October 29, 2016 by Diana Coombs
This summer, your support helped more than 100 women make commitments to Christ and to turn their lives away from illicit brewing!
Ephesians 4:28 (NIV)
“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”
I sat quietly in the back as the County Police Commissioner addressed the 16 women graduating from ELI training, who had been illegally brewing chang’aa (translation: ‘kill me quick’). They were the first trainees from Baringo County, where the top three reported crimes are rape, defilement, and assault—all related to the brewing, selling, and drinking of homebrewed liquor. He appealed to the women to think of their mother’s love and to think of the future they are giving to their children. Paying school fees with money from selling liquor comes at too high a price if children sleep clothed and ready to run should the police come in the night.
Training after training, I saw women making commitments to stop brewing and to trust God as they endeavored to make an honest living. What courageous faith for those living on the margins! I also heard testimonies from women who graduated from training a few years before, and they shared of improved relationships with their families, of strengthened faith, of restored dignity… and of course, of their new successful economic ventures!
Poverty is not just economic, but a physical, emotional, social, and spiritual burden. The ELI trainings allow families to be increasingly economically sustainable through the skills learned. Unsaddling their families from liquor brings increased physical and emotional health, and former graduates tell us how children are now in school and family communication improves. Socially and spiritually, graduates find encouragement and accountability with each other. As their lives are transformed, so are their communities as neighbors are also inspired to turn towards Christ.
At the end of the summer, leaders from a dozen past graduating groups gathered to be re-equipped to bring tools back to their communities. Empowerment is the incredible process of enabling communities to thrive. Thank you for being a stakeholder in this process and thank you for your faithfulness in supporting these women in Kenya!
Noreen Lue– Intern, Ilula Training Center
August 4, 2016 by Angela Vincent
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!
Summer Intern, Ilula Children’s Home
Empowering Lives International
September 21, 2014 by Diana Coombs
Gratitude over guilt.
I’ve preached about this one. Wrote about it in one of my first blogs. I don’t believe in guilt. I think it drags you down. I think it leads to bitterness. I think it can be a heavy weight on your shoulders that you carry from place to place. I think it sucks the life out of you. I think it overpowers joy. I think it makes you ugly inside and out. And when I say you, I mean me. Because I wrestle with it, especially lately. Especially after showing up at my friend Susan’s house wondering why she didn’t use the $3 I gave her to bring her grandson with an eye infection to the clinic.
Sometimes I wonder if I should believe what she tells me, why she chose to use the money in a different way. This is the ugly, guilt-ridden side of me driven by a fear of enabling instead of empowering.
But then I look around, and I see for my own eyes how little she has. I see her kids waking up from the mosquito net–less dirt floor. I don’t see beds. I don’t see a pantry full of food. I don’t see a closet full of clothes. I don’t see chai cooking on the stove. I don’t see a TV in the corner or a radio or a refrigerator or a smart phone or a dumb phone. I don’t see cushions on her chair. I don’t see a flush toilet or a pit toilet or running water.
I see a wooden bench and one wooden chair and a dilapidated mud wall.
And then I listen to her as she explains why they didn’t show up in the clinic yesterday.
Susan tells me the story of a young boy, Brian, who showed up at her house – her shanty house – hoping she can take him to the hospital. Susan already carries a lot of burdens trying to care for the other seven children in her home while managing diabetes and other health problems. But these burdens have never stopped her from turning away those who have less than her. She takes in orphans, helps treat kids with jiggers, counsels people who are suicidal, and shares about her faith in Jesus to all who cross her path.
Why did Brian show up at Susan’s? From what I understand, this 10-year-old was digging through a dump in search of food with the rest of the street boys when he got pushed and cut his foot on a glass bottle. When Brian arrived to Susan’s, she didn’t have any food. But she did have the $3 I gave her for the clinic visit. She made the choice to use it for food instead of taking her grandson to the eye clinic.
I have never had to choose between food for a few days or a visit to the doctor.
June 13, 2014 by Diana Coombs
In 2012, I did my first jigger outreach with ELI in the slums of Turbo. The poverty I witnessed in that community broke my heart. I believed there had to be something we could do to help those who were suffering, especially with a condition known as jiggers*. I returned to Kenya in 2013 ready and willing to attack the jigger problem in the slums.
I never imagined how complicated the solution would be until I heard a story about shoes and how at one jigger outreach, a group decided to give out shoes after the treatment – which, by the way, I thought was a great idea.
But I heard the shoe giveaway became a bit chaotic.
People came in masses.
Getting the shoes to people who actually needed them was difficult – if not impossible – and the likelihood that people would turn around and sell the free shoes at a cost to turn a profit was high.
Giving shoes to people who are suffering from jiggers should be a good thing, right?
If you asked me two years ago, I would have said yes without hesitation.
