Diary for bigkevandnell


about to leave

2006-06-17

hey, it`s almost 11:00 pm and we leave in the morning for the flight to Zambia. The last few days have been pretty hectic but we`re packed and ready to go. Last minute things to grab and stuff into corners of the bag.

You’ll see from the itinerary that we’ll be spending most of our time on this trip in the two largest projects we have, Maplehurst Farm and Samfya, a little town in Zambia. We’ll fill you in about these two places and others we visit as we go. I’m sure you’ll enjoy meeting some of our friends there.

So welcome to the trip, we’re glad you are on the journey with us.

Kevin and Helen


sitting in the heat

2006-06-19

hi there folks, we got to Dubai safely after 17 hours in the air and two stopovers. we arrived at 6:30 am and it was already 31 degress, forecast 41 today!

once you get in the air it`s a bit of a pain to stop part way, but i hope we`ll feel a little less tired because of the travel. we`ll start putting some photo`s on the site once we get to Zambia. we had to buy a new camera on the way, our old digital bought in about 1999 ran out of pixels or something!

we trust you are all well and doing OK? thenks for the messages that have been sent. it`s a real ecouragement.

have a nice day,

Kevin and Helen


dirty or naked

2006-06-22

Hi there team

Thanks fro the notes on the site, great to hear from you all, especially those we haven’t heard from or seen for years. If you want o contact us direct you could do so by e-mail. Anyway, since we last contacted you we’ve had a couple of sleeps in Zambia. Sleeps with only the clothes we stand in. the bags didn’t arrive in Lusaka, still in Johannesburg. We were travelling with 4 other guys, one got his bags on the night, broken into, one got his the next day, broken into and the rest of us are still waiting!!!!!

Here is a tip, if you get the urge to ever fly through Johannesburg, go another way, any way, but not that one. There, that’s my bit for tourism in South Africa, they deserve to loose every rugby test this year, and of course, next year too.

Anyway, we’re sitting here typing this to you in smelly clothes, it beats the alternative!! It’s kind of cool in the mornings but when the sun comes out it’s OK. Hopefully today we’ll hear if our luggage has arrived, the trouble is we’re more than two hours away from Lusaka airport now.

Anyway, that’s enough dribble from us lot,

Kevin and Helen


settling into farm life

2006-06-25

Hi team

hope you`re all doing OK? we`re basking in the sunshine, though it`s a bit cool in the evening and morning.

helen still hasn`t got her bags so we`re going to have to claim insurance unfortunatley; and find some new clothes to wear. we`ve also lost some other stuff ou tof my bag, it`s amazing howyou don`t realize what`s missing.

anyway, apart from that we`re working on the farm, talking and planning the future development and reviewing the last year of operation. the family that manages the farm are doing well, they are so full on it`s scary. fortunately another family is preparing to comes out early next year to lend a hand.

we watched the hilights of the ABs game this morning, bit of a tense one really. nice to see something of NZ and hear the commentary from NZers. we`re surrounded by NZers at the mo. there are 11 of us here at the moment. tonight we`re going to share a bit of the cheese we produce and make sure it`s up to international standards. we make some nice stuff here that goes to the Game Parks and Supermarkets around the place. another week here, working through the details of the farm, identifying weaknesses and sorting through the issues. there are two NZers here putting in the irrigation scheme as well. so they`re hard at it trying to make the best of the current situation here. The accomodation block that will be here for visitors is coming along and nearing compeltion. i`ve added a couple of photos to show you.

anyway friends, must away and have a break from the computer, we`ve almost managed to catch up with the backlog of e-mails. we love hearing from you.

Kevin and Helen


just cruising

2006-06-27

Hi there friends

it`s been great to hear from so many of you, some with messages and many through e-mails. i`ts awesome to hear that so many have been reading the site.

we`re a little stalled at the moment, we`re still at Maplehurst Farm and are sorting through the issues of final purchase and takeover of the property. we had discussions with the guy we bought it from today, trying to sort through the final issues.

We`re also looking at the building and making some final adjustments before it`s too late. Also, Helen still hasn`t got her suitcase so we`re looking at the alternatives, what does she wear, what does she buy, there is still a chance it will come through though it`s getting slimmer by the day.

the power went off today and we saw the new 100 kva generator fire up. also started getting some irrigation sorted so that later this year we can start sowing better pasture.

anyway, this is just a little note to let you know we are really thankful for your interest and encouragement.

we`re making plans over the next couple of days and will probably make a few ammendments to the itinerary. But we`ll let you know when it happens.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen


moving on

2006-07-01

we`re heading North today so there is no guarantee we`ll be able to contactg you or get e-mails. but we still need your prayers. we`rel going to be travelling a fair few kms by road over the next week, we`ve got two short term team coming in and lots` of numbers to crunch in one of the largest projects. so, there will be plenty to do.

we`re keeping well so that`s good.

Helen`s bag hasn`t arrived, i think it`s a gonner so she`s trying to buy repalcement clothes and other things.

blessings and love

Kevin and Helen


hi from Samfya

2006-07-06

hi there dear friends

we`re in Samfya, middle of Africa and we`ve been visiting heaps of orphans today. also seen a new grinding mill we`ve put into a village. it`s so cool to see the changes that are happening in the the families and people we`re helping.

Helen still hasn`t got her bag, she`s scored some new things but we`ll have to make a plan for replacing all the other stuff she had.

so, this is a dodgy line and i have to get off.

Love to you all

Kevin and helen


back at Maplehurst for a few days

2006-07-15

hi friends, we`re back in a place we can communicate again. Well, it`s been an interesting couple of weeks. First we went back to our olds haunt at GLO Zambia, the place we established in the 80s. Great to see the place again and see the ongoing developments.

Then it was out to a village for a day to check out one of the orphan projects, about 40 of them. such beautiful children.

I`ve put a few photos of some of the orphans we are sponsoring on the blog site for you to check out.

Then it was a 3 hour drive to a farm owned by some white African friends. It`s a huge farm with a game ranch as well. They have giraffe, zebras and many other antelope inlcuding Sable, a rare one now.

Then it was off to visit another project, a new one that we`ll start supporting very soon with 202 orpahns, there are so many poor and desperate kids in Zambia, it blows me away every time I visit. it`s just overwhelming. Charles, the guy who is leading this one is an amazing guy, passionate about giving the kids a fair go and a break.

Then it was to samfya, a town on the largest lake in Zambia, along with 100s of orphans. we`re looking after 1,000 of them with Willow Creeek Community church from Chicago. They sent out 2 teams of leaders to check out the partnership and went away with lots of memories. i think they were impressed by the calibre of the people in Samfya who lead this ministry. so we were tour guides for 4 days, in between the two trips we went 4 hours North of Samfya to another orphan care project. it`s increased from 107 to 180 orphans in the last couple of months. one little guy of 9 hasn`t been to school in his life cause he has a spine injury and can`t get the 7 kms to school. so we`re looking at buying him a bike with a carrier and someone will need to cart him to and from school every day - Joseph.

Then it was meetings with Samfya Bible school and a 6 hour drive home. we did about 3,000 kms in the 14 days since leaving and we`re safely home, you never take that for granted here.

Jared and Ruth (son and daughter in law) arrive in 3 days and will spend the next month with us traveling around projects. it will be great to have them with us.

anyway friends, it`s great you`re on the journey with us. thanks for the messages and e-mails. it`s a great encouragement.

Love, Kevin and Helen


resting up and off again

2006-07-19

It’s been great to spend a few days at Maplehurst and catch up on a bit of sleep again. It’s been great to have Jared and Ruth here too, they got into Zambia yesterday and have slotted in really well.

Tomorrow we’re off to Ndola to visit some of the projects and for Jared to visit some of his childhood haunts. Not that little boys have too many haunts! Today we’ve been meeting with all of the staff at Maplehurst. There are almost 30 of them. We explained the reasons Bright Hope exists and the purpose, to help the poor. Not that easy to explain to people who are pretty poor even though they have a job.

So, we’re pretty excited to be here with J & R and to see Zambia through their eyes for a while. When you come here often you tend not to see a lot.

We’ll not have a lot of internet access over the next few days but hope you will continue to pray for us.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen


out and about

2006-07-24

hi there friends

we`re in a cafe in Ndola trying to get info in and out. bit of a mission!

Friday we went to one of the projects in Kalulushi and saw the people that run the parternship. it was good to hear the stories of the kids and how they are doing. they run a program for the kids, 50 iof them, every Saturday. The exchange rate has hit them hard this year and they can only afford to give the kids buns instead of a meal each week. so we`ll see what we can do about that. While i was talking to the leaders others on the team went out and interviewed some of the kids. I"ll let you know some of those stories some time soon. while there we heard of a very rural area with about 40 orphans anad no support. when we come back in October we`ll go check it out.

then yesterday, Sunday we went aan visited another project with 30 orphans. i had to preach twice and Helen and the team had to listen, twice, once in English and then the improved version, in ciBemba. they couldn`t understand either version according to the goss! anyway, we met all the kids and chatted to them. they sang songs for us. it was pretty cool to hear from them.

We then visited a project we have been looking at for a while. one of our Zambian friends is running a street kids ministry. every Sunday afternoon they are given a feed and play games, they hear stories and are taught some basic life skills. They are a desperate bunch of kids. One was arrested last week for killing his uncle, 15 of them were arrested the day before, Saturday, for fighting so weren`t at the program. they have no food in prison so will be pretty hungry by Monday.

it`s great having Jared and Ruth with us, they are loving it. they are really good with the locals too. they`ve done a few interviews of children and will be doing some more too. Brenda savill is travelling with us as well so it`s good for them all and there are plenty of laughs.

today we`ve got to get the wheels on the van aligned, buy some food and cash some money before heading back into the bush for a week.

hope you all have a great week.

Love to you all

Helen and Kevin


GLO Zambia and off again

2006-07-26

GLO Zambia has many memories for us. When we come here we don’t just see the buildings, we remember the people who came to build them, the hassles we had getting the materials to build, the nights outside burning the bricks in a kiln, the truckloads of firewood and sand we had to bring out of the bush.

It’s great to see the students in at the moment learning and growing.

Last night we visited a family that used to work at the Centre. Lemmon, the husband used to work in our house and Grace his wife was the GLO cook for 17 years. It was nice to visit their place and catch up with all the kids.

Doris, the first-born who has been married twice, her last husband died. She has a 13 year old son, Chisenga who is a smart little bloke. She would love to look after orphans and mother them, she never wants to marry again but who knows.

Then Grace, mother of two whose man refuses to marry her and whose family now wants the two children to go and live with them. Beautiful little Chalwe, 6 is being dragged away from mum but the family is going to fight. Doris and grace are opening a roadside stall to try and sell produce, vegetables and fish and other stuff.

Miriam is 25, beautiful, single with nothing to do. She sits around discouraged all day. When she was 6 she had a heart problem and she went to the UK for an operation that saved her life. For what seems to be the question. She has little hope of further education or employment and as for marriage, there are few Christian men who she would be interested in.

Lydia is a little like Miriam, she’s been through school and finished, bright and clever and speaks good English, but there is little hope of education.

And little Sarah, named after out Sara, the youngest. She’s just 17 and was raped just over a year ago. She has a little baby now and the family looks after it so she can go to school. Little Busuma, which means blessing, hardly seems like much of a blessing most of the time.

That’s the children who are home. Raymond is married and lives in Kitwe. He’s about 30, one child but has just lost his job. Maureen is married to a nice guy and lives in Ndola. She’s a nice Christian woman and her husband works full time with Mobile Mission Maintenance. Olly is a hard case, he’s set up a little piece of HOLLYWOOD on the back on the land they own. He cuts hair and sells other stuff to make a living.

And then there’s Dorcas. She lives and studies in Lusaka. We’re helping her to finish her studies. Last year she failed the course cause she wouldn’t sleep with the lecturer because she’s a Christian and he failed her. So now she’s going to have all the costs of another year’s study and one of the other sisters missed out. It’s tough living in a culture where everything is stacked against you.

But you’d never know it from the joy and welcome we experienced last night. They loved seeing Jared after 16 years. Grace, the mother calls me her first born even though she’s only a year older than me! Then Doris slaps me cause she’s really the first born. Then they show us the maize they have grown, about 25, 50 kg bags, more than enough for the year and stacked in mum and dad’s bedroom. They have a problem with rats coming in and before we left we heard a number them running through ceiling on their way to the bedroom. And they fed us, chicken, beef, vegetables and nshima, think maize porridge you eat with you hands. It was neat to feel so welcome, so much at home with people we love and who love us.

We’re just off to the bush, Samfya for a week. It will be net Tuesday or Wednesday before we can do much electronically. We might be able to sneak a little message or two out. So, thanks for the love, the encouragement and e-mails.


all over the place and loving it

2006-08-03

hi there friends

it`s been a while! apologies but we`ve been trying to get on line but it`s been a headache. the last few days since communication have been very different and it kindof sums up life here.

Visiting friends on a huge farm in Mukushi.

Talking about investment in a large Game Farm to generate funds for missions

In Samfya with a team from the the US, acting as tour guides and cooks

Visiting orphans in their homes and interviewing them

Driving on totally dust roads and dual carriage way highways

Eating in the best restaurant in Zambia and the same day eating nshima inone of the poorest villages in Zambia

Driving in a beat up old taxi and flying in an 8 seater plane.

Interviewing the District Commissioner of Samfya District and a solo mum who wants to look after 13 orphans in her church and send them to school.

at the moment Helen is in Kabwe and Kevin is in Ndola. it`s been very hectic and it would be great to have a day or two off. we might get that in a couple of days when we go to Livingstone with Jared and Ruth.

We continue to be amazed by the energy and spiritual maturity of the local people here. they have little apart from a huge faith and a belief that God will help them with their circumstances. so we`re always challenged.

Anyway, we`ll try to get out another message before we go quiet for a while on the next bush leg of the trip.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen


moving on, projects and Eastern Province

2006-08-07

hi there friends

tomorrow morning we head off for another stint in the rural areas. tomorrow we go to Lusaka and do a few things and pick up Jared and Ruth who fly back from Livingstone. we`ve had to make a few changes to the itinerary. we got so tired we deceided to flag the trip to Livingsotne. Jared and Ruth went there by themselves. so we pick them up tomorrow and Wednesday, early in the morning we head off on a 9 hour drive to Chipata. it`s right on the Malawi border. we`ll spend that evening and night in Chipate looking at the little school we support. about 120 kids i think. then the next day we go to a little village called Mchacha. we`ll stay there in tents for two nights and share with our friends Lonard and Rosemary Daka. they are carinf for heaps of kids.

then it`s a couple of hours trip on saturday to the South Luangwa Game Park for two nights in tents in the park. should be a bit of fun doing a couple of Gam Dirves. it`s an awesomw park, one of the best in Africa. then we`re back to Chipata and we say goodbye to Jared and Ruth. they go on to Malawi for a few weeks and we head back to Lusaka to fly out the following Wednesday.

Here is a little story written by one of the people travelling with us. it kind of captures a little of the story of one of the kids we`re sponsoring. i`ve attached a photo too for you to see.

A small group of girls played in the hot sun in front of a church in Chingola, Zambia. They clasped each others hands and danced in circles giggling as they twirled. There was nothing to tell us that she was any different from any of the other girls. She too smiled and laughed, glancing frequently over to check we were still watching her. Abigail was her name and she wore a small blue pinafore cast off over a faded floral skivvy.

After church she ran up to us clinging to me, refusing to let go of my hand even when it became drenched with sweat. “I am nine years old” she whispered shyly as she introduced herself. “I am in grade three.” She was short for her age and her hair was tinged with orange at the tips. Despite these tell tale signs of past struggles with malnutrition there was a smile permanently plastered on her face and boundless energy seeping out of her.

Things are different for Abigail now. She is one of the youngest of her twelve siblings and cousins who all live with her grandparents and is now able to go to school just like the older ones. Even though things are tough for her this little orphan is different from her friends she has hope now.

SO there you go. the last few days have seen us travel a bit on local transport and meeting with the staff at Maplehurst Farm we`re setting up a team here so it requires working through all the issues that occur when you bring strangers together to live and work in a team environment. it`s been really good and positive. It was great to have a couple of nights at a guest house to have a break from people.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen


almost, but not quite

2006-08-08

hi there

just a short note on our way to Chipata. appreciate that people are proaying. today we were almost wiped out by a lunatic driver cominf at us head on. there was nowhere to go cause there were heaps of people walking along the road side. so i just had to carry straight on and at the last minute pull around the last person, barely, (i bet he messed himself) and just miss the lunatic.

we sure don`t take road safelty for granted here. every trip you see accidents, usually trucks tipped over with loads all over the road and cars piled into them.

anyway, we`ve a 9 hour drive tomorrow and we`re concious of your prayers.

Love to everyone

Kevin and Helen


a break in the game park

2006-08-14

hi there friends

the last two days have been great. we`ve been in the South LUangw Game Park resting up a little from the travel and bad beds!! it`s been great to have a couple of days off and relax without thinking about projects and problems. we`ve seem lions and most of the other animals you`d expect to see, except for the leopard. ysterday there were a couple of large cobras outside our house so that was a bit of a drama. last night we saw giraffe drinking, it`s as funny as it appears on TV. there are lots of birds too which makes the game drive fun cause they are always around, even if the "interesting" animals aren`t.

before tis time out we had two days in a village with our friends Lonard and Rosemary Daka. we`ll put some pix on next contact. it was great to participate with the orphans there and hear stories about how they have been helped. also good to see a new project going on in the neighbouring village. they are helping with a community school, community development is a major part of this project. It`s great to see the church caring for people in the community and not being just focussed on their own people. it`s a real sign of maturity.

later today we attack the three hours of terrible roads back to Chipata, calling in to see Lonard and Rosemary. we stay the night in CHipata and then back to Lusaka leaving at 5:00 am.

it has been great to have time with Jared and Ruth. they head off to Malawi for three weeks tomorrow. we`ll realy miss having them around. the only good thing is that we will be in Thailand in a few days with Sara. we are truly spiled to have our kids so far from NZ but still able to see them.

anyway friends, t hanks fos ataying in touch

Kevin and Helen


about to leave Africa

2006-08-16

sitting in Jo`burg airport waiting for the flight to Bangkok.

Helen is still trying to find her bags that went missing 8 weeks ago. so if i arrive in Bangkok or NZ without her she`ll be somewhere in the Jo`burg airport!

Africa has been great again this trip. i cannot believe the calibre of the people we work with and the huge committment they have made to the poor. i come away again with renewed passion to be on their team as they tackle the grassroots issues of the poor and orphans.

thanks for you interest,

really appreciate it. we`ll do another update in a day or two

love to you all

Kevin and Helen


in Bangkok

2006-08-19

well here we ar in Bangkok. pretty hot and noisy place after the slow pace of Africa.

the travel was OK and we got our bags, I`ve never seen helen so happy when her bag turned up!! slept well the first night here and then went to see the HEADSACE team. great to catch up with them, especially Sara, she`s a crazy woman. her nickname here is motehr hen. all the people on teh street already know her by that name. they gilrs in the hostel were pretty amazed that Sara was so much like Helen, the crazy bit, and that her paretns looked so young, that was the father bit i think!!!

anyway, we`ve made change to the Thailand schedule. we`re so tired we`re going to go off to the beach tomorrow for three days. then we visit a couple of projects here in Bangkok. check out the map for the changes.

anyway friends, hope you`re all doing OK?

Kevin and Helen


back to NZ

2006-09-12

we`ve got a bit to report since the last update. sorry about that but it`s been pretty hectic time. since the last blog we had 4 great days in Phuket, at Patong Beach. it was great to be able to just crash and stop for a while. we caught up on a bit of sleep and Helen tried to shop for the things she lost in the bag. but, i hate to tell you that there is nothing in all of Phuket that fits her. they say she`s Extra Large. at last, i have a wife match my size!!!! mind you, i didn`t ask how big i was!!

Then it was back to Bangkok and the HEADSPACE team there. while we were there we visited a couple Bright Hope projects and hung out with the tea, they are a great team and we are so proud of them.

then on the 28th August we hit Mynamar to vist our friends John and Rebecca de Jong. it was great to ecperience their place, to see how they live, to hear their struggles and joys and play with their kids. it was just great to be with them it was awesome to go to church with them and meet their friends at church. even got to hear John preach, twice (by interpretation i mean). the meals at little local restuarants were really nice too thought the local breakfase fare leaves a little to be desired. not something i could eat every day. but it was a lovely two days in a very different country.

then back to the cold. Auckland is cold after the heat of Bangkok. but it was nice to catch up with family and make a few plans for shifting North later in the year. it was also good to sleep a little.

it`s been good too to catch up with friends and family in Levin, great to go to Queen Street Chapel too.

at present Helen is in Levin and I`m in Christchurch catching up with the Bright Hope Team. On Friday I head off to the US for a couple of weeks. i`ve got Bright Hope meeetings in Denver and Chicago and a conference to attend in Toronto with Global Connections in Missions. it will be good to talk about missions and see if there are ways to be more effective.

so we continue to need your prayers. we`ve got our house on the market again and hope to seel it soon.

please keep in touch

Kevin


The USA and Canada, house sold and off to Africa again

2006-10-13

hey friends

Sorry it`s been so quiet from us. Not that we`ve been doing nothing. after 10 days in NZ after the Africa trip Kevin went off to the US and Canada for 17 days to meet donors and try and sort out some stuff. it was pretty good really and we were able to work on raising more funds for the partnerships and projects in Africa and Asia.

while Kevin was away, Helen sold the house!!! yep, it`s gone, sold and we`re on the street. so now we really do live out of our suitcases, even when in NZ.

Tomorrow we`re off to Zambia for 3 weeks. i`ll fill you in over the next few days about that. then we`re off to Kenya and Uganda. more projects to see and people to meet. then it`s to see Jared and Ruth for a few days in London then on to Chicago to visit donors again. we`ll be bag about the 8th December.

so, welcome again to the blog and feel free to pass this on to folks we know that don`t get it.

Lots` of love

Kevin and Helen


at Maplehurst and moving on

2006-10-19

hi there friends,

nice to hear from some of you. i know heaps are reading this so thanks for that too. so here we are, back in Zambia. the big news is that Helen got upgraded to business class on the trip to Sydney, pity it wasn`t the next leg of 14 hours to Jo`burg!! she couldn`t stop talking about it. oh, by the way i got upgraded too!

anyway, we spent a night in Sydney and then the dreaded long leg from Sydney, it`s just so long and tiresome. it`s taken about 4 days to get over jetlag. but we stopped the night in Jo`burg too, went to a B&B rather than a hotel. and then on Tuesday we got Zambia. i had to get a new passport before leaving cause the old one was full. fortunately i did because you can only spend 3 months in Zambia in any 12 month period and i would not have got in on the old passport. anyway, we got in no problem. we met up with two Aussie guys who are traveling with us for the first 9 days.

as we got off the plane it was sprinkling with rain, the first shower of the rainy season. the smell of the rain on the dry ground is amazing. it brings back so many memories for us from our time living in Zambia back in the 80s. we hung around Lusaka that afternoon after picking up the minibus. as we were driving through one really rough road in one of the compounds we dropped into a sewer drain and hit something. The old bus is a little worse for wear and pretty dirty! i think it`s OK and traveled well to Kabwe the next day. but it`s pretty hot here even though the rains are just around the corner and it cools down in the afternoon. on Wednesday we picked up another kiwi girl, Mel, from the airport and then another couple, Nick and Jo and we set off to Kabwe. but not before we stopped for a while to catch up with Brenda Savill, one of our other kiwi mates who lives in Lusaka doing mission work with HIV+ people.

anyway, you`ll hear about David and Justin the 2 Aussie blokes and Mel, Nick and Jo as we travel together from time to time over the mext 6 weeks. you`ll also hear about Jude, she`s up in the bush and we go to be with her tomorrow.

As we were driving out of Lusaka i made my usual prediction that we`ll probably see a wreck or two on the trip, probably a truck. we were only travelling for less than two hours on this trip sure enough, two old burn`t out wrecks and then as we arrived at the farm, withing 100 metres of the front gate, there it was, the proverbial truck tipped over. this time it was an army truck on it`s side and all the luggae spread out across the side of the road. Brad Sutton, the kiwi guy managing the farm was out there trying to help, fortunately no-one was killed and all the injured were discharged the next day. the roads here are really scary. it`s been 6 months since it rained last and there is 6 months of diesel and oil spread on the raod. the rain comes and the oil floats to the surface and the road become a skating rink. every corner is a potential death trap.

it`s been great to be back at Maplehurst Farm. i`ll tell you more about it over the next 3 weeks cause although we go away tomorrow, we`ll be back on the 25th for a couple of weeks. the farm is really developing. today Brad got a pump going for the first time to pump from a large dam we have on the farm and we were able to fire up over 50 sprinkers. it looked pretty spectacular. There has been a lot of fencing done since we were last here, the irrigation has been connected up, we`ve got an new insulated truck for cheese deliveries and we`re about to plant out some pasture for the future. so it`s all go aorund here. the accommodation is behind scedule but one end of it almost ready to go.

Off tomorrow morning to Samfya at 6:00. up at 5 and breakfast and then away for 8-9 hours drive. we`ll be back in touch soon with more reports.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen


oh boy it`s hot

2006-10-29

hi there guys

nice to hear from those of you that have time to leave a message or send an e-mail. bless you.

it`s kind of like everyone has gone bananas, at least the truck drivers in Zambia! every day we see another truck wrecked, last Wednesday we saw 3 of them in a 150 km trip. huge trucks upside down or off the bank and tipped. sure thankful we weren`t passing one when it went. as soon as the rains start the carnage begins.

anyway, enough of that. we`ve had a pretty hectic few days. we surived 3 great days in Samfya catching up with the team there. we have about 1000 orphans in that project and it takes some managing i tell you. there are three full timers and plenty of volunteers in our partner`s team and then we have Jude Goatley and another Zambian guy, Rodney, who are on our team. they are really functioning well at the moment so that`s great. in the next few weeks we will be starting micro enterprise training and loans. we`ll atart with a group of about 15 who will all go out and then start leading their own team of about 10 people.

we had a couple of Ozzie guys taveling with us, Dave and Justin and a kiwi chick, Mel Rich who is working in the UK. we also took a kiwi couple, Nick and Jo Goodwin with us, so it was fun to travel together. it wasn`t so fun when we got there in terms of the accommodation. pretty basic and cramped for 9 of us, but we survived, despite the rodents in the bedroom in the night (fortunately Helen didn`t actually see them!!!) but it`s hot up there beside the lake.

then it was a quick trip to Ndola and Kitwe, we managed to spend a day in one of our smaller projects so the Ozzie guys could see that sort of thing as well.

then it was putting them onto the plane on Wednesday and back to Kabwe and Maplehurst Farm. We`ll be here for a couple of weeks. we`ve been handing over the operation to Bert and Jerry and Hayley from Nelson area who have come to give Brad and Greer a break for 3 months. so we had a few days with Brad and today he headed off to NZ and left us in the lurch. so, today was Sunday, church? not on your life. the irrigation people tuned up to check all the pumps so i was running around after them most of the day. AND, the electrical company decided today was a good day to do maintenance and turned off the power all day. so how do you fix and test electrical pumps and motors with no power. well of course you don`t, you pull them all to bits, then put them together and hope that it`s all in the right place. and then you tell the white guy, who has been there for 1 day and can`t even find any tools, how to put the final touches to it and then test it all once there is 380 volts running through it!!!!!

anyway, i`ll leave it till morning so i get at least one more sleep out of this life!

so friends, i`ll try to upload a couple of photos in the next couple of days, when the power is on

Love

Kevin and Helen


bit of a sting

2006-11-06

you had to see it to believe it. we were fixing this water pump, Bert and me. i was standing in the doorway of the building the power meter was in while Bert pushed the buttons. all of a sudden bert yells out, i thought he must have got a shock, but no, here whas this cloud of bees swarming at me in the doorway. so i shot out the door closely followed by Bert and a swarm of angry little critters. we ran about 200 meters before we finally left the last one behind, only one sting, on Bert`s face!!! would have been good on a video. we had to go back a while later to turn the pump off so i ran in and out as quick as possible but they were after me again. i didn`t have any stings, only a sore head from splapping all the bees out of my hair, the sting might have been better.

the next day one of the workers came with a sorry tale. you know, we deal with 100s of people a week here suffering from th effects of HIV / AIDS. but you never get over the look in the eyes of someone who has received a death sentence. He showed me the form from the clinic, positive. i wondered how i would cope with getting that sort of news? 38 years old, 4 kids..... another statistic, not really, a guy hurting like hell with no understanding of hope. 5,500 every day die of AIDS related illnesses in this part of the world, that`s a lot of misery when it`s all added up. we met a little old lady a couple of weeks ago looking after 12 grandchildren with a drunken daughter to "help." That`s the real story of AIDS/ it`s the little people in the bush who have to deal with the human fallout of ruined lives.

we had a bit of a break last weekend, went to Ndola to a mates party. Andy Patching was 60 years old. i can`t believe it`s so long since we went to Africa and met him there, almost 25 year ago. We had a lot of fun, a whole lamb on a spit, great. then we met some other friends for lunch Sunday before coming back to Kabwe to watch the ALL Blacks. Well that was the plan till we had a pucture and the flippin spare tyre was flat too. so we only got to watch the second half. still, that was great.

well dear friends. this week we`re trying to do some building in the accommodation block on the farm, we`ve got to debrief some friends coming out of one of our partnerships, got to visit a few people and pack up to move on to Kenya and Uganda.

oh yea, by the way, the rains have come to kabwe. it`s 6 months since it rained last and last night it came. immediately it was a little cooler and things go green overnight. the flying ants come out and turn your windscreen into a greasy mess, and the bugs all decide to hatch, it`s amazing and lovely.

Hope you all have a great week

Love

Kevin and Helen


sweating it out

2006-11-14

hi there friends from a pretty interesting suburb of Nairobi. sometimes we wish we staying in teh Sheraton, but it`s all good. sorry for the dealy since the last blog but it`s been full on. we had a good week at Maplehurst farm, not much drama, just getting things sorted at the farm and settling in the new team. they are a great group of people. we had to do a trip to Lusaka to see the accountant and to interview a lady. but it all went well. the team from samfya came in on Wednesday and i spent a couple of days catching up with them before they moved on. Mel and Jude had a couple of days to do their washing before hitting teh road for Kenya. OH yea, we got the swimming pool full and used it a couplr of time, great as the temps were well into the 30s.

then the chaos started, Saturday, a the airport at 10:30 for a 12:45 flight. well, we spent the day sitting in the airport with temperature over 40, dripping with sweat. the plane blew out 3 tyres on landing to pick us up, so they failed to fix them and put us in a nice hotel for the night. at least we got to see the ABs blitz the frogs. then back to the airport at 8:30 and we finally got going at about 1:30. i don`t think i`ve ever been so hot, literally sweat running down my back for the 2nd day in a row. but we got to Nairobi to find our bags were not on the plan ,but they were on the plane following, just another hour. so we spent virtually the whole weekend in Lusaka and Nairobi airports. Also missed having to preach a sermon too, so it`s not all bad.

i`m in an internet cafe in the South B suberb of Nairobi and the keyboard is playing up so i`ll sign off and try to send another update in a day or two. Hewlen and Mel have gone to the Masai market for some shopping and Jude and i are trying to write reports so i had better head off and do some work.

love to you all

Kevin and Helen.


at the source and other places

2006-11-22

Hi there friends from Jinja in Uganda.

Jinja is renowned for being the source of the longest tiver in the world, the Nile. It’s a pretty impresive source; it is larger at the source that the largest river in NZ is at it’s end! It’s purs out of Lake Victoria and ends about 6,000 km away in the Mediterrainean Sea. I’ts been puring with rain here for 24 hours, just pelting down, so it’s pretty hard to see much apart from the rain.

But let me back up a little to the last blog. We were in Nairobi and I was going to tell you about our visit to a couple of slum areas in which we have partners. I’ve copied a part of a report I wrote so you can see what it’s like, this was on Monday the 13th November.

“We spent a day in Mathare and Kariobangi. We arrived at a time of great tension in the valley. A number of houses had been burned in the previous two weeks and about 11 people killed. The Monday we were there was the first day the schools had been open for a week. It was pitiful to walk along the muddy, stinking pathways past burned out hovels. People of all ages were groveling around in the ashes of their homes to try and salvage anything of value.

It doesn’t appear that there is much of value in this place, even in the buildings that have not been burned, but they grovel anyway.

Every time we come here we are reminded of the grinding poverty that exists. We cannot imagine what it must be like to only know this. Even the school is an appalling place, especially in the rains. The mud is everywhere, you cannot escape it.”

So we spent 3 nights in Nairobi visiting our friends there and writing up reports. Then we went to Tala, it’s a little town about and hour from Nairbi. We stayed with Robert and Rose Gitau, they are a neat couple who just love their community. They have all these waifs and strays around they are helping; Refugees from the Congo, HIV + people and their kids, people with menatl illnesses, abandoned orphans….. the list just goes on and on. So they have started a school in area and they have some boarders as well, most of them need some sort of assistance. We spent a couple of nights there talking to the kids and to Robert and Rose. Helen went with Mel to another school and spoke to over 300 girls students and Helen was able to pray with about 20 of them aferwards. It’s such a responsive place and there is such hunger for truth, reality and friendship. The next morning Helen and Mel spent time with the staff and students at the school encouraging them. They also interviewed a bunch of the students and wrote up their stories.

Then it was back to Nairobi for a night and we went to the Java House café for a nice meal. We then spent almost a day catching up on reports while Mel went off to the Nairobi Game Park to see some animals. It’s the rainy season so you don’t get to see too much, but she did get stuck in mud for an hour and it’s not a good idea to get out and push when there are lions around!! We also interviewed a guy who works with Robert and Rose. His name is Muthui and we trained him in Zambia back in the 80s. First time Helen had seen him for 20 years. He is running a micro-loan scheme for people that we helped set up and it’s going really well, helping a lot of people, so it’s great to hear stories of success. That night, Friday we flew to Kampala in Uganda.

Kampala is a strange city compared to the others we have been in. It’s the rainy season so it’s very lush, reminds us of Fiji and the tropics. We had to spend the weekend there without much to do apart from having some time off and catching up on reports. The roads are pretty terrible but the food is cheap. Helen and the girls, Jude and Mel went to a church just down the road from the hotel and loved it. The pastor is a Canadian dude and the music was great. It’s the church that the Watoto children’s choir comes from. Strange, cause they were at our church in NZ a week or so before we came to Africa.

Then it was off to the village of Katosi on the shore of Lake Victoria. Here we are involved in a school of 450+ kids that has a boarding group of about 120 kids. It was great to hear the story and see some of the beautiful children. The conditions are very primitive but improving, so that’s good to see. There is huge potential to develop this partnership. Timothy and Janopher are the key people here and they have given their lives to this village. The road out to the village is very bad and it’s the rainy season so it was an interesting drive and a long day. We got back about 8:00 to Kampala.

Next morning, yesterday we came to Jinja. It’s a nice little town, quaint really but nice. Quite a few tourists come here to raft the rapids on the Nile and see the Source. We had lunch and dinner in little African restaurants, all you can eat for about $NZ2. Then the rain started and it hasn’t stopped. In the afternoon we interviewed two people, three actually. Thomas and Joyce Lubari, a dynamic couple we have been writing to for a year. They are refugees from Sudan who have got involved in church planting in Jinja and now are going back to Sudan on trips to plant churches and train people. It was great to meet them and hear their stories. They really know what it means to be disciples of Jesus. It’s basically cost them everything.

Then it was spending some time with Anna. She’s a great woman we have known for a long time. We heard about their personal struggles and how rich people have tried to take their house from them, bribing the police and the courts and even politicians have become involved, threatening them with death and abduction. Uganda is one of the most corrupt places on earth. Then we hear about the 26 kids we are helping in Lira, a place we wanted to go to but it’s too dangerous at the moment. It was good to hear that the kids are doing OK now they have been rescued from the refugee camp. But it was heart breaking to hear of life in the camp, it’s very dangerous and disturbing what’s happening there. Little children are being raped and contracting HIV and syphillus. Then there is no medical help or drugs. We have established a clinic there to help but it needs serious intervention. The NGOs and aid agencies can do little, they are greasing too many palms to be able to make any real change.

Anyway, that’s enough inflammatory stuff. We’re off to Busia today to spend three nights there in a partnership. We’ve got a lot of people to interview and reports to write, it will be another exciting adventure. Thanks for sharing it with us and following along. It’s great to have you on the team.

Love

Kevin and Helen


on the way home, yay

2006-11-27

Well we thought we had got away with things lightly in Africa! Silly us. Sunday, 26th, travelling from Busia in Uganda to Nairobi in Kenya. What could be so difficult, about 400 km, in Zambia that would take about 4 hours. We booked the tickets, 10 a.m. left the hotel in Uganda at 9:00 and crossed the border, not problems really apart from the rain. Got on the bus, left pretty mush on time for Kisumu. Crossed the Equator at about midday and got into Kisumu about 1:00. No sweat, grabbed some food, the road side chicken is beautiful. Then we changed drivers and everything changed. The guy thought that driving was pointing the bus at a gap in the traffic and shooting into at the fastest possible speed. The road was atrocious and it was pelting down with rain. The guy could count to 5 when it came to gears, it was like, doesn’t matter which one you use so long as it’s the wrong one. I felt like slapping the idiot. Anyway, after an hour on the flat we came to the hills, I knew we were in trouble on the first hill as the revs ground down and he started riding the clutch. Gears, who needs ‘em. So the smell of burning clutch wafted through the bus but subsided as we got to the top and coasted down the other side. I’ve been on th is road before so I knew there were a lot of hills to come, I mean this is the Rift Valley of Kenya. So in due course about 10 minutes later the next lot of hills, higher, longer and……. Well you guessed it, the clutch burned out!! It’s the fault of the bus of course, no-one will take ownership for it. Now I really felt like slapping the bloke, but all the Christian graces I’ve developed over lifetime kicked in and I went for a walk. Well what else can you do. 60 people all standing around like it was a normal experience. Well it was I guess. 2¼ hours later the replacement turns up. At least it wasn’t raining though it tried as hard as possible. Anyway, we pulled into Nairobi at 11:30 pm and got to the hotel at midnight. We were musing on it. We could have flown from Johannesburg to Sydney in that time including airport waiting! But I guess it’s all relevant to the situation. The biggest issue though is the danger of driving on roads like that, in conditions like that. Pouring rain, fog, darkness and some of the most appalling roads I’ve ever travelled on. Next time we’ll fly and save the emotional energy.

Anyway, travel isn’t the issue here for us, it’s just a sideline to the real stuff, people! We really had a great time in Busia with our friends there. It rained a lot so the roads were great! Fun! Bouncing around through the mud. We only had to push once. Mind you, I managed to fall over in the mud as well so it made for a clean up job.

We spend three days visiting people who were benefiting from the micro finance loans. It’s amazing to hear the stories of lives being transformed from poverty. They are pretty innovative, trading in fish, maize, cassava and other grain, setting up little roadside stalls and stocking them up, selling bicycles parts, making and selling bricks, growing maize and rice. The list goes on. With it they have been able to send their kids to school, buy household items and furniture and do things they had never dreamed about. They tell about having dignity, savings for the first time in their lives. We hope to be able to increase the amount going into this program and get it to a stage where it is self generating and multiplying. we’re not sure what that looks like but we’ll find out as we go .

We also interviewed heaps of kids who have been sponsored to go to school. It was great to hear their stories of hope and a chance at life. There are so many beautiful kids here; we hope to be able to add about another 700 kids to program if we can.

The key people are great. I’ve hardly ever seen such hard workers. It’s amazing the energy they put into life and ministry. They leave us for dead really. A number of the leaders are HIV+ so that provides some challenges. When they “come out” with the news they suffer huge stigma and even death threats. Some become so depressed at the news that they want to give up and even want to kill themselves.

Well at least we’re in Nairobi safely and about to get on a plane for the UK. Helen and Mel are out at the elephant orphanage and she can report on that next time. It will be sad to say goodbye to Jude and Mel at the end of our 6 week jaunt together, but it will be great to spend a couple of days with Jared and Ruth. Looking forward to that. We’ll probably send another note from the US. We’ve got a bit of report writing to catch up with in the UK and will visit a couple of people during the day as J & R will be working.

