All posts by John Lusk

Kenyans use cell phones for everything from buying groceries to paying rent – World News

On cell phones in Kenya. We noticed that more people than we expected have a cell phone in Kenya, including some of the orphans. It turns out that having a cell phone in Kenya is actually pretty cheap,  in addition to being useful for business and for just plain human connection.

http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/24/12909129-kenyans-use-cell-phones-for-everything-from-buying-groceries-to-paying-rent

Here’s an article on cell phones and the “law of one price:”  http://www.economist.com/node/9149142

The upshot is: we shouldn’t make assumptions that what we pay for cell phone coverage in the U.S. is what the rest of the world pays.

The Rest of Our First-Year Group Visit

After the group did their presentations, and we each spoke, Reegan spoke.  He had strong “you can do it” encouragement for them (hopefully, I got it on video, but if not: it was powerful).  He knows what the orphans face, and he knows they are capable of overcoming it.  I hope to hear from this group (“Barakuro Glory”) to see if they get crops next year, because that landscape looks almost Martian.
Continue reading The Rest of Our First-Year Group Visit

Attended Church in Maua

On Sunday, we didn’t visit anybody, but we did attend church, at the Maua Methodist church (MCK: Methodist Church in Kenya). It was very loud (the PA system was turned up to 11). It was also very well attended. The minister is a former banker. He preached a sermon about “drive”: as a Christian, what drives you? It was quite the exhortation, and at several points, he interrupted his sermon to check to see if we were listening. “Hello? Is there anybody here today?” I think we were all stunned by the PA system, which may have been turned up so loud so that it could be heard out in the street, over the traffic.

He called our little missioneer group up to the front of the church to introduce ourselves and say a little something about our trip. I suppose one must always have an elevator speech, ready to go at the drop of a hat.

After church (between the 2nd and 3rd services), we visited with the minister and several of the church’s leading members, including the church’s chairman. (I probably didn’t get that quite right; head layperson, at any rate.) We had tea and biscuits. It was very pleasant, and, I felt, an honor.

After we left the church, several of us had expressed an interest in walking around the town of Maua, just to see what we could see. Carolyne, the wife of the minister, just happens to work for ZOE, and she agreed to walk us around. It was “interesting”.

Continue reading Attended Church in Maua

Day Two of Visiting: A Third-Year Group and Graduates in Tharaka

The second day of visiting groups (Monday, I think), we visited a third-year group in Tharaka-Nithi county, usually just referred to as Tharaka county.  Reegan came with us, and I videotaped a lot of the presentations.  (I’ll get them posted as soon as I can.)

The road to Tharaka was incredible.  Substantial parts unpaved and very rough.  I sat over the back axle of the van we were in (one of those all-wheel drive safari-type things, although not the stereotypical Land Rover).  That ride was the part of the entire mission trip that was the most physically taxing, and I would not recommend that anyone with back problems sit over the rear axle on a road like that.

When we got to where the group was, we all shook hands with each group member.  It was like two soccer teams shaking hands after a game: missioneers on one side, group members on the other, lines passing each other.  “Jambo, jambo, jambo, …” It was nice, actually.

Continue reading Day Two of Visiting: A Third-Year Group and Graduates in Tharaka

The Rest of Our Samaritan Liliaba Working Group Visit

After the presentations we heard (on that first day when we visited our (UUMC’s) working group, Samaritan Liliaba), the orphans all took us back to where their harvested produce was laid out and we helped sort potatoes into two categories: those large enough to eat, and those too small, but perfectly good for planting.  (These potatoes, by the way, looked pretty good, kind of like Yukon Gold: yellow and thin-skinned.)  There was no sorting for the beans.  I wish I could have brought some home to cook and share, but, you know: U.S. Customs is SO picky about bringing in agricultural products.  (And I’m glad they are.  One kudzu species is enough, thank you very much.)  The sorting was quickly done (there were about 30 pairs of hands doing the work), and I’m sure it was more or less ceremonial, but I think it was important that we get our hands dirty.

Erika had brought some videos she recorded of our VBS kids singing and of the Cotton Patch Gospel, which she showed to our working group (in shifts).  While she did that, I handed out the postcards we had made for the group.  (In retrospect, I wish we had not done those things in parallel.  It maximized efficiency but it was kind of low-ceremony, and I think a little more ceremonious presentation would have been good.  Oh well, lesson learned.  The perfect is the enemy of the good.)

Then: lunchtime.

Continue reading The Rest of Our Samaritan Liliaba Working Group Visit

Samaritan Liliaba’s Church, Judy’s House (Better Photospheres)

I think I found a better way to share these photo spheres.  The photo spheres I took on this trip were casually done, and people were moving around while I took them.  When they get stitched together, sometimes there are two parts of image that overlap, but one part had a person in it and the other part didn’t.  In that case, you’ll see a sort of ghostly half-image of the person(s).  You can click on an a picture’s caption to get an image you can pan around in.

(Update: I discovered that Google+ displays photo spheres without me needing to do magic stuff with Google Maps to get them uploaded.  Here’s the link: Same photos, viewed via Google+.)

Corrections and Additions to the First “Our Working Group” Post

(Original post: Today we visited our Working Group!)

At the time of our trip, the exchange rate was approximately $1 for 100 Kenyan shillings (abbreviated KES, or Ksh).

The business shops or stalls are more like 6×8, not 8×12.

When you go on one of these trips, you really need to bring a notebook.  There are a LOT of facts and figures and names thrown around, and you can’t remember them all.

Bad grammar when I said “nursing them” (vague antecedent, or whatever it’s called).  I was referring to the orphans’ necessity to nurse their dying parents, not their siblings.

The kids we met were older but: they are the heads of their families, which may include other orphans who are too young to be treated as the head of their own family.  I think the typical ZOE family has a head who is 16-19 years old and maybe three younger siblings of younger ages, sometimes down to 3-5 years old.  We only met the family heads; not the entire families.  ZOE working group meetings consist of only the family heads, not the entire families.  These meetings are places where decisions are made, such as what group project to work on, which family (or families) to help over the next week or two, whether to repossess a family’s IGA equipment, whether to loan a family enough money to start an Income-Generating Activity, etc.

Relief vs. development: I had earlier said that ZOE does not provide food to starving children, only training and seed money for them to pull themselves up by the own bootstraps.  That was wrong.  In an emergency, ZOE will provide food for a family.

Utensil-drying racks: “Utensils” refers to all their cooking and eating utensils.  The racks are made of scrap material they scrounge up, and can be as simple as four stout sticks stuck in the ground with chicken wire on top.  The compost-sweeping-up-and-burning and the utensil-rack-building both serve as evidence that they are making efforts to better their circumstances, and helps determine whether they receive future assistance from their working group.

Speaking of effort: I have mentioned that the working groups work together on a group plot of land, to grow crops; and that they also undertake a group project.  This is great for building community, and to have meetings (ZOE actually strongly encourages them to hold their meetings WHILE working, instead of while sitting down, because (a) they get stuff done, and (b) sitting down can negatively affect attitudes and energy levels). However, any student of history knows that relying entirely on collective action can lead to problems with slackers, which is why there are also individual plots of lands, for which individual families are responsible.