I Want To Help The Poor

Last week we had a friend from Australia come and visit for a few days before she moved on to look at other projects in Kenya.

She said something on the first day that I’ve heard many a time over the years “We’d better get busy, I’m here to help the poor.”

While I knew what she meant, it got me thinking about how we think about what we think helping others actually is.

In the West we have the mentality to put a band aid on something and walk away. Or, we write a cheque because it’s the easiest way for us to ‘deal with it’.

Not that there’s anything wrong with handing out money but is it really the answer?

Most weeks I get the privilege of going to the Kibera Slum. The reason I say privilege, is because as a white person by myself, it would be unwise and it wouldn’t be safe for me, but with one of our friends, I am fine. It’s not that they don’t like white people, but they’re over white people coming in buses, taking photos and leaving. They’re over white people telling them what to do.

They just want to get on with their lives and make the best of what’s been dealt to them.

I look at the slum of nearly a million people and how much money has been poured into that place over the years and wonder what impact it has made. And yet I see glimmers of hope.

 

How can we make a real impact on people:

1. Learn about the people you want to help

Do you remember their name or just their need? How can we tell people we care if we don’t know who we’re talking about? Our motto should always be ‘People matter most’. Leave the programs up to those living on the ground long term.

Ask people “What is your dream for your children?” They will be more than willing to tell you. For most it will be that they want their children to go to school and have a better life than what they did.

girlchild2. Learn their story

Everyone has a story but not everyone has a voice. Our job is to give them a platform to be heard.

When I lived in Sydney, Australia I was studying for my MBA and needed to go into the city to buy a $120 textbook for a subject. I was walking through an area called Martin Place at lunchtime and threw $5 into a bowl by a homeless lady who was sitting on the footpath. I went on my merry way and then this thought came to me ‘what a fat lot of difference that made’. I knew what I had to do. I went and bought my book, dropped into a friends million dollar jewellery store for a chat and went back to Martin Place. In my mind I was kind of hoping the lady was still there and then I didn’t. But when I saw her, I was relieved that she was.

I sat down with her and asked her story. There was a food cart across the street so I asked her if she wanted a Coke and chips, to which her answer was “No, just a bottle of water and a sandwich is fine.” I ended up buying as much as possible and sat back on the ground with her for a few more minutes. As a Jesus follower I asked if I could pray with her, which she allowed. Then I told her I had to go and catch a ferry to Manly. I walked away hoping that I gave her hope.

The gist of it is that I gave her a chance to tell about herself and I just had to listen – that was all.

home3. Link up with people working on the ground

When you come to a place like Africa all you will see are the things that need fixing – the roads, the electricity, the living conditions, the poverty. Plenty of people have walked in with pockets full of cash and gone home penniless. They give out money here and there. People’s stories will pull on your heart strings and you couldn’t imagine YOUR children living in some of these conditions. You’ll be shocked and want to give, give, give.

Can I suggest something. Give to organisations (never individuals) who have a good track record and can prove where the money goes. There is no harm in asking for copies of the receipts. Accountability is a good thing.

This week we gave a person we trust a small amount of money for some clothes for a young man. Even then, I asked if they could take a photo on their phone and to send it to me. It’s not because we don’t trust them, it’s because I want to use it to raise more money for more kids. Because we knew each other, we’d built this relationship, it wasn’t offensive.

Remember – the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

chocolate_pudding_s

4. Don’t make promises

When you see a great need it’s easy to get swept away in emotion, especially if there are young children involved. Too many people have come to Africa and said that when they return home they will do something to help. The truth is, when you get back home you hit the ground running and get caught up in every day life.

If you raise funds, that’s great. If you raise awareness that raises funds, even better.

poverty-in-africa5. Be rather than do

We tend to think that if we get in there and ‘fix it’ we’ve done our job. Sure, we can do it but what have we left the person with? Have we left them with a sense of value, belonging and that they are our equals? Or, do people just see dollar signs when they see us?

Play a game of soccer with the kids, have tea with the mamas, sit with people in their home, show them photos of your kids, be a friend.

basketball-children-africa

We always welcome visitors with open arms, but please, come to learn, then you will get everything out of your trip that is available. If you come to do, do, do, you’ll end up judging, frustrated and wonder what difference you’ve made.

