Category: Empowering Lives

Drilling wells in Tanzania

February 9, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

Bringing clean water to Tanzania is transforming lives!

Where is Empowering Lives drilling wells, and why that area?
Empowering Lives has been drilling water wells in the dry, rural areas of the Mara region of Northern Tanzania for 3 years. Water is very difficult to access in this part of the country. The ground is too rocky and the water too deep for local hand dug wells or small machine drilling, so many existing shallow wells have gone dry in this year’s drought. Most communities rely on existing water sources that are far from their homes. These sources contain bacteria and are parasite-ridden. Households spend up to 25% of each day fetching water.

There are a lot of organizations drilling wells…What makes the ELI well drilling program different?
One of our core values is giving a hand-up, not a hand-out, and so we partner with communities to raise the $7,000 needed to drill a deep well. People in the community are mobilized to work together and unite to contribute towards the cost of the well. Some will sell a chicken, some a goat, and others contribute from the $1-$2 they make per day. In the end, the community will raise about $1,000, which will in part be used to purchase a heavy-duty hand pump for the well. This encourages the community to take ownership and pride in their new water source and is a big step towards future development. Empowering Lives provides for the drilling rig and the drilling team, and covers the remaining cost of the well. Water drilling has opened up doors for ELI to cultivate meaningful relationships with people and families who live in difficult, rural areas

How can I get involved in the fight against the water crisis in Tanzania?
We have a 2017 goal of drilling 20 wells in partnership with communities! Open up another door for the Gospel message by fully sponsoring a well for $6000, or by making a donation of any amount that will be pooled together with others towards a water well. Learn more about drilling wells in Tanzania.

Watch this brief video to see what collecting water is like without a well, and to see the well drilling process in action:

 

A Community that Spans an Ocean

January 27, 2017 by Sarah Ponce

Meet the Women of Change.

Women of Change is network of women who are committed to supporting the movement of change happening among brewers in East Africa. Val Roark is the coordinator of Women of Change, and she shares with us today about the importance of community on both sides of the ocean.

How do you feel community is important to Women of Change?
Community is important because it gives us emotional support and accountability. If you want to really champion a cause and champion what God is doing in other places, having someone with you who is excited alongside you is so encouraging.

How do you feel community is important to the brewers?
The groups there meet sometimes weekly, sometimes once a month. They do merry-go-round or table banking together so they’re not only supporting each other socially, spiritually and emotionally, but also supporting each other financially to some degree. Because they come from a village together and are trained at ELI, they go back home with that support system. And that support is paramount to their success; I saw it for myself over and over again.

Do you feel the Women of Change community in the US is connected to the communities of former brewers in Kenya?
That is what I want to see happen. We can embrace the change they are making and recognize and look at ourselves and think how does that impact me personally. What does God want to change in my life?
Also they (the brewers) are realizing we are all in God’s world and His kingdom, and they have these friends who are sisters of change who are far away but care about them. For the women in Africa to feel this connection is huge. I saw on their faces what it meant to them, even just to think we are praying for them. And then for them to say we’ll pray for you…when I see the faith they have, I want people like that praying for me!

Interested in getting involved with Women of Change? Contact Val at womenofchange@empoweringlives.org about joining a chapter or starting your own chapter in your area.

 

Interview with Val Roark by Sarah Ponce
Communications Manager
Empowering Lives International

Humble Beginnings and an Everlasting Hope

August 4, 2016 by Angela Vincent

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I’d like for you to meet Nixon Kiprotich. Nixon is a father at the Ilula Children’s Home in Kenya, where I interned for three weeks this past summer—helping the kids with their daily chores and homework, leading devotions, and lots of playing. Not only did I learn about how the Children’s Home functions, but I was able to build lifelong relationships. And Nixon was one of those.

One morning over chai, he shared with me his humble upbringing and how it has brought him to where he is today.

Nixon was born and raised in the village of Turuturu, in the Kerio Valley. His parents, Joseph and Mary, never worked or went to school growing up. Their family grew maize (corn) and other vegetables for food. Nixon was the eldest of ten siblings, and later eighteen, after his father remarried. Growing up, his family had a strong faith and were actively involved in the church.

Nixon went to school for the very first time when he was eight years old. At times, he would stay home to help his family, but eventually he and his siblings attended school so they could receive one meal a day and some milk. Nixon and his siblings each had one outfit and never owned a pair of shoes until they went to high school.

