Mark Firestone left his position as the head of CMF’s child sponsorship program to move to Nairobi, Kenya, and serve in the program in a more direct way as a CMF missionary with Missions of Hope (MOHI). Here are some of his thoughts after his first two weeks in Kenya:
This past Sunday marked two weeks since my arrival in Kenya. These two weeks have been filled with adjusting to new culture, getting settled into a new place to live, re-learning how to drive, and all the ups and downs that come with those and so many other things related to making an international move. After two weeks of getting acclimated, I was eager to get out and see the fruits of the ministry I’ve come to serve with. So on Sunday, when the opportunity arose to attend church out at our boarding schools, I jumped at it!
Missions of Hope has 13 schools within the Mathare Valley and surrounding slums in Nairobi. Our boarding schools are actually about an hour’s drive outside of the city on roads that become less “road” and more dirt trail or ditch the further out you go. We actually have two boarding schools, one for girls and one for boys. They house students as young as Class 6 (6th Grade) and as old as Form 4 (High School Senior). The boarding schools provide our students with their own beds, bathrooms and showers with indoor plumbing, and three nutritious meals a day in addition to their rigorous study schedule.
Our first boarding school, Joska, opened in 2007 to both boys and girls. It was launched at a time when the students who had begun attending the first MOHI school were approaching Class 6. Students in Kenya take a national exam in Class 8 that determines their eligibility to get into high schools. Students who don’t achieve high enough marks on this exam face the possibility of not being able to continue their education. For our students, this would almost guarantee a life condemned to living in the slums with no hope for a better future. The idea was to bring the students to the boarding school where they would be able to focus on their studies in preparation for their national exams without the distractions that come with life in the slums.
Just five years after Joska opened it was already bursting at the seams and there were more students in Mathare reaching Class 6 than could be accommodated on the campus. And so in 2012, a second boarding school was opened about a mile away from Joska. This new boarding school, called Ndovoini, became an all-boys school, while Joska was converted to all girls. Both campuses eventually added high schools, which enabled some students who were unable to attend a public high school to continue their education.
As the schools back in Mathare continued to grow, it wasn’t long until both Joska and Ndovoini were out of space again. With few options available, the strategy changed to begin adding sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade classes to the primary schools back in Mathare. Today, the students selected to attend Joska and Ndovoini are chosen based on what their home life is like. Those students who are the least likely to be successful are selected to attend Joska and Ndovoini to give them a better chance. These are students who may be orphaned, who come from abusive backgrounds, whose parents have a harder time providing for them at home, or any other number of factors. It’s NOT that these children are poor performers in school or have bad grades. They are bright young men and women who just got dealt an even worse hand than some of their peers.
And so it was among these students that I found myself singing, dancing and worshiping our Lord this past Sunday.
Our first stop was the Ndovoini boys school. I’ve been to both of these schools before during previous visits to Kenya, and I knew exactly what a church service would look like before we even got there. But this time was different. I wasn’t just a visitor who was there just for the week to see and experience what this ministry is doing. I’m part of it now. This is my job, my purpose. I live here now. As my eyes welled up, I suddenly was overwhelmed with emotion as I watched these students – who come from the worst of the worst living conditions – singing, dancing and giving praise to our God with every ounce of joyful energy they had, knowing that this is the result we are all hoping to see achieved. This is why we’re here. This is why I’m here.
As I looked out over the sea of around 500 boys, I realized how important the work is that we are doing. I couldn’t help but wonder where these boys would be if they weren’t there. What would they be doing? Would some of them even have survived to live to this age? What kind of hope or future would they have? Would any of them know Christ?
And as I stood there, the feelings of joy from what I was seeing quickly turned to heartache for all of those children back in Mathare – tens or even hundreds of thousands of them – who are still unreached and may never have this kind of opportunity. There are so many who can’t get into our schools because we don’t have enough room, or because we don’t have enough sponsors, or because we simply wouldn’t be able to manage many more students with current processes.
We still have work to do. And that’s why God brought me here.
