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Hearts Filled with Thankfulness

October 29, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Text and photos by Val Roark

Val and her husband, Rick, spent part of their family vacation this summer visiting and thanking churches who partnered with Empowering Lives through their Vacation Bible School programs this year.

Have you ever experienced a moment when you remember there are others out there on your same team? A moment when you realize your team members may have different backgrounds, different languages and cultures, but foundationally you are the same, bound by the same belief, purpose and hope? My husband and I had the joy of experiencing some of these precious moments this summer. It all started with a list of churches that had requested mini-grain sacks from Empowering Lives International for their 2015 Vacation Bible School Mission Project. Our task was to contact the churches to share more information about ELI, take prayer requests and simply say, “Thank you!”

What a privilege to talk to so many inspiring people! One was the VBS director at a Vietnamese church in California. As I listened to her heart, I couldn’t help but picture precious Vietnamese children bringing coin donations to benefit African children. Imagining each church and its setting was exciting as I talked with people from all corners of our country and everywhere in between. I loved the variety of voices and accents as well as the similarities. Our teams have similar needs – for more workers and renewed energy, as well as a deep desire for children to come and find Jesus.

More moments came when my husband and I had the joy of making a cross-country trip this summer. During the course of our travels, we had the pleasure of stopping at a few of the churches on our list.

August 5: Illinois and Indiana

Geneseo, Illinois is a beautiful farm town surrounded by cornfields, not far from the Mississippi River/Quad-City area. We admired the quaint town as we made our way to the First United Methodist Church. Visiting with Jan, we learned that their VBS had been a great success, and the kids loved the mini-grain sacks!

Our next stop was at William Chapel Church of God in Christ in Gary, Indiana. Across the street from this little church stood the burnt-out shell of a house, marking the struggling state of the neighborhood. The church itself stood as a light amid the darkness of this depressed inner city. Although we were unable to meet with anyone, we were reminded of the real ministry battles many on our team face.

August 9: Ohio

Donna, VBS Director, Collins, OH (2)

Donna, Collins, OH

We had the privilege to stop at three churches in Ohio. We visited Collins United Methodist and talked to Donna, Chicky and Pastor Josh. Excited about our visit, they shared that Pastor Josh had only been at the church since July. He, like many on our team, finds himself amidst the challenges of transition. Our “thank you” came at a time when a thank you was refreshing to hear.

Shannon, Lakewood, OH

Shannon, Lakewood, OH

The next stop was at Lakewood United Methodist Church, which sits in a suburb of Cleveland. Shannon, the Children’s Director, was busily checking on Sunday school classrooms and helping in a class, like other dedicated children’s workers I know. My heart was struck by the need to lift up our team members around the world in prayer.

In Andover, we found the First Baptist Church of Dorset. A little white country church stood tall amid the fields of the small farming community, and I was reminded of another small church outside Ilula, Kenya that also stands alone in the countryside.

August 29: New York and Pennsylvania

Milton Cruz, Pastor of Taconic Christian Church (2)

Milton, Shrub Oak, NY

We met Pastor Milton Cruz at the Memorial Park in Shrub Oak, New York. His congregation at the Taconic Christian Church has a heart for missions and desire to give. Listening to Milton’s heart for his people and for teaching the truth of God’s Word was humbling. After sharing gifts and praying together, we realized that our visit to say thanks had stirred our own hearts.

Cathy's VBS poster (2)

Cathy’s VBS Display

 

 

We drove west across the Hudson River through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. We arrived in Ono where we met Mark, Cathy and their daughter, Abby, at the Ono United Methodist Church. Cathy is the Children’s Coordinator for the church. She showed us a VBS display board made for the church that highlighted children involved in various activities and highlighted the ELI 2015 VBS Mini-Grain Sack project. Her joy and enthusiasm were infectious, and when we saw her interact with some local children riding bikes in the parking lot, we knew the kids felt her love! We visited with her family and heard their prayer request for the church to carry on the work while their bi-vocational pastor was away ministering to military families. We drove away with thanksgiving in our hearts for fellow believers who work with faithfulness and passion, so grateful to know we have a Father who makes us all one.

There are so many more stories and bodies of believers to thank for the moments that have reminded us we are part of something big, and we are on the same team.



Your gifts strengthen children and families in East Africa, and your hearts of service impact every visitor who gets the chance to knock on your door. Keep a lookout for updates on our 2016 VBS missions program early in the New Year. If you are interested in receiving these updates or more information, please contact Tori Greaves at torigreaves@empoweringlives.org.

Ishara’s Journey

October 22, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Christbridge 01
ELI International Director Don Rogers presents Ishara’s Journey at Christbridge Academy on October 14, 2015.

Text and photos by Tori Greaves, ELI U.S.

Ishara lives with her brothers and sister in a rural village in the Congo. After their mother passed away due to the violence of raiding militias, Ishara became the main decision-maker of the family. Will she sell everything to take her siblings to the city? Perhaps there, she will find some support. Or will she try to farm their land on her own? What challenges will she face on the road ahead?

Now, imagine you are Ishara. What decisions will you make?

