Since the birth of LIA in 1995, beginning our work among the Maasai in Kenya, establishing LIA-Ethiopia in 2000 and dedicating the LIA Training Center Kenya in 2015, our mission remains unchanged as we continue to serve the poor and the vulnerable. In faith, we travel this journey to fulfill this mission, and continue to partner with the Lord as He establishes His kingdom on earth.
The Lord has granted Life in Abundance a clear vision for 2016, which can be summed up into three assignments:
Deepening Our Impact
The Lord has been gracious to us and has allowed LIA to expand into ten countries across Africa and the Caribbean. This year our assignment is to grow in depth and fruitfulness as we deepen our impact in the current countries we serve.
In addition, we will focus our efforts on strengthening our training centers in Kenya and Jamaica.
We know first-hand that training is the key factor to empowering people to participate in and own the transformation of their community. This is why developing our training centers is central to the mission of LIA. It is our goal that through our training centers, ministries in various communities, countries and continents can be equipped to serve the poor and the vulnerable for the long term.
Growing our Partnerships
As we stand in awe of what God has accomplished through the work of LIA in 2015, we also give the Lord praise for connecting us with partners who share in our vision and work. With the Lord’s favor, we will focus on strengthening and growing our partnerships in the United States and Europe.
This spring and fall marks two seasons when we will visit and further cultivate relationships with our partners. This will be a time of intense travel for our leadership and the US team. Please pray for guidance and favor as we set schedules around these seasons, asking that God will open doors and lead us, for His glory.
Additionally, in September 2016, LIA will be hosting an event for all of our church partners. This will be a time of envisioning, networking, mutual encouragement and fellowship as we all gather around a single table. This will be a significant two-day event with great opportunity. Join us as we dedicate this event for kingdom purpose.
As the story of God’s work through Life in Abundance unfolds, our prayer for 2016 is that our partners will bare witness to lives sustainably transformed as we serve the poor and the vulnerable for His glory.
Completing the Strategy
In 2014, our Senior Leadership Team in partnership with our International Board formalized a three-year strategic plan. We have seen great accomplishments over the last two years, and our desire is to finish strong.
The major elements of the strategic plan yet to be accomplished are:
Completing Phase 3 of LIA Training Center, Kenya
Establishing Blue Wings Aviation
Implementing LIA’s model of transformative development in Uganda and Burundi
While there is much to be accomplished, we serve a God that is mighty and able, and we are ready to see the wonders God has in store for us.
As we look to 2016, our mission remains steadfast while we serve along side the poor and the vulnerable in the dominion the Lord has given us. We shall declare His glory and facilitate his marvelous deeds among his people. We shall see life come in fullness in our acreage. The Lord will establish His kingdom as we put our hands to our plow in 2016. Amen.
Dr. Florence Muindi
Life in Abundance International
“Like Leontius, the young Athenian in Plato, I presume that you are reading this because you desire a closer look, and that you, too, are properly disturbed by your curiosity. Perhaps, in examining this extremity with me, you hope for some understanding, some insight, some flicker of self-knowledge – a moral, or a lesson, or a clue about how to behave in this world: some such information.”
It’s about a six-hour drive from Kigali, the capital of Rwanda to Cyangugu where LIA will be holding their first ever envisioning seminar in this region. Cyangugu town sits on the border between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), hugging the banks of the beautiful lake Kivu. As we drive into town the sun is setting over the horizon you can see the fishermen setting out for the night. They’ll be back in the morning singing loud and rowing strong as they’re bringing in the night’s catch. The next morning however there would also be another chorus of singing coming from a different part of town.
As church leaders from Cyangugu and across the border in DRC gathered together the next day, it was clear from the strong handshakes and enthusiastic hugs going around that it had been quite some time since they last gathered together. The agenda for this gathering was to learn about transformational development. Over forty churches were represented and as the session started Dr. Muindi took to the front of the room to answer the question; what is LIA’s call in Rwanda?