After touring the campus at Ndovoini, we drove the mile or so back to the Joska Girls Centre, where we also toured the campus. While waiting to depart for the return trip to Nairobi, the girls were on a break and I had a chance to just spend some time talking to some of them. We talked about what they’re studying in class, about career aspirations, about football (that’s “soccer” for you U.S. folks), about my family, about their families. I showed them some pictures of my family, particularly my nephews. I even showed them some pictures I had taken the week before of my visit with David, the boy I sponsor back in Mathare. When I mentioned my visit to his school, their eyes lit up as some of them fondly remembered friends they have there.
It was a great time to get to know some of our students on a more personal level and hear their stories. Despite all the ups and downs I’ve been experiencing in getting adjusted to a new culture and lifestyle, the day served to reinforce and remind me of my true purpose for being here: to be the hands and feet of Christ to these children and their families.
You can help change the life of a student at Joska or Ndovoini by encouraging them with the gift of sponsorship. Click here to sponsor a girl at Joska, or click here to sponsor a boy at Ndovoini. For more information, click here to download a brochure in PDF format.
CMF missionary Alison Emery shared this story on the Missions of Hope website recently. Go here to read other stories about the ministry’s ground-breaking work in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
This week, 17 pastors from Missions of Hope International’s Outreach Hope churches participated in a four-day, hands-on training at our Pangani center to learn how to use Logos Bible Software. During the training, the pastors were taught how to access library materials and other special features of the software for preparing sermons and leading Bible studies to further equip them to preach and teach Scripture.
The training was developed, coordinated, and implemented by MOHI’s partner, CMF International, and taught by Professor David Fish from Ozark Christian College in Missouri. Earlier this year, CMF arranged for the pastors to each receive laptops with the installed software. Each pastor contributed 25 percent of the total cost of the computers and software, a significant economic sacrifice for them. Private donors from the United States provided the remaining amount.
“CMF came alongside these pastors to provide high-quality training, equipping them for the challenging work they do,” said Dick Alexander of CMF, who was instrumental in arranging the training and engaging donors to assist with this effort. “Many pastors of MOHI’s Outreach Hope churches grew up in the slums, which gives them a natural connection with the people they serve but also places them in very challenging ministry situations. They are the ‘green berets’ of ministry, facing extremely demanding situations on a daily basis. Along with mentoring, continuing their formal schooling, and regular seminars by pastors from partner churches in the U.S., this new tool is one more way of helping Outreach Hope pastors become more effective in transforming lives and transforming their communities.”
Pastor Fanuel Lipapu Opisa, senior pastor at Huruma Outreach Hope Church, said that for him, the training came at the perfect time. “I’m currently completing my Master’s degree, and this software will help me with all of the research and writing that I’m doing,” he said. “Also, the commentaries on particular passages of Scripture will help me prepare my sermons and give me an added resource to teach and disciple other pastors in the community. I truly want to thank all those who made this possible because it is a timely blessing from God.”
Professor Fish, who traveled to Africa for the first time to conduct the training, said that just days before coming to Nairobi, he was cleaning out his office and found several instructional DVDs with additional, in-depth lessons about how to use Logos Bible Software. He had just enough DVDs to give one to each pastor at the training.
“The hands-on training provided this week, along with their use of the DVDs for follow-up training, will allow the pastors to build on their knowledge and effectively use this new tool in their ministries,” said Professor Fish. “Overall, the training was a very positive experience for the pastors and me.”
A new church in the London neighborhood of Narok, a town west of Nairobi in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya, will open its doors this Sunday, June 7, according to CMF missionary Joe Cluff. The church is a new plant from the Community Christian Church of Narok, and has been in the planning stages for three years.
“The biggest hold-up was land,” said Joe. “The group finally found a plot they can rent and will construct a semi-permanent building using 40 pieces of mabati (roofing tin) and some cedar posts that they collected.”
Elijah Kisaine will serve as the pastor at the new church plant. He has worked as the assistant to John Saitet, the senior pastor of the Narok church, for several years.
“On Thursday, people from the church will go door-to-door to evangelize,” said Joe. “They will have a crusade on Friday and Saturday, and then the first service will be on Sunday.”
“The church is doing this entirely on their own initiative and with their own funds,” Joe added. “God is good!”
