Thursday, January 29, 2015

Missions Outreach - Christmas in Kenya 2014

Hello friends,

It has been awhile since I wrote of the outreach to the humble villagers in Kenya. You can read more about our plans for Christmas Outreach here.

Photo credits:  All photos in this post belong to Jonah of Missions of Hope, Kenya

The outreach was a modest effort funded by myself and one other blogging friend.  In Kenya, my friends donated their time and energy to helping identify costs, shopping for all the refreshments and food, travelling to the Internally Displaced People's Camp and otherwise making it all happen.

I just want to say that  my friends and I do not do good works while thinking of a reward in Heaven some day (scripture verse in above photo). We do it because we love people and hate to see them suffering.  The scripture teaches that whoever does not love does not know God for God is love  (1 John 4:8). The scripture is also clear that there is a reward some day for those that are God's disciples and do his will as in Matthew 10:42.  When that day comes I certainly won't be turning any reward away if there is indeed one coming. Life in eternity is an awful long time *smile.

I recognize that there are also good people in the world of other faiths and some who have no religious affiliation whatsoever. I applaud you if you are a person who cares for your fellow man, woman and child regardless of the faith issue. Life would be so much better for more people on earth if we all had this view. Now more about the outreach itself and the context within which it was undertaken.

Though our efforts were modest compared to many ministries around the globe, I know for certain that the people we helped would not have received help from any where else.  It was important for me to let them
know that especially at Christmas, someone was remembering them.

Life is very hard in much of Kenya.  Things were already very difficult before the global recession and rise in terrorist attacks.  Both of these events have put the country's economy in a downward tilt and negatively affected the tourist industry which formerly brought in a lot of money to the Kenyan economy.Though there are many, many rich people in Kenya, there are many, many more who not have adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

There are about 46 percent of Kenyans living below the poverty line and there isn't enough work for those who want to work.  Last Fall, I read that university graduates take upwards of 5 years to find work upon graduation. Even then they get meager pay and often have to eke out a living with small businesses they create themselves.  There isn't a robust social security system either though slowly, slowly the government is implementing a few social programs.  These are primarily for young school children to have free education, a real God send and change from several years ago, and for some of the elderly who receive a small pension. The pension program started as a trial about one year ago and I hear is now going to be implemented on a broader basis. These are all starts in the right direction.

The government simply doesn't have the money to broaden it's efforts to include a wide range of social programming.   They are currently trying to improve things on a number of fronts: building better infrastructure, dealing with graft & corruption, including within government, coping with terrorism and the weak economy.  The tourist industry has had a very tough time of things since 2008.  The government is also spending a lot of time trying to better contain the government's budgets in a time of devolution to county governments.  They also appear to be dealing with various land scandals that impact on the security of land tenure for individuals, school and such like.  When citizens and businesses of any country don't have secure land tenure it affects support for their governments and Kenya is no exception.  There are many challenges in trying to move forward

There have also been recent change to the operation of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). There are thousands of NGOs in Kenya and many of those are run by foreigners from all around the globe.   To date most of them seem to have operated without full accountability though certainly not all of them.  For example, lots of them do not keep up their filing of annual statements.  The government has become concerned about some NGOs being a front for terrorist sponsored activities.  As a result the government recently froze the bank accounts of a multitude of NGOs and a time line for rectifying irregularities. I don't know exactly how this all transpired but it seems a large number of  bank accounts have been not only been frozen but seized by the government in it's recent crackdown on non-compliant NGOs.  The ramifications of this action are still too early to assess.

I sincerely hope all these actions will benefit people on the ground and that graft and corruption whoever commits it will ultimately be controlled. In the meantime, there is still much work to be done to help our brothers and sisters in Kenya.

These pictures show my very small efforts toward doing just that. I want to acknowledge and thank all those of my readers who have contributed both financially and through prayer support to helping Kenyans.  Your  contributions are not in vain.

In 2014, we had a multi-pronged approach to Christmas outreach.  We wanted to feed or have a small party for as many orphans, villagers, and Internally Displaced Peoples as we could.  Despite our modest means we were able to do just that.

Friends, one thing I want you to notice is that there are very few, if any smiles on the faces of these people.  Instead what you see are faced lined with hardship.  It pains me to see people with such hardship.  Life is just that difficult in many places in Kenya. Even when you have an outreach, people take it very seriously lest they miss out on their one chance to get something to eat or drink. I am not being dramatic here folks, I am simply stating the facts of life if you are a poor person in Kenya.  One thing that saddened me very greatly and in fact distressed me when I've travelled to Kenya is the blatant disparity between those that work in NGOs that serve the poor and the poor themselves when there are so  many poor who have nothing to eat.  But that is another matter for another day.

