Morgans 2014

Morgans 2014


Saturday, 14 March 2015

“Look out world, here I come!”

I just offered to blow bubbles for a toddler sitting on his mum’s lap, at a local café...
(Continue reading Mo's Journal further down the page)

Here is a glimpse of what has been going on with our ministry since our last post:

Short Term Mission team from our home church in Prince George, BC

Ribbon Cutting at the ACC&S, Dandora Church

Ribbon-cutting for two new offices: The Urban Ministries, Self-Help Group Project Officer, John Njiha and the ACC&S, Dandora Church Pastor, Rev. Peter Njoroge 

A photo of the Prince George,FBC sign as a gift to ACC&S, Moderator, Rt Rev. Maina and 
General Secretary, Rev. Ngumo

Bible College
Christmas Party for Bible College Staff & families in the Morgan's back yard. 
Patrick Maina lecturing students on HIV & AIDS

Learning to build "Sack-gardens"
Principle Beth with
David Morgan & Chandehl VandenEykel. Along with our 2nd son, Sean, David & Chandehl joined us (Michael, Mo & I) in Kenya for Christmas.

Self Help Group Training

CBM's Brenda Halk came to
help our Self-Help-Groups
(SHGs) with some good
business practices.
Beth with Brenda Halk.

SHG Small Business training class with Brenda Halk
Participants in SHG training.

Certificate in Integral Mission (CIM)
Wayne here is teaching a group of 

pastors from Kenya's North-East

Province who have gathered to 

study in the CIM program.

CIM Class, Nov. 2014

Kamp Tumaini Preparation
This class of girls attend the ACC&S Gituru school, the site of Kamp Tumaini this August. They are waving hello to all their Canadian brothers and sisters.

One of the dorm rooms that will be used this August for Kamp Tumaini.

Nairobi Urban Ministry Team

When we started the Urban Ministry pilot program, we intentionally wanted to use it to train others in doing Integral Mission urban ministry. To this end, we invited all the ACC&S Nairobi pastors, as well as the head office staff, to a conference where we presented what we have done so far. Our dream is that some of these urban pastors will initiate an Integral Mission project.

Visit from Sam & Cindy Chaise
A CBM, Kenya staff meeting...
Welcoming Ken and Wendy Derksen (and Stefan Cherry)
CBM's, Val Fenn visiting from Beautiful BC
Sam and the pigs (Warthogs)

“Look out world, here I come!”
I just offered to blow bubbles for a toddler sitting on his mum’s lap, at a local café.    I realized how strange this may have seemed to this young couple to have had a complete stranger sitting beside them in a restaurant pull bubbles out of her purse and offer to play with their child.  And so I felt the urge to explain that I was not a strange lady, but that I carry bubbles with me because I visit an orphanage.  They politely nodded as if to say…”and that explains it, how?”  In fact, they were quite gracious about my offer, even though the bubbles ended up nowhere near their baby due to a very strong wind that caused the bubbles to blow directly into the other customers.  I didn’t look to see the other customers’ reactions. I was too busy worrying about the toddlers’ parents’ reaction.

Yes, sometimes my impulsivity gets the better of me, and I end up embarrassing myself…and others.  Those others, most often, being members of my own family. Fortunately Wayne and Michael had left before the bubble incident or I don’t know what they would have done. Michael already refers to me as “the crazy lady”.   And he isn’t joking.

I think the workers at the orphanage/children’s home, wonder just how crazy I am too. Every time I visit, I come with a different toy, or idea for working with this one particular child. Here name is Mary (not really, but I think I can’t use her real name for some legal reasons) and she is about 15 months old. She hasn’t begun to walk yet, and the staff are worried that she may never walk. I too am concerned because she has, in my opinion, very low muscle tone. She has been to several doctors who all say there is “nothing physically wrong with her”, even though it seems obvious to most that she is quite weak, and slow to develop. I have asked if I could help by taking her to physiotherapy, but in order to do that, you need a doctor’s prescription, which she hasn’t been given. And so, the director has given me the go ahead to do exercises with her to work on her development.