Ishara’s Journey is a choose-your-own-adventure story that reflects the real lives and decisions of children who have come to Empowering Lives’ school in the slums of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. In schools, classrooms and church programs, we present Ishara’s Journey so that children in the U.S. can learn what it is like for kids living in countries that suffer from poverty and violence. It is a significant way to engage the younger generation in the lives of others, as well as to invite them to be part of God’s transforming work in East Africa.

Christbridge 02Christbridge Academy’s guiding verse for the year.

One school, Christbridge Academy in Azusa, California, has partnered with Empowering Lives for over nine years now. Students, teachers and administrators at Christbridge Academy seek to reflect God through spirit, knowledge and service. For the past several years, Christbridge students have created their own projects to raise awareness and funds for the ministry of Empowering Lives. Their hard work empowers their community and our ministry to continue participating in God’s incredible work. Thank you for welcoming us, Christbridge, and for your courage to lead although you are young!

Through partnership with Christbridge Academy and others, we are privileged to offer a safe place and opportunity for Congolese children on a very difficult journey. Making the decision to enroll in our school in Bukavu may be the one easy decision that Ishara has to make, but it is a decision that will equip and support her through the rest of her life.


If your school or classroom would like to partner with Empowering Lives, let us know at info@empoweringlives.org. We would love to present or equip you with Ishara’s Journey and other resources to help your students learn and grow in service and generosity. Your kids can make a difference in the lives of children in DR Congo!

Join Us in Prayer: Kenya National Exams

October 9, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Oct '15 Sponsor Update

This month, high school seniors across Kenya will be taking the written portion of their national comprehensive exams for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) on October 12 through the end of the month. Practical exams for the KCSE began on September 28 for subjects such as foreign language and music.

Additionally, eighth grade students will be taking their exams for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) on November 10 to 13.

Students work hard and study long hours in order to test well and be accepted into quality schools. Please join us in prayer for our eighth grade students and high school seniors at the Ilula and Kipkaren Children’s Homes during this important time.

Thank you for your faithfulness in supporting the ministry of Empowering Lives!


To learn more about Empowering Lives International’s ministry to orphans and vulnerable children and how you can be a part of it, click here.

Video Recap: 2015 APU Team

October 5, 2015 by LoriEaton

The following video was created by Azusa Pacific University student Rachel Mallasch (rmallasch13@apu.edu). She, with two other APU students, came and served alongside Empowering Lives International in Ilula and Kipkaren, Kenya at the beginning of the summer.

 

 

 

Join Us: ELI Celebration Banquet

October 3, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Celebration Invitation e-invite

You can register online for the event here. We hope you join us for this special evening of giving thanks for all that God has done over the last 20 years through Empowering Lives International!

ELI “Kept Me Moving”

September 28, 2015 by Tori Greaves

IMG_1651
Photo by Ezra Kosgei, ELI Kenya

Here is an update from Joyce, one of the first of our children to graduate high school. She is currently attending nursing school. We are proud of her hard work and wanted to share her words with you. She was featured in the Winter 2014 issue of Cultivate.

I am really grateful for joining college first of all, this nursing school of which I really dreamed for after my high school life. I started my nursing career last year and now am in my second year, still doing great. It is the best and one of the teaching career in life. First, you must be patient, hardworking and willing to make it.

We take our lessons per block so in the first block, we hear about the human anatomy, physiology, medical surgical, pharmacology, fundamentals in nursing, first aid and accident and emergency care.

I love everything about nursing: the learning and the practical part. In practicals, we learn of dressing wounds, care of critical patients, cleaning of patients and making them comfortable. We rotate in the clinical wards, medical wards, pediatrics wards and health and reproductive wards. I like the pediatric ward, because children are so gentle to handle. The most challenging thing is we have started our night shifts. Sometimes you find yourself sleeping on the bench, but we are coping up.

For now, I am trying to be perfect with the practical skills, and on my day off, I watch movies, play basketball games and go out for picnics with friends at the caves and waterfalls, watching the beautiful creation adventure that is.

I am looking forward to finishing my college school and start working while reading and helping people just like I have been helped. I would also like to start a dispensary around my village to help the sick and also work outside of Kenya.

ELI is one of the best organizations I have seen so far. When we left, they brought other little brothers and sisters. This is so amazing at least they have a future just like me. It’s ELI that has kept me moving through support of our sponsors, friends and prayers. I am also grateful for the gift of good health God has given.

Continue praying for us as we also pray. Thank you all, and I love you.

Depth to Breadth: Learning and Lifting Others Up

September 18, 2015 by Tori Greaves

SACDP Raphael

Photo and text by Dan Masengeli, ELI Kenya

Raphael Ovesi is a former student of Empowering Lives’ Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Program (SACDP) from 2011 to 2012. He comes from a family of eight siblings, plus his father and mother. He came to know the Kipkaren River Training and Development Center through his sister Lilian, also a former SACDP student of class 2010 to 2011, who spoke to him about how someone is empowered socially, religiously and economically if he joins the institution.