“When I first came to Rwanda a year ago I visited Cyangugu. That visit clarified our call to this region. Every Monday, LIA as an organization takes time to pray for the nations and for some time now we have felt God calling us to the Lakes region (Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Uganda) and we did not know how or when but we knew He would open a way and make things clear, so we just kept that in prayer.”
Dr. Muindi pauses to let Obadias, the LIA Regional Coordinator, translate. The room is silent with everyone’s eyes jumping back and forth between Obadias and Dr. Muindi.
“There was another training taking place here in Cyangugu and I attended with my husband, not to serve but just to be an observer. So one morning as I sat down with my husband and another friend for breakfast a beautiful Rwandese woman decided to join us at our table. She was a student at the ongoing training.
She couldn’t speak English or Swahili so we didn’t have much of a conversation beyond good morning.
As one of the servers was coming around to our table, they accidentally tripped and dropped their serving tray on the floor. It slapped the floor with a loud bang, almost like someone had dropped a hard object. Immediately the lady sitting at our table shot up from her seat and started having a panic attack. Though we couldn’t really talk to her we did our best to try and calm her down .
When she eventually controlled the shaking and tears; we were able to understand by way of a translator what was wrong. Her name was Sarah and she, like so many other Rwandese, lived through the horrors of the 1994 genocide. As the tray slapped the floor it brought back painful memories of the day she lost her husband and her children; taken by machete welding neighbors.
That incident with Sarah weighed on me heavily. As I sought some more understanding from the pastors attending the training, I realized what I saw was extremely common. I realized a felt but unmet need. As ‘coincidence’ would have it that same day, I got word from one of LIA’s partners, all the way in America whose inquiry could not come at a better moment. He asked me, “Florence when are you going to start doing work in Rwanda?” He had no idea I was in Rwanda and had just witnessed a great need.
A few days later as I took my seat on the plane headed back home to Kenya I sat next to a woman who was a missionary in the neighboring country of Burundi. In our conversation, she told me of a curriculum her team had just finalized, prepared to facilitate inner healing to victims of trauma through the local church. Yet another ‘coincidence’.
As we parted ways, I shared my email contact and requested her to share the curriculum with me. By the time I arrived home from the airport, the curriculum was in my inbox. I was in awe of God’s leading. It could not have been clearer. He indeed wants to facilitate healing through the church in this region. That is why we are here.”
Back to Philip Gourevitch; “I don’t discount the possibility, but when it comes to genocide, you already know right from wrong. The best reason I have come up with for looking closely into Rwanda’s stories is that ignoring them makes me even more uncomfortable about existence and my place in it. The horror, the horror, interests me only insofar as a precise memory of the offense is necessary to understand its legacy.”
Maybe the legacy of such darkness is the light of God and the church healing a nation that the devil meant to steal kill and destroy.
In 2012, Dennis and Kristen were invited to sponsor a LIA benefit dinner being co-hosted by one of Dennis’ employees in the Kansas City-area. That was their first entré into serving with LIA. In 2013, they visited LIA Jamaica and were called to walk alongside LIA ever since.
When asked why they’ve chosen to partner with LIA, they said:
“LIA has a very compelling approach to serving the ‘least of these’. Over the years we have had many opportunities to help people in need, both locally and globally. The interesting thing we have found is that no matter the amount of help the problems still existing and in some cases were worse after our help. LIA has recognized the reason for this dilemma is the root of the problem has not been addressed. The root cause of poverty and/or need is a relationship with Jesus Christ! True health and healing can only occur in the context of a right relationship with Jesus.
LIA is able to serve the basic physical needs of the people in a way that helps restore their dignity and develops a relationship with Jesus. This occurs in direct partnership with the local churches and a well developed system of accountability. The benefit to this approach is that LIA can establish a work in a community and when they leave the local church and it’s members are able to continue serving the community and developing disciples.
We are very pleased with the results LIA can provide using a simple approach. Helping people help themselves. The results are more consistent and last longer.”
Do you want to share LIA with you friends, family, small group or school?
