Blog

Reaching Farmers in Rwanda

December 21, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Text and photos by Isaac Ruto, ELI Kenya staff

01 - Enock during visit with dairy goat farmer who went from 1 to 3 goats in a year

Enock Bizimana and Joan Louise are Extension Training coordinators in Rwanda. They completed their training on sustainable agriculture and community development In Kenya under Empowering Lives’ International Extension Training program in July of this year.

01 - Training farmers in Rwanda

The two coordinators have been training local farmers in Rwanda on sustainable agriculture, local chickens, dairy goats, dairy cows, kitchen gardens, ELITE grain storage bags (a chemical-free way of storing and protecting grains from pests), pig keeping, coffee farming and climbing beans. They have trained 37 pastors and 27 government officers for three months on sustainable agriculture.

Through ELI’s Extension Training program, we have been able train over 300 farmers to date in Rwanda. A one-year training program on sustainable agriculture is already underway there and will go through July 2016.

Manual Borehole Drilling

December 8, 2015 by Tori Greaves

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Text, photo and video by ELI Staff Andrew Belko

Early November, three of us from the ELI Tanzania team traveled to Salima, Malawi to attend a two-week training facilitated by the organization Water4 for professionalizing manual borehole drilling in Africa and building capacity for small drilling enterprises throughout the continent. However, it ended up being three weeks, since it took three days by bus to get there and three days to return. But it was definitely worth it. We were accompanied by drilling enterprises from Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and a trainer from the USA. It was a wonderful experience with wonderful people.

I tried to capture what we learned in this video so we don’t forget it. Hopefully, you’ll learn something as well. During the training we drilled two boreholes. The borehole in this video was located just in front of a local Baptist church, and the other was in a nearby village. We are very excited to begin implementing what we learned. We are fabricating some tools that should help us dig deeper on our test hole we are digging at our home in Karemela, Tanzania. I have high hopes for this technology because I see that it can reach and spread to places machine drilling rigs would never reach. Also, it is much cheaper than machine drilling, which is obviously quite helpful when working in poor areas.

The music from the video is from our praise and worship after the hard work days. It is in the Malawian language called Chichewa. So while you may not understand the words, don’t worry, God understands all languages.

Meet Pauline

November 30, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Pauline
Text and photo by Samuel Teimuge, ELI Kenya Director

I met Pauline on the street in Iten, Kenya, and she greeted me with a smile. I asked her who she was, and she said,” I am a reformed brewer from Iten.”

Then I asked, “What happened?” Then she told me of how she got delivered and now she is living a wonderful life.

Pauline used to brew 60 liters (almost 16 gallons) of changaa (locally brewed alcohol) per week. She has seven children, and she is a widow.

Her children were very happy to see her totally reformed.

The following year, since she had reconciled with her children, they talked and the children teamed up with her to rent land to farm wheat and maize. She had planted finger millet, and so she sold and used the money to plant maize and wheat. They have now done this three times.

The children organized a thanksgiving service for Pauline because she has reformed. They bought her house items and a pick-up vehicle so that she can do her maize business of buying and taking to sell in Eldoret, Kenya.

Pauline goes to a church in Iten. She is the chairperson of a group of other reformed brewers called Chebaibai (which means “smiling” or “always happy” in the language of the local tribe, Kalenjin). She planted 300 passion fruit seedlings, and she now sells 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds) per week.

She cannot hide her joy and she is so thankful for what ELI has done for her.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2015 by Angela Vincent

Happy Thanksgiving from your ELI family!

Completion of National Exams

November 19, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Candidates after the last paper.
Photo courtesy of the Kipkaren Children’s Home

Thank you for praying for our children as they took their national exams: the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exam for Grade 8 students and the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam for Grade 12 students. Results are expected in February 2016.

Here is a message from the Kipkaren Children’s Home:

We are very much thankful to the Lord for His faithfulness that 14 children completed their primary national examination. We much appreciate the sponsors for their great support and everyone who participated in any way to make this day a success. God bless you all in abundance.

 

Stanley: From Grass to Grace

November 12, 2015 by Tori Greaves

Text and photos by Dan Masengeli, ELI Kenya staff

Stanley office

Stanley Baroret, a graduate of ELI’s Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development Program (SACDP) of 2012 to 2013, has passed through a lot of trials and tribulations of life, but God—who is the author and finisher of our faith—has remained faithful.

Growing up with hardships

Life started to take a hard path 20 years ago when his father took in Stanley’s mother as a second wife, who gave birth to five other siblings of Stanley. The father deserted the young family and even sold the land where they were living without their knowledge. They only came to know they were squatters when the new owner came to evict them. His mother decided to seek justice from the local chief. Thank God he managed to stop the transfer of land, cancel the transaction and order a division of land between the two families.

Peacefully, they settled on their own family land, but another challenge came knocking on their doorstep: lack of income. Life became hard because of lack of meals, education and proper housing that led the young family to work in a stone quarry to earn money for the education of their elder sister, in whom they placed all their hope. God answered their prayers when she finished Form Four (Grade 12) and got employed as an untrained teacher at a nearby primary school. There was some reprieve in that the wages earned enabled the family to afford three meals a day. After two years of working, God blessed their sister with a husband who offered to pay for her college fees at a teacher training college. This came as a blessing, but a problem was lack of income again. Stanley’s elder brother and Stanley (who was eight years old at the time) decided to look for a job at a nearby farm to herd cows while his mother decided to brew alcohol.

Pursuing education—and a better life

With the little income he earned, Stanley went through primary education and then joined high school, where his attendance was on and off. In Form Two (Grade 10), he completed one term, and in Form Three (Grade 11), he completed one term. In Form Four, he did a full term of hide and seek, especially when he was being sent home for lack of school fees.

The turning point began when he met a former SACDP student named Sosten Kimeli, who told him about the Training Center in Kipkaren, Kenya. That was the period when he was also scouting for a college to join. One of his uncles informed him that his grandfather had left a cow for him as a present, and it sold. He used the funds from the sale to pay fees at the Training Center.

Stanley children

Empowered to empower others

In 2013, because of his passion for God’s work, Stanley was selected to be church clerk and secretary as well as sales and marketing director of his home church. Glory be to God for what He has done for his family, too, because their father is back home, and all of them have gone back to church again.

God lifts His faithful children from grass to grace. In November 2014, Stanley was employed as an assistant administrator and parent at World Hope Children’s Home in Lemoru, Kenya. The current position has enabled him to minster to children, form a prayer band to pray for others in the community and lead staff devotions. It has also allowed him to support two of his sisters’ school fees, one in Form Two and another who has joined college. In addition, he is contributing 10 percent of his salary to pay for different motivational speakers, who he invites to encourage the children to grow spiritually and morally.

Stanley is grateful that the Lord God Almighty has enabled him to reach this far, and he is longing to do more to help those who are oppressed and don’t know Christ Jesus to come to the Kingdom.

Give the Gift of Christmas

November 9, 2015 by Tori Greaves

ELI CHRISTMAS for FB

This year, our children from the Kipkaren and Ilula Children’s Homes will have a joint Christmas and New Year’s celebration. You can help make this celebration possible as all the children will gather for a time of rejoicing in Jesus’ birth and welcoming in the New Year in Kipkaren.

$40 will provide one child with the following:
• A new outfit
• Food for the day
• Transportation for the day

If you would like to contribute and help give the gift of Christmas, click here.

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

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