mother’s hut. The women construct the round huts, which are made from sticks, mud and cow dung. There are just two small windows in each dwelling, which serves as bedroom, kitchen, storehouse, etc (there is even a small room in each hut for newborn calves, since cows are there main source of food and revenue).

It was extremely hot, dark and smoky as we listened to Andrew talk about daily life inside his little hut, but I could see the attraction. The smoke kept the place mosquito-free–and why bother to clean a place that no one would ever actually see?

The Masai warriors greeted us with a jumping dance and invited our guys to join in. The ability to jump high gave the men an advantage in the bush, letting them have a better view above the long savannah grass. Greg leapt around with the warriors until he hurt his ankle 😦

Next, we were greeted by the women, who also sang songs of welcome. The women in this picture are some of the chief’s wives–Andrew’s mom is holding onto a small child. After our tour, we were escorted out of the village into a makeshift market where the residents insisted we purchase some of their handcrafts. I am usually a good bargainer, but the persistence of the villagers (and maybe the really big spears and such) caused me to toss out as many schillings as requested for a few items–then I fled the smelly, fly-infested market.
I am not insulting their village. Each Masai community builds their huts in a circle, big enough to corral all their cattle during the night. The cattle are let out to graze during the day, but there’s always a field of cow poo in the center of the village.
“It’s good luck to step in cow dung,” Andrew told us as we carefully trod through the cow pies. Not sure who was the luckiest that day 🙂
As we were leaving, I asked Andrew what religion the Masai practiced. He acted like he didn’t quite understand my question.
“You know–I am a Christian, I worship Jesus,” I explained. “What is your tribal religion?”
“Oh, I want to be a Christian,” Andrew said, smiling. “I had Christian friends at school and want to know more about your religion.”
So, we actually prayed with Andrew before we left, asking The Lord to provide his school fees and that he would get to know Jesus better.


As we headed for Nairboi, where we would tour the slums of Mathari, I thought about the Masai and their way of life. They had no electricity or plumbing. Their houses of mud and dung fell over every few years, so the whole community would have to move. Their diet mostly consisted of milk, meat and blood . . .
The Masai were definitely impoverished by our standards, but it was obvious that the community we met today was proud of its culture and ancient traditions. Andrew had a choice as to whether or not he would stay in the village–or continue with school. Most of our excellent chefs at the Simba Lodge were young Masai men who’d chosen to go to culinary school in Nairobi, unlike their kin who’d chosen to remain in the village.

I was still pondering these things when we got to Nairobi and toured the second largest slum in Kenya. The people in the Mathari valley certainly had more stuff than the Masai–cell phones, TV, electricity, etc.–but many did not choose to be there and the sense of poverty was much more pronounced.
But we saw beauty rising from the ashes in the slums as well. More on Mathari in my next post!


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So, my friend Lisa and I have been developing a clothes closet type of ministry at Parkrose.  Lisa (who is very cool and peppery) works with homeless youth in Clackamas county and has experience in such things.  We’ve gathered bags and bags of gently-used clothing and blankets, painted the designated room with hip, happy colors and are waiting for racks and shelves to be installed.

We are good to go–except for the fact that we gave away ALL of the clothes and blankets this week!

My Native friend, Chief, told me on Sunday that a fire swept through his reservation that weekend, destroying at least 20 homes.  Without a second thought, I offered him our entire inventory.  Chief gratefully accepted and emptied out our closet.

The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, blessed be the Name of the Lord!  How awesome that we were able to bless others in their time of need!  But now we need to restock . . .

If you live in the area, could you take a moment and go through your closets–and pull out the clothes/blankets/shoes you don’t need or wear?   Your donations could wind up blessing a local high school student or family–or folks from the White Swan reservation!

We also need a name for this outreach.  We are open to all suggestions!  Email me or leave a comment if you have clothes to donate or ideas for a name!


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I always enjoy Portland’s annual mission conference and this year’s event was no exception.  I was excited to hear Brian Fikkert, the author of “When Helping Hurts,” address the complex issue of poverty alleviation.

He did not disappoint.

Fikkert likened the West’s method of helping the poor to a doctor who misdiagnoses his patient.  If the cause of the illness is misunderstood, then the prescribed medicine will cause harm–no matter how well-intentioned the doctor might be.

Fikkert believes that most westerners have misdiagnosed the cause of poverty.  We think it comes from a lack of material goods, so our “cure” is to pour capital and technology into impoverished areas.  But still the sickness spreads.

The World Bank surveyed poor people around the world a few years ago, and asked how they would define poverty.  While many made reference to their lack of resources, most described poverty in emotional terms:  a state of helplessness, feelings of shame and inferiority, a lack of options.

Fikkert believes poverty is caused by broken relationships–with God, others, ourselves and creation.  There are plenty of resources to go around this planet, but because we are broken, we ignore God’s principles of stewardship and hoard and misuse what we’ve been given.

In his book, Fikkert develops the topic of transformational development–which is essentially a strategy to reconcile people to God, each other, themselves and creation.  It is a holistic approach to sharing the gospel and emphasizes that Christ is the creator, sustainer and restorer of all things.

But even with this holistic approach, poverty alleviation is complicated.  I loved the example Fikkert gave from Acts 14; where Barnabas and Paul come across the crippled beggar.  They didn’t give him a hand out; they gave him a hand up and pointed him in the direction of the One who could supply all of his needs.

I know I’m not quoting him properly, but Fikkert said that if we want to help the beggars, we must become beggars ourselves, reaching out our hands to lay hold of what only God provides.  We need to acknowledge our own brokeness as we come along side the poor and needy, and reach out together to Jehovah Jireh.

How this would look, practically speaking, I have no clue.  But I love the concept of a band of beggars approaching the throne of grace together, hands raised to receive His grace!

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“As I stand at the brink of a new year, I find myself still waiting. Still straining to hear His quiet voice say, “This is the way, walk ye in it.” Still scanning the horizon for mileposts to point the way. Still wondering if our future will ever come into focus . . .”   from last year’s New Year’s post, 2010 vision.

Boy howdy, did things ever come into focus this past year!

If 2009 was a year of waiting, then 2010 was a season of receiving.  Just thinking of all His good gifts to us this year makes me feel like a spoiled child!  I am so undeserving . . .

We married off our last daughter to a very godly man–God gave us sweet Ramona–we got to visit Africa and Alaska–God led us back to Abundant Life!  Those are just the highlights; there really are too many blessings to recount!

I believe that 2011 will be a year of speaking up.  The verses I want to camp out on for  the next 12 months are:

Open your mouth for the speechless,
In the cause of all who are appointed to die.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
And plead the cause of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8,9

I just finished reading through the Bible this year, and if there’s one theme that is close to God’s heart, it is defending the defenseless.  I’m not sure how He intends to use me this coming year–but I’m confident it will be one wild and wonderful ride.

Anyone want to join me?

PS:  A good resource to jump start your heart is Kimberly Smith’s blog.  She speaks up with boldness and compassion for the most destitute people on the planet.

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