In 2011, he joined the institution as one of the students. From the beginning, he displayed the qualities of working hard both in class and in the field. Against this backdrop of empowerment and success at the institution, it was amazing to discover how he used to raise fees to fund his education to ease the burden from his parents, who were educating his younger siblings. Raphael decided to help shoulder the burden of school fees by doing manual jobs like weeding people’s farms; harvesting and shelling maize; and feeding people’s livestock during school holidays. Despite the challenge of fees, he managed to graduate from SACDP in 2012.

He continued to believe in God, whom he came to know here at the Training Center, and was blessed with a job at Nebert Ventures in Kipkaren as a farm manager. Upon visiting him on the farm, I discovered that he was in charge of crop and vegetable production and marketing. With the gifting of being a good mobilizer and a skilled farmer, he has managed to attract customers from the surrounding local community, schools and nearby market. On average, he supplies a total of 200 kilograms of vegetables a week with 10 different customers visiting the farm every day, each making an order of between 50 to 100 Kenyan shillings (approximately 48 to 95 cents). This translates into enormous economic transformation for both the company and himself. This economic transformation is seen through him where he is supporting his young brother by paying fees for Kisii University in Eldoret, where his young brother is pursuing a degree in education.

Also from the little savings from his monthly salary of 8,000 Kenyan shillings ($76.11), he has managed to start a mini bakery to make mandazi (doughnuts) with the knowledge acquired from the center taught by the late Theresa Ngetich Bett. The business is at infant stage but doing well in the nearby Kipkaren market. He has employed three youths to assist with the production process, and he believes one day, he is going to have a full time bakery as well as be able to go back to school to further his education.

Raphael said, “God had a purpose of placing me in the hands of training center, which transformed my life and made me believe in myself.”

Visitor Reflections: Shayla Tonge

September 2, 2015 by LoriEaton

Tonge kids with youth-Blog size

The days were dwindling. I couldn’t accept that in my heart, I couldn’t allow myself to even think about leaving this haven. I thought back to our very first day when all the faces were unfamiliar, but I remember the moment with clarity as we stood before an assembly of 70 kids and staff, when Laban said with confidence, “Welcome home.” And truly, that is what it has become.

Not a single day passed when I did not encounter a moment where I felt truly full. That is the only word I can use to describe the emotion that flooded my heart when I spent time with these kids. Full of joy, compassion, adoration, gratitude and love. These kids have invited me into their lives with a wholeheartedness that astounds me. I will always cherish the moments I spent in the late afternoons on a concrete step with a little exuberant boy occupying my lap, four sweet girls braiding my “exciting” blonde hair and seven other kids climbing in the tree high above me while joyfully calling out my name. Or the times that we spent each evening, prompted by the 6 p.m. bell, praising God and reciting His word together, our voices rising in unity to the one true King. Or walking the youth down the red dirt path to “preps” (their study time) at school each evening, joking and giggling together, arm in arm. These simple moments of daily life are forever impressed on my heart.

I’m so grateful for the lifelong relationships formed but also for the encouragement of witnessing the beauty of what the ministry of ELI does. I have seen the poverty of this nation. I have seen barefoot children with protruding bellies peer longingly through the chain link school yard fence. I have seen makeshift one-room mud huts. I have seen eight-year-olds driving the family’s herd of cows, not being able to attend school. I have heard the stories of those my age who have lost parents in tragic ways or who feel abandoned but yet shrug and say, “That’s just the way life is.”

It is undeniable that the kids served by Empowering Lives have seen tragedy. They have, and it breaks my heart. But I am overjoyed by the utter hope they have because of this ministry. Each of these kids now has stability in their lives like they never had before. They now not only get their earthly needs met such as three meals a day, clean water, shelter and an education, but their spiritual needs are also being met. They are growing up in a home under two loving house parents who are instilling in them the Word of God. There is nothing more beautiful than rejoicing joyfully in a room full of these kids, knowing that if they weren’t here at this very moment, they would likely be very far from God. But instead I look into the faces of the young leaders leading worship with confidence and care, and my heart rejoices as the youngest of them, the three- and four-year-olds, dance and clap energetically for the Lord.

This is what redemption looks like. This is what love is. There is not a single fraction of doubt in my mind that God is holding each of these kids in the palm of His hand. I know that He has great big plans for each of them, and I am so excited to see them grow into the sons and daughters of Christ that they are.

Tonge Family Bye Bye-Blog size

Shayla in school-blog size

Shayla, who is 15, traveled to Kenya with her parents, Barry and Christy, and her 12-year-old brother, Trevor, earlier in 2015.

Thank you, Run/Walkers!

August 31, 2015 by Tori Greaves

 

You raised $7,138! Funds continue to come in. This will provide a full week of training and follow up for 79 people in East Africa.

We are so grateful for the committed teams who joined to run/walk last week in support of Empowering Lives’ trainings. Through 5-Ks, hikes and walks around the neighborhood, people met to share a story of hope, pray together and support the work that God is accomplishing in East Africa.

As teams in the U.S. gathered, other teams began to form as well. At the same time, in Kenya, we held a week of training for alcohol brewers from the community of Kaptarakwa. The brewers (all women) had a fantastic week, learning about technology like small vertical gardens, which allow them to raise food around their homes in spaces they once thought were useless.