Another few days and it’s back to summer in NZ. The cold of the next few days in London and Chicago will not be appreciated. It’s feeling like we’re on the way home and it’s a nice feeling.

Love to you all and Merry Christmas!!!!

Kevin and Helen


a white christmas

2006-12-05

Hey there friends and merry Christmas, only 20 days to go! We’re finally aware it’s Christmas cause we’re in Chicago and it snowed the day we got here. I mean, IT SNOWED. A foot of it and it’s still all lying around. It’s flippin freezing too, it got up to minus 10 degrees yesterday! So it’s a mad dash from house to vehicle to car to wherever.

We kind of started into the Christmas spirit in London with Jared and Ruth. We had our Christmas presents with them and of course, we walked around Oxford Street, Regent Street and Piccadilly Circus with all the amazing lights, it was a lot of fun. Jared and Ruth were at work during the days so we hit the town! We visited the Natural History Museum to see the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the year exhibition. It was truly amazing. There was an ice rink outside and all the decoration and lights, it started to feel like Christmas. It got dark at 4:30 as well which makes the evenings feel loooong. One night we went the show STOMP, it was our Christmas present from Jared and Ruth along with a meal before. The show was fun. Helen had to buy a warm coat as we knew it was going to be really cold in Chicago. Kevin had an appointment with a guy one morning as well. So it was a lovely time with the kids. We will miss them at Christmastime but we have been spoilt being able to see them now and also to spend a month with them in Africa in the middle of the year.

And then in was on to Chicago and our family and friends at Bright Hope. Then welcome was as warm as the weather was cold. They are a lovely bunch. But it’s been pretty busy since Saturday. We basically worked all day Saturday preparing for presentations. Then Sunday we went to Willow Creek Church and they were doing a presentation about their stuff in Africa and we saw many of our friends in the presentation and a few pictures of ourselves. Then a meeting with the leaders of a team that is coming out to Zambia in May and back to Mike and Kristy’s for lunch. Afternoon and evening was taken up with a meeting with about 50 donors and we got a good response from that. Sunday night we went to sleep at 8:30, but then woke at 4, so the days are pretty long. Yesterday was all day in meetings, first at Bright Hope and then 6 hours at Willow Creek with their big guys, the financial accountability stuff and plans for next year! Last night we were in a hotel, I’m writing this to you from the hotel, it’s 4:30 am and we still can’t sleep.

About mid day we head off to the airport and hit the air on the way home. First to Minneapolis and the Los Angeles. No food on those flights!!!! Then it’s back to Auckland through Fiji. We’ll send a wrap up of this when we get to NZ.

This has been such a neat trip, plenty of adventures and stuff to deal with, but the most amazing people, everywhere we go. We are so blessed to be doing what we are and it’s pretty much because you guys are so much part of our lives. Thanks for journeying with us.

Over and out from a chilly early morning in Chicago. Roll on Christmas at the beach!!

Love

Kevin and Helen


back home and signing out

2006-12-13

hi there friends

we`re back in NZ and recovering from the flights and the trip. thanks for your support while we`ve been on the road this year. we trust you have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

since we left Chicago we had a long flight home and it`s made us pretty tired. it was great to get home in time for Sara`s grad from Pathways College. great to share the evening with her, sh`es such and awesome chick and pssionate about following Jesus. we then went to Levin and talked to ur church about what`s going on and they kind of farewelled us as we`re about to shift permanently to Whangaparaoa. tomorrow we head off to Christchurch for 5 days and Bright Hope meetings, then it`s back to Whangaparaoa for Christmas.

so again, thanks for travelling with us. we`re off again just after Easter so we`ll be back in touch again some time before then.

Lot`s of love

Kevin and Helen


back on line

2007-02-26

Hi there friends

Best regards for 2007. We reckoned it’s time to get in touch again to let you know about the things that are developing for us in 2007. It looks like we have three trips to Africa this year. We’re in the middle of planning it all. I thought we’d just let you know about the first one and as the year goes on you’ll get to hear about the other trips as well.

The brief outline of the three trips look like this:

Trip 1 sees us leaving on the 5th April. We have 4 days in Thailand and 3 days in Myanmar and then it’s off to India. We then have 10 days in India visiting projects in Bangalore, near to Rajahmundry and Delhi. Oh, I forgot to mention that my role with Bright Hope World has changed and now it’s the Field Director which gives us some responsibility in other countries as well. We’ll be travelling with a family of 7 who are checking out some of the partnerships we’re involved in. It will be fun to travel with them. Then we’re off to Zambia for three weeks till the 13th May. Our main purpose there will be to visit Maplehurst Farm and to see how the team there is developing. Then it’s off to Samfya with a team from the USA. After that it’s off to Ethiopia. There we have about 12 people travelling with us to check out a large partnership opportunity. Half the team are from a church in the USA. From there Helen plans at the moment to come back to NZ as quick as possible while Kevin goes on to meetings in Canada and the US arriving back in NZ 2nd June.

Trip 2 sees us off to Africa again on the 22nd June. First we go to Mozambique and South Africa to check out a couple of partnerships. Then it’s to Zambia for 4 weeks and we have 5 short term trips coming through. It’s going to be full on trying to sort out all the logistics. Helen is going to have her skills tested. Then it’s into Kenya and Uganda, leaving there on the 7th August. We have a week holiday in Thailand on the way back to NZ. The purpose of this trip is largely hosting the short term teams. We hope from these groups a number of partnerships will emerge.

The last trip of the year sees us heading back to Africa on 20th September. This time we go through the US and the UK for meetings with partners. Then it’s back to Zambia to visit all the partners spread around the country. We plan to have 4 weeks there and then 3 weeks in North India and Asia on the way back to NZ arriving back bout the 23rd November.

We really love having you with us on the journey. We’ll continue the blog so you can be involved in the trip with us. If you would pray with us and follow it would be great. If you get a couple of minutes leave message, it would be a real encouragement. Add your e-mail address and every time we update the blog you’ll get a note about it. we have strarted a new blog site fro the next trip. go to www.bigkevandnell1-07 and you`ll be able to continue the journey. enter you e-mail address and you`ll get the updates as they come through. if you know others who would be interested then just pass that link on to them?

We’ve been trying to get a new house built but the permit still hasn’t come through. So, hopefully it will start next week, though who knows! It’s just about easier to get things done in Africa than here! It’s been interesting settling into a new community and church in Whangaparaoa. It sure takes time and with us being away a lot it doesn’t help.

I thought I’d highlight a project in each blog so you get an idea of what we’re dealing with. Some of you might like to contribute as well so that will help you get involved. The one I’ll highlight this time is Maplehurst Farm in Zambia. It’s different from the usual partnerships. It’s a dairy farm and cheese factory whose purpose is the generation of funds in Zambia to go into the partnerships. We’re looking for people to help with the development of fences, irrigation and farm equipment. If you’d like a detailed outline of the Farm send us a message. We have two families from NZ running the operation. It employs about 30 people and produces about a ton of cheese a week and milk and yoghurt.

Lot’s of love

Kevin and Helen


couple of changes

2007-03-24

hi there friends,

we`ve made a couple of changes with the blog site. we`ve decided to stay with this one instead of switching to the new one. so, you won`t have to worry about going to the other one, just stick with this and come along with us.

it`s only a few days till we leave again. we`ll have a family travelling with us for the Asia leg of the trip which will be great. we`ll introduce you to them as we travel as well as introduce you to the people we visit.

In Zambia we`ll be at Maplehurst Farm and then a team from Willow Creek Church arrives and we head up to Samfya.

Ethiopia is going to be great. the leaders of a church in the US are coming to meet our friends there with an eye to starting support for this partnership.

it will be great to have Jared with us in Ethiopia. the last 3 days will be a bit of sightseeing.

then it`s through Chicago to catch up with our US office and the team at Willow Creek.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen


Bangkok

2007-04-07

hi there friends

it has been great to hear from some of you on the blog and by email. some of oyu might not know our e-mail addresses so here they are: helenhonore@clear.net.nz and bigkevin@clear.net.nz. we`d love tohear from you either way.

we`re in Bangkok checking out the partners here. it`s great ot meet those who are so hard at work growing God`s kingdom and loving and serving people. check out the couple of pix we`ve put on.

did you know that 60% of the people flying into Bangkok are here fot the sex industry. it`s embarassing to be here as a middle aged male. At rahab ministries are trying to help those who find themselves trapped and they are also trying to stop the trade itself.

today we head off to Myanmar to visit friends there so e-mails will be a bit more scarce.

Love

Kevin and Helen


Kakinada, what a trip

2007-04-16

Where the heck do we start on this one. You’re actually very fortunate to be getting this update, probably only because some of you were praying. Well, it goes like this. We were due to travel from Bangalore to Hyderabad and then we didn’t have enough time between flights and we missed the plane to Rajahmundry. We had got up at 4 that morning to catch the plane. Anyway, we missed the 2nd flight, so what do you do. There were all these people waiting for us with a program planned and we could do a no show. After talking through the options: 1) fly on another airline – no tickets available; 2) flying the next day – very expensive; 3) catching a bus that left at 9 that night and travelled all night – not our cup of tea; 4) the train – even less our cup of tea and 5) hiring a car to Kakinada – OK then, we’ll do it. Not too expensive and about 8-9 hours!

I’ve heard that before and so we head off, 9 of us in an 8 seater with all the luggage on the roof. We hadn’t eaten at 4 that morning so by 1 we were starving and stopped for a curry! It was a hot mother and that didn’t help the heat in the car. Then road was pretty bumpy and the drivers are lunatics, every darned one of the 3 million we passed or that came at us head on!

So we battle on through the high 30 degree heat, we are crossing the Godavari Delta, one of the warmer parts of India at this stage, and it’s summer. At least the air conditioning was on, it didn’t reach the 4 people in the back unfortunately; it was very hot and sticky. We stopped for a drink and piled out onto the side of the road. You might not know but we’re travelling with the Noble family, 3 daughters from 17 – 21 as well as 2 sons. Well, the guys cross the road to get the drinks while the women stand on the side of the road, as you do in an Indian village!! We were gone 3 minutes a 10 seconds and look back to the car, a swarm of about 50 men are giving the women a hard time and more are joining the crowd by the second. So off we race, and keep the men at bay, swords at hand until the women reach the safety of the fortress..... or something like that. It was getting pretty tense there for a minute or two, not sure that the girls still realise the stir they caused.

Not long after this I think Tony, the father, realised the close shave we had just had and started vomiting!!! So a few stops later and a real bad headache and we’re all reaching the end of ourselves. 6 hours, 7 hours and the sun goes down, at least it’s a better road now and we’re probably averaging about 60 km/h not 50km/h like earlier. 575 kms takes a long time to go when you’re averaging that speed and the 8 – 9 hours soon disappear into the past. There’s nowhere to stop for a snack so we plough on into the night. 10 hours and the lightening is flashing and all our bags are on the roof. Oh boy, this is turning into a nightmare.

A phonecall reassures us that we are just 1 ½ hours away but it’s after 9 pm so it’s still a lot of driving. We had been sitting in the back seat all this time so we pile into the back onto hard bench seats for the last 90 minute. It passes quickly with jokes and stories and quizzes and lots of laughs with the younger children. They were great. So, 10:30 comes and we reach our friends, whom we have never met, on the side of the road. They escort us another 10 minutes through the city of Kakinada to their home and a huge welcome; banners, music, flowers thrown all over us, it was lovely, if not a little overwhelming.

Today, the day after, ahs kind of made it all worthwhile really. We’ve visited 4 churches that have sewing classes in them for women. These are just women from the Hindu community, many of them are very poor and they are in the middle of a 9 month sewing course. At the end of it they receive a sewing machine so they can get some economic independence. It was great to hear their stories and the changes that are coming into their lives. Amazing transformations going on.

Then we visited a village for people suffering from leprosy. It’s pretty appalling to see them being treated on the side of the road and then we participated in feeding them all and their families. These are untouchables, but many of them were touched by the team that evening. We were touched as well in our hearts as we saw the joy in their hearts. The local government has allocated them some land, next to the crematorium, on which to live and die. The issue of untouchability is part of the culture, and deeply ingrained. These people are as low as you can go and I ‘m pretty sure they feel that way. Once a week there is a feeding program for them and the rest of the time they get their food by begging. It’s a cruel world and these people know nothing but the butt end of it.

our friens here are amazing, their hopitality huge. we are just blown away by the great people we are in partnership with.

So dear friends. We’re off to Delhi to day and hopefully not a lot more travel on the roads like yesterday. If this hasn’t scared you off travelling with us we love having you along for the ride, though the Nobles probably don’t think so right now! we`ll be back in a day or two to upate the earlier time in Myanmar.

Helen and kevin


catching up

2007-04-17

hey there

here`s another update to get you up to date with what happened in myanmar and up to Kakinada. we hit myanmar in the evening and caught a taxi to our friends place. it was great to see JOhn and Bex de Jong and meet the new baby, Sarah, born since we were here last. we spent 3 days visiting friends and checking out opportunities.

the first guy we visited told us heaps about the work he is involved in. it`s pretty impressive and i can`t write much here, it`s too sensitive to talk about it. but he gave us an interesting persepctive on ministry. "i can afford not to take your money, but i cannot afforfd to have my reputation ruined," he said. these guys are so mature here and most of us in the west need to listen to their persective. he doesn`t want money with strings attached, he wants resources in the context of strong relationhip, with lots of trust and not a lot of paperwork. a man after my own heart!!

then we visited a great Bible school and spent a number of hours discussing the issues related to partnership. late that night we visisted again and continued the discussions.

the next day we did a tour of the capital, Yangon. it is an amazing place, it was even more amazing by the look of it. old buildings with plenty of life. we went down to the docks, visited a huge Buddhist temple, went up oneof the taller buidlings and ate great food. the food here is beautiful, and cheap!! we then visited another bible school and talked about some microenterprise opportunities for people way out in the bush. the last day we kind of laxed out a bit. John and Bex were amazing hosts, we learn so much from them and the people they work with. they are doing well with the language too, especially the kids!!!

then it was out of M and off to Bangalore through Bangkok. we arrived late at night again!!!! seems to be a regular event on this trip, late nights and early mornings.

at Bangalore we stayed at SAIACS, a Bible seminary. the staff are fantastic and really know how to look after you. we spent time tlking to some of the leaders there, discovering if there are opportunities to do some stuff in this part of India.

we visited a school with one of our partners and another project that is getting underway. we then visited a quarry where they mine granite and marble, it`s a most appalling place to visit, like the middle ages. people in rags and bare feet hacking into this huge montain with hammers! he is investigating some help for the children there.

the next day we trveled to Kolar, the site of the richest gold mine in India. well it used to be until the gold ran out. then the British just moved out and now there is little work for most people. we assist a school there with a small dairy farm, we checked out the 8 cows and two calves and planned for growth. the kids are all out of school at the moment as it`s summer holidays.

it was a real experience for htose who haven`t experienced Indian driving, it`s like dodgems at 80 km/h. Ok if you can`t see the front. horns are blaring the whole time and vehicles swerve haphazard all over the road. cows, motor bikes, people and auto rickshaws just seems to weave there way in a random fashion along the tar seal ribbon.

well, we survived it all for that day and got back safely to Bangalore. it`s nice being here at the moment with the Black Caps doing well. they are on TV every game and we even saw parts of a couple of Super 14 games on the weekend. these people are totally mad about cricket, mad about their team too.

then the fianle in Bangalore, the Home of Hope. desperate people rescued fromthe street to live out their days in a place of safety. it is truly an oasis in the midst of chaos. while we were there for about 2 1/2 hours a man was brought in but was dead on arrival. we met people who volnteer to serve and who get paid a pittance to serve the poor in ways that would make Mother Teresa proud. truly amazing people, even more amazing, their god.

we then went out to a slum area amongst very poor workers wholive in tents. we arrived and sat on the ground for church, saturday afternoon. we sang, they sang, and with about 30 seconds warning i was preaching. then we prayed for people, desperate people, so humbling. they took up an offering and gave it to us, how do you take it, how do you refuse?

a late night that night as we went off to sleep with plenty to think about.

an ealry morning, 4 am to catch the plane to Hyderabad. now you need to connect with the previous blog.

we are doing well, the people are amazing and we`re seeing so much to shape our thinking. we really love having yo on the trip. put on your seatbelts, we`re off to Delhi in a couple of hours. the plane is already 2 hours late so have a drink before you put in on.

catch you later dear firends

helen and kevin


Delhi and the Taj

2007-04-21

hi there friends

it`s 8:45 in the evening and it`s 40 degrees C. fortunately the a/c is working and it`s not too bad. this evening we went for a ride in an autorickshaw to meet some friends for dinner in the middle of Delhi. it was nice, we have such nice friends here.

since we last talked we`ve travelled by plane from rajahmundry to Hyderabad and then on to Delhi via Bhopal. our plane from H to D was delayed for two hours so we had plenty of time to cool our heels in Hyderabad airport, a lovely place!!!! that`s where we sent the last update from. the plane from H to D was bult for children and midgets so I had to have two seats, luckily the plane wasn`t full, though it was almost. i was sitting across two seats so noone tried to sit on my knee.

anyway, we got to Delhi about midnight and friends were there to meet us. we`re staying Delhi Bible Institute, those who met Isaac Shaw will know of the place. the staff here told us many stories of friends out in the rural areas who are serving God and we spent an evening talking to 4 of them.

then we headed off to the Taj Mahal, left at 5 am for a 4 hour trip, the place is amazing. we had a tour guide dude who escorted us around, he was actually very good and explained a lot of the stuff going on adn the history. we had McDs for lunch, the first time for months and the only experience we had of western food till tonight. the Taj is amazing, one of the things you need to see in your lifetime. but pretty sad as well, such beauty and cost in such a poor place.

then we saw the Agra fort where soldiers have live for centuries, currently 35,000 of them! 10 times the NZ army in one base.

we also visited places where people are still doing inlay work the same way as they did it in the 16 hundreds when the Taj was built. we also bought a nice carpet to take home for the house.

last night the Nobles left us to return to NZ, we had such a cool time with them and will miss the noise, especially Jane, Andrew and MAtt. hey we miss you guys!!!!!!!! Laura is staying on and hanging out with us in Africa for a month.

tomorrow we head off to Mumbai (Bombay) and wait there for 12 hours in the airport. we might go for a tour of the city as well wihle we`re there. then it Jo`berg to stay with our friend the Dunn`s for a couple of days. so it`s been a bit quiet which has made it possible to catch up on the e-mails and watch teh Black caps get thrashed by Australia!!!

we`ll stay in touch, we love getting your comments and e-mails. put your e-mail address in the appropriate place to get updates if you haven`t already.

Love

Kevin and helen


11 hours at Mumbai

2007-04-24

The day began the night before really. We went out to dinner with Isaac Shaw and his family. They are a lovely family and the children are great. They ordered a pizza, and we ordered ours, theirs came just as we finished ours!! But they were great and very patient. Craig Dyer was with us from the US bright Hope office. So it was nice to catch up with him in India. We went to the restaurant by auto rickshaw, an experience in itself. We went about twice the distance as the driver was almost out of CNG. He tried to charge us for that bit of the trip too but we refused and he was grumbling all the way, something about CNG!!! But after asking a few directions he dropped us off and left us, saying, go that way pointing to the right. Well we stood there a minute or two and decided to go the other direction and we were right, it was the other way. But we got there. Isaac had some seats in in his vehicle for the trip home, so we all crammed into the van to stories of how many people you can fit in a Indian taxi! I mean, there were three of us in the auto rickshaw and we only just fitted, I’ve seen 9 Indians get out of one. Isaac was telling us that they can get 24 in the Delhi bible Institute 4x4. And that’s to do a trip in it, not just see how many will fit!

On the way home at 9:30 it was 40oC and by 9:am it was 44oC and rising. It was unbearably hot in the middle of the day. It got to us a little and my feet swelled up a lot and were quite painful during that night. But the next morning I had an early morning meeting with Isaac and then we headed off to the airport. The flight from Delhi to Mumbai was pretty uneventful, but the wait in Mumbai for 11 hours was a real pain. But you meet some interesting people as you hang around.

We transferred across to the international terminal but of course we couldn’t book in, in fact there were no flights leaving until about 7 that night and here we were at about 3:00, the whole place to ourselves...... except for two guys. Let me tell you about them. Nial was an Irishman, born with 50% Guinness in his blood, a Catholic and we heard his whole life story in about 10 minutes, well the overview anyway. He’d worked in heaps of places, Cambodia, Timor, Laos with the United nations. He boasted about his wild lifestyle, the whole story peppered with f***s and b*******s and h***s. It was so funny, he’s such an idiot, I’m sure his mother would disown him is she knew the half. Well he’d travelled in Iran and Iraq and by this time he’d downed a large bottle of Fosters Lager, bought with his last Rupias and he still had 12 hours to wait. We was getting married to a lovely Indian girl, a born – again Christian what ever that meant who “watched the b*****y evangelists on TV all day.” He’d been living with her for about 5 weeks now but they had to get properly married because the mother didn’t approve so he was back to Ireland for 4 weeks to sort things out with his family and to try and get some of them to come to the wedding. I tell you, it went on and on and on...... until Ernest came into the restaurant we have tucked ourselves into. While the story was going on Helen and I had ordered and eaten a nice Indian meal, our last in India for a while, and between mouthfuls of curry, rice, naan bread and sips of lassi the tale went on and on. Of course he now knew we were kiwis and all the jokes came out including frequent references to sheep and to evangelical Christians. Mind you, we gave back as much as we got.

Anyway, back to Ernest, a very simple dude from Maine who wandered into the conversation. He was standing off the side for a few minutes and between a mouthful curry and naan I asked him to sit down. Ernest was aptly named and his story could not be more different than poor old Nial. He had read books about India on the farm in Maine from when he was a kid and wanted to go there one day. So he saved up and booked flight to Mumbai. So he arrived for two weeks, he was booked into a hotel in town. The poor guy, this was his 1st trip out of the US and here he is in India, Mumbai!! He said in his plaintive little voice, “I knew the moment I stepped out of the plane I was in the wrong place.” He arrived there with nothing planned, no one to meet him, no idea about what there was to do and not even a Lonely Planet guide. The guy was from another planet. He had been ripped off, robbed, hadn’t slept for 3 days and was a real mess. He shifted out of the hotel after two nights and came back the airport to sleep. “They only eat Indian food here” he said. Well hello, you’re in India!!!! He was heading home after 3 days of misery!!!! He had cashed all his $US into rupias and had his pockets bulging full of money and just had no idea.

Well, while he told us his story Nial was taking the mickey out of him. Nial really didn’t like Americans cause he’s been involved in a demonstration a few years ago in London when a protest crowd against the Gulf war crashed down the barriers on the US Embassy and he found himself inside the embassy. He then found his passport stamped with a big red stamp that said he could never visit America. He tried to go there on a new passport but he was still and outcast. Even he was feeling sorry for old Ernest by the time he finished his story and suggested that because they had 12 hours still to wait and that Ernest still had thousands of rupias in his pocket that they should go and get p*******d. Ernest didn’t know what that meant and it required a bit of explaining. Anyway, 2 hours have gone past and we decide to go for a walk. When we got back to restaurant we sat in a different place to try and have a snooze and do some work on the computer. They settled in to watch a DVD on Nial’s computer and Ernest was amazed that he could do that!! About 90 minutes later they walked off arm in arm, to who knows where. Lonely people, confused people, sad people.

Oh yea, the thing that made me really laugh about Nial was that here he was, living with a girl in India illegally, setting up a business that he’d had to pay heaps of bribes to set up, having lived a life of a rogue and now he as setting up this business to teach people how to ethically use resources and manage the environment!! Now ethics is about how you use natural resources and whether or not you can gain carbon credits, it’s about sleeping with as many people as you like as long as you wear a condom and it doesn’t matter if they’re the same sex or, getting p******d and polluting your body with tobacco and hashish is OK as long as everyone else thinks it’s OK and as long as you don’t hurt anyone. And you can do all this and feel you have the right to teach about ethical behaviour and attitudes. Pretty bizarre really, when you think about it.

So by now those guys will be in England and the US and we’re in Johannesburg. I wonder if the few moments we had together, fellow travellers n the road of life made any difference in their lives. Hopefully the few words may have caused them to think about eternity. But it just reminded me that here we were, in North India with such blatant non Christian worship and values, and here were a couple western guys, just as lost, just as lonely with no more idea about living that anyone else.

So I’m sitting in the sun in Jo’burg, Helen’s having a snooze, it’s midday on Monday and India seems a long way off. What a rich world we live in, people are so amazing. We have already met so many great people on this trip. Many of them have reminded us that we are here to serve, and serving others always comes at a cost. I’ve also been reminded that there are many genuine people out there giving their lives away in a quest for meaning. And many people in the churches of NZ have found the meaning of life and have lost the sense of quest, the sense of purpose, the sense of being involved in what God is doing in the world. Shame.

Anyway, you don’t need to hear a sermon from me. We’ll be in touch from Zambia in a few days.

Love to everyone.

Kevin and Helen.


in zambia and loving it

2007-04-27

Hey there

Here we are in zambia after a few quiet days. We got to Jo’burg OK from Mumbai, we even slept after popping some sleeping tablets. So it was great to catch a few zzzzs on the plane, not something we often do. Helen wasn’t that well when we got there and for the first of two days with our friends Dave and Greta Dunn, she was really tired and slept most of the first day and her left wrist and hand swelled up terribly and were very painful. Fortunately it’s settling down again now.

On the second day there we were up at 5:00 am to go to the airport to pick up our friend Laura Noble, she’s travelling with us for our time in Zambia. We showed her around parts of Jo’burg after she had caught up on a couple of hours sleep. Dave and Greta loaned us their car for the day. It was great to catch up with them and their family. It’s 3 years since we saw them and the kids are married or about to be and all grown up. They took us out to a Portuguese restaurant on the last evening, it was lovely. Except for the cricket score that was!!!!

Then it was up early again and 5 of us plus luggage into the car and off to the airport. There were no hassles getting up to and into Zambia, so here we are, at Maplehurst Farm. There is so much to catch up on and so many people to talk to it’s going to be a busy week. Tomorrow Kevin is going a couple hours away to look at a tractor for the farm, Helen will have time to use the computer. Then there is a farewell fro Zambia to David and Lyn Salisbury, NZ missionaries here for over 40 years I guess. We worked with them way back in the 80s when we lived here. So it will be nice to see them and honour their commitment.

We brought some engine parts for a broken down vehicle, the minibus we are going to use while here, so it was good to have the right parts. You never can quite tell they are the right ones till they are fitted and working!

we have such an awesome team here in zambia that we`ll be spending the next few days talking to and planning. Bright Hope has great people.

Thanks for your interest, love and support.

Kevin and Helen.


gone for a week

2007-05-02

Hi there friends

Thanks for all the comments and and e-mails. It’s amazing how much it encourages us. Just a short note as we shoot out the door for 8 days in the bush at Samfya.

The last few days we’ve been at Maplehurst Farm meeting with the team and sorting through the issues of farm and team life. It’s been great, we have such an awesome team here. Our friends from the US arrived yesterday and today we all, 11 of us and luggage, pile into a 15 seater van and travel 700 km. So it’s going to be a tight squeeze.

We’ll be out of contact till next Wednesday night so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything from us. We have a cell phone here now that is in range, +260 98 0

We value you prayer and support and 59455 if you want / need to call.

We’ll be back in a week with lots of stories.

Love

Kevin and Helen


catching our breath

2007-05-10

Hey

We’re back in one piece from Samfya and here are a few highlights and photos.

• 11 westerners in a 15 seater van with 3 seats removed and a pile of luggage travelling 600 kms with only 3 toilets to stop at!

• Leaving at 7:30 and remembering that the keys were back at base, turning around to get them, didn’t get away till 9:00 the 2nd time!!! Fortunately kevin wasn’t there, he had gone ahead to check out tractors and waited on the side of the road for 1 ½ for the bus to come!!!! He was found sitting outside a roadside bar with about 20 Zambians laughing at his stories.

• Our friend Hudson who gets up at 2:00 am every day to read his Bible and pray. His wife gets up at 4 and they worship together for 2 hours before going to the fields for 1 ½ hours. He then goes off to work at SCCP visiting the schools and the 1000 children on the program. He has 7 of his own children and 4 other orphans plus a couple of other people living in his house. The house is about the size of our lounge and there are 15 people living in it along with 37 chickens!!! There is no other way to survive he says. You have to draw your strength from God when you’re poor and you want to serve God!

• It was the week before school started and 100s of kids were visiting the building we stayed in to collect their exercise books and shoes for the next term. Beautiful children!

• Meeting Ntlasha, a 23 year old guy. He is being sponsored in the 1st year of teacher training. We visited his home and here’s the story. Grandmother looks after 22 grandchildren.... she has bone cancer in her hip and there are no drugs to help or even ease the pain. Her brother was helping her look after the kids..... but he died last week.... you just cannot do nothing when faced with this kind of desperation!!!

• 100s of people singing and dancing, whooping and hollering as we went to visit some of our friends in one of the churches on Sunday morning. These guys worship with their whole body, not just a neat and tidy worship time, it’s all on.

I’ll fill you in on a few others in a day or two, before we leave for Ethiopia.

We’ve been away for 5 weeks now and the tiredness is setting in a bit. It’s good to have a few days here at the farm with our friends. It’s great to be able to come back to a familiar place for a few days. We continue to count on you for your prayers and thanks you for being with us on the journey.

Twatotela bane (thanks friends)

Kevin and Helen


moving on in africa

2007-05-12

it`s been great to have a bit of a spell at Maplehurst farm, catching up with our friends and sorting out our stuff for the next leg. while in samfya we met some great people, let me tell you about them:

*in one of the pix last time you saw a group of people standing around a lady. she had a huge sore on her leg, like an ulcer, she`s had it for 7 years. yep. you heard it right. she hobbles around the place in pain all day, it was good to be able tohelp in a small way

*Charles is a guy you will hear about in the next few weeks. he`s started a care program for 196 orphans and vulnerable children. so a church from Christchurch has joined up to support it and in a few weeks will be in the village to help with building a skilss training centre. he is just an amazing guy and fully sold out to showing Christ`s love to hurting people.

*the minister at the United Church of zambia telling me about his concern for all the youg girls in the fishing villages who were being froced into marriage at 13 and 14 and then getting HIV / AIDS

*the young guy who was hurting becasue he wanted to be amissionary but it was too hard to raise the finances in Zambia

*the rows and rows of children with no hope of a future without some sort of intervention.

* the beautiful children with such sad eyes

anyway, tomorrow morning we head off to Lusaka and fly out at about 3:30 to Addis Ababa. it will be a new adventure, a new team from the USA, Jared coming in to spend time with us and more great people to meet. we may not be able to be in touch regualry over the next 2 weeks. we`ll try to find internet cafes but in the North it`s not quite som easy. we know you`ll be with us and we really appreciate that,

Lots of love

Kevin and Helen


in addis and heading north

2007-05-16

hi there team from Addis Ababa

we`re about to move into the north of Ethiopia later today, so time for a catch up. we`ve no hassles getting the whole team into ethiopia, everyone got here without hassle. it was easier than last time here, there are a lot more tourists here just 18 months after being here the last time. so it`s more user friendly for strangers like us.

it`s been great to catch up with some of our friends here. we`ve been doing orientation with the us team, 7 people from Fellowship Bible church in Dallas, TExas, really nice people. so today they get to the North to visit the people they came to meet. the last 2 days we`ve been visiting some of the sites of ethiopia. so far:

*the largest open market in East africa, dangerous, pickpockets, hustlers, spices, smoke, dirt and dust, really friendly people who love to laugh but who don`t have much to smile about.

*beggars, never seen so many, 100s on the streets, babies with mothers, people with deformed body parts proudly displayed, little kids living on the streets selling everything, aggressive if you don`t give, many professional beggars, how do you know who is genuine, tough decisions...

*the Tomb of menelik, most important historical figure of ethiopia, incense gets right up your nose, filthy priests and guides begging for money and not happy with what you give them

*university museum, fascinating culture, ancient culture, superstitious culture and very, very many people under spiritual bondage, criminal treatment from the priest, living in total fear and poverty

anyway, we`re a bit tired at the moment, don`t really know why, just the drain of constant moving, but we have a great team.

we`ll catch up again when we get up North

thanks for the messages, we really love them

Kevin and Helen


beautiful places, beautiful people

2007-05-21

It’s 8:30 am, or 2:30, Ethiopian time and we’re sitting on the breakfast patio of the hotel we stayed at last night. We’re looking out over Lake Tana in Bahir Dar. It’s a totally beautiful scene of peace and tranquillity. Mind you , we’ve had to pay for it, $US6 / night and breakfast about half that!

But the stories we have heard in the last few days sure strip away the sight and reveal a disturbing reality. We’ve been talking to a group of church leaders and workers who are facing huge persecution, here are some bits and pieces:

· We met a guy working among a tribe of people who still wear no clothes and who eat everything they can lay their hands on, cats, birds and rats. Nothing is safe. He can go there and do that but his family cannot go with him

· Another guy had walked 12 hours, done 3 hours in a car and 3 hours in a bus to visit us for and hour. He works on the Sudan border and has stories of beatings, his house being burned and being punched and kicked

· There is a huge influx of Moslems in the North of Ethiopia, funded from the Arab countries. They are buying their way into villages and hacking Christians to death. I’ve just watched a video of a group of people who have been killed by a group of Moslem’s. Life is tough here.

· Ethiopia has the 2nd highest % of HIV+ sufferers in Africa now. In country with a population approaching 70 million that makes for millions of sufferers. The number of beggars on the streets and children living rough is appalling. The churches are really keen to help but have few resources.

· A lot of our friends could not meet us in a public place otherwise they would have been beaten for it.

We arrived in Bahir Dar on Wednesday. The plane took off OK but after 20 minutes we had to turn back to Addis. After a 30 minute wait we were on our way again to Bahir Dar, 55 minutes away. This time we got there OK and climbed into the bus. We arrived at the same hotel we are in at the moment. We met with a group of church workers and leaders and about 9:00 pm got back to the restaurant. We had a huge feast of beautiful Ethiopian food. So it was late to bed that night. The next morning we got up a 5:30 to hit the road at 7:00. We got away at 8:15, I’m discovering that and hour late is not late at all.

We headed off, but of course there was no diesel in the bus, or the first gas station we went to. So we really got under way another 30 minutes later. But no problem, we only had about 11 hours drive ahead of us! We changed plans. We were on the way to Debra Markos via Chagni. We were to meet some people on the way and hear their story. We couldn’t go to their village as it would cause them real trouble. So we met them on the side of the road and they crowded into the bus and recounted their stories; tales of persecution, hunger, long distances and beatings. At the same time stories of faith, joy and people coming into relationship with God. Pretty inspiring really, pretty hair raising too.

We got to Debra Markos with thunder crashing around us and rain threatening. We have a coffee and then went off to hear more stories. More of the same, more grief and joy. After that we visited some widows and orphans in their little house, about the size of a chicken coop. Really poor, really sad but they smile and tell us their stories too. 2 little boys are living with the two widows and a handicapped woman. She’s amazing, she has never had one day at school. She can read the bible but nothing else, not even her name!! Explain that!

Then the heavens broke and we got soaked getting from the bus into the hotel for dinner. Another late dinner, another late night and another cold shower. I’ve had two hot showers in the last three weeks!!!! Imagine....

Yesterday we drove back from Debra Markos to Bahir dar, stopping for the loo, for a cup of coffee and lunch and then another bus meeting where 3 more guys told us their stories. One guy walks 25 km 4 times a week to do his church work. Very inspiring, how can we help these guys, can we help them?

Back here to the nice hotel for another beautiful meal, oh, after the usual meeting with another group of leaders!!! The stories are becoming very familiar now. Today we head of to Gondar past the source of the Blue Nile, or more aptly named, the brown Nile!! Hopefully we can get this out tonight, not much internet in Bahir Dar.

Love

Kevin and Helen

p.s. we couldn’t get this out till Monday, we’ll get another, hopefully with photos tomorrow


going for it in Gondar

2007-05-22

hi there friends

thanks for the e-mails and messages, it`s always great to hear from people we love. we`re alive and well in Gondar, a city in the North of Ethiopia. the last few days have been great but we`re really tired. Hardly slept at all last night with all the noise out side and viscious beasts inside. at 3 am i emerged bloodied from the battle with a hoard of the most dangerous animals in Africa. the walls, the shhets and even my face was splattered with blood at we battled valiantly to stem the flow of the onsluaght. finally we slumped into our beds to sleep fitfully until the moslem prayer calls woke us 3 minutes later!

anyway, i`ve only seen one mozzie since and it has been added to the body count!!! the last few days.... where do we begin:

* more stories of persecuation and trial, it just goes on and on

*the locals are battling for the good news about jesus and their national identity. they are very afraid of the increasing Moslem growth and fear more war in their beloved land

*we looked o ut from the hill overlooking Gondar as teh sun set last night. a beautiful sight. from up there all the poverty, corrunption and the stink of humna habitation was gone and for a moment it looked very beautiful10 minutes later we were in the thick of it as our ratlle trap bus coasted the 3 km into town without putting it into gear

*we met with hundreds of Ethiopian believers in church on Sunday morning and saw 3 people give their lives to Jesus. they sure can sing!!!

*we visited the parents of our friend from New Zealand, Worku. they servrd us coffee and buns, hospitality is part of the culture here, even though poor

*we visited a ministry that cares for 50 destitute widows. they are beggars and street women, no-one to care. no one to love, abandone by their families and friends, their church and their community. when did you last kiss a leper beggar?

* our 7 US friends left yesterday so we have a couple of days here to catch our breath. it`s been nice to revisit the widow partnership, to be able to make some plans for more resources to come here an to drink a few decent cups of coffee.

tomorrow we head off to Axum and then Thursday to Lalibela, some tourist sites. oh we did a couple hours tourist stuff on Sunday after church. there are some amazing castle ruins here in Gondar, we`ll try and get some pictures onthis blog when we get to the USA.

well, that`s enough from us

Love

Kevin and Helen


Rocks, time warps and great friends in Ethiopia

2007-05-28

Well we’ve come to the last days of our time in Ethiopia. It’s been an amazing journey really. Great people, amazing stories of persecution and trial, grinding poverty and interesting food. The last couple of days have kind of brought it all together in some ways.

We’ve been in Axum and Lalibela, two of the most fascinating places on the earth I’m sure. In Axum we visited the burial sites of ancient civilizations, from before the time of Christ. One tomb we climbed down into was dated at the time of Jesus and as we climbed down the dusty stairs it was like moving into a time warp. Huge big obelisks designating tombs climb into the air, the tallest about 21 metres. There is one fallen one that is 33 metres high, or low at the moment cause it’s horizontal! Huge areas have still not been explored or dug. This is the area the Queen of Sheba came from and we visited one of her bathing spots. As we were leaving the place a bunch of Sudanese important officials arrived so the place was crawling in armed police. The officials wanted their photos taken with us, on our cameras and theirs! I don’t get it really. I felt like telling them to sort out Dafur before I would let them have a photo but didn’t in the end! If there is a place with more rocks than Axum I would be very surprised. The fact that this was the centre of a sophisticated culture more than 3000 years ago makes it even more amazing. It’s like standing in Bible times, donkeys, horses and camels traipse along the roads and paths and there are beggars on every corner.

Then we went on to Lailibela, a hugely impressive place. The countryside has massive bluffs and rocky outcrops. Huge towering bluffs loom over scruffy little villages. Huge rock falls pour rocks down the cliffs. Whole hillsides are washed out and there are feeble attempts to stop the rest of the countryside flowing into the rivers and out to sea. It’s a desolate place. But then you come to these amazing churches, carved out of solid rock. There are 34 of these amazing structures built between the 5th and 13th Centuries. The pathetic sight of old people worshiping the buildings and pictures of old, dead “saints” wants to make me puke. It’s obscene, it’s so futile. The whole country is built on history, old stuff that is totally useless in today’s age as they are all dusty and dead.

We got angry that day, all of us, as we were ripped off at the entry to the churches, begged at by every priest and then assaulted by all the beggars living around the churches. This church is so locked into the past that it cannot see or respond to the poverty it has largely been responsible for creating; very angry indeed.

