Sustainable impact in the Community Work of Life in Abundance International Nairobi, Kenya, January 12, 2016:
LIA Community Impact “The Overall conclusion is clear: the community work established by LIA continues to flourish even after LIA is no longer present.” In all the sites we visited, there is no question that the people are engaged in effective and transformative ways to bring change to their communities.” – Urban Initiatives.
During June and July of 2015, Life in Abundance International (LIA) reached out to Urban Initiatives to facilitate a focused study on the countries that have been impacted by the community work of LIA and to verify the long-term sustainable impact their “wholistic” model has had on the most vulnerable families and children within those communities. The results were astonishing and monumental, not only were the communities able to sustain the work LIA had partnered with in initiating, but had surpassed those efforts and continued to develop their own initiatives once LIA had passed the baton. Education, environmental transformation, social engagement and spiritual transformation were all areas that were positively affected and forever changed by the work LIA.
About LIA Life in Abundance (LIA) is a non-government organization (NGO) whose mission is “to mobilize the local Church to restore health, renew hope, and inspire lasting transformation for the world’s most vulnerable children and families”. Life in Abundance currently works in Africa and the Caribbean, with a pilot program in the US. Since 2000, LIA has partnered with foundations, churches and individual donors to implement development projects that not only transform individuals, but also result in lasting change for their communities. To view the full report Click Here to download the PDF.
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 April this year Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the graduation of 10,736 recruits at the National Youth Service College. The National Youth Service (NYS) is a government program that was reestablished in 2013 to empower youth by involving them in important national projects. These include service in the armed forces, national reconstruction programs, disaster response and participation in transformative economic activities.
In his speech President Kenyatta commended the NYS recruits for the new reconstruction and transformation economic projects they had started in Kibera, Mathare, Kiandutu and Nyalenda. All of these projects started in 2014, and what makes this so special is that all of these communities are the same communities in which LIA works!
In fact one of our church partners in Kibera mentioned that the new roads being built, the garbage dumps being cleared, the sewer lines being connected, the new government services station being opened, they are all along the same path that the Pastor’s Fellowship would do their prayer walks. The alleys and byways that they would walk through praying for God’s transformative work have been torn down, cleaned out and are being rebuilt. Kibera is changing in a way that didn’t seem possible.
We cannot underestimate the immense power of prayer. As Proverbs says, it is the Lord, through our prayers, who truly does command the hearts of Kings.
Part of the government’s strategy in the slum upgrading projects for these communities is to set up primary healthcare medical clinics that are highly subsidized. These new government clinics have been mandated to meet a high standard of care, and bridge the gap that our wonderful staff in our LIA clinics and the medical teams that so frequently come and partner with us have filled for so long.
So as the government comes in to take up its role in these communities, LIA has decided to gradually scale back the primary health care services we provide in order to allow the government to take up its responsibility to provide reliable healthcare for the communities we serve.
This refocusing will allow LIA clinics in Kenya to bolster various medical care services that the government has yet to take up, primarily dental care. As LIA – Kenya transitions the team is excited for this new chapter as the ministry is being called to more closely to walk along side the government to better serve the communities we work with and bring about sustainable transformation.
Teddy is a Social Worker serving with LIA Ethiopia in Addis Ababa. Teddy has been with LIA for over five years, serving and training the poorest of the poor in the leprosy community of Korah. His goal is to empower them to live full lives with dignity and love.
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.
Flatirons Community Church began supporting LIA’s work in South Sudan shortly after the country gained independence in 2011. Ron Barnes, Faltirons’ Global Outreach Pastor, graciously shared his experience about the leadership’s most recent trip to visit the work in the young country. Though they were scheduled to visit more areas, the current conflict in the country prevented safe travel and they were only able to see three of the regions they support. Though disappointed they were not able to visit Maper, they were more disappointed to learn about the severity of the conflict and how it was affecting their friends living in the area.