The women celebrated what they learned at the end of the week and made a commitment never to return to brewing. Present at the celebration was the Deputy County Commissioner for Elgeyo-Marakwet County (where Kaptarakwa is located). He shared how grateful he was for ELI’s trainings, which have completely changed the make-up of his area. Almost 400 brewers in his county have now reformed, cutting off supply. Now, alcohol must come from neighboring counties, but this commissioner is excited to spread word of ELI to those counties as well so that they may also seek transformation.

Thank you to all of you who led and participated in the run/walk last week. This is the change to which you contribute. Thank you to all of you prayed and supported with donations as well as everyone who celebrated these stories with us, especially throughout the week on our Facebook page. Together, we are empowering lives!

Engaging Business in the Interior

August 18, 2015 by Tori Greaves

The small and often localized economies in rural Kenya make it very challenging for remote farmers to source their agriculture goods to viable markets. A single farmer has little to no leverage in negotiating prices with the middlemen who come to their farms with pickup trucks to buy their crops, relocate them about 50 miles and cash in after buying grains cheaply from the farmers and selling them at a higher price in town. As a result, collectives of farmers have come together as community-based organizations (CBOs) or farmer-based organizations (FBOs).

Jim Caya, sustainability advisor and business consultant to ELI, has recently been able to meet with over 20 CBOs to discuss our ELITE Bags. He was asked to participate in a farmer meeting facilitated by a large multinational nonprofit organization. The meeting included directors, managers and leaders from eight different CBOs and FBOs from Elgeyo-Marakwet, Uasin Gishu and Baringo counties. These regions struggle with diverse ecologies, climates and lack of large markets.

ELITE banners

The goal for the session was to encourage and motivate these participants to take the next step in organizational infrastructure. We want to see them begin to engage their own business activities. As they currently only bulk their goods for larger contract orders, they still don’t have much leverage. The current concept that we are trying to press upon them is that by engaging their own local business processes, they can increase their overall income while also providing value addition (making something more valuable) to their own contexts.

ELITE Report group

The primary business model we suggest is the creation agrovets. These are farm input and supply stores where farmers buy their seeds, fertilizers, small-scale equipment, animal medicine and so on. One of the products that the aforementioned nonprofit is attempting to introduce as a legitimate product for sale is our ELITE Bags for grain storage. The surrounding areas are considered the interior, meaning that there are no paved roads and no formal infrastructure. Product distribution is nearly impossible. Yet, the majority of Kenyans live in these types of environments and only travel to the large markets and towns a few times a year. Creating legitimate supply chain linkages into these communities through registered and financially insured CBOs and FBOs is a very valuable opportunity.

Additionally, Jim (along with one of the ELITE Bag sales representatives) attended a farmer field day in a remote area of Nandi County last month. There, he connected with the county’s deputy governor and discuss economic challenges facing his county’s farmers. They were able to solidify partnerships and strengthen relationships with various NGOs who want to further facilitate marketing and distribution of ELITE Bags.

In Memory of Theresa Bett

August 12, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Theresa Bett

It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of our friend and colleague, Theresa Bett, on August 8.

Theresa was a trainer with our Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Program (SACDP) in Kipkaren, putting in several years of hard work and dedicated service. She was a graduate of the second ever SACDP class in 2003 and went on to enroll in a two-year program with Manor House Agricultural Center in Kitale, Kenya to further her studies. She joined the SACDP team in 2008.

She was a mother of one son and a humble Christian woman. It was Theresa’s joy to give knowledge and teach others. She is loved by all and will be greatly missed.

Family, friends and the community will gather together on Thursday, August 13 to remember Theresa and give thanks for her life.

We ask for your prayers for the family and the community during this time. Thank you.

Jacob Returns Home

August 7, 2015 by Tori Greaves

JACOB - Gate

The white van drove slowly down the rocky dirt road leading to the Kipkaren Children’s Home. Kids in matching orange t-shirts were gathered, brimming with excitement.

“It’s Ilula!”

While it is always a joy to have visitors from the Ilula site, the crowd was anxiously waiting for the other white van — the one carrying Jacob and his house father, Peter Matekwa, after their lengthy absence.

Last week, Jacob and Peter returned home to Kenya from India and were warmly welcomed with songs, dancing, testimonies and a feast. They were surrounded by ELI Kenya staff, kids from the Children’s Home, members of the community, some of Jacob’s classmates and even few of his teachers. It was a colorful celebration and emotional reunion as the crowd of almost 200 gave thanks to God for Jacob’s health.

In early 2012, Jacob started to develop severe anemia and was admitted to a local hospital in Eldoret. Peter still remembers taking Jacob to the hospital for a check-up and going out to lunch afterward when Jacob’s nose started to bleed uncontrollably. He had to be readmitted. Then began a string of hospital visits, tests and blood transfusions that continued for the next few years.

Jacob was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow does not make enough new blood cells. Continuing with blood transfusions was not a permanent option and put him at risk of bleeding and infection. His chances at long-term survival without a bone marrow transplant were not good.

JACOB - Hall

Through a joint effort between Empowering Lives International and Living Room International, it was determined that Jacob needed to go to India for a bone marrow transplant. Yet, they still needed to find a donor. Jacob’s siblings were contacted, and his older brother, Calvince, was a match. After not seeing his younger brother for several years and being a 100 percent match, Calvince is considered to be the first miracle God worked in this journey.