The water ministries team in Turkana completed the establishment of two irrigated farms, began work on two new farms and finished five more wells by the end of February 2015, according to CMF missionary Gene Morden, who serves as director of the water team.
The two new irrigated farms are Atapar and Kokoi. The latter was set up as a training and demonstration farm.
“Kokoi farm was established for training new farmers and planting demonstration farm plots that will educate and challenge the current 540 farm families to commit to a higher level of excellence and productivity,” said Gene.
The Atapar farm was funded by a grant of $17,550 from International Disaster Emergency Service (IDES) of Noblesville, Ind.
“In addition, IDES has committed to send four more grants of $17,550 each for four additional irrigated farms in 2015,” Gene said, “for which we are very thankful. These will have a huge impact on the families who live in the desert region of Turkana.”
New missionaries Giles and Alison Emery have been in Nairobi, Kenya, for just a few months, so they see the poverty and sadness with fresh eyes and try to share a glimpse of it with folks back home. Here’s an excerpt from their recent newsletter about the young boys of Mathare and the hope that is offered to children through education at Missions of Hope, thanks to the CMF child sponsorship program.
We see him nearly every day on our drive into Mathare Valley: a young boy between the ages of 10 and 12, meandering aimlessly down the road, his hand clasping an open, plastic bottle filled with a yellowish-brown liquid. We’ve learned that the liquid in the bottle is glue, homemade and toxic. Countless street boys like this one (too many) sniff from these bottles all day long to receive an instantaneous, temporary high. We also encounter them when we leave Mathare and exit onto one of the busiest thoroughfares in Nairobi. Clusters of street boys stand in the median, streams of traffic on either side, and approach the waiting cars to wash their windows and receive a few coins in exchange, all the while clutching their plastic bottles.
Seeing these kids deeply saddens us. Who is there to take care of them, to tell them that this isn’t the life they should choose? When no other options seem possible, when the painful reality of the present is so consuming that dreams are unimaginable, perhaps this seems like the best alternative, finding a way to escape, to temporarily numb the pain.
We are blessed to work alongside an organization that seeks to end this cycle of despair. Missions of Hope helps kids dream and achieve their dreams through education. Most importantly, MOHI teaches these kids about the One who is worthy of their faith and trust, to place their lives and dreams in the hands of Christ to guide their footsteps.
Two years ago when we visited MOHI on our vision trip, Pastor Wallace Kamau, a founder and director of MOHI, shared with us Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.” Pastor Kamau commented that this truth is why MOHI does what it does. Many kids in the slum have lost the capacity to dream. They only see what’s before them each day, a fight to simply survive hunger, darkness, disease, and despair.
But at MOHI, countless numbers of kids from Mathare Valley, one of the poorest slums in the world, achieve the improbable. Kids who passed rigorous national exams for admittance into prestigious high schools now spend their weekends and holidays mentoring younger kids just starting their academic careers. Young girls teach their sisters science, math, and God’s word. Young boys who once spent their days sniffing glue or stealing or marauding with gangs now attend school every day and participate in church every Sunday. Parents truly believe that their kids can have a different life than they have had, that their dreams are actually attainable, and that they can make their communities and neighborhoods better.
If you’d like to help a child begin dreaming about a better future for his life, consider CMF’s child sponsorship program. Go here to find your child!
There’s a new congregation of Jesus followers in Turkana, and CMF missionaries Dennis and Renda Curran were invited to attend the church’s dedication service last Saturday.
“The new church is in the community of Nawayalim, about 10 kilometers from Napusimoru,” said Dennis. “More than 60 people gathered under a tree to pray, praise, and celebrate as they became the eighth church plant from the congregation at Napusimoru.”
On the next day, Sunday, the Currans returned to the spot for the congregation’s first Sunday worship celebration, complete with 42 baptisms!
“How do you baptize someone in the desert, you ask?” said Dennis. “Well, first you dig a grave. Then you line it with boards and a plastic tarp to hold the water in and the dirt out.”
More than 80 people gathered for the worship and baptismal service, which was followed by a couple of hours of singing and dancing.
“It was truly a glorious day,” said Dennis.