Leave your chequebook at home. Then when you get back, you can give to one project that really touched your heart. Crumbs given out here and there don’t really impact much, but a larger one off donation can be utilised really well.

Why you SHOULD visit Kenya

I just want to come out and say it. The job of the media is not to tell the truth, their job is to sell newspapers. They capture a moment in time and then move on to the next big headline.

lensI’m not against telling what’s going on in the world, I just think there is an oversaturation of events that are available on our phones, laptops, over the radio, on TV and in newspapers. Social network sites are so rife with news that in places like Iraq Facebook is banned because ISIS were using it to spread their horror.

The only time Kenya seems to get into the global news is when there is a terrorist attack or governments put out travel alerts for this part of the world. As soon as something goes wrong, we end up getting messages from the West asking if we’re okay, even though the event happened 9 hours drive away.

So here, I’m going to give you some good reasons to actually come here.

1.Variety

There’s something for everyone. Surf, sand, cities, farms, restaurants from every nation, markets, malls and cultural shows. There’s swimming pools, ice rinks, IMAX and horse racing. Of course, Kenya is known for it’s wildlife with over 65 national parks, reserves, sanctuaries and marine parks to visit. Each has it’s own focus on particular animals. There’s even one animal park you can bike through without being eaten!

beach2. Opportunities

This is the volunteer capital in the world. Whatever skill you’ve got can be used to grow the skills of locals. You might not see playing soccer with kids as a big deal, but to them it is. There is great joy when a child you’ve been teaching actually able to read because you’ve spent a couple of weeks with them. Giving back to communities is the best thing you can do for a week of your life, but so is receiving. While most volunteers come with the intention of bringing about change, they come away feeling like the luckiest people in the world, and see that they are the ones who are changed.

coach3. Cost

If you’re flying from Australia or New Zealand air tickets can be pretty pricey, unless you take a slightly longer route. However, once you’re here it is relatively cheap to get around and as long as you stay in a nice guesthouse, your accommodation costs are low. Food is much cheaper than back at home and there is always a good variety of fruit. To eat out is a good option and there’s no lack of variety from budget to extreme. For example, you can have an all you can eat buffet, including dessert for $26. Or, you can have beef stew and rice for $2.60. Tourist pay a lot more than locals for entry into animal game parks. One national park costs tourists $90 while we as residents pay $10.

fruit4. Something different

Why go somewhere that is just like home? Not many people can say they went white water rafting or bungee jumping in Kenya, or flying in a balloon while thousands of wildebeests are below. How many people can say they went to a Masai village and met the cutest kids in the world? I bet your friends have never kissed a giraffe!

raft5. En-route

I always try to encourage people that if they are coming this far, to travel to other countries in this part of the world. Dubai is only 5 hours away, South Africa 6, London 8, Amsterdam 8, Egypt just under 5. Flying in between African countries is not that expensive either. To fly to Uganda return is $350 (USD). If time allows it why not explore as much as possible.

caseThe world is an amazing place, and Kenya is an exciting place to explore. It’s far more than you will ever see on the Discovery Channel. Why not come and see if for yourself!

 

 

Big Changes

We’ve been in Kenya for 20 months so I thought it was time that I shared about a few things we have had to change since being here.

1. No Hot Water

Our apartment is three floors up. If we had our water cylinder connected up it would cost us $200 a month on our power bill. Instead we had instant water heaters on our shower heads. So, before you jump in the shower at our place you have to flick a switch by the door. The good thing is that you don’t have to wait for the water to warm up before jumping in.

The downside is that we don’t have any hot water that comes out of the taps. We put on a large pot of water to boil while we’re having dinner and because we have gas it doesn’t take too long to heat up.

This is our showerhead.

This is our showerhead.

When there’s no power in the mornings I only have 2 options – a cold shower, or heat up water in our trusty pot  and have a wash. I’ve done both and guess which one I like better?

 

2. Electricity

One thing you can guarantee about the power being on, is that it won’t always be on. For 3 weeks out of a month it seems to be pretty good and then for one week it’s off and on. If the electricity goes off I don’t even bother resetting the alarm clock until I go to bed at night. We have a solar lamp sitting on our windowsill so it’s always charged up. The longest we’ve been without electricity is 24 hours. We got so bored that night we went to the mall to do grocery shopping. When we bought a washing machine we especially got one that restarted at the same place when the power came back on.