Fundraising efforts in the U.S. and Kenya were launched in February to raise the $55,000 needed for the trip and medical treatment. In March, a large fundraiser was held in Kipkaren. It was a day that showed the community coming together and uniting around Jacob, Peter and his wife, Zipporrah. The goal of raising $10,000 through the event was surpassed.

A&K Global Health, an international patient advocacy and medical travel company, coordinated and navigated through the logistics of getting the two brothers and Peter to and from India for the procedure. The trio left Kipkaren on April 11. Calvince remained in India for about a month, while Peter and Jacob came home on July 31.

While in India, Peter remained vigilant in staying on top of caring for Calvince and Jacob, especially with Jacob’s weakened immune system. Peter said that he kept busy each day as he prepared proper meals, made sure everything was clean, saw that Jacob took his medications on time and took him to exercise at the guesthouse’s gym as he grew stronger in recovery. Peter also had to keep a close eye on Jacob after the surgery to look out for anything unusual that needed medical attention. It was a lot of work day in and day out, but Peter kept the faith.

“To me, I feel praise to God,” Peter said. “If God had given me this mission to do, to accomplish, then I am happy, because what God had proposed to me to do, I have done it. That is my joy.”

JACOB - Mic

At the welcome celebration, it was clear that God worked a number of miracles as the group reflected on all of the details that needed to be taken care of: organizing logistics across continents, picking the right hospital, raising all of the funds, finding a complete donor match, checking on Calvince’s health to make sure he was eligible to donate his marrow. Miracle after miracle.

Jacob is now a much healthier boy, gaining more strength with each passing day. He said that he does feel the difference between last year and today.

“I feel more courageous because of the health I’ve been given,” Jacob said. “I feel good, and I want to thank God for all the organizations that have helped, like Living Room, Empowering Lives, all the churches, schools and all the well-wishers. I want to thank God because of them. Let God bless all of them and their families and everything they do.”


To see more photos of Jacob and Peter’s welcome celebration, click here.

You can still partner with us in giving a gift of love for Jacob to help cover emergency costs during his stay in India as well as ongoing care (proper nutrition, labs, transport to and from the hospital, medications) while back in Kenya. For more information on how to give, click here.

A Place to Rest

July 9, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Lodge - greeting

Yesterday, Empowering Lives celebrated the opening of our newly renovated lodge at the Ukweli Training and Development Center in Ilula, Kenya. Many ELI Kenya staff and students from Ilula’s Samro Polytechnic school were in attendance, along with Uasin Gishu County Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno as the guest of honor.

Lodge - praying

ELI Kenya board member Reverend Samson Samoei led the group of about 60 people in a word of prayer, blessing the lodge and those who will be utilizing it—such as the estimated 45 brewers coming to Ilula next week for training. After the prayer, Deputy Governor Chemno cut the ribbon to officially open the lodge, which has 12 self-contained rooms.

Lodge - Inside

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was followed by a time of speeches and encouragement to continue the celebration. ELI Kenya board members and staff from Ilula and Kipkaren shared the vision and history of Empowering Lives in Kenya.

ELI Founder and International Director Don Rogers, currently on the ground in Kenya for a visit with this family, took time to highlight the ministries of ELI—including the Children’s Homes, Training Centers and outreaches. He said that the mission of ELI is to bring empowerment to Kenya and “to not just bring ideas, but to integrate ideas with the power of God’s transforming Spirit.”

The group also took a moment to acknowledge one of ELI Kenya’s longest standing staff members, Joel Tomno, the chef at Ukweli. In the words of ELI Kenya Director Samuel Teimuge, “He has not been tired for 18 years!”

Lodge - Joel

Deputy Governor Chemno announced that it was his first time to Ukweli and commented on how he is pleased and impressed to learn more about the ministry of ELI. He spoke of the challenge of addressing illicit brewing and alcoholism in the country and how the government can only do so much. In his words, the government is able to deal with the “hardware” issues, such as passing and enforcing legislation. Chemno remarked that partnership with ministries such as Empowering Lives was crucial toward the mission, as they can best address the “software” issues, or issues of the heart.

“If people team up as residents of this country, we will be able to wipe out illicit brewing,” Chemno said. He continued, “Each day, somewhere in Uasin Gishu, we arrest up to 50 people who are involved in illicit brewing (…) but that’s the hardware. But the hearts of the people may not change. That’s why we are saying we need to do both.”

We look forward to receiving those who will be coming to Ukweli to pursue knowledge that will improve their lives and learn more about the God who loves and cares about them. We pray that this lodge would be a place of rest for them so that they may be able to come to training and say, “Twende kazi!” or “Let’s work!”

Lodge - group

Caring for the Fatherless

June 24, 2015 by Tori Greaves

DSC_3076

Hello,

My name is Ezekiel Moiben, and I am a house father at Empowering Lives International’s Kipkaren Children’s Home. I am married to Noelah, and we are raising 29 boys and girls together.