A small team from Agri-Stewards of Lebanon, Ind., returned to Kenya recently for 10 days to assist with the farming operations at Missions of Hope’s (MOHI) Girls School at Joska.
Brian Smith of Agri-Stewards and Karen Thompson, Senior Research Associate for Pioneer, were very encouraged to see the progress and production that had occurred over the past six months.
“John Wamui Kinyajui, the farm attendant, and his team of workers have been working hard,” said Brian. “We were amazed to see how much spinach was harvested over the 10 days we were with them. The sweet potato patch looks to be quite productive, as well.”
Here are the areas where Agri-Stewards concentrated its work at Joska:
- Hoop houses (greenhouses) The sun and wind have been hard on the four hoop houses over the past five years. Three days were spent working with the farm team installing upgrades on two of the houses. They also were able to improve the irrigation system because the property now has electricity. They deleted the old bag tanks, improved the water pressure and installed overhead sprinklers to cool the hoop houses during the heat of the day.
- Keeping records Karen Thompson spent a great deal of time mapping and measuring the Joska farm, which will improve data collection. The team also met with the MOHI accounting team to update and streamline the farm crop sales records. John Kinyajui will also begin keeping planting/harvesting records at the farm, which will make it easier to plan what crops to grow in the future.
- Teaching “Farming God’s Way” Pius Mutie, the lead FGW trainer for Kenya, joined the team for three days of teaching in the classroom and in the fields. Students included MOHI staff and five members of the local church at Joska. They were very excited about planting a 20-by-20-meter demonstration plot on the church property so the community can learn about “Farming God’s Way.”
“Agri-Stewards has been working at Joska since January 2011,” said Brian Smith. “We are excited that we are gaining momentum, and blessed by seeing how ‘Farming God’s Way’ is continuing to grow in this region.”
Dr. Alan Ahlgrim serves as the Director of Pastor Care for Blessing Ranch Ministries in New Port Richey, Fla. He recently shared this story on his blog, “Blessings Ahead,” about the work that CMF partners Wallace and Mary Kamau have been doing in Nairobi, Kenya, for the past 15 years.
I’ve once again been rubbing shoulders with two powerful world changers! When three other pastors (Dick Alexander, Tim Harlow, Eddie Lowen) and I made our first trip to the slums of Nairobi in 2007, we were stunned. The darkness, filth and poverty were overwhelming. Yet, what amazed us even more was the astonishing, light-shining work of Missions of Hope led by Wallace and Mary Kamau.
Wallace is an accountant and Mary is a teacher, both gifted university graduates who could have chosen a comfortable life. Instead, this exceptional pair of committed Kenyans has been devoting their lives to serving the poorest of the poor for over 15 years. After the first seven strenuous years they had somehow managed to bring 300 children into a school to teach them the basics, and far more. Today, over 13,000 children are now in 16 Christ-exalting schools, and their lives have been radically changed forever!
This is impossible by human standards. If something like this was proposed in the U.S. we’d say it was impossible. How much more miraculous it is in The Mathare Valley! This wretched slum appears to be a hopeless place where gangs abound, sewage flows in the streets and many of the women sell themselves to survive. Yet, once again we’re seeing how God does some of His best work in the most unexpected places. Light always shines best in the darkness.
The Kamau’s have faced countless hurdles and heartaches. Wallace told me of their recent challenges and the sense of intense spiritual attack he had experienced. Wallace finally concluded that the work they had been called to was God’s work all along. Only then was he able to once again rest in the assurance that the One who had called them to this rigorous ministry would see them through.
I love the humble hearts of this pair and I’m not alone. This week, leaders from 30 large churches in the U.S. gathered in Denver to hear more about this strategic partnership. We were all humbled as we listened to them share more of their brilliant, light-shining dreams.
It’s been said that at the end of your life the world will ask one question: “Did you do what you were supposed to do?” We all have many laments over opportunities we have missed. By God’s grace one lament I will not have is failing to visit Africa and missing a partnership with Wallace and Mary. My African friends have not only changed their world, they have changed mine!
I’m once again looking forward to introducing a few more pastors to this miraculous ministry. It’s the least I can do for those who are doing so much for “the least of these.” Let me know if you, or another pastor you know, are ready to have your world changed for the better!
