Stella

May 27, 2016

This morning we want to share a story from the field with you – the CARE for AIDS center in Mukuru Kwa Njenga opened in the late fall of 2015 and the first class of clients graduated just a few months ago. While doing exit interviews with clients, Patrick Wanyeki met a woman named Stella…

Stella is 37 years old and lives happily with her two sons in Nairobi’s Mukuru Kwa Njenga community. In 2005, Stella tragically lost her husband to HIV/AIDS. In her marriage, Stella lived as a housewife and had learned very few skills that would allow her to make enough money to support her family when her husband passed away. She did casual jobs to earn a living, and used to go from house to house in her community offering to do laundry for about $1 per day.

Soon after her husband died, Stella tested positive for HIV, but continued about her work in an effort to raise and educate her children. In 2015, she joined the CARE for AIDS program in her community and started learning a wide range of marketable skills through the empowerment aspect of the program.

One of the skills from the CARE for AIDS program that stuck with Stella was liquid soap making. She recently won a contract to provide liquid soap to a small government agency. This contract has stabilized her income, and she no longer worries about making ends meet each month. Stella is also making and selling bathmats. Now, instead of struggling to make $1 per day, Stella can sell a single bathmat for $15- enough to provide her family with food for the whole week. She has even started a savings account and puts aside a weekly percentage of her earnings to prepare for the future. 

Stella has graduated from the nine-month program, but she continues to learn and grow using the skills she has mastered.  

Meet Jeremiah

May 24, 2016 

Jeremiah Ochieng is a hard-working man. After graduating high school, he began working for Kenya Power and Lighting in order to provide for his wife, whom he married in 1988, as well as their three young children.

At age 39, Jeremiah was diagnosed with HIV after his wife was tested and told she had been infected with the disease. It took some persuasion but, eventually, Jeremiah decided to go in and be tested.

It was not easy,” he says. “As a man, I don’t take things in very fast. I was in denial.”

And having lost both a brother and sister to HIV didn’t make his choice any easier. Thankfully, Jeremiah has a supportive family who urged him to seek the help he needed.

I got to know about the [CARE for AIDS] center here because of my sister-in-law,” Jeremiah explains. “I started coming last year after I was taken to the hospital and treated for tuberculosis. She came out to see me every day.”

At the CARE for AIDS center, Jeremiah is not only getting the proper medical treatment, he’s also learning how to live with the disease, so that he can continue to work and provide for his family. In Kenya, employment can often be just as lifesaving as medicine.

“[CARE for AIDS] has taught us certain things so that we can be self-reliant,” Jeremiah says. “And they give me hope because I know I am not alone. I can still live a long life.

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God’s Strength in our Weakness

May 19, 2016

One of my dreams, for as long as I can remember, has been to travel to the Holy Land. I just had the opportunity to make, what I hope will be, my first of many trips to Israel and Jordan. It was only made more special by the fact that I got to share it with my wife, daughter, parents, and in-laws. We visited roughly 35 sites in 11 days, so there is still so much to process from this experience.

However, the storyline that continued to surface again and again was how God, throughout history, has chosen to put people in situations where their human strength would never be enough to overcome the obstacle or task ahead. This allows God to demonstrate His power and receive glory for the victory. Here are a few of the sites we visited and how this theme was reinforced.

Mt. Carmel – God consumed the water-soaked alter of Elijah while the 450 prophets of Baal danced around foolishly with no response.

Sea of Galilee – God chose 12 men of lower education and status in the community to be His disciples. He built His Church with fishermen and tax collectors.

Valley of Elah – The site of David’s victory over Goliath. Some may argue this victory was not as improbable as some suggest, but both armies clearly saw David as an underdog. God received the glory for this win.

En Gedi – In 2 Chronicles 11, God gives King Jehoshaphat an incredible victory over a vast army without having to engage a single enemy.

Mt. Nebo – This is the site where Moses got to view the Promised Land shortly before his death. Moses claimed to be “slow of speech and tongue” but God used him to free the captive Israelites from Egypt and did miraculous things through him.

Sites related to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection – God sent His son in the form of a humble carpenter from Nazareth- not the earthly king the Jews were expecting. The greatest exhibition of God’s power was Jesus’ resurrection.

All of these events and hundreds more throughout the Bible are examples of God using the poor, powerless, and uneducated to change communities, nations, and the world.