In Kenya, most people work as laborers and earn less than a dollar in a day. That creates a high level of poverty, which makes it hard for most families to raise up kids who were made orphans by HIV and AIDS. A common cause of deaths in Kenya include cancer, among others.

ELI has been of great help to more than 250 boys and girls in their Children’s Home, providing both spiritual and physical needs like medical care, education, food, shelter and clothing. Guiding and counseling is part of the emotional support ELI is doing for the orphans through its staff and professional counselors.

This empowerment is aimed at transforming these kids to be agents of change in their families, so that they can preach the Gospel and, at the same time, educate their siblings after acquiring jobs with the education and empowerment they got through ELI.

Poverty has been at the high levels in Kenya, especially to the orphans whose parents died from diseases. These kids had no hope when they first arrived at the home. A good number of them were malnourished, sickly and didn’t know about the love of God. As I write this letter, all of our kids can testify that Jesus is their savior. Physically, they are strong boys and girls, and they are very appreciative of what ELI has done and is continuing to do in their lives.

One of the boys in my family, Boniface Kibungei, was so sick-looking and malnourished when he first arrived. Currently, he is a great athlete in the region, representing his school and entire community whenever there is competition in the region. We thank God every time we see him as a strong boy after the ELI empowerment bears fruits of this kind.

I must say that it has been of great blessing serving God through ELI as a house parent, seeing these young kids being transformed and being empowered. They can serve God without fear or hindrance. It has given me an opportunity to serve God more and helped me grow in spirit seeing God lifting these kids from nothing to somewhere.

Lastly, friends, let us join hands in serving God in His amazing task of caring for orphans, as we see that this is God’s heart.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27 (NIV)


It is estimated that there are between 1 to 2 million orphaned children in Kenya. You can partner with Empowering Lives to care for vulnerable children and help to provide physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. To learn more about becoming an ELI child sponsor, click here.

Rogers Family Heading to Africa

June 14, 2015 by Don Rogers

Empowering Lives Founder and International Director Don Rogers and his family are heading to East Africa during June and July. Your prayers are appreciated as they travel around, visiting staff and ELI sites in Kenya and Tanzania.

You can follow along on their journey by visiting their personal family blog, Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Bringing Change to the Kerio Valley

June 13, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Chep - booths

Last week, Empowering Lives International participated in an agricultural fair in the Kerio Valley, Kenya. The event featured both nonprofit and government organizations—such as USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture—who have invested in the communities in the valley. Approximately 300 to 400 people (including students, community-based groups and farmer-based organizations) attended the event, which featured trainings, demonstrations, speakers and booths.

The event covered topics ranging from food security, environmental awareness and income generation—all of which are especially relevant for the Kerio Valley, where residents struggle with fruit crop loss, soil erosion, alcoholism and illicit brewing for income. It also served to encourage people to be lifelong learners and to implement best practices at their own farms.

Chep - Teimuge

ELI staff were on hand to share the vision of Empowering Lives and about current projects and ministries such as vetiver propagation, ELITE grain storage bags, life skills training and rehabilitation of alcoholics and brewers. One reformed alcoholic who went through ELI’s Kenya Anti-Alcohol program several years ago, Samuel, was also in attendance and shared his testimony of recovery.

Attendees were encouraged to see what efforts were being taken to offer help and transformation to the Kerio Valley. Empowering Lives has been highly active in this region of Kenya, facilitating the first steps for many people toward a life of self-sustainability and dignity through our outreaches and trainings.

Along the way, partnerships have been forged with other organizations and with the Kenyan government. A number of these connections have been made through ELI’s income generating activities with the sales and distribution of ELITE bags.

The bags garnered excitement for being a chemical-free solution to long-term grain storage. Many bags were sold at the event, while people also expressed intent to purchase later this year during harvest time and asked where they could purchase them locally. With a demo bag of clean maize from October 2014, attendees were able to see the value of storing their grains in ELITE bags—not only for healthier food for their own families, but also for saving to sell later at higher prices to earn more income.

The event provided a prime opportunity to create awareness about the ELITE bags, the uses for vetiver (soil erosion prevention, grass thatching, essential oils and feed for animals) and to communicate the work of ELI. We are excited to see what doors will open for our ministry in the Kerio Valley in the future.

Jacob Is Standing!

June 11, 2015 by Diana Coombs

Jacob standing

Praise report: The new bone marrow introduced into Jacob is working so far! Jacob is able to walk, eat, talk and even take a shower. Praise God that he is doing well. Please continue to pray for Jacob’s complete healing and against any infection as his immune system is still low. He will still need to stay in India for another two months as doctors track his progress.

We are so grateful for Peter, who has been making sure Jacob takes medicine as scheduled and eats at the appropriate times. He is doing a great job of caring for Jacob while he recovers. Please continue to pray for Peter and Jacob, as they are away from family. Pray also that Peter and Jacob will feel the presence of God wherever they are and to be lights for Jesus to those they encounter.

Great Love

June 1, 2015 by Diana Coombs

By Don Rogers, Founder and International Director

Calvince at KKCH for web
Calvince (middle) stands with children and staff from the ELI Kipkaren Children’s Home in Kenya
 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13

Little did Calvince know that his care for his brother would mean traveling to India, three days in a cold, isolated room and a run-in with the police. Even with knowing in advance all this unique journey would entail, he would repeat the same journey, because it meant helping save his younger brother’s life.

