Rose George doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would be preoccupied with poop, and yet, she has made the discussion of human feces her life’s work. Her questions and subsequent research tell the tale of a subject that is so taboo that we would rather let millions of people die than to discuss it.
On a recent trip to Kenya, I was told that many of the people you see walking around every day, from educated professionals to the poorest of the poor, suffer from diarrhea every single day. As you can imagine, such a chronic intestinal issue not only causes major health problems, but also causes other issues like fatigue, loss of appetite and even psychological and emotional disorders – issues that immediately handicap developing nations as they struggle to compete in our global economy.
Yes, poop is an economic driver, a social driver and a killer. Fortunately, we can do something about it, if only we will become more willing to talk about it.
Wherever I go and whoever I talk to about my relationship with Kenya, one point I always try to make is that the relationship between the “developed” world and the “developing” world (in my case, between Americans and Kenyans) doesn’t have to be a one-way relationship. There is a myth that has been advanced by both “first world” and “third world” people that says that those from developing nations must always be on the receiving end of the transaction and those from developed nations must always be on the giving end.
One of the most profound moments I’ve had in Kenya was on my first trip there when I made a simple statement to the church where I was speaking – a statement attached to a request. “I know you want me to pray for you,” I said, “but I think you have something to offer as well. I would like you to pray for me.” The people of that small church were shocked at the idea that they had anything to offer. They had been convinced that they were supposed to always be recipients. The pastor of that church, with whom I am now friends, was moved to tears (very unusual in Kenyan culture). “Who knew,” he said, “that Africans had anything to offer an American.”
With that backdrop, I present to you Richard Turere, a Kenyan boy whose ingenuity not only got outside the box of traditional thinking within one of Africa’s oldest tribes, but whose invention could become a game-changer all over the world. If he had any doubt before, Richard now knows that Africans have a lot to offer the rest of us!
As someone who has worked in and around non-profit organizations nearly all of my adult life, I had never considered just how wrong some of my own thoughts (and the thoughts of others) are when it comes to how non-profits should spend their money.
Dan Pallotta’s talk is a stark reminder of the disadvantages faced by non-profits as they seek to do some of the world’s most important work. What if a non-profit group could hire a world-renowned expert to help accomplish their goals, rather than relying on whoever is kind-hearted enough to give up a lucrative career?
Here in Texas (and in many other parts of the country), we shrug our shoulders at a college football coach making five or ten times as much as any other faculty member because we understand that football brings in revenue to the school – revenue that can be used for other programs. Yet, we have trouble using the same logic when it comes to our favorite non-profit organization.
Listen to this talk and be challenged. Ask yourself this question: What would be possible if we encouraged moral innovation in non-profits, rather than taking a hard line on frugality?
In my previous post, I mentioned how we have already made some great friends here in Kenya and that they are doing some incredible work here. It seems everywhere you turn here, you run into somebody who is doing world-changing, life-altering work. I guess it’s a symptom of being in a place where there is obviously so much work to be done. One thing is for sure, there are huge numbers of people working hard to improve the lives of the people here.
One group that we have come to know over the past couple of visits is the team at Start With One. Bill, Chat, Len, Susan, Gina and their teams spend their days working to bring clean water, housing, churches, education and medical care to the very poorest here in Kenya. In addition to their own projects, they are very intentional about connecting with other people and organizations to maximize everyone’s efforts here.
They also have some amazing cooks in that house! I’m pretty sure Bill and Len view their meals as daily Iron Chef challenges. I’ve never eaten anything bad at their place and nearly everything I’ve had was indescribably good. The other night, it was bacon wrapped chicken, salad (thanks Gina!) and something called “spoon bread” which is some kind of cross between bread pudding and what the locals call ugali (kind of like grits). Whatever it was made from must have fallen from heaven because, holy smokes!