This, of course, is right up my alley, because of my experience as a Public Health Nurse working with children and families back in Canada. Normally I would make a referral for a child like this to the Infant Development Program to help a child learn to walk. But now I have a chance to develop my own skills in this particular area.

And so I have been teaching myself online, using various physio and development sites. And it has been fun! The first day I brought a box and a basin.  I got Mary to sit on the box, with her feet on the floor and lean forward into the basin to reach for her toys. This worked for a while, but of course she got bored. The next day I asked the staff if I could use the bathtub as a “kiddie pool”, to do some physio type games using the buoyancy of the water to encourage her to try different movements. Plus splashing is fun, right! She hated it and cried the whole time.  At the end of that day, the staff joked with me about what I would try tomorrow, hanging her from the hedges?  Ha ha.

No, the next day I tried using a bouncy ball as a seat for her to sit on, with her feet touching the ground, and bounced her up and down while singing songs. Well, she loved it. She even tried to sing along and started doing the actions to “Pat-a-Cake”, and “All Around the Mulberry Bush” and “The Ants Go Marching”. And without realizing it, she was working on her core muscles, her legs, and her feet. By the end of my session with her she was pooped.

The next day, I thought…hey! She loves food. And she needs practice with her fine motor skills too. So I searched long and hard for cheerios, which were nowhere to be found. But I did find a version of rice crispies. And so I bought them. I was amazed by the stamina of this little girl when it came to obtaining yummy snacks. 

I sat her on my leg, with me sitting on the floor and her feet touching the ground. I put one rice crispy in my hand and held it in front of her. She carefully picked it up with her finger and thumb and put it in her mouth….and loved it! So I lowered my hand slightly, and she did it again. And again. And again, until my hand was all the way to the floor and she was bending all the way to the ground and back, using her stomach muscles and legs to balance herself. Without realizing it, she did about 100 repetitions of a very difficult task, and was feeling very proud of herself!  The staff, again, looked at me like I was a little crazy, but became intrigued by how determined she was, and how well she was doing bending over and getting back up.

Mary’s main caregiver is quite concerned about her inability to walk, because this will make it more difficult for her to be placed in a permanent home, making it more likely that she will spend her childhood in a care home.  So, learning to walk is crucial for her future.

At first the workers, and myself, were holding Mary up by her arms, doing most of the work for her, while Mary would make walking motions with her legs. She didn’t, however, have any strength of her own, and would put no weight on her legs. And she was hating this game. It became clear to me that this was not the best way to foster walking.  That was when I started doing research.

The exercises I am doing with her make complete sense to me.  They are starting where she is at, and building her strength up little by little. They are helping her learn to use her legs and to engage her core muscles in small motions. Little by little her strength, balance and coordination are increasing.  I am confident that she will eventually learn to stand, then to walk, then to run. But we can’t skip the middle steps. We have to help her develop the basic skills and build on them gradually. Holding her up and “walking” with her, doesn’t help and may even do harm.  Because she will learn not to depend on her own strength but on the strength of others. She won’t gain the necessary skills or confidence in herself, but will simply rely on others to do the work for her.  

