Impact Trip

Be In the World

I recently got back from a trip to Kenya where I spent a lot of time at one of our newer partner churches in Dandora. Dandora is a community in Nairobi known as the dump- there is a literal mountain of trash that dominates the horizon, and many of the residents make a living from picking through trash and re-selling discarded items on along the main road that cuts through the town. 

The church we have been partnering with for the better part of a year, Dandora PEFA Church, stands out like a cathedral among the small, informal houses and buildings along the street. As I was walking around the church compound, I kept commenting to the pastor how impressive the gardens and walkways around the church building were. He beamed as he talked about the care their leadership team had put into planning out the grassy areas and gardens on the grounds of the church, and then he said something that I think is at the core of how we are called to live as Christians: 

"We take pride in making this space beautiful for the community - our hope is that, as we continue to care for the grounds here, the community will see what the whole area could look like and it will eventually inspire people to care for own plots this way." 

I love this concept so much both on a literal level and a metaphorical level. I believe that, just as this church is intentional about showing its neighbors how physically beautiful the whole community could be, we are called to demonstrate to our neighbors the spiritual concepts of beauty and grace. Its the essence of the scripture when Jesus prays for beleivers in John 17: 

"I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."

You of course know this scripture as the "in the world but not of the world" piece of the Bible. The beauty of this concept, though, is not that we are called to survive in the world and hunker down, avoiding contact with the evils of the world until we are one day called home, but that we are called to walk right into communities that are hurting, build our homes there, and make those homes well-kept beautiful sanctuaries of healing. 

Are we caring for our own souls in a way that will inspire those around us to do the same? How can we take this concept and apply it to our own homes and families? For me, the most beautiful part of this metaphor is that soul care (or garden care, in the literal case of the church in Dandora) alone is not enough-- we have to invite people into our lives in order for them to catch the vision for their own lives. A well kept garden behind a compound wall can never inspire beauty in the greater community unless people are consistently invited in to walk through the garden and be refreshed by the experience. 

My challenge to all of us this week is twofold-- practice soul care in your life and the life of your family, and invite others into your life and family so they can be refreshed in your presence. 

A view of the Dandora community from the top floor of Dandora PEFA Church. 

A view of the Dandora community from the top floor of Dandora PEFA Church. 

Sustainable Service

This morning's post is from guest blogger Kevin Scott. Kevin and his wife Laura are currently in Kenya on their second visit with CARE for AIDS. You can read the original post on Kevin's blog. 

This morning, I’m waking up in Nairobi, Kenya. This is my third trip to Kenya, and my second time serving with CARE for AIDS.

In preparation for this trip,  I reread When Helping Hurts and was reminded of the reasons why I am so passionate about working with CARE for AIDS. They have a clear mission and understand what needs to be done to accomplish their goal and incite real, lasting change.

Unfortunately, not every missions organization, nonprofit, or church group understands that there are wrong ways to help communities in poverty, and though their intentions are pure, the consequences are negative and significant.

In When Helping Hurts, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert give many examples of harmful philanthropy, but two specific problems stick out to me: economic hurt and creating a dependence.

1. Economic Hurt: It is easy to assume that fulfilling the material needs of a poor community will be helpful to them. Unfortunately, this assumption often hurts a community in the long-run because it fails to stimulate their economy. For example, if you decide that you are going to bring enough blankets for every family in a village, the woman who weaves blankets for a living may never get business again. She will stop making money and will become even more in need than she was before you came to help.

2. Creating a Dependence: You can give a man to fish, or you can teach a man to fish. Which do you think will be more helpful long term? That’s right—teaching a man to fish will allow him to be self-sufficient when you’re gone. The problem with many organizations is that they want to fill an immediate need, rather than take the time to prevent a future need. If more time was spent educating and equipping people in need, they would be less dependent on government systems and philanthropic organizations and more able to be active members of society.

CARE for AIDS works to prevent both of these problems in their ministry and is one of the most impressive nonprofits impacting the world today. I believe that what they are doing has a lasting impact for three reasons.

1. They have identified a clear problem. In East Africa, a large percentage of the population struggles with the impact of AIDS. Although many people have access to the right medicine, they do not have the education, emotional capacity, or spiritual drive to use these resources appropriately. Because of this lack of care, parents fighting AIDS often die prematurely, leaving their children to grow up as orphans.