Flatirons supports LIA’s work in South Sudan and many leaders and members of our church have been on trips to the field. We were excited to return to reconnect with friends, and the staff, and to bring encouragement. Our team was able to witness the LIA International Training Center dedication ceremony in Nairobi and then went on to visit our friends LIA is working with in South Sudan.
On arriving, we spent the first few days in Yambio, the capital of Western Equatoria State, along the border with the DRC. A team from Flatirons had visited this same community in October and told us great things, so we were looking forward to meeting everyone and learning what all was going on. We were not disappointed. We visited six churches in six different communities who had all participated in LIA trainings. As Paul, the local LIA coordinator, introduced us to each community, we were amazed to hear over and over, “because of the training of LIA our eyes were opened.” The training LIA does is focused on helping the local church see how they can impact their own communities with minimal outside assistance by building up local leadership and using local resources. Most of the churches had determined that the best initial solution to the issues their community faced was to start some sort of nursery school to provide structure for and help numerous children get a head start on their education. It was great to see this focus on education, especially since there had been very little access to any education across the country for decades, due to conflict and very little development. Many of them had also begun agriculture projects to generate income and supplement the nutritional needs of vulnerable people within their communities. Other initiatives included outreach to HIV+ women, building a home for a local widow in the community, digging a well to provide water for the community, and expanding a church building to accommodate more people for worship.
After we said our goodbyes to Yambio, we moved on to Rumbek and had a great time reconnecting with friends. It was challenging to see and hear stories of the issues related to the fighting. Many are caring for extended family and friends who had been displaced because of the conflict. Though a difficult season, I believe it was good for us to visit and listen as our friends told of the challenges they faced. And I am confident that the training LIA provides will be very helpful in Rumbek and Maper as the need to care for IDPs and refugees creates some unique and difficult challenges to overcome. We’re praying that the peace process we heard about while we were there will take hold and allow more freedom for people to focus on how they can positively impact their community.
Finally, we visited Juba. We were very happy to be able to briefly visit Richard, LIA South Sudan’s Country Director. He has recently struggled with some health concerns that forced him to go to Khartoum for treatment. Though his recovery will take some time, it was encouraging to be able to visit briefly and pray with Richard. We were also able to see some fruit of LIA training in Juba. At one church, in particular, one of the men who had been trained spoke very eloquently about how his “eyes had been opened” and stated that if someone gives you a handout they really don’t love you, but if they help you learn how to get what you need, that is real love.What an amazing reminder and testament to the model God has given LIA!
Though we’ve been to South Sudan to see the work before, this visit offered us a great picture of what LIA does and how very effective it is. For many of us living in the Western world, there is a great temptation to see things develop toward what we know in our lives and communities and to bring many outside resources. Unfortunately, when we interject too many of our own ideas and resources we can unintentionally cripple a community. The results can be confusing when we try to solve a problem that they do not see as a problem. But even worse, the results can be devastating when we communicate that only we can provide solutions to the challenges they face.
I’m not saying there isn’t a role for those of us living in the West; there definitely is! Most of us have been blessed with much more than we need and we must remember that we are only blessed by God so that we can be a blessing to others. We must be wise as we seek to bless others so our blessings don’t become curses. Though development can be a complex thing, it seems to me there are a couple of basic things that would help us ensure our desire to be a blessing, will truly bless.
Let’s get to know people and become friends before we begin to act. Let’s listen well and work hard to understand a situation before we act. Let’s be careful not to take an opportunity away from the local church where they can follow-up and much more effectively point people in their community toward Jesus. Finally, let’s do things with people instead of to or for people.
Our whole team learned some important things on this visit:
We learned at the dedication of the LIA training center in Nairobi that taking time to celebrate and acknowledge the work God has done is very good. I think that is a lesson we can learn better from our brothers and sisters who are part of LIA.
We got to see a great example of the power of God through LIA’s training in equipping the local churches.
We were able to see and appreciate some different expressions of Christianity lived out that will hopefully bear fruit in our lives.
I am grateful for the partnership between LIA and Flatirons Community Church. I am thankful even for the challenges that lead us closer together. I look forward to where God will lead us together.
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.