Lots of walking to along cobblestone streets and looking through more ancient sites. The people are really friendly and everyone in the street wants to shake your hand. Last night we had a great local meal in a scruffy little restaurant across the street from the Asheten Hotel, our fine abode while in Lalibela. No power, no water but what the heck!! It’s probably the best place in town to stay.

And now we’re in Chicago, talk about time warp. It was sad to say goodbye to the lovely people on the team. Worku, our Ethiopian friend from New Zealand has an amazing heart for people, especially the poor and he looked after us so well. I’ve rarely met such a giving person. More than once he was in tears at the sight of the desperation and poverty. Mekashaw, who travelled with us, pastor of a church of 450 people who finished sitting his theology degree papers the 1st two days we were there. He presented each of the team with a beautiful piece of local clothing before we left, such a man of passion and action. We’ll not forget his generosity and the many laughs we had with him. Brenda, now back in Zambia, it was fun to have her on the team. We speaks with such passion about the work of God and the need to relate and engage with people cross culturally. Wherever we went she was dispensing medical advice, a few basic pills and lot’s of care to the poor. One time she kept us all waiting while she went back to see a little old woman monk who was very unwell. And Jared, he gets angry at injustice and the impact that grinding poverty produces in people. It was great to see and sense God at work in him and I’m sure there will be many more opportunities to address some of those issues in the future and there will be more adventures to have. Unfortunately, he saw Liverpool beaten late one night in a grubby little hotel, the only one playing the game in Axum.

Now it’s meetings for 4 days and a long trip home to NZ. Not sure we’re ready for the meetings or the trip. But there is important stuff to do here and it will have eternal outcomes as well as immediate impact on the lives of the poor.

We’ve posted some new photos for you to check out too. We’ve also updated the itinerary to include the next part of the journey as well. We’re back in NZ on Saturday morning but we’re only back for 3 weeks before the next jaunt to Africa. It’s really just another 3 week stop. It will be great to rest for a couple of days and catch up with our family and friends. Thanks for being one of them.

Love

Helen and Kevin


coming home today

2007-05-31

hi there friends

today`s the day, we fly home to NZ. it`s been a challenge the last few days to stay awake and focussed on the meetings we`ve been in and having to contribute to. we`ve barely survived the hospitality of our friends here and the huge servings at the restaurants!!! but it`s been cool to catch up wtih everyone here and bring together some plans for the future that will enhance what`s going on.

we get home on Saturday morning ealy, but we will not answer the phone straight away!! except from friends like you guys. it`s been awesome to have you one the trip. we are very aware of your interest. thanks especially to those who prayed and wrote to us.

we`ve got about 5 hours of meetings left before we head off to Ohare airport, fly to San Francisco and then to Auckland. as we fly home we also review the trip and we will have lots of memories from this one. not to metion heaps of reports to finish!!!! but even now as i sit here lots of great people come to mind. lots of great people, lots` of generous people, lot`s of very poor people. it`s great o be able to bring some assistance and joy to the poor in the name of Jesus and see hope spring into their hearts, lives, eyes and families. it`s such a privilege.

well, off to attck another day and claim a few minutes of progress

God bless and thanks

Helen and Kevin


about town and off again

2007-06-17

Dear friends and family,

You’ll notice from our diary that we are about to take off for Africa again. Boy, the 3 weeks have flown and we’re nowhere near ready to go. With all that in mind we’ve made a few changes and we want to let you know about them. But before that, a brief update.

We got back to NZ OK, good seats on the plane and we spelt pretty well. But it’s murder travelling that far in one hop so it’s taken a while to bounce back. When we got back we spent some time with the family in Auckland. We really appreciate Glen and Muzz Cooper and the way they let us crash on them. We don’t have a house here, or anywhere for that matter so it’s good of t hem to let us mess their lives up. We are building a house at the moment, Glena and Muzz are in charge of that! It’s coming along well, when it’s finished you are welcome to comes and stay at Tindalls Bay, Whangaparaoa, North of Auckland.

We then went down to Levin and spent time with our families and church. My (Kevin) mum is fine and we stayed with her and let her spoil us with lovely roasts etc. Helen’s dad is not well at all and we found him very fragile health wise. He is in hospital and future looks pretty uncertain. We then met with a bunch of about 40 friends from church on the Saturday evening and spoke to the church on Sunday morning, pretty much about the trip we had just finished. It was nice to catch up with everyone.

We then went down to Christchurch after Levin and spent some time with the team in the office. They are a great bunch of people but they make us work too hard! We were thinking about going to live in Chch but I don’t think I could handle the pressure. We sorted out a heap of issues and picked up our tickets as well.

After visiting her dad a few times and thinking about it all, Helen decided she wanted to stay a little longer in NZ to see him again. So she is not coming to Zambia with me. We checked out the cost to change the tickets and it was only $10 so she has delayed her trip until the 9th July. I leave this Friday the 22nd and she comes a few days later. This will give her time to go back to Levin and spend some time with her father.

While in Chch we also decided we wouldn’t go back to Africa later this year. A new couple is joining the team in Zambia and they will take over a lot of the work that we would be going to do, so that’s great. Rob Purdue and I will do 3 weeks in Asia instead and you’ll hear the details of that as they emerge.

After Christchurch we came back to Auckland, Hamilton and Rotorua catching up with friends and doing a meeting with some Waikato farmers. Now it’s finalizing the details of the next trips and for the house and catching up with all the e-mails it’s hard to do on the road.

We value you ongoing support and prayers and look forward to you being with us on the next leg of the journey. There is so much happening out there with our partners I would love to share with you, in fact, I’ll do that from the next blog, one partner per blog.

Love to you all

Helen and Kevin


back at it in Zambia

2007-06-30

Hey there friends

Sorry about the long delay since the last update. It’s been pretty hectic over the last couple of weeks but it’s all good.

Helen is in Levin spending time with her dad so that’s been great. He seems to have improved and yesterday was transferred back to the rest home he had been living in. He’s one tough guy and bounces back with amazing courage. He had transfusions and that’s really helped. So Helen is feeling much better now she has seen him so improved. She has enjoyed catching up with friends and family too and is currently staying with her sister Jenny.

I left NZ on the 22nd and flew to Bangkok, changed planes and then landed in Jo’burg. I got a great sleep on the second flight and an hour or two on the first one. I then had 24 hours in Jo’burg and spent much of it just resting. I watched the ABs beat the boks in a pub, it was great to be the only kiwi amongst a couple of hundred South Africans. On the Sunday I flew up to Lusaka and Jerry and Hayley Field picked me up. We got some money from the ATM and is found a place to stay and I caught up on a few reports. Then Monday I flew off to Chipata, a city on the border with Malawi. We have two partnerships out there and I haven’t been there for a year.

So we spent some time with Dick and Anita Mumba. He’s African and she’s from the South Pacific, a little island with just 1,000 inhabitants. They are trying to run a small school in Chipata, mainly with street kids and orphans. It’s a real struggle and they have little support and few resources. I don’t know how they do it frankly. But they battle on and are getting good results with the kids in their exams, 20 times better than the government schools.

Then I got a motorbike and headed out to the bush to visit Lonard and Rose Daka. We have known them for more than 20 years and they are a real inspiration. He went there in 1987 to a situation where there were hardly any churches. Now there are many. The area was totally controlled by witchcraft, now there are huge changes of attitude and lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, these people are very poor, especially this year as the crops were ruined by huge rains.

They run a program there for about 50 kids. They send them to school and teach then skills like knitting, farming and metal work. He has a team of people around him to help and they are such a great bunch. The kids were all in school so I only saw a few of them, usually they meet on Saturday. The next day we went to a little village about 70 km into the bush, Chitandika and we met the teams from 6 more churches. 4 of them have a started little groups to care for orphans, modelled on what Lonard and Rose are doing. So we spent the whole day with them setting them up to a point where we can start supporting. There are so many issues they face, the largest being jealously. It was a full on day, driving in there, talking for about 4 hours, eating a local meal driving home again, arriving at Lonard and Rose’s place at sundown. We then spent the evening working on the shape of the program for the next year.

Thursday saw us up at 6 and trying to get away from the house by 8. Not possible, nothing can hurry up the start of the day. Anyway, we left at 9:30 for a 40 minute walk to the next village. It should have taken 30 minutes but we had to greet everyone on the road and in some case go off the road to say hello. We were supposed to be at a new school that we have been working with, about 400 people had been waiting for a couple of hours by the time we got there!!! Lonard seemed unconcerned! It was great to see the school building almost completed. A year ago it was a jumble of bricks. Now it’s got 230 kids in it and there are a bunch of teachers. We discovered that there is a lot still to do here, it will take years but the community has really pulled together, it’s a shame the government can’t get their act together to do the same. The locals were really slacked off at the speech the local councillor made, he said nothing and they were really peeved.

Then, after receiving some gifts, two bunches of bananas, two bags of peanuts and a duck, we set off for the walk home. On the way we visited one of the most desperate families I have ever met. Grandma, 87 years old, she had given birth to 14 children, two were still alive and one of them, the youngest at 32 was on her last legs, dying from HIV / AIDS. Both the grandmother and the daughter had accident last year and are on crutches and in severe pain all the time. The 14 year old daughter of the daughter looked after them, so she didn’t get to go to school. They had little to eat, nothing in the house, there was not even a stool to sit on so we sat on the floor. What do you say, what so you do? I came away further enraged by the impact of AIDs and more enraged by the desperate state of so many people. I tell you, there are literally thousands of families like this, many of them can only be cared for; they can hardly raise a finger to help themselves. I am totally impressed by the church that Lonard and Rosemary lead. They visit two or three times a week, some walk for more than an hour each way to assist this family.

We then walked back to Lonard and Rose’s and had lunch, 3 pm. It’s been a long day already. About 4:30, after Rose had ironed my clothes I headed back to Chipata on the motorbike arriving as the sun set. I found a place to stay and headed back to see Dick and Anita. Had a nice evening with them and got back to my room about 7:30. Had a nice surprise, Helen rang and we had a chat. It was lovely to hear from her, I hate this not being together thing.

I tried to write up some stuff but my eyes kept shutting so gave in about 9 o’clock and went to sleep...... until 11:30 and then the big D struck, the squirts..... Must have been something I ate, or drank, maybe the mice we had for lunch! Then about 4:30 am both ends were going..... that’s way too much information. It had settled down in time for me to catch a taxi to the airport and catch the plane. I was still feeling squeamish and the 15 minute flight to Mfuwe was a 8,000 feet, very bumpy and the two guys behind me were chundering their little hearts out..... well, I was pretty green too by the time the 15 minutes was up, but I held it in. The next hour flight was a breeze and I got into Lusaka again to meet jerry and Hayley and Rob Purdue, my boss. We cruised up to Maplehurst Farm and I ate something, and it stayed down, so it seems like I’m back to normal again. It was great to see the team here last night.

Today we’re going to watch the ABs play the Wallabies so that will be fun. Then it’s catching up with heaps of reports and preparing for a team from Christchurch, NZ, who arrive on Tuesday. I’m going to put a few pix in this so enjoy. Thanks so much for you involvement in our lives. It’s a huge encouragement.

Love

Kevin and Helen


freezing in zambia and new zealand

2007-07-04

Hey there friends and team mates,

Another update before Kevin goes bush and Helen hits the air. Thanks for the notes and emails, really appreciate them. Helen is back in Auckland after her trip to Levin, it was great to be able to spend some time with her dad and some of the family members. Good to catch up with other friends and family too. Now it’s a few visits to Sara (who has been in Australia for 10 days) and last minute packing before leaving NZ on the 9th. She gets to Zambia on the 11th but we don’t hook up again till the 13th, Friday I think!

The last few days have been pretty fill on. There have been heaps of reports to write up after the trip to Chipata and all the work we are doing at Bright Hope with website development. So after getting back from the mouse meal a few things have happened:

• The ABs got beaten by the Wallabies.... a bunch of us kiwis watched it in disbelief at Sam Salisbury’s place!! Shame

• Am trying to recuperate from a chest infection, lots’ of coughing, snorting and loud breathing

• Had a trip to Lusaka to meet a couple coming in from New Zealand and a meeting with the accountant for the farm company here

• Picked up another bunch of NZers from Lusaka, there are more than 20 NZers here today at the farm

• Come across a man dead on the road earlier today, obviously hit by a car or fallen of a truck, shame

• Tried to keep warm, it’s freezing here at the moment, about 100 or colder at night. And we’re all going camping tomorrow. The locals say it’s the coldest year for in living memory. I can quite believe it.

• NZ last the Americas Cup, so not a good week to be a NZer, sport wise anyway.

Tomorrow morning we head off to Ndola where we used to live in the 80s. We’ll be visiting Isubilo – check it out at www.isubilo.org - and GLO Zambia, our old stomping ground. Then it’s out to visit some friends near to Ndola before heading out into the deep bush for most of next week. It’s going to be cold, full of meetings, writing reports, 1,000s of kms and showing the NZ team around our partners. They will be helping to build a skills training centre in Kaishe village, about 450 km into the bush from here in Kabwe. It will be great to visit our friends there, they are such great people. They have about 200 orphans and vulnerable children, helping then to go to school and with medical and food supplements.

So dear friends, there are some zzzzzzzzzs to catch in Zambia and Helen has some stuff to do I’m sure. Thanks for sticking with us on the trip, it’s


people, people, people

2007-07-08

it`s been a few days since we caught up so here is a brief note. kevin is in samfya typing this at our project here. it`s great, the internet is now up and working here, amazing, way outin the bush and connected to the world. this will be a big benefit to th elocal community once we get access srtoed out to the rest of the community.

Helen will be sitting on the plane, having just left NZ for Africa. she`ll be 12 hours to Bangkok then another 12 to Johannesburg. she has 24 hours in Jo`burg and then to Lusaka on Wednesday. we`ll meet up on Friday, possibly at Maplehurst Farm in Kabwe.

the last few days have been eventful. the team from Christchurch arrived and we`ve been on the road for a few days. their plane was cancelled so they arrived a day late, but at least had all their luggage, that`s a bonus here!!!!

we took them to the Farm for a night and then went off to GLO Zambia. it was great fro them to catch up with each other as the NZ church has been supproting some of the people at GLO for a number of years. then we went about 2 1/2 hours away to visit two partnerships. it was great to see little kids being cared for.

then we travelled 8 hours os Saturday to a little village called Kaishe. the team is staying there for 5 nights. we stayed in tents for a night and then came on to Samfya. man i`m tired, we had meetings till 10:30 last night and we`re off to the bush and camping for the next two nights in Kawambwa. the we at the moment are Rob Puedus from Bright Hope, Michael Tan and Phil Stedman from Riccarton Community Church. so we`ve got the next couple of nights together while the rest of the team stay at Kaishe and build a Skills Training Centre.

yesterday Brenda Savill caught uip wit us on the bus with Jason and Aimee McGregor. J and A will travel with us for the rest of this trip in Zambia and then on to Kenya and uganda. will be great to get to know them. they were blotto after theri long plane trip and bus trip too.

i`m not very well still, coughing, sneezing and headaches. bit of a pain really. but we`ll survive. so, i`ll be back in touch in a couple of days. really value your prayers over the next little while.

love and best reagrds

Kevin and Helen


in the bush and lots of great people

2007-07-12

hi there

one more sleep and we are together again. we`ve been at least in the same country for the last day. Helen arrived on Wednesday and about now should be in Kabwe. I`m in samfya about 600 kms away.

since the last update i`ve been in the bush, first in the village of Kaishe and then in Musambeshi. in the first village we took a group of people from Christchurch. it`s great to see the people in the village so encouraged by the involvement of the team. they helped build a skills training centre. they also ran programs for the kids in the villages and the orphans. there are about 230 in the program being helped to go to school. a 61 year old guy came and applied to be part of the orphan program as hid mother had just died and now he was an orphan. he`s a trier.

then we shot through to the North of Zambia with three other guys. we had an amazing day really. we visited farm we have established and saw all the palm oil trees that have been planted, and the bananas, pineapples and citrus trees. we also saw the 25 cows in the area. then we visited some of the 180 orphans, what a pitiful bunch of people. such a shame but some of them now have a little hope. i`ve put in a couple of photos so you can meet some of them. then we visited one of the biggest chiefs in Zambia, he was a nice old guy. we then ate a huge meal of local food and went off at dusk to meet another sub chief. he`s a crazy old guy, but really likeable. he wants us to buy anothe piece of land near his place, he`s already given us 300 hectares. so it was great to see the development going on.

we`ve had a real problem in the area with the pigs we were growing. we had 40 at one time and they got swine fever and all died. then some thieves came in and kileed a bunch of them and just as teh herd was growing again some leopards came in and killed some more. so, we decided to give all the pigs away to the guardians of the orphans. great idea, about 40 families were growing their little herds. 7 pigs makes a family self sufficient here. then a disaster, a pig, not one of ours by the way, kileed two young babies, twins, and ate them!!!! the parent then went and killed the owners of the pigs. so the chief said, all the pigs in the kingdom must die, except the KERO farms pigs, they are out ones and they are well behaved. so, all the pigs were killed including all the ones given to the guardian families. sometimes i wonder about this place and is it`s even worth trying!!!

yesterday we came back to samfya and it`s been a day of meetings. one after another, i`m meetinged out frankly.

still got a hacking cough but i`m starting to pick up now. tomorrow we go with 6 of us to visit some friends in Mkushi and hopefully enjoy a day off. oh, yea, did i mention, Helen and i will be together again!!! great stuff

enjoy and love like it`s your last day on earth

Kevin and Helen


back together and loving it

2007-07-19

hey there everyone

it`s still cold here in Zambia, everyone is complaining about it. they all say it`s the coldest winter they can remember. the locals are all wrapped up in sweaters and woolly hats and constantly complain about it. so it`s been a bit of a shock, it won`t improve next week when we get to Nairobi, it will be wet as well there.

well, we finally met on Friday afternoon. Rob Purdue, my mate and boss took the team from Riccarton Community Church down to Lusaka and he picked Helen up. they then came back to Maplehurst Farm for a night before heading off to Mkushi. Helen had no hassles on the planes and made all her connections and got all her baggage. that`s something you don`t take for granted! on the same day i travelled to Mkushi from Samfya. we had a great weekend. Friday night we stayed at Mkushi with Barton and Yvonne Young, folks we have known for a long time. they have huge farms in Zambia. we stayed there, and on Saturday morning watched the All Blacks play the Boks. after lunch we shifted out of there and to a motel up the road. some more friends from NZ were there too so we spent the afternoon and evening catching up. they are hard cases. they have come to Africa for a year and are cruising around seeing if they can be of any help. they`ve bought a 1950s Chevvy, probabaly the only one in Africa and are cruising around in style. it`s such a hoot of a car with an Elvis on the dash board jiggling away at every bump. the car would be worth mega bucks in NZ but they bought it for $4,000.

anyway, we spent the night in a lovely lodge with a grass roof. the next morning we woke early, this is Sunday, and headed off North to see something special. the Youngs, our friends from Mkushi, are developing a 10,000 hectare Game Farm and Cattle ranch, the idea is that they will use it for generating income, eco-tourism, game trophy hunting, conservation education and a whole lot more. this is right in the bush, miles from anywhere and bordering a Game Management Area and some cool caves with rock paintings on them, thousands of years old. it`s also close to the place where David Livingstone died. anyway, when we got there we found 36 Dutch young people building a school!!!! really wierd to find them all in the iddle of the African bush. so a school is being built and next year a clinic as part of the project. our friends are looking for investment partners in this project, it`s pretty large. to put a fence around the perimeter, 62 kms, will cost about $US130,000, then there`s all the animals to buy, a 17 metre high dam and hydro electric generator, houses, staff etc. is there anyone out there with a few 100,000 $s to invest. it looks like an amazing opportunity to own a huge part of original Africa.

anyway, that was SUnday. it was a 3 hour drive each way and we spent about 4 hours traipsing around the 10,000 ha and checking out the Nsalu caves. then Yvonne filled us up, man can that woman cook. our friends were blown away by it all.

then it was back to Maplehurst Farm on Monday. since then we have been working through the issues to get the Farm up to speed and encouraging the team. that will go on until Monday, then Tuesday we`re out of here.

oh, by the way, i took Helen out for dinner the other night, just her and me. we went to the 2nd best restaurant and the power was off the Rotary had a meeting there so that was a bummer. then the options, the hungry Lion, a takeaway chicken joint, a couple of bus terminal take away places of the restaurant at Maplehurst. yea, the best restaurant in town is on the farm, rented out to a the guy whom we bought the farm off two years ago. so that was the only option really. so off we went for romantic dinner and catch up. dave, the guy running it comes in with his wife, so the quiet time together was stuffed... that`s the way it is here, getting by yourself any where is virtually impossible.

today we have a meeting with the team all morning and another meeting after lunch with the guy who runs the restaurant. thanks for following along with us, really appreciate it and the r-mails we get.

love and sloppy kisses

Helen and kevin


moving on from Zambia, loved the bed

2007-07-23

it`s monday evening and we are totally bushed. the last few days have been meeting after meeting after meeting, like it just won`t stop! since the last update we`ve been full on from morning to evening and we`re pretty tred of it frankly. it`s been good to be at Maplehurst for almost a week, in the same bed every night for a week would almost be a record for us this year. tomorrow we head of at 6:15 to Lusaka and then off to Nairobi. anyway, we`ve met some really nice people thins week. let me tell you about some of them:

1) Dan Moyer, an amereican missionary here involved in church planting and other things. he`s very energetic and enthusiastic and it`s an encouragement to me with him

2) Coen and Suria Scholtz, an amazing couple from South Africa. they run many ministries and have also adopted 12 zambian children. they are here for life. we`re exploring if there are any opportunities to develop ministry together in the future.

3) Mark and Carmen Brubacher. they are from Nth America but are Arica missionary kids. they are taking over th eleadership of our largest project in Africa. they came for the afternoon on Sunday, it was great to meet them and start he porcess of handing over. our team here, Jerry and hayley and Brenda will be doing the details with them over the next few weeks

4) some of you will know Murray Stevenson. he turned up at the farm today by surprise from the Democratic Republic of Congo. it was good to be able to catch up with him and what`s going on up there in the "real" Africa.

the problem with this list is that it`s not typical of our partners, they are all Westerners really. one of the real frustrations here is that unless you`re out in the bush you tend to end up spending all your time with people of your own background, such a shame cause Bright hope is really about partnering with the poor.

It was cool today to be able to organise funds for a couple of very vulnerable families in the Eastern Province of zambia. i told you about them in earlier blogs i think. so that`s cool. it`s also cooo th hear that the micro-financing partnerships are doing well with most people repaying their loans way before they are due. ow they have access to further funds. so that`s really cool.

it was great to see the ABs beat the Wallabies, roll on the world cup now. hopefully we`ll be in places that have access to TZV when it`s on. we`re in a bit if a dilemma about the rest of the year in terms of where we need to go. so we`ll need a fair degree of wisdom getting that right.

so, one more sleep in zambia and we`re off to see some of our other friends for a couple of days. Friday we go to Uganda and Sunday a team from the US arrives and we`ll have our hands full again.

please continue praying for us. we really value it and love hearing from you.

loads of love and kisses (from Helen of course)

Kevin and Helen


in Kampala, it`s hot here, yay

2007-07-27

hey there team, we`re in kampala after afew days in Nairobi. Nairobi was great we have such great partners there. the guys in the Mathare Valley are amazing. i just don`t know how they turn up to that place. it`s a most appalling place frankly. we met the team there and saw the beautiful children meeting in the schools, more than 1300 of the m. each one has an amazing story of abuse, fear, sickness and death... only jesus can help these people.

then we went to tala, about 70 kms outside Nairobi. RObert and Rose looked after us so well, they are amazing. we visited the school and spen till midnight talking through the issues concerning the partnership. then to kampala, it`s warm and muggy, 27 degrees they say. tomorrow we start meeting the people we came to see. then sunday evening the team from the US arrives, it`s going to be an interesting week.

so, don`t stop praying, there are heaps of kms to travel this week, lots of meetingsand lots of great people to talk t o. we`ll need all the wisdom we have i think.

Aimee and Jason Mc Gregor aho are travelling with us are doing great. they are such a help and are having lots of new experiences. we haven`t been able to get onto the internet with our computer so we haven`t downloaded e-mails for a while.

anyway, we`re hot and loving it!!

Love to you all

kevin and Helen


a week of it

2007-08-06

Hi there friends,

Man some interesting things have happened in the last week since being in touch. I can’t even remember where we were last time, oh yea, hot in Kampala.

The best way is probably to give you a run down of the days of the week and then in the next couple of days let you know a bit more about some of the people we’ve met.

Sunday 29th July – visited Katosi, a little village on the shores of Lake Victoria. It took 2 hours to get there, the last 75 minutes over pretty horrible roads. It’s raining here, every day it pours, that day was no exception so on the way out it was pretty slippery!!! Helen decided to have a day out and spent it catching up on emails and doing laundry. Kevin had to preach at the church, that was fun. Mind you, Jason and Aimee who were with Kev, and he was about to strangle the guy trying to play the keyboard, Kev thinks hes never heard a worse performance. And the thing is cranked up as loud as possible till the speakers were almost blowing out. Shame cause it spoiled some nice singing.

Late that night a team of 7 people from the US arrived. They were shattered when they wandered into the hotel at about 10:30 having come from Chicago.

Monday 30th July – we had a great day!!! One of those days you don’t forget for a long time. First thing in the morning we did an orientation with the US team, talking about life in Uganda and what to do and not to do. Then a couple of our partners came in and we went to their little village on the edge of Kampala. There we listened to their stories and heard their issues as church leaders. There are some crazy things going on in the churches here. Every day there is another scandal in the newspapers about pastors and their misdemeanours. It’s very depressing really and we are embarrassed to be called a Christian some days. But at the grass roots level, the church is very healthy. We met some of those leaders. Great, grassroots and very genuine. We then went to lunch and then for a 90 minute ride into the countryside. As we left the main road the rain persisted down ,and then van began to slide all over the wet track. What a ride, until we came to a slippery stop in the middle of the bush. Another 4WD vehicle was in front of us, part of our party, so they stopped too; no tow rope, pouring with rain, getting late, 7 bedraggled Americans and a few kiwis standing under a mango tree. Well, two people in the team were from a radio station in the US and they were due to report into the station by sat phone at 6:30. So we turned the bus around sent them home to make the call. I think they were relieved, however, Jason and Kev decided to continue on to the village to meet the people we were going to see. You would not believe the tragedy of this place. Not many years ago there were many people butchered in this area. Now, amongst the 70 families there are just 3 adult men alive, a few young people are just growing into adulthood. The people there have been so traumatised by the war and death that they have lost the capacity to live, they were drunk most of the time, hungry and ill with every disease imaginable. We met one 17 year old boy trying to bring up 10 other siblings, the mother died last year. We visited the site of mass graves, at least 20 people in one of them. It’s kind of disturbing really, wondering if someone died where you were standing, and the answer is probably yes. One woman, a lieutenant in the army, has gone back to the place where many of her comrades died and is trying assist the community to reform itself, and it is.

So we sat as the misty rain swept across the sad landscape and ate maize. We just sat and stared, thinking deep thoughts, thoughts one rarely ever has to confront where we come from. The birds sang, a further testimony to the lack of people remaining in this place. We left about dark and headed back into Kampala. Didn’t sleep well that night.

An old couple from the US, doctors here, came and shared with the US team that night, filled them in on the issues. Uganda is very backward in many ways... in the Main hospital in Kampala a baby dies every 9 minutes!!!!!

Tuesday 31st July – the bus arrived and we bumped and lurched for many hours from Kampala to Busia, on the border with Kenya. On the way we stopped at Jinja and saw the source of the Nile River, one of the Mile Rivers, the other flows out of a lake in Ethiopia, we saw that one in May. We crashed into bed early that night, every bit of our bodies saw from the jiggling we had.

Wednesday 1st August – we started out at 9 and visited three villages. First, Kubo. Here we met the pastor and a little boy who has stolen our hearts. We heard her story and his; hers a story of triumph over great odds such as demon possession, illiteracy and death to one of being a pastor in a church, and cares for orphans such as Emmanuel and Leah and his a story of pain, loss, death and orphanhood. But the little bloke could smile through the pain of a body disfigured and no pain relief. Many were in tears that morning. (somehow in the middle of helping large numbers of people you have to try and sort out a way to help one little boy. This is a huge dilemma here, how do we do it. This little guy needs long term care and help yet he lives 100s of km from a facility, probably actually 1000s of kms and 5 countries away from a facility that can help him. It’s sometimes very frustrating!)

Then we went to Bukobe, 10 minutes down the road. HIV+ people told stories of hope after receiving loans to start small businesses, of hope now that they are supported by a group of people who know their HIV status, of hope even thought they die because they have discovered life with Jesus. Pretty cool really. One guy told of a rice field he was growing and a 90minute battle with a python, he had the scars to back up the story!

Then we went to Bulende and heard the story of Margaret, pastor of the church. She is HIV+ and is caring for her own 4 kids and a bunch of other orphans. I just don’t know how she manages to do it. Her CD4 count has got quite low and she is really struggling physically, we left her money to help get another test and some better food. Again there were more than a few tears as the team encountered very desperate, very caring, very brave people battling overwhelming odds to be change agents in their communities and spiritual leaders of many others. AMAZING!

Thursday 2nd August – today we spent the day at Buhoya, a village in one the border of Kenya and Uganda where the leaders of the team we work with live. It’s a nice little place with lovely people. Gorret and Christine, the leaders of the micro-loan projects talked to the team and explained how it works. It’s truly amazing to hear how live are changed by a loan of $100. You would not believe it unless you heard the stories. Then, after lunch the team split up into 3 and moved out into the countryside on foot to visit some of the loan beneficiaries. They all came back a couple of hours later with incredible stories, stories you would not believe. Stories that will change their lives and perspective on life.

At about 4 pm the thunder clouds were threatening so we jumped onto the bus and drove for 100 meters and ran out of petrol!!! The driver ran off into the bush while Kevin fumed and kicked the water bottle until he came back with 3 litres of petrol and a big smile, almost kicked him then but thought better of it. Back onto the bus and a jolly ride back to the hotel as the rain poured down. Just in time, the road for the first 5 km is very bad and slippery.

We spent the evening reminiscing about the day and the great people we had met. The radio team met their schedule with the thunder crashing and the Moslem cry to prayer wailing in the background.

At 9 pm Anna came to visit, I’ve written about anna in previous blogs but her story beggars belief. Here is a little of it, here is a tragedy that is repeated 1000s of time in Uganda and more in other parts of Africa. This is the story of a documentary proportion, and it’s by no means over yet.

Anna is in her 40s I imagine. A very nice woman, dignified, you would never guess the story from her appearance. A number of her siblings have been killed in recent years, internal fighting. Her father, an Anglican minister was, 4 years ago, looking after a number of his grandchildren and a lot of other kids as well. From time to time the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) rebels would come and harass him. He was trying to protect his kids and the community from their raids and brutality (you need to google LRA and check the b******s out.) This day he warned them and the kids scattered in to the bush, but they grabbed her dad. They beat him and a whole bunch of other people. They called the local into a meeting and when they arrived they opened fire on the people and butchered 63 of them. They buried her dad but not the others, their bodies were eaten by animals. Meanwhile, Peninah, Anna’s sister who lived with their father and helped him with the kids, managed to find most of the children except for two. She gathered them into a refugee camp, IDP camp. The story of the two she couldn’t find is the material of a book that might be written sometime in the future! So Anna goes and finds her sister and all the kids in the IDP and makes a plea to us to help her family. So we get the kids out of the IDP camp and into a secure, rented house, 26 of them. Another agency agrees to support them in an ongoing way and do so for a couple of years. But then internal disputes within the organization means that at the end of last year they pulled the plug on funding and these vulnerable kids find themselves at the bottom of the heap again. While they were in the bush and the IDP camp they learned to fend for themselves, they learned how to cheat, steal, lie and kill to survive, now they are desperate again, what will they do. They can go back to that, or they can find another way, the way of trust, of peace of self-control. But when you are desperate.....and they are desperate. By this time Anna is struggling to go on, these are not statistics she is talking about, these are her kids, her family. Right at that very time her sister, her brother and her husband are in Lira desperately trying to find a way to deal with this issue. And here she is trying to plead for them as well. What the heck do you do? Debts to pay off, ongoing support to find and long term solutions to try and secure. I’m going to bed, but not to sleep!

Friday 3rd August - I stayed in Busia while Helen returned to Kampala with the US team. I caught up with reports and e-mails while Helen jiggled and jolted back in the bus. They detoured out to Katosi on the way, about 1 ½ hours each way to the place I had gone the previous Sunday. They had a nice lunch, they visited the clinic and the school and heard the children singing. Really loved it. These people hear are so welcoming, every guest is honoured and everyone feels loved, even though the poverty is palpable. All of us had one of the older kids pray for us.... quite moving..They got home to the hotel after 7 and then went out to a nice restaurant for a treat. Annie, one of the team wasn’t feeling well that day but seemed to be OK by the next day.

Meanwhile, back at the rand Hotel in Busia it’s all quiet, apart from loud music, obscenely loud Nigerian videos, the neighbours having a fight and the moslems yelling out at various time on loud speakers!!

Saturday 4th August – Helen gets the team off to the airport in Kampala and I eat eggs again for breakfast at the Rand hotel. She and Aimee and Jason have a bit of a rest day while I head off into to Buhoya village for a Board meeting on the back of a motorbike. Phil and Merlyn Field are there with their daughter Amanda and we spend the day with the Trustees of the team we work with sorting through things like budgets, reports, organizational structure and the like. Just as the rain starts I hop onto another bike and head back to the Rand. Great fun, except for all the puddles and the fact that the driver had no understanding about the relationship between gears, revs, puddles and everything else one needs to know if you ride a bike. The plastic raincoat that Merlyn lent me caught on a branch and I almost got hung but it split just in time to prevent us spinning off into a puddle, a couple of local guys who saw nearly died laughing and I almost choked to death in the tree. I now know why I need to be so heavy, if I was 10 kg lighter I might still be swinging in the tree.

Anyway, enough of that, we’re now back in Kampala and sorting through the e-mails and other admin stuff. The bush seems such a long way from here in bustling Kampala which teems with people. But there is much to do and lots of people to assist and learn from.

Thanks for being on the journey. A couple of days and we’re out of here back to Nairobi. Two days there and we’re on our way back to NZ.

Lots of love

Kevin and Helen


resting up in Koh Samui

2007-08-13

Hi friends

The last few days in Africa reminded us again that we have the privilege of being in partnership with some outstanding people. We arrived in Nairobi to wet, cold weather, a bit of a change from the previous 6 weeks. We went down into the slum of Mathare Valley in Nairobi to visit the incredible people who choose to go there every day because they are called to follow Jesus to that place. It’s a shocking place at any time; it’s even worse when it’s wet and cold. Honestly, I am not sure how they can do it day after day as they do. While there we met with a couple of other people from outside Kenya who are involved as donors as well. It was good to meet them and hear of their desire to try and assist Daniel and Magdaline Ogutu and their team to ramp up their efforts to transform Mathare Valley where 600,000 people live in pitiful conditions of filth and poverty.

We said goodbye to Aimee and Jason MacGregor in Nairobi, they went to stay with our friends Robert and Rose Gitau in Tala. Right now they will be tutoring kids and helping with whatever is going on. Hope they enjoy it, they will come to love Robert and Rose and the kids I’m sure. Jason and Aimee were great to travel with. Jason became the official video man and Aimee was our nurse, secretary, tour guide and everything else we needed. We had a lot of fun too, Jase played a straight bat most of the time,and sometimes he was almost undone by a googly or two and a yorker but kept his wicket intact!

We spent a bit of time with other NZ friends too. Phil and Merlyn and Amanda Field were in Uganda with us and also in Nairobi. They are now in the Masai Mara Game park viewing the huge wilderbeast migration. Then they return to Nairobi. They are in Africa doing a project for Bright Hope about micro-enterprise. It’s been so cool to travel with friends . We caught up with Peter and Anne Kemps in Nairobi too.

And where are we you ask? Well, I hate to tell you this but we’re having a break in Thailand on the way home to NZ. We reckoned we needed a break so stopped off in Koh Samui. It’s great to have time out with nothing planned, no meetings to attend and no people asking what we’re doing next! So we’re resting up and thinking about nothing at the moment. After a few days we will start to think about the rest of the year and the stuff we need to do.

So, we’ll stay in touch. Thanks for the e-mails and messages. It’s great to have you along with us on the trip.

Love

Kevin and Helen


back in NZ and freezing

2007-08-20

man it`s freezing here in NZ. i can`t believe we lived here for so long without dying. just joking but it`s a bit of a shock after 30+ degreees and sleeping with not much on for a week. it was great to have a break in Thailand on the way home from Africa. spent most of it horizontal, reading, sleeping, swimming etc. it was great and we feel really refreshed coming back here. it`s a bit different from some of the recent trips we`ve got back from.

thanks for being on the journey with us. it`s so cool to know you`re involved and praying. we`re back here till the 4th of September and then down to Levin for a few days and Christchurch for 10 days. then it`s back to Whangaparaoa.

we did have a trip planned to Asia for alter in the year but have decided to can it. There is a lot going on that we need to deal with in regards to getting Bright Hope more established so we`ll be focussing on that. early October kevin has to go to the USA for a few days but there won`t be too much rushing around going on. BHW is developing a new website which i`ll let you know about soon and we have a lot of reports to write. we are building our team too which takes time talking to people and we also have a number of donor friends in NZ that we want to visit and talk to. so hopefully we`ll get to catch


stuff to do in NZ

2007-09-02

Hey there

Thought we’d drop you a note to let you know what’s happening over the next few weeks so you can keep up with the plans and what we’ve been up to for the past two weeks since getting back to NZ. It’s been great to be back “home” and in familiar surroundings. Currently we are in the process of building a house in Whangaparaoa. It’s an extension to the beach house we’ve had for years, quite a large extension really. We sold our house in Levin almost a year ago and so did my sister and brother in law, Glenys and Murray Cooper. We decided that we would extend the beach house and turn it into our permanent homes, kind of two separate parts in the same building. So it’s been fun to be making decisions about windows and doors and garage doors and ...... it’s been a bit of a break too from all the other stuff we have to deal with. So that’s what we’ve been doing as well as writing reports and other stuff to finish off the last trip. It’s been nice to go to church again, we often miss that when we’re travelling even though we’re doing mission stuff. The 1st Sunday back we went to our local church at Orewa and yesterday we were in New Lynn in Auckland talking to a church there about partnership.

But we’re about to shift on again so we thought we let you know where and what. You can check out the itinerary elsewhere on the blog site, we’ve updated that so you can see it, tried to do the rest of the year so you can where and what we’re up to and invite us around for a coffee!!!!

Tomorrow we head off to Levin to catch up with Helen’s dad and my mum and some of our friends on the area. Next Sunday we are speaking at QSGC, our home church and we then head down to Christchurch in the evening. We`re there at the Bright Hope World offices for 10 days. We have a Board meeting, seeing off one of our team, Jude Goatley to Africa again, meeting the Suttons who are coming back to NZ and generally catching up on administration. We’ve got some people to visit too, people who have visited our partnerships and are getting involved.

So we get back to Whangaparaoa on the 19th September and carry on working from there. We’ve got a few people to visit around Auckland, Te Awamutu, Rotorua and Tauranga so will be doing a trip further south.

Then on the 8th October Kevin heads offshore again for 3 1/2 weeks. He’s got meetings in Dallas and Chicago that will take a few days, then cruises on to Zambia for two weeks. On the way he’ll stop over in London and catch up with Jared and Ruth and watch the ABs win the Rugby World Cup with them. Unfortunately we don’t have tickets to go to the Final!!!

Then Zambia. We‘ve got some issues to work through on Maplehurst Farm in terms of personnel and also a really good partnership opportunity to negotiate related to training for many of the orphans who leave school and can`t get employment. So there is some important stuff to do that really can’t wait till next year. You’ll see the dates in the itinerary that’s been updated. It’s a pain that he has to go in some ways but sometimes you just can’t leave things. Helem is not sure what she`ll do while kevin is away. but this is a hurricane warning for NZ!!!