During high school, Nixon was shaped into a strong and independent man, understanding the importance of hard work and a strong faith in God. After high school, Nixon went to work for a Christian radio and TV station to help support his family. This is where he met his beautiful wife Zipporah. Twenty years later, Nixon made the decision to go back to college to be an example for his children. He is now studying Child Development and Social Work and one day dreams of being called “Dr. Nixon”. In 2007, Nixon and Zipporah became parents at the Ilula Children’s Home.

Even amongst great adversity and poverty, Nixon never lost hope. Nixon and Zipporah continue to emphasize to their children that God has amazing plans for them and they are alive for a purpose. It is from Nixon’s past that he has an even greater hope for these children. “I thank God for ELI because now I can help all the children because of the past I had”.

You might not know Nixon personally like I do. But you are a part of his story too. Your support and partnership help provide him and all of the children at the Homes with the hope to push through adversity, give God their pasts, and even more, their futures. Thank you for providing hope to hundreds of children!

Jayme Chesler
Summer Intern, Ilula Children’s Home
Empowering Lives International

Building Houses and Homes

May 26, 2016 by Tori Greaves

IL 62The rain mixed with hail, which made the night miserable and cold. The old woman had little strength, yet she managed to push her bed across the room to where some of the thatched grass still remained above on her deteriorating mud hut.

I arrived to the old woman’s home late the next day and greeted her with a smile. Her cold reception surprised me. She was the grandmother of Margaret, one of the girls at the ELI Children’s Home. We had come to visit, share chai (Kenyan tea), and pray before we returned home.

One rickety chair stood inside the woman’s hut. The other ELI staff and I sat down on makeshift stools of firewood. There was no chai.

We talked for a few minutes and walked around. I saw the hole in her roof and the muddy floor where the rain had fallen throughout the night. We prayed together, and as we prepared to leave, our Children’s Home Director requested that we give an impromptu gift to help her.  You see, while she was waiting for us all day, she did not leave the home as usual to find work for her day’s food.

For this old woman, life was barely livable. Frailty, lack of resources, and deteriorating conditions mired her in poverty.

But our staff soon returned. With just a few people, we repaired her roof, and we brought a dairy cow that could sustain her – made possible by the generosity of friends like you! She now has daily nutrition and income from the milk. These days, when Margaret comes to visit, her grandmother can receive her with joy and not as a burden.
IL 61
ELI has the privilege of providing sustainability that extends from children like Margaret in our Children’s Homes out into the wider community. Because of you, Margaret’s grandmother now has a cow and restored dignity. Because of you, we can give Margaret a house that is safe, warm, and dry; a quality education; and a home filled with spiritual mentors and loving siblings and parents.

This is sustainability. A full life. A home.

By Don Rogers
Founder and International Director
Empowering Lives International

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Wish to respond by giving? Click here.

Out of Ashes

April 14, 2016 by Tori Greaves

Mary Metkei BrewerThank you for spreading the hope of God’s community! You are building community, both locally and globally.

Mary grew up in a family of brewers. Everyone she knew brewed alcohol illegally. She married an alcoholic who came from a chaotic family. It was not long until he abandoned Mary and the children.

Without any other example to follow, Mary began brewing and drinking alcohol. Soon, she was drowning in the dangers, violence, and poverty of her career. She felt rejected and alone.

When Mary came to the ELI Ukweli Training Center in 2013, her life changed. She described feeling so much peace as she entered the grounds and began to learn to cook, farm, and start a business. With the knowledge and skills she learned, Mary farmed and saved up to buy a house – the first home for her family.

But when Mary’s husband returned, he hated all that she had built. He burned the house down.

This time, Mary was not alone. The friends she had formed in her community and through the brewers’ training at ELI rallied together to help rebuild her home.

Life is still not easy for Mary, but she can feed her kids well and send them to school. Most importantly, she belongs to a loving, God-seeking community, which supports her and reminds her that she is never alone.

Metkei Community Singing
This beautiful outpouring of community occurs as God moves through and empowers people. We see the same dedication and love now pouring out by groups of women in the USA. Many have volunteered to join together to become 100 Women of Change. As they meet, they support one another and give to impact communities of brewers in East Africa. Their stories and Mary’s remind us that as one community, we join together to make a great impact on this world. To God be the glory!

By Tori Greaves
Development Manager
Empowering Lives International

Wish to respond by giving? Click here.

Leah’s New Life

March 17, 2016 by Tori Greaves

SOP Bread PhotoGod uses you to bring people dignity! Through your prayers and support, you empower sustainable lives. But what does this look like?

As I walked by Leah, I reached into my pocket to hand her a dollar for a loaf of bread. This was the fourth day in a row.