CARE for AIDS has a clear goal: orphan prevention.

2. They help for a defined period of time: CARE for AIDS works through local churches to take parents with AIDS through a nine-month program designed to educate, support, and empower them to live long, self-sufficient lives with this disease. They educate these parents on how to use the medicine they need and on why it is important. They provide the emotional and psychological support necessary to prepare to live life with this disease. They also share the gospel with these parents, giving them a hope beyond this life on earth.

3. They are solving a need that a lot of people don’t see: After graduating from the CARE for AIDS program, clients will live an extra 20-25 years. This means, despite their HIV status, they will live to raise their children and even see their grandchildren. Instead of ministering directly to orphans, their goal is to prevent orphans altogether, and the work they do is helping maintain healthy family units throughout East Africa.

When you’re choosing to give your time and resources, it’s important that the cause is worthy and the solution is sustainable.

Are you giving to causes and charities who do this well? 
Consider working with an organization like CARE for AIDS and be a part of making a lasting impact on the world around you.

Consider the Impact

Impact Trips are an incredibly special way for donors to experience what God is doing in Kenya. Whether participants have come alone, with family, or with a group of friends, we have seen each individual experience God in a new way throughout the course of the trip. 

John and his family joined us on a trip to Kenya for the first time in 2013, and they are preparing to join us again (for the third time!) this June. John describes his experience below: 

Interested in learning more about how you can get involved through an Impact Trip? Fill out an interest form here. 

During this season of lent we want to invite you to join us in prayer around specific topics. We have created a prayer guide that you can access here

Peace Be With You

November 2014

This morning’s post comes from recent Impact Trip participant, Kristen Wills.

As we stepped across her home’s threshold, our eyes adjusted to the dim light. There were six of us visiting Miriam, a beautiful 46 year old Kenyan woman, in hopes of offering encouragement to her. We shuffled/squeezed our way into the small room as Miriam darted behind hanging fabric to fetch things for us to sit on. As often is the case, God turns things upside down on you, and those of us who went to encourage, left feeling lifted up ourselves.

Miriam was one of the first three clients in the CFA program in this community. She had much to say about CFA’s financial skills classes and she shared how she has learned to make many products, which she could make to start her own business. Like many entrepreneurial-minded Kenyans we met, Miriam is in need of finances to purchase materials to begin and expand her business. She currently gets materials at a secondhand market for wholesale price and sells them for profit for rent and food. She was actually introduced to the CFA program while walking around and selling her goods and talked to one of the two clients enrolled in the CFA program already. She is confident “God will take care of me and is able no matter the situation.”

Currently Miriam’s health situation is poor. She has not been feeling well as of late. But even though she has not been feeling well and is oftentimes sick, she still prioritizes going to church and is able to join the congregation there. Miriam started to get ill in 2010. She was working as a housekeeper at the time and her employer, noticing her declining health, took her to different health facilities. It was during one of these visits that Miriam found out about her positive HIV status. At that present moment, she did not tell her employer, choosing instead to find a replacement for herself before quitting.

It was a difficult status to accept, but accept it she did. She was willing to follow doctors orders and leave her work. She put her hope in God’s hands. It was her cousin who accepted her positive HIV status first and encouraged Miriam to take her medicines and to live positively. Next to God, the one driving force for Miriam to live her life as fully as she can is her daughters. Oh! To hear such mother’s love. To see the devotion in her eyes. Miriam has sacrificed her whole life for them and their well-being. Aseuath Moraa is now 23, and her sister, Zipporah Gecsare is 20. Miriam adores them. They live with her Mother in Western Kenya and both Miriam’s mother and daughters love and accept her despite the stigma of her status. Miriam’s life has been spent working in Nairobito send money back to her daughters for their education. Her younger daughter wants to further her education. Her oldest is now looking for work. Miriam continues to send money. She considers it joy to provide for them. Again, her hope is in God’s hands.

The peace about Miriam and the peace felt in her home could only come from God.  The Holy Spirit led us to Psalm 84 which begins:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Miriam asks that we pray that God will expand her business so she can continue to help her family and please to pray for her mother’s health. And God is so good. No sooner had we left her door did she step out and tell a CFA staff member that she felt better already. Amen to the power of prayer! Please take a moment this morning or this afternoon and lift Miriam and her needs up before the Lord.