When Norah first visited the Gospel Revival Church in Kisumu, Kenya she could never have imagined she would find herself standing in a room full of women telling her story or how much her story would become a testimony for so many lives.
Originally from Uganda, Norah met her husband in Kenya and they moved to Kisumu to start their lives as a married couple. Together they opened up a thrift store and sold second hand shoes and clothes that provided an income that was more than enough for them to live comfortably.
Norah admits, “life was good then, we had all we needed and in the evening my husband and I would lay together and dream of our future, goals, and the family we hoped to grow.”
Before long, Norah gave birth to their first child, a beautiful baby girl. They named her Mary, after her grandmother, and watched her grow as she spoke her first words and took her first steps.
It seemed as though their dreams were unfolding before them, but Norah’s husband suddenly fell ill. Unsure of the cause, they quickly determined, after running tests on him, that his immune system was severely depleted due to HIV Aids.
As is standard practice, the doctor requested that she get tested also. The results were in and she too had contracted HIV.
Soon after their diagnosis, her husband passed away forcing her to close up shop and move herself and her baby girl to a home that she could afford.
Somehow, Norah had to pull herself back together as a newly widowed mother with no family support. The pressure was too much and it sent her into deep depression causing her to develop stomach ulcers, which required surgical attention.
During this time her in-laws came to visit and decided she wasn’t fit to raise her baby girl, who thankfully had not contracted the HIV virus. They took Mary back with them along with most of her husband’s property, feeling that she was not entitled to it sense she was a foreigner.
It had been some time since she had stepped foot in a church. She never really felt the need to attend, but her circumstances were to grave to bear alone.
As she stood in front of the widow’s support group and told her story, Norah thought she would feel shame and guilt. However, as she continued to explain how she no longer gets to see her daughter, how God has brought her back to church, and by the grace of God she was now putting her life back together, she was gripped by the love and care the support group was wrapping around her.
Gospel Revival Center is one of LIA Kenya’s partner churches. We have held several transformational development trainings, all of which Norah has attended. She has now become a community spokesperson or what we call a TOT (Trainer of Trainers).
To everyone she meets, Norah continues to tell her story of transformation and empowerment and how through the Gospel Revival Center she has developed new skills which now allow her to support herself, members of her community, and even send some money to help support her daughter. More importantly, Norah says, “ not everything is perfect but I’ve learned that I’m not alone, I have found God and I have found a community that loves and cares for each other.”
“Walking this ground and knowing that in 60 weeks this project will be completed stands as a testament to the faithfulness of God” – Dr. Florence Muindi
On April 7th Life in Abundance broke ground on the 3rd and final phase of the LIA Center in Kenya. Dr. Florence Muindi, President and CEO of Life In Abundance International and Dr. Samuel Mwangi, Chairman of the Building Committee and a member of the LIA International Board had the honor launching the project.
Many years ago, Dr. Florence Muindi, LIA’s founding president/CEO took a prayer walk along Lake Langano in Ethiopia. During that time, God asked her to dip her hand in the sand and grab a fistful. HE then revealed to her, “As many as are the grains of sand in your hand, so will be the leaders who will be empowered through the work of Life in Abundance”.
Dr. Florence Muindi and Dr. Samuel Mwangi breaking ground on Phase 3 site
The LIA Centers in Kenya and Jamaica are the establishment of God’s words to Dr. Muindi at Lake Langano. LIA’s training centers serve to train churches, organizations and community leaders around the world in LIA’s community development model and how to implement it in their own communities.
Phase 3 of the LIA Center, Kenya will be the accommodation wing for the center, having 21 rooms with a few additional meeting rooms and lounges. It has been a wonderful journey of faith as we work to see the LIA Center building project completed.
LIA Center Kenya Phase 3
As we broke ground for Phase 3 of the LIA Center, Kenya on April 7th, we were humbled and in awe of how far we have come and how many communities and lives will be changed and transformed from this place.
Dr. Florence Muindi and James Gatere handing over building project to the contractor
Phase 1 & 2 of LIA Center Kenya
One of the programs that LIA is rolling out in the impoverished fishing community of Kisumu, Kenya, is the guardian program. In this program guardians of at risk youth are identified and the local church – and in partnership with LIA – servers to not only support them but empower them to uplift the children that are in their care.
