Monday, September 25, 2017

The Amazing Shea Tree

[After spending this past week in California for meetings with ICM-USA, I am home for a few days before leaving on Friday for a month to Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana. Please pray for this trip which promises to be non-stop with trainings!]

While I lived in Ghana from 2009-2012, I heard a lot about shea butter nuts and the processing of shea butter.  Researchers say that shea butter has been used in West Africa since approximately 100 AD.

But it was on this last trip that I paid a bit more attention, as many of the people we met with were involved in the processing of shea butter nuts.  As we were waiting for a meeting to start at a Baptist Church in a village about an hour away from Tamale, something fell from the tree and hit Blossom on the head - a shea fruit from a shea tree.  I took a picture of the offending tree.  But my curiosity was piqued when Fanny told me that shea trees cannot be farmed.  They will only grow in the wild.  How can that be, I wondered?

In doing a little research, I discovered the following:
  • There are 9.4 million shea trees in Ghana, producing 100 tons of shea nuts, which is valued at about $1 million USD per year.
  • According to legend, no one owns a shea tree because they grow on their own
  • After three to five years, the tree becomes fire resistant because of deeply fissured bark.  
  • By thirty years old, the tree is full grown and can live to be 300 years old!
  • It does not have natural enemies, which is what allows it to grow to be so old.
  • The mature kernel contains 61% fat, which is edible as well as medicinal.  The oil from the shea tree is only second to palm oil in terms of importance in West Africa.
  • Shea butter can be used like lard or margarine as it makes a pliable dough.
  • Shea butter is high in vitamins A, E, and F, and can be an intense moisturizer for skin.
  • The residue from the shea nut, the leaves, and the tree itself can also be used for other things.  Every part is used!
While visiting the family that I wrote about last week, I was invited to take a bite of a shea fruit.  Since I'm always on the lookout for different types of fruit that God has created, I accepted the offer and took a bite.  It was surprisingly sweet with a texture of an avocado.  It is rich in vitamins, calcium, and iron.  The family we visited is also involved in shea nut production, as can be seen on the left of the picture with the goat.  

Many of the women we work with in the Northern Region of Ghana are involved in the processing of this incredible gift from God.  Hopeline Institute continues to look for ways to help the women work together, as well as to find markets for them.

Upon some further research, I finally discovered that the shea nut will not germinate if planted in a traditional manner - being fully buried in dirt.  It will only germinate if it is covered halfway with dirt, with the eye of the seed pointing up.  So, nuts that are thrown around haphazardly will germinate, while those carefully planted will not, giving the impression that these cannot be farmed and will only grow in the wild.

Shea butter
Unfortunately, shea trees are also beginning to be cut down for charcoal, as many people cook with charcoal in Ghana.  This will have a great negative impact on the industry if it is not curtailed.  In Discipling Marketplace Leaders, we teach that each Christian should have a quadruple bottom line (loving neighbors, discipling, economically being fruitful and multiplying, and stewarding the earth) and encourage each person to look at the impact that their business has on the earth.  For those who are selling charcoal, not only do we encourage them to plant trees but they also should know what type of wood they are buying and strive to protect this vital crop in the Ghanaian economy.

Monday, September 18, 2017

A road that was not a road...and a goat named Thursday

On Tuesday afternoon, in the Upper East Region of Ghana, close to the Burkina Faso border, following our meetings with four churches in Sandema, we wanted to stop to meet a family whose sons have been living with my dear friends, Dennis and Fanny Atta-Peters, for years.  Fanny had not ever met the parents of these young men, despite having helped them for over ten years.

The challenge of finding directions to a home without road signs began.  When we finally located the young man to who was to guide us on his bike, he quickly let us off the road, onto a path....and deeper into the corn fields we drove...until there was only a small bike path before us, and millet and maize fields all around.  We kept wondering where this house was, when suddenly we curved around the field and there it was, completely surrounded by millet.