Restaurant Meals

Some of the people who are getting the restaurant meal are homeless or orphans. My friends organized those they thought needed a blessing.  You can see a mother and several children as well as some orphans.

One might ask why give a restaurant meal to such people. I say "why not?" People deserve to be treated now and then to things they may never otherwise experience.  Christmas is a special time of year when  most of us get to share a meal with loved ones. If you are homeless or an orphan you can't even share a meal with loved ones in a family home.



Village Church Party

We also had a food distribution at a one of the village churches I had the pleasure of attending when I was in Kenya. My friends wanted to host a bit of  party with biscuits and sodas.  Just a simple affair to contain the costs.  Though they tried hard to keep the plans quiet until the day of the party some other local churches got wind of it.  Many more people came out than anticipated.  My friends did not have the heart to turn them away; especially the children.

Initially sodas were provided because this is a rare treat for people in the village.  It quickly became apparent that a new strategy had to be employed in order to contain the budget and sodas were replaced with juices. My friends also rightly assessed that it was too difficult to keep track of all the soda bottles with so many people in attendance.  Soda bottles all have to be recovered and returned to the vendor.  With such a crowd of people, it was too difficult to make sure the bottles could be recovered.

You can see all the empty crates where food and drink were stored before distribution.


 Distribution to Internally Displaced Peoples

Every year my friends like to help a small group of largely forgotten internally displaced peoples (IDPs).  This year they especially wanted to provide sanitary napkins to the women.  Environmentally friendly napkins or reusable ones were not an option because of the lack of washing facilities where the IDPs live.

We were able to provide a very small amount of refreshment and dried foods like flour to make chapati, in  addition to providing sanitary napkins At other times of the year, whenever we can, we try to do a special food run to these people but it is difficult to do unless we get extra donations because there are a few hundred people at the camp. They need food all year round as they have lost everything: homes, jobs, land, etc. when they had to flee for their safety during the post -election violence in 2007. Many are still displaced and waiting for compensation or relocation.


 






We didn't have quite enough funds to provide sanitary pads for the women for a 3 month period. My friends did very well to purchase wholesale supplies and thus and were able to stretch the funds.


Women can you imagine not having any sanitary pads when you need them each month? 
Can you imagine not having water to bath when you need it?

That is just the daily reality of so many people in Kenya. Not just in IDP camps but also in villages all across the nation.


That concludes Christmas outreach for another year. 


If any of you wish to have more information or want to donate to future endeavours then please do not hesitate to be in touch. 

Blessings!

Beautiful World


I captured these sky photos while out on a walk the other day. I was very fascinated by the sky and took many photos. 

 I am always fascinated when the clouds up above are moving very quickly and changing the look of the sky. 

Down below there was no wind but up above, there was obviously a lot of activity. My focus was on the moon which kept getting covered by the clouds. I hope you like the series.

















Joining in with Skywatch Friday

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Yesterday Spring Seemed So Close

Yesterday was filled with sadness and joy all in one day.

I first heard the news about my Kenya friend losing her child. Mother and family are going through an incredibly rough time right now; financially and emotionally and for the mom, physically too. See my blog post here if you have a moment.

Much later I went out for a walk.

The day was gloriously warm and sunny. A rarity in Vancouver over the winter months.

There were some early signs of Spring. 

I'm not sure what these blossoms are but they caught my eye.


The last time I took a photo of this fountain it was frozen solid. Yesterday it flowed freely.

Some rose hips were evident. I haven't noticed this bush here before.
A palm tree on someone's balcony beckons me to African shores.

I smiled as this senior cycled by on his tricycle.
A helicopter in flight. Can you spot it?


It seems like this kind of warm weather seems to happen around this time every year, give or take a week. Whether it remains is yet to be seen. At any rate, the real Spring is not so very far away from now.

As the sun was disappearing, it brought lovely pastel colours to the skies.


I like the look of the bare leaves like lace against the sky. The transit wires give added interest


I managed to take a shot of the half moon before the light got too low



I captured these pansies just before I stopped at the final store.  They are on the corner of two main city streets that get a lot of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. So you can see that pedestrians have been using the planter as an ashtray. What a shame!


 It was the end of my picture taking as night fell (just after 5 p.m.).

You can see the twin (mountain) peaks of the Lions way in back of mountains and the towers of downtown.
 Though it was sunny yesterday, today was a bit misty and foggy at higher levels.
In the east they are having winter storms.

I hope you are warm wherever you are in the world.