But things have changed. I now see things through a different lens. And honestly, sometimes I want my old lenses back. During my first trip to Kenya, I had glasses. They were rose-colored, as in rose-colored idealist glasses: “I can help people living in slums because they are desperate and I have a lot and I have the light of God, so surely there must be something I can do.”
But then I got Lasik.
And everything changed.
I showed up to Kenya this time without the glasses. Literally and figuratively.
I miss the rose-colored glasses. Without them, poverty feels overwhelmingly complicated and sometimes impossible to address.
We did another jigger outreach and decided not to give out shoes. Based on the story I had heard, I thought that was wise.
Until we met Jared.
He lives on the street. He has some mental health problems. He has jiggers all over his feet and his hands and his elbow and who knows where else on his body.
He hadn’t eaten all day, so we bought him a few bananas and a pair of shoes in the market for less than $5.
I found out that within one week, the shoes were gone.
What happened to his shoes?
Is it unusual to try to help someone, only to find out the next day that what you gave them is gone?
I don’t think so.
Would it have been better to never give Jared shoes or have him walk around for a week with something on his feet? Does the fear of enabling mean you don’t address immediate needs because it wouldn’t be sustainable? Or do you let someone get a taste of walking with shoes, even if it’s just for a week?
I am constantly wrestling with these questions. The more I wrestle, the more I realize it’s not about finding the “right or wrong” answer. It’s about seeking God’s wisdom in each situation and making peace with whatever He asks you to do.
Jared is still on my mind and as far as I know, still on the streets.
* A basic description of jiggers can be found on pages 15-17 of this article from the World Health Organization.
May 14, 2014 by Diana Coombs
Turbo is a slum community about 10 miles outside of the ELI Kipkaren River Training Center in Kenya. It has been on the hearts and mind of Empowering Lives for many years. Why?
It is full of problems: alcoholism, jiggers and orphans, just to name a few.
What do you see when you walk through there?
What do you do?
One picture of praying, weeping and acting is with a woman named Susan. She lives in Turbo in a semi-permanent home made of dilapidated mud walls and an iron sheath roof with seven children (four of her own, two grandchildren and one orphan her family took in from the streets). She is an uncontrolled insulin dependent diabetic, and her sugars often average 500 mm/dL. When Susan is healthy, she struggles to cook and sell local food at the market in order to afford food, medicine, rent and school fees for her family.
For months, I just went to her house and prayed.
That was it.
One day I saw Susan, and she was singing God’s praises because miraculously, the headmaster (principal) at the school had waived the school fees for her kids. An answer to our prayers!
A few months later, Susan’s health began deteriorating. She was no longer able to cook and sell food at the market. The school fee issues popped up again. Her six-year-old grandson Stanley was sent home from school because of $6 in school fees. I continued to visit a few times a week. Stanley was always hanging around the house, oftentimes alone.
So I wept.
Because the world is not fair. Because the disparity between the rich and the poor is enraging. Because $6 means almost nothing to me but everything to this little boy.
You might be thinking, pay the $6. It is simple. Celebrate the victory. End of story. Move on to the next problem.
And after being in Kenya for one month in 2012, I would have thought the same thing.
After being here for six months, my eyes have been opened to some new questions. Pay the $6 and then what? What about finding a sustainable means of income for the family? What about empowerment?
But how long can you wait for empowerment while a six-year-old sits at home alone? And does fear of dependence mean you shouldn’t give towards a relief effort because you might effect long term change?
Praying seems fairly easy.
Weeping seems relatively manageable.
It seems confusing, frustrating, challenging and complex.
But confusion, frustration, challenge and complexity are not new to God. And neither is poverty. So we continue to show up in Turbo, seek His will and try to discern His perfect mix of praying, weeping and acting.
April 9, 2014 by Diana Coombs
Mitch with Baba Brian’s Family
How do you summarize four months? So much happened! How do you capture lessons learned, growth, transformation, hardships, and experiences with people I love? Well, I’m going to try.
I was an intern for the Training Center at Empowering Lives International in Ilula, Kenya.
The task assigned to me was the Bee Hive Project. But besides building hives, I was building relationships. The only way I can describe this internship was a packaged gift from God–all of my interests, passions, dreams, and schooling in one.
Before beginning this adventure, a friend of mine suggested that I write a letter to God. In reflecting on these prayers, during and afterward, I have seen God faithfully fulfilling these requests. In the Biggest and smallest ways, He showed up. How hard it is to truly “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18-19a). There were three areas that I wanted to see God working in me: to Listen, to Learn, and to Serve. (more…)
March 31, 2014 by Diana Coombs
David with the SACDP students
How do you explain something that you haven’t quite comprehended yet? How do you put into words something you can’t describe? How do you reflect on a place you’ve been to that is difficult to think about because you miss it?