As we pulled in, we all exclaimed surprise at what we saw (I was with three Ghanaians who had not seen such a compound either).  The architecture, I was told, is very much like that in Burkina Faso: flat roofs, so that people can sleep on top when it is hot and also dry peanuts or other foods up there; smooth buildings, made of mud, cow dung, rice husks, and other organic materials, that make for a very solid, strong smooth walls (this particular compound was over 100 years old!).  Four generations live together in this compound, including a husband, with four wives, many children, many grand-children, and great grandchildren.  Each wife has her own particular area, as does the husband, and the children begin to build their own areas onto the compound.

Animals are also a part of the home.  As you enter, you see round structures in walls with tiny doors for hens and guinea fowl, somewhat larger areas for goats and dogs, then in the center of the compound is the place for the cows (as can be seen in the picture below).

But it's not just the 100 people, four generations, and many animals who enjoy this compound. The picture below shows the little house where the chicken and guinea fowl live.  But in front of the bench, you can see a mound.  That is where the grandmother is buried.  There are other places as well throughout the compound where a grandfather or other family members are buried.   It's a visual reminder of the generations, although prayer to ancestors is still quite strong in these parts.  (We were told that if they need rain, they pray to the ancestors and rain will fall in an hour.)

Out of gratitude to Fanny and her family for all they have done for the three young men that they have helped with work and education, they presented her with a goat, which we named "Thursday" (for reasons that would be too long for me to write in this blog).  Thursday made the long road trip back with us to Tamale, where he found a home with a new family.  The family also made a gift of a drumming dance presentation made by a number of young men from the family and the extended community.  We were privileged to watch and enjoy, although we were interrupted part way through by about fifty cows running into the compound right through the middle of where we were sitting.
It was such a privilege to visit with this family and to learn a small bit about their lives.  On the one hand, it was beautiful, peaceful, and serene.  On the other hand, it felt like we had gone back in time quite a number of years.  Someone remarked to me, "What can we do to help them?"  To which I responded, "How do you know they need help?  I didn't hear them complain."  What feels to many of us like going back in time, to them may be a choice of remaining intentional about family and community. 

[Recently a Ugandan told me that they love sitting on mats on the floor.  Someone came to their house to visit, thought, "These poor Ugandans can't afford furniture!" and sent furniture to their house.  But the Ugandans didn't want the chairs, and very soon, the chairs were outside in the rain and the elements so that they could continue living culturally in a way that was preferable to them.  Tough for us to recognize and appreciate sometimes, but so important that we don't project our own preferences on someone else!]

Below is a very brief video of our time in the Northern Region of Ghana, including this compound and the drumming.  I hope it captures for you a bit of the beauty that we were privileged to enjoy.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Twenty-one Churches, 450 members, and we need your help!

I am currently in the Northern Region of Ghana, visiting churches who have completed the Discipling Marketplace Leaders "Thirty Days in the Marketplace," which followed the training that was given to the pastors and church leaders in June. It is Sunday evening when I am writing this and in the past few days we have visited twelve churches, with more to come on Monday-Wednesday.

We wanted to meet with each church to see whether or not the pastor was able to effectively communicate the message that work can be worship, that business is a holy calling, and that God delights in the creativity and work of man, made in His image.  As the business people and pastors gathered in the church, we started the meetings by asking for testimonies from the business people of what they learned during the "Thirty Days in the Marketplace."  It was very apparent, very quickly, which pastors "passed the test" and which pastors need a bit more time to learn more, in order to better educate their members.  We are thankful that the majority of churches, thus far, passed with flying colors.  The business people spoke with such passion about business being a calling...about people in the Bible who were business people...about Jesus himself being an active carpenter for more than 15 years!  It brought me much joy to hear their joy and excitement over the realization that business is not "evil" but can be used to glorify God.  It was also great to see the pastors smile, as they listened to their congregants bear witness to their teachings.
The next step for those churches who are ready is the training of the business people, and so a large part of our meetings in these churches involves assessing whether or not the business people would benefit more from the micro-business training or the small and medium size entrepreneur training.  What types of businesses did we find?  A number of the churches are in very rural areas, and so there are many farmers who are farming between 3-12 acres:  corn, rice, peanuts, cashews, cocoa, peppers, tomatoes; a number also have animals in addition to their crops:  goats, sheep, cows, pigs, rabbits, guinea fowl, ducks, and chickens.  In the more urban areas, we find accountants, bakers, caterers, fashion designers, tailors, beauticians, make-up artists, gospel musicians, hat makers, shoe makers, artisans, metal workers, and the list goes on.  Truly a mix of retailers, service providers, manufacturers, and agriculturalists.