Joining in with Our World Tuesday

Thank you to hosts:

 
Arija
Gattina
 Lady Fi
Sylvia
Sandy
Jennifer
 
Our World Tuesday Graphic

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Sad Story



A friend I met in Kenya many years ago had to be rushed to Tenwek Mission Hospital a few days ago due to complications with her pregnancy.

Sadly she lost the baby at 31 weeks despite the hospital staff making heroic efforts to save the child.

In her culture the unborn child must be buried within the day so several members of the community were at the hospital to receive the baby's remains and take him home for burial at the family compound.  The mother could not attend the burial as she is still in hospital.

Compounding the pressures on the mother and her family is the fact that the hospital bill for her care is enormous. It is a huge concern for them and I don't know how they will meet the cost. I can only pray.

I'm posting this so others can pray too. Not just for the bills to be met but for the grieving hearts and the physical trauma to heal properly. It takes time.

If you can spare a few minutes, please have a look at this short video. It is of the highway the young mom would have had to be transported on to get from her home to the mission hospital  She would have travelled for close to two hours as they rushed to the hospital in vain trying to save the baby.


Travel in Kenya is not easy. What is considered a short distance in North America takes much longer to travel on the highways of Kenya. It is usually a bumpy and jarring ride and is very tiring. Since my first trip to Kenya there have been many highway improvements but there is a lot more to improve.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Gluten Free

Hello friends,

As I was cleaning out and organizing my kitchen cabinets the other day, I took stock of the various specialty flours I've purchased over time and never used. I decided they must be used soon. This will not only free up more kitchen cabinet space but also allow me to test how they affect my blood glucose levels. Right now I have: millet flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, maize flour, dark rye flour, coconut flour and some kind of gluten free all purpose flour made by Red Mills.

I decided to try the All Purpose Baking Flour first as I need a bit of bread. This flour contains a blend of gluten free flours from potatoes, sorghum, tapioca, garbanzo and fava beans and is designed for those sensitive to wheat and gluten. This mix can be used for homemade cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, pancakes and waffles.




After mixing the flour was quite lumpy.  The directions said to flatten or smooth out the top with a wet spatula. I did do that.  I see that the bread dough did not bake and smooth out but that is fine by me. The shininess comes from the butter I spread on after baking.


It came to a nice golden colour all around except in the very center of the loaf. The instructions are to bake the loaf for an hour but after ten minutes you put a layer of tin foil over top to prevent it from getting too brown. As you can see the edges of the loaf are much darker because I didn't tightly close the foil over the edges.


The profile of the bread makes the loaf look flat. It isn't quite flat but neither is it nice and round like most loaves made with wheat flour. I am sure that is because this is a gluten free loaf. Read the role of gluten in bread here.



Taste test: After baking the bread which I found to be light and moist, I gave it a taste test.  While it wasn't my absolute favourite, there really was nothing wrong with it. I usually prefer a heavier texture than these slices of  bread but overall I think this bread will serve nicely when toasted or butter with bread (and/or jam.

The bread recipe was taken from the package on the flour.


 I read several online reviews of people who also used the flour. It seems that people either love it or hate it. If you don't mind the taste and you have gluten sensitivities this flour would be a good all purpose flour for you to try. I found it didn't have a huge spike on my blood glucose levels after I ate some.  I may try it again for making cookies or cakes in future.  For now, I will use up the flours I already have.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Menu Plan #3 & Thoughts on Posting on Line

Hello friends,

(If you missed my Sky Post, you can see it here). This is a bit of a hodge-podge post as I start off reviewing my experience over the past week with my menu plan. I then share some thoughts on posting too much information on line before sharing my menu plan for this week.

I'm going into my 3rd week of menu planning and enjoying it quite a lot. I am finding I am eating healthier and have less cravings. On the day I went out last weekend without eating properly for lunch, I did end up eating very poorly that night. Some days are just like that.  Even though I took a light lunch with me, I guess I ate it too late to really help keep my blood glucose levels stable.

This past week, I did manage to shop the flyers for those things that were on my menu plan. Of course not everything was on my plan but I didn't waste so much fresh fruit and vegetables since I did not over buy. In the past, I would often buy far more fruits and vegetables than I could possibly eat. I always felt it best to have a lot of healthy stuff on hand but generally could not keep up to eating it all. Now I only buy what I need for my meals and snacks. I also only buy the specific meat, fish or fowl that I might need for the week.

It is early days but it seems to be working out just fine. I would rather have to go to the store and refill on staples like celery, onions and carrots rather than have too many in the fridge at any one time.

