Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Baringo TLT Trainings and Graduation

By Anthony:

In November, we traveled to Kenya to finish up the last of my TLT trainings with the Anglican Diocese in Baringo County. Although we had a minor accident on the way (Sara will write a post about that), we made it safely and had a great week of trainings, culminating in a simple but meaningful graduation.

This time our drive was more relaxing since we took a driver instead of our own vehicle. This meant we were not harassed by police the whole way. On the return journey, I was able to grab a video of the lineup to the border between Kenya and Uganda since I wasn't driving. For about 5 kilometers we passed endless trucks who were waiting to cross the border. Passenger vehicles are just supposed to pass them (but there is no one there to tell you that), but you do so in the other lane, so things can get squeezed and scary often, as you can see in the video. When the shoulder disappears, (as has happened to us in the past), it gets interesting!

In Baringo, we spent Monday through Wednesday finishing the last required TLT manual, "Praising God in Work and Worship." It is about how to glorify God in all things, whether in our daily work or in our worship services. We had good discussions about:
  • We are commanded by God to rest. Most of the pastors are still not having any day of rest.
  • There is need to rebuke people in the church who are living in sin, even if they are big financial givers.
  • Daily Bible reading is very important for our church members, so we need to teach people how to read and write, or try to purchase audio Bibles.
  • We need to do mundane chores like cleaning our homes with a good attitude.
  • A good worship service is a dialogue between God and people, with God speaking to us through Scripture, and us responding in prayer and song, back and forth, back and forth.
  • We need to be careful about ritualism in worship, always doing and saying the same things. We need variety. We need to write new songs. And particularly, the Anglican pastors want to write new indigenous songs besides the ones they received from the UK. For example, Christmas hymns that mention snow aren't terribly relevant in Baringo.
  • It is very important that we make room in our worship services for lament prayers and lament songs. Christians should not have to pretend that they are always happy with no suffering in their lives.
  • We debated issues about the Lord's Supper. How often should we take it? Should children take it? Should we use normal food or special food? Should it be a small amount of food or a whole meal?

I was blessed to hear reports of their previous action plans regarding "Teaching the Christian Faith." Here are just a few of many wonderful reports:

Bunyatta and Kibichii started Sunday school rallies. They had Sunday school children gather together for fellowship, Bible study and games. One rally had 96 children and another had 54 children. These rallies attracted children from the community. Now in every local church of the parish, there are at least 5 more children attending Sunday school in each church.

William and Cherop trained 6 elders to lead worship services and preach in their churches.

Kibusia wanted to start an income generating project with the men’s ministry. He taught the men about the importance of work, and then he donated 2 acres of land for the project. They bought grass seeds, planted grass, and then harvested the grass and sold it. The money went back to the church for the development of the church building. Through this work two men, who had previously left the church, joined in with the project and are now attending church services again.

Bowen taught 6 of the 8 Sunday school teachers in his parish about how to teach children well in Sunday school. The teachers are now coming on time, and the children are now memorizing verses from the Bible together.

After the discussions and reports, all the leaders wrote new action plans about work and worship. Here are a few:
  • Biwott is going to start cleaning his church latrines every week even though he is the reverend overseeing the whole parish. He hopes that church members will begin to follow his example and continue cleaning them as a regular ministry
  • Elizabeth is going to train 3 new Sunday school teachers.
  • Cherutich is going to plant 1 acre of grass, sell it, and give the money to his church.
  • Kibusia and Kiplagat are going to start a weekly Bible study class for their church members.
  • Kibichii is going to buy a lawnmower for his church and clean the church compound regularly.
  • Bowen is going to write a new worship song after meditating on the Psalms, and he will teach the new song to his congregation.

I had some frustration with people showing up late on the first day, and I wondered what would happen if I just started even with only one person there. I mentioned my idea to the one pastor who was there on time. He said he has done that very thing! One Sunday, there was not a single person at church with him when the service was supposed to start. But he put on his robe, and went to the pulpit and began the service. Most of the people were an hour late. But he said, "the next Sunday everyone came on time!"

After we finished the work and worship manual, we spent two days going through a facilitation training. I was explaining to them more about how Timothy Leadership Training works, how to write reports, how to start new groups, and how to manage group discussions. About half of the group members were able to practice leading a lesson and then they each received critique and feedback about how they did as a facilitator.