When he gets back to NZ on ealry November we’ll have a few days in Whangaparaoa and the plan is to go to Christchurch for 3 – 4 weeks. Bright Hope World is developing a new website so it will be a good time to get it all sorted and fully functioning. It will be great cause it will mean that we can use it from anywhere in the world to keep all the partnerships up to date, a little bit like this blog site.

Sometime in there we’ll be shifting into the new house. We have all our stuff stored in Levin still so we’ll have to pack up a truckload of stuff and bring it North. That will be fun, not!!!!

Anyway, we’ll keep in touch, we really value you r prayer and e-mails and love

Kevin and Helen


meetings in Chch / checking in

2007-09-21

Hi there

We have been in Christchurch for 9 days based at our Bright Hope World office. There we had a Board and Executive meeting, as well as looking at the new website that is being developed… looks good. We’ll give you the address when it’s finished and on line, should be in a month or so. Had heaps of appointments, and updating details from our recent trips and working through finances…Has kept us out of mischief.

 

It was great to spend one evening with some of the people who had recently returned from a short term trip to Zambia. They stayed in a village for 6 days and it was interesting hearing about some of their experiences. Like their first meal was rice…. With nothing else…( some of .their other meals did  include  veggies and  chicken). They were so inspired by the hospitality, and loved the opportunity to form relationships with some of the local people …… and they were so thankful to all stay well…..

 

One morning we spent time with Emma Stokes who co-ordinates the HeadSpace Gap year programme for Students who finish High School and don’t know what they want to do next. Emma is an amazing lady who is passionate about helping and inspiring young people to grow their faith. The Gap year also gives them an opportunity to live cross culturally for 2 -3 months. So if any of you have kids or grandkids who don’t know what to do when they finish high-school. They would benefit from this life changing year

.

Brad and Greer Sutton who were our Farm Managers at Maplehurst farm in Kabwe, Zambia, have returned to NZ. So we have also been trying to find someone to replace them. We have interviewed two couples but they wouldn’t be available to go until early next year if we accept one of them. So we need someone NOW to fill the gap until mid January. Please pray for Jerry and Hayley and Aaron and Suzy, our friends there who are filling the gaps with no farming experience, and doing a fantastic job.

 

We are now back in Auckland and we are house sitting for someone for a week. Looking forward to spending time with our daughter, Sara . We haven’t seen her much since we returned from our last trip to Africa.

 

On Monday Kev will fly to Australia and be away for 4 days. He is interviewing another couple  about  going to Maplehurst. Then its back to his beloved wife…..  then it’s another road trip from Friday 29th.  We will spend Friday afternoon and evening with another team from Te Awamutu that’s going to Chipata, Zambia in January.

Then we will go to Tauranga and there is a Missions dinner on Saturday with our friends at Greerton Church.. On Sunday we will spend time with the Noble Family in Rotorua…… then back to Auckland

.

Kevin will be going to Dallas in USA on 8th October, then on to meetings in Chicago, on to London to see Jared and Ruth and meetings with people, then back to Zambia for 12 days.

Helen will stay in NZ L She will spend some time in Levin with family and friends, and also do some work on making decisions for  kitchen, bathroom, flooring etc for our new house…

We appreciate your ongoing love and prayer support And emails and blog messages.. check out the blog for the map and itinerary

Love from

Helen and Kev     

 


still on the road

2007-10-07

Hi there friends,

Hope you’re all doing OK. Just a brief update before I (Kevin) heads off to the US and Helen heads off down to Levin. We’ve had a great time over the last week or so visiting friends and talking about Bright Hope World stuff. There are so many generous people in our network and we are so blessed.

In Te Awamutu we talked to our friend Chris Graham and some of his missions team about partnership issues. We then met with a team of 10 going to Zambia in December / January. It was great to catch up with Chris and Judy, we haven’t really ever spent much time with them.

Then it was over to Tauranga. We met with our friends from Greerton Bible Church and chatted about the partnership they have going in Chipata, Zambia. It’s great to see their commitment to their partners there and in other places.

Then Sunday morning it was over to Rotorua to meet with the Noble family, they came to Asia and India with us earlier this year. The whole family was home for Allies birthday so it was great to catch them all. Then it was to church with them at Third Place to talk about missions and partnership again. It was great to hear about their journey to the world and involvement with people. Good to also hear about the plans for the development of the cafe church.

Then back to Auckland to spend some time with Sara and her man, Karl. It was nice to meet him at last after weeks of Sara blabbing on about the amazing guy she had met. He seems like a really good guy.  Then back to Whangaparaoa and working on reports and plans for the future.

Oh, I forgot to mention the trip to Tasmania. I had a great time there with Dave Pearson, the Bright Hope dude in Australia. We visited a church leader thinking about missions and a guy who is setting up a large international business to fund missions. Then we visited a couple looking at working with us in Zambia on Maplehurst Farm. Oh, there were a couple small group meetings to talk to as well so they kept me pretty busy. But it’s looking quite positive about the family coming to Zambia. It’s really interesting how God closes doors and opens up new ones. It’s not always that easy to know what’s going  on all the time but the journey of faith is pretty interesting, that’s what we find anyway.

Anyway, tonight Kevin’s off to the US for 10 days and then on to the UK. I was supposed to be staying with Jared and Ruthie in London but they have had to make a quick trip to NZ and I’ll miss them. so Helen will see them and I won’t. Shame. I’m trying to get to Zambia a couple days earlier but with the Rugby World Cup on and South Africa looking good the flights to Johannesburg are pretty full. Oh, about the RWC and the ABs. So we’ll see what happens.

I’m (Kevin) is looking forward to the meetings in Dallas with our Ethiopian partners and the church that’s involved in assisting them. We will be working through a training programme for church planters and other components of the partnership. Once we have decided the plan for training we will then establish details and if and how the US church can be involved.  We have a guy from Ethiopia coming, an Ethiopian who is studying in the US and our key man who lives in New Zealand as well as reps from Chase Oaks Church. So it will be fun. Then off to Chicago to talk to the Bright Hope office in Chicago and talks with Willow Creek Community Church.

Helen is planning to spend a night in Auckland (Tuesday 9th) with Sara and then catch Jared and Ruth in Auckland the same day. Then it’s down to the Waikato for a couple of nights before hitting Levin. She’ll be catching up with friends there and organising for our household stuff to go North some time.

So we’re heading out again and will be apart for 4 weeks. It’s too long really and we don’t like being apart for more than 3 weeks. So it’s a bit of a pain really.

Blessings and thanks to you all

Love

Kevin and Helen.


half way home!

2007-10-19

hey there everyone

sorry for the delay since the last blog. it`s almost two weeks and it`s flown by. As i write (Kevin,) Helen is asleep in Hamilton, NZ, and i`m in London trying to catch up on emails and partnership writeups. it`s a busy time with partnerships. all the education partnerships need to be revisited and payment schedules reworked for the coming year. so i`m sitting here in Jared and ruth`s (son and daughter in law`s) flat trying to concentrate. Helen was glad to be able to see J and R and i`m pretty gutted at missing them. tonight Evan and Jo Cooper (nephew and wife) are coming around and we`ll have dinner and chat about the possibility of them coming to Africa on our next trip early next year. be nice to see them. we`ll probably try and go off to the city on saturday and check out a couple of tourist things like St. pauls catherdral or something.

anyway, helen is still asleep, it`s 4:11 am in NZ at the moment. unless she is awake thinking of me!!! no chance, just joking!! anyway, Helen has been in Levin and has visited half the population of the district by the sound of her reports to me. she`s had fun though and caught up with lots of friends. the worst part of this job is the fact we don`t have time to keep up friendships. she gets back to Orkland after the weekend and next week sees Jared and Ruth again as they fly back to England. England, who of course will not be holders of the Rugby World Cup in a couple of days! i`ll be watching the blimmin thing here by myself, daren`t go outside and let anyone know i`m a kiwi. the mocking would be too hard to bear!

since last report i`ve had great meetings in Dallas. some freinds from Ethiopia came to visit us there for meetings about training people in the future. the church in Dallas is deciding how much to put into the partnership, it shoujld be around $US100,000 per year so that`s going to be great. we talked about training, support of key community leaders, support of a couple of churches who are supporting vulnerable street people, another trip to Ethiopia in April next year and a whole raft of other things. it was great to be with people who are so passionate about being involved with God and what He is doing in the world. we made an appearance at 4 church serivces as well, the church has a Friday night service and three on sunday.

then it was off to Chicago. spent the time talking to the team there about the projects they support, met with Willow Creek leaders and talked about their partnership in zambia and met with one partners from India who was in town. so it was pretty full on. also met some of the people who travelled with  us in Uganda earlier in the year. visited heaps of restaurants too, man the US meals are huge! 

so i`m almost half way home again, from Sunday i get closer to home with every flight, not further away. it`s a good feeling, but there`s still a long way to go and two weeks to negotiate. we appreciate the messages and emails, thanks for you friendship and interest and prayers.

love and hugs and thanks

kevin and Helen


"No problem" people

2007-10-27

Muli shani mukwai or in kiwi, gidday,Hope you’re all doing OK? One week to go, this time next week I’ll be on the plane on the way back NZ. Yay. Mind you, I’m having a great time here in Zambia with the Maplehurst Farm team and a whole bunch of other people we work with. I’ll stick some photos onto the blog tomorrow so you can see what I’m up to.Jared and Ruth were in NZ for two weeks and Helen really just got to spend a day with them. But they are back in England now. England who didn’t win the Rugby World Cup like I said last time, mind you we can hardly talk!!!!! Helen travelled back from Levin and stayed with friends on the way north. She’s working hard on the house, stripping wallpaper last I heard.I’m in Kabwe, Zambia in the hot season, however, the first rains came two nights ago and it’s come down from 38 degrees Celsius it reached on Wednesday!!! It’s still warm enough to swim in the pool though. After the last blog I had dinner with Evan and Jo Cooper (nephew and wife) and then on the Saturday afternoon met them at the Tower of London. Had a lovely afternoon going around the place, it was great fun. We then grabbed some chicken and watched the Boks beat the Poms. If that’s Rugby World Cup standard then I’m glad the ABs didn’t get there frankly. I think I’m going to become a fan of table tennis from now on, about as much action! Either team should be embarrassed to have the Cup. But the tour of the Tower of London was great, so much to see and hear about, names from school history and tales of intrigue and deceit. Politics hasn’t changed much anywhere, anytime!Then Sunday night flew to Johannesburg 11 hours and 7 hours wait in the airport and then 2 hours to Lusaka, Zambia. Jerry and Hayley Field picked me up and drove north to Kabwe, got there about 8 that night. 7:30 next morning we were into meetings with the team. We had to chat about stuff before I started other meetings at 8:30. We had to cram the meetings into the first 2 days I was here cause the people I was talking too had to leave on Wednesday to fly south. So it was a busy three days, meetings for the first two and then a whole day to write it all up. We’re discussing the establishment of a training college for missionaries, teachers and skills training on the farm. So it was important to get a lot of the stuff right and come to some understandings. There are still plenty of issues to continue dialogue about but I think we’ve got some good understandings worked out.It’s great to work with people who want to expand God’s kingdom and who will work hard to achieve good outcomes. The team here is amazing, just great to work with as well as the people we are talking to about the Joint Venture. They are all “no problem” people. Their first response is to say “how can we make this work so God’s reputation is enhanced.” They are a great encouragement to me.Today, Saturday, we had a couple at the farm; they are staying for a couple of nights. They live in Samfya, you will have heard me talk about Samfya in earlier blogs. Mark and Carmen live in this really rural town with few white people and few amenities, and just love it. They are from Canada and the US, leading our largest partnership. They have such a great attitude and ability to lead the ministry and relate to the local people. We spent a lot of time in the swimming pool this afternoon discussing policy!It’s great to be in this environment, I was so far behind in other work and I’m getting the point of catching up. That is a rare event. There are many issues still to work on but I’m getting there. Tomorrow we have a guy coming from one of our partnerships, Gershom Kasongo, he’ll be travelling about 800 kms to get here to discuss the details of the partnership he leads. It’s a commercial farm of about 300 hectares, an orphan care programme for 180 orphans and vulnerable kids and oversees more than 20 churches he has established. Quite an amazing guy really. Another “no problem” person, able to give his life for others and leave a mark on history like few people I have met. We have quite few meetings the coming week to sort through the future of Maplehurst Farm. Two families are planning to come this way from NZ and Australia so it’s working on what that looks like. A NZ family left the farm a couple of months ago and we’re covering for them without a farmer so that requires some input, the Joint Venture with the training college needs more discussion and there are numerous plans to be made. On Wednesday I may do a day trip to Ndola, 200 kms north from here, to sort out the commencement of a new partnership. So it will be a full week and we continue to value your prayer and interest.Meanwhile Helen holds the home fort and tries to stay warm! I’m not going to enjoy returning to the cooler climate in a week. But it will be great to be home and family and friends.Love to you all and thanks for the prayers, notes and e-mails.Kevin and Helen(your Bright Hope World buddies)


heading home and meetinged out

2007-11-02

hey there friends

hope you`re doing OK where you are today. the last week has been pretty full on with meetings, most of them very positive. it has been great to work through some issues and be able to take out partnership with Pro Christo to another level of understanding. in a few days we will be making an offer to them to come out and build a training campus on Maplehurst Farm. this will mean we are able to share resources and costs and also achieve our Maplehurst Farm goal of training people to become self sufficient. the team at the farm are pretty keen for this to go ahead and before the end of theyear we should have some building started.

my days have been made up of meeting people, writing reports and swimming in the pool. it`s been awesome as the temperature has been in the mid to high 30s. C most days. despite the little temp gauge on the left of this screen that  has been saying 29 C, it`s been much warmer than that.

i`ve been able to talk to a Zambian partner who live about 850 kms away about his leadership of a group that cares for 180 orphans as well as overseeing a 300 ha farm, overseeing more than 20 churches, set up and run a shop and cultivates 5 ha of his own land. the guy is a robot, a very effective one. i am totally blown away my Gershom`s faith and energy.

then there is a Nth American couple who work with us is a rural town about 450 km away. they are overseeing a partnership with 1,050 orphans, 120+ HIV+ people, almost 1,000 families with food supplements and a large group of people doing micro-enterprise gardens. it was great to spend the weekend with mark and Carmen and see how they are enjoying the adventure of faith and transforming a community.

then a NZ couple today, bringing up 3 kids in Zambia, actually she is a South African so there have been a few scoffing remarks passed in the last couple of weeks. anyway, rugby aside, they are taking Zambian people into neighbouring African countries and helping them be effective in ministry there and to help with the training of leaders. great to see sam and gabby on the faith adventure too with their family.

i could go on but will finish with a story from Thursday. i went with Jude Goatley, Suzy Boddy and Hayley Field to visit a couple of community schools in the two compounds in Kabwe. the first school was in a very poor area. we drove through endless streets and markets, teeming with people. you don`t really experience Africa until you go into the compounds, they are difficult, sometimes dangerous places. but the place is swarming with kids, most of whom don`t go to school. one of our partners, Suria Sholtz from Pro Christo has been given two schools to run and develop, both schools based in or beside church buildings. you`ll see 3 new photos taken at the school. it was break time when we arrived, actually, there are often break times at community schools, there is usually not enough money to pay the teachers very much so they go home before midday so they can do another job to get enough to eat. it was lovely to hear the kids playing and shouting, learning and singing, but my heart was overwhelmed by the lack: two toilets about 50 meters away without roofs, kids sitting on the floors, no books to learn from, little food in hungry tummies and eyes full of hope. the human spirit is an amazing thing in the eyes of a bunch of little children. if only they knew the pain and terror that awaited them in teenage and adult life in this part of the world. if only they could know the grace and love of God in a graceless and loveless culture.... at least these kids will have that opportunity. to doscover a realtionship with jesus in these little schools.. i was glad we went to school yesterday. it reminded me that all the separation is worth it to bring hope to a little child, that all the meetings are worth it if one kid gets opportunity to walk with God, and all the reports (this is pushing it) are worth it if one family is transformed by the Spirit of God.

so i get on the planes tomorrow to come back to NZ. two hours to Jo`burg and a 4 hour wait, 9 hours plus a bit to Perth and a 6 hour wait and the 7 hours to Auckland and Helen.

she has been busy working on the finishing stages of our house renovation / buidling. choosing colours, placing lights and kitchen and bathroom stuff. it will be nice to have our own place soon to come back to. it`s been a long year with no fixed abode. thanks to everyone who has given us a bed or a meal, thanks for being part of our team. thanks to those who support us financially. thanks to those who suport Bright Hope World and other groups that care for the poor. you are doing God`s work, be blessed.

we`ll catch you soon hopefully

love from Helen and Kevin


catching up

2007-11-27

Hi there friends from Christchurch, New Zealand.

It`s been a while since we were in touch, sorry for that! That`s what they would say in Africa. Helen and I are doing OK, hanging out in the South. One day it`s 30 degrees, the next (today) it`s less than 1/2 that. Oh well, rock on summer.

After getting back to NZ we spent a week catching up and sorting out some stuff for the house. We`re working towards having our renovations done so we can be in by Christmas. So we were looking at lights, tiles and other finishing stuff. Of course  Helen was working hard at this while I was away.

We then came down to Christchurch via Nelson, to work on our partnerships. We`re working on a new website as we`ve said before. We have had to troll through all our partnerships to write them up. It`s tedious in some ways, but it has been a great exercise. I am reminded again of the huge quality of the people we are working with. It`s been  great to read all the reports again and hear the stories of life change, just because we got involved. You are a huge part of that too and we want to thank you for the way you support, give and write to us. We have such an awesome team here in NZ too.

In terms of what`s happening out there in the Bright Hope World we have been working on a few really great opportunities. The Farm at Maplehurst is doing really well. A new family is leaving to head off there early December and we`ve been working with them to make sure they get there OK and prepared. We have a fantastic partnership developing there with Pro Christo shifting out onto the property to develop a new training campus.

In Myanmar we have been struggling to get underway with the problems that have been going on there. But we`re hoping to get underway soon. Our Ethiopia partnership is developing really well. The church in the USA is fantastic and are so very generous. You`ll hear more about that in the next year.

All in all we are really encouraged by the way this year has gone. It`s been really tiring but really fulfilling. While here in Chch we`re planning next year as well. Look like we`ll be off for three more trips, but starting a little earlier in the year. Next time we do a blog we`ll give you a bit of plan.

It was great on Saturday night to go to Christmas in the Park here in Chch. Then Sunday we were at the Riccarton Community Church (RCC) Missions Sunday. I did the speaking, the rest of the programme was great. After it we had a market with heaps of crafts from all around the world. We sold heaps of stuff. There is a lot left too so we`ll work away at clearing the rest of that. But it was great to hear the stories of what`s going on in the world. They had reports of a team just back from India. RCC have got the most fantastic Missions programme and support a lot of indigenous workers. They had another trip in Zambia with us to earlier in the year.

So we`ve got a couple of weeks back here and then back to Whangaparaoa. So we`ll wish you a Merry Christmas but will be in toiuch again before then. We`re planning to be in Whanga for Christmas and hope that we get the chance to see some of you.

Love and Merry Christmas

Kevin and Helen

 p.s. I`ve thrown a few pictures at you, some highlights from the year. Enjoy

 


time to go again

2008-01-23

hi there friends

Happy New Year. Well it`s getting a bit old by now. We`re really rapt cause we`re into our new house and we`re finding things in the boxes and suitcases we don`t even remember owning! even the suitcase are yielding things we lost in May in india! helen has a permanent smile on her face, of course related to the fact that she`s been married to me for 34 years!

we`ve booked our tickets for the first trip of the year and it`s been updated here for you. feel free to join up along the way and share the journey. if you can`t do that, then pray like crazy cause there`s plenty that can go wrong! Click on the my maps thingy and you`ll see the itinerary.

we love having you on the trip, in fact, unless you`re with us it`s going to be impossible. on the three trips this year we expect to visit almost all our partners, so that will be amazing. we`ll keep you up with the play as we go along.

Love to you all

Helen and Kevin


last week countdown

2008-02-27

Hey there friends

We’re thinking about the things we have to do in the next 6 days before we head off to write another chapter in the eternal blog of missions. We’re in Levin at the moment for a few days, came down yesterday, staying at Kevin’s mum’s place. Main reason for being in Levin is for Helen’s dad’s 80 b/day party on Sunday afternoon. His kids and grandkids are coming from all over NZ and Australia to see him and celebrate his anniversary. We visited him today at the rest home where he lives. It’s 10 years since Helen’s mum died so we took some flowers. It will be great to catch up with Helen’s family, we don’t get together a lot; well there are 8 of them! And then the grandchildren.... the party will be fun and then we’re going to Jenny (Helen’s eldest sister) and Ron’s for Sunday evening. Monday we head back to Auckland and then Wednesday we head off. Check out the itinerary on the blog, I changed the map yesterday. It’s going to be a pretty interesting trip with some great people to see. Bright Hope has a new website you can check out now. About 30 of the 100+ partnerships have been written up, Kevin’s job, so he’s going to have to keep busy with finishing that one. Check out the website at www.brighthopeworld.com  Since the last entry we’ve had a few things going on. Mainly we’ve been doing the grounds on the house so we can go away and forget about it. It’s looking great. We’ve had a heap of meetings with people in NZ including a couple of churches and another organization we’re doing some work with. And, the highlight of the year so far has been Sara getting engaged. Check out the photos, there is a picture of her and Karl there. The wedding is probably going to be in November. I don’t know how they will work that one out, especially the guest list as they both have lots of friends and .... you know how it goes. As we travel we’ll keep you updated with the things that happen and the people and partners we meet. On this trip is we don’t have heaps of people joining us. Last year was crazy and though we loved it, it does take a fair bit of energy. Helen will have fewer people to look after so will be writing more reports of people we meet. That will be a good thing .We’ll have Evan and Jo Cooper, he’s my nephew, joining us for some of the time in Zambia and the time in Ethiopia. It will be great to have them with us. Then when we get to Ethiopia we’ll have a team from the US there for a week as well, so that will be fun. Most of them were there last year too and the relationship between their church and our friends in Ethiopia is developing well. We’re looking forward to going to Nepal; it will be the first time for us to go to the land of Sir Ed. Looking forward to meeting our partners there for the first time and developing the work they are doing. Anyway, it’s time to put on your seat belts and buckle in for another adventure. I’m sure there will be some dramas on this trip, but we are going with a great God and you guys on the team, so that’s fantastic. Enjoy the ride and meeting our friends. Oh and Helen would like you to pray that our bags will arrive with us at every airport...... In 2006 one bag didn’t  arrive with us when we flew from Dubai to Johannesburg...... actually it never turned at all!!!! And we’re doing that same flight again this year.. When we get to Zambia and then to Ethiopia and India we`ll get a new sim card and put the number on the blog so you can contact us if necessary. Love Kevin and Helen. 


Back in Africa

2008-03-13

Sweltering in MaputoI’ll never complain about the heat in NZ again, ever! Maputo, rundown with a certain charm, sultry and sweaty. We’re staying with friends Patrick and Grace Mulenga in the place they now call home. They are Zambians but have been living in Maputo for 14 years. It great to see what they are doing and the impact they are having in the lives of many people. But, before we tell that story an update of the last few days.

We left NZ on Wednesday and survived the transit in Melbourne and the 13 hour flight to Dubai. We wiled away the hours playing Sudoku, watching a few movies and sleeping, for about 7-8 hours, it was great. Then we hit Dubai. It’s so overloaded now it’s only just coping, people everywhere, lying on the floors, filling every seat. The toilets had waiting lines for ever so it wasn’t that pleasant. So a 4 hour stop over was average. Then the 8 hours to Johannesburg. It was a great plane and we had great seats on the ext row, two of us in 3 seats so that helped. Each seat has it’s own powerplug so I was able to work virtually the whole time. It was great to empty out the in box and sort stuff out.

We arrived in Jo’burg about 4:30, not the best time as the traffic was pretty bad. Fortunately we got to immigration before a couple of other planes. We only had to wait about 20 minutes to get through and our bags had just got there as we got through. But behind us, there must have been a thousand people waiting to get through immigration!!Jo’burg was nice, and wet. Each night there was a huge thunderstorm and the rain bucketed down. It was nice to catch up with our friends Dave and Greta Dunn. They are so generous and kind. Dave was feeling crook and was home on the couch Friday and Saturday so the Super 14 got a bit of a workout. It was bizarre to wake up on the first morning and turn on the TV, there was the NZ / England cricket test highlights and the Hurricanes playing the Chiefs. Dave and Greta and their daughter Nicole and husband Darryl are good fun and we laughed and took the mickey out of each other a lot of the time.

Saturday we visited one of our partners outside Jo’burg near the town of Springs. Sipho and Fredah Msimango have been starting a new church in the township of Slovo and we have been assisting them for a few years. It was the first time we’d met them, it was so cool. We sat in their little two roomed house, the lounge was their bedroom and talked about the issues they face trying to help their people. They talked about unemployment and poverty, the impact HIV / AIDS on families and children, the huge numbers of orphans and the problems they face and they also talked about the change that Jesus was making in the place and the lives of those they were working with. It was amazing, lives changed and families transformed by the power of the Good News about Jesus. It was humbling to be there and to chat about how we can grow the partnership.

We spent a bit of time in a bit of a stupor as we recovered from jetlag and tried not to sleep during the day. Slept well the first night but the other two in Jo’burg were pretty disastrous in terms of sleep. But, we’re catching up now, even though it about 28 degrees here over night.So yesterday we flew to Maputo, just an hour from Johannesburg. Well, that’s the plan anyway. We were still sitting on the ground at the time we should have arrived. There was no pressure in the fuel pumps so they couldn’t put fuel into the plane, any plane in the airport. So we stat and sat and were entertained by the crazy pilot. A few people were pretty upset but it wasn’t too bad. Walking out of the plane in Maputo almost knocked you over with the heat, 35o C. We trudged to the immigration and paid our $20 each for a visa and then waited for more than an hour while the visas were approved, no hassles, just had to hang around. Fortunately our fiend Patrick came through and found us so at least he knew we had landed. We had a bit of a tour of downtown Maputo on the way to Patrick and Grace’s place, it must have been an amazing place years ago, it seems to be rising from the ashes again. We spent the evening hearing stories of the work here and asking lots of questions.

It got quite cool last night, about 25o so we really suffered!!! under the fan. There’s no aircon here so the fan is pretty welcome. The next morning we went down to the place where the project is operating. We met some of the helpers, volunteer school teachers, the 3 cooks, 25 volunteer care givers and all the kids. They run a school and crèche for almost 100 children and more the 100 more are sent to local schools. The kids are fed twice a day so it’s quite a mission. While the school is going on they are selling water, dispensing drugs, counselling HIV+ patients, interviewing potential students praying for people, taking the sick to the clinic.... it just went on and on. It’s pretty cool to see the team working so well and so committed to the cause.

We also saw the sewing machines we bought a few years ago and met some of the people who use them. Quite a few have been trained and have their own businesses, the programme isn’t running at the moment, it will start again later in the year. if you go to the website in a few days you’ll see the story of Benilda in the report for MOZ01 Kutwanana Orphan Care. We then spent the afternoon talking to people and writing stuff up and taking pictures. In the evening we spent time talking to the family again.

Shula, their daughter flew in from South Africa and we spent quite a bit of time chatting to here. She’s a really nice girl, 23 years old and just finishing a degree in development from a South African University by correspondence. She runs the school and passionately loves the children. She’s one to watch for the future. The next morning we checked out the chicken and garden project and finished our talks about the plans for the future, then headed off to the airport.

We had uneventful flights to Jo’burg and Lusaka and met with Evan and Jo Cooper who will be with us for the Africa leg of the trip. It was great to see them and catch up, Ev is our nephew. We sorted out luggage, got some tickets for the bus to Livingstone, had an Indian meal for dinner and hit the sack. We got up at 5:00 am and put Ev and Jo on the bus, we’ll see them in a few days at Maplehurst Farm. So here we are in Zambia again. Petrol has gone up, the power supply is worse and there have been riots at one of the Chinese owned mines, but it’s lovely to be here.

Later today we head up to the farm and catch up with the team there.We’ll be writing up projects and reports and you can see them on the Bright Hope World website. You can check that out any time you want at www.brighthopeworld.com . It has just been launched and has about 35 of the 100+ partnerships and projects we are involved in. You’ll see it develop over the next months. Hope you enjoy it, check out the La Mai coffee, it’s great and the story is even better.In the meantime, you have a great day.

Thanks for taking to the time to journey with us, bless you.

Kevin and Helen


Easter on the Copperbelt

2008-03-25

It’s been a while since we chatted. Hope you’re doing OK?

The past week has been full of adventures as we travelled around our Bright Hope World partnerships on the Copperbelt of Zambia. Here is a list of the partnerships we visited over Easter and a little info we discovered about them.

GLO ZAMBIA, the place we started way back in the early 80s. They accepted students this year from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. Because of  the problems in Kenya at the start of the year  it meant that the Kenyan ones didn’t come, and only 3 of the 7 Ugandan ones came. So now they only have 11 students!

ISUBILO, a Home Based care programme based in one of the poorer areas of Ndola. Great to see the team there working really hard caring for the poor and vulnerable. Good to visit the garden plots of those living with HIV. Some of them are able to make $USUS300 per month from their gardens. We talked about how we can more effectively help in this partnership. If you go to the website from time to time you’ll see this develop over the next year

PATIENCE, a new partnership outside Ndola. We met the children cared for by the  Kaniki Baptist church. The key woman is very ill and others have had to step in to take the burden. One family we met has 8 living children and they all stay in a house 3 metres by 3 metres square.Only one of the kids goes to school, they are all school age! Their 12 year old daughter has never been to school, can’t read or write.

KALULUSHI : Oliver and Emely Mulenga. 50 kids in one p/ship being fed and tutored every Saturday morning and some lovely children.  We also met  three of the ladies who received a loan to grow and sell chickens. Their $US1,500 has been converted into double that ,and in a few months they will start repaying it.

We reshaped another aspect of the p/ship and have decided to cease running a shop and a grinding mill as they were losing money. We also planned to start another programme before the end of the year with more than 50 kids in a new place and 32 in another.

The needs in Zambia have shocked us again. I cannot believe the inhumanity that is destroying these families. Often family members are creating more poverty and vulnerability by their greed.

We discovered this again the next day in LULAMBA, a suburb of Chingola. The uncle of 2 lovely little girls is trying to get the house that their father left to the girls when he died some 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the school fees of these kids have not been paid and one needs an operation on her eyes and there is no money. They are being cared for by another aunty who has her own kids and no resources to really help them. But the children came together to the house of Elizabeth and our team played games with them and made friends. Later we prayed for them all as they went home.

The next day we visited KAMATIPA. There are some pix of the road we floated through to get in and out. We met the family who leads the work and many of the kids that are supported. They are such a nice bunch of kids. The team with us played games and heard the story of life in the village. We interviewed some of the kids and a new person who has joined the team.

Next day, Easter Sunday we spent sitting in the van. We drove 5 hours there and 5 hours back on some of the worst roads in Zambia. It was pretty bad. But we met some lovely people at the village of CHISASA in the North Western Province of Zambia. 250 people, mainly young gathered under the beautiful trees. Their singing was incredible, their welcome extraordinary. It’s such a privilege to work with such great people. Kamplembi told us his story and the journey they have been on. Another agency had given them a grinding mill and 12 pigs, and roofing iron to help them fund the orphans and the skills training centre with 21 students. But they didn’t follow all the protocols and now the chief has confiscated it all and taken it for himself. Kampelembi was in tears as he told us the story. He was also in tears as he introduced us to a set of 7 month old twins whose mother had died the week before. Life is very tough out here.

On Easter Monday we visited a team in the city of CHINGOLA who have hundreds of kids signed up  and are only using  their own meagre funds to help. We could help another 200+ kids for around $US100 per child per year each. It`s pretty sobering to realise that the local Chimpanzee rescue programme up the road finds $US30,000 per month!!!

So we came home last night and have a few days here before we head off to Ethiopia. It has been a different Easter for us, no camp to attend or sermons to preach. But a very interesting one, meeting hundreds of poor and vulnerable people  whom Jesus died for.

Hope your Easter was as inspiring and challenging as ours and that you are doing OK. Check out the Bright Hope website and some of the partnerships we’ve written about here www.brighthopeworld.com

We really appreciate your prayers and emails , and messages on our blog.

Love

Kevin and Helen

 


Gonder, North Ethiopia

2008-04-05

hi there friends

just a brief note before the power goes off. we`re doing OK in the North of Ethiopia. I`ve been kissed by dozens of widows over the last couple of days but it`s OK, helen has been too. the plight of the widows here is apalling, it`s a privilege to be able to help them a little.

We`ve travelled many Kms and seen many things, but constantly we are blown away by the love the local christians show to the people around them who persecute them

but, this is just a short note, after the weekend we`ll send a little more detail.

love to you all

kevin and Helen.


Amazing people in the north of Ethiopia

2008-04-08

Hey there friends

Hopefully this will get out to you some time in the next couple of days. I’m writing this on Tuesday 8th in Gonder, North Ethiopia. It was an early morning, out to the airport at 6:00 am and back to the hotel at 7:30. Supposed to be seeing the US team off, but the plane was cancelled, again!!!  They were supposed to go yesterday and by now should have been in Germany waiting for a plane to Dallas.  But, that was cancelled and they stayed the night in a flash hotel. We stayed at the Embassy, stinkiest bathrooms in Ethiopia. Mind you, every hotel has stinky bathrooms. We’ve shifted from a number of rooms from very stinky into stinky, but by the morning they are very stinky again! It has nothing to do with Helen or me; it’s just the way it is!!! TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since last blog written in Zambia we’ve had a really interesting time. I’ll make a list of things we’ve done, places we’ve been and people we’ve met.

Before leaving Zambia we made a really big decision about the farm in Zambia. We’ve decided to stop making cheese and concentrate on milk production. It’s going to make for quite a lot of work for the team there as they change over. We developed a plan to do that while we were there.

We’ve since heard that a NZ family living in Australia will be going to the farm later in the year.When we were in  Zambia we discovered about 10 new partnership opportunities. The opportunities are amazing. We are developing a couple of partnerships in the Kabwe area based around a couple of community schools.

We then went off to Ethiopia, a 4 hour flight from Zambia. We arrived late in the evening and went off to the magnificent Baro Hotel,, truly one to miss. We managed to hang out there for three nights but we could not imagine our US friends coping with it so we shifted to the Taitu, up the hill. It was  once a beautiful building. It still has a sort of musty charm. The parquet floors move and creak under your feet ,as you clatter through the main entrance. But it was comfortable. It was nice to have a bath after almost two days without water!

The team from USA  arrived OK, despite the fact that they had to pay $US110 to bring a video camera into the country and they had to spend all the next day getting it  back from custody. They had to pay $US10 cents storage as well!!!!

While in Addis we went to church in a poor area of town and although it was all in Amharic it was great to be with about 350 Christians. Sheeesh they can sing.

We spent the day after the team arrived doing orientation and visited the little office that has been set up to manage the partnership here.Then on to Bahir dar on Tuesday the 2nd. We arrived in Bahir Dar and got into our rooms and had breakfast. It’s just a beautiful place, overlooking Lake Tana. While in Bahir Dar we visited a bunch of 50 missionaries who are in training. They are about to go off into very difficult places to start new churches and to transform their communities. It was amazing to hear their stories. Some of them are giving up great jobs to do this, it is very inspiring. We interviewed a number of them and also took their photos.

Then we went off to visit a private school established by a local doctor. We’re researching the possibility of starting a private school as an income generator and to help the local community in Gonder. It was great to see a school of such high quality, we haven’t seen   many others better anywhere in Africa.

Then that evening we met a group of church leaders and heard their stories. They are really struggling with the persecution they get for their faith, but at the same time they are very positive about the changes that are going on.

Early on Wed morning, like it was supposed to be 7:30 am but it was an hour later after major arguments with the bus driver, we headed off to Debre Markos, 5 hours south. The trip was great with a stopover in a little village for a cup of coffee. The great thing about Ethiopia is the toilets (NOT) the coffee and it’s always strong and beautiful. Though, as we sit here waiting for news about a plane coming to take the US team away, we’ve had 3 coffees and no food and the old tummy is feeling a little squeamish. 

Anyway, we got to Debre Markos about 1:30 and grabbed some lunch. Then we were off to visit some street widows that BHW are supports. There are 25 in the project and 10 of them are church members. These are the ones we met. We then went to the local government offices to visit some of the 15 vulnerable from the community that are being supported. The officials wouldn’t see us because they don’t want to be seen to be supporting the work that the churches are doing.So we talked to a few of them and it was pretty hard to see such poverty. These are the poorest of the poor and so weak and poor that they cannot do anything, they can hardly walk and stand.

After that we talked to the church leaders and heard more stories. We were pretty weary by then and after a ride in a tuk tuk back to the hotel we ate dinner in the dark as the power was off. Evan and Jo Cooper have been travelling with us all this time and it’s been great to have them around. It’s been great to get to know them better and to help us with stuff. Jo has been typing reports like a Trojan, though we’ve not had any internet access to send them out. At least that’s my excuse. Evan has been organising the finances and paying bills for the team. That’ a bit of a mission as the team fund has to pay for the meals, taxis, accommodation, tips and all sorts of stuff. There’s a photo of them somewhere on the blog site .

Next morning, another day without a shower, and we’re on the bus back to Bahir Dar. It was a great trip back to the nice hotel and water.... but no power and the laptop battery is flat, #$%#*^$*@&$!!

Anyway, without ANOTHER shower..... we headed off and interviewed more missionaries in training. Again we were amazed at the power of God to transform lives and motivate them to do great things. We were finished there about 3:30 pm and then headed off to visit Tis Abay, the largest water fall on the Blue Nile. Of course the Blue Nile starts at Lake Tana in Bahir Dar where we are staying. The Hotel has huge trees and there are hundreds of spectacular birds flying around. That night we had a lovely meal by the lake and headed off to bed.I’m out of time now so will sign off.

Over the next few days we’ll be out of contact probably, so when we get to Dubai we’ll send out another message. We’re keeping well fortunately. So thanks for following along with us.

Love to you all

Helen and Kevin 


out of Ethiopia

2008-04-12

It’s us again

Last blog saw us in bed in Bahir Dar after a great meal. The food is really nice, though the service wasn’t quite so good last night. Early the next morning we got up and out to the airport for the trip to Gonder. It’s only a 25 minute flight and everything went OK. We got to Gonder and into the Embassy Hotel, about 1 star I guess with stinky toilets. That’s par for the course!!! Gonder is a nice place, very old and proud history. It has huge old castles and history.

Wednesday 9th.......  and we’ve been in Ethiopia for 2 weeks, the time has flown by. The US team were delayed by 24 hours and finally got away to Frankfurt and Dallas. Evan and Jo left us today, their plane was 4 hours late. The planes were flying but the weather was cloudy and they said they couldn’t land. So, they hung around the airport for 4 hours while were delayed too, we are supposed to meet the same plane later to return to Bahir Dar.

We haven’t left the hotel yet.... there is no water and we’ve only had power for the last 1 ½ hours. Some days it gets very frustrating.It’s been great to have Evan and Jo with us. Even though they are family it’s not until you spend a few hours together that you get to talk and share stuff. It’s been great from that point of view and we look forward to a closer relationship with them in the future. They are such nice people, we really got to like them a lot and we’re missing them a lot now they have gone. At least it’s only 6 weeks till we are all back in NZ.

Anyway, back to last Saturday and our trip to Gonder. After lunch we headed off to visit a partnership between the local churches and the local government. There are 1,000s of homeless people, especially widows roaming the streets of the cities. It’s a blight on the theology of the Coptic church frankly. What sort of religion produces so many orphans and widows!? Anyway, we’re involved with the church from the US to assist feed the widows. They are such a pathetic group; the local government has identified the 50 poorest of the poor for assistance. The 50 come to the centre every day for two meals and a shower and a chat. On Saturday we went and visited them, about 40 were there, others were sick or unable to come that day. We interviewed some of them to hear their stories; each one has a tragic story of abandonment, loss, death and poverty. We noticed again that poverty smells, bad!