Battered and abandoned by an abusive husband, Leah had taken refuge in our church. Though her wounds healed and we could offer her a small hut for shelter, she still had to beg in order to eat.

It hit me that in my attempt to solve her problem I was actually creating one.

By handing her a daily dollar I was:
Creating and encouraging her dependency.
Robbing her of the joy of developing her own skills.
Removing her responsibility to solve her problems.
And supporting an unsustainable solution.

I’ve learned from experience and from God’s Word that God is more interested in building our lives than simply solving our problems. Jesus tells his disciples “Go and bear fruit – fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

The solutions to poverty are certainly not simple. However, by guiding people to attain skills and find sustainable solutions, we equip them to build their lives and achieve God’s purposes for them. Then they, too, become teachers and role models of the holistic life to which God calls us all.

Two months later, Leah was selling bread. A Tanzanian comrade and I built a steel drum oven to give to her. I’ll never forget the day that she walked forward during a church service with coins in her hands for an offering. Her face filled with a smile. The fruits of her own labor she was now able to give to God!

by Don Rogers

Wish to respond by giving? Click here.

Photo Essay: Apollo’s First Day

March 4, 2016 by Tori Greaves

Photos by Sarah Ponce

The first day of school can be full of uncertainty, excitement and anticipation. Apollo, from the Ilula Children’s Home, wears all of these emotions on his face as he stands in the parking lot of his new high school. His belongings sit on the ground around his feet: two thick blankets in plastic grocery bags, a green trunk, a bright pink lidded bin, a foam mattress.

Arms tightly crossed across his chest, he laughs self-consciously when asked to pose for a photo. He casts a quick glance over toward the classrooms—presumably to see if anyone is watching—and obliges.

Nickson, an Ilula Children’s Home parent, emerges from the front office. It’s time to get registered as a Form 1 (high school freshman). The two pick up Apollo’s things and head over to an empty classroom to get underway.

Apollo 01 - Registration
Apollo (far left) is accompanied by Nickson (middle), who helps him go through the Form 1 registration and check-in process. This includes paying fees, obtaining a student number, making sure all supplies are in order and reviewing and signing forms.

Apollo 02 - Chalkboard
A large message is left on the chalkboard in the registration room. Tumewaongoja sana roughly translates to “We have very much waited for you.”

Apollo 03 - Books
New students need to come prepared with all of the required school supplies, such as reams of paper, notebooks, a calculator, pens and textbooks.

Apollo 04 - BelongingsStudents must also come with their own personal supplies: a mattress, a trunk with locks, blankets, shower slippers, a bowl, a spoon, a mug, a flashlight, shoe polish with brush, laundry detergent and a number of toiletries (shown below).

Apollo 05 - Lay Flat

Apollo 06 - Intake Room
Nickson and Apollo review a document of the school’s rules and policies as a school employee screen prints Apollo’s student number onto his uniform.

Apollo 07 - Uniform
Every article of clothing—shirts, tie, socks, blazer, trousers, pajamas, gym shorts and even underwear—as well as bed sheets and towels must be printed with one’s student number.

Apollo 08 - Signing Form
After a careful reading, Nickson and Apollo sign the document on the school’s rules and policies, acknowledging their understanding of the contents.

A faculty member arrives with more papers. It’s an intake survey. She and Apollo work through the questions one by one: what he wants to be when he grows up (a banker), what church he’d like to attend, what clubs he’d like to participate in and so on.

Apollo 09 - With Brian
Brian, a Form 2 (high school sophomore) from the Ilula Children’s Home, stops by the registration room to greet Apollo. The two boys chat and share some laughs as Apollo puts on his dress shirt, which now bears his student number in bright yellow paint. Nickson sees that he is fumbling with his tie and walks over to assist.

The man screen printing numbers onto Apollo’s clothes and linens asks for his shoes and dress socks for labeling. Nickson grabs Apollo’s shower slippers for him to wear and notices that the boy’s trousers are a bit too large. Apollo has not packed a belt. Without hesitation, Nickson removes his own belt and gives it to him.

Apollo 10 - School
Outside of the registration room, older students chat and get some fresh air in between classes.

Apollo 11 - Form Ones
A fresh batch of Form 1 boys await their instructor.

Apollo 12 - With Nixon
With registration completed and the comfort of knowing Brian is around, Apollo relaxes. “Brian is here. He can take care of him,” Nickson says. He play boxes with the two boys, landing soft punches on their arms. He gives them hugs and firm handshakes as they exchange byes. Brian returns to class, and Apollo goes to join his own class as an official Form 1.