A year in Kenya sounded like a long time before I left, but now that I’m back, it sure didn’t feel very long. How often do you say to yourself, “Wow, where did the year go?” when New Year’s comes around? How often are you scrambling at the close of a year to think of some key moments that define the last 12 months that just flew by? Tell me, how easy is it for you? Well, that’s how I feel, and that’s the truth. (more…)
March 17, 2014 by Diana Coombs
My internship with Empowering Lives International impacted me in more ways than I ever thought imaginable. One thing that God really showed me was the magnitude of His perfect love. Before I left for Kenya I thought that I had been through enough trials to last me a lifetime. Time and time again God never left my side through it all. But when I arrived in Kenya, I was so incredibly shy, nervous, and way out of my comfort zone. As I sat with my Mama and Gogo, cutting vegetables on my first day in the village, I was pondering what had influenced me to jump on a plane by myself and spend three months in a foreign country where I knew not a single soul? Little did I know, God had so much to teach me in those two months. (more…)
March 5, 2014 by Diana Coombs
Elizabeth Robison’s Greeting in Kenya
Rain, Seeds, and Obedience – Elizabeth Robison Reflections on Six Months as a Professional Volunteer in Kipkaren, Kenya
On April 6, 2013 I rode for the first time down muddy red dirt roads surrounded by freshly tilled soil, and was warmly welcomed into the Kipkaren Community. I had been looking forward to this day for so long… I had raised support, shared the vision, and opened up my heart. I was incredibly blessed to be sent out by family, friends, and church body, and launched into the mission field in Kenya. I came with my heart open and my hands ready to work. I was ready to get my hands dirty… I was ready to SERVE.
I am a nurse practitioner. I love this role because it allows me to enter into another person’s story, and walk with them through periods of difficulty. It allows me to use my hands to help. It gives opportunity for me to open my heart and care. When God opened the door for me to go to Kenya with ELI following my nurse practitioner training, I was ecstatic. It was easy to anticipate how all of my skills and training in the medical field would be useful in a place where access to healthcare was limited. I would be going where I was wanted and welcomed, but more importantly I would be going where I was needed. (more…)
February 24, 2014 by Diana Coombs
Tori and Beatrice
Tori Greaves served as a a children’s home intern in Ilula for two months in 2013
When I first came to Africa five months ago with a study abroad program in Tanzania, I had my life all planned out. Well, not entirely, but I knew exactly what the next two years would hold. I would come back to America, find a paid internship for the summer, and jump back into school with new ideas and experiences that would help me then to figure out the rest of my future. But before I knew it, Africa began to surround me and to seep inside of me. Living in a place where people can hardly plan for tomorrow, let alone the next month or year, is a reminder that it is God who really does, or should control your life and future. It is then that I began to pray some dangerous prayers.
“God, I want you to lead me. Teach me to follow, to surrender.” I still remember sitting out by the river near our campus offering up that prayer. I also remember the curious, but tentative email I sent out to Amy Rogers just to see if maybe, possibly (but probably not) God wanted me to stick around in Africa. Two weeks before I was supposed to board my plane flight to America, His answer was a clear and terrifying, “Yes!” (more…)
February 10, 2014 by Diana Coombs
Melissa Uplinger served as an intern for 2 months in Kipkaren, Kenya, participating in medical missions.
I arrived in Kenya after spending a month in Tanzania and I was homesick, lonely and looking for someone to pity me. I was asking God what he was thinking when he told me I was supposed to quit my well-paying job, leave my friends and family, and go to Africa for 3 months. Then I smartened up and opened my Bible. What I found was Philippians 4:4-7. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) (more…)
January 16, 2014 by Diana Coombs
By Colleen Costigan, Professional Volunteer, Kipkaren, Kenya
I know Christmas was three weeks ago, but take a moment to think about what it looked like for you. Did you have a Christmas tree? A house full of decorations? Presents galore? Maybe even some snow?
Can you envision what Christmas is like in Kenya? I couldn’t. Until this year when I was fortunate enough be a part of the Empowering Lives’ celebration in Kipkaren, Kenya. There was no tree. Few decorations. Zero presents. And it was hotter than ever. But it was a day rich with culture, fellowship, and fun.
The day started at 3 a.m. with the mamas and girls from the Kipkaren Children’s Home cooking chapatti (an authentic African favorite similar to a tortilla). When you are cooking for four hundred plus people an early start is a must!
Who were the four hundred plus people? (more…)
December 10, 2013 by Diana Coombs
By DiAnne Drachand (ELI Ambassador)
From left to right: Mary, Penina, DiAnne and Esther
In our busy holiday activities, I thought you might just want to take a moment to look closely into the lives of some women I met in Kenya. Empowering Lives International is doing an amazing job of transforming lives. Here is a peek into a world we can only imagine. Join me while I give thanks for those who are doing the work on the front lines.