After that it was off to wander around the town and do some e-mails and then we went up to the hill that overlooks the city. We visited a reforestation programme the local churches have done; it’s on prime land near the city. They have planted indigenous trees, not eucalyptus, they hate the eucalyptus here thought there are millions of them planted to hold the land from slipping away into the Nile River. The indigenous trees are very slow growing and these ones have only been in the ground for 9 months. So they are very small and many have no leaves at this time of the year. I’m really looking forward to watching this develop over the next few years. The plan is to build some prayer houses here for Christians to come and pray and spend time in the quiet with God. Finding quiet space is very difficult in a country like this, there are people everywhere and noise just totally invades your private space. While we were visiting the reforestation project others were interviewing a young guy about student ministry and working through the possibilities of the US church sending some of their young people to do some stuff with the local students.

The next day we slept in a little, till 7:30 and after breakfast headed off to church. Kev was the preacher and it seemed to go OK. The singing was fantastic and the whole team loved being involved in that. After church we went back to the widows project and we had lunch with the mayor of Gonder. He sees like a nice guy and it was pretty brave of him to come and meet the church leaders, not a politically popular thing to do. The Ethiopian TV was there and also the local radio station. This is a big deal for the local churches who suffer such persecution and who find it difficult to get a hearing about anything, for example, if a person leaves the Coptic church then they cannot be buried as that church owns all the burial grounds. So they are rapt and the mayor gave them some free land on which to build small houses for the widows. So, although we don’t build buildings through Bright Hope World, here is another opportunity for engagement. We are working on some plans and it looks like we can build a house for a widow for about $US3,000 or less.

We then went back to the hotel for a nap and then a meeting with the church leaders of the area. They are very encouraged about the growth of the work. Then we went back to the top of the mountain and had dinner in the nice hotel up there.The next morning, Monday we had a debrief with the US team. That took us till lunch time, their flight was delayed by 2 hours. We talked through the issues they face being involved in this partnership and the things they have learned. This weekend they will be making a presentation to the church in Dallas and seeking to raise the funds required to continue this partnership.

They then went to the airport only to find that the plane has been cancelled!! They missed their connection with Lufthansa to Frankfurt and then on to Dallas. They got away 24 hours later after a lot of phone calls from Worku our main man!!

We spent Monday afternoon and evening hanging around resting and writing stuff. 6:00 am the next morning Kevin went with Worku to the airport to ensure the US team got away OK!!! Funny, after two tuk tuk rides and mad ride in a taxi and another in a minibus he was back at the hotel and no flights. They didn’t finally leave till about 4:00 pm and made their connection to Europe and the US. The team had been put up in a swanky hotel by the airline so we didn’t see them again.

After lunch we went out to the village that Worku was brought up in. It was great to meet his parents again. They are such nice people and so hospitable. We had another lunch at their place and our guys, Jo, Evan and Helen reckoned this was the best meal they has eaten in Ethiopia. Worku’s mother sure can cook. The scenery and road to Tikil Dingay is truly spectacular. It has to be seen to be believed, I’ve put a couple of shots on the blog site so have a look. The name Tikil Dingay means “erect stone” and you can see why.We got back to the hotel totally stuffed and unable to move or eat again for days.

We chatted the evening away making plans for the work and drinking macchiatos and then watched Liverpool thrash Arsenal. We thought of Jared jumping up and down in the last few minutes. It rained in the night and the next morning, Tuesday it was very cloudy.

I’m writing this on Thursday morning and the clouds are still low, the locals have never seen this weather at any time of the year, let alone now, they blame us NZers for bringing it! Evan an Jo headed off to the airport early on Wednesday and we left them at the door with a few tears. We headed back to the hotel to wait for our flight to Bahir Dar. They were meant to leave at 8:30 am to go to Axum but didn’t leave till about 12:15. Our flight was delayed from 1:00 pm till 4:30. So we chatted to Worku in the hotel and Tilahun, the guy who manages the widows program came down and we worked on some strategies for growing the work. Finally we said goodbye to our friend Worku and headed off to Bahir Dar and 2 days rest.

Thursday morning and last night we crashed. We lay on the bed at about 6:30 pm, for a bit of a rest before dinner and got up at 8:00 the next morning. The stress of having to look after a whole bunch of people seems to have lifted and we’re a little more normal again. Today we plan to rest, catch up on reports writing, do some bird watching and read.

Well we did and we still haven’t got to send this. we’re now in Dubai, Saturday afternoon and I’ll send this without any more comment and write up and send the next instalment in a couple of days. Hopefully from New Delhi, we head off there in about 4 hours.

If you get a chance check out the Bright Hope World website, see the partnerships and buy some coffee.

Love and thanks

Helen and Kevin 


Globalization

2008-04-15

Globalization

Thought I’d throw a big word at you. It’s a word we’ve become exposed to over the last couple of days. We were in a bus from the plane to the terminal at Dubai. It took 15 minutes in the bus and we passed more than 40 Emirates planes on the ground, big boys, not little commuter planes. Anyway, we were in the bus and I looked around: a bunch of Chinese having an animated conversation in Mandarin, or was it Cantonese at the back of the bus; to their left 4 Ethiopians conversing in Amharic, I heard a few words I could recognise; a group of Ugandans laughing and giggling just beside us and a Ugandan lady with her little baby playing with Helen; some very imperious and sophisticated Arabic gentlemen sitting quietly further up the bus, resplendent in their gowns and headgear (they came from 1st class!,) a cluster of English businessmen sounding like they had been into the beer on the flight and a couple Kiwi waifs.

By the way, we were upgraded to business class on this flight from Addis Ababa to Dubai. It was 2:00 am and it all seemed very surreal.We were pretty tired by the time we got to the hotel and we crashed for a few hours. We went off to a local shopping centre and very quickly we were in a most obscene world. We had just come from 5 weeks in Africa and 2 weeks in Ethiopia, mainly in rural areas. Just a few hours before we had been sitting in a little village in the North of the country and now we were plunged into a world of Gucci. It was kind of freaky and we didn’t stay long. Kevin got a haircut, ate some lunch and an ice cream and we caught up with some e-mails.  That filled up the day and we waited around in our room and went off to the airport to catch the plane for Delhi.

The hairdresser reminded me about Globalization again with a few facts and figures: there are 1.2 million Indians living in Dubai; there are 250,000 Filipinos living there too, many of whom do not earn enough to ever dream of leaving; he worked for an Iranian who owned the beautiful hair salon, he had been there for 3 years and reckoned he wouldn’t be able to leave for another 3 years, they charged me $US20 for the haircut and he would get about 25 cents of it; there were 5 other Filipino hairdressers in that salon.

We arrived in Delhi at about 2:30 am. The guys from Delhi Bible Institute were there to meet us but we missed them and finally, after a phone call and lots of wandering around we found our guys, 1 ½ hours later!! So, it was another early morning. That morning Kevin went off to church and Helen slept most of the day. At church there were a group of people giving their testimonies, 12 people in all, young and old, but what about this: a woman from a Sikh background and her two children; a couple from a Hindu background; a girl from a Christian family and a South African teenager. Globalization, here in the church; this is the church of the 21st Century. You had better believe it.

So we kind of hung out for the afternoon and then went out to the local market area for evening dinner. We found a Chinese restaurant and had a lovely meal with food from India, Burma, China and Korea! We started to walk home and ran into a very noisy band and a horse all decked out in clothes. Being nosy, Helen started to ask the locals what was going on and it was a wedding. But all the guests were white, from the UK we found out. The guy on the horse was English and he was marrying an Indian girl, in the Hindu temple in the middle of Khan market in Delhi with a band from Gurgaon. Globalization.... I couldn’t help but laugh a little with a tinge of sadness, it’s all back to front from a century ago. Today we had witnessed Sikhs and Hindus becoming Christians and Westerners becoming Hindus. It’s the world we live in, like it or not. It’s the world we serve in, like it or not. We like it though at times it’s pretty confusing and sometimes pretty stressful.

Monday we were in meetings most of the day. It’s been great to hear the stories of life, family and community transformation. There are some awesome people out there changing the world. It’s great to be on the team with them. Thanks too for your part in this. I would love to write a book about some of these people, but many of them would be compromised and their ability to do stuff would end. So we can’t write the book, yet.

Love to everyone

Helen and Kevin 


Nepal

2008-04-21

We’ve been in Kathmandu for a few  days now, and it’s been a really great time. Helen wasn’t well at first, the 2nd day into Nepal and she was feeling OK again. Kathmandu really stinks. It’s 8:00 pm and the lights are out, but if you struck a match in the air the whole place would blow. The methane gas in the air is hardly able to be breathed. We’re staying near a river and all the rivers here are basically open sewers. The smell and stench is appalling. But the people we are staying with are nice and we’re doing OK. The place goes off at night with dogs barking, it’s really very loud. Doesn’t do much for Helen’s sleep patterns.

We got here on Wednesday afternoon without any hassles... except we almost missed the plane. We go to the airport in good time and through security and Immigration and Customs and Security and bag wrapping and 30 minutes in a queue, but we got there with a couple of hours to spare. We were sitting around reading, talking and Helen was on the computer and we looked up, it’s only 10 minutes  till the plane leaves. Oh strike we’ve blown it, but.... true to its word, Indian Airlines was late..... Yay for late! It was great to have wireless internet access all the time we were in Delhi and we’re sure missing it now. At the moment the power is off so that doesn’t help. We finally connected at about 5:00 p.m and ½ way through the first email the power disappeared!! Oh well, what the heck. The world doesn’t stop cause the power goes off.

The first evening we arrived we spent getting to know our hosts, Niranjan and Sonu Adhikary and their 2 kids Nigel and Nancy. Oh before that, after being here for 5 minutes we had to head off to a little house church meeting. It was nice to meet the two families, I whacked my head on the door (a common occurrence) and had to be raised from the dead ,and to share some thoughts from the Bible to encourage them. Then we spent the evening talking, and Niranjan can talk, I think Kev’s met his  match! He gets so excited about ministry and serving God, and it’s very hard for them here. Both of them have been rejected by their families because of their faith. Niranjan has also lost most of his father’s land as well.

You might have seen in the news that there was a referendum here in Nepal. The Maoist party got a fair % of the vote and people are very worried. It is the same people who have been giving a lot of grief to Christians in rural places. Many have been beaten had land confiscated and had buildings burned in this fair referendum. Anyway, we’re not really interested in the politics, sometimes it just makes us mad that such intolerance exists and people think they have the right to force others to accept their belief system.

The next day Helen stayed at home with Sonu and I went off  to the bush with Niranjan and another guy to visit a couple of partners we have funded. It was a great day getting to know these guys in the field. We left Kathmandu at about 6:30 and drove for a couple of hours to the east and then north. Up out of the Kathmandu valley with stunning views, we then drove down into the Indrawati  River Valley. We drove for about 30 minutes and then turned off onto a side road, well I think it was a road, or meant to be. We forded rivers and picked our way around rice paddies, dodged maniacal bus drivers and death wish motorbike riders. We finally stopped at the top of an amazing hilltop and got out. We then wandered down past some houses and circuited dome rice paddies on the side of hills till we came to the little farm we were assisting. The farmer proudly showed off his buffalo he milked and the goats. We drank some of the milk and ate boiled potatoes whilst looking out over the most magnificent panorama. The family were totally fascinated by this funny old bloke that turned up; it’s the first time a white person had been there and most of them had never seen or met a white man. But these ones had heard about Jesus and that was good news.

It all ended too soon and we headed off to see another farmer. It’s not too far..... and there is a 30 minute walk to get there..... it’s not too far. I’ll never believe that guy again about anything. We drove back along the same goat track, there were 4 of us in a little Suzuki Maruti car, about the size of a large suitcase. At least it was narrow, and I wondered if it would break the trees down the side of the road cause the drop to the bottom in some places was like 500 metres! Anyway, we drove back to the junction and then took off, for another 1 ½ hours along a reasonable gravel and rock road. The guys in the back slept but I would have broken my neck had I tried it. Besides, it was fascinating driving slowly through these little rural villages observing life at a very basic level.

The driver stopped in one village and apparently this was where we started walking. “Where’s the track” I asked,” just over there.” I looked around and couldn’t see anything , and for the next hour my head, heart, lungs and legs couldn’t work out where they were. We climbed straight up the side of this mountain for an hour and I was dead by the end of it. We met a little family up there with a buffalo. They sold the milk to support themselves and to support the church ministries. They were severely criticised by the political party who were trying to take the animal off them. The lack of exposure to the world and education is appalling here, at least as bad, probably worse than remote parts of Africa.

Then it was down the mountain, it took less than half the time and we laughed and chatted our way down! We were going to visit the people who got the goats but that was another 2 hours walk away. Niranjan showed us a map of Nepal where the churches were and some of them are 9 days walk, not across flat land, in the Himalayas. Remote ain’t the word for it. Then we drove back into the traffic jam that is Kathmandu. We stopped in a village for a goat curry and crushed rice; it was great with a coke. Home about 8 and food and a wash never felt so good. The taxi driver spent at least 30% of his time hooting his hooter and if there wasn’t anyone to hoot at he just hooted anyway it seemed.

Friday was supposed to be a 5 hour trip to the west, but we changed the plan. I wanted to spend time talking to Niranjan and Suno about their vision and it takes oodles of time to get into a partners head and heart. These are lovely people with a clear vision and who share similar values with us. It’s great to meet people with whom your heart resonates. These are amazing people and we’ll talk more about them in later days and on the website. We went out to dinner and came home and talked some more. It’s bed time and the dogs are barking again.....grrr... So we’ll try and get some sleep.Saturday evening –

20th April, we’ve been on the road now for almost 7 weeks. I have to say we a flagging a little, today we had to have a nana nap to keep up the pace. Saturday is like Sunday here; church is on and tomorrow is a normal day. We went off to church at 10:00 and as usual Kevin had to preach. There about 40 people at church, the room was 4 metres by 4 metres. They have to keep the doors shut while singing so that people do not get upset! There were some lovely people there, especially the young people. One young Hindu girl was asking questions after the service and we hope she discovers the living Christ. We had our nap after lunch and spent the late afternoon and evening discussing the finer points of the partnership we are developing. This is looking like a real opportunity to get involved with, so we’re excited about that.

Sunday - it doesn’t seem like Sunday but then yesterday did ,so we couldn’t have two I one week, kevin would have to preach again!!! We had breakfast and headed out to check out a little lady who has a tailoring business. Niranjan thinks she has the capacity to grow the business and generate some more income and create some new jobs. So we’ve asked him to put a project together. It could create 5 jobs. Niranjan and Sonu’s vision is to assist the development of little businesses that will contribute to a fund that will be the foundation of a truly indigenous and supported church growth movement.We then went off into the centre of Kathmandu and visited the 18th Century Hindu temples. It’s a world heritage site and is called Hanuman Dhoka Durbar. It’s worth a visit. The streets around are fascinating with little shops the size of a wardrobe and people pushing and shoving. The smells are amazing with all the spices and incense; the olfactory senses go ballistic trying to cope with it all.

The power goes off every day for 3 ½ hours and for 4 hours in the evenings. Pretty frustrating so we try to be home when the power is on so we can talk and capture it all. Helen is on the internet at the moment while Kevin is writing this rubbish. We’re back to Delhi tomorrow for one night and we’ll send this out then, Monday evening.

Monday evening. Back in Delhi and enjoying the heat, 40o. Also enjoying the internet, it’s amazing how much you get to depend on it. we got to DBI where we are staying the night and there was a lovely meal waiting for us. It was great and it’s mango season, sheeeesh they were beautiful! Talked the evening away with Gloria and Isaac Shaw about self sustaining ministry and worked on a couple of projects. So now we’re catching up on e-mails, confirming tickets, organising finances and all that sort of things. Also we’re having showers, 1st ones for 6 days!!!! The IPL Cricket is raging here in India and with Brendan McCullam’s heroics the other night it’s a good place to be a kiwi at the moment!!!

Well friends, this is a longer edition but we’ve got a few days to cover. We’re off to the Centre North of India for a couple of days, Siliguri, and then over the top of Bangladesh to Dimapur / Kohima. So we could be out of touch for a few days.

Love to ya all

Helen and Kevin


North East India

2008-04-29

We’re in Siliguri, West Bengal, if you look at a map it’s due North of Kolkata (Calcutta.) It’s the gateway to Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet and Northern parts of India like Darjeeling, tea country. It’s hot, like sticky hot, even the locals are crying! We’re actually a little fortunate to be here, the blimmin airline we’ve been flying with have changed all their times and not told us, so for the 2nd trip with them we’ve missed flights. Fortunately we were able to get another flight a bit later. So we’ve been trying to sort out the new itinerary. One flight has been completely cancelled so now we’ve got to find an alternative from Dimpur to Kolkata on the 29th April.

The time in Siliguri has been nice. Our partner here is a woman who is working with refugees. She is a refugee herself, her story is very sad in many ways... but the circumstances have given the whole family a whole bunch of new opportunities. It’s a bit difficult to say too much so they are not compromised. But it’s all related to Bhutan and the huge persecutions that went on 15 years ago.We(hmm .....truly its ONE of us...) are eating way too much and all the rice is getting rather tedious. There are real needs here but it’s not that easy yet to see the way forward. But that will come eventually. When you’re working with good people something always comes to the fore.

Anyway, we’re watching IPL cricket, interesting to be here watching NZers doing OK. Helen was doing a Sudoku puzzle but sleep has caught up with her. We don’t have to be on deck till 10:00 am tomorrow so that will be great.  Oh blimmin heck, not again!! There are huge explosions going off outside again. Last night it was a huge wedding festival with huge megaphones, lights and fire crackers going off for an hour or so. Now tonight again, and it’s 10:45, don’t the locals ever sleep here!!! Maybe we’ll need the sleep-in in the morning!

We slept well until 6:15 when the phone rang and our partner here, Primela, rang to say that the programme had changed  for the day! No, these guys never sleep. We spent the morning talking to the team and then had lunch before heading off to the airport. We said goodbye with sadness, these are really nice people with lots of ideas and vision for their poor countrymen, but are struggling to know how best to deal with the situation.

Off to Kolkata, and here it’s really hot, and sticky. Got there pretty much on time and the guys from the hotel were there to pick us up. Thank goodness for Lonely Planet! Not a bad room really, quiet air conditioner (ac) and not too much noise coming in from outside. Huge cockroaches, but we slept well and then out to the airport for this flight to Dimapur. The airport is hugely disorganised, and Kevin was about the last guy on the plane. Such a process and no one really cares whether you make the plane or not!

So we’re sitting in the plane somewhere over Bangladesh writing to you. We’ll keep you up to date as we go along over the next couple of days, hopefully we’ll be able to get onto the internet in the next 24 hours.

Kevin is sitting in the window of a room writing up reports and we could be looking out the window of any little room onto a  little dusty road in any country of the world frankly. It’s a pleasant day, not too hot with a lovely breeze knocking the edge off the heat. We’re in the outskirts of Dimapur, the border State of India and Myanmar. We’re amongst the Naga people, they don’t look Indian, they don’t eat Indian, they don’t think Indian and they don’t believe like Indians (95% of them are Christians and 90% of those are Baptist. They are about as Indian as I us) But they find themselves inside the borders of India and can’t do anything about it. Quite a few of them would like to, there is a growing independence movement here. They openly talk about the day they will be free. Many of them live in Myanmar. Because of the internal tensions there are occasional flare ups so we had to get a RAP, restricted Area Pass, to visit here. So it’s very different, we haven’t met an Indian here for a couple of days.

Yesterday and again this morning we met with a doctor we’ve been funding for the last 4 years. He works in a remote, rural palce on the Bhutan border where there is a huge amount of sickness and superstition. His role is to support the development of the church in the area. Since we started supporting him he’s got married and has a little boy of one, so, it was nice to meet him for the first time, his name is Dr. Chuba Walling. 

Helen is down the road interviewing a couple of families who have received pigs from the programme we have helped set up here. Kevin is writing up reports from the meetings we’ve just finished. It’s very quiet, very rural and very pleasant. We’re tired, slept last night in Dimapur and the next two nights we’re staying with our partners in their little rural house with crisscross bamboo walls. It’s really nice in the heat, the wind just blows right through the house, fresh air con they call it.

It’s now evening and someone in the house is snoring! And the dog is barking right outside our bamboo wall, it’s actually not very thick at all. We’ve eaten heaps today, that Naga people know how to eat, it’s amazing they are such small, trim people. Tomorrow Kevin has to speak 3 times and he didn’t have a tie, they all dress up here for church a bit like the Pacific Islands. But, he was given a tie tonight. It’s brown and beautiful and went really well with the black shirt, but what the heck, it doesn’t have to match!!

Anyway, we survived the sermons and the Subong and Narola, our partners here very encouraged by the response to the sermons. The churches here, and there are huge numbers of them, are totally unaware of the poor and needy. So Subong has been using me to push the poverty issue and the responsibility of the church to engage with the poor. That night we went out for dinner with some of the board members, they are such nice people and so generous.

It’s the day we are due to leave Dimapur and virtually everyone we have met has given us a gift. So Helen is frantically throwing out everything she can to keep our weight down. We’ll probably arrive home dressed in Naga costume .Yesterday we went to Kohima, it’s the capital city of Nagaland State. It’s an amazing place really, perched along the razor ridges of some very steep hills and valleys. It’s a capital under siege in some ways. There are thousands of Indian troops around and frequent outbursts of unrest. It’s claim to fame is that it is the site of the first major battle of World War 2 in which the allies, mainly British and Indians, defeated the Japanese and they commenced their retreat from there through Asia. We visited the war cemetery where thousands of young British men are buried and a few women too. We noticed a few Australians, but no Kiwis. The accounts of the fighting are horrendous and the distance from home for these young boys who were breathing their last must have seemed eternal. A solemn reminder of the cost of war, so far from home.

The road from Dimapur to Kohima is pretty tortuous. While there we managed to get to the internet for a few minutes but not to get this out, we went without a shower for another day and the best hotel in town had no water!!!!!!,Kevin managed to play cricket in the car-park for a an hour or so with a bunch of young Indian men and we talked about the IPL, and we met the Director of Agriculture for the State of Nagaland, the main reason for being there. He rocked up to the hotel with his personal bodyguard and a soldier with an Uzzi machine gun so we were quite safe, or were we?!

Anyway, we’re back in Dimapur having spent 4 days with Subong and Narola Aier. Such lovely people, you’ll see more about them over the next months if you check out the Bright Hope World website. We’re going to have our work cut out getting it all sorted when we get back, and we will only  have two month until we hit the road again. In a couple of hours we fly to Kolkata and spend the night there in THE WHITE PALACE hotel. It sounds a lot grander than reality, but there is the possibility of some hot water and a shower.....YIPEEEEE... It’s now 15 days since Helen( AND KEVIN!!!)  last had a shower so it’s getting very bad!!! We are seriously thinking about changing our marital status and single beds are the order of the day!!

Anyway, lots’ of love to you all. We’re off to a place called Kakinada and the temperature there is around 400, so things will be pretty steamy for the next four days. We have to spend most of tomorrow travelling, Kolkata to Chennai ( 2 hours flight and 4 hours in the airport), Chennai to Rajamundry and then an  hour’s drive to Kakinada. We should be able to update from there so here’s hoping.

We are both thankful to be well.....and no scary tummy bugs.....and mad dashes to the loo.....!!In fact we hardly use the loos much. Because of the heat our bodies retain as much as they can to keep us breathing!!!!

We appreciate your emails, blog messages (we’ll send you a personal note when we can) and prayers .... WE GOT TO KOLAKATA OK!

Blessings

Helen and Kevin  


Kakinada by the sea

2008-05-02

We got out and it smelt like we were in a swimming pool complex. That’s what you spread on the ground when visitors come to visit a leper colony. Don’t you just hate both words: leper; talk about a death sentence, rejection and herded into a ghetto; colony; someone else controlling you, making your decisions for you. But that’s the reality for these people, they are shunned and pushed into little communities so the people don’t have to interact with you.

That’s the reality for one of our partners too. She runs a little programme in Zambia for 12 or so kids and when we were there earlier in the year it was very obvious she was very unwell. We heard this week that she almost died and has been diagnosed with HIV / AIDS. So she’s very unwell and will be for a while until she can get stabilized on ARTs. She is 37 years old, that’s better than average in Zambia now!

Another visit to another leper programme Bright Hope World is financing. My goodness, this must be as bad as the human condition gets. If there is anything worse in the world please don’t take me there. Appalling is the only word for it. We came away traumatised today. Apart from the poverty, dirt, oppressive heat and smell there is the deformity, pain and rejection. It is truly shocking and in the midst of it some beautiful children.

We met Mary, about 12 or 13 I guess, a beautiful little girl who was having a meal there. Her grandmother, the mother of her mother is a leper and in the colony. She and 10 of her friends attended a camp that Bright Hope personnel, Dave de Roles and Marty Shibe ran earlier in the year. She absolutely loved the camp and when asked what she liked she said “all of it!” she couldn’t stop smiling at the memories and we talked about the food, the games and the friends, and of course the puppets and songs. Hey, if you’re looking for an offshore experience Bright Hope World sends a team to run the camps and training a couple of times a year in India and you could join a team. Let us know if you want to do something like that.

The local council owns the buildings that lepers live in. Some of them were pretty run down so they have knocked them down and now many of the people have to live in temporary accommodation. It’s very basic, pretty bad actually. So now they get their treatment and meals and have to cook outside. This is not a good scene as it’s nearing 40os and in a couple of months the Monsoon will be in full swing. A lot of the lepers cannot come out into the direct sunlight so tend to stay away from the treatment centre, so they get worse infections, if that’s possible. We left $US250 with them to build a temporary shelter, what else can you do.

Hot, strike it’s hot here. It’s around 40o and will go up another 5 or 6 degrees within a month. I have never seen Helen so affected by heat and I’ve never sweated so much. We come home dripping with sweat. The other side is that our amazing hosts, Emmanuel and Jessie have put a heat pump in our room so we come back and dry out in 25o and then head off into the heat again. We slept like the dead last night.

We went and spent the evening with the 30 kids in a home run by the team here. The team is called Christian Friends Charitable Trust or CFCT. They run the sewing programmes we will be visiting later today and tomorrow, the children’s home, two leper feeding and treatment programmes and want us to look at assisting with a disabled persons’ ministry as well, we’re going to see that today. It’s pretty impressive I have say, they have such good people involved with a genuine desire to serve. The guy who does the dressings at one to the leper centres is a leper himself and his hands are severely disabled, humbling really.

Roads in India, an objective perspective after hours spent observing!:

Yes, it is possible to get 14 people in an auto-rickshaw. There will never be a Guinness world record because they wouldn’t be able to stop the blimmin things to get a count.

Yes. It is possible to fit 4 lanes of traffic into 2 lanes travelling in opposite directions.

No, they will never sort out driving in India – a headline in a Delhi paper commenting on the attempts to speed up traffic and bring some order – IT MIGHT BE GOOD FOR US, BUT DO WE WANT IT! I say give up now and shift to the country.

Yes, it’s true, the most common spare part worn out in India is the horn. They spend 30% of their time hooting, even if there in nothing happening and no one hurtling at them they toot the horn, well you’ll never be good if you don’t practice.

No, you are not safe on a pedestrian crossing. The lines on the road indicate to car drivers they should swerve violently about and give them some to line up their target with

Yes, it is fine to pull out onto the road without looking and then stop and observe the outcomes and make a clear choice what to do next. Often the option taken is to stall the vehicle in the middle of the road!

No, it is not compulsory to stick to your side of the road, even when there is a metre high median barrier! Why the heck would you do that when you can go the other way and cause chaos.

Yes, chaos is the best way to describe it all.

It’s the wedding season here. The astrologers say it’s the time for a lucky marriage so off you go a find a wife, well, off the family goes and finds a wife. So there are parties going off everywhere, decorated cars and auto rickshaws full of beautifully decked out women in Saris.

Anyway, we’ll sign off and try to get this out to you.Just a week now till we get back NZ. We’re kind of looking forward to it really; we’re still pretty tired but doing well. Thanks to the Lord for strengthening and to you guys for being on the team. Couldn’t do it without you all.

Love

Helen and Kevin


Bangalore and home

2008-05-12

 

It’s a beautiful, warm morning and the sun is shining in Whangaparaoa. Yep we’re home and have caught up with our sleep. It’s lovely to be home in one piece. It’s time to charge the batteries, catch up on reports and stuff and plan for the rest of the year. It’s been good to catch up with family too, we’re making plans for Sara’s engagement party in Auckland this coming Saturday.

We had a good trip back to NZ. We went from Bangalore to Dubai; over-nighted there and then came back to the Long White Cloud through Melbourne. It’s nice to be back, nice to be able to put feet up for a few days.

Last blog we were in Kakinada and it was hot, we left there on Sunday afternoon and travelled to Bangalore through Hyderabad. Hyderabad airport is a most beautiful building. The whole airline industry in India is amazing, great airlines, improving facilities and a whole heap of new planes. 36,000 new hostesses and hosts per year as well as all the other jobs, it’s just booming. We got to Bangalore and checked out the three partners there. It was pretty inspiring to talk to them and see what was going on.

ONE: Sugumaran, he is the administration guy at SAIACS, the seminary we stay at when in Bangalore. We are partnering with a number of their graduates; in fact most of our Indian partners were students here. Sugumaran was running a dairy project in Kolar, the local extreme political people didn’t want the influence of Christian values so they gave them such a hard time the project had to stop. So the kids won’t get uniforms, a library and their school fees paid. We’ve had to park that partnership for the time being, we are hoping that there will be more opportunities in that place in the future.

TWO: Vidya Sagar, he is an entrepreneur with a lot of things going on. He and his wife Ruth run a school with almost 200 kids in their back yard, they have a hostel for some of the kids; they are involved in starting some new churches in squatter compounds and he runs a balm production and distribution business. Kevin spent a day with him checking out the various things going on and we went to their place for dinner the last night there. It’s good to see the enthusiasm he has for life and for helping others. Helen recovered from a bug by giving it to Kevin!

THREE: T Raja, we could not explain the situation at the Home of Hope, run by T Raja and his team. We spent a morning with them and heard the vision of the guy. We heard of his vision to have over a thousand people in the centre. The mission is to rescue people from the streets, people who are lying about the streets in desperate circumstances. The police from over 50 stations send their desperate, abused and abandoned to them and they take them in with no questions. The place was designed for about 100 people and there are about 280 there now. A year ago when we were here the number was 170. Because of this they have to build a new complex. It’s impossible to explain the sights, sounds and especially difficult to explain the smell. The place just reeks, but it’s better than the streets.

Anyway, we’ll keep you informed about that and we’ll try to get a video onto the Bright Hope World website so you can check it out. Talking about smell, Kevin has his bags outside in the sun airing them out; they stunk on arrival home, like he had something dead in them!

So friends, thanks for the company on the trip, we’ll stay in touch and let you know what’s going on. We’re planning to be around for a few weeks with a trip to Christchurch and to Levin before we head off shore again.

Blessings

Helen and Kevin


getting sorted

2008-06-09

Hey there freinds,

Long time no hear! Sorry about that. Once you get back from being on the road it`s hard to stay in the mode of writing on the blog. But the journey isn`t over for this year so we`re back in communication mode. The other thing is that there is so much writing to catch up on after a trip that more writing is not really very exciting. But, we`re back.

It`s been pretty full on since getting back to NZ. Kevin has been in Christchurch for a week and Nelson for four days. The main purpose was to write up reports and develop the website and to interview a new family going out to Zambia to work on Maplehurst Farm. They are NZers who have been farming in Australia for a few years. They head off there in a few weeks with their four children for at least a year. We`re off to Levin for next weekend and will catch up with a few people then. Tomorrow Kevin goes off to Taupo for 3 days to a leadership camp. We are also developing a partnership with a group in NZ to assist churches develop new mission vision and strategy. This should result in a lot more churches getting involved in partnership over the next few years.

We had an engagement party for our daughter, Sara the week after getting home. It was great to catch up with her friends and someof ours as well. We`ve got another engagement party this coming Saturday in Palmerston North. It will be great to catch up on our friends and family down that way. Sara`s fiance, Karl is from Palmy so it will be nice to meet some of his family a well.

The rest of this year has had to be rearranged a little as Jared and Ruth are returning to NZ in August after more than 3 years away in the UK. So until they find a place to live and jobs etc they will be staying with us. Also, with Sara and Karl getting married at the end of November we think it`s important for Helen to hang around a little more. Because of that we`ve had to make a few changes to our travel plans. We`ll put the new itinerary onto the web later today as well. It means that Helen won`t be travelling again until next year and Kevin will do three shorter trips as well.

In July Kevin will go to Zambia and Ethiopia for 4 weeks. Then he`ll come back to NZ for 4 weeks before heading off to the USA, Kenya, Uganda and Pakistan in September. Later in the year he`ll head off to Nepal, India, Myanmar and Thailand or 3 weeks. So it`s going to be full on with plenty to do here and there.

We are so blessed to be working with such amazing people, here and there. Thanks for being part of the team. We need to share somethng with you that is pretty important and we`re pretty passionate about. We realise that costs are going up here, we are all very concerned about this I`m sure. But in the countries where we are working it`s a lot worse. Rice has doubled in price in the last 8 months and will probably double again before the end of the year. Effectively that means the food costs are double for most or our partners. Most of them could not afford it before the costs went up. When you add to this the rise in fuel costs it is huge problem. I`m no prophet, but my feeling is that there will be many riots and disturbances over the next few months related to the rise in food costs. Many of these people are Chritian brothers and sisters. If you combine this with the weakness of the US dollar, some of our friends are now receiving less than one third of the income from a year ago. I`m sharing this with you for no other reason than to make you aware of the issues. Everything we experience here in the West is multiplied 2 or 3 times in the developing world. If you can help then let us know?

We`ll be in touch again before Kevin heads off again on the 12th July.

Love

Kevin and Helen


a few changes great partners

2008-06-23

Dear friends,

It`s not long now until Kevin goes off to Africa and Helen stays home to do family stuff. We`ll fill you in on that a little later. Next Sunday we both go to Christchurch for a Bright Hope World Board meeting. Then we come back to Levin on the following Thursday and on Monday 5th we come back to Auckland. On Sunday morning Helen`s father died in Levin and she is down there now. Kevin goes down tomorrow with Sara, the funeral is on Wednesday. Then Thursday back up to Auckland. It`s a really quick trip and it adds up to a full on couple of weeks. Thanks for the prayer and support.

We have some really great things going on in BHW at the moment. Great new partners are joining the existing team and we are working hard to develop the opportunities they present to us. To achieve this we are putting together a team to develop New Zeaalnd partnerships so we can better serve our partners. We are talking to a number New Zealand partners who are considering taking up sponsorships and that`s pretty exciting. We are developing some pasrtnerships in new countries too and that`s pretty enouraging, places like Pakistan and Papua New  Guinea.  Some of the new stuff involves developing community schools in Zambia and Ethiopia, Sewing programmes in India and Pakistan, Farms in Zambia, Nepal and India. It`s pretty diverse farming too, milk, palm oil, cows and beef stock, rice and vegetables. So if you know people who want to invest in God`s kingdom and in assisting people to become self sufficient let me know.

Anyway, back to the family stuff. Jared and Ruth are coming back to live in New Zealand in August and for a few months will be living with us. That`s one reason she is not traveliing this year. The second reason is that they are expecting to have a baby in October so that`s pretty exciting. The third family event is Sara`s wedding on the 29th November. So it`s a full on year and we`re going to need all the prayer we can get to get through it all.

I`m heading off to bed and I hope you guys are all doing OK? Please feel free to put a note on the blog or to send us an e-mail. We love having you guys on the journey and are very thankful you can share this with us. I cannot tell you of the jjoy you bring to so many people: Thomas who is struggling to plant churches in Sudan, Sharon in Northern Mozambique, Mekashaw in Ethiopia, Samuel in Myanmar and Niranjin and Sonu in Nepal. We are in constant with them and they are very happy with the opportunitiy they have to fulfil their vision to impact theri communities.

Kevin and Helen


back to Africa and not very happy

2008-07-10

Not happy you ask, yea. This time tomorrow Kevin will be on the plane to Perth and then to Zambia through Johannesburg while Helen stays in Whangaparaoa. We hate being split up, but this year it`s all go in the family and we need to put some time into that as well. So Helen will be hanging out here to be available to Sara as she prepares for her wedding and Jared and Ruth as they prepare to come home from the UK.

We`ve put a few pictures up today to remind you of some of the great people we work with. The Burrowes family are kiwis who have been farming in Australia for a few years. Over the last few weeks we`ve been in NZ, they came over to visit and we have asked them to go to Maplehurst Farm in Zambia. So off they have gone. Kevin will be in Zambia when they arrive on the 1st August, so that will be cool.

While we`ve been in NZ this time we`ve approved a number of new partnerships as well so that`s been cool. it`s good to have new stuff coming onto the books, frankly the problem at the moment is that we have way too much new stuff coming on!! So it`s been pretty busy writing it all up. But it`s getting there. check out the Bright Hope World website on www.brighthopeworld.com and see the 70+ partnerships there. We still have another 50 to add but we`re getting there. The two new countries are Pakistan and Kevin will  be visiting there on the trip folowing this one and then there is a new partnership in Papua New Guinea, there`s a photo of one of the two rice mills that are going into a couple of remote villages. The rising cost of food and fuel is becoming a major issue for many of our partners.

There`s another photo here of Shula, talked to you about her once before i think. She lives in Mozambique and is originally from Zambia. She`s in her early 20s and is running a comunity school in Maputo. she wrote telling about the the sense of great loss she has as recently three of "her girls" died. She also wrote of the great suffering she observes and how it forces her turn to God and learn from him. It`s such a privilege to know people like this. we learn so much from them.

Then there`s a photo of Sharon, another Zambian woman livng in the north of Mozambique. she has had 3 of her family members die recently and she`s had to return to Zambia as her brother left 6 children she is now responsible for. How do you deal with that. Many have to.

Thanks so much for the thoughts and love expressed to Helen at the death of her dad. We went to Levin and Kevin took the service with the family participating, Helen read Psalm 23. It was a lovely time with the family, Helen has 7 siblings and they were all there, it was great. The following day we interred the ashes of Helen`s father and mother. So it was sad, and hard but there were some special memories of the past and new ones created. After the funeral we shot back up to Auckland to speak at a church and then shot through to Chrsitchurch for BHW Board meetings and other important stuff, then back to Levin to speak at the church we come from and then back to Auckland, whew. It`s been a bit crazy. We`ve had meetings with Worku our Ethiopian friend and we`re working on some new plans for there that are pretty exciting.

So, another trip looms large and we again want to express our thanks to you for being on the journey with us. Thanks for your prayers in antincipation and for your love expressed to us.

Love

Kevin and Helen


Zoom, Zoom in Zambia

2008-07-19

Today I discovered a number of things about myself and about travel in Africa! But before we come to that a quick fill in about the last few days. I had good flights to Perth and then to Johannesburg and overnighted in both places. Then a real early flight from Jo’burg meant that I arrived in Zambia at 9:00 am. Chris, one of our bright hope guys in Zambia was there to meet me and we dropped my bags off and went to town. Had a beautiful coffee in Kilimanjaro cafe at Manda Hill, got a haircut and met one of our friends, Mercy; had to deliver a parcel to her. Then I had an appointment with a potential new partner and went back to the guest house. Couldn’t sleep so got up at 2 :00 am and did some e-mails and then rested for 30 minutes before the alarm rang a 3:45. Off to the bus at 4, arriving at 4:30..... the bus was full even though I had a ticket!

I’m safely in Chipata after a pretty wild day, the trip to Perth and then Johannesburg and then to Lusaka were nothing in comparison to the day in the bus. I’ve often thought about this before, but the reality hit home today. It’s easier for us to travel to say Lusaka from New Zealand than it is for a Zambian to get to Lusaka from another part of Zambia. And our time on the trip is filled in with videos, movies, music, food, flush toilets and service on demand, and we hardly ever touch anyone all the way. Today we had five seats across the bus, seats for 55 people but there were up to 75 people on at any one time, the entertainment was 25 Malawian women chanting local songs while the two guys next to me had a ghetto blaster blasting and I had my iPod, all at the same time, the food was the 2 bananas, 2 oranges and2 small packets of peanuts and raisins I bought at the supermarket the day before, the toilets were 75 people on the side of the road (men to the right women to the left,) and we certainly got to touch people! Fortunately I was towards the rear so was totally safe from death from road accident from the secure cocoon of luggage that shielded us form anything less than an h-bomb. What was more likely was death by suffocation from that same luggage or from one of the 4 suitcases that fell onto my head!