And this was already starting to happen. No fault of her own, but I can see her tendency towards “helplessness“.  The workers call her fearful.  But I think she lacks confidence.  In fact, in writing this, I am remembering that she is in the development stage of “autonomy versus self-doubt”.  At this stage the goal is to foster the development of one’s independence and belief in oneself. The belief that “I can do it”. And if this doesn’t happen the child will feel inadequate, dependent, lack self-esteem, and doubt their own abilities.
And it is not too late for Mary.  Yes, she is at a crucial junction, but I see her confidence growing. She is getting stronger. She gets excited when she successfully gets a rice crispy into her mouth, or is able to do the actions to songs. And she is developing that wonderful toddler attitude that we all know and love – the one that says “Mine!” and “No!” and “Me do!” – the one that says “Look out world, here I come!”.
Human beings are amazing creatures. God has made us to be independent and to assert ourselves in this world. After all, he gave us not only free will but the responsibility to look after His entire creation. Quite the responsibility! He wants us to become all that we can be! This, of course, is balanced with dependence on him – knowing our limitations as human beings.  Like children, who need to develop independence within the knowledge that their parents are there to support them when they need it.  And our independence is not for the sake of being selfish, thinking only of our own needs, but to be able to take care of others, and this planet! Our independence is a gift, to be used for the betterment of others, not just for ourselves.  In the words of Spider Man’s dad, “With great power comes great responsibility”.
In talking to Mary’s caregiver, she shared with me that she, herself grew up in an orphanage for her entire childhood. And now, she wants to “give back” by working in an orphanage. In spite of her challenges in life, she still recognizes that she has a responsibility to care for others, not just herself. I find this amazing. She is a loving and strong woman, who cares for so many children every day, and then goes home to care for her own.  
Will Mary walk? I think so. Will she grow up in a care home?  I don’t know. But what I do know, is that no matter what, her life will be impacted by the people around her. By the care and love that she receives, whether from a parent or a worker. That her confidence in herself will be fostered by those around her.  And that if she does grow up in a care home, that she can have a good life. That she can learn to be independent and to rely on God. And to be happy.
And me? All I can do is my small part. To take this opportunity to spend time with her and to love her and to encourage her, and trust that in some way, this will have had a positive impact in her life. That I will have been a part of her journey. And I have to trust God for the rest.
Mary is just one of the lives that we have intersected with here in Kenya.  There are many others whose stories aren’t that much different, even though the others are much older. Because even at the age of 27 years – or 57, people need help that fosters independence, not dependence. It is a life-long struggle to maintain one’s belief in one’s self when faced with adversity. To continue to say “I can do it” even when the evidence seems to be to the contrary. And to remember that “I can’t do it alone.” I can do it with the help of others and the help of God.  But I am a capable person.  So I won’t give up. I won’t let discouragement get the best of me. I won’t lie down and die. I will keep pushing forward. I will keep bending down to pick up that rice crispy and I will become stronger. I will walk. And I will keep walking.
Isaiah 40:31
But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Our Family

So... the big family news is that we have a new daughter-in-law-to-be!! Woohoo!! Welcome, Chandehl!

Isaiah 40:31 again (MSG)

But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.

    They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
    they walk and don’t lag behind.

May God Bless you all...

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Where Everybody Knows Your Name...

ACC&S Sunday School Rally

ACC&S Sunday School children from all over Kenya gathered in Embu to dance and celebrate in front of church leaders, parents and other invited guests. There were 38 Sunday School groups (over 1000 children) presenting to an audience of approximately 2000 people.

 Bible College 

Saturday's Intro to New Testament Class

This year we have added the new Saturday Program. As a two-year program, students who have full time jobs but still wish to study can complete their Diploma of Theological Studies by attending class all day every Saturday. This program has attracted students from denominations outside of the ACC&S.


 Maureen was invited to the Integral Mission class to help the students analyze data that they had collected for a Needs Assessment exercise. Their assignment is to submit a narrative report based on this data they collected while at home on their mid-term break.

John, our Dandora Self Help Group Project Officer, was also invited to the Integral Mission class. He introduced the class to the SHG concept as yet another expression of integral mission.

Dandora Self Help Group Project

CBM's Lenny Mbogo with the "Bidii" (Effort) SHG
Bidii SHG conducting the business of
bookkeeping and table banking
We had a visit from Lenny Mbogo, CBM’s Program Officer for Africa. We were excited to introduce her to the groups where she was warmly welcomed.

Kamp Tumaini
Kamp Tumaini Planning Group

Plans are going full steam ahead for next summer's first Kamp Tumaini. Two groups of 12 Canadian camp leaders will be coming to Kenya and joining two groups of 12 Kenyan counterparts to put on a camp for 120 children of the Guardians of Hope program. Although the Canadian spots are full for the 2015 camp, there is still room for 2016 and 2017.

Maureen had the privilege of talking (via skype and video) with some women from Alberta about the Guardians of Hope Program. To view the video, click on the link below:

*GoH Video prepared for the Alberta Women in Focus Conference: Oct. 2014

This lady is one of the many beneficiaries of the
Guardians of Hope Program

Where everybody knows your name…”
Mo's Journal

Can you name that TV show? Are you singing the song?  “Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came….you wanna go where people know you,  where troubles are all the same, you wanna go where everybody knows your name”.   Yes, that is the theme song of the beloved TV show, Cheers, and I have been humming it for a while now. It is the result of me trying to come up with a title for this blog post.