CARE for AIDS was established with the prayer- God this is too big for us to accomplish, but if you make this happen, you will receive all the glory. We try to maintain that same posture today. The same is also true for our clients. They are people of no status or means in their communities, but when God heals them physically and spiritually, their stories become a powerful tool that God uses to impact others.

God does not desire our significance, only our dependence on Him. In that dependence, His power and greatness can be displayed. We need to ask God for assignments that are well beyond our strength and ability. Those are the times when God shows up in the most extraordinary ways. If we only attempt things that are within our comfort and reach, there is no room for God to be glorified.

 

 

 

 

Summer to Serve

May 17, 2016

This morning's post is an excerpt from good friend and long time CARE for AIDS supporter Kylie White's blog.

Moms, was anyone super excited about the arrival of summer, but spring break hit and you got a taste of all kids in the home for 7 straight days and you realized you need a summer game plan? Maybe it was just me... I find our crew can do 1-4 days of no items on the agenda just fine, but after day 4 it is like an all out stir crazy, argue fest, where I am constantly refereeing or coming up with the solution to "I'm bored". Not gonna happen this summer. We decided we are going to not just survive our way through summer but SERVE our way through summer. 

Matthew 25: 34-40 says "Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison and you visited me..." And the King will say "I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it for me"

 I think so often we get busy  in the monotony and schedules and feel like we "can't find Jesus". It feels like he isn't speaking to us through his Word, we don't feel him when we worship, we can't find time to hear his voice with all kids underfoot in the summer. But He has told us where he can be found, with the sick, the hungry, the stranger, the orphan, the widow. When we serve these, we find him, we get to experience him....
 

Read the rest of the post here and learn how you can get your family a copy of the Summer to Serve book! All proceeds from book sales go to CARE for AIDS. 

Boundless Grace

 

It was 6:45 in the morning, and traffic was worse than usual. We were moving, but very slowly. With a noticeable rise in my blood-pressure, I accepted that I was going to be late to my breakfast meeting. Right at that moment, a matatu which had gone into the oncoming traffic’s lane to pass all of us, tried to cut back into our line to avoid being hit by an oncoming car. The only problem was, there was not space in our line, and I had to swerve left to avoid being hit.

Swerving left, my left tires slipped off the pavement onto the rocky shoulder and I was almost hit by another matutu that was speeding down the shoulder trying to get ahead of the line of traffic. After taking a deep breath and getting back onto the road, I immediately started an internal rant about how stupid and unsafe matatu drivers are, and how their actions make traffic so much worse than it already is.

I strongly feel at times that matatu drivers going unpunished is one of the great injustices in the world. I feel like some higher authority should take action and crack down on them. I often feel that in the absence of this crackdown, the world needs me to step in with vigilante justice and teach matatu drivers a lesson by, for example, obstructing their way and driving slower than I normally would just so they realize how unsafe they are being. I recognize that is not the best logic there, but that hasn’t stopped me from doing that once or twice.

After fuming for a while about the two matatus that almost hit me, reason started to emerge and I started to calm down as I thought about many other more serious injustices in the world that are more deserving of my anger and desire to correct injustice. Then, my traffic-induced-inner-monologue got pretty heavy as I considered how I can reconcile the broad range of injustices in the world - from crazy matatus to human trafficking - with a God who I believe in and who is supposed to be Just and Good. And I came to the following conclusion: Injustice persists so that I can receive grace. If God punished injustice, the injustice in me would have to be punished. If He destroyed all evildoers, I would be on the list. If God was only Just I wouldn’t think of Him as Good. He is Good because he is Just and because He is also merciful.

Injustice continues to exist because grace has been extended to everyone, so that we all have the opportunity to find and respond to God. I have found God, through His Son, but I am still on the journey of learning how to respond to Him. I receive boundless, daily grace in this journey. Because this is a journey that I am still on, I am grateful that grace exists - even if it means that injustice also does.

With this mindset, I start to see the Grace I have been given in turn gives me a personal responsibility to choose justice and goodness in how I live my life, because I have been forgiven and given so much. It also means I should not become frustrated when injustice and evil seem to persist, because Grace is more evident. Instead, I should also extend the grace and forgiveness that I have received ….even to crazy matatu drivers.