So I’ll never complain about an airplane again, ever! We got moving around 5:00 am and of course there was no diesel in the tank and, how many 24 hours diesel stations are there in Lusaka? We found one and for some reason it took 15 minutes and a fight on the forecourt before we got the 100 litres and hit the road. So here I am, safe in Chipata having survived 9 hours of babies screaming every time they saw the white dude, mothers pushing their babies towards me because they had stopped screaming, 4 bags falling on my head having one loo stop on the road side and the lunatic bus driver swerving towards every car that came towards us to try and shift them over; at 140 km/h. Actually, I should have known something was amiss when I noticed that the bus company was called “Zoooom.” The one hour plane flight back to Lusaka on Friday will be a total anticlimax! Bring it on!

The last three days since arriving in Chipata and flown by. Had a lovely time with Dick and Anita Mumba and their family. They are starting a church and running a little school for street kids. Stayed with them and a delightful 19 year old German girl who is volunteering for 4 months, she has a month to go. It’s pretty basic but they are seeing some real changes in the lives of the kids.

Then I rode the motorbike out to Mchacha village and our good friends Lonard and Rosemary Daka. We had such a great time talking about all the issues they are facing there. They have one of their daughters (Gift) and one of their sons (Steven) working with them so it was fun to see them and hear about the challenges they are facing. This partnership is really growing and facing a lot of pressure from the community to help more people. They are really the only group able to help the people in this district, there is huge poverty and a lot of sick people. We talked about the 100 children being sponsored to school and the 5 adult clients they assist. We then walked 30 minutes to visit one of the families. Such a terrible situation, but much better that a year ago when we started the intervention. We talked about the new churches and the 4 churches that have started orphan care programmes.  I slept two nights in the village, the best sleeps I’ve had for many days. Then I got a taxi back to Chipata airport, just as the vice President was leaving. So I was whisked in to the office of the airport controller so I wouldn’t get mixed up with all the politicians! So I’m sitting here all alone with the power on writing this to you all.

In an hour I take off for Lusaka and I pick up Rob Purdue later this evening. I’ll send this off this evening and try to attach a few pix so you can see what’s been going on. Don’t forget to check out the www.brighthopeworld.com  website and read about some of these partnerships; there will be more detailed reports going on there in the next few days.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen

p.s. I managed to pick Rob up OK from the airport. He has been vomiting on the flight from Perth to Jo’burg. But he’s here safe and we’ve woken up in one piece. I managed to talk to helen last night too so that was nice. Now we have all the reports to write and the e-mails to knock off.

K


waterfalls and volunteers

2008-07-28

I’m in a very rural village in Northern Zambia called Musambeshi. It’s very dark and very quiet and except for the murmur of people chatting in the background it’s eerie. Above, the bright African night sky demands attention. I’m standing outside in the washroom with no roof and no clothes. It’s all very primitive and kind of nice really, no worries, no pressure just outside in nature. Now before you all run to get your cameras, there is a grass wall around the washroom!

It’s been an interesting few days really, lots to see and think about as we visit our friends and partners. Rob and I spent a couple of days a Maplehurst Farm talking with the staff and planning a way forward for the farm. We have stopped making cheese and it is turning out to be an inspired decision. The trends we were reading to make the decision have continued the way we thought so we’re very pleased with that and we have the first finances available for distribution from the farm. Another family is joining the team on the 1st of August so it will be great to be here when they arrive.

We travelled to Mkushi on Tuesday the 22nd and stayed with our good friends Barton and Yvonne Young. It was great to have an amazing meal with them and to also see Delwyn Houghton (NZer teaching at Chengelo School in Zambia, and also Leane Cook (NZer teaching in Tanzania.) we worked with Leane in Zambia way back in the 80s.

The on the Wednesday we headed off to Samfya and on the way visited the partnership at Kaishe. It was great to see the Skills training operating and to talk to some of the people there. We then caught up with Charles the key man in Samfya. There are lots of issues to understand in these types of partnerships and we’re on a steep learning curve.

The Samfya and SCCP, what a great thing is happening in this community. Thousands of lives are being impacted by the involvement of Willow Creek Community church with SCCP. It’s just awesome to visit house after house and hear stories of change. In a distance of one Kilometre we counted 37 gardens being grown by guardian families to supplement their income and food supplies. It’s pretty encouraging. We also visited our friends at Samfya Bible School and helped them deal with a couple of issues.

We talked to our friend Peter Bobo Chomba who leads a partnership across the lake from Samfya in the village of Chaba. It was good to hear about kids going to school and attitudes being changed. He faces some real battles with people in the community who have been very sceptical of his capacity to help them.

On Thursday we travelled north to Kawambwa and a couple of partnerships. We spent two days visiting farms and orphans and hearing the stories of families being helped. There is still so much poverty, but things are improving slowly for many of them. We are very impressed with the potential of cows to provide some real income in this area to help with caring for the orphans and vulnerable.

We’ve now left Musambeshi and are in the city of Kasama in the Northern Province of Zambia. We’re talking to partners here and then tomorrow, Tuesday head back to Maplehurst Farm. Yesterday, Sunday was a long trip on pretty bad roads and we arrived in Kasama filthy. I’ve been wearing the same shirt and trousers for 7 days so it’s very nice to be clean and changed!

Zambia is such a beautiful country. In the last 4 days we have seen 4 magnificent waterfalls, there are certainly none in NZ that even come close in comparison. I’ll include my best shot of each of them in the photo section. Truly, truly magnificent. Ntumba Chushi, then Lumangwe and Kabwelume close together and then Chishimba. We were tempted to swim in a couple of them but the pressure of time!!! The North of Zambia has water for Africa and beauty like it’s difficult to imagine. It was impossible to get the whole waterfall into any of the photos, the falls are just too large to condense.

We had a couple on interesting experiences with the Peace Corps volunteers that have made for interesting thinking in the last couple of days. We gave Andrea a lift from Samfya to another place on Thursday. It was really interesting hear of her experiences living in the African bush for 2 years. In the area where we were visiting some of our partners there is a Peace Corps volunteer. There are about 30 of them in this one Province of Zambia! They are everywhere; we saw six of them in the remotest town you could imagine yesterday as well. We asked our partners for their views on them and they are pretty sceptical. They come with little knowledge, few skills, a great deal of immaturity, and with no resources. So they leave after 2 years and leave nothing behind. I guess they have found themselves to some degree. But in the process many African people have been disappointed and confused. One wonders about the insidious nature of Western culture and why these young people cannot find themselves in their own culture. There is certainly no reason to continue exporting Western crap into Africa and even less to increase the Westernization of rural Africa. They have enough of their own issues to deal with!

Anyway, enough of a sermon from me. I’m really looking forward to more regular contact for the next few days and to writing up all the stuff we’ve discovered. Got heaps of photos too and I’ll have a job to get them all sorted so we can remember which photo goes with which name.

It was great to get an email from Helen last night. I sure hang out for hearing from her. Sounds like she’s been busy visiting people as one would expect!

Thanks for being there for us, we really appreciate the notes, e-mails and contact from you. We also appreciate your prayers as we find ourselves far apart. We hope you have a great week.

Love,

Helen and Kevin


more in Zambia and the conference

2008-08-05

Hey friends

Sorry about the note you got saying there was an update. I was part way through updating the blog and had put a couple do pix on and the internet went down. It’s almost 3 days later and it’s still not working. I can sort of send e-mails but there’s no chance of staying onlone for more than about 1 minute. Sorry for that!!! so i`ve come into and internet cafe to sort it out.

The last week I’ve spent more than a fair share of time on the road. We left Kasama on Tuesday morning after meetings Sunday evening and all day Monday. Way back in the 80s we were involved in helping the start of a new movement in that area helping local guys to get out into the very rural areas to introduce people to Christ. So it was nice to be back and to see many of the guys we know way back in the late 80s, strike, that’s 20 years ago. Must be getting old!!

Anyway, after talks with them about how to develop partnership and listening to their stories we hit the road early. We had a meeting in Mkushi at 12:30 and after 6 hours driving got there on time. Good meetings talking about our partners in Mozambique who came from Zambia. Then back to Maplehurst Farm and diesel shortages. Early Wednesday I left for Chingola and a visit to a partners there and then back to Ndola. Second ticket from the Police, didn’t have my international driving permit!!!! I’ve never in 25 years been asked for it or found a cop that was interested in it. There times that day I was asked it, 30th of the month, the Police are short of money to pay the wages!!

I visited our friends the Nkausus. They used to work for us in Zambia and now he is the pastor of a little Baptist Church, they are looking after 12 little orphans who come to the church. The eldest daughter has been diagnosed HIV+ and she is the key person here. She is very sick and has just commenced ARTs, but can’t afford to eat well enough. We ate well for lunch that day though, Grace is a great cook. We talked about the difficulties they are facing and how important it was not to lose hope.  I was able to help by setting up a pig raising project and left them doing some research on a chicken layer project to fund the orphans and the family.

Back to Maplehurst farm, 14 hours on the road and meeting people that day, called past GLO Zambia, the place we were involved with in the 80s, on the way back. Since then it’s been preparing for the AGM of the Company that owns and  runs Maplehurst Farm, I’m the chairman, and preparing for two seminars we are running at a Conference, we deliver that on Sunday morning.

Thursday we spent the morning visiting two schools we are about to commence supporting. We’ll be helping with a daily feeding programme and to supplement the wages of the teachers. It was lovely to see the kids all looking so well. They have been dosed for worms and now at least will get one good meal a day. it was the last day of term so they were all excited, they were going to see the Jesus Film before leaving for the holidays. I’ve put a few photos of some of them.

A new family from NZ and Oz arrived yesterday. They are going to take over the running of the farm in a couple of months. It’s nice to see them here after more than a year engaging with them. I’ll put a picture of them on the blog with this.

It’s Saturday afternoon and it’s windy and quite cool. I’ve still got some prep to do for tomorrow and I’ll go out for a walk around the farm as the sun goes down. The All Blacks thrashed the Wallabies so that’s great, made Saturday anyway.

It’s been interesting reflecting on the last week. Last blog I was lamenting the influence of the west on Africa this time I’m going to have a shot at the Chinese. You cannot believe the number of Chinese working here now; the local people dislike them intensely. Everywhere you go they are at work, new buildings, wiring the whole country for fast internet, building roads and railways. It’s all go here I tell you. The number of trucks on the road and the new mines being built are largely servicing the growth of China. There are rumours of men coming in shipping containers illegally. It is feared by the locals that they have designs on this part of the world, it wouldn’t surprise me. Ask the question about Zimbabwe, who is standing behind Robert Mugabe, the vicious brute with over a billion dollars in his bank account. Where did the guns destined for Zimbabwe a few months ago come from? There are things afoot here that should concern the world. The locals are concerned with the impact all this is having.

Despite all this, the church continues to grow and thrive. The conference this week is about sending people from Africa out into the world as the next wave of Christian missionaries. Awesome, the dream continues.

Thanks for your support.  Helen is having a lovely weekend with Sara, wedding plans. It’s only 3 weeks till Jared and Ruth get back to NZ and not long till we are grandparents. It’s a full on year the rest of it. Looking forward to getting back to NZ. This time next week we’ll be in Ethiopia and it will only be a couple of days till the trip home. I’ll be in touch again before that.

i`ve just spent the weekend at a conference with about 400 people from all over the workd, mostly zambians of course. it`s been great to hear the stories of people doing great things for God and making a difference in the lives of many people. had a great time hearing the stories of people as well. two pastors from Zimbabwe told us a lot about the situation there and opened up some partnership opportunities, so that`s great. we`ll be following them up and probably visiting next year.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen


a quieter week and stuck in Addis

2008-08-09

Rob and I woke this morning at 4:45 to get the plane to Gondar. We arrived in Addis Ababa from Lusaka at about 10 last night and it was after 11:00 by the time we got to the hotel. It was a pretty sleepless night, way too short. Anyway, it’s 10 am and we’re still sitting in the airport at Addis Ababa. We took off Ok and were just coming tin to land at Gondar and the announcement came that it was too wet to land but we would go to the next destination, land there and then come back to Gondar and land. OK, a couple of hours late!! No sooner had the first announcement finished than the second one started, sorry, back to Addis, the airport at Axum is closed too. So here we are, waiting in another airport!!! One can do without that sort of hassle frankly, and what will we do if the same thing happens on Monday and we’re stuck in Gondar and can’t catch our plane back to Addis, or Jo’burg and home? I guess we’ll find out won’t we!!

F*** charity, try something that works!!! What about that for the title of a documentary and my blog! On the flight to Addis from Lusaka I was talking to a film crew that has just been doing a documentary in Ethiopia and Malawi. They were really fired up at what they had seen in a couple of interesting child feeding and nutrition programmes. And they were very critical of the way aid is being delivered into Africa. They were especially critical of the big names that came here to adopt kids and make out like they genuinely cared. VERY cynical, I might have used the same words if my faith hadn’t modified my language!! My sentiments exactly.  It continues to pour down outside and the airport is filling up, not many planes going out, people still coming in, most of them looking lost or bewildered or something....

Since last weekend we’ve been based at Maplehurst farm most of the time. We’ve been having meetings with the team at the farm and developing strategy. So it’s been good to have a little less travel for a bit and to be able to catch up with e-mails and reports. The internet has been out for most of the time so we’ve gone into town a few times to communicate.  The farm is starting to really get into shape. There is a very clear pathway forward and the new family are keen as mustard to get into is. We’ve got a lot of work do on creating a better dam and breaking in a fair percentage of the farm that’s not being used effectively at the moment.  So it’s been the regular grind of reports, not my favourite task.

We had some good news in the middle of it, we had been travelling the previous week with a guy and he’s looking at investing a large amount of funds over the next few years, so that’s a blessing. Out in the partnerships the increases in prices are really hurting, so to get someone willing to invest large amounts it takes the pressure off somewhat.

Newsflash

Well the bad news is that we are still in Addis Ababa because they cancelled the flight till tomorrow morning. The good news; can’t think of any really, yet! So we’re in the process of making a few changes to see if we can still reschedule the programme.  It’s such a pain, we’ve spent heaps of money to come there and we’re hardly going to see anything. We’ll see what God can do.

So dear friends, I’ll try to update you again as soon as I know something about our plans. but at the moment we are due to head off tomorrow morning at 11:00. that will just give us 24 hours in the place we planned to go. Don`t think I`ll come here in the rainy season again. if you don`t hear from me then we`re off to Gondar tomorrow morning.

Love to you all

Kevin


Addis Ababa, mmmmmmmmmmmmm

2008-08-11

The saga continues.... it’s coming up midday Sunday and Rob and I are still sitting in Addis Ababa airport. We were told to report at 9:00 am after the flight on Saturday was cancelled about midday Saturday. We found a hotel that had internet and spent the afternoon writing more reports and strategising and then Mekashaw came to visit us at the hotel. We went out for coffee and spent the late afternoon talking to him about the way things are developing in the partnership. This is getting expensive.

You meet some interesting people in airports, I’m sick of talking to Rob; we’ve been travelling for 3 weeks together! I spent about 20 minutes talking to a group of Ugandan guys who were on their way back to Uganda from Iraq. They have been doing security work for a private security company. They were all doing it to get enough money together for study or to look after their families. They had lost a couple of mates while there in the last 6 months. One guy was so keen to get home, he has a 4 month old daughter he has never seen and his family did not know he was returning. It was all going to be a big surprise. Strangely not one of the 7 knew much about Christianity and were not really interested. “If you had seen what we’ve seen there could not be a God......” hard to debate that one in an airport.

I also chatted to an elderly little Sri Lankan nun who had been working amongst the poor in Ethiopia for 32 years. A lovely woman with such a heart of compassion, she had her faith fully in Jesus and was very concerned that the street kids she worked with would discover real faith. “Nothing else will break the cycle of death and oppression in their lives.”

Not sure what’s going to happen here now. If this plane is further delayed it’s not going to be worth going to Gonder to sleep the night there! But now we can’t get our luggage out, oh man, why are we here?

It was great to get the internet working well last night and to catch up on stuff. Fortunately it’s pretty quiet and it is the weekend so no one is replying. So that’s great until everyone replies!!!

It gets worse, the plane finally was ready to go at 4:00, by that time we had made the decision to bail out. So it’s 9:30 at night on Sunday and we’ve spent from 5:30 am on Saturday till after 4 on Sunday waiting at the airport when not at the hotel. The lessons? Don’t come to Ethiopia in the rainy season and don’t come just for 4 days! So now it’s hang around here till Tuesday morning. We’ll make a plan in the morning but we have one guy to see and we’ll have a look at some sights. The weather is cold and wet so it’s all a bit miserable.

The week after getting back to NZ I’ve got to speak at a conference for pastors so I’ve been preparing for that and writing reports. Pretty boring stuff really, but I just wanted you guys to know that it’s not all fun and games out here. There’s a fair deal of disappointment and the need for some fortitude at times.

Monday, and it seems we’ve been here for weeks but it’s only a couple of days. All we’ve seen is the inside of a couple hotel rooms and the airport, apart from being with Mekashaw of course, our contact in Addis Ababa. He is such a nice guy. I keep saying it all the time, but our partners are such great people, most of them are gentle, godly, compassionate men and women. It’s so great to be able to work with them.

We spent the day doing emails and at 12:00 went off to visit a local Coptic Church. Very strange to be surrounded by hundreds of white clad devotees chanting, bowing, kneeling and prostrating themselves towards the church building as the priest intoned the liturgy. It’s all done in a language only the priests know, but they have all learned the ritual and don’t miss a beat. Then we went over to the Piazza and had a magnificent Ethiopian coffee and bought some bring back to NZ for sampling. Hey, if you haven’t tried Bright Hope World’s, La Mai coffee from Thailand, get onto the website and order some. Great for gifts and for regular drinking yourself or with friends. You need to read the story too to understand why we’re doing it. www.brighthopeworld.com  I’ll be off up there later in the year to check out the growing of it.

Anyway, after our coffee shot and waiting out a huge downpour, we headed off to the Mercato Market, one of the largest in Africa. It is teeming with people all trying to outwit the white man. We bought a few bits and pieces as gifts and samples. There are some very unique Ethiopian crafts and vibrant colours, some pretty nice but a lot pretty tacky. Also a huge trade in Coptic icons and silver Lalibela crosses. Mekashaw showed us around and protected us; the people were actually very friendly as they tried to fleece us. Then we went over to the office of the ministry we are working with and checked out how the accounting is done and met the new accountant. She seems very efficient and I was really happy with the systems I observed. Unfortunately the power was off so we couldn’t open up the computer.

Now we are back at the hotel waiting for the power to come back on. Should be here in a few minutes and we’ll catch the news before heading off to dinner. At 6:45, sunset the Moslem prayer chant went up, just like at 5 this morning. Fortunately I was awake at 4:00 am.

Oh well, I’ll sign off now. I’ll be in touch again when I get home. It’s been a long time away and am looking forward to being back in NZ with Helen and the family. We keep saying we won’t do this long again but one can hardly come all the way here for a couple of days! Thanks for the prayer, the contact and the friendship.

Blessings

Kevin Honore

 


family and politics

2008-08-26

hi there friends it`s us again after a couple of weeks break.

Kevin got back home OK after many hours in the previous days spent in airports!!! grrrrr. airports are terrible places to spend your life! It`s nice ot be back at home with each other and family. Awesome. A week later Jared and Ruth flew in so it was back to the airport and lovely to see them, though Ruth is much larger than the last time we saw her! It`s great to have them staying with us and to have time with them. It`s only 7 weeks till the baby is due, grandparents... new phase of life, don`t feel old enough really.

After getting back, we went off to Taupo for a few days. The weather was cold but beautiful, -4 degrees at night, we can do without that. Kevin spoke at a Pastors` retreat and concentrated on the Gospel of Luke and the poor. It seemed to go well though everyone was very nice! it was great to spend some time with people we have known for a long time.

Politics has been an inevitable part of the last little while for us and i`d like to highlight a few issues, mainly on behalf of our partners:

1) Myanmar- many of our partners ar still struggling with the outcomes of cyclone Nargis a few months ago. There are many people still needing help, we have just heard of 1,000s of people heading across the border into India for assistance.

2) Nepal- when we were there earlier in the year the Maoists had just got into power, this could have implications for the Christians there. There are ongoing issues to deal with and hopefully our friends will not be compromised. We are just about to start a new partnership there and we are hoping it won`t be hampered.

3) Pakistan - elections are looming and there is a lot of unrest. Kevin has an application in for a visa to visit ther early in october. So we`ll need to keep our eyes on this one as he is due to visit Lahore and Islamabad to see the start of a new partnership and investigate another new one.

4) Zambia - the President has died and there is a state of mournng as his body is travelling around the country. President Levi Mwanawasa was a good man and did his best to deal with corruption. new elections are due for November so pray for stability and a good person to lead the country. We have more partners in Zambia than any other country.

The next few days are family days. Thursday evening the extended family is coming around for a welcome for Jared and Ruth. J and R have just met Karl, Sara`s fiancee, so there is lots of catching to do and lots of fun. We are so blessed. Along with that we are working at setting up the next trip away.

It`s less than two weeks until Kevin heads off again. not looking forward to that one. He has 4 days in Dallas, USA; then 5 days in Kenya; 12 days in uganda and then 4 days in Pakistan getting back to NZ on the 8th Ocotber. Along with that there are many hours on planes and in airports..... fun!!!!! We still depend on you guys to be there with us and without you this would be a disaster. So again, thanks for being on the journey with us.

The increasing costs our friends are facing out there is really starting to hurt. Food has doubled in price since the beginning of the year and is still continuing to go up. So they are very concerned. Even for us the costs are going for the roof as we seek to be out there and helping them. I can`t imagine how difficult it must be for them if it`s like this for us.

We`re about to head out to visit our Ethipian friend in Auckland, Worku. We`re putting together a proposal to take to the church in Dallas. We`re planning ways we can set the work there up so it can be self funding within 5 years from now. Planning a school and micro-enterprise loan schemes and the like, so that will be fun. It means a trip into Auckland. So we`ll say goodbye for now and well be in touch before Kevin heads off into the blue on the 8th September.

Love to you all

Kevin and Helen


4 weeks, 4 continents

2008-09-07

early Monday morning, 8th September, 2008

Kevin leaves in a couple of hours for the airport and away on the next trip. Four weeks away and we never look forward to the day of leaving. it`s horrible, like being ripped apart. not a nice feeling at all. The good news is that this is going to be th elast trip this year.

Rob Purdue and Kevin decided over the weekend that we will can the next trip to Asia and push it back into next year. So that`s a bonus for us, disappointing for the people we were going to visit.

anyway, check out the Our Maps tab and you`ll see the itinerary for this trip. The time in the USA this week will be talking about and planning concerning the Ethiopia partnerships. you can check them out on the Bright Hope World website, www.brighthopeworld.com. after that Kevin is in Kenya and Uganda so you could check out all the partnerships in those countries and then there is one in Pakistan, that`s on the website too. while you`re there check out the La Mai coffee and order some, the story is great, so is the coffee. we`ve exported 16 tonnes of coffee to the USA and i`ll be checking that out while there too. the church in Dallas in distributing and using it. we`re also looking at opportunities to get coffee from Ethiopia a well.

you`ll see from the itinerary that almost half the time away is going to be in Uganda. We have great partners there and they are spread in different places, so it`s going to take some time to get around them. Kevin also wants a bit of time to write things up as he goes otherwise everything blurs together and it`s easy to forget things.

the last 3 weeks have flown past. there has been a lot of preparation required for the time in Dallas as we have a couple of big deals to try and land for the guys there. but it`s been fantastic to have Jared and Ruth home and staying with us. Ruth is growing by the day and is only five and a half weeks away from the birth date. We spent yesterday afternoon with Sara sorting out menu things at the venue for her wedding, that`s less than 3 months away now so it`s all winding up. awesome, all very exciting.

the worst part of this trip is that K has to spend a whole day in Amsterdam, a whole day in Dubai and a whole day in Kuala Lumpur. in all cases he arrives early in the morning and leaves late in the evening. when you go to funny places you don`t have the luxury of lots of flight to choose from. so he`ll be doing a bit of sight seeing or sleeping in the airports for the day!

so friends, 30 sleeps till Kevin is back in NZ again. looking forward to that already! Helen will be busy around the place and has a part time job at a local pre school, that will be fun for her and a good opportunity to meet local people. we`re sure looking forward to travelling together again next year and to not having these dreaded goodbyes all the time.

look forward to sharing the next 4 weeks with you all

Helen and Kevin 


in Amsterdam and heading for Kenya

2008-09-13

hi there guys

it`s Saturday evening here in Amsterdam. i`ve been here in the airport for 12 hours already so it`s getting a little tiresome! spent the day sleeping and reading and doin a few e-mails. been so tired and hardly slept since leaving NZ.

hd a great time in the US with our friends at Chase Oaks church. i think you have to be slightly crazy to be on the staff there, unless they just get the crazy ones to talk to me! no, they`re great and it was nice to spend time with people so passionate about the lost and the poor as the whole leadership team is. i just got out of Texas before Hurricane Ike struck. much later and the airport would have been affected. while here it was the anniversary of 9/ 11 so the TVs were full of those two events.

but great to be able to work with the guys there on the Ethiopia partnership. there are some good things happening. we`re working on the possibility of developing a large school to generate income o fund the ongoing development. so lots of talking and plotting.

now it`s off to Africa. vlue your prayers on this one. a couple of tricky situations to deal with when i get to Uganda. but i`ll talk about that next t time i contact you. am missing Helen terribly, i just hate being away but not a lot of options this time unfortunately.

just thought i`d drop you all a note while i have access to internet.

blessings to you all

Kevin and Helen (who has just watched the All Blacks beat the Wallabies and the Tri Nations and the Bledisloe.......


Nairobi and Tala

2008-09-18

Hi there from Nairobi,

last day here and the last few days have been great. Got to Nairobi early on Sunday morning and went to where Jude Goatley lives. Jude has worked with us in Bright Hope for many years based in Africa. We’ve had more adventures that you could poke a stick at. But, she’s doing a year of study in Nairobi and loves it. So we chatted for most of the morning about how things were going for her and then about some of the partnerships. She has recently returned from a trip to many of our Ugandan partnerships so it was catch-up time. I discovered there that I had lost my main credit card so had to search everything twice to see if I’d just left it in a pocket or something, no, couldn’t find it.

I was pretty tired as I’d flown from Amsterdam overnight and hadn’t slept much. The week of moving in this direction around the world had not allowed the old body to catch up. Anyway, best thing was to stay awake until night time. Around midday another old friend flew into Nairobi, Ken Rout, with whom I’ve shared even more adventures in Africa. After lunch we shot off to the place we were staying, a nice apartment in a nice part of Nairobi. So we chatted about the partnerships we were working on and caught up on the stuff we would do while together.


lovely kids and rotten roads

2008-09-23

Hey there

It’s Sunday morning the 21st September. I’ve just finished breakfast in Lira in the North of Uganda, the sun is shining, the trees are a brilliant green, washed clean by the rain last night. The congregation of a church is singing in African style somewhere not to far away. It makes it seem unreal, the horrors these people have faced in the last few years at the hands of the LRA. It’s hard to forget the atrocities when playing with the kids last night in the house into which we have been able to rescue 28 of them from the horror. The stories are too graphic to publish though if you go to the BHW website you will read some of it, check out project number UGA03a.

They are such beautiful children who laugh and giggle infectiously whenever here is even the hint of a joke or something slightly funny. Buried deep in many of their minds are the atrocities of abduction, rape, torture and death. Now they are experiencing security and stability and it shows in their faces.

I left Nairobi on Thursday after spending the day with Jude Goatley. Ken Rout left early in the morning and headed off to Ghana. I met with a new partner and then Jude and I talked about some plans and the partners I was about to visit. She had just been to see some of them so it was important to get on the same page, especially about the finances. In one of them there is a bit of work to be done in the area of leadership, so there will be some interesting discussions there when I arrive.

Then off to Entebbe and Kampala. It’s much warmer in Uganda than Nairobi. Got to the hotel and slept well. Had the next day off really, didn’t hardly open the computer apart from a couple of hours in a cyber cafe. Travelled there and back on the back of a boda boda, motorbike with a lunatic for a driver! After the cafe I came back to the headquarters of the Watoto Children’s ministry. Some of you may have heard them singing, they have just been or are still in New Zealand. Met with a kiwi girl there, Desiree Stewart; she’s a nurse helping to set up some great stuff with the kids and the families. Anyway, Desiree’s mum gave me some stuff to take to her so was able to deliver it. We had lunch together; it was great to about her journey and the things she was doing there. It’s great to see young people so passionate about following Jesus and serving the poor.

Kind of just laxed out in the afternoon. Did a few phone calls to setup the rest of my time here in Uganda. In the evening Anna came in from Mbale. She’s the liaison person for this partnership in visiting right now. We stayed the night and overnight it started raining, not a good thing when travelling!! Early next morning after breakfast we braved the rain and the rip-off taxi driver to get the bus to Lira. We waited an hour before leaving and finally left at 10. It was pretty uncomfortable I have to say, the seats were pretty small and were not made to fit. Sat next to an older guy whose wife had died the night before and he was going home to organise the funeral, been married 49 years.

After 6 hours we got to Lira. Uganda is such a beautiful country, the beauty covers so much evil I’m afraid. We arrived at the chaotic bus stop and found a taxi to take us to the house where the kids live. It was lovely to see them after being involved with them for 4 years. Some of our other personnel have been here, first time for me. Just lovely kids and they all came in to shake hands, the girls going down on their knees to do that. They sang a song and we prayed together. They told me that they pray for Bright Hope every day and thank God for us. They call me father cause I was the one who rescued them, well at least confirmed that we should do this project. It would be nice for Helen to have been here to share the moment. we might have taken a few home with us though! This kind of incident makes all the hassles worthwhile at a personal level. It started raining in the evening and at 9 o’clock we had to walk the 300 metres to the little hotel where I am staying; there is no room in the house at the moment. I fell flat on my face in the mud as we stumbled along the so called road so arrived back at the hotel filthy.

Anyway, Sunday has dawned fine, warm and cloudy; I fear another wet afternoon and walk home in the dark tonight! Off to spend the day with the kids, telling them stories and sharing with them and finalising the shape of this partnership for the next year. I saw CNN news this morning at breakfast, 60 people killed in a bomb explosion in Islamabad, thinking I’ll be there in 10 days. Might be safer to stay here and walk home in the rain at night

The Acholi people group, Northern Uganda, these are the ones who have most greatly suffered at the hands of the LRA. Thousands of their people were hurt, disfigured, butchered and kidnapped by the lunatic Kony and his criminal henchmen. These kids are in this project because of him. In the morning I spent some time talking to the kids and encouraging them. Then around 1 pm a strange noise arrived at the gate and team of Acholi dancers burst in upon us. They are from an existing Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp; they cannot go home to their villages. There are too many ghosts, memories and horrors out there. So they have stayed in town, it’s better than the option of going home. They sang traditional songs and danced like I have rarely seen. Between the energy sapping dances and songs some of them told their stories. Some of the songs were about the LRA and the horrors, in one they plead with the government to send a helicopter to chase the criminals and get them. But the disappointment comes after the song when they explain the government did nothing. The guy has still not been brought to justice; he’s as much a terrorist as Osama bin Laden.

One woman had her husband hacked to pieces in front of her and put into a sack. One young guy showed me the seeping bullet wound from 8 years previous. How do you deal with that stuff? How do you ever live a normal life again when this is your experience? These songs are therapy for them, one of the women dancers will need some other sort of therapy after the dancing I saw! It seemed like each of her body parts could act independently of each other!! Amazing stuff and pretty scary, I reckon these guys would be great responding to a haka some time!

At around 4:30 we sat down for lunch! It’s really funny in Africa. No-one really tells you what is going to happen. I’ve found out that lunch was late because they were expecting the mayor but there was something else on in town so he was delayed. There is to be a programme starting at 1:00 pm, it’s now 5:00 and there is little sign of the programme! Never mind, one comes prepared to fill in time when one needs too. I’ve talked to a few people and have put a whole bunch of photos into the computer and tagged them and now I’m updating the blog. I want to have it all written up so when I get back to Kampala I can send it straight off. Who know what time I’ll get back to Kampala?

(the programme staarted at 5:15 and finished at7:00 after a speech from everyone and items galore! so much for the strategy meeting we were going to have!)

It’s now Tuesday evening and the days have flown. Got back to Kampala after a brute of a trip, the road was not bad apart from about 20 kms of road works with speed bumps every 50 metres. I was in the back of the bus as the centre seat was the only one with any leg room. We hit these speed bumps and all 7 of us in the back seat were launched into the stratosphere only to land as the bus hit the next bump!!! We are all lucky we didn’t lose our back teeth. The driver obviously had strange parents; normal people do not raise kids like that! We got back at 6:00 to hit the “jam.” Kampala stops from about 5:30 – 7:30. You Aucklanders think you have it bad!!!

Managed to talk to Helen last night so that was cool. Slept well and then spent the day at a lakeside village called Katosi. We have been sponsoring a feeding programme in a school hostel where most of them are orphans and vulnerable kids. We also assist the payment of teacher’s wages. It was lovely to see the kids looking so well and healthy. The US office of Bright Hope provided mozzie nets and this has had a great impact. The number of kids going to the clinic has dropped from 10 per day to around 2 and now hardly any malaria. Cool eh. I’ll let you know when this partnership is updated on the web and you can check it out. I’ve put a couple of pix up too for you to check out.

So now I’m back in Kampala, hit the jam again! Spent 3 ½ hours on bad roads today so that’s an improvement. Tomorrow I’m off to Jinja, 100 kms up the road and the source of the Nile River, one of the two Nile Rivers. Hopefully Helen will ring again tonight. Sure missing the family.

Love to you all

Kevin


about to leave Uganda

2008-09-30

I spent Wednesday travelling to Jinja and interviewing a very interesting couple. Thomas and Joyce are refugees from Sudan and have found themselves leading a church in the town of Jinja. Most of them are very poor people, misfits and refugees and people who are in transition, looking for employment or schooling, so they are very poor. The weekly offering is about 4,000 Uganda shillings, or 3 dollars. You can’t survive as a pastor with an offering that size. Their real problem is that they have a real desire to serve God in Sudan. So they head off there frequently and this has placed real pressure on their finances. So, they go and teach and train and have actually started a school. Of course they don’t have a great base of support to develop this thing. Thomas is the kind of guy who is an incorrigible visionary, while he’s doing one thing he’s thinking of the next. So I had to spend a bit of time trying sort out a realistic strategy. They are so inspiring and full of faith. Check out SUD01 on the Bright Hope World website?

The local Muslim dude is crying out at the moment. It’s the last couple of days of Ramadan and the fast for the day has ended. Africa is such an interesting place. This time last night I was sitting out in the dark watching the blazing Milky Way above screaming out the glory of God. You’ve got to see the night sky in Africa at least once in your life.

Anyway, caught another bus early on Thursday from Jinja to Busia; Busia is a dirty border town between Kenya and Uganda. You can buy almost anything here, booze, sex, chinese knock offs and if you really want one, a child will cost you about $US15!! Life is dirt cheap. Met a couple of guys there for a meeting and spent the night in the Rand Hotel. It’s actually not that grand, but it’s got clean sheets. No water, no power, but clean sheets. Next morning got a motor bike out to the village, Bihoya. it had been raining so i had to walk some of the way, it waas that or another experience wiht the stick mud of Africa. Spent the two and a half days there in meetings. We have some stuff to sort out in this place. Spent the time yakking with the key people sorting out stuff and then Sunday morning I had to preach to the church. So now I’m back at the Rand hotel and there are clean sheets and the power is on. Awesome.

Tomorrow morning I have to get up at 5:30 to try and catch a bus back to Kampala. So it could be a pretty long day though it’s not actually that far, but you never know, Africa can surprise you.

I’ve got to say, Uganda is probably the most difficult place I have ever had to try and do partnership. People think so differently here, different even from other parts of Africa. There is just so much fear around, everyone is so jealous of everyone else. People are murdered at a whim and the local communities will not surrender them to the police. A guy like Kony murders thousands of innocent children and the government tries to broker a treaty with him! Truth is so far down the list of what’s important. Pastors are often arrogant fools who buy large cars and houses and who are constantly lampooned in the press for their lack of integrity. It’s such a strange place. I’m just starting to understand how different it is. It would be really easy to just pull out of here and move on to somewhere else, it’s just so, so different. The gaps in understanding and expectations are so wide I’m not sure I have the energy to continue it. So, there’s a bit for us to consider.

It’s now late on Monday evening, the eve of Eid on the Moslem calendar. It’s a holiday tomorrow so the internet should be a little faster than today. There is a huge celebration going on just over the fence, I feel it’s going to be a late night. I started this morning at 5:30, walking up the 2 km road to the border to catch a bus. Surprise,  about 500 metres up the road a 4WD stopped in the dark and the driver asked if I wanted a ride to Kampala, of course, what a stupid question. So I got to Kampala in just over 3 hours, it could have been a couple of hours more on a bus, especially with the wait for a bus to come etc. It took another hour to cross the city because of the traffic jam, but it’s not bad. Went to the internet cafe and found 15mb to download! 5 hours later I emerged and headed off to the hotel.

Helen rang this evening it was great to chat for a few minutes before her time ran out. Only 9 sleeps till I’m home. yay. Still a bit of work to do though. A lot of writing to do in the next few hours before I leave here Wed afternoon for Dubai and Pakistan. I`ve got a day with friends in Dubai, some of you will know Walter and GIllian Raymond from Chch. An update about them next time.

So, enjoy the pix I’ve put in here, a few shots of some of the friends I made on the trip to Katosi and Busia.

Love

Kevin and Helen


heading home, slowly

2008-10-06

Hey there

I’m in Kuala Lumpur airport for 12 hours and am trying to catch up on the backlog of stuff I haven’t written so an update that I’ll finish when I get home to NZ. After leaving Uganda had good flight to Dubai and got through immigration quickly. Our friends Walter and Gillian Raymond said they would look after me for the day which was nice, good to be with some familiar faces. An Indian taxi driver met me and drove to their place in Al Ain, 90 minutes away. It was 3 am by the time we got to bed. Slept in a little and then had  look round Al Ain, it’s an interesting place. Then bck to Dubai and a wander around the Souks (markets for an hour before dinner and back to the airport. They were picking up someone else so that worked out well. thanks Walter and Gillian for a nice interlude.

I arrived in Lahore, Pakistan, from Dubai at 2:25 am. Long queues meant I didn’t get through Immigration until 3:40 and low and behold, no suitcase, lost somewhere between Kampala and Lahore, probably sitting in Dubai. So, I found the people who were waiting for me to assure them that I had arrived and went back in to fill out forms. 30 minutes laterI emerged with all the relevant documentation; and was showered with garlands and flower petals. It looked like I’d just arrived back from the Haj! We drove 30 minutes in a crowded little bus and arrived at the house of Rev. and Mrs. Manzoor Jalal. By now it was after 4:00 and since I had not got into bed until after 3:00 last night in Al Ain, I was pretty tired I have to say. Evidently a whole lot more people had come to meet me but the security only allowed 6 of them to remain! So much for a low key entry!

Got up at around 7:45, though the clock on the wall said 8:45. Checked and updated the time on the computer and it confirmed I was right. A couple of hours later I had a discussion about the real time. The young guy said I was wrong..... oh yea, the government changed to a couple of weeks ago but no one really follows it. So which time do I use? “Don’t worry,” he said!!! OK for you, but you don’t have to be anywhere that matters if you’re an hour late! I have since discovered that it’s the original time that everyone works to. They took my one spare shirt away to wash and we had breakfast. Then father went off to officiate at a wedding that would take an hour. Is that an old hour or a new hour? Anyway, about 15 of their key people came and we spent about 2 hours discussing the opportunities and issues they are facing. They are quite a clear thinking group and don’t want any handouts.