“Peace in my Mind and in my Heart”

January 14, 2016 by Tori Greaves

Text and photos by Wilson Chumo, ELI Kenya staff

This is the story of Elkanah, a recovering alcoholic who lives in Kimogoch village. He came to our facility in Kipkaren, Kenya for rehabilitation in the year 2013. He started drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes when he was still in primary school. This is because drinking was so common, and everyone could drink or smoke in that area.

Elkanah is the last-born brother of Ruth, the successful recovering alcoholic among others. When Ruth recovered, Elkanah saw how his sister’s life was changed, and he decided to stop drinking alcohol and said, “I must also go for rehabilitation.”

After the death of his parents, and because he was already an addict, he started selling his piece of land little by little only for drinking. Elkanah got married, and he kept on drinking. His wife passed through many challenges, and she would go back to her parents because life was becoming so hard.

After rehabilitation, Elkanah’s life changed. He stopped selling his land and began working hard to earn a living. He is not doing any business, but he is only going to labor. Because he is now sober, he managed to save the little amount that he was getting, which he used to plant his maize instead of buying alcohol.

DSC00886ELKANAH SMILING BESIDE HIS LAND OF MAIZE

This is Elkanah standing in his maize farm. He looks healthy and clean: “This is because there is enough food for the family.”

DSC00888ELKANAH AND HIS WIFE

Alongside standing before their house are Elkanah and his wife. She said, “I am now having peace in my mind and in my heart. I nowadays sleep like a small baby, unlike the other days that my husband was beating me and chasing me outside during the night, and I could stay in the cold overnight. I praise God for the transformation he has done in the life of my husband and that now I and my husband, together with our children are staying in peace.”

DSC00889ELKANAHS' CHILDREN

These are Elkanah’s three children: two girls and one boy. The children are looking very happy, healthy and clean. This also shows that there is peace in the family and the father is now responsible and caring.

Elkanah has finished baptism class, and he is now waiting for the second group to finish so that they will be baptized together as a group.

The community is very happy for the transformation of Elkanah’s life, and they said they still need more alcoholics to be reached because a lot of alcohol is still being brewed in the area, and young men and women are alcoholics.

DSC00887

Above is Elkanah’s cow. He said he bought the cow immediately when he arrived from rehab. “I did not know that one day I will own a cow,” he said. His wife also said, “We nowadays have milk in our home that we can sell in the morning and our children can drink in the evening.” They thank God for the great things He has done for us within this short period.

Finding Life

January 6, 2016 by Tori Greaves

Text and photos by Samuel Teimuge, ELI Kenya Director

The homecoming of reformed brewers to their home in Kaptarakwa, Kenya was fantastic. We did not expect to meet such a large crowd. The reformed brewers have already formed three groups of 15 each. The umbrella name is Kaptarakwa About Turn Group, with a woman named Jane as their leader. They have three leaders: Everlyn, Lucy and Christina. The three leaders spoke powerfully and with full confidence of who they are after training.

Everlyn

Everlyn said, “We found life.” She quoted Amy Rogers who told them, “Let your minds rest.” This was quoted by all of the leaders, and they said that they truly rested.

Everlyn left brewing completely and confessed that she has killed many through her illicit brews. She said the group took an oath to never brew again and that they are now Christians. They have crossed to Canaan. She said that they are being threatened and told to brew; yet they will never go back. Her group plans to pursue agroforestry, dairy farming and horticulture.

Lucy

Lucy said, “When we started our journey to Ilula, we were told that we had been arrested. But Jesus arrested us in Ilula.” She said that Jesus is her personal savior and that light and darkness don’t meet. Her former fellow brewers no longer greet her, but her graduating class greets her with joy. Her group wants to pursue tree tomatoes, kitchen gardening, tea seedlings and greenhouses for horticulture.

Christina

Christina said she has started raising chickens. Her group planned to raise sheep, make bread and manage poultry.

The brewing pots are all gone. The leaders also said that they are now the local chief’s “soldiers”. One of the former brewers encouraged the group to always run to Jesus because He is not poor.

The group said that they are now preaching the word of God, and they don’t want to keep quiet lest they will be condemned. They also vowed before the Deputy Governor of Elgeyo-Marakwet County that they would never return to brewing again.

In closing prayer, one of the reformed brewers named Jennifer prayed, “Let this change remain until the coming of Jesus Christ.”

Merry Christmas from Empowering Lives!

December 24, 2015 by Tori Greaves

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.