They elected group officers to lead their new TLT coordination team. They are serious about TLT in this diocese. These graduates will start 5 new groups in each of the 5 archdeaconries of the diocese. After these groups finish, perhaps in about two years, all of those new graduates will be able to then take the training down to the parish level, or even to the local church level, so that almost all of the church leaders in the diocese can be trained in TLT, both ordained and non-ordained leaders.

Part of the facilitation training included action planning practice so that they can be experts at helping others make action plans:

At the end of the week, we had a very nice and inexpensive graduation. It was only the participants of the training themselves who attended. Three of the graduates were also our students at Berea Christian College in Kenya, so that was even more special for us.

Here is Elizabeth giving a testimony:

I gave a speech about why we were going to do the foot washing. As Christ washed his disciples' feet as a servant, and sacrificed himself on the cross for our salvation, so also we should be servant leaders. And particularly, I encouraged the leaders to look at the foot washing as a symbolic reminder that they should also sacrifice to go out and start more TLT groups, to teach others what they have learned.

First, I washed the feet of Bishop Musa, himself a graduate. And then he washed my feet. And then we washed everyone else's feet together. Their feet were dried with a towel that says "Timothy Leadership Training" on it which they got to keep.

Here is Philip, the one who was elected to lead the new TLT coordination team as they start new groups together. Philip was also our student at Berea College.

Sara managed to bake a cake that morning for the graduation!

Here are most, not all, of the 21 graduates. 9 people graduated as basic trainers, meaning that they finished the first 3 manuals. And 12 graduated as advanced trainers, meaning that they completed all 6 manuals.

I was surprised by two of the participants, Bunyatta and William. They informed me that the TLT trainings spurred each of them, separately, to make additional action plans for their families. They both made an action plan to build a new permanent house (instead of a grass-thatched hut), and both of their new houses are almost finished. Here is Bunyatta with us below, and below that is a picture of his house in progress. It's awesome to see what people achieve when they make good plans and commit them to God!

Mogotio Youth

By Sara:

While Anthony was leading TLT in Mogotio, Kenya, I had the interesting experience of leading a training for youth.  Now, in Uganda, when people use the word "youth", they're generally meaning people who are older than 18 and unmarried.  So I was expecting a group like that, but was surprised to discover the youth I was meeting with in Mogotio were around middle-school aged!  To be honest, when I was substitute teaching in the US, this was an age group I tried to avoid at all costs.

However, I found that these young people were exceedingly quiet.  Rather than the misbehaving, distracted middle-schoolers I had interacted with in Michigan, they mostly sat silently and stared at me!  I taught them an inductive Bible study method, but it was a major challenge getting anyone to speak up and contribute to the discussion.  When any of the kids said something, it was very good, but I felt like most of the time we had together was me looking at them and waiting for someone to speak up while they all looked back at me. 

The next day, I decided to try starting with something entertaining - Bible pictionary.  It was entertaining, but also rather difficult.  It wasn't that the kids had trouble drawing the words (in fact, they were very creative), but no one wanted to guess what the drawing was until it was finished and once it was finished, there was mostly silence.  Finally, someone would whisper a word and the artist would say "no" and then there would be more silence until the next guess.  This is a kid drawing a picture of Mary:

Since having them say anything to me didn't work, I decided to put them into small groups and guide them through the Bible study steps, which they would then do in their groups.  This seemed to go a bit better because they were more or less willing to talk to one another.  Some of the older kids said afterward that they appreciated learning a new way they could mentor other kids, through leading Bible study.

In the end, although I thought it was nearly a disaster, the pastor and youth leader told me they had heard appreciation for the Bible studies from these young people and their parents.  You just never know what's going on in peoples' heads.

Along with the afternoons with the youth, I also had the opportunity to give a brief lesson to the TLT participants on how our hearing works and how it can be damaged or protected.  This was much more comfortable for me.

The pastors appreciated understanding how noises are measured in decibels and what levels can be harmful.  When they discovered that they could download an app onto their phone to measure decibel levels, many of them said they would do so and test the sound levels in their church services.  Then they will be able to teach church members what they learned and help them understand how loud they can put their speakers without harming the hearing of people listening. The reason this is so important is because we have almost never been to a church service in East Africa where they had speakers and the volume set at an appropriate level. It's especially painful watching choir members stand in front of tall speakers that are creating sounds over 85 decibels from 20 feet away. We worry about people losing their hearing at an early age.

Finally, I baked a cake for the TLT graduation.  I was pleased to have the cake turn out since I was unprepared to bake and therefore had no measuring cups or spoons.  I'm pretty sure this is the first time I have made a cake and estimated all the ingredients.