 

3. Towels

I was really challenged by one of our colleagues about how we used new towels every second day. She said ‘Why, you come out of the shower clean, I wash mine every 2 weeks?’ It got me thinking as to why we do what we do. While we have lots of towels, my friend has ever only had one. Of course, when I heard this I was shocked and even though she never asked for it, I blessed her with some more. She had never had a new towel in her life before. So, just to shock you, we use the same towels for a week before they go into the wash.

 

4. The Car

Carjacking’s happen here often. So, every time I get in the car the first thing I’ve got into the habit of, is locking the car doors. Even when we go through smaller towns where traffic moves slowly and there are plenty of people around the car, the doors are locked. I often have my phone hiding under my thigh so if I’m ever carjacked they can take my money and my car but I at least have a way of contacting someone. The number one rule though is never run out of petrol.

Car jackers usually work in groups, at peak traffic times when there are jams and here they use guns over bats.

Car jackers usually work in groups, at peak traffic times when there are jams and here they use guns over bats.

5. Don’t Shop Just At The Supermarket

We have a good number of supermarkets here – Nakumatt, Uchumi, Chandarana and lots of shopping malls. There’s also smaller shopping centres dotted around the place. To get any gluten free food I need to go to a shop called HealthyU. Stuff there is awfully expensive but what choice do I have for such things as flour and cereals that I can actually eat and not get sick.

The best place to buy fruit and veges is at roadside markets or out of Nairobi. Generally people think that everything in Africa is cheap – I wish! We travel an hour each Thursday to a place called Kiserian where we spend the day on a training farm. Bananas are half the price there. Overall fruit and veges are cheaper here than back in Aussie but besides that groceries are way more expensive.

duka

Dukas are handy little shops all over the place.

If we need credit for our phone or we’ve run out of something we don’t need to travel up to the supermarket, instead we have around 3 little dukas (shops/stalls) around our place. Be in avocadoes, dishwashing liquid or a bottle of Coke, they have it all. I only meat I get at the supermarket is chicken and mince, anything else is a plain ripoff. Instead we go to independent butchers. Mind you, we found this one around the corner from our house and it stinks to high heaven – never a good sign.

meat

I’ve never bought meat from a place like this.

When stuck in a traffic jam you can buy bags of fruit from the vendors who walk amongst the cars. They also have newspapers, kites, earplugs, maps and toys available.

We haven’t bought any of our furniture at the shopping mall or any furniture stores – it is just way too expensive. Instead we got things made by fundis (tradesmen) who make furniture at the side of the road. If we ever had to leave the country we would definitely get stuff taken back that was made here.

 

6. Flowers

Oh my goodness, they are so cheap here – all of the time if you shop at the right place. For $2.50 you can pick up a big bunch of roses. This price is only from the small stalls on the side of the road. If you buy flowers from the florist or in the malls they will be the same price as back in Aussie.

flowers7. Security

I noticed when I was back in Australia and New Zealand earlier this year I didn’t have to worry about security and we got really slack. Here you will find guards at every gate, bank, ATM, shopping centre and car yard. It’s not unusual to find guys from the army or police officers with rifles walking around. When you go into the mall or even a church your car is searched. It’s a hassle but better to be safe than sorry. Mind you, Pete asked a guard one day what he would do if he saw a bomb in a car and he said they would all run! Once you enter into the mall your bags and body are checked. Poor Pete, he has a metal pin in his leg and it often goes off. When there’s a threat in the city we are pressured to avoid any public place. We get security updates from the NZ and Australian High Commissions. While we don’t ignore them, we pretty much carry on life as normal. There are a lot more dangerous places to live in the world and we have this philosophy that when it’s your time, it’s your time. I just don’t want it to happen slowly and bit by bit. There is more danger travelling on our roads than terrorism.

guards

It never feels scarey having the army or guards around, unless one of them jumps in your car and points the gun at you!

Of course you also have to change how you speak, and not just in language. You have to learn how individual friends come from different cultural backgrounds and how to respond to them appropriately. What works in your home country doesn’t always work here. You can’t wear short shorts, travel long distances at night and yes, the food tastes different. Driving is insane. The people different.

If it wasn’t different here what was the point in coming?

 

4 Things I Don’t Think God Really Cares About

I know God cares, but I think there are some things He doesn’t really care about at all. When I say ‘care about’, I mean He doesn’t mind.

