Monday, February 23, 2015

Please join us in prayer...

Every Tuesday morning at 7 am for the past seven years, David Graf, Mary Springer and I have been on a prayer call together for thirty minutes.  Other people have come and gone during the seven years, joining in here and there but the three of us have been committed to this every Tuesday morning.  On Mondays, I always email out a list of prayer requests related to the work in Kenya (or Ghana or Liberia prior to Kenya).  We get on at 7 am, Tuesday morning; we have no conversation with each other but enter immediately into prayer and usually, once we say amen, right at 7:30 am, we go on our way.  We have grown very close to each other in the process of doing this and I am so thankful for my brother and sister in Christ and how they have bathed this work in prayer.

Map of where the Discipling Marketplace Leaders Trainers are living in Kenya.
Recently I sent out the list of current classes that are going on in Western Kenya and they asked me to pray through that list, especially as I knew more of the details (and how to pronounce the names) a bit better.  I realized as I prayed through this that it is pretty exciting to have this many classes going on simultaneously and that the prayers that have been uttered regularly have been answered as we have been seeking to join God on the work He is doing.

So I wanted to ask you to join in prayer as well for these groups as you have the time and/or inclination:

Alexie - please pray for her healing!
  • Vihiga Class -  This class was started by Alexie who traveled two hours each way by public transport to Kitale when she learned about this class.  She is a member of the Friends Church and knew that her town of Vihiga needed this ministry.  She became a trainer and started a class with twelve participants from several churches in Vihiga.  They are going to session ten (out of twelve) this week Tuesday.  Unfortunately, Alexie broke her leg recently which caused a bit of delay in her class but they are moving again.  Alexie has sent one member to the current Training of Trainers in Kitale so that she can have someone teaching the classes with her
Pastor Moffat and family
ARK Real Estate Training
  • Pastor Moffat Weru (I wrote about him before - he had the fire at his business and recently received a check from the insurance company - praise God!) has started a class at his church, Faith Tabernacle in Kitale.  This is a big class of 53 participants, involving seventeen other area churches.  They are moving to session five (out of twelve) this Friday.
  • Ndalu Friends Church is taking on session 7 come Friday 14. This has 12 participants and was started by Alfayo Lundu who has been passionate about this work spreading throughout the Friends Denomination. This class has struggled with coordination and needs ongoing support and prayers.
  • Friends Church Kitale (the church where this work was originally started) is training twelve members of an up and coming real estate company called ARK Real Estate, who is building affordable housing.  Several of their key members have already gone through the class, but they decided they wanted to go through together as a company to enrich the experience.  We gave them a loan for $6000 which they paid back easily in six months and they continue to grow.  We are thankful to the pastor of the Friends Church for being willing to serve as a chaplain to this company! They started session 1 on February 1, 2015
  • A new class started at the Christian Reformed Church in Chebarus (outside Kitale) on February 7, 2015. There were 26 participants in attendance and the trainer is David Masai, who has his Masters in Divinity, went through our ToT, and is a pastor in that church.
  • Grace Way Chapel with Pastor Apollo is planning to begin a class soon. The church is in Kitale. Alfred Kibairu recently spoke to the businesspeople in the church where they were having a seminar.
  • Caroline Sudi is planning a second class at AGC in Kitale. She is yet to come up with the dates.
  • The second class in Kakamega is still waiting on the commissioning due to the motor vehicle accident of the senior pastor, Dr. Jackson Wambua.  We join with them in prayer for his healing.
  • There are other classes being planned in Kisumu, Webuye and Luanda Vihiga.  
  • Alfred Kibairu is currently training seven new Trainers from three new churches to begin this work as well.
It is so exciting to see this multiplication taking place! I leave for Kenya this Friday where I look forward to looking in personally on a few of these classes.  I will be there in Kenya for three weeks and will be teaching an Accounting for Pastors Class while I'm there, as well as working to fill two positions for the Discipling Marketplace Leaders office:  the Western Kenya Regional Director and the Program Coordinator.  Please pray for us to find the right people!

Additionally, I will be joined by JoAnn Swart, from Madison Square Church and Marketplace Chaplains USA, who will be teaching a class on Marketplace Chaplaincy at the Africa Theological Seminary in Kitale, Kenya.  The pastors have been asking for this class and I am thrilled that JoAnn was willing and able to come to teach it!  Please pray for JoAnn to have safe travel, and healthy and enjoyable time, and fruitful discussions in her class!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Startling Facts about Food Waste

I mentioned the last time I wrote that 40% of the food grown and produced in the US goes uneaten. If you have been around my house since I learned this, you will know that I can't seem to get this out of my mind.  It boggles my mind - it is so difficult to comprehend.  One hundred and sixty-five billion dollars ($165,000,000,000 USD) per year of food going to landfills.  All of this food in the landfill produces methane gas which is 25 times more powerful in global warming than carbon dioxide. How does this happen in a world with so much poverty, so much need, so much hunger?