Keep in mind that all of this was cooked on a coal-fired grill/oven on the back patio. Cooking in Kenya requires a new level of ingenuity and these guys have it. I keep encouraging them to start a “How to Cook in Kenya” class, but Bill reasons that if they teach everybody how to cook, they won’t ever be able to open a restaurant and charge people to eat their food. I’m fine with that as long as they keep cooking and keep inviting me over!
There are so many other people that we know and are meeting here that it would be impossible to mention all of them. Suffice it to say that there is a large and growing community of people here who are in need of a church to call home and we are excited and humbled to be tasked with starting that kind of church.
I take comfort from the original apostles in the book of Acts. None of them knew how to start a church, let alone a worldwide movement. But through a lot of prayer and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, they would eventually do both. Fortunately, changing the world has very little to do with what you know and whole lot to do with who you know. The Creator of the world also has an incredible ability to change it, if only we are willing to listen and follow.
What to say about our first three days in Kenya? First of all, traveling with a toddler adds a whole new dimension to jetlag. For more on that, see Lucy’s sleep saga over at Lucy Goes To Africa. Second, I really do love this place! Third, I’m thankful that God has already given us some great friends here.
Let me tell you about some of our friends. First are Doug and Sue Brown. They pastor the Karen Vineyard Church in suburban Nairobi. The Karen Vineyard is unique in that it is what is commonly called an “international church.” The phrase is somewhat loosely defined, but one visit to the Karen Vineyard, and you understand what it means.
Doug calls the church a “mini-U.N.” where dozens of nations are represented on any given morning. The culture and style of church is very much “western” – a term used here to describe the non-African cultures of Europe, the UK and the Americas. In many regards, it is a church that would be right at home in the U.S. For this reason, it has become home to many Americans, Europeans, Australians and the like.
It has also become home to many Kenyans who identify with western culture as much or more than Kenyan culture. You see, many of the brightest Kenyans end up attending British or American boarding schools and then go on to university in the U.S., Europe, the UK, etc. Then, when they return to Kenya, they sometimes have difficulty adapting back to the Kenyan way of life. Some would argue that this “westernization” of Kenyans is a major problem. Others would say it’s a major advancement. From a church perspective, we have to recognize that it simply is the reality for many Kenyans and that they, like the expat community, need a church where they can feel at home.
What Doug and Sue and the leadership at the Karen Vineyard have done is to create a place where no one feels like the odd-ball. It is truly an “every tongue and tribe and nation” sort of place where everyone is welcomed. As you can imagine, the Karen Vineyard is a huge inspiration and a place that Melody and I will educate ourselves as we step out to plant an international church in Nakuru. Doug and Sue are an incredible blessing to us personally and in ministry. We are looking forward to partnering with them to serve the international community in Kenya for many years to come.
The second friend I’ll highlight today is Trena Ivy. Many of you know Trena as the director of His Cherished Ones, an organization providing care for orphaned babies among other initiatives. Trena has an incredible heart for the people of Africa, especially for the babies in her care, many of whom have been abandoned and left for dead. As an adoptive mom herself, Trena knows that caring for these children and placing them with loving families will have a lasting impact not only on these kids, but on the world.
What most of you probably don’t know is that Trena served as a catalyst for our decision to plant a church in Nakuru. It was during a conversation with Trena two years ago that I began to realize that the international community in Nakuru needed a church. They needed what the people in Karen had. They needed what the people back home in Texas had. I left that conversation thinking that somebody needed to plant a church here.
Fast forward two years and it has become obvious that the “somebody” was us. And Trena has been an encouragement every step along the way. It is rare that we have a conversation that doesn’t involve her saying “I can’t wait until you guys get here.” She has also been very instrumental in beginning to gather people together who could one day form the nucleus of Trinity Vineyard Church Nakuru – missionaries and relief workers who pour themselves out 7 days a week and are now able to come together on Sundays for a time of refreshing and renewal.
It’s evident that Trena not only has a heart for the people of Kenya, but for her fellow co-laborers in the Kingdom of God and beyond. The world could use a few more people like Trena and we’re glad that she is a part of our family!
That’s all for now. There are more friends to talk about, but I’ll save them for another day.