My measuring cup and spoon:

The cook was busy preparing lunch while I worked on the cake, but she already knew how to bake cakes using various methods.  She helped with the decoration, though:

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Back to the Garden

By Sara:

I was happy to come home to Soroti and to find my garden still flourishing.  The guys who work for us took good care of it and enjoyed using the produce for themselves while we were gone.  However, it has been raining excessively, so the weeds were also flourishing and some of the trees needed pruning.  But such is life.

This is chia (as in, what sprouts out of the heads of chia pets):

Sort of sad looking ginger:

Matooke (cooking bananas):

Chaya (a super nutritious vegetable):

Then the garden in our neighboring empty plot is satisfyingly jungle-like:

Paul and I had fun harvesting one of the cassava plants.  I had to share a lot of it with other people because it was way too much for us to eat on our own.


And some interesting finds in the garden.  First a (probably dead) caterpillar covered in parasitic wasp cocoons.  I find it cool, Anthony finds it disturbing.

Probably a little less creepy is this tiny frog I found hanging out in the winged beans:

World Renew Partner Work in Kaberamaido

By Sara:

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an evaluation of one of World Renew's partners, PAG-West Teso, which is near Soroti.  The work World Renew supports is done by KMDP, the development arm of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) denomination in that pastorate (West Teso).

It is always exciting to hear the stories of how peoples' lives have been transformed by what they have learned and implemented in their homes and communities.  Many of the people we met during the week are part of a savings group, called a "Self Help Group", or SHG.  They said they preferred this type of savings group over the ones other people had promoted to them, because you never divide out all of the money from the savings.  Instead, it is kept, continues growing, and is always available for group members to borrow.

We heard stories from Simon, about how he grew up with parents and siblings who were alcoholics and as a result he didn't have resources for getting married.  But after going through some trainings with KMDP, like PEP and conservation agriculture (CA), he realized he could start with what he had to make progress in his life.  He began by making charcoal, then used the proceeds to buy chickens.  He let the chickens multiply, then sold some and bought a sheep.  The sheep gave birth to triplets(!), one of which he gave to the church as a tithe, and the other two he kept.  As he continued to raise more animals and sell some, he worked his way up to goats and cows and got enough to pay a dowry and get married, with animals left over.  Here are some of his goats and sheep, including the original one he started with:

Simon is a community facilitator now and in that role he monitors the progress of CA among his neighbors, helps form new SHGs, and teaches against gender-based violence.  He said there are now men in the community who will collect firewood and water for their families, instead of relying only on the women to do it!

Another cool result from trainings given by KMDP was concerning advocacy.  In several communities, several of the SHGs came together to form a "cluster level association" (CLA).  Since the CLA represents a larger group of people, they were able to use their new knowledge on advocacy to lobby for support from the local government.  As a result, they received financial support from the government to start carpentry projects, buy goats and sheep for group members, for work on roads, etc.  It's exciting to see how this brings some of the services they should be getting out of their tax money and from the government which represents them.

We visited the home of a farmer who learned about CA through trainings from KMDP.  He is using cover crops in his orange and mango orchards to help keep down the weeds.  He has also landscaped his yard beautifully and is making his farming into a profitable business to put his children through school.  His children are learning from his example and realize that farming is a desirable occupation.

I met some of the conservation agriculture promoters I spent a lot of time with years ago.  They remembered cooking lablab leaves with me and said they still eat them.  One man said he likes them better than cowpea leaves (which are a very common vegetable in the region)!

One of the farmers we visited, Helen, is a widow who has really taken CA to heart.  Her intercropped soybeans and maize looked beautiful and she said she has been borrowing money from her SHG to help her hire workers for weeding the garden when that needs to be done.

She also is keeping the soil covered by mulching, especially on vegetables, but even around her cassava (see the picture below), in order to keep moisture in the soil.  She said that since starting to use CA, her yields are improving and she has less weeds in her garden.

Of course, there is always lots of food to be eaten:

One of the things I love about the work of KMDP is the way the development staff and the church pastorate staff are united.  Anthony and I have seen members of the pastorate traveling to visit the work KMDP is doing in the communities and encouraging them in that work.  And the staff of KMDP participated in TLT along with pastors and church leaders back in 2014.

In the end, we discussed the strengths and weaknesses of the partnership between World Renew and PAG's West Teso pastorate.  We looked at areas to work on improving and areas which need to be focused on more because they're going so well.