Giles and Alison Emery are three months into their new lives as CMF missionaries in Nairobi, Kenya, and are already immersed in both language learning and their work with Missions of Hope International (MOHI). Part of Alison’s role is to collect and share some of the many stories of transformation that are happening every day in the Mathare Valley. She shares one of those stories here.
In a dimly-lit, 10×10 room, three women take turns pouring brightly-colored wax into a trough, scraping off the excess wax, trimming wicks, and packaging the final product: candles that will be used to light the darkness in many homes throughout Kiamaiko.
These women are part of a larger community health evangelism (CHE) group– 22 members in total– that began at the Missions of Hope (MOHI) Kiamaiko center in 2013. The group aptly named themselves “Bright Mothers.” They produce approximately 80 taper candles each week, separated into 10 packets of eight. The women sell their packets of candles in the community for a total profit of around $22, which they share. They also share the work. Each woman in the group is assigned a separate duty in the candle-making process, and they work together to create the final product.
CHE is the bedrock of all MOHI programs. CHE empowers a community to identify its own needs and the local assets to address those needs. MOHI social workers and CHE trainers who work in a community assist community members in forming groups and identifying potential projects to meet a need in the community. Additionally, spiritual lessons are taught as CHE group members experience personal and community transformation.
The women in the “Bright Mothers” group researched their options for potential projects, initially desiring to sell maize (corn) flour, which is a staple in the Kenyan diet. However, they learned it would be too expensive to process the maize for sale. Recognizing the lack of electricity in Kiamaiko homes, they decided to make candles instead.
According to the MOHI social worker who trained them, the women saved their own money —approximately 50 cents per week — to purchase a candle-making machine and supplies. The women learned the entire candle-making process in a single day.
Currently, the women are saving a portion of their weekly profits to purchase a bigger machine that will make at least twice as many candles, potentially doubling their profit. They also re-use the scraps from each batch of candles to make more candles, maximizing their resources and reducing waste.
The women in “Bright Mothers” shine their lights in Kiamaiko in more ways than one. Once a month they give back to their community by performing a service project as a group. Recently, the group cleaned the home of a woman in the community who is bedridden due to illness.
By being empowered to succeed, the women in “Bright Mothers” are free to share their gifts with the community as God continues to transform them spiritually. The hope that they share with others holistically transforms not only their individual families, but also their entire community.
To read more of these stories please visit MOHI’s Facebook page and website. You can watch a video of the candle-making process here!
Before the new well and water system were completed in November in the community of Miton in the Rift Valley of Turkana, Kenya, people were moving away, diarrhea was rampant and the children were too sick to come to school. People spent most of every day walking five to 10 kilometers to the closest well with their animals and water jugs.
Things are very different now, and the Maasai community at Miton recently invited CMF missionaries Gene and Melba Morden to return to Miton to see the new system.
“The 11-person water committee, the area chief and other community members met us at the water kiosk (distribution point),” said Gene Morden, who has been working to install clean water and irrigation systems in Kenya since 1995. “We have never felt more appreciated than we did that day. ‘Miton’ means ‘desolate place with no trees or water,’ but thank God, that is no longer the case.”
The new water system was a joint project between CMF donors and the community.
“CMF dug the well and installed the pump, but the community installed the piping (700 meters), the 10,000 liter storage tank, the water kiosk for the people and the 100-foot water trough for their animals,” said Gene.
The changes in Miton since the Gospel has been shared and the water system installed have been enormous, according to Gene.
“When people began to accept the gospel and begin praying to God, seasonal rains have come, and they now have shrubs and trees,” he said. “People have returned to the community, school enrollment is up and absenteeism has nearly been eliminated, and illness has been drastically reduced. The most anyone walks now for water is three kilometers, and most walk less than a kilometer.”
The Turkana water team dug 31 wells in 2014 and 25 of them were successful.
“Praise God that at least 10,000 more people now have access to safe water, just like you and me,” said Gene. “Please pray for supporters for 30 new wells in 2015.”
If you’d like to help provide clean water through a solar-powered irrigation system for a Turkana community, go here. If you’d like to help provide a hand pump and well for community go here.