 

1. What Type Of Music You Play In Church.

Pentecostal churches like it loud, more traditional churches like it, well, traditional. Sometimes they are quick to criticise the way they do worship. I don’t think God really minds at all. He’s more interested in people’s heart attitude and whether they connect with Him or not. Nothing must bore God more than some songs thrown together where people come in and go through the motions of ‘church’. He also doesn’t mind if you sit, stand, wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care or even prostrate yourself. You can have your hands raised and be thinking about the football.

 

2. If You Live In Africa Or America.

Jesus wasn’t blue eyed, blonde nor spoke in English. Actually, I know God is colour-blind. He reacts to people the same wherever they are. He doesn’t go ‘Oh, those poor people in Africa, I think I’ll love them more than the Brits because they’ve got more’. That wouldn’t be fair now would it? God loves everyone, full stop, no doubt. His love is not based on our need, but Him. Therefore, He cares about multimillionaires, those who live on the street and everyone in between.

Homeless in Hawaii

Homeless in Hawaii

 

3. About Your Age.

I’m not sure why people of mature age think that they are ‘more spiritual’ or in a better position to be used by God. God can use whoever He wants, however He wants. If we wait until we’re spiritual enough, old enough, rich enough or knowledgeable enough – we might be dead and in the grave. It’s about being obedient in the small things, regardless of your age. It’s not about how many years you’ve got but about who you serve. I’ve heard amazing things come out of the mouths of little kids and those well advanced in years. We need to get over ourselves and drop the whole generation gap thing.

old

4. Whether You Have Dreadlocks Or Look Like A Goth Or Skinhead.

Yep, God doesn’t care about your hairstyle. People do, but I doubt that’s high on His priority list. We live in a country where those who have dreads are looked at as druggies and ‘from the Coast’ – rebels. Personally, I’m not sure how on earth people with dreadlocks can keep them clean but each to their own. Even Nairobi has a Goth shop – imagine wearing leather pants in 30 degree heat! As humans we are quick to judge by the outward appearance. Once you get to know the person you find out what they are really like and often we are surprised by what we find.

tommy

Tommy Kyllonen – pastor in Florida

brian

Brian Welch – Jesus follower and founding member of Korn

Read THIS quick article about one woman in Adelaide, Australia and what she encountered on a train.

 

What else do you think God doesn’t really care about?

Neways, Maccas and Corruption

I’ve spent the last 6 weeks travelling through New Zealand and Australia talking with both younger and older people about Africa and the work we do there. It’s been quite a transition in getting used to the convenience of life here and trying not to speak in Swahili and then the biggest shock of how expensive food is.

There’s a few things that we don’t get in Kenya where we are based.

Neways. These are a great range of products that have ingredients that don’t harm us. You’d be surprised what chemicals are in our hair, skin and household products. When we lived in Australia we converted as much as possible to Neways products and really saw the difference. 18 months later we still have some shaving gel left, but everything else has been used up. It’s a real bummer that we can’t get Neways in Kenya but that’s not all we can’t get.

neways McDonalds. Yep, while there’s KFC there is no sight of Maccas. Kenyans love chicken and chips, but there are also some burger bars around the place. KFC is extremely expensive and because I’m a coeliac, can’t eat it anyway. KFC is so popular that sometimes you have to wait 30 minutes for your order.

maccas There’s a big difference on why both Neways and Maccas aren’t in Kenya and it’s very simple – corruption. For any international company to get established in a country across East Africa, there would have to be a lot (and I mean a lot) of ‘incentive dollars’ or ‘lunch money’ handed over. I’m not saying KFC or any other business is corrupt, but I do know for a fact that both Neways and McDonalds could if they wanted to, buy their way into East Africa.

Corruption has strangled the advancement of developing countries. In 1963 Kenya and Singapore were both on the same economic level. I know that there are several reasons why Kenya is in it’s current economic state but everyone knows that corruption has eaten away at the quality of life there. It goes through every level in our communities and it is a horrible thing. It is common practise to be pulled up by police for lunch money, or be given a different price because we are white. While we will do pretty much anything to not be thrown into a Kenyan jail there is always the fight to do what is right.

The pastoral team at our church have made a stand not to give in to corruption even if they have to go to jail. Now, if we can get the other 43 million in our country to do the same maybe we might just be able to turn things around.