Upon our arrival in Ilula, Kenya we were greeted by the sight of about 90 women – some young with babies on their backs, some old with wrinkled faces, many with colorful bandannas on their heads. They filed into the training room amid the sound of scraping plastic chairs over the mud-spotted floors due to days of rain. I slipped into the back of the room as their attention was drawn back to the animated teacher of the day. I did not understand the language, but I could tell these women (and three men) were giving him rapt attention. Their futures depended on what was to happen over the next few days. (more…)
November 7, 2013 by Diana Coombs
By Colleen Costigan, Professional Volunteer
Meet Sandra Cherop
Sandra and I bonded right away when I was in Kenya for one month last year. Why? I carried her on my back from the medical clinic to the Children’s Home. She was so ill with malaria she couldn’t make the two-kilometer walk.
From that point on, we were good friends. And I think we would both agree that saying goodbye last year was difficult.
October 2, 2013 by Diana Coombs
By Colleen Costigan, Professional Volunteer
Meet Stellah Jepchirchir.
Stellah’s mom died when she was seven months old in a motor accident.
Her father’s identity is unknown so her Aunt Margaret took over her care. Stellah knew her Aunt Margaret as mom.
When Stellah was six, she was told to pack a bag for boarding school, which is very common in Kenya. She was excited for the opportunity to go to school! Stellah didn’t realize she was going to a Children’s Home until she saw all the kids welcome her at the gate. (more…)
September 26, 2013 by Diana Coombs
By Colleen Costigan, Professional Volunteer
Multiple times over the last year people have asked me what I did last summer in Kenya and then of course what I will be doing in the year ahead. I usually explain that part of my job will be spending time with the orphans at the Children’s Home in Kipkaren – helping them with English, with homework, and just spending one on one time getting to know them.
I say “I’ll be living with 100 orphans” like its no big deal, as though the word orphan has become a part of my every day vocabulary.
When I catch myself saying orphan so nonchalantly, I’m often shaken back into reality when I see the reaction of those I tell.
You mean they are all orphans?
You mean both of their parents are dead?
You mean they were left abandoned and unattended and didn’t have anyone to take care of them?
I see the look on your face, as you try to process what that means. (more…)
July 29, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Written by Sarah Ackerly
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This, too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?
I count myself very fortunate to have experienced the truth of this verse during my time as volunteer with ELI. I was given the opportunity to use my artwork to create murals around the ELI campus in Ilula as well as in Kipkaren’s Brook of Faith Elementary School. Every day that I painted ended with a sense of real satisfaction, and I thanked God for bringing me to Kenya and allowing me to do work that makes my heart glad.
July 5, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Do you want to make a difference using the skills you have?
Do you have a heart to connect people from all over the world?
Are you organized and detail-oriented?
Can you commit to spending at least 1-2 hours a week in our office in Upland, CA?
If you answered yes to all of the questions above, you may be the person we are looking for! We are currently looking for a volunteer/intern to help manage and improve our Pen-Pal Program, providing an opportunity for caring individuals to get to know a child in one of the ELI children’s home in Kenya. If you would like to apply for this internship opportunity, fill out an APPLICATION. We look forward to hearing from you!
June 19, 2013 by Diana Coombs
Written by Tori Greaves, Intern
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26
I cannot count the number of times I have heard these verses, either in a sermon, as a word of encouragement, or as a challenge. But because of the way we live in America, it is a hard concept to grasp. We are always saving and planning. And thanks to things like retirement funds and insurance, we may never have to wonder how we will eat or where we will live; let alone what will we eat tomorrow. Instead, we have to be creative when applying this passage to our own lives, asking ourselves questions like, “Will I still have this job next year?”, “Should I go back to school?”, or “Will I be able to provide the right opportunities for my children?” But whatever the question, the command is still the same: trust in the Lord, for He is the one who provides and sustains. But to actually build up that trust within our hearts, perhaps we could use some help from those to whom God’s sustaining power has been made unmistakably clear.
A few weeks ago at the Ilula Children’s Home, the kitchen noticed that they were running low on corn flour which they use to make ugali—a staple food for all Kenyans. Because of the rising costs of school fees and food in Kenya, ELI staff has worked hard to save wherever possible to make ends meet financially. Since corn flour is universal, and also a huge business for companies here, it is a simple and acceptable way for fellow Kenyans to give to one another. For this reason, the Children’s Home solicits donations from churches and local businesses, allowing them to support the Children’s Homes and be part of what ELI is doing. This, alongside other initiatives like bread-making and tree-planting, are all part of an overall plan to help the Children’s Home become self-sustainable.
This time, however, the donations of corn flour had run out. (more…)
June 6, 2013 by admin
Check out ELI’s opportunities to serve like David, Andrew, Sarah, Ryan, Tori, Kimberly and Steve did! Visit the Go To Africa link on the ELI website to get more information. Will you be one who comes to empower and equip?