Once we understand the types of businesses found in a church, we then need to coordinate times, dates, and trainers as we seek to train and release up to 450 Marketplace Ministers into the Northern Region of Ghana.  This region is a very Muslim region and many of the churches are made up of Muslim converts.  We have already heard a number of stories from those we trained last year of people giving their lives to Christ and it is exciting to think of what 450 Marketplace Ministers released into the Marketplace could do.

And this is where we need your help.  It is time for us to do a major effort in the training of trainers.  We have huge opportunities in Ethiopia and Ghana, and emerging opportunities in Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, and Kenya.  We have planned a training of trainers for the key leaders of DML from October 5-13 in Kitale, Kenya.  We are flying in trainers from these countries to spend ten days together at the Africa Theological Seminary, where we will certify many of them as trainers and have a chance to share best practices, lessons learned, and continue to build a team made of national leaders, who can reach pastors, church leaders, and business people in their own context and culture.

We have a donor who has offered an challenge grant in the amount of $1500 towards this effort.  We need more than $3000 for this effort, but we are thankful for this opportunity!  (Have you noticed how many people are liking challenge grants lately?  We all want to see our investments double quickly, which is wise investing!)  If you are willing to help build the church through Discipling Marketplace Leaders, please go to, select "Discipling Marketplace Leaders" in the dropdown box, and in the comment section put "Training of Trainers Matching Grant."

At the same time, my support has dropped very low (for the first time this year, for which I am thankful!).  If you are able to chip in something extra for that as well, it would be greatly appreciated!  To do that, go to the same web address and select "Renita Reed" in the dropdown box.

Lastly, many of these businesses that we are training would benefit from loans.  In Ghana, the interest rates are ridiculously high (38% in banks, 60% with MFIs, and 120% in the informal sector).  Through investors, we are able to give loans at a much more affordable rate.  We currently have $50,000 invested in Ghana, and would like to see that doubled or even tripled by March (when these churches will have completed their training).  We accept any amount from $1000+, we pay investors 4% annually, and ask for your investment to remain with us for three years.  If you are interested in putting your money into small businesses in Northern Ghana, please email me at for more information.

Thank you!  We appreciate your prayers as we work to coordinate this great opportunity that God has given us!

PS - We are excited to have found a home for Hopeline Institute and Discipling Marketplace Leaders in Tamale.  Thanks to the on-going generosity of Rev. Johnson Asare (an incredible man of God and business man who is SO committed to Business as Mission), we have received an office at the Radach Hotel and Conference Center where Isaac and Blossom (the two on the right of the picture below) will be able to work out of and coordinate these efforts.  Also in this picture is Rev. Monday, who is the Mission Outreach Coordinator for the Good News Bible Church and has been instrumental in the spreading of DML in the Northern Region, and beside him is my dear friend, Fanny Atta-Peters, the Executive Director of Hopeline Institute.  What a privilege to spend these days with this team!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Third Annual DML Prayer Walk - Kitale Branch

[A few weeks ago, I asked you to pray for the Kenyan elections.  After peaceful elections, with international observers declaring that it was free and fair, the Supreme Court supported the opposition request, annulled the results citing irregularities, and has called for a new election in sixty days.  While this was generally met with great surprise, we are thankful that Kenya took their disagreements to the courts rather than to the streets, and are thankful for the courage of the Supreme Court to be willing to make this move - which is a first in African history (supporting an opposition claim to overturn a presidential election result).  On the other hand, this is disruptive for the country, and especially for businesses  Please pray for the next sixty days in Kenya and again for peaceful and just elections.]