So, what do you do actually do for a job?

Here we (Shaz and Liz) are in the last week of a month speaking tour in New Zealand (NZ) before we head to Aussie to do the same. We’ve been in schools, unis, Rotary Clubs and had lots and lots of coffee catchups with people.

In this month alone we’ve slept in 12 different beds.

Besides the question of corruption the other question I mainly get asked is “So, what do you actually do for a job?” So here’s what we actually do, although every day is different.

 

Sharon

I try to be in the office by 8.45am but it depends on traffic. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes, other days 30. Basically in the mornings I volunteer with an organisation called Afri-Lift which works with children and youth for very poor backgrounds. On Mondays I’m in meetings until 2pm, Tuesdays I write grants for fundraising, Wednesday’s prepare for a 6 hour teaching day, Thursday teach, Friday do marketing.

 

The afternoons/evenings are taken up with work for BeyondWater (the Aussie charity we started in 2007), writing LOTS of emails, blogging, social network updates, looking at projects and every now and then taking Pete out for a coffee. I work till about 9pm most nights with my other spouse – the laptop.

IMG_7193

Some of the great kids we get to work with.

Three out of four weekends we also have programs on. One Saturday we train youth leaders, another we have a tuition program in the Kibera Slum and the third Sunday of the month we assist with the Riziki Childrens Program. That leaves us one extra Sunday to meet up with some young couples we are mentoring.

 

In addition we host lots of international visitors, sometimes go to the Kibera Slum with food packages or randomly do things like have the odd day off.

 

Pete

My days are certainly never dull and boring. Like Sharon, on Mondays we have a staff meeting for a couple of hours but every day/week is different. Sometimes you’ll find me tiling a kitchen, fixing a tractor, buying a truckload full of seeds to transporting tomatoes. You will also see me working with teenage boys training them on the ‘how tos’ of farming. This might mean pulling apart something that doesn’t work and showing them how to fix it. A lot tends to break down and it’s giving the locals the skills so next time they can fix it themselves. When I say things are varied, it’s a slight understatement. One morning I might be trying to find a market for the produce that the trainees grow and then that afternoon helping to install a water tank.

pete

Pete showing one of the boys how to use machinery.

I try and spend 2 – 3 days out at the farm which is about an hours drive. But I also need to be in town to work out all the other stuff. I’m not confined to an office or computer but every couple of days you can’t get away from paperwork. I work with a small team of people who have different roles but one thing I’ve learnt is that you can never over communicate.

Here in Kenya things are complicated and take much longer than say in Australia. You can’t go to one hardware store and get everything you want. Just because they say something is definitely in stock doesn’t mean it’s actually there.

This year I’m trying to take a couple of afternoons off a week. So far I’ve failed miserably.

Every couple of months we get personally involved with our water projects. That might mean driving a few hours to meet up with the community to make sure they’re on track.

That in a nutshell is our life, but it’s much more interesting in reality than in print. We meet amazing people, every day is a challenge and there is lots of work yet to be done.

 

Why not join us by:

  1. Giving (ask me how)
  2. Joining us (long or short tem)
  3. Find out more (shoot me an email – thewildcreanberries@gmail.com)

Let’s Stop Bagging the Rich

It seems that so many people are up in arms about Oxfam’s news release that 85 people own 110 trillion dollars. While I agree with some of their findings there were a few unclear issues for example not naming anyone on their list.

When I talk with former street kids who are in a training program, they will often say that I’m rich because we drive a nice car and are white. I quickly remind them of some facts:

  1. They have a roof over their head, education, clothing and training with the guarantee of a job at the end of it – all for free. So that makes them rich compared to someone living in a slum.
  2. Everything we have has been donated by our faithful partners overseas. We own nothing nor have the ability to earn money. We are totally reliant on our faith in God.

dollar

So what do we consider rich to be? Is it that someone has more than me, better clothes, a nicer car or endless cash to burn?

One thing I can tell you that poverty does not glorify God.

And why do we have the need to pull down those who have more, or much more than us? It doesn’t change our situation or our attitude. Yet in our eyes we feel justified by doing it.

If you take a further step and look at some of the worlds richest billionaires not all of them or even a fair percentage have inherited wealth. Somewhere along the way they started a company of some sort. For anyone who has started a business, you know it is a lot of sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears. There are times when your business nearly goes bust and then times of great fruitfulness. Mostly though it’s just a lot of hard work. There are plenty of sleepless nights and way too much paperwork.

forbesI admire people who have been able to make their business profitable.