It was a nice day meeting great people. Just around the corner from the Manzoor house , literally 75 metres away is another house with a church in it. Unfortunately I was there for one day and it was the Friday after Eid, so there were no students in. Six days a week from early morning till evening, two shifts of 16 students learn sewing in the upper floor of the house and then Sunday, 80 people meet there for church. So I visited the church where the programme is held and met the key pastor and his family in whose house the church and training operates.

Their names are Almas and Rafaqat Almas, they have 5 lovely children:

·         Sabah 19, a beautiful girl studying for a BA. She wants to be in pastoral ministry like her father

·         Gohar 17, wants to be an engineer. Little chance as only 500 are selected each year from 15,000 applications

·         Madeeha, 15 and a sweet girl wants to be a doctor

·         Zarqar  is 13 a she too wants to be  doctor

·         and Dawood, 6, full of mischief and of course wants to be a policeman

Every one of them would leave Pakistan at the drop of a hat if they had the opportunity.

Poverty is a real and basic problem in the community, especially for Christians who have little access to employment. The Christian young people face criticism and lack of opportunity for education, often because their parents cannot afford to educate them well. If there was no course of training like this the women would be forced in menial, labouring jobs for little pay and they would become very vulnerable. It would be unlikely they would ever get permanent employment.

The project here started in July with 32 students. There is one trainer and she trains both shifts of 16 that come to the course. The students cannot afford to pay fees. 5 of them are from Muslim backgrounds and as the course progresses more and more Muslims will come. It is a great opportunity to speak to and encourage those who are attending; the Christian message is not forced on them.

Saturday, I was ready to go to the bus to Islamabad at 8am, which was the agreement. We were going to ring the airport on the way to see if the bag had arrived. If I didn’t get it here there would be little chance of getting it ever again I reckoned. At 10:30 I was still sitting in the lounge to go, it cannot be that hard for 5 people to organise a taxi! I hope this is not an indication of their capacity to organise something.

The taxi arrived, but, it was involved in an accident on the way and now the police are involved. Despite the pleas of the driver that it was OK, the guys refused him and then had to find another taxi. At 11 we are finally rolling along the way to the bus station and the phone rings..... my bag has arrived. Detour to the airport. It wasn’t too hard to find it, pretty organised really and I had great delight giving it a hug and a kiss when it rolled into my arms!! The guys were pretty amused.

So back we travelled to the bus park. I was expecting to end up in a place a little like the chaos of Kampala and frankly I was not looking forward to the next 6 hours. But, it was as organised as anything in the West, clean toilets in the terminal, clear instructions, and an air-conditioned bus that left exactly on time. The first two hours were pretty uneventful. They take a photo of every passenger in their seat before you leave... what’s all that about. We stopped for refreshment break, KFC and McDs, as well as clean toilets, amazing. Hopped back on the bus and a young Muslim guy beckoned me to come and sit beside him. Soon I was surrounded by 4 young guys all of whom were cousins. They were so funny and we talked and laughed all the next 3 hours to Islamabad. They had been away for a holiday for a week and were going home. We talked about life in Pakistan and New Zealand, we talked about cricket, George Bush (I’m glad I’m a NZer,) the problems with terrorism and the great place that Pakistan is. They wanted to know about Christianity and why Christians were so lose morally. They are very angry about terrorism and the way Muslims and Pakistan is portrayed. The most articulate one said Pakistan is not poor, the people are. There is gold in abundance but because of their location on the map, between India, China, Afghanistan and Iran they spend 75 – 80% of their budget on the military; 3% is spent on education!!!

They work in a family brick making business based up in the city of Hari Pur in the North West Frontier Province on the road to China. It has the most fantastic natural beauty they assured me and I must see it with my wife before I die. The business is run by their fathers and there are 34 cousins working together in the business. In total the company employs about 400 people and all the bricks are made by hand with no machinery. I have a firm invitation to go and stay with them next time in Pakistan. On arrival in Islamabad they gave me big hugs and insisted I come to visit. I introduced them to my friend who was there to meet me in Islamabad and he will go there and visit them some time and we may go and see them one trip too. It was such a funny encounter, I’m glad I came. Thanks Saeed, Taheer, Sultan and Hasham!

I`ll put up a few pix and finish writing the trip in a few days

love

Kevin and Helen

 


home and loving it

2008-10-12

Hi there friends

It`s great to be home in NZ with Helen and the family. For some reason this last trip seemed to take a long time for Kevin, except for the last week. since getting home Kevin hasn`t been feeling that well, just a travel bug we suspect. Went down to Hamilton Sunday to speak at a church that is planning to come to Thailand next year.

This time last week I was still in Islamabad. left on the Monday evening after an interesting few days there. Our friends there, Azam and Barabara are a lovely couple and I enjoyed the stay in their home as well as Barbara`s Biryani`s. She`s a great hostess and cook!

I arrived in Islamabad Saturday at around 6:00 pm after my bus trip with my 4 Moslem mates. The opening of the sewing centre was schduled to start at 6 as well so i suggested we just go straight there. But no, we had to cruise home, have a shower, something to eat and then drive the 27 kms to the site. It must have been close to 8:00 pm by the time we got there. There was a big crowd of people, the local Moslem politician and heaps of ribbons and decorations. We had a few songs, a couple of speeches, I had to speak for 15 minutes and then the ribbon was cut, then of course the obligatory food. If I had to descible my job it would have to include, eating at official functions. It`s one of the major components of the task. so if you want my job, you`ll have to develop a cast iron stomach, an ability to consume large amounts of rice and other carbo-hydrates and an ability to say nice things about sometimes suspect delicacies. But I have to say, I really enjoyed Pakistani food.

We got home around 11:30 that evening and into bed a little after that. Sunday was an interesting day. We went back to the same place as the sewing centre for church at which I preached and then back to Azam and Barbara`s for lunch and anonther lovely meal. It was lovely to meet all the christians there and was amazed at the number of children there are in the church. I worked a bit on reporting in the afternoon and then headed out to a place called Rawat to meet in a small house church. These people are very poor in terms of Pakistan, many of them cannot read and there seems to be a spiritual malaise in the Christian community. They have lost hope of ever escaping poverty and we spent quite a lot of time talking to them about what can be done about that. I shared with them for 45 minutes or so and then we cam home to another lovely meal! On the way we visited some other families in their homes who are wanting to get baptised.

Monday morning we were back at the church and visiting the sewing centre with the students. This project has only been running a few weeks so it was good to see the progress and development. I interviewed some fo the participants and their stories will come up on the Bright Hope World website in the next few days so check them out? We than had a quick drive around Islamabad and Rawalpindi, quite beautiful twin cities and got back home. One needs to remember that this is a dangerous place and Azam pointed out the place where two years ago someone tried to blow up the President and the site, quite close to where they live, where Benazir Bhutto was assasinated in December last year. The day after I left there was another bomb went off in Islamabad.

So, after lunch i did a couple of hours work on the computer while Azam and Barabara went out and on arrival home I was presented with gifts for me, Helen, all the family members including the baby not yet born, they are such kind and generous people. Then off to the airport and a 1 1/2 hour flight to Karachi. I`m told it`s not as nice as where I had been staying and much hotter. Had 90 minutes to book into the flight to Kuala Lumpur and it took all of that. But the plane was late and there were plenty of people on the same flight in the queue behind me so i wasn`t worried. Rang Helen from the departure lounge and got her up at 6:00 am!!!! then the flight to KL which i can`t remember and the 12 hours in the terminal at KL which i can remember!! I was going to head off into the city and do some sight seeing but like in Amsterdam, it was pouring down with rain, though a lot warmer than Amsterdam i`m pretty sure! Spent the day in a lounge there catching up on emails and then on Tuesday evening hit the air again for NZ. Wasn`t feeling that good in KL and the day after getting home was worse. But it seems to have passed now. Slept all the way to Auckland and managed to recognise Helen when I emerged from the scrum in Immigration and Customs!!

So that`s the last trip for 2009. A couple of points we`re grappling with, huge issues more like: 1) the huge decline in Western economies is going to make serving our partners a huge issue in the next few months. We estimate there will be a huge decline in giving. Add to this the drop in the exchange rate of the $NZ against the $US which our partnerships are quoted in, and we are going to have to find 25% more $NZ to fund existing partnerships and 2) the rise in food costs internationaly is really hurting our partners. They all need at least a 50% increase to maintain their existing levels of poverty. Add the two together and you can understand the probelms we are all facing. So if you are the sort of person who prays, then we desperately need your prayer. By "we" I mean us, the Bright Hope World family in NZ and Australia and the partners out there in many places who are on a knife edge.

When Jared and Ruthies baby arrives we`ll be in touch, it`s due on Friday the 17th. So thanks for hanging in ther ewith us on this trip. We are atarting to plan next year and it look like there will be many more exciting adventures coming up.

Love and best regards

Kevin and Helen

p.s. check out the new pix


grandma and grandad

2008-10-23

hey friends,

well great news for us, Jared and Ruth have had a son and his name is Hugo. He seems such a lovely little thing, takes after his grandma! So, i`ve put a couple of pictures here for you to have a look at, he was born on the 22nd and weighed in at 7lb 11oz.

It`s made me think all over again about something i`ve thought about many times. What`s the chance that we are born into a place like New Zealand with so many privileges. I know that all of you reading this are not from NZ, but the support for Jared and Ruth through the birth period was incredible. They ring up the midwife and she comes around, she then goes with them to the birthing place and is there with them the whole time with a number of other trained staff, all the technology is there to support them, then the next day they head off to another place for 3 days where Ruth is coached about all the important things new mothers need to know, there is little or no cost for any of this.... it just goes on and on. I think of some of our friends in other parts of the world and the difficulties they have to deal with when it comes to medical facilities and help when they need it and i am  very thankful.

There are some real concerns that you could pray about in the next few days regarding the work we are doing: 1) there is an election coming up in Zambia and there are some real concerns about one of the candidates especially, we need a good outcome there; 2) the cost of food is going through the roof in many countries still, i just heard this week that one of the ministries we support could not feed thekids this week because food price has risen so much; 3) the weak NZ dollar against the $US means we have to find 25% more NZ dollars to just fund our existing committments let alone increase them. Along with this of course is the fact that many people cannot give the way they were because of the economic pressures in the West. So, if you`re into praying, there is some stuff to pray about.

Next week Rob Purdue and Kevin will be talking about the partnershps and the pressure we are facing so we need wisdom for all that. Kevin is heading down to Nelson for 2 days to meet with some families who are interested to work with us on projects and then 3 days in Christchurch to work on our partnershps. Lots of decisions to make.

The last two weekends since coming back to NZ have seen us in Hamilton talking to a church about partnership and then at our local church camp at which Kevin did three sessions of speaking. So it`s been all go but pretty encouraging.

it`s only 5 weeks until Sara gets married so it`s all go. Lots of fun on that day I`m sure. We`ll keep you up to date on hat one too when it happens.

Thanks for staying in touch and following along the road with us. We really appreciate and love your friendship

Grandma and grandad!!!  (sounds pretty wierd!)


family times

2008-11-23

hi there friends,

an update from us is well overdue, thanks for your patience. it`s been pretty eventful since Kevin got back from the last trip in early October. here`s bit of a summary. a few days after getting home Kevin wasn`t feeling too well and after about 2 weeks of getting worse he was diagnosed with Malaria. it was the serious one, but the good thing is that it could be treated and eradicated. so after week on Quinine and doxycycline the malaria was gone but not all the the tiredness etc. It`s only now he`s feeling back to normal,what ever that is for him.

But life doesn`t stop eh! Jared and and Ruthies little Hugo arrived and is a month old now. He is doing great and is putting a kg every 3 weeks. Sara has been having hen`s nights and kitchen teas, Kevin has a had a couple of teaching sessions in churches.... and because of the malaria had to cancel a trip to nelson and christchurch. Helen has been getting stuff together for the wedding and my mum has come to stay with us for a couple of weeks.

Of course the main event soming up is not Christmas, it`s Sara`s wedding, this weekend, 5 sleeps. i`ll put a few pix on in a couple of weeks, the good news is that Helen has found a dress to wear.Kevin cannot undestand the fuss about the "mother of the bride" but he`s not looking forward to sleeping with a @#+&!"#%!&. oooops, guess who was writing that bit!

it`s been pretty busy at BHW with the end of year stuff going on. this time of the year we have to finalise all the budgets and cash flows for the next 12 months. with all the confusion in the financial sector and the huge shifts in exchange rates, how do you budget! 30 different currencies all moving in different directions to each other and against each other. And prices are rising steeply in developing countries as well. so it`s a hugely difficult exercise. we need all the prayer we can get at the moment.

we`re making plans for travel in 2009 and next time i`m in touch we`ll let you know the details of the first trip. but we have a number of people travelling with us and it`s pretty difficult trying to get it all teed up. Kevin has spent about 2 days last week trying to sort out the itinerary and it`s still not right. We have two families joining our team in teh field in 2009 so that will change our travel a little. Looks like we`ll be doing about 10 weeks mainly in Asia from teh end of March and then in August about 8 weeks in Africa. the other people will pick up the visits to someof our partners. so that will be great, hopefully a little cheaper and easier to manage.

the first trip will see us going through either PNG or the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Bahrain. so it will be an interesting jaunt with amazing people to visit and projects to engage with.

anyway, it`s the silly season eh, at least here in New Zealand. christmas advertising going mad and lots of money being spent on things people don`t need, crazy. we`ll wish you all a Merry Christmas and get back to you before the day.

Love

Kevin and Helen


more family stuff

2008-12-06

hi there friends,

not too many words from us this time but  few pictures for you to check out. It`s pretty busy at this time of the year sorting through the partnerships and trying to plan for next year, especially the travel side of things. looks like we`ll be leaving NZ for about 3 months towards the end of March.

But the last week has been about Sara`s wedding and we`ve put a few pictures here for you to check out. We had an amazing day full of laughter and fun. the weather was beautiful and added to the great day. the service was great and really reflected the personalities and values of Sara and Karl. we were very proud of our beautiful girl. So, enough from us, i`ll let you get to the photos. we couldn`t resist sneaking in a couple of photos of Hugo as well.

Kevin goes to Christchurch and Nelson tomorrow and then it`s back home and into Christmas with some messages to take and people to visit. So it will be fun with all the family around over Christmas.

Wherever you are this Christmas, may you experience the great joy of Jesus` presence.

Kevin and Helen


A new year of opportunity

2009-01-22

hi there friends,

it`s been a while since we were in touch. But it has been the holiday season here in New Zealand! We have been busy during the Christmas / New Year period getting the schedule for 2009 sorted and the trip itineraries organised. Seems like it`s coming together. Check out the itinerary for the first part of the year elsewhere on the blog page?

This year looks like a year of consolidation annd deepening the impact of Bright Hope World partnerships. We have two NZ families joining our team, Jerry and Hayley Field going to Zambia to cover the partnerships there and develop training and micro-enterprise and John and Cisca Vlaming who will be overseeing the development of the large agriculture projects in Zambia, Inida and Nepal. So it`s going to be great to have someone to share the load.

Raising funds and resources is a real issue in the current economic environment. With the drop in value of the NZ against the US$ we have to raise more than 30% more just to keep up with current partnerships, let alone start the more than 30 new partnership opportunities we have on the books just waiting.  So it`s going to be a year of challenge.

This weekend Kevin is going to be in Christchurch for meetings with the BHW team and to speak at a church there, Riccarton Community Church. Then in mid February we both go to Levin for the weekend of the 14th - 15th and if you`re in the Levin area we`re having a meeting to talk about what we`re up to. It`s at Kevin`s mum`s house, 33 Burn Street at 7:00 pm. Be great if you can come. After that we go to The Marlborough Sounds for 12 days of strategic meetings about the future and the partnerships. We`ll have a few people coming to visit us over that time.

Then at the and of March we`re off again to Asia, check out the itinerary. We have a lot of people coming and going on that trip so it`s going to be full on. We are planning two major trips this year, one to Asia and then one to Africa.

So welcome to 2009 and the ongoing journey. We really value your participation in our lives by following along, giving to the work, and to us praying or sending us notes, it`s awesome.

As before we`ll try to keep you up to speed with what`s going on and some of our adventures and introduce you to some of our friends out there.

Love to you and your family

Kevin and Helen


about to go again

2009-03-06

Yesterday we paid for our tickets so it`s all go again. Kevin heads off in 3 weeks and Helen a week later. Check out the map to see what`s happened. We`ve had to cancel the Pakistan bit at the end, mainly to save a bit of money. We were there last year so are trying to get as much value for money as we can. We`ll get to Palstan again next year.

The last few weeks have been a little quieter and it`s given us the opportunity to catch up on the website and get some strategy meetings sorted out. At Bright Hope World we`re getting some internal stuff sorted in an attempt to set up for the future. There are a number of issues we have to deal with, especially the weakness of the NZ dollar and the huge increase in opportunities, they are growing by the day.

Kevin went down to Chch late January and then in mid February headed off to Levin. We had a weekend there, it was great to catch up with our friends. We did a missions meeting on the Saturday evening and then spoke at church Sunday. Then it was off to Wellington on the bus and a 20 minute flight to Blenheim. Rob met us and we spent the next 11 days at Rob`s back in the Marlborough Sounds. We fished, read, talked and ate as we talked through all the partnerships on the current list and then the 35+ new ones. Over two days we had a visit from a huge pod of dolphins, it was great to spend some time out there on the water with them. We then caught the InterIslander to Wellington and the train back to Levin. We spent a couple of nights in Levin and met some friends in Palmerston North on the way to Hastings. After a nice evening we headed back to Auckland last Monday.

It was great to spend some time with friends and catch up. It was also great to get back and see Hugo, my word he is growing up quickly. It`s birthday time in our family. Kevin had his while in the Sounds and Helen`s is next week. So tonight we`re getting together with our kids and their spouses for a birthday celebration. It will be great to spend the time together.

Kevin is speaking at church the next two Sundays and the week between he`ll spend in Christchurch working on partnership issues. He`ll also be finalising the details of this next trip which you will read about over the next few months.  Tomorrow, Sunday, we have Worku Tafete our Ethiopian friends coming with his sisters to spend the day with us. It will be great to see them and spend some time developing the partnership that is going in Ethiopia.

The next trip is going to be interesting. We`re expecting the hight lights to be:

On the 8th May we head off to Ethiopia and a team from the USA arrives. You`ll hear the rest of that later.

So, welcome to the next phase of the journey as we head off. We look forward to the journey and having you along. Be great to hear from you as we go along. I`ll stick a few photos onto the blog as well so you can see what we`ve been up to.

Love to you and yours

Helen and Kevin


underway and cruising

2009-04-03

Back on the road again and feeling hot and tired in Manila. Got to Bangkok OK and into bed about midnight. This trip I thought I would tell you about the beds I / we sleep in on the trip (beds will be rated on the basis of the tried and true Honore scale, a combination of comfort and the amount of sleep induced, it is entirely non-scientific) and some of our travelling companions and friends we meet. The 1st night hardly counts as a night. Bed 1 was a waste of money frankly, nothing wrong with the bed just the quality of sleep that it induced, nil, zero, nyet, zip..... not a zzzzzz to be found; 3/10. At least there was an air conditioner (a/c) as they are called around here. But I guess I also dozed a bit on the plane so this is probably bed 1b, 1a being the seat on the plane!

Bed 2, at the home of our friends Elvin and Fritzie in Morong, just out of Manila. Fell pretty bad really, they are all sleeping on one room with the 3 kids and I’ve got the double bed for myself!!! I’m sitting on it at the moment in the few minutes before I lay my head down to sleep, and ask the Lord my........zzzzz, 6/10

Met two crazy people today, sat with them on the plane from Bangkok to Manila. Jeanette was a 27 year old woman with a 6 year old daughter, married but separated and living in Dubai. She had been out to her home country for 18 months working in a coffee shop. This was her 1st visit home and she was bringing half of Dubai home with her. She was as short as they come and as I sat in my seat I saw her packages coming along the aisle. Hopefully she’ll go to the back of the plane I thought selfishly. But no, she dumped her significant weight of luggage on me and for the next 3 – 4 minutes tried to stow her hand luggage slowing down the boarding. Even the serene, unflappable Thai air hostesses were getting annoyed. Finally she flopped beside me and started to talk, she hardly stopped for the next 135 minutes!!! I, along with half the airplane heard of her problems in Dubai and the way she had been treated so unfairly..... pretty sad really.

I was in the aisle seat, she was beside me and then a Filipino straight out of the Bronx arrived!! He jived and danced all the way up the aisle and R&Bed his way across us and into the window seat. He couldn’t listen to the iPod quietly and sang half the way to Manila. I have since found out about the Filipino love of karaoke and videoke! Anyway, John Harvey was a hoot. He worked in Saudi Arabia in the airport and was coming home for the 1st time in 18 months. He had 20 days leave to see his wife and 7 year old daughter.

Three million or so Filipinos live abroad, most as domestic workers. Many people have had their lives shaped by this phenomenon. Later that day in the office of ECPM, the group we partner with, I interviewed a lovely young woman, Ella. She is working with young people in campus work. Her mother has been living in the USA for 16 years and her parents have seen each other twice in that time. She has never seen normal family life and she thinks it’s one of the reasons she hasn’t married at 33 years of age.  Her mother has stage 4 cancer and cannot afford to come home for treatment so could possibly die in the US, totally away from her family.

Later that day I met with the leaders of ECPM and am very challenged by their vision and strategies.

Bed 3 – two nights in a row in the same bed. Gem hotel and resort, sounds a lot better that it actually was!!! It’s pretty expensive to sleep in Manila. I spent the second day in Manila visiting some of the places that we have been involved with for the last 10 years. It was great to see and hear about the changes occurring in people’s lives. Two of the places are in squatter areas and there is a great deal of transformation occurring. The best way to hear the stories here is to hang out with the people and that’s what I did.

Bed 4 – I was invited by NZ couple to stay 4th night in Manila at their house. After spending the day checking out the history of the Philippines with 5 of the ECPM team, I got into bed well after midnight.  They showed me around the national heart of the Philippines and around the foreshore of Manila. We then bought a whole heap of wet fish and took it into a restaurant to get it cooked. It was fantastic and a lot of fun.  On the way home I was encouraged to try balut. You can check it out on Google. It wasn’t as bad as made out to be, but having it after 11:00 with coffee is probably not a great idea! Bed 4 was definitely a goodie; 9/10!

Bed 5 – back in Bangkok. Went out to a large shopping mall to buy a new international power adaptor, busted the old one. Waiting for friends to arrive from NZ, one has just got in and two more arrive just after midnight.

Tomorrow we’re off to Myanmar so there’s not much chance of being in touch while there. It’s a fascinating, strange place with awesome people and I’ll tell you about some of them when I get back. Catch you all.

Kevin and Helen


Thailand and trouble

2009-04-09

Hey there

we`re sorry about the lack of communication. in Myanmar the computer got damaged so haven`t been able to connect and we don`t have a lot of time when the internet cafes are open to sit in them for hours and do the emails. It`s pretty frustrating not being easily able to keep in touch. if only we had a computer geek on the team!! if you want to send us an e-mail send it to bigkevin@clear.net.nz not kevin@brighthopeworld.com for the time being.

Anyway, now we`re back together the bed ratings might go up a bit!! Don`t have time to do the bed rating update this time but hope to on the next visit to a cafe. We`re heading off into the Thai countryside for the next 2 days so thought we`d send out a quick note and then we`ll do a longer update when we get back to Bangkok after the weekend.

Despite the disturbances in Bangkok we have not been affected and are all quite safe. the full team is here now, 14 of us so it`s logisitical challenge to keep ahead of everyone, especially when we have such difficult people!!! Joke, we`re doing well.

so dear friends, if you get  chance to pray please ask that we`ll find someone who can fix our computer. It will be a miracle as the next week here is Songkran and everyone shuts up shop. Also, it`s Easter in NZ so i can`t call anyone for advice.

Anyway. Love to you all and thanks for the notes on the blog and your prayers.

Helen and Kevin


Northern Thailand and coffee

2009-04-12

It’s Easter Saturday morning, about 6:30 and the sun is just about to burst above the clouds. It poured with rain last night after a spectacular thunderstorm. We’re in Northern Thailand. If you check the map we’re Southeast of Chiang Mai well towards the Myanmar border. We spent yesterday chasing coffee. You might or might not know about La Mai coffee, if not check it out and buy some on the BHW website, www.brighthopeworld.com ? Anyway, we visited two of the groups of people who grow the coffee we purchase and sell as La Mai. It was fascinating to meet them and hear and see the process. We had a couple do meals in the villages and then slept the night in a big room together with mattresses on the floor, the 14 of us were actually in a couple of rooms.

I have to tell you that half of the team snores, some talk in their sleep and they are all mad. Really! I have to be careful cause some of them read this! Last night before sleep we sat outside and as the moon rose we read the Easter story and worshipped the Lord together in this Buddhist land, awesome.  It was the strangest places some of the team had ever spent Good Friday. The bed rating for last night, the mattress was pretty comfortable but the other people in the room made sleep a difficult issue so it will come in pretty low! Later.

A bit of a recap of the last few days. Bed 5 was in the same hotel as bed 1b but as the difference is that I’m over jet lag so the rating rises sharply to 7/10. It was Friday night and I watched a game of super 14 Rugby on TV before going to sleep.

My@nmar (this is intentionally written this way to not draw attention to the country we were visiting) was really interesting. Great people passionate about what they are doing. They have lots of ideas so we did a LOT of listening and some talking.  They live in a country where there is little opportunity and where few people dream. Because of this they tend to struggle with process or the ability to capture their vision. Their training is quite low, but their ability (capacity) is very strong. So we have something to work with.  We went to church in the city, full of young people. We were at the Chin language service with over 100 people. Later they had a Burmese service and then an English one in the morning. We spent most of the afternoon and evening interviewing a number of people who are establishing churches in very difficult places. We heard from M V, a lovely young woman 8 months pregnant. She and her husband live in a village on the edge of Yangon and now there are many new believers. They are leaving the old ways of spiritual and physical poverty and their lives are transformed. We then talked to Joshua who came 10 hours overnight in a bus to visit us. He lives right in the middle of the delta where hurricane Nargis struck. The stories of loss, death, tragedy and destruction are heart wrenching. Less than a year after the event and the disaster continues.  The figures are hard to believe really, some say as many as a million people died there, the world is silent, the West has lost interest, even the attention span of the Western church is now determined by Hollywood, not God. The church in that place is growing steadily and Nargis brought many people to the Lord. The church is trying to rebuild many houses for people who lost everything.  A new house costs around $US400 and we were able to leave some funds to build a couple more.

Bed 6  was in room 106 in the Hotel K Paradise, I’ll have to give it an 8/10 spread across the 3 nights. You have to be careful discussing Christianity in My@nmar, the local guys are very wary of people overhearing conversations.

Monday we went to a village about an hour out of Yangon to visit a Bible school. We talked to the faculty about their dream for supporting a whole bunch of Christian activists to move out into the communities. They have few resources so we were trying to formulate a plan. More listening, more talking, more thinking and discussion with them and in the team. We also met a couple of people we have been communicating with for the past year. Samuel and his wife have more than 40 vulnerable children to look after in their home. a few weeks ago the government said that all orphanages / hostels had to close down and the children were to go back to their home villages!!! Hundreds, thousands of children have been abandoned. The government wants to stop the Christian investment in children. This is a sinister place, but there are a lot of good people trying to make a difference in impossible circumstances.

Tuesday morning, more meetings and we’re trying to understand the best way to support the growth of the work here. There are no easy solutions or magic bullets so it will take some time. We left Myanmar through the new international airport in Yangon, pretty impressive really.

Bed 7 back in Bangkok, I’ll have to give this on 10/10. Will there be another like this on the whole trip. You’ve guessed it, Helen arrived with 8 other people and now our team has jumped from 4 to 12. Don’t tell Helen but, to be consistent the rating should really only be around 6/10. Reasons, she tossed and turned all night, the air conditioning was too cold and we didn’t get to bed till well after midnight. So to be fair, 5/10 is really the truth.

We spent Wednesday in Bangkok with our friend and partner Lorraine Dierck and Prasert. They are amazing people with a large vision for Thailand. First we heard an overview of the work and the issues they face. We heard of the sex trade and the need for both ambulances at the bottom of the cliff and fences at the top of the cliff. We were disturbed to hear some of the stats and that in 21st century there are thousands of little girls every year sold / bought / traded / sent to Bangkok under false pretences and who become enslaved in the ‘sex trade.’ 60% of the men coming to Bangkok come for this reason, but this is less that 10% of the issue.

We then went to visit The Good News Team, one of our long term partners. They are a group of young Thai people who run a Bible Correspondence programme with 110,000 children on it. After lunch with them we went into the city to the red light area where Rahab ministry operates from. They try to help the girls who are caught in the poverty and degradation of bar girls and prostitutes. Over 800 have been set free over the years. Awesome to see the work, shocked to see the scene in Patpong, appalled to see the perverts roaming the streets with no shame and embarrassed to be middle aged white male in this place. Thank you God for the people who are trying to stop this blight on the planet.

Back to the Jumbotel for another sleep in bed 7 and a slight improvement, tonight 7/10. We were up early on Thursday morning to get a bus to the airport. We had a good flight to Chiang Mai about an hour north of Bangkok. A bit of confusion about the arrival destination, our contacts were waiting in international , we were in domestic. But we found them and it was off to the Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP) to check out the source of La Mai coffee. These are the people who are trying to provide Thai coffee growers with some long term certainty for their coffee growing. We heard the story from Boonrat and Somsak two of the local leaders. It’s really interesting what they are doing there to try to bring some development to the local, tribal villages high in the mountains. We had lunch at the coffee shop they are developing to sell more coffee in Thailand. It was pretty good to be fair. The ITDP people are pretty helpful and keen to help us understand the process of producing coffee. That was our mission over the next few days.

That night we slept at the Riverside Guest House near the centre of Chiang Mai. We wandered into the markets and had a beautiful, cheap Thai meal. Bed 8 was great, around 7/10 I reckon.

Next morning was Good Friday and it involved a long ride in 3 4WD vehicles. We left at 8:30 and headed out of Chiang Mai to the South West. The road was good for the first 9 minutes and then is deteriorated severely for the next 45 minutes. We were climbing mountains on very steep gradients with little confidence that that driver was able to find the jumble of gears on our vehicle. We finally arrived at the village of Som Poi where the local Karen tribesman explained how they grow coffee and the process of production. We all sat on the floor and had lunch of local food and laxed out a little. We inspected the clinic that Starbucks had built, we buy as much coffee as they do from this group, and then spent the next 3 hours in terror as the continued to meander through very steep mountains an hills. This is rough country and the home of thousands of Karen and Hmong tribes people.

We arrived at the final village for the day about 5:00 pm as the sun was setting and as a huge thunderstorm was about to arrive. This grower told us about his growing and the tourist business he has set up explaining the coffee growing to tourists. He grows, processes and make coffee in his little place, it was very nice coffee. After a nice local meal and surviving the thunderstorm and the short drive down the hill we found ourselves sleeping in bed 9, with the rest of the team, but nice mattresses on the floor. This instalment ends with a bed rating of 3/10 though if we included novelty factors it would be up there!

Tomorrow we head back to Chiang Mai for a couple of days and then back to Bangkok. Need your prayers, lots of dangerous roads still to traverse and situations to deal with. We’re keeping well but tired every night.

Helen and Kevin


safe in Bangkok!

2009-04-14

Monday morning and we’re having breakfast at the Riverside Guest House.   A large parade is forming outside the hotel with many beautiful girls all being made up on the side of the street. There they go on their new pink bikes behind a portable shrine. It’s the 3 days of Song Kran, like New Year here and today millions of litres of water will be thrown at vehicles and people. Most of the team has already experienced it over the last two days as we’ve driven around.Saturday almost got away from us. We headed up to the village from our group sleeping arrangements and had breakfast and coffee. Then it was back to Chiang Mai along pretty good roads for the most, but quite steep. We stopped part way and some people rode an elephant while the others watched. It’s mid 30C (93+F) degrees so pretty warm, last night it was cooler so much more pleasant. The trouble started part way back to Chiang Mai. One of our drivers didn’t understand the relationship between the clutch and the gears so as we entered Chiang Mai the clutch was obviously under great stress. We finally lost it completely at a set of light and after pushing the vehicle through the lights at the next green, we sat on the side of the road for 90 minutes while a solution was arrived at.We piled in to the alternative vehicle and went to the coffee processing plant where La Mai coffee is bagged for export. They showed us and we asked questions and then it was back to the Riverside Guest House arriving in the middle of a huge thunderstorm. It was good to get a clearer understanding of the situation here with the coffee production and the capacity of ITDP to supply.Bed 10 was two nights in room 110 of the Riverside guesthouse again. The first night would rate around 6/10 but the second, best sleep on the trip so far – 9/10!

Sunday morning, Easter Sunday. We arose at 5:30 and were on the road to Ngao, 2 ½ hours away by minibus. We had a good one with a good driver. We got there around 9:30 and had a snack of fruit before church started. We met the people who run the church and the little hostel there for 20 kids. A missionary guy who has lived here for almost 50 years was our interpreter. We are looking at this as a possible partnership opportunity. It was good to see it after hearing about it from Kevin White and Emma Stokes. The Headspace team have been here for the last 3 years and it was good to hear about their influence and see signs of their visits around the place. Then back to Chiang Mai. The 2 ½ hour trip should have seen us back to the hotel by 6:30 at the latest. It was 8:30 before we arrived, having had to detour around protestors. So it’s a slow start to the day today, Monday, everyone is tired. But at least it’s a quieter day today with just a couple of meetings with people. The news out of Bangkok is not good though and we’re not quite sure what we’re heading back into.

We`re back in Bangkok. No hassles with the rioters thought there are a few army personnel around the area. Monday night we interviewed the man who oversees the Ngao hostel so that was nice. He came to our hotel woth us from the airport. Then into bed at the Jumbotel, room 321. Good sleep, 8/10 in bed 11. However, the airconditioning broke down next morning and we have been shifted to room 407.

The bad news is that we have been stuck in the hotel pretty much all day cause of the situation, but tomorrow we`ll go out again and visit a couple of places. The really good news is that my computer is working again thanks to one of our team members, Geoff.

Before we went to the airport at Chiang mai to fly to Bangkok yesterday, we visited Peter and Annette Hill. They are NZers pastoring an International Church here in Chiang Mai. Been here just over a year. Really interesting to hear of their work and theri perspective. Chiang Mai is a nice place if you`re visitor, but just below the facade is a terrible place of corruption, violence, abuse and child sex. It was really discturbing to be reminded about it again. It breaks your heart to hear of such terrible things and makes us even more determined to help a few who are caught up in it.

Thanks for being on the trip with us. We`ve put up a few pictures so you can see some of the people and places.


more beds, pigs and fires in Delhi

2009-04-22

After being without the internet for 6 days it’s a real treat to be talking to you again. this is a bit longer as we’re been out of touch for a while. So here’s the latest update, it will be a few days till we are able to connect again after returning from Kathmandu, we head off there tomorrow. Enjoy!Thursday 16th, we’re sitting in the airport at Bangkok about to fly out to Kolkata. We’ve survived the riots in Chiang Mai and Bangkok and today fly into the elections in India. Might be out of the frying pan... but I ’m sure we’ll be OK.We’ve had a couple more beds in Bangkok. Our first night back there saw us flying into a difficult situation and warnings that we shouldn’t go out onto the streets. But it was OK and the troops on the street were very friendly. The 1st room at the Jumbotel was pretty grotty and the air conditioner broke down, we actually slept OK in room 321 and I’ll have to give it a 7/10. We were shifted to room 407 and it was much nicer for our day in the hotel, it was good to catch up so bed 13 was great and we slept well, 8/10. Last night was bed 14 at the Great Residence Hotel. We decided to shift to nearer the airport in case there were troubles the day we were due to leave. Again slept well, the ratings are pretty boring at the moment, 8/10.The real events have been occurring on the streets but we’ve been spared from that. We have heard some awesome stories of what is happening here in Thailand. On Monday night we hear from Supong about the number of programmes they have operating caring for the elderly, running hostels and the drug rehabilitation centres. We are looking at the options to start working with the Kokkos Foundation in their attempts to care for people. We really like their strategy to care for kids and to provide some sort of care for the vulnerable. We spent the day in the hotel and in the evening talked to a young guy who is working with M0s1em people here. It’s an undercover work and we can’t show any photos. A lot of the work is web based answering questions from Thai people brought up in that faith. Interesting stuff and a real challenge to our thinking.Then yesterday we spent the morning with our friend Prasert. She is running kids programmes in the suburbs of Bangkok and hoping that they will become churches. There are some huge challenges in Thailand in presenting the Christian message. Thai people do not accept it easily. To be Thai is to be Buddhist, that’s the mantra they are taught.  So there are many good reasons why they won’t listen, it’s another reason why few Thai people become Christians and most of the growth here is among tribal people. There are some discussions coming up about the best means to use to communicate the Good News to Thai. We met some of the kids Prasert works with, it was great to hear stories of changed lives.Last night we ate at a roadside stall not far from the hotel. The food was average and very slow to come. 14 people turned up and ordered and they were stretched beyond capacity! Helen went out to the kitchen and they cooked it all on one gas burner. We said goodbye to 4 of our team members this morning, they are spending the day in Bangkok while we overnight in Kolkata. So, I’ll sign off here as we’re going to the gate and I’ll sign in again sometime later. Bed 15 will be in the YWCA in Kolkata. It was just over 2 hours through to Kolkata and we got there with no problems. Helen went out with the rest of the team to visit Freeset. It’s a Baptist project from NZ rescuing women from the streets, training them and giving them jobs. They make jute bags and other products and send them out of the country. At the moment there are around 150 women and they make 1,000 bags per day. They heard the story of one of the women and the huge changes that have come into her life. They all came away deeply moved by the experience. It’s a reminder that there are huge numbers of women and children being abused and enslaved every day in places like Kolkata. We applaud the ministry of Freeset.Kevin spent the afternoon changing money, confirming tickets for the travel to Dimapur and then writing up some reports while the team was away. He hasn’t had much time for that sort of thing so it was great to be able to rip a few pages out of the notebook.We had a lovely meal that night just along the road and at about 11:30 the stomach cramps began. And so followed a night of sitting on the loo and filling up the bucket. The bed was pretty hard and with the other distractions this night will go down pretty low on the ratings. I can only give bed 15 2/10.The next morning 3 of us headed off to the domestic terminal to fly to Nagaland. After a few hassles we got into the air and arrived over in Dimapur. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the training farm listening to some of the stories of the last year and seeing the developments. It’s pretty impressive I have to say and the pigs are amazing. You’ll get to see the write up on the BHW website some time soon.We spent the night in the Saramati Hotel in Dimapur. One of the board members of BHNagaland is the manager of the State owned hotel chain so we get free accommodation while here. Before bed we had dinner with the leaders of Nagaland Missions Movement and heard the story of the doctor BHW supports. He runs clinics in rural areas. For 2 years he is retraining and the plans are to set up a lot more of these medical workers in rural parts of India where there is great poverty and deprivation.The rating for bed 16 after sleep one would have to be around 7/10, not too bad really after last night’s events. Today we have a board meeting, Kevin is on the board of Bright Hope Nagaland reviewing the last year and making plans for the next.Wed 22nd, the last few days have flown by quickly. We survived the board meeting Saturday morning. Actually it was over pretty quickly really. The guys here are onto it and the work is developing really well, the number of pigs is now over 100, they have been running training seminars at the farm and at other places and encouraging the churches here to be much more practical in their teaching. Their question is this, the gospel message has been here for much more than 100 years, how come there are so many poor people around. There is a growing awareness that there are some deficits in understanding about the impact of the good news in peoples’ lives. It’s hard to understand the importance of pork here. You haven’t eaten if you’ve had no pork. Some people keep lumps of shrivelled pork in their houses as mementos of esteem from others. It’s everywhere and the training of people to better look after their pigs and to get access to pigs is the basis of this programme. There are plans to eventually expand into Myanmar and China with this programme.So we survived the board meeting and the other 7 members of the team arrived after a full time in Kolkata. We shot up to the farm again for another feast in the evening at Subong and Narola’s place. Next day was Sunday so we headed off to church at Sangtamtilla village where Kevin preached by interpretation. In this village a new Self Help group has bend established and after church we met with them. It’s too early yet to gauge the impact of this but all the members were there and were very thankful for the hand up. 19 have been given female piglets and 1 a male. Each gives back two piglets from the 1st litter to the programme when they are 60 days old. The guy with the male charges for the services of his boar to the partners and charges a higher price to other villagers. This is enough to make most of these people self sufficient. They have to grow food for the pigs a well and this stimulates a whole heap of benefits. They start growing more for themselves for example. Other villages grow for them and get some income. Many have access to land but don’t use it.We then went to one of the board member’s houses for late, light lunch and then back to the farm for an official welcome and lots of other guests. They are well connected these guys. The govt minister for health, water and engineering was there along with other important people. Then the feast, one of the fatteners was slaughtered and we ate all sorts of bits of pigs we’ve never eaten before! Early next morning we headed off to Kohima for a bit a tourist day. Helen stayed back and caught up with some stuff as she has done that trip before. We saw the huge cemetery where one of the bloodiest battles of WW II was fought. Over 2,000 young British boys are buried there.Tuesday we visited a Bible school partner of Bright Hope Nagaland. One of the team members spoke to the 150 students then we had breakfast, a couple of hours time out and then back to the farm for lunch before heading off to the airport, 3 searches of the luggage and two flights to land in Delhi. Bed ratings in bed 16 would probably average around 7/10 for Kevin but Helen a lot lower. Mind you the way she sleeps or doesn’t sleep would drop most bed ratings pretty low.Two more team members arrived from Australia and we got to Delhi Bible Institute at around midnight. It was 33 degrees C at midnight and forecast for around 40 for the rest of the week. At 2:00 am the air conditioner stopped and we sweltered through the rest of the night not getting much sleep. We found out in the morning why the power went off, the switch box of Delhi Bible Institute burned out and almost caught the whole campus alight. They fought it for a long time to bring it under control, the only thing that saved the building was the fact it is concrete. So the plans for the day are a little adjusted with now no internet access for a while at least. Bed 17 will have to rate pretty low, like 2/10 probably, shame, it was shaping up so well for a while. But we have another night here so it may redeem itself on night 2. 


tigers, rhinos and interesting people

2009-04-29

It’s Wednesday, I think, hard to keep up really, each day blurs into the next. We’re in Delhi having a day out sort of while the rest of the team has gone off to the Taj Mahal for a day trip. But back to the last few days.

