2009 Kenya Update (1)

Each year The Crossing increases the percentage of its budget that is directed toward missions – here in Columbia, across the US, and abroad. We hope to continue this pattern for many years to come. Many people at our church are not even aware of the various ministry partnerships we have developed over the past few years and now support regularly.

I thought I would take this opportunity at the beginning of a new year to devote a few posts on Every Square Inch to updating you on the current state of our partnerships in just one regional area: Kenya.

Yesterday I sat down with Cami Wheeler (who has become The Crossing’s impromptu liaison between Kenya and Columbia, MO) to get the latest scoop. Over the past 3 years she has been to Kenya several times, spending part of each year there and part here. She is not employed by The Crossing; she does this on her own time (and her own dime). Without her hard work and discernment we would not have developed a number of the partnerships we now regularly invest in.

As of this moment, The Crossing has close partnerships with 2 schools, 1 orphanage, 2 individuals highly invested in the local church in Nairobi, and most recently has been supporting a small community relocated to an IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp due to the political violence that occurred a year ago in Kenya.

Today, I would like to highlight just one of these partnerships and we will return to the others in a future post.

Pamoja Orphanage
Of all the partnerships we have in Kenya, this orphanage is closest to my heart, personally. It was only 3 years ago, living in central Kenya, that I jumped on my buddy’s bicycle and pedaled about 5 miles down the road to the next town where I had heard of a couple who had been caring for HIV/AIDS orphans in their community, paying for food and medical expenses out of their own pocket. It wasn’t an official NGO with international financing, it was a couple that ran a mom and pop gas station who simply couldn’t watch the kids in their community suffer without trying to help. I had to meet them.

When I met Paul and Martha there were 40-60 kids who showed up once a day for a good meal. Martha would take the very sick ones to the hospital and buy them medicine, she would let them stay in her own home, she would weep when they died in her arms. The majority of the kids, however, had to return to worse living conditions than her home every night – they just didn’t have the resources to house and care for them all.

Today, because of the regular support of The Crossing over the past 3 years, Paul and Martha have expanded the care they are able to provide to the at risk kids in their small community. They have built a number of buildings on a plot of land, a mile from their home: A school room / kitchen, a dorm / office, a kitchen / feeding station, a guest house and proper latrines.

50 children now live on the site full time, another 50 attend school there. In addition, a women’s HIV/AIDS support group meets regularly at the orphanage and makes crafts they can sell to support their families, the orphanage, and community.

Think of that impact for a moment…100 kids. Safe. Healthy. Getting an education. Growing to know God. 100 kids who otherwise may or may not have these opportunities.

One of the values we hold very high when we consider our partnerships in Kenya is that they are developing sustainably and fostering a culture self-sufficiency. We do not want to get caught in an endless wheel of dependency on Western financing if we can at all avoid it. One thing we love about Paul and Martha is their commitment to this goal as well. A number of examples from 2008 stand out:

1. Paul and Martha use the guesthouse as a retreat center that can be rented by Christian groups around Kenya. They are continually thinking of ways for their infrastructure and resources to work for them to generate more resources for the future of the orphanage. Recently, the money they made when a women’s prayer group spent the weekend was used to buy mosquito nets for all the beds in the children’s dorm.

2. About a year ago, Paul’s petrol station burned during an explosion caused by a neighbor’s wiring malfunction. The gas station was the only source of income for their family and orphanage (besides The Crossing’s support). The Crossing body generously raised special funds to help them rebuild the business, but instead of simply building a new gas station, Paul and Martha thought through the most effective business plan for the future of the orphanage. They decided to build a cereal and grain distribution company. It was a good move for a couple reasons: First, this business is more stable when political tensions rise than a gas station tends to be. Second, because they are now in on the ground floor of wholesale prices for grains, cereals, and seed, buying and growing food for the orphanage is more cost effective.

3. Last summer, The Crossing Kids saved their money and donated it to their friends in Kenya. They voted to give their donation specifically toward a solar electricity project at the orphanage. The buildings at the Pamoja Orphanage were mostly wired, ready, and safe to receive electricity, but tapping into the main electric grid in Kenya proved to be far too expensive (once the bribes and government inefficiency was taken into account.) Instead, with the help of our children’s ministry, they are installing solar panels so they will be electrically independent. The lights will allow them to have activities in the evening, including studying and games. It will also increase the security around the orphanage compound. The panels are being installed this month.

I stand back and am amazed at everything Paul and Martha have been able to accomplish alongside the generous support of The Crossing. They have come so far, but they obviously have more needs and dreams for the kids in the community. They would love to install a hand pump well on site so clean water is more easily accessible. They would also like to rebuild the damaged property from the explosion to move the grain distribution center into a more prominent location by the main road. As we turn the calendar, these are just a couple of the projects we look forward to supporting in 2009.

Next week: an update on 2 schools – one rural, one urban, both accomplish amazing things in kids lives and for the sake of the gospel in Kenya.

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