If it weren’t for some business people we wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done. There are friends who have sacrificially given both from their profits and in hope that things will turn around for them.

What we need to do is stop judging. Who says you can’t own more than one house? Why not do such things as an investment for your children and their children.

We need to realise that we all have times of great need and great abundance. When we were youth workers in Christchurch, New Zealand there were weeks when we had hardly any money. As a mother it was horrible looking into the fridge and hoping that when I opened the door that food would magically appear.  We’ve had other times when we have had enough so that we could but things such things as a television or furniture for people who were in need.

I tell you now I would much prefer to be on the side of having enough to give to others than always in need.

Right now we are on assignment in Kenya, working with young people. One of our biggest struggles is that as part of our visa permit we can’t go out and earn money. Having to rely on others is a huge burden.

Our times of need are much more often than our times of abundance. Even this month we are not sure if we can pay our rent but we’re believing that by Friday the money will be there. Some people rave on about how they ‘live by faith’ as if it’s an easy journey. Trust me, it isn’t.

cashIn addition to not judging (because everyone has a story) we also can give thanks for what we DO have.  An attitude of gratefulness  helps us to enjoy what we have and stop looking at what we don’t.

Instead of criticising billionaires or those we consider richer than us,  let’s start learning from them and see what we can put into practise for ourselves.

Size doesn’t Matter

We seem to be caught up in a world of numbers (how big your church, outreach, youth group), money (how much you are on) strength (how many pushups you can do) and belongings (how many properties you own). Sometimes I get a bit over it. When did numbers and money become the ultimate goal of life?

Sure, I love having money to do the things we want to do, who doesn’t? I love travelling (been to 18 countries, and not just airports), I love speaking to the thousands and I love doing crazy things like white water rafting on The Nile.

my 2 loves

Bushwalking in Kenya

But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that there will always be someone smarter, richer, more fit and better at some things than myself – and that’s okay. I’ve completed an MBA but want to do another Masters Degree some time soon but does that make me more than someone who has just done their undergrad? Does it make me lesser of a person because I choose not to do a PhD?

I think it’s time we put quantity aside and look at quality of something.

We are on assignment in Kenya (that’s East Africa if you didn’t know) for who knows how long. There’s no shortage of NGO’s, community help groups, churches or ‘mega outreaches’. If you go into the slums you can see endless schools in tin shacks, lunchtime church meetings and welfare organisations operating. I dread to think how much aid and development money has gone into organisations and I ask myself ‘What impact is it making?’

Now while this might sound a tad negative, actually it’s a good thing. We constantly look at what we’re involved in and are more than happy to see lives changed forever.

liz sorting maize

Liz showing the trainees how to use the bean sorter

Kids are going to school where before they had no way in. Others are no longer living on the street and stealing, they are being educated and are now in jobs. Some who were sponsored are now volunteering, giving back to their community. We’re working with an organisation that doesn’t have the thousands on the books but their history is quite incredible – schools, sponsorship programs, agricultural training, leadership programs are just a bit of what they’ve done. That’s because they are into developing young people and not just giving a handout.

teacher 2

Teaching computers on a donated laptop

The key is not how many have come through the door of your work, but what lifetime change are you bringing?

For us personally, the person who gives us $5 a month to keep us here is as much as of a hero as someone who gives 10 times more. Every person who gives does so sacrificially. We have those in their seventies who give from their small pension. There are those who are students who have an after school job and give to us, while others give from their house rentals. It’s not about the amount but the impact it’s made.

Some generous person gave us $500 as a one off gift and from some of that we were able to give some teenage boys their first ever Christmas party. That meant small presents, a buffet lunch, party hats, streamers – the works. They got involved in making the meal and decorating the room and it was a special time for all of us – especially our family. Rather than being a day where we miss our youngest daughter (even more than normal), we were out with a bunch of kids who had no place to call home. But this was only possible because someone sacrificed A LOT.

present opening

Present opening

So please don’t look down on what you do or give – it does make a difference – if not to you to the person you are helping out.

It’s not the size it’s the heart motivation that the action is done in

Want to find out how you can help in our work – check it out HERE.