Calvince was a teenager when Jacob, his younger brother, was brought into the Children’s Home in Kipkaren, Kenya. Both boys and their two other siblings were orphaned and left with their uncle who had three children of his own. However, he was unable to provide for their needs in addition to those of his own children. While looking to admit the children into the Empowering Lives’ Children’s Home, he was tragically killed in a roadside accident. Jacob and his younger brother were the most vulnerable of the four siblings and were welcomed into the Kipkaren Children’s Home in 2006. Sponsors from the USA partnered with ELI to see that Jacob would be fed, loved and educated.

Six years later, Jacob’s health declined. He was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. Jacob’s siblings were tested to see if they could be a bone marrow donor. The news came back with positive results that Calvince, his older brother, was a perfect match. After weeks of research for the proper location for the procedure, a journey to India was set into motion.

The bone marrow transplant is now complete, and Jacob is still in India this month recovering. Calvince has since returned to Kenya. He shared with the staff and family at the Kipkaren Children’s Home about his journey back.

Calvince arrived in Nairobi, Kenya from India at around nine in the evening, so he spent the night there. Early in the morning, he took a public shuttle heading to Eldoret, but on the way, the driver failed to stop at a police check and was then stopped after a few miles. Every person in the van was taken to the police station and held there. Calvince and all of the passengers, along with the driver, had to appear before a judge and pay a heavy fine. This process took the whole day. Our Kipkaren Children’s Home director was finally able to pick up Calvince in the evening to then arrive home at 1 a.m.

The children at the home had planned to welcome him with singing and many cheers, but by 1 a.m., they were all asleep. One of the Children’s Home mothers kept dinner warm for Calvince, and soon after, they were all fast asleep.

The next day, Calvince was anxious to return to his own home in Kisumu, Kenya but took some time in the morning to share about the procedure in India.

After narrating the initial journey from Kenya to India, Calvince shared how they were warmly received by the hospital agents and given a good orientation upon arrival. He was so grateful that he was able to be the donor who could help his brother and is very happy about the positive response Jacob is showing. He said he was scared when he was put in a medical isolation room for three days preparing him to donate the bone marrow (he ended up needing to donate twice). When the bone marrow harvesting process began, he was put under anesthesia so he wouldn’t feel any pain. When he woke he was fatigued and had some pain in his back, which are normal short-term side effects of surgically donating bone marrow.

Jacob had also been going through isolation and treatment for a week before the procedure. The last two days of isolation were very crucial to prevent illness, as Jacob’s immune system had been wiped out. The process of introducing the harvested bone marrow from Calvince into Jacob took an entire day.

Calvince left India when Jacob was still in an isolated recovery room. Calvince said, “I realize that in God, everything was possible.” He was so grateful to everyone who stood with his brother. He said he will always remain faithful to God because of the great things that happened to Jacob.

Update on Jacob

As of today, his Children’s Home father, Peter, shared that Jacob was to be released from the hospital in India and will be staying with him in the guesthouse. He said Jacob is doing quite well, and the doctors are impressed with the way he is responding. Jacob will be under observation for the next month before they can decide on the next step.

Once again, we are all so grateful for each and every person who prayed and contributed so that Jacob could receive this life-giving procedure. There is still a journey ahead, but we are giving thanks for you and how far we have reached.

You can partner with Empowering Lives International in helping to raise up children like Jacob, providing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. Sponsor a child today.

The Impact of Clean Water

May 18, 2015 by Tori Greaves

By Boaz Masanja, Project Manager and Yakobo Sembo, ELI Tanzania Director

Mwasamba B

The need for water in Mwasamba B increased when the area was seriously hit by drought. Animals were getting thinner, and plants would wilt. People would go without washing due to water scarcity, and they suffered terribly from lack of proper hygiene in many homes around the area. In some places, there were incidences of scabies because of the lack of washing water, and people would get lice due to dirtiness of not washing clothes.

Drastic measures were needed to overcome the degree of drought in the area by trying to get help from any corner.

The community of Mwasamba B

Initially, the community was excited and had high expectations of getting water at deep depth. They expected that when we hit water, it would come out in large quantity and shoot high out of the hole. When this did not happen, we saw the response and attitude of the community coming down. Even when we found good signs of water at 80 feet, the community wanted us to drill deeper. These kind of queries made us to be humble in replying and to ask them to be tolerant until the last process was over to obtain water.

The community invested a lot in this project and deserve much credit for the completion of the borehole. They contributed 2,900,000 TSH (about $1,455) and manpower such as bringing stones, sand, aggregates, molam (hard-packed clay), water and labor to build the base for the hand pump. The great need of water at Mwasamba B made the entire community to make a lot of sacrifices. A single person could volunteer to sell some chickens, goats, sheep and cows to ensure that one is getting what the community had agreed to contribute so as to make water available in that particular community.

Bridge

Meeting challenges

While on the way to the drill site, we got stuck several times on the way. The first time we got stuck was on a bridge, where part of the bridge was washed away by the heavy rain. Also, other roads were not easily passable to a similar extent.