So I set about to do a little research.  And this is what I found. There is waste at both the pre-consumer and post-consumer levels.  Pre-consumer waste might come from the farms where produce is found to be less than perfect and won't be purchased or from food processing plants where machines are designed for looking for aesthetic qualities rather than food utilization.  There are things that can be done about that, but I want to spend more on the post-consumer waste, referring to when it comes to us.

First a couple of facts about agriculture:  50% percent of all land in the US and 80% of all freshwater consumed is used for the production of food.  Meat consumption has increased dramatically in the last 100 years.  The consumption per person in the US is 125 KG per year and is the highest worldwide. It is said that three hundred trout are needed to support one man for a year; the trout, in turn, must consume 90,000 frogs, that must consume 27 million grasshoppers that live off 1000 tons of grass.  Currently, fifty percent of US grain production and 40% worldwide of grain production goes to feed animals because of the increased meat consumption.  Usually as income increases, meat consumption increases.  If all countries move toward more meat consumption, there will be challenges ahead in having enough grain to support them.  The way we eat matters.  And what we do with the food we have access to matters as well.

Here are some facts about post-consumer food waste:
  • The average dinner plate has increased in size by 36% since 1960.  That means that we take more food, consume more food, but also potentially waste more if we are not able to finish what we have taken.

  •  Of the food that becomes waste, 44% comes from residential homes, 33% from restaurants and food service institutions, grocery stores 11%, and the balance from the fields and processing side.  There is waste along each point, but the good news here is that WE (you and I) can do something about this.  A lot of the waste comes from buying things that we end up not using and it spoils.  This is mostly produce but can also be in leftovers.  This can be reduced but will take diligence and discipline to use food up on time or freeze it if possible.
  •  There is also great confusion over the dates that we find on food.  Most people see the dates on food as expiration dates and view them as a way to gauge food safety.  But that is not the case.  Those dates typically refer to "best before" or "sell by," meaning that the date is telling the peak quality.  There still may be a lot of time remaining for the food to be good after the date, but much food is thrown away because of this confusion.  I was surprised to find out that these dates are not regulated at all (except for infant formula).  That means there is no supervision to decide the "best by" date and unfortunately, it is in the best interest of food production companies for us to throw out food and buy more.  We need to have more education about food dates. 
  • As consumers, we also need to challenge ourselves to not only buy the most perfect produce.  When stores can only sell the most perfect fruit and vegetables, they are left with the imperfect produce that can't be sold and ends up going to waste.  Some stores do donate to food kitchens or pantries, which is good, but we can also focus more on food utilization and less on aesthetics.
  • Restaurants are another great source of waste, mostly coming from the leftovers of the food that customers don't finish.  Think about how many restaurants are in your area, and how much food is left on plates on a daily basis.  On average diners leave 17% of their meal uneaten and 55% of leftovers are not taken home. All of this food needs to be disposed of.  My proposal is that restaurants begin to charge a "waste" tax.  If you chose not to finish the food on your plate, you are charged a fee to cover the cost of the disposal of that waste.  That might cause people to be more careful about ordering only what they can eat.  Or it might cause people to be more faithful in taking home the leftovers, which still leaves the challenge of eating the leftovers once they are home.  Restaurants also have a challenge in having such broad menus which means they have to have all of that food available for whoever orders it.  This also means that if no-one does order it, it needs to be thrown out at some point.  Did you know that McDonalds throws out their fries after seven minutes and hamburgers after twenty minutes?  Something I appreciated in Africa was that in some restaurants you could ask what is available and they would give you three choices, and you choose from those three. 
  • There are some who say that "because I compost, I don't waste."  Composting is important (although only 3% of food waste is currently being composted) but it is not more important that reducing food waste to begin with.  If we think about what goes into getting a potato from the field to the fork, there is much to think about.  The farmer has their inputs, including fertilizer, water, nutrients, equipment, and labor.  The food production company has their costs.  The retail store has their costs.  By the time it comes to you, a lot has been put into that potato.  To just put it in compost is a waste of those inputs and efforts.  Composting is better than landfill but not better than consumption.
The UK ran a "Love Food Hate Waste" campaign that reduced their waste by 18%.  We need to do the same here but it starts with each individual and household doing their part.  The amount of waste ends up being between $1300-2300 US per family for a family of four.  Think about what that savings could do for our giving if that was turned into gifts that could bless others?

Feel free to join me in feeling faintly ill about this and see what you can do in your own home to reduce waste!