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.”
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.”
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.
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.
Last week, the team from Homes of Living Hope visited LIA in Kenya to help install the new clinic that will serve the Kibera slum community. This new clinic is made from a shipping container (like the ones you see in the photo below) and will now allow LIA’s local church partners to serve even MORE people form this hurting community. What a blessing it was to see this in action last week, and what an even bigger blessing this gift will be to the people we serve. Thank you Homes of Living Hope for partnering with us in this Kingdom work!
Below is a quick recap video, as well as some photos from the installation process.
Last April, we hosted our annual Spring Pledge Drive, where we asked the LIA family to commit to coming alongside LIA with a monthly gift that supported one year of an orphan and vulnerable children program in Kenya.
We wanted to take a moment and fill you in on some of the progress that has been experienced during the last six months. Read about two OVC programs in particular – Thika and Kisumu:
In one area of Thika, 75 orphans and vulnerable children and their families have been enrolled in the LIA church partner program. They are currently receiving support in the form of tutoring, educational supplies, food and much more. The program will continue to develop to help these families provide for themselves for the long-term.
Not far away, LIA is seeing the sustainable change in 75 families further in the transformation process. These guardians have been trained on income generating activities and have established savings and loan groups with revolving funds so that members have access to micro-loans to initiate their own businesses.
A truly beautiful picture of the stages of transformation and the renewal that comes from the church being empowered to serve it’s most vulnerable!
Similarly in Kisumu, a group of 104 guardians have been trained in income generating activities and are looking to start their own businesses. They too have formed savings and loan groups to support one another and provide micro-loans to guardians who are ready to start their own business. Five women in the area have already begun!
Take for example, Lorna. After receiving training and a micro-loan through LIA church partners, she started a hair salon and is not only providing for her two children, but she has even created jobs for two other women in her community!
In addition to those 104 guardians benefiting, there are 507 youth that are receiving food, medical support, tutoring, education materials and more. The foundation for long-term change has been laid and we are excited to see what God has in store for this program during the next few years!
On March 22nd and 23rd, more than 600 people gathered in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the intersection of fashion and empowerment. Organized by California-based non-profit Freedom and Fashion, the two day event showcased a fashion show dedicated to those interested in social enterprise in the heart of L.A.’s fashion district.
LIA was able to attend the events, sharing Konjo sandals and how the project is providing economic empowerment to one of the world’s poorest communities. We met artists, fashion designers and consumers interested in making a meaningful impact through fashion.
We are honored and humbled to have taken a part in the Freedom and Fashion Collective. We were inspired to meet so many people in search of products that empower those who are making them – which is what Konjo is all about.
To learn more about Konjo, the process and the stories of the people who make them, please visit Konjo.is.
Read more about the Freedom and Fashion Collective here.