We sometimes were obliged to postpone some of our activities at the site as we couldn’t go ahead with the job while it was raining. Even at the closure of our job, we encountered getting stuck with our vehicle such that the community had to volunteer to assist pulling our vehicle to get out of the mud. The process took us almost two or more hours. We thank God that none of us got injured and our team member Mr. Andrew Belko had been driving in a difficult situation. This was an ongoing activity for the five days until the well was complete.

The team work spirit encouraged everyone to work tirelessly, cooperatively and collectively. As well, the humbleness of the entire team was the choice to combat and address all challenges we encountered throughout the period of drilling a borehole at Mwasamba B.

M B well

Clean water

The borehole having clean water to the community means saving lives, and therefore without clean and safe water, the entire community is in trouble. Much of them can’t afford to boil water as they are unable to house resources for buying firewood or kerosene.

In the beginning, the community had a terrible kind of living as water could be fetched from only one borehole drilled a long time agothe one and only borehole for more than 2,500 people. The substitute for this borehole is to wait for those who would go about eight kilometers away to Lake Victoria and bring water in jerrycans of 20 liters sold at 400-500 TSH ($0.20-0.25) each, and yet still it is not clean water. Also, it is only few who can afford to buy water from those selling water. And these water business people fetch water using animal carts, so the hygiene of water is doubtful.

We got informed by one of the village leaders that one would go for queuing overnight at the oldest borehole, and he would hardly get 20 liters only simply because there was rationing. Other people would get nothing apart from queuing overnight. In comparison, after the new borehole, people would get more time for work, and people would get more resources as they will not be buying water anymore.

In some places where families are big, the burden went to an extent of forbidding students from going to school because the family would remain without water. Students will now be going to school more often. This means availability of water in Mwasamba B would bring changes socially, economically and even culturally as people were often upset on the water problem. Addressing the challenge is a positive approach towards community development.

The process of making sure the water is safe is guaranteed by the government water department by examining quality water control in the laboratory. We brought a water sample, and they are in the process of testing the water from Mwasamba B. However, the government water engineer said there’s a 95 percent chance the water is safe for consumption after seeing the sample and to tell the community to start using the water for drinking.

It is not easy to tell how often people get sick, but for sure, people get sick due to dirty consumption of water in the area. It is a distance to reach the clinic about five to 10 kilometers away. One may reach the clinic and find no medication or drugs there.

Yakobo and Boaz

Bringing the Gospel

For sure, this project has promoted the community on a spiritual level, as it is not easy to preach the Gospel to a thirsty person. But it is somehow possible to a community person to listen to you knowing exactly you played a role to get them access to clean water at their respective residence. This is even a testimony that when able to meet their physical need, you can satisfy them spiritually. Your preaching will bring hope; likewise, you addressed the water problem. The same faith they gained from the water will convince them to believe you spiritually with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

To read about the previous borehole drilling project in Tanzania, click here.

Onward and Upward

March 31, 2015 by Tori Greaves

CH celebration

The results for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams—which are taken at the end of secondary (high) school and determine eligibility for various higher education institutions—were recently released. Many of our Children’s Home graduates received high marks, and for that, we are thankful. Now, these graduates will wait to see what programs they will be accepted into at different colleges, universities and other schools.

Here’s what three of our graduates from the Ilula Children’s Home had to say after finding out their results.


“Hi!! I hope you are doing well just as I am. The national exams were officially released recently, and for sure, God did great. It had been a long journey of four years going through ups and downs in high school, but at last, we sat for the national exams. For a while, it was a relief after (the) hard struggle of learning. Days went by, and soon it was nearing the date set for the release of the results. Fear and thoughts of doubt encompassed me, knowing that many people were expecting good performance from me. I prayed that my hard work may be rewarded. I was so happy when I got the results and of all people and beings, I thanked God. So far life in the village is good and soon I will be studying computer. Thank you so much for your support and prayers.”
– Victor

“I really want to thank God for the favor He granted me. Concerning my results of the national exams, I enrolled for the year 2014. I got an A of 83 points, and I was so impressed and happy. I now will be able to pursue a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at the university level. My results I attribute to teachers, parents, friends and classmates. I would not make it alone without them. They encouraged me (and) gave me the motivation to move on, and that is why here I am today. Also, the sponsors from Empowering Lives International made this possible regarding that my welfare was catered for, this ranging from fees to personal necessities.
– Beatrice

“I thank God for (how) far He has brought (me). It has taken his hand and his unfailing love for me. The grade I got I thank him (for), because actually whatever he has started he will carry to end. I never expected to score that, but all in all, God is great and wonderful. (I) am happy. At least I have a bright future. That day was my happiest day since cause it was just the prayers God was answering. (I) am still thinking and praying hard (that) I get a course related to the passion I have. I have a dream of pursuing either Radiography or Physiotherapy. Thank you so much, ELI, for all the support and everything you have done. May God bless you and continue being with you and expand everything you are doing.
– Mercy


Thank you for being a part of the lives of these children through your partnership with Empowering Lives International. You help make this possible!

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