Monday, February 3, 2014

Alone again...but not alone

For the first time in six weeks, I am alone again in Kenya.  Michael left warm Kitale yesterday evening to go back to frigid Grand Rapids.  I have to admit that it feels very lonely here after having loved ones around for six weeks.  It was so good to have them join me in my world and have them develop their own relationship and memories of Kenya.  Michael was able to join me for a number of days in my work and I think it was helpful for him see this work first hand.  His comment on Facebook after spending a day with me in Eldoret visiting businesses was this:
Huruma, in Eldoret, has piles of trash along the roadsides.

Spent the day in Eldoret today with Renita Reed and Jeff Bloem. They were canvassing businesses for the next series of classes in business as mission which teaches a mix of best business practices to small and medium efforts (often as small as a window stall on a crowded street of window stalls). We walked some rather poor and depressed unpaved streets while here.
The streets of Huruma.

It's one thing to see photos of poverty in a glossy publication. It's another to hear it, smell it (raw sewage in road side gutters)...crowded, hot...everyone hawking something. It's beautiful to watch Renita seek to help these men and women ennoble their sense of vocation, and grasp and shoot for excellence and even growth in business. Eldoret was heartbreaking to witness in terms of poverty, but the people were beautiful. One lady with the smallest of food stalls insisted on giving us some of her meager inventory to bless us. The children were wonderful to see as well...giggling at the rare sight of Mzungus (white people) in their midst. Some would run off laughing. A few were brave enough for a handshake and then would run off laughing. I love Renita and I love her vocation. I forgot my camera...but attached are representative of what I saw thanks to Renita's camera and a couple from Google.
Crowded streets and busy people, hauling heavy produce on bicycles.
We are starting our third pilot site this month, in a place called "Huruma", which is a part of Eldoret, formerly considered a slum but struggling to emerge from that status.  The church we will be working with is part of the Anglican Church of Kenya, with approximately 400 members, many of whom are involved in business.  The businesses range from micro-businesses to small and medium size (SME) businesses.  Because we are working with the church, we don't restrict who can join this program in terms of business size - the prerequisites are that they are members of the church, that they currently own a business, and that they want to grow their business .  Since we are involved in research, we spent approximately thirty minutes with each business doing a background survey so that we can compare it any potential growth.  We are learning some interesting things from this research already and it is exciting to watch!

This third site now makes the Marketplace Ministry working in three different cities, with three different denominations. Each site is at a different stage.  It is the most exciting to see the first site really taking off and owning this program within the church and in the denomination.  They are now starting their own classes within their churches and the trainers are being sought out to present at different branches of their churches.  I love to hear BAM being preached by Kenyans!  I start a new Training of Trainers class this week with many members from our partners churches.  

Additionally, we have assessed two control groups thus far and will be seeking one more control group to match the three groups where we are implementing the Marketplace Ministry.  These control groups are with the business members of three churches within the same three denominations but who are not receiving any teaching on Business as Mission or Basic Business principles.  It was difficult to convince these churches to be a control group as they really wanted the training as well, but they were willing to see the big picture and we promised to follow up with them after the research period was completed.
Microbusinesses were part of those we visited.  This mother lost her husband just three months ago and is trying to support four children by selling some produce and fruit.
It is four months until I return to Grand Rapids for the summer.  Lots to do in the meantime.  Good work!  Exciting work!  Work I love!  But to say that it is easy to do this far away from loved ones for extended periods of time would not be truthful.  To say that one can "get used to it" after being away from church, friends and family for so long, is also not correct.  But when it is a calling, there is a deeper acceptance amidst the sadness or loneliness.  I continue to thank God for the opportunity to do this work and trust that He is continuing to lead and guide it!  Alone again...but not alone!