Ruth is one of these guardians. As the sole provider for her five grandchildren, four boys and precious baby girl, it is no surprise that every waking moment is devoted to her children. Ruth, who’s gray hairs betray the youth in her face, lives on the outskirts of Kisumu in a community called Nyawita. Nyawita is one of the poorer suburbs of Kisumu town.
When asked about her grandchildren its clear that her primary priority is that they go to school and do well. Many of the residents in Nyawita do not have much more than an 8th grade education, and as a result work low wage, unskilled jobs. Ruth is adamant that her grandchildren have a better future so that is why her local church in Nyawita felt it was important to stand with her for the sake of her children.
“Its bad luck to say your age” Ruth says “and I need luck because I want to be around to see my grand children become professors”. So in her old age –that will not be mentioned—Ruth was equipped with economic empowerment and resource mobilization training through her church’s TOT. Through this training Ruth confesses her eyes were opened as she discovered how to work smarter, not harder. This not only allowed her more time with her grandchildren children but also helped her to start saving, eventually joining a revolving fund set up by LIA in her local church.
The revolving fund group is made up of other guardians of at risk youth in the community of Nyawita and although the purpose of the group is resource mobilization, they also there to support each other through the challenges of trying to raise children in Nyawita.
“My ambition is that my grandchildren never need to worry about anything other than succeeding in school. I invest my energy in them because they are the future and they deserve a future.”
“Now I just want to tell us the story of Life In Abundance, because for some of you this may be the first time you have heard it. So I just wanted to walk you through our story. Where did we come from? How did all this begin?”
Dr. Florence Muindi stood at the front of conference room one with a subtle breeze drifting in from the windows. The room is still fairly bare and the walls not yet finished but you almost don’t even notice. Every eye in the room is fixed on Dr. Muindi, hanging on every word as she narrates the journey that has lead us to this day, and there is a collective sense of awe. Not at the beautiful structure that we sit in – wall paint aside –but at the wonder that is God’s word made manifest.
It was upon the shores of Lake Langano, in Ethiopia, where Dr. Muindi received the vision for this training center. “One morning as I was strolling by the lake I heard God speak to me. He told me to dip my hand in the sand and grab a fist full. He said to me, as many are grains of sand in your hand so will be the number of people that will be trained in transformational development through the ministry of LIA.”
She then hurried back to the room asked her two little boys, Kyalo who was 4 at the time and Jay who was 8, to join her in playing a game. Soon realizing that they were being roped into helping mom count grains of sand they quickly became creative with excuses and pealed themselves away from the table full of sand.
That was in 1998, and though it wasn’t clear how that word would come to pass, it never left her. When the seed was planted in 2004, as Life In Abundance grew and opened an office in Kenya then years later identified a plot of land for a training center, gathered the funds, identified an architect and that architect started drawing up plans, Dr. Muindi admitted that the whole process didn’t seem real. That it was miraculous to watch the vision God had given her, actually becoming a reality.
“What you see before you today has not been accomplished by our hands or by our effort, it is God’s and we are gathered here to bear testimony to that. However this is not the end, this is just the beginning of greater things to come”
As people proceeded outside to plant trees and wander around the office facilities it was hard to escape from using the word ‘Home.’ In addition to being an international training and main office to the LIA Kenya and International teams, this facility gives Life In Abundance a home where the mission and vision of LIA can live.
So as the trees grow taller, and the roots run deeper, our prayer is that God would continue to grow His mission through LIA by widening our borders and extending our impact. Our goal, as so eloquently expressed in the words of Psalms 96, is that we may continue to declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples.
LIA staff will officially move into the new Headquarter building at the beginning of April.
Pastor Emmanton Murage and his wife live and serve in the Mathare slums in Nairobi, Kenya. Though he believes that The Gospel is truth and life, Pastor Murage felt a burden to see the people in Mathare impacted in a sustainable way and knew there was something more that needed to be done. In 2011 he ran into one of LIA’s project officers, and after hearing what LIA does he became convinced that LIA was what he and the community needed. He quickly joined the pastors’ fellowship, which was established to be a space where pastors gather together to support one other and collectively work to transform Mathare.