You see, I have been attending a ladies’ group recently. It’s called a “spiritual formation” group, as opposed to a Bible study group. The women are from various countries, mostly “ex-pats” (people living outside of their home country), and some Kenyans.

Since the first time I attended this group, I have found that I leave in a better state than when I arrive. I always manage to get something meaningful out of the experience. There’s just something special that happens when people get together to share their experiences and burdens with one another, and to pray for one another.

Many of the women are at a similar stage in life as me – empty nesters, or with young adult children – struggling to let their children grow up, and experiencing all of the emotions that go along with this.  And for some reason, there is such power in being understood – to find out that you are not “the only one” going through your circumstances.  To know that there are people out there, just like you, who can really relate.  And when these people also really care about you, the impact is even more powerful. Somehow this experience draws you closer to God. It’s like God reaches down and gives your soul a hug and says, “I know you and I love you, and it’s all going to be ok”. Somehow God uses community to meet our soul’s needs. To help us to feel loved and accepted, and to give us hope.

I think that’s why it is so difficult when we don’t have a community around us – when we live in isolation. Because we were meant for community. “It’s not good for man to be alone.” I looked up the word community on the internet, and it is no surprise that it is related to the word common, and carries with it ideas like shared by all, and fellowship, having things in common.  I think sometimes we forget that community isn’t just the geography of where we live, but it is the people with whom we live and interact.  We can live in a community but have no “sense of community”.  And we can experience community with people who don’t live anywhere near us.

I grew up in the big city of Toronto, surrounded by crowds my whole life. And for anyone who has lived in this kind of city, you will know what I mean when I say, the city can be one of the loneliest places in the world. The fact that there are millions of people around you, does not mean that you feel any sense of community whatsoever. In fact, there is an unwritten rule that says you don’t make eye contact when walking down a busy street, let alone say hello to anyone. And on the subway, you may sit beside a perfect stranger, or be pressed up against him or her on an over-crowded bus, but you may not engage in conversation. You may stare up at the ads, close your eyes, read a book, or put your ear phones in and listen to music, but at no time may you acknowledge your fellow human beings.  Unless you are a tourist, and then you might be forgiven.

I do understand the reason for this – it’s because there are just too many different people all around you all the time that you cannot possibly engage or invest in all of them.   And chances are, you will never see that person again. Even if you both take the same route every day, you will never see the same person twice. If you do happen to see someone you know on public transit it is nothing short of a miracle! Intentionally trying to meet up with a friend on public transit is difficult enough – you have to be very specific about the time and location you are meeting, or you will never find each other. 

But the anonymity of living in a crowd takes its toll on the soul. In fact, there is a pervasive feeling of loneliness in the big city. The fact that there are so many people around you, who don’t know you, accentuates your lack of community.  For me, I always had lots of friends, and was always heading to somewhere that I had a community, but for those few hours a day on public transit, the impact was still strong. I can’t even imagine how hard it is for people who don’t have community during the other hours of the day.   

For me, I was aware of this phenomena from a young age, and always dreamed of living in a smaller place. So when Wayne and I moved to his home town, Prince George, BC, (a city of about 100,000 people) I was thrilled! Even during the first week there, I actually ran into people that I recognized out in public! And they would actually stop and talk! It was a miracle!! For the first time I felt that I was living in a place where people knew each other. Of course not everyone knew each other, but compared to the big city, it felt to me like a very close community. And I loved it. Of course, after 20 years of living there, I knew many more people and could be guaranteed that if I went shopping I would run into at least a few people that I knew who would stop and chit chat for a while.

And for some reason, in small cities like Prince George, it is just more socially acceptable to talk to strangers. It is not unusual to strike up a conversation with the person standing in line behind you at the grocery store. There is no overarching expectation of anonymity like there is in a big city. Of course not everyone talks to everyone else, but when you pass a stranger while going for a walk, you have the choice of saying “good morning” or not.