We’ve created a new tool that will allow you do just that! This quick, 10-minute video shares about LIA’s mission, history, transformational development model, and success. It’s a simple way to help people understand more about a ministry that you love. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it for yourself!
It highlights interviews with Dr. Florence Muindi, LIA’s founding president and CEO, Tom Kemner, LIA’s partnerships director and others on the LIA leadership team. It also highlights interviews and stories from some of the people directly impacted by LIA – our local church partners and members of the community.
Better yet, we’ve created a short discussion guide that will allow you to talk with people in your community about God’s call for the poor and LIA’s transformational development model.
Ashton Curry is a LIA mission trip participant, having joined us in Haiti this summer. She shared a bit about her experience:
In May 2013, LIA sent its first mission team to Jacmel, Haiti. God blessed me with the opportunity to be the medical team’s student physical therapist.
Initially, I found a dependency and self-entitlement mindset to be common among the Haitian people and can’t help but wonder if the constant supply of free foreign aid provided as relief has facilitated this mindset. Three years after the earthquake, free handouts are still being given. In fact, local doctors are being run out of business due to free medical care. What happens when there are no medical teams or local doctors? People turn to voodoo for healing. This can’t be God’s idea of restoration.
During my time in Jacmel, I saw many broken and hurt people, but one Haitian lady opened my eyes to what God is doing in Haiti:
Before we opened the clinic each day, we hosted a lesson about common health issues the Haitian people encounter. Because many women carry heavy loads on their heads as a means of transportation, one day I demonstrated good lifting techniques to help prevent back injuries. After the demonstration, I asked if anyone had any questions or alternate ideas. An older woman raised her hand and asked, “Can someone else help you lift a heavy load?” Wow, what a simple yet profound idea that never crossed my mind! I told her she was very smart and had a fantastic idea. Her face lit up, and the Haitians started clapping for her. It was almost as if they had expected the educated American to have all the answers and that they didn’t think they could have great ideas. But that day, this lady realized her ideas were indeed great and she had something worthwhile to contribute.
Through encounters like this, I got to see how some Haitian churches are beginning to realize they can help transform their own community.
George Rono, LIA’s Haiti country director, was already connected with 42 churches in the Jacmel area, teaching them about how God wants them to live in restoration. I believe God is using LIA to transition the Haitians from a mindset of relief to restoration by equipping the local churches to make disciples and respond to community needs. Many pastors, church members and translators were active in our medical clinic by being eager to learn and serve. We even got to work alongside Haitian nurses. They are being empowered, and God is using LIA as that empowerment tool!
Paul Mwaura has served as an intern on the LIA team this summer in the Arizona office. He is a sophomore at King’s College in New York. Coincidentally, Paul is Kenyan and moved with his family to the US when he was nine, so our work particularly resonates with him.
He plays an integral role in keeping the office running smoothly and supporting engagement efforts. His tasks range from processing merchandise orders (if you purchased Konjos recently, chances are they were packaged and shipped by him!), coordinating the office inventory, creating a manual for volunteers and various research.
Before Paul heads back to New York next week for school, we asked him if he could share about his experience as an LIA intern:
What did you learn about poverty and community development?
Paul: Poverty is a very complex issue that cannot be solved by simply giving. Alleviating poverty requires time and commitment from both the community and those offering help. An interesting thing I learned was the discrepancy between how the poor view poverty. Many of us who are more well-off view poverty as a lack of material things, but it goes much deeper than that.
What does your typical day as an intern look like?
Paul: As an intern, I work to support the entire office with daily tasks. When I walk into the office in the morning, the first thing I do is look at my daily tasks list, which can include processing merchandise orders, research, mailings, running errands, managing inventory, leadership development studies, etc. Each day looks different.
What’s one thing you’ve learned that you’ll carry with you after your internship?
Paul: The most important thing I can take away from my time at LIA is the opportunity that I was given to learn more about myself and what I wanted to do with my life. I had an idea before, but working at LIA helped me not only refine my goals but also understand why I wanted to do it and whether I was capable of it.
Part of the internship includes leadership development. What did that look like for you?