After a year of working closely with LIA to implement transformational development for his church body and community, Emmanton began experiencing chronic pain. He went to the doctor to have some tests done and returned to the office a week later, hoping to get some medication that would help him manage the symptoms. When the doctor called Emmanton into his office, he didn’t have medication or good news. Emmanton’s pain was being caused by a brain tumor that would have to be operated on immediately.
The cost of surgery was enormous, especially considering the Murage family’s income, but all of their family rallied behind them with no questions and they managed to meet the 500,000 KSh (just under $6,000) fee by selling most of their possessions. Pastor Murage had his surgery in March of 2012 and walked out of the hospital tumor free, with no complications to speak of. But upon arriving home, a new challenge awaited him – financial recovery for his family.
The hospital bills had depleted all of the Murage’s savings and his wife was not bringing in much income, however Emmanton needed to get his family back up on their feet quickly, and was desperate to find additional sources of income. He leaned on his fellow pastors from the fellowship, who had begun a revolving fund with the help of LIA. After consulting his fellow members, Emmanton took out a loan to begin a small business that would supply eggs to local businesses and restaurants.
Pastor Murage worked very hard and his business has grown significantly since he borrowed from the revolving fund! He has been able to produce enough eggs for him to pay back the loan, open up a store front, afford a car for deliveries, and (probably his proudest accomplishment) put his oldest son through college. His wife began baking cakes with the surplus of eggs from the chickens and the couple is now delivering eggs and cakes all over the region. The Murage family’s complete recovery and faith has inspired all of us at LIA, and we know that God will use their testimony and their businesses to continue to restore Mathare.
Olympic Road in Kibera is lined with kiosks and makeshift businesses. Everything from welding stalls, vegetable stands, saloons, thrift shops, to carpentry workshops can be found on this main vein of the settlement. The raging matatus and buzzing marketplaces can be overwhelming, but once the rules of the road are learned, the organized chaos is much more manageable.
Amongst the chaos of the Olympic Road stalls sits Lucy Adhiambo, a slender, shy mother of three who owns a small tailor shop. The dust from the carpenters shop next door has caked the sign that hangs over her business, making it easy to miss Big J Dry Cleaners and Tailoring. But Lucy’s quietly vibrant spirit catches your attention.
This was not always the case. Before opening Big J, Lucy was a stay at home wife whose husband worked odd jobs to provide for the family. They had been together since she she became pregnant at age 13 and was forced to marry him. Nearly 12 years into their marriage her husband fell terribly ill as a result of contracting HIV. This prompted Lucy to go get tested, and she soon discovered that she was also positive for the virus. A year later her husband died.
Because they had been married for so long and he had always been the provider, Lucy felt that when her husbdan died, her life had also passed away with his. With no marketable skill set to for a job and no school fees for her children, Lucy spiraled into a deep depression and even decided to stop taking her ARVs.
Pastor Godffrey of LIA partner church, St. John ACK, heard the news about Lucy and decided to visit her in her home. When he arrived, it was clear that her depression and refusal to take ARVs was taking a toll on her body. “She was so thin, and her health was failing her” he recalls.
After a lot of convincing, Lucy finally allowed Pastor Godffrey to start counseling her through her depression. “She just didn’t know how to pick up and move on. All she had ever really known was how to be a good wife and a good mother, and now she had to become something more–a provider.” In addition to the spiritual and emotional guidance he was providing, Godffrey also connected Lucy with the LIA clinic in Kibera so she would regain access to ARVs and receive regular checkups with a caring and godly staff.
As her health improved and she became more involved in the church community, Lucy’s hope for life, especially a life in Christ, became very strong. During a Training of Trainers (TOT) and skills seminar being held at St. John’s, Lucy became very adamant that she wanted to learn tailoring. The church body was able to find a tailor that would take Lucy on as an apprentice, and in July of this past year she became a certified tailor.
Through the revolving fund group set up by LIA in partnership with St. John’s, Lucy was then able to take out a loan and open up her own tailoring shop. A couple months later she had paid off the loan. Her business was steady, she was back to being healthy, the kids were back in school, and they even helped her with the shop. Silvia, Lucy’s eldest, is often at the shop with mom, and even Maurine stops by when she doesn’t have to babysit the youngest, Collins.
Silvia, a 17 year-old junior in high school, isn’t sure if she wants to be a tailor when she grows up but she definitely enjoys working with her mother. This year Silvia will be prepping to take the Senior year exams that will get her into University and Lucy could not be more proud.