The last Saturday in August saw the third annual prayer walk for Kenya.  Discipling Marketplace Leaders started doing city-wide prayer walks in Kenya in 2014, and we have now grown to have this in five different cities in Kenya.  Below is the story of the event, as captured by one of the attendees.  It will warm your heart and make you want to take to the streets to pray for your city!
The day is finally here - 26th Aug 2017, our third DML Prayer Walk. Much planning went into the preparation for this day with a committee of 5 members.
The day started on a slow note, with people arriving one by one to St Paul’s ACK (Anglican Church of Kenya). Soon the registration was underway and after some time, we were ushered into the sanctuary and a small worship team began with praise songs.
After a short demo of how the prayer walk is done, Pastor Ven Sarah took the podium for a sermonnette.  She read from Numbers 14:8-9 and shared on the theme- DO NOT FEAR; the LORD IS WITH US.”  This really set the mood to go out fearlessly and claim the territories for Christ. She gave three tips for the success of the day- Be fearless, Pray scripture and Do not quit! She ended with a powerful commissioning to go out and fearlessly take the town for Christ.
We were divided into 5 groups under 5 group leaders, with specific routes to walk. We moved outside the sanctuary for flagging off.  The prayer walk t-shirts, which had been delayed, arrived just as we set off.  All is ready and we were flagged off - 78 of us.  Each team started on their routes and the Prayer Walk was on.

The debriefing meeting point was the Africa Theological Seminary, where tea and mandazi will be served.  Two people arrived early to the meeting point - one was an old lady with a walking stick - I had earlier spotted her in church and wondered how she would walk but she had done quite some kilometers before her teammates asked her to stop and take a motorbike to ATS. The other (a DML trainer) had come despite feeling sick - after quite some distance he had developed a chest congestion and had to stop and head for the finish. The determination that members showed in being involved in this exercise was touching and amazing.
During the debriefing, testimonies from the group leaders were shared with the whole team as tea and mandazi were served. Learning institutions such as Kitale Technical, Kitale Vocational School and several primary and secondary schools, were prayed for. Businesses along the routes, churches and even mosques were appropriately prayed for.  Many idle youth spotted all along the estates were prayed for. Closed business premises, hospitals, mortuaries, garages, and slums were earnestly prayed for; witchcraft, drug abuse, poverty and alcoholism and many vices were uprooted. Prophesies over the law courts, county developments and hospitals were declared.
In some spots people tried to read our t-shirts but came up with ‘Discipline’ and called the teams passing by ‘The Discipline People.’ Others asked if we were tourists!
One leader humored us all by confessing the sin of murmuring on behalf of her team as they felt they had been given a much longer route than others - but they arrived second in line at ATS.

The youngest prayer walker was a 10-yr old boy from Great Mercy Orphanage, a ministry ran by Pastor Judith. She had come with a large team of 23! She also shared that since our first one prayer walk, she had introduced the same to her ministry and the children have witnessed miracles after doing prayer walks - a thicket where murder and murder victims would always be found had been cleared and was under cultivation; they had received a hot ready meal from a good Samaritan to the joy of all the children. So they had come to witness the ‘big’ prayer walk. A leader from ACK also shared that they had done one as women of their church, and they too had been blessed.  A young man had joined our team as we held hands and prayed outside the gates of a primary school.  I thought he would leave after the prayer but he walked on with us till the end! We recognized him during the testimonies and he said he was in town for a short while with the road construction company; he was excited at seeing people walking and praying and decide to join us.
The oldest to participate was a woman who also had a hand swelling caused by an accident; and an impromptu ‘harambee’ (Swahili for "all pull together") was done to contribute towards her medication. A nurse in our midst was identified to assist her to get the medication at the Referral hospital. I witnessed them talk and exchange contacts. She emotionally made a prayer after the last prayer was done - appreciating what had been done for her. The word of God in James 2:16 comes alive - don’t just tell your brother “be warm and be filled” without meeting their need; it profits them nothing! A deaf man in our midst who has paralysis on one hand had also participated.  Prayers were said for his healing.  A school principal had heard that morning about the prayer walk and had cancelled other business to attend- a Mrs Wafula from Bishop Muge Girls Seconday school. Seven DML trainers and six pastors from different denominations were present.

We ended by joining hands and final prayers were said. Suddenly rains came as if in agreement with our prayers.

Wow, what a day it has been. To God be all the glory.


I look forward to the day when this prayer walk happens across nations as well!  Tomorrow I leave for Ghana where I will be meeting with eighteen churches in the Northern Region who have completed the "Thirty Days in the Marketplace" and are now looking to start training with the business people.  Please keep this work in your prayers!