Paul: The leadership development involved my doing three informational interviews with professionals in the field I want to pursue, in addition to lots of reading that helped me figure out what I wanted for my future.
How has your internship impacted your career growth and future goals?
Paul: Before joining LIA, I was really struggling with my plans for the future. It wasn’t a struggle of what I wanted to do, but more of a spiritual struggle about the ethics and morals of what I wanted to do (work in the financial industry). The bible talks a lot about the dangers of chasing money, but chasing money is what moves the financial industries. From the outside, it almost seems like it’s a race to see who can be greedier. I’ve learned that it’s okay to want to be successful and that doesn’t have to translate to greed. It’s a sign of God’s blessings and what He is capable of doing. The key thing to remember is that it’s not what you have, but what you do with what you have. I’m going into the financial field not only to accomplish my goals, but to also to be in position that will enable me to have a positive impact on many more lives than I do now.
What has been your overall experience as an LIA intern?
Paul: I’ve loved working at LIA. I never knew interning could be so fulfilling. I looked forward to coming to work because every day was a new experience. I grew up a lot in these few months. Knowing that my work was helping others made it even more special. I learned to appreciate life and what God has given me. I’m grateful to have had this opportunity.
What was your favorite project? Why?
Paul: My favorite project to work on was the volunteer manual. At first I didn’t think I would be able to write and organize a whole manual. Now the manual is done and I know it will be very helpful to LIA.
What would you say to those considering applying for an LIA internship?
Paul: I would differently recommend that they do it before someone else does. Believe me, it’s not an opportunity you want to give up!
Internships openings for Fall 2013 are now open. Visit the careers page to learn more.
Kevin Selders, a LIA supporter and member of Cedar Ridge Christian Church in Kansas, wrote this great post about donating his birthday so that the people LIA serves can celebrate their next birthday. Thank you, Kevin, for your partnership and willingness to walk alongside LIA in this Kingdom work!
Exactly one month before my 35th birthday, I was hit with a heavy statistic: Every year, 11 million children die before they reach their 5th birthday.
The number came to me in an email from Life in Abundance International asking if I’d help with a pilot test of their new Birthday Campaign. The idea behind it is simple — “donate” your next birthday so someone LIA serves can live to celebrate their next birthday. Instead of presents for you, friends and family can give money to the organization, and raise awareness of its work in the process. It’s an exciting model that can truly change the horrible reality many people are living through each day.
During the summer of 2010, I was fortunate enough to see LIA at work through a trip my church, Cedar Ridge Christian Church in Lenexa, Kan., took to Ethiopia. Along with my wife, Elizabeth Selders; a sister, Kelly Steinle; and several friends, we were able to witness how LIA is mobilizing the local church to meet numerous needs in the cities of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capitol, and Jimma, the largest city in the southwestern part of the country. We were able to meet inspiring families living in the slums of Addis’ Merkato district — Africa’s largest open-air market, and give school supplies to bright, young students in the more rural Jimma. I’ll never forget how often these young children in both cities — many of whom were in those critical years before their own 5th birthday — would walk up to us smiling, grab our hand and just want us to walk down the muddy, rocky streets with them.
After making such a trip, it’s easy to support LIA’s work in whatever way possible. What they’re doing is working. They’ve built their organization so only God can make it work … and man is he at work.
Setting up my own fundraising page for the campaign was simple. However, I admit I was a bit nervous about launching my own personal campaign. “How much can I really raise? Will my friends want to donate? What if I don’t hit my goal?” I decided to set a goal that was reachable, even if it took some work.
“I’ll shoot for $350, raising $10 for every year of my life,” I thought. “Hopefully, I can hit that.”
Three days later, I realized I aimed too low. My friends and family already plowed through my original goal. I was sucker punched with the fact that it really had little to do with me. It was about generous people responding to LIA’s story, God’s story, and the beautiful people of Ethiopia who could use our love. Amazed, I decided to set a new goal with about a week and a half until my birthday: I doubled the original amount and went for $700. It was down to the wire, but after sharing LIA’s story through emails, tweets and posts on Facebook, and urging everyone to add their own part to that story, we raised $724.