With great determination to pick up the shattered pieces of her life and make something new in Christ, Lucy has restored her family’s health and safety, and she how radiates confidence. We are so honored to witness her transformation and play a role, alongside her church, in the restoration process.
The forecast had called for clear skies and bright Nairobi sunshine for the second annual GMHC: Africa. Instead, the first day was ushered in by gloomy clouds and drizzling rain. However, as people started to file in through the registration hall, shaking off their umbrellas, their moods were clearly not dampened.
GMHC:Africa 2014 was held at Nairobi’s All Saints Cathedral, a quite enclave just outside the bustling city center, from September 4th-6th. The main conference was held on the 4th and the 5th, with about 350 delegates, from healthcare and development professions, from across Africa and around the world in attendance. The theme of the conference was “Shared Learning for Local Impact,” and there was no shortage of phenomenal individuals to learn from. The stain glass windows of the Cathedral and the imposing stone structure reminiscent of a medieval castle, with beautiful hanging chandeliers and the sky painted ceilings set the mood for an intimate time of learning and fellowship that all the delegates were excited to be a part of.
As attendees began arriving for registration, warm smiles could be seen all around and yelps of excitement heard from one corner to the next, as friends who hadn’t seen each other in some time were catching up and getting reacquainted. The beautiful Cathedral quickly became a beehive of activity.
Dr. Jo Lusi, an orthopedic surgeon who serves in the war torn region of Eastern Congo, where has successfully pioneered a holistic healing program through his ministry – HEAL Africa, opened the conference as the first plenary speaker. Having served as a Senator, Dr. Lusi has used both his testimony as a Christian and the credibility of his vocation to advocate for the needs of women children and handicapped.
GMHC, he says, “not only serves as an opportunity for people with shared objectives to network and exchange ideas, it also allows us to come together and remember, as doctors, we are not only meant to treat the body but treat the soul”. For to do otherwise, he says, makes you the same or no more than a witch doctor.
Many breakout sessions, times of worship, and meals were shared over the two days of the conference, and a great deal of meaningful connection and learning took place. Especially timely, and helpful, was a session taught by an Ebola specialist about the disease and how the doctors and students in attendance could prepare to treat the disease.
September 6th was the student’s emphasis day, where medical students from all over Kenya, and as far and Tanzania, came together to explore the idea of committing one’s self in service of the Lord through occupation. There were breakout sessions lead by Pastor Simon Mbevi (popularly known as Pastor S) discussing the purpose of life, and Dr. Carol Spears discussing the attributes of a Christian doctor, among others. So much meaningful and deep discussion had taken place during these sessions, that when Jason Epperson, a pastor at South East Christian Church in Louisville Kentucky, closed the day by making an alter call for the students who would like to commit themselves to medical missions, almost every seat in the sanctuary was emptied.
“This is what we do it for” says Dr. Florence, founder and president of LIA International. “This is why we have conferences like this. To empower and commission the next generation to take their place in development, and in the medical field, to make Africa what Christ intends it to be.”
Plans for future Global Health Missions Conferences and related events can be seen on MedicalMissions.com, and are announced on LIA’s website.
From time-to-time, we want to share some stories of our staff serving in the countries where we work. Today, we highlight Beth’s story, as she serves with LIA in Kenya.
Beth Weru grew up in Eastleigh, a suburb next to Mathare slum, where she currently serves as LIA’s program officer.
Beth was first introduced to LIA in 2006 when the organization hosted a Training of Trainers (TOT) at her church. She was soon after invited to attend an oral-hygiene training in Thika and often volunteered her dental hygiene training to assist in various LIA medical camps.
It was not until Beth volunteered at an LIA training in rural Makueni that the call to serve the poor was put in perspective. In early 2007, a severe drought swept over Makueni County, leaving behind only a coat of the brick red soil that is common to that part of Kenya.
Her first trip to Makueni, Beth was shocked. Beth had spent nearly her whole life in Nairobi, and the few times she left the city, it was to visit her home in central Kenya, home to very much the bread basket of fertile farms and green rolling hills – both a stark contrast to the desperate environment the encountered in Makueni.