Don’t Come and Live in Africa

A year ago we made the crazy move from the beautiful Northern Beaches of Sydney Australia to go and live in Nairobi, Kenya. Why do I say it was crazy (as some of our friends think)? Why would a couple in the most productive and money making years of their lives leave it all behind to go and work with the most poor young people in this part of the world?

There’s no simple answer for that one. I’ve heard people from here say ‘Why don’t people come here long term to serve on the mission field?’ There seems to be a lot of questions on both sides.

So here are my thoughts on the matter.

1. Not everyone is called to move to Africa.

Africa is not a picnic. Sure, there’s some things you only get in this part of the world but not everyone has the tenacity to hack it with all of the negatives, and that’s okay. It takes a certain amount of insanity to live here. There’s a big differences between visiting somewhere for a few weeks and dedicating the rest of your life to a cause on foreign soil with being challenged every day, having to rely on friends for your daily needs or hoping you don’t get really sick because the healthcare is limited.

Just today I had some guy yelling out “Mzungu, mzungu” the whole time I was walking up the street. It was so annoying I wanted to give him the royal finger (another reason I don’t call myself a missionary) and yell a few choice words at him. I feel like saying “Oh my goodness, I never knew I was white”.

mzungu

2. You can be of most excellent use in the West.

You can make money and support a missionary or development worker here by remaining at home. You can pay school fees, earn enough to send kids on a camp, pay travel insurance for someone. You can earn and give, it’s a win win situation. One of the best thing you can do is be an advocate/representative of someone you know who is serving in Africa. Most of the time it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and you could be the key to changing that.

africa

3. Missions aren’t what they used to be.

You need to learn another language, a new culture, a new way of doing EVERYTHING. You need to have computer skills as well as practical ones. It’s not about being behind a pulpit but offering a skill to the local community. The developing world needs doctors, nurses, teacher of teachers, people skilled in media and those who are willing to rough it. You have to be prepared to have less than half of the resources you’re used to. Sometimes the power doesn’t work, you have to boil your water and the internet works when it feels like it.

You’ll end up spending much more time in the office than you thought you would’ve.

People will tell you what a noble thing it is you’re doing. It isn’t and it certainly doesn’t feel that way when you’re trudging through sewerage or spending 12 hours straight in front of a computer trying to sort out email and website issues.

sign

It ain’t what you think it is.

4. No guarantees of a holiday.

Forget about a 40 hour week and 21 days annual leave. We’ve been here a year and there’s no holidays in sight. We’ve worked on public holidays and most weekends. The average person on the international field will return to their home country every 3 years, but that’s not a holiday at all. It’s full on speaking in churches, schools, clubs and to supporters all that time. We often work on weekends running different programs. The closest beach is a 9 hour drive away and belonging to a club is way too expensive. Every now and then we take a half day off, or like this week the whole of a Wednesday just to get out of the office and out of town, but that means pulling a couple of 15 hour days beforehand. Of course, the paid staff just don’t get it. They clock off at 4.30pm, while I’m often working till 10pm.

5. The loneliness and challenges can be overwhelming.

Everyone is enthusiastic when you first leave but it doesn’t take too long for the contact to dwindle. It’s normal as people have to get on with their lives. There will only be a few dedicated friends who stay in touch. To make new friends takes a long time. For some, the gap on between is too much to bear. Being apart from family is not for everyone. While Skype is great it isn’t the same as day to day interaction. If you move here you may have to pack your kid off to boarding school and only see them every few months. Are you prepared for that. Our youngest daughter will not see Pete for 3 years – that’s 3 years too long.

Do I think that people should forever stay in the country they call home. Most definitely not!

Every person, and I mean everyone should at least once in their lives visit a developing country to get involved short term with a work that is making a difference in a local community.

Short term volunteers make a tremendous difference to an organisation. For us our volunteers have been able to assist kids who can’t read well, encourage local leaders, teach sport and give kids hope. Short term is anyone who stays under 2 years, with the average person staying just over a month. Even a 2 week stint is huge.

Coming for a few months can give you a glimmer of an idea of what it could be like long term. It will also make you grateful for all of the conveniences of life you have at home and what those on the international field have to go without.

suitacaseSo give it a go. Come for a visit and see what happens. And if you move here, don’t say you weren’t warned!!!

