Saturday, July 17, 2021

Reunion with Julius in Chizini - Devastating situation - Harambee!


My anticipation increased as we approached Julius's farm bouncing along the dusty roads of rural Kenya. I had not seen him for over 3 years and I was anxious to see the progress that he had made with his farm. I met Julius back in 2014 when my agriculture team took me to meet him. Though a very poor farmer Julius is a man of action and great ambition. He recognized the need for saving water for his farm so he dug a large hole in the ground that would hold water to use for his crops throughout the season. The hole was 14 feet wide and 12 feet deep. You can read a previous post about him.

As we got out of the car and headed down the hill towards his farm a feeling of foreboding came over me. I was fairly certain that I knew where his farm was but I was not seeing the green fields that I expected to see. Instead, I was seeing parched soil with nothing growing. Just before reaching his farm I came to the surface dam that the community used for water. Several mothers and young children were filling the jugs from the little bit of water that remained in the bottom of this surface  damn. 

Worried mothers gather water from their nearly empty source near Chizini 

It was shocking to see how little water was there considering that the rainy season should have just finished a month ago and that the day should have been filled with water. The next rainy season is not until November over 3 months away. The reality of what this means surged over me like a great wave. How will they survive without water?! With that thought coursing through my mind I continue to walk across the barren field to ward Julius's house. I saw group of people gathered in the yard outside his house. From the back of the group I saw a man stand look for a moment and then start towards us. I was about halfway across the field when he came out of the trees and recognized me. He raced over to me and we embraced. It was seeing an old friend after many years. I wish that I could have bottled up the joy and happiness that's spilled out from us as we talked with each other. He grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward his home. The agriculture extension officers were there doing some training with his community group about improved agriculture practices. Julius introduce me to the group and we chatted awhile about the training.

The only time that Julius did not have a big smile on his face

I asked Julius about his farm and he told me that the spring rains never came so he was not able to plant anything this year on his farm. The hole that he had dug to capture water was empty. I was shocked! How can this man take care of his wife and 10 children without growing any food? All of a sudden the challenges and problems that I face in my own life seemed minuscule compared to his challenges. Even so, his contagious smile never left his face while he talked with us. As we questioned him about what he would do he told us that the county government had created another larger surface damn about a mile away from his home and that the community has gathered together and planted a community garden and were using the water from that surface dam to raise crops for this year. They are hopeful that there will be enough food to share amongst themselves and get them to the next season.

I wanted to do something! What could I do? My resources are so limited. and then thr thought came to me that maybe just giving them some hope would be a start. I was with my colleague Bevington who has a great song about working together or in Swahili, Harambee. I ask Bevington to teach them the song and then lead us in singing it. Harambee song!

The cloud of dread lifted and was replaced with rays of hope as we sang. These neighbours will work together and will find a way to get through this crisis. I will talk with our team and determine if there's a way that we can support them in their efforts. These neighbors may not have much when it comes to the necessities of life but they have a unity and camaraderie that would be envied by people around the world. Sometimes it is the difficult challenges of life that let us cut through the unimportant aspect of life and let us get to the root of true happiness.

Julius and his neighbors gathered for the training in their classroom under a tree

As I embraced Julius and said goodbye I prayed that the Lord would watch over and protect his family. I walked away with a new appreciation for the important things in life and a resolve to be better myself, focus on the important aspects of life and not get lost in the rat race of getting ahead. If the rest of us, throughout the world, could apply that same principle of Harambee how much better would this world be! I challenge us all to re-evaluate our priorities and focus on what is really important in life so that we can be like Julius and his neighbors and truly have Joy in spite of our surrounding conditions!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

 This is hard for me, but I hope that it will help someone out there. I went through a period of several years of underemployment. It was hard on my family. I struggled with feelings of failure and self worth. In the end it paid off and I now have a job that I truly love! Stay strong through the down times of your life. You are of great worth even when you have down times. There are many who could benefit from your service.

When I was talking with
Arianne Brown
about my life path she thought that it would make a good story. Here it is:

Monday, May 7, 2018

Muungano - "Coming together" Can Christians and Muslims really live together and get along?

Muungano is a Swahili word meaning come together or unity. In this small village in Kenya, Muungano is more than a word, it is a culture. In Dzugwe the population is predominantly Muslim with the largest minority group practicing Christianity.

The Muslim and Christian leaders at the Muungano School. It is not common to smile for pictures in Kenya. They were very happy that day. 
When a project or idea affects the community, members from all religious denominations join together as a council to discuss and prepare for those changes.

At our last meeting with the people of Dzugwe, we saw muungano translate from a nice idea to being a true practice. We held a meeting to discuss the progress of the building of the Muungano school and the development of building a water cistern. Both the local Christian leader and local Muslim leader presided over the meeting. The meeting began with a prayer from the Christian Leader and concluded by a prayer from the Muslim leader. Not once was there an “us versus them” mentality exhibited by either denomination.

A young child watches as his mother carries water to use for mixing the concrete for the new water cistern that his father is building. The community works together so that their children will have drinking water at school.
There was representation of both perspectives but even more than that, there was respect. Unity does not simply imply that everyone is present. No, unity requires an understanding of brotherhood coming together to work side by side towards mutual goals. All perspectives must be heard and understood in order for a group of people to become a community. Written by Nicolle Okoren for Lonny Ward

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