Since I cleaned out my food storage cabinet last weekend and can see what is in there, I am also starting to use it. Eventually it will free up more storage space in my cabinet for those things I really want to keep on hand and not just those specialty items which I infrequently use.

I made two dishes requiring ground beef this week: chili and meatballs with spaghetti. I had enough ground beef to make enough chili to last for a few lunches and enough meatballs to stretch out for 3 meals. Since my freezer is no longer stuffed to the limit, I was able to freeze ahead for a few meals later in the month.

Even though the meal planning is working out for me, I am feeling a bit tired and hence a bit lazy to do another week of planning today but I need to peruse the flyers so I best get at the task at hand. I was too busy watching youtube videos on how other people save money.

Nothing new there for me.  I don't know why I wasted so much time on that activity today as I do a lot of things already to save in ways that work for me.  I guess I keep hoping to find new ways and means that I haven't thought of, read about, or viewed before.  There are only so many new ideas in the world but it is always amazing to me just how many people post a video of themselves talking and talking yet never say much of substance. Or they have something important or useful to say but instead of saying it and moving on they say the same things 20 times over in a 10 minutes video. I would far rather read a good blog that I can scan if necessary and zero in on the things of interest. I also like the sense of support and camaraderie that a blogging community can provide.

On youtube and I gather other social media, I'm learning that people can at times be very negative and hurtful to others and at times it can be downright dangerous.  It is not a good idea to post photos, location information and very personal information on the world wide web for anyone who wants to to view and consume as they see fit.  Even those of us who just post photos face the constant danger of keeping your photos within your ownership.  Every day people scan the internet and steal the works and art of others. I don't bother to try and protect my photos much but the other day I was scanning some websites and I came across my photo in a local news article from a reputable paper on line and there was absolutely no credit given. I myself use photos from the newspapers but I always credit the author or creator when I know who it is. That is just common courtesy.

I think it is better to be somewhat discreet on line though not everyone shares my view and even though I think the way I do, I still have lapses in judgement and application of my "rules".   I especially think it is good to be discreet and use wisdom when posting photos of people and especially of your children or other people's children.  This is basically an invasion of people's privacy. That is why I rarely post people pics or pics of myself for that matter. I have noticed that there are some people who are careful not to show faces of children or other people and I commend them for that. Those of you who follow and read me know I have posted photos in the past of family or those we help in missions. I have certain criteria for doing so (example, my family members post on line or a child's photo when they are too young for recognition). I also post photos of those we help in Africa though am even more conflicted about that. I really don't want to downgrade the dignity of the people and yet I want to educate or raise awareness of the conditions so that others might be positively influenced to help.  When I post about Africa, I try not to give precise location information though I do need to give some details to help situate things.

Anyway, I'm digressing. It is because I just got off of youtube and was a bit distracted, smile.

Without further ado, here is my menu for the coming week.(By the way. I posted a link to the Curried Red Lentil Soup from last week's menu. It was my first time making this dish and it was so delicious. It will be a new favourite and so easy to make as long as you have the spices and red lentils on hand).

In making my shopping list this week I see there are sales on the beef and pork I intend to use. Also I see there are some great prices on chicken so I'm buying just a bit more than needed for another week.

Saturday

Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch -  Leftovers
Dinner - Beef Stroganoff, green salad

Sunday

Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch -Boiled eggs, strawberries, apple chunks, cheese (pack to church)
Dinner - Roast pork with roasted sweet potato/parsnip "chips", kale salad

Monday

Breakfast -  Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch - Pork sandwich on lettuce leaf instead of bread
Dinner - Spaghetti & Meatballs, romaine salad, strawberries & kiwi

Tuesday

Breakfast - Waffles & banana
Lunch - Tuna salad sandwich on rye bread
Dinners - Stirfry (with left over pork), fruit salad

Wednesday

Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch - Vegetable soup, rye bread
Dinner -Roast Chicken & Veggies

Thursday

Breakfast - Fruit pancakes (using leftover fruit in freezer)
Lunch - Salmon Chowder or Potato Leek Soup, fruit
Dinner - (Leftover from last week) Turkey with stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts or green beans

Friday

Breakfast - Hot cereal with goji berry
Lunch - Leftovers
Dinner - Basa Fish with creamed corn and green veggies

* Snacks - bananas, green smoothie, yogurt, peanut butter on rye crackers

Bon appetit!
Here's to another week of healthier eating.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

One Day This Week

Credit: Photo and quote from QuotesTree

The hooded clouds, like friars,
Tell their beads in drops of rain.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


The sky is the daily bread of the eyes. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Joining Skywatch Friday here.


African Music & Happenings