Nairobi is a unique kind of place. It is made up of many, many people most of who have come to the big city from the rural areas. And they bring with them that small town friendliness.  Kenyans are very quick to make eye contact, smile, and even chat with you.  And at meetings, every new person who enters the room goes around and says hello and shakes the hand of everyone else. No matter if the meeting has already started and the person arriving is late, they still take the time to do this. To me this is fascinating.  The act of acknowledging every person, is somehow very inclusive. It makes you feel like you somehow know every person in the room. This type of interaction does not come naturally to me, but I do appreciate it, and I do try to remember to greet people like this when it is me entering a room. And I do try to say hello and smile to passing strangers. 

At the other end of the spectrum are the “ex-pats” who live in Nairobi, but come from all over the world (people like me). Everyone with their different languages, cultures and backgrounds all living in a “foreign” land. Interestingly, I find that they are usually hesitant to interact with other ex-pat strangers.  At first, I found this quite confusing. I had an assumption that the ex-pat “community” would have an immediate common bond, because of our circumstances, but I find, in fact, quite the opposite. It may be that most of them come from big cities and have the expectation of anonymity, or it may be that there is an unspoken sense of transience – people don’t know if you are a tourist, a short-term resident, or a long-term resident, so they don’t really want to invest in getting to know you. Or perhaps it’s just that there is no shared identity, and we fear that we are too different to have anything in common.

I think this is why my ladies group was so surprising. Here is a group of ex-pats from all over the world, who do share a sense of community; who are willing to invest in one another, and share together their common experiences.  Women who have stepped out of their comfort zone to find community.

This reminds me of something I have witnessed in a few of the programs with which we work. The impact of simply bringing people together. Take the Guardians of Hope program, for example. The first, and most powerful step in this program is to seek out people who are living in isolation because of the stigma and fear associated with HIV/AIDS, and gather them together to meet with others going through similar experiences. Being a part of a group of loving, accepting and supportive people who share your struggles, has an amazing power of restoration and transformation. We have seen the same phenomena in the urban Self Help Group projects, which seek to empower people living in extreme poverty in Nairobi’s slums.

Much of our work here is under the umbrella of something called “Community Development”.  I think most people would associate this term with improvement of a geographical type of community, rather than the development of the people who make up the community. But I think that it is about both. I think that at the basis of any kind of development work, there has to be a group of community members who care for one another, and are willing to seek to improve not only their own lives, but the lives of their neighbours.

The U.N. defines “Community Development” as "a process where community members come together to take collective action and generate solutions to common problems." Makes sense right? As good as the intentions of an outside agency may be, it just doesn’t work when we try to impose our solutions on a community. It has to be the community members themselves, who we support so that they can come together to solve their own problems in their own ways.  

This doesn’t mean that communities don’t need outside help sometimes – and we as the greater community of humankind, have a responsibility to help our fellow man - and we as the community of God have a responsibility to “love our neighbours”. So we can’t just say, “Fine.  If they don’t want to do it my way, let them figure it out themselves”. We have to be willing to humbly serve a community asking them, “How can we be of help to you”. “How can we support you so that you can help one another?”

In fact, this is the thing I love most about our organization, CBM.  We have learned from past mistakes – mistakes that many “helping” organizations have made. And we really do try to work from this “grassroots” perspective. Even when it means the process is slower.  Because in the long run, communities do come together, to support and care for one another. And they do come up with solutions to their problems.  And they do experience God, through the love and practical support of their community.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it? The more things change, the more they stay the same. Right from the beginning of time, we were meant for community – and we still are.  And no matter how self-reliant, and independent we think we are, we still need each other. We still “wanna go where everybody knows our name”.

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another...” Hebrews 10:24-25

Monkey Business

When we were down on the coast (Indian Ocean), this little monkey tried desperately to get into our room.
 As he did not succeed, he was not very happy

A load of sticks
A beautiful woman (Wayne wrote this)

Bach's "Sleepers Wake! For Night Is Flying"

 Mo and I joined the Nairobi Music Society choir. For Maureen, this is old hat. But for me, a simple old rocker, this classical music is proving to be extremely challenging. But it is a lot of fun.

Again, thank you all for your continued prayer and your support.

May God's richest blessings be yours,

"Twisted Tree"