The LIA team set up the medical camp under a large baobab tree for shade and children trickled in from every corner. As they sat down, bright eyed and eager to learn, it could not go unnoticed that most were absolutely caked in tell-tale, red Makeuni dust from head to toe – evidence of the distance they walked and the conditions they came from. She had never seen anything like it. That image stays with her still, as that was the first time the mission of LIA truly became real – the need to serve the ‘least of these’ so they may have a life of dignity and abundance.
Beth continued volunteering with LIA until she joined the team full-time in 2010, helping to start and carry out LIA’s work with partner churches and the most vulnerable people in Mathare slum.
Earlier this year, LIA initiated a new orphaned and vulnerable children program in the Mathare slum in Kenya. This program aims to equip six churches in Mathare slum to improve the lives of its community in an integrated way. As part of this equipping, LIA will support the local churches in meeting the needs of 50 at-risk families and an additional 20 youth living on the streets.
Last month, I had the joy of worshiping at Deliverance Church, meeting the pastors and some of the women of families who are being served.
Already this year, so much has been accomplished:
- The churches have been trained through LIA’s signature “Training of Trainers” program and members of the church body have been trained as community health evangelists
- 50 at-risk families have been identified and regular visits to their homes have been made by the trained members of the church
- The guardians of these families have received training on effective ways of saving and 30 of these guardians are ready to begin their first economic empowerment activity
- Even better, the guardians have begun to seek the advice of the local church on various spiritual, emotional, financial and social aspects. Four of these guardians have already accepted Christ in this short season!
Overall, the local churches are reporting a restored sense of hope in these hurting families! At Deliverance Church, I was able to experience the joy of some of the beneficiaries as they displayed some of the beautiful jewelry they make as an economic empowerment initiative. (This morning my daughter, Claire, left for school wearing one of those necklaces). Jessica, a mother of four, is one of those women. For the first time, she is able to provide a more healthy life for them. What a blessing to experience transformation.
Thank you for equipping the local church to meet the needs of these beautiful faces. This is what it looks like to Transform. Together.
If you’d like to support this program for future years, please consider making a gift.
– Tom Kemner
Ana Lossing is one of LIA’s 2014 Mi2 interns, serving with us for three months in Kenya. Mi2 is a global internship program offering college students a unique three month experience of real-life missions and development in healthy and effective missions models.
Yesterday, we visited the medical clinic at Kibera slum, outside of Nairobi. Kibera is the largest slum in Africa, and possibly the largest in the world. At the clinic, they have Mother and Child Healthcare, a general medical clinic, a pharmacy, a lab, and dental services. The offer their services at a very minimum price, so the people in Kibera can afford it, but it can still be self-sustaining.
Life in Abundance (LIA) helps manage this clinic and partners with 13 pastors (4 of whom are pictured above) from Kibera to help holistically transform their communities.
How do they do this? LIA mainly works by mobilizing the local church, so these pastors are the ground people for this ministry. The pastors know their communities and the needs, so LIA works with them to help develop programs, and LIA equips them to mobilize their communities as well as their local resources in order to transform their own communities.
For example, one of the main projects in Kibera is the shoe project. The leaders in the church identified individuals that would benefit from this economic opportunity, and LIA, in partnership with the churches, brought in a person to train these individuals in shoe-making and helped connect the Kibera communities to where they could obtain the supplies. Now these individuals, and others that were taught by the first group of individuals, have expanded this opportunity, using the skills they learned to make many different kinds of products to sell.
Carole (who we work with at LIA) told us of one woman in Kibera who was caring for her 3 grandchildren. Not only was she living in poverty, but she suffered both emotionally and psychologically after losing her 3 children. She was identified by her church as someone who could benefit from this shoe project. In the beginning, she would not talk to anyone; she would come and do her work and then leave. But after just 2 weeks in this program, she began to talk to people; she was happier. She is now a successful business woman, and is even wealthy enough to move out of Kibera, but she has chosen to stay because she loves her community.
This is the kind of transformation that LIA works for: transformation of the whole person, of the whole community. And they want the community to own that transformation, to know that they were behind the renewal of their community. Furthermore, they want the local church to be returned to it’s rightful place, the place it was intended to be, of being the engine behind community renewal and restoration, so that through his bride, Christ is glorified.
Please pray for a dental assistant, software that will allow easier recording of pharmacy services, and the ability to offer child delivery at the clinic.