I’m seriously blessed to have the family and friends that I have in my life. I’m inspired by their desire to give and erase needs. However, I truly believe that people in general are more giving than we expect them to be. When introduced to the alarmingly real statistics and moving personal stories, many are quick to join any cause. Then there’s the awe-inspiring work LIA does that moves people to go above and beyond what they think they’re capable of.
For those of you wanting to launch your own birthday campaign, here are some things I found helpful during mine:
Pray about your campaign and start it at least two weeks before your birthday. Create your personal page a few days before you begin.
Invite people to join you in the campaign and acknowledge that it’s something you’re all doing together. Ask everyone to pray and learn more about LIA.
Share LIA’s story often through social media, email and whatever other ways you can think of. Use videos, links and your own personal stories of interacting with LIA to convey the important work at hand, and the lives they’ll be changing. Think outside of the box.
Keep in mind that in the end, your goal doesn’t really matter. What you’ve accomplished together does. You’ll be surprised what can happen.
And you know this campaign model works when it’s in line with the upside-down logic of following Christ, which tells us to love our enemies and die to ourselves to find abundant life. Here, if you truly want a happy birthday, you have to give it away.
As our 2013 Mi2 interns prepare to embark on their trip to Kenya next week, we asked LIA’s administrative coordinator, Nicole Ponton, to share about her Mi2 experience just two years ago:
At the very beginning of 2011, I was discouraged. I had just returned from an amazing time studying abroad and waiting around to walk for graduation. I was working a job that I was not passionate about, and was searching for employment in Africa or Latin America with human rights nonprofits. Starting to give up on the idea of being hired by a nonprofit I cared about, I decided to start volunteering and pool my resources for valuable advice.
One afternoon, during a coffee meeting with my mentor, she suggested that I speak to the vice president of her good friend’s non-profit. I agreed, thinking that nothing would come of it but excited to learn more about this “Life in Abundance”, and thankfully God had a nice surprise for me. This meeting over coffee led to an interview, and then invitation to apply for an internship. Before I knew it, I had been accepted into the Mi2 program to spend three months in Kenya with six other like-minded young adults from around the country, getting to work side-by-side with the LIA Kenya staff.
Immediately, I started thinking of all the things I could do, or bring, or teach, or work on – whatever would bring more value to this already great opportunity. Clearly my messiah complex (though unintentional) was in full swing and God’s plans had fallen on the back burner. Thankfully, there were controls in place to reign in any crazy ideas we Mi2’s had and our short retreat, during which we were all introduced and spiritually prepared for our adventure, was very humbling.
As soon as we touched down in the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, we were ready to go to work, but God called us to slow down. Way down.
Instead of going right “to work,” we went through a two-week training led by the wonderful staff of both the LIA Kenya and headquarters staff, and visited the Kibera slum only a few short hours out of the week. In retrospect, this experience was really perfectly planned by the staff and God, and thankfully we were all eased into working alongside the staff and volunteers instead of being thrown into the fire. I do admit though- at the time it was extremely frustrating. Seeing so many injustices experienced by an estimated 1 million people crammed into 1.5 square miles of land, feeling 100% powerless is not very easy, and I think we initially missed the hope that the individuals we were visiting proudly owned.
As the training came to a close, God’s work and light in the Kibera community began to surface. When we moved throughout the country over those three amazing months, He continued to teach us how He can transform and restore dignity to communities and what our roles were in His plan.
We traveled to more than eight locations, making wonderful friends along the way who challenged us in our prayer lives, our personal lives and helped us grow much closer to Christ. They also took us on some amazing hiking and community adventures. Witnessing individuals regain dignity and strength and learning how Christ was mobilizing the local church through LIA completely changed all of our perspectives about how God wanted us to fulfill our callings in the Kingdom.
Needless to say, the messiah complex had (thankfully) been broken down and God had become the center. By the end of the summer, all of us were emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted, but filled with joy, taking both precious and hilarious memories with us into the next chapter.