When Terrorists Strike

This weekend in many parts of the world there were terrorist attacks. To us it was brought close to home when a mall we visit was taken over by terrorists. As I write this blog it is going into it’s 4th day of the siege. Only a few minutes ago an Australian friend found out three of her close friends perished, one of them to give birth in two weeks time.

People escaping from Westgate Mall.

People escaping from Westgate Mall.

A lack of security is a reality here, but when a mall we frequent is taken over and people die it brings in a whole new level of things. Already we don’t travel at night, go for a walk at night and always lock the car when we get in it. We have a security gate on our apartment door and two night guards on the apartment block.

The thing is that you hardly ever ‘feel’ insecure. We walk through the slums (even though the Aussie High Commission says not to) to visit families and the biggest threat is shaking all of the hands of the kids who say ‘How are you?’ We are more worried about avoiding people as they step out in front of our car or suddenly seeing a donkey and cart pull out and there isn’t enough space to stop.

You get used to having your car checked at the mall, or being security scanned on the way into church. However, the thought of people attacking people as their children are in a cooking class is totally different.

The first thing that happened to us was the numerous questions on Facebook checking if we were okay. We were 4 hours away at the Amboseli National Park looking at wild elephants when I just happened to check FB to find out about the tragedy. Automatically I posted that we were fine. What I didn’t let people know is that we actually would’ve been there as already planned.

When we got back to Nairobi, like everyone else we were glued to the TV to see what the story was about. We had planned to go to the movies at the local mall, but when things like this happen you are best to stay at home. So it was toast for dinner and we put on a comedy to lighten the situation. I used this time to field through the endless questions online and SMS our pastors back home. Both responded even though it was really late, which was great. We have a number of expat friends so you instantly go through the list to make sure they weren’t near the incident. Thankfully they were all fine.

When terrorism happens people put their lives on hold. While you don’t want it to stop you from doing everyday things you can’t help yourself. You choose your seat at a café based on how you can escape. You look at people a bit more suspiciously. You decide if you really need to get a few groceries.

Waiting to get our car checked

Waiting to get our car checked

We ventured to the mall yesterday and things are very different. There is normally a check of your boot, but now they check the glove box, back seat and boot. Instead of two lines for the check, they’ve merged it into one, barriers up on both sides, and very long lines. That’s just to get into the carpark. Normally there would be plenty of cars but yesterday there were only 4 others. Javahouse is a café which is packed at lunchtime, there were two people.

At our mall you just walk in – normally. Now they are doing a full bag and body check. Pete went there on his motorbike and he had to thoroughly empty his bag out. Churches were only half full on Sunday. This is because they are normally the next target. I’m not sure if we would’ve gone had we been home.

Normally this carpark is full

Normally this carpark is full

Liz had a co-worker who was injured and like us, they started their day in prayer for our nation.

When terrorism strikes it does a couple of things. It makes people retrench and it also makes them come out and do extraordinary things. It will take a good month for businesses to recover from this incident and for those at the mall it could be a number of months. It will have a huge economic impact for those in that business district.

On the positive side people here rally in times of disaster. There was an outpouring of money, food items, counsellors and also blood donations. The Red Cross were at the forefront of this tragedy and did a great job in the face of so many challenges. It gave people a chance to go out of their comfort zones and care for others. I heard of one lady that was giving out cups of tea from the boot of her car to the police on the scene. It might not seem much but here no one does anything without payment.

Wherever we went people were glued to TV’s on updates. At our mall there were crowds of young, old, black, white trying to get a viewing point on a TV to keep updated. Some businesses closed down and had an all day of prayer. People took time out to talk to their colleagues to make sure they were okay. There were the conversations of ‘where you were when it happened’.

The Westgate Mall siege is over. The TV channels are showing less about it. People give a sigh of relief. Children return back to school and people resume their lives as normal as possible.

However, we have to create a ‘new normal’. Things won’t be the same for a very long time, especially for those involved. We will still look with suspicion and keep as secure as possible and unfortunately terrorism will happen on our back doorstep and we will go on the emotional rollercoaster all over again.

Life is not certain but our faith in God is. Stuff happens and some people equate life with God, which is not true. We live in a broken and fallen world and have to suffer the consequences of that.

What humbled us is the number of people from around the world that sent us messages of support and concern. Each and every one made a huge impact on us and wasn’t taken lightly. It reminded us that we are not here alone.

This incident also reminded me that we need to update our insurance!!