Night two in bed 17 did improve the rating to around 6/10. We slept well last night, Wednesday 22nd, mainly due to the lack of sleep the night before I guess. During the day we spent a lot of time listening to our partners from DBI. First Isaac Shaw shared the history and broad sweeps of the work. Then Gloria Shaw shared about the relief and development department which are involved in. It was good to hear what is happening with that and look forward to seeing it all next week when we return to Delhi. Then at the end of the afternoon we interviewed 3 church planters who had travelled up to 10 ½ hours to tell us their stories. Amazing stories they were too. Stories about rescue from the poverty of being a Dalit (lowest caste) and now with BA’s, tutoring children, leading churches, setting up sewing and computer classes and a whole lot more. The "more" includes persecution, poverty, loneliness and really hard graft.

The 3 men were all very different in personality and gifting but come from the low caste and have left it all behind. One was a Buddhist priest and another was a Hindu acolyte: now serving the living God and totally committed to the cause of transformation of individuals and communities. It was very inspiring and humbling to be in the same room with these guys. 

Now I’m sitting on bed 18 in Kathmandu. We got here early afternoon and dropped the team off at the hotel. We then went to the home of our partner Niranjan. We then had a briefing from him about the situation and the vision for the work here. Again it is very inspiring to hear this guy tell the story of changed lives and radically transformed people. Tomorrow we head off to Nawal Parasi and an interesting couple of days which you will hear about soon. My head is about to hit the very hard pillow on bed 18 so I’ll put this computer away and cuddle up to the sleepy woman beside me, she is trying to finish a Sudoku puzzle but I don’t think there will be many more squares filled in tonight by the look of the droopy head. The air is putrid here, it’s very dry and the whole place smells, the streams are sewers, Kathmandu is one of my least favourite places on earth! morning... 7/10, not bad for a hard bed and a rock for a pillow!

It’s now Friday afternoon, I wonder what you were doing at this moment? I’m sitting under a fan typing this up while Helen and the rest of the team are out riding on elephants in the Chitwan National Park across the river from our hotel. We’re in Nawal Parasi some 180 km from Kathmandu. The team members were all too big to fit onto 3 elephants so I missed out, like you do. But I’ll get to go at 5 am tomorrow. We travelled across pretty good roads really from the city to this rural area south-west from Kathmandu. We are in the middle of a fertile river plain but to get here we twisted and turned alongside the river for well over 100 kms. We had a nice breakfast after being on the road for an hour and got here about 11:30am. We checked in and then spent will 2 o’clock visiting the partnership.

The clinic building is almost finished and is painted with some furniture. Now they have the task of finishing it, hiring staff, advertising and getting permits. This could take some time, maybe even 9 months. Nothing moves quickly here, but their presence in the community is already causing positive outcomes, so the intervening time will not be wasted. It was nice to meet Sonu again and see her fully involved in what is going on here. She and Niranjan have adopted a 12 year old girl taking her out of a “hotel” in the city and rescuing her from being another casualty of the sex trade. This couple really gets the issues and just naturally do the right thing, often at great cost to themselves. I’m not sure we get it even half as much. Their actions are a natural expression of a faith that is somehow different to ours in the West. Although we don’t face many of the overt cultural pressures some of our ethnic friends do, we are deeply conditioned by the pressure of our ungodly environment and the resulting apathy is killing our faith. Today I have been reminded about that again and am challenged to be even more like these guys.

After the team gets back from the elephant trek in the Park, they hope to see one horned rhinos and possible even a tiger, we have a Nepali cultural concert and then a Nepali dinner around 9:pm. Should be fun. We’re in single beds tonight so that will drop the rating though it might improve the sleep! We’re ensconced in the Tiger island Resort, I’m not sure if resort means quite the same thing here.

Helen and the team got back all excited, they saw rhinos and a tiger, pretty rare to be able to watch it for so long as they normally don’t hang around once spotted. But this one stayed around and they got a lot a good photos. The cultural concert was pretty average and sleep was great in bed 19, 8/10 at the Tiger Island Resort. This place was once very nice but because of the fighting around the district over the last 6 years it has gone to ruin. They are working it again now and hope to have it back to scratch again soon. It certainly has potential. It’s not every day you see tigers. I discovered this the next morning. As I had missed out going on the elephants the day before, I got to go at 5:00 am. Off we went, walked about a km, crossed the river in a dugout canoe and had a cup of tea while they saddled up the elephant whose name meant naughty. All of this before I was awake. Off we went into the Nepal jungle, it’s pretty nice I have to say. The ride was highlighted by seeing a number of one horned rhinos, lots of birds, not tiger though lots of tracks, a ride down the river in a dugout canoe through the rapids and a spectacular dismount, they’ll be talking about it for some time. Fortunately I wasn’t injured!

After breakfast we went off to 2 churches, one small one was really nice and the other service was nice but the pastor`s eyes lit up when he saw 11 Westerners rock up and the expected plea for money was made. Sometimes I could slap people like him. They really have no idea what it’s about and many westerners get sucked in when and if they rock up. Two of the team members spoke, both 1st time by interpretation and both did really well. Well done Geoff and Dave.

After another Nepali lunch we hit the road about 2:00 pm and arrived back in Kathmandu at 6:30. The driving is pretty crazy and the team has been shocked by it and fascinated by the huge crowds of people everywhere. We had a nice meal at a restaurant and then took a taxi back to Niranjan and Sonu’s place. They are such nice people and very accommodating. We were back in bed 18 again and after a brief battle with mozzies we slept well, 7/10.

Sunday felt like an ordinary day as they do church here on Saturdays. We tried to see the Himalayas but the smog is so thick it was almost impossible. We got back and had a few more meetings with our friends and then took them out to dinner at night. We found a nice cafe with free wireless internet so that was nice and although we visited it 3 times the power was off every time. I don’t know how people do any business in Nepal, corruption and lack of services frustrates people severely. Bed 18 supported us well and another 7/10 is reported.

Monday morning we had breakfast and then met 3 young guys who are church planting around Kathmandu. I’m not sure we’ll be able to do much to help them. We then headed out to the airport and back to Delhi. We got back around 5:30 to DBI and at 10:30 left to catch a midnight train to Dehradun, 6 hours away. So bed 20 was an interesting one, bottom bunk of 3 on an Indian sleeper train. Helen was in another cubicle so she couldn’t disturb my sleep, but there were plenty of other people trying to disturb it. All 14 of us got there OK, in one piece but a little worse for wear! Not much sleep was had even when adding all our sleep together! So it will have to go down as a 2/10 frankly. We spent the day visiting and interviewing a whole bunch of interesting people. some of their faith stories are totally inspiring, amazing really. We’ve recorded them but it will be a while before we can write them up. We then hit the return train at 5 in the afternoon and got back to DBI and bed 18 again just before midnight. Where did that day go!?

So now I’m sitting in Delhi trying to sort out postponed flights, I hope the rest of the team are enjoying the day! My career as a travel agent is over; I quit! It looks like we are flying tonight instead of tomorrow and I’ll have to find accommodation for 10 people in Hyderabad tonight, anyone got any friends there we can stay with. Helen’s out getting her hair done so that will be nice for her.

love

Kevin


lepers and kids in Kakinada

2009-05-04

Oh boy, we’ve had an interesting few days. It’s Sunday and we’re sitting in Hyderabad airport on the way from Rajahmundry to Chennai to Bangalore. We were supposed to go direct from Rajahmundry to Chennai but the flight was cancelled. At least we’re in a nice airport with limited, 45 minutes free wireless internet.

The last few days have been interesting to be frank, interesting but good. The team that headed off to the Taj Mahal had a shocker. The bus was a dud so they had to run around the Taj like mad things. Meanwhile, while they were away Kevin managed to get the flights changed; trouble is we had to fly out from Delhi about 2 hours after the team arrived back from the trip to the Taj. We said hurried goodbyes to 4 team members and leapt in the bus. We got there in time and took off for Hyderabad and no beds. We got into a lounge and slept where we could. On every trip you have “one of those days,” this was it. Bed 21 was straddled across two chairs or drooped in very uncomfortable chairs designed to not be slept in! 1/10 for bed 21, shocker! The team coped remarkably well and on Thursday morning we boarded the flight to Rajahmundry.

Bed 22 was great and we slept well in it for 3 nights. I’m going to give it a whopping 9/10 largely because we both slept really, really well. We spent 3 days with our friends in Kakinada, Emmanuel and Jessie Kumar. First afternoon we heard the story of the work in Kakinada and then visited the children’s home. It was lovely to see the kids so happy again; it’s a year since we were here. Some people ask us if there are ops to help, after visiting here the answer is yes. For 1,000 Indian Rupees a month a child can be supported in the home, that’s around 30 bucks NZ.

The next day we visited a couple of places where the ministry has feeding and wound dressing programmes for lepers. Lepers here are put into govt built housing colonies, out of sight out of mind. But these lepers have got too old to earn anything so many have gone back onto the streets begging. I have rarely in my life seen such poor people, not just poor but beggarly poor, not just poor, painfully poor. It’s such a shame and for one day a week they get some relief. They get their transport paid for to come to the clinic if they don’t live nearby, they get 3 decent meals, their wounds dressed, medication to take home and a message of grace, love and hope. I have to say, these are miserable places, shocking places. So it was one programme at lunch time and another after dark. The after dark one is easier to deal with, you don’t see as much and there are no flies around!!! The lunch session was fly central, flocks of them. Between the two horror locations we had a brief interlude at the beach at Kakinada. It was fun to relax a little away from the stench.

As we moved around with Emmanuel we talked a lot about the partnership and the opportunities for growth. There is so much more that could be done in this place. For example they could double the number of kids in the home, double the number of leper programmes, add hugely to the sewing programmes, develop an agriculture programme and also adult literacy.

Saturday saw us visiting 4 of the 6 sewing programmes that are operating. Women are selected from the community and taught how to sew. When they finish they get a sewing machine. This gives them the opportunity to save a lot of money for their families and to generate an income as well. Some are doing really well. We talked to a few from previous programmes and many in existing programmes. It was great to see the hope in their eyes as they were learning all this new stuff. Many, most of the women can’t read. We met beautiful young women around 16 years of age who left school at 11 years of age and cannot even read numbers. We met 15 year old girls who are married; their only dream is to get pregnant. There are so many trapped in poverty, not just the poverty in the homes, but trapped in mind poverty where they have lost the capacity to dream, to think, to learn anything new.

And so we left there on Sunday morning with a lot of thoughts and a lot of new opportunities to explore. Tonight we’ll be in bed 22, Kevin has been away now for 35 days from NZ and Helen for 26.

We have enjoyed such amazing hospitality as we travel and spend time in the homes of some of our partners , as we visit their homes and stay in some. They just love to spoil us with lots of food and try to make us comfortable. When the power goes off some of the kids try to keep us cool in the high 30oC heat fanning us with rolled paper......cute.

As always we appreciate your prayers and emails.

Love from Kevin and Helen J

p.s. we have got to Bangalore though it was a close shave. 6 of the team almost missed their plane as the plane from Hyderabad was late. I don’t think I’ve ever got onto a plane with so little time left. So we all got here and we’re having a lighter day today. Tomorrow it’s back to meeting lots of people and partners. Bed 22 was pretty good, though it was a bit hot, but we’ve 5 nights here and I’ll give it a combined rating!


Out of india

2009-05-08

Bed 22 rating, it will have to go high, we’ve slept well here in Bangalore. It’s much cooler so that helped..... so it will have to go at 9/10. We’ve slept in till 7:30 most mornings so hopefully we have some sleep stored up for tonight. Mmmm, we go to Bangalore airport and fly to Mumbai at 8:20 pm. We get in around 10 pm and then go over to the International airport. Unfortunately the plane leaves at 5:30 am so we’ll have to spend the night in the airport, hopefully there might be a lounge we can break into!!! The rest of the night will be on the plane to Addis Ababa.

We’ve had a few experiences here in Bangalore, though a little quieter so that was good. The team members have all gone and we’re on our own for a little while. We’ve visited our partners here in Bangalore. Again we have been inspired by T Raja and the Home of Hope. 300 destitute people gathered off the streets by this modern day Good Samaritan. How do people do this, they are amazing. Then we spent time with Vidya and Ruth Sagar, people with many things on the go for the sake of the kingdom. We met and interviewed a bunch of people making a huge contribution to their communities and under severe pressure.

We’ve also interviewed some potential partners. One guy came 1,200 kms (30 hours each way) for us to interview him about the work he has given his life for. Another came 500 kms, 12 hours on a bus to tell us his story. Difficult loves, hard work and few results, suffering and persecution were common themes of their story and their journey.

Now we’re about to move on, hard to know what to do with all this stuff. Too much to think about, too little time to really understand the issues. But fortunately these people work for one who does understand the issues and who will never let them down.

Another continent, another country and another team looms in the next few days. I know what we’ll see; we’ll meet awesome people who really know their God and who attempt great things for him. Our role is so much easier, we visit them, we encourage them and we support them; in the process we learn so much and are challenged by their lives.

As we leave Asia we reflect on huge numbers of people, desperately poor Christian minorities, pain and poverty that cannot be understood and really good people. Thanks God for allowing our lives to be shaped by this.

Thanks to you guys for following along with us. Hope you enjoy some of the portraits we’ve taken so far.

Kevin and Helen


Ethiopia diary

2009-05-18

0/10, how’s that, we hoped we would never write it. But it happened, bed 23a, 23b and 23c! 23a was the waiting area of Mumbai airport. We got to Mumbai OK from Bangalore, a bit late, but then after a little trek we found ourselves with about 6 hours to wait and not a bed or a hotel in sight. So Helen stayed awake and guarded the bags while Kevin tried to sleep with two rows of chairs pushed together. She reckons he slept, I am not so sure. Then it was off to the 30 minute queue through immigration and the customs. We found a nice cafe and had a nibble and laid out on the nice long, soft benches. I mean, there were hardly any people around but still they gave us the shove and that was the end of attempt 23b. 23c was a totally vain attempt at sleep on a plane! We got into Addis Ababa at 8:30 am after a 5 ½ hour flight to find Helen’s bag had been opened, the lock broken and the security tape removed and all the inside reshuffled. It doesn’t look like anything has been taken, maybe an enthusiastic security person at the airport, a very messy security officer!!

Anyway, we’re fully ensconced in the very grand, well maybe 100 years ago, Taitu Hotel in the Piazza area of Addis. Bed 24 was much better and gets a 6/10 from me and 7/10 from Helen. That makes a 6.5/10 average. We’re catching up with our partners over these 3 days and having a bit of a break until our friends from Chase Oaks Church in Dallas arrive. At least it’s not too hot here, around 21 – 22o we reckon.

Overall bed 24 would average 7/10 across the 4 nights we had there. We slept pretty well at the grand old Taitu hotel built 140 year ago and hardly touched since then. The massive rooms and high ceilings conjure up much grander days, now it’s very tired as are most of the staff. The team from the US arrived minus one suitcase! Senior pastor is now hardly recognizable from the locals with his new clothes. While in Addis we visited a couple do potential new partners and interviewed some of the street kids. Here’s us rating the beds we sleep in and there are thousands of children and vulnerable people sleeping on the streets, everywhere you go. You could build a 1,000 orphanages here and dozens of schools and still hardly make a difference to the numbers.

Wednesday was another day of frustration with Ethiopian Airlines. If you come here don’t expect any of your ticket times to be right or one plane to take off on schedule! We heard that we were to leave an hour early so were geared up to be at the airport at midday instead of 1 p.m. most of the team were leaving at 7 a.m. and we were booked on a later flight. 10:30 Tuesday night the Ethiopian guy we were flying with got a call to say the flight was now at 6:15 the following morning. So we got up at 3:45 and were there in good time and the plane left on time. The other crew got to the airport at 6 a.m. for their 7:30 flight and left around 2 p.m.! how does that happen. Reminds me of my last trip to Ethiopia with Rob Purdue, we basically spent 3 days sitting in the airport and saw nothing we went to see.

Anyway, the team caught us up and we interviewed a bunch of amazing young people mainly who are living in very difficult circumstances for the sake of expanding the kingdom of God. On this afternoon and the next we heard stories of:

 

Imprisonment because of trumped up charges of poisoning and raping people. no evidence, but the police and courts side with the accusers

A church of more than 70 new believers established in less than 9 months

A woman church planter was not allowed to attend the funeral of her father because she is a believer in Jesus and she broke away from the traditions, fear and superstition of the old ways. The church would not allow her father to be buried in the cemetery because of her faith!

One pastor has been separated from his family for 17 years and not allowed to even speak to them or have contact. A fierce dispute arose in the family over some matter and he was asked to go back and help. The problem was solved and many of the family have become followers of Jesus.

 

So the stories are very different and very inspiring. We slept pretty well at the Gihon Hotel on the shores of Lake Tana in Gonder, 7/10 in bed 25 despite the fact there was no electricity or water! Another grand old hotel with a great location and no idea about management! Thursday morning we visited a private Christian school in Bahir Dar. It is very inspiring and is going to be a model for a school that will be developed in Gonder over the next few years. We then headed off to Debre Markos(BM) about 4 hours drive. In DM we spent that afternoon visiting a bunch of old beggars the church is working with, very desperate people, as poor as it gets. Then more stories like those above and then the local churches put on a coffee ceremony to honour the local guys who are facilitating the development of the work we are involved in. We crashed around 10 into bed 26 at the Shebel Hotel in DM. Stay away from room 10 if you find yourself in this salubrious establishment. Neither of us slept well, let’s say 4/10, no water but there was power. That may not sound very wonderful, but this is the 5th time we have stayed here and the 1st time we have had power. You know what, I wrote the word power and it went off. At least it doesn’t disappoint you!

Today we head back to Bahir Dar and tomorrow we fly to Gonder. Almost another week of the trip has flown by. The US guys are trying to get as much video footage as they can to tell the story back in Dallas. We’ll be having discussions over the next two days with them about the shape of the next 18 months. That is where the real work will be done over the next few days.

After Monday we will be largely on our own having a break. The frustration is not having decent internet so it’s hard to stay in touch. We are missing home now with 4 weeks to go will we get home. There is still work to do here in Ethiopia and then Bahrain. Also when we get back to Thailand we have a couple of days and Kevin is heading back to Chiang Mai while Helen hangs out in Bangkok. The key guy in the organization who produces La Mai coffee was not around when we there earlier on the trip. So Kevin will shoot up there for 24 hours to catch up and try to gain a few more understandings.

Last thing, while we are in Ethiopia until the 27th of this month, we have a local phone number, +2519118046805. Can’t guarantee the local network will let you through but at least you can give us a call if you need to.

Lots of love, Kevin and Helen.

p.s. this was written a long time ago. There have been a lot of beds since this and we’ll try to get another update out soon. the access to internet, power and water in Ethiopia is atrocious, enough to drive one spare, yesterday the power was on for 8 hours, midnight to 6 am and 10 pm to midnight, this is in one of the largest cities in the country. If you want to invest in any country on earth don’t make it Ethiopia!!!!

 

0/10

 

 


Lake Tana at Bahir Dar

2009-05-23

Oh boy, it seems so long since we had any sort of contact with you guys. Life has been pretty hectic and frustrating, I guess that describes it best. We’ve been in a few more beds. Met some amazing people again and learned a lot more about life here in Ethiopia.

We are going to build a school! That’s the plan anyway, over the next few years. So if you know anyone who wants to invest in education in Ethiopia then this is the place. Actually, it’s the local guys who are doing it, building a school in Gonder. It will start in rental accommodation with around 500 kindergarten and grade 1 children and then grow from there over the years. It’s pretty exciting really. The team from the USA are involved in part of it, getting it going, but we’re going to need some large investment at some points along the way.


But, let’s not jump the gun. We left you in Debre Markos and that day we drove back to Bahir Dar. On the way we met with some church planters in a town along the way. Some had travelled up to 12 hours to get to us, some of them walking much of the way. We heard again stories of terrible persecution, of miracles of healing and of rescue and of whole communities being transformed. There is a tribe of people in that area that are as backward as it gets. They don’t wear clothes, do no agriculture or work, they just live in the bush and survive from the forest. The 21st Century has hardly even touched them apart from all the bad stuff like HIV/AIDS, illness and disease, their vulnerability seems to attract all the worst people you could imagine.


We then came back to Lake Tana and stayed again in bed 25, room 5 at the Gihon Hotel. Probably the same rating really and for the same reasons. Then on Saturday we flew off to Gonder, a 20 minute flight, even through the 6 USA guys weren’t booked or recorded as being on the flight. There were too many people on the plane so they threw a local guy off, I guess he walked!! For the next two nights we were at the Embassy Hotel in Gonder and we slept pretty well there, 6/10. While in Gonder we spent time checking out our partners there. We visited a programme that feeds 50 street widows a day and spent some time with them. The US team followed a couple of them home to get some video of the conditions of their housing. Needless to say it was pretty basic. We then checked out the venue for the start of the school, it is a nice little campus and will be OK for a start.

On Sunday 2 of the USA team left for Addis and back to the US. Some of the team went out to a village to check out a new church building that has been built there. Helen and I stayed at the hotel for a bit of a break. Then after a light lunch we went out to another village called Tikel Dingay, it’s the home town of our Ethiopian friend Worku. We met the family again and had a huge feast, they called it a snack before coffee! Bread and honey and local treats, it was lovely.


We are getting tired. We went to bed early! The rest of the US team along with Worku and Melaku our friends here left early Monday morning for Axum. Helen and I shifted into a slightly nicer hotel in the middle of the city, it’s much easier to get around from here. Monday was a wasted day really. There was no power all day so we just hung around and the major event of the day was being able to get onto the internet at the flash hotel in town. Well above the town really, it’s perched on a high hill overlooking the city.

Tuesday we worked all day, the power was on all day. In these small towns the power is on for a day, off for a day. How anyone can make any money I have no idea. This place is almost the most backward, corrupt place I have been to. Bed 27 was two nights at the Qarra Hotel in Gonder and with the small bed and the hard pillows etc we can only give it a 4/10. But it was a clean nice room with pleasant staff.

It’s now Wednesday and we have flown the 20 minute flight back to Bahir Dar. We’re in bed 28 now on this trip and we’re planning to have a bit of R&R for a few days. But I think there will be quite a bit of work coming up. We are developing a plan to do a farm in Ethiopia and Friday and Saturday will be developing the plan. It’s a really interesting project growing sesame seed. It’s drought resistant and the sesame farmers have all done very well for themselves. The purpose of the farm is to generate funds to support the other work that is going on here. We will apply for a 1,000 ha from the government and get it pretty much free, well free is a relative term!! Meanwhile a Christian guy has a farm he is willing to lend us for a couple of years while we get the other land sorted.


So we’ll be talking farming again and then we’ll have another plan to bring back home for the BHW team to develop. Next trip here will see us having to go bush near the Sudan border where the farm is.


It’s Helen signing in for a few lines. I have been thinking next time we should rate the hotel bathrooms as we travel!!At most places the loo paper is like sand paper...The showers seldom work, and hot water is a luxury....Then there are the smells that are like a sewer that sometimes make me want to dry retch. Most of the toilet seats are broken or there are none.


I thought you might like to hear about an amusing thing that happened to us when visiting a flash hotel where we were using their internet. I was browsing at a curio shop and noticed they had some 2nd hand novels for sale. So I enquired about the cost to buy one. The man wanted me to pay for the price of it brand new....WHY I asked? Well “It’s the same author, same story, same book, so same price “ !!!! Of course I tried debating about the price, but he was adamant he was entitled to the full price for a 2nd hand book. So I never bought one!


sign in next time for funnies from Helen!!!!

love

Kevinand Helen


Helen`s suitcase!!!

2009-05-31

It’s Sunday, we’re in Bahrain and it feels like a totally different day of the week. We had church on Friday, then Saturday had a lovely day with our kiwi friends in Bahrain and now it’s Sunday and our clocks are all messed up. Oh well, we’ll be back in NZ in about 11 days so we can catch up then.


It’s been pretty interesting since we last updated you all. Bed 28 in Bahir Dar rates up there; I’m going to give it am 8/10. We had 5 nights in it on the shores of Lake Tana. The food was good, the bed great, the rest of it like toilets, internet, power etc, distinctly average! We had a few days break really. When the power was on we did computer stuff, reports etc. when it was off we played Quiddler, a card, word game and did some bird watching. The birds here are amazing! Saw about 15 more species to add to the list. We also finalised some decisions about developing the school and a farm in Ethiopia. We interviewed a guy who will lend us 100 hectares for a couple of years so we can get it established. We’re planning to start it in March / April 2010, growing sesame.


We hung out in Bahir Dar until Monday the 25th and then flew to Addis Ababa. The plan was to stay there for 2 nights and then head off to Bahrain on Wednesday evening. But the plane was brought forward and we were told to be at the airport at 7:00 the next morning. We got there and found out the plane was leaving at 10 that night!!! So we had 15 hours in the airport!! More reports!! We managed to have power all day so we got some work done and relaxed a little as well. No point getting upset.


Bed 29 had been a short sleep in a hotel close to the airport and gets a 6/10. Can’t entirely blame the bed too much, it wasn’t entirely its fault that we didn’t sleep that well. Anyway, we arrived in Bahrain at 2:00 am Wednesday to find our friend Dave Laskey patiently waiting for us. Why patiently, well, the plane was a little late and HELEN’S BAG WASN’T ON THE PLANE!!!! What is it with this woman’s suitcase! Yea I know, not her fault. So for 2 ½ days she didn’t have it and then yesterday we went to the airport and despite the baggage people’s assurances that it had not come in we went for a look. Nothing in any of the 5 lost luggage cages. Then back the front office. Can we check out the carousels again please!! Yea, OK..... and there it was, probably been there since we were last there. According to them no more planes had come in from Addis with Ethiopian Airlines!!! Got to be pushy. So Helen had a big smile all day Saturday, Praise the Lord!


Bed 30 is a cracker. We’ve had a few nights in it now and I’m going to have to go out on a limb, 9/10. Total luxury, great sleeps and huge. Mind you, Kevin still sleeps right on the edge of it. Our friends are from NZ, and we have known them for years, are David and Brenda Laskey. We have known Dave since teenage days in Levin and their family for years. So it’s nice to be with friends here. The plan is to explore partnership opportunities in Bahrain with their church. It’s an international fellowship with people from all over. We have met kiwis, Sth Africans, Americans, Canadians, Pakistanis, Malawians, Nigerians..... the list goes on. The pastor is an Ozzie guy, really nice bunch of people. We went to church Friday morning, spoke at a Pakistani fellowship in the afternoon, went to a men’s study Saturday morning and in a few minutes am going to speak to the staff of a Christian hospital here. There is a bit to do and all the time we are observing and talking to people. In between its report writing, still a lot to do and a lot of decisions to make.


So as we stay here at 40 degrees +, we are aware that it won’t be long and we’ll be back to winter in NZ!!!! Can’t wait!!! Over the rest of the day after putting this up we’ll but a few pix on the bog for you to check out. We are here for another week, then it’s back to Thailand for 3 days and some meetings and back home on the 11th June.


So, stay warm and close to Jesus,


Helen and Kevin


Back home Thursday

2009-06-10

Our last week in Bahrain was great as we caught up on writing reports and emails, attended some more programmes initiated by the church in Bahrain, socialized with friends over meals and rested.


Helen was able to go to a Mainly Music programme the ladies had recently started. A Lebanese lady was there for the first time and loved it and wants to invite all her friends. A NZer has had the vision for this outreach, and is very enthusiastic, and is also looking at other ways to engage with the local community with parent seminars and teaching English as a second language, holiday programmes etc.


Helen was off again on Thursday to a Ladies prison with two ladies from the church. They were able to see about 25 women and some were from Bahrain, Philippines, Ethiopia and Russia. Emily led a Bible study and gave out Bibles in several languages so they could follow some of the study and were able to keep them. There were some very sad faces and of course we were not able to ask why they are in prison. One of the ladies is a Christian and she had a big smile and loves praying. The ladies get three meals a day and looked clean and healthy. Two guards sit by the door and they also get the opportunity to hear Gods word and see love in action.


There are 1000s of expatriates in Bahrain from the top end of society through to migrant workers and sex workers. The migrant workers are from Ethiopia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and there are many from India and Philippines. Many of these people are migrant labour, many are part of the people trafficking issues that so plague this part of the world. We‘re starting some research on this for further action.


One night we went to a concert by the Manama singers and the Bahrain Orchestra. Brenda Laskey was playing her violin; it was really nice to sit back and enjoy an evening of classics. It’s all the more interesting when you know people performing.
Kevin went off one evening to a migrant workers compound and spoke at the English speaking Saar Fellowship on Friday morning. It was really nice to lax out a bit a catch up on reports etc before getting back to NZ. At the end of the time there we have to confirm that bed 30 is a 9/10. It’s a good thing too as we had 11 nights in it, by far the longest stay of the entire trip.


We’re now in Bangkok with one more flight to go, yes Helens bag arrived safely!! Bed 31 was the plane and surprisingly, it wasn’t great, about 4/10 or even less for Helen. We got to Bangkok Monday am and went to our next hotel. We booked in and had a shower and then Kevin went back to the airport and flew to Chiang Mai while Helen stayed in Bangkok. Kevin spent time with one of our partners, the ones that produce and sell us the La Mai coffee. It was great to get more of an insight about the operation and the purpose of ITDP. You’ll hear more about them in the future. Kevin’s bed 32 was 7/10 at Riverside House and Helen’s about 7/10 as well with the roosters taking 2 points off!


Tuesday Kevin came back to Bangkok and another 8/10 for bed 33. It’s hot and muggy here at 30oC + and rainy with clouds. Not looking forward to the winter tomorrow!!!
So friends, thanks for following along with us. We’ll do one more entry when we get home with more pix. We have 7 weeks at home before we head off to Southern Africa early August. But that’s another episode in the saga.


One more flight and then we’ll see the family. It will be great to hug them all again and play with Hugo. We hear he’s doing really well. Hopefully there will be no swine in the sky to catch the flu from and no after effects from the travel.


Love
Helen and Kevin


back to a NZ winter

2009-06-14

Back in New Zealand.....mmmm. it all seems a bit quiet and tame really. Anyway, I guess tame and quiet ain’t a bad thing! The night before we left Bangkok we went out for dinner with our friend Supong to catch up on a couple of potential partnerships. He took us to t nice restaurant that serves traditional Thai food. It was very different to the usual fare you get at a Thai restaurant; and very nice I have to say. It was nice to be able to have a slower trip home that usual and arrive feeling not so wasted, and pretty much up to date with reports.


It’s been nice to catch up with Sara and Jared, Ruth and Hugo and many of the extended family. Had a chat with Kevin’s mum too, she’s doing well.


Thanks for being with us on this trip. It’s been a long one with a lot of people coming and going. But we got to spend some good time with our partners and to sort through most of the issues. We finish the trip with some lasting impressions:


Now we’re back in NZ till the 5th August when we head off to Africa. We’ll be back in touch before that. While home we will be going to Levin later this week for the funeral of Bill Rolston, a long time family / church friend from there. He was a lovely man and a faithful supporter. We’re going to miss the Livingstones Roundtable unfortunately. Last weekend of June Kevin is speaking at Orewa Community Church about the trip, I’m pretty sure Helen will also be involved. We then go to Christchurch 5th – 9th July to the office to catch up. The weekend of the 1st August we’ll be in Tauranga for the Envision Conference and to speak at a church there.Then we leave again on 5th August. Between that we have to organise the partnerships and follow up with a heap of decisions from this last trip.


We’ll be back in touch again before we leave in August. We appreciate your ongoing friendship. If you want to hear a little about a couple of our partnerships you could go to the link here and check out the sermon. It’s from Chase Oaks Church in Dallas, Texas. The speaker is the senior pastor, Jeff Jones. He is talking about the partnership we have introduced them to in Ethiopia and you’ll see some video of what we were up to there. Helen even appears in it!
http://www.chaseoaks.org/whats-happening/sermon-series/sermon-archives/

So, stay well until we come on line again in 6 weeks or so. Feel free to be in touch. Enjoy a few more pictures as well.


Love and don’t forget that we are depending on God’s grace and your prayer


Helen and Kevin


off to africa

2009-08-02

hi there friends,

We've got 39 hours left before we head off to Africa on another safari through our partnerships. we'llbe away for 10 weeks, 8 of them in Africa. We've written up the itinerary for you to check out and follow along with.

You'll see from the itinerary that after a couple of nights in South Africa we get to Zambia. there are a couple of conferences to attend so that will give us a bit of breathing space until we are able to get out to visit someof the rural partners.

We'll update you as we are able to get access to the internet. So put on your seat belts and settle back for the ride. We'll try to make it as comfortable as we can for you without too many strange beds and food to eat.

Kevin and Helen

 


Zambia and Conferences

2009-08-14

Muli shani from Zambia, it just means how are you? Back in Zambia again, it’s been almost year since we’ve been here. It’s the longest break away from the place in about 10 years. It’s great to be here with the team and amongst some of the friendliest people in the world.

Sophie is squealing next door, she’s Jerry and Hayley Field’s daughter. We’re about to go off to church and she has other things on her agenda! We’ll be spending a bit of time with them over the next few weeks so we’ll get used to Sophie I’m sure, she’s so funny....

The trip to South Africa went well. No hassles or delays. We got up at 2:45 on Tuesday and Jared took us to the plane. Waited a couple of hours and flew to Sydney, 2 ½ hours wait and then 14 hours to Johannesburg. Got our bags OK and then home to the Dunn’s our South African friends. It was early evening so we were ready for the sleep.

The next day we travelled about an hour to meet one of our partners, Sipho Maseo. He is a guy who works as a pastor in a pretty poor township called Slovo Park. There are a lot of unemployed people and thousands of kids. It was good to catch up with the difficulties they have been having and growth of the work despite the hassles. It was fun to see 60 little kids at a preschool running around in the church building.

Sleep was pretty hard to find the second night, jet lag, though we did manage to stay horizontal for a few hours in case sleep found us. She came quickly and then left almost as quick. Another flight to Zambia in the evening and all bags arrived, Kevin’s with the locks and zips broken off but nothing missing. A poor sleep in Lusaka, the roosters started at around 11:00 pm!! Then Saturday to Maplehurst Farm and the team. It was like Christmas, we managed to deliver everything successfully including Jerry Field’s chocolate. Sleep found us that night and now on Sunday morning we are feeling a lot better and ready to crack into the conference starting later today. We’ve already met a few people coming from all over the world to the first conference and the talking has started!!!

The call has come and we’re off to church. We’ll catch you later and fill you in the first day in Zambia.

Started this on Sunday and now it’s Friday!!! The next couple of weeks are conference time in the church in Zambia. Not being conference people, it will hardly affect us except, that kevin is a delegate and has to turn up!!! ho hum. Another 7 hours a day on his butt and plenty of talking between sessions!

Some interesting people at this 1st conference, from all over Africa. Two carloads of people drove from Capetown to Kabwe, probably close to 5,000 kms. Fortunately they are driving top-of-the-range Mercedes Benz’s. 47 people drove from Luanda in Angola, it took 4 days! The Angolans are a lively bunch. They also have a lot of stuff. The country is so rich and the resources are flowing down to the people somehow. They travelled in 9 Landcruisers and every one of them has a camera or video camera operating. I hope they learn to handle the new wealth they are accumulating and it doesn’t get wasted and not invested in God’s kingdom.

There are people here from Madagascar, Malawi, DRC, Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria and Mozambique. There are visitors and missionaries from Oz, the UK, USA, Bermuda, Spain, Brazil and 3 kiwis! So it’s been fun to meet a lot of people. The most enjoyable part is meeting a number of the BHW partners. We had about 16 of them visiting Maplehurst Farm yesterday. It was so cool to see them enjoying the place and each other’s fellowship. Today Kevin is off to the conference for the last day and Helen is hanging at Maplehurst Farm with the team. She’s having a string of headaches at the moment which isn’t like her.

Anyway, that’s us for now. George Verwer, some of you might recognise his name, is speaking today at the conference so that will be fun.

See ya later

Kevin and Helen.


heading off into the bush

2009-08-22

It’s starting to warm up here in Zambia. Getting into the low 20s I guess. The swimming pool at Maplehurst farm is filling up and the kids are swimming in it! You would have to be pretty keen on swimming really to get into it.

But I guess if you love something you’ll do anything to get it. That’s been the story of the last few days here. We’ve been conferences out, but the passion of these people is amazing. We’ve heard stories from Lake Tanganyika, the Republic of Tchad, Mozambique and many difficult places from African missionaries who are totally, fully keen on what they are doing. Then we’ve been listening to one of the greatest mission mobilizers of the 20th Century, George Verwer. He is so convinced of his message and his God that nothing will shut him up. It’s been a real treat to be able to listen to him and have some time with him as well.


Saturday last week we drove up to Ndola from Kabwe for the 25th Anniversary of the first GLO Zambia course. It was great to be there and meet many of our old students and some from the time since we left in 1990. Man, it’s 18 years since we left Zambia!!! Makes one feel pretty ancient and decrepit. We’ve been hanging out at the farm and tomorrow we head off around the Copperbelt of Zambia to visit some of our partners. It’s going to be fun to be out there again. Rural Zambia is so beautiful, though at this time of the year the fires are burning and it’s starting to heat up. The sunsets are enormous and spectacular.
We’ll give you an update in a few days and introduce you to some of our partners and their stories. We will be interviewing quite a few people this trip, we haven’t been to some of these places for more than a year. This is a short note to go with a few pictures. We didn’t have time to attach any last time we hooked up.


We’ll be spending a bit of time over the next few weeks with Jerry and Hayley Field and Sophie. I’m sure they will feature in a few of our stories and pictures. I’ve got a couple of them here. The rope and washer pump is becoming the star attraction. They can be made for $30 and pump easily, with hardly any moving parts and can shift about 30 litres and minute.


Helen’s headaches have gone but she has a ringing in her ears which we hope will go away soon.


Otherwise we’re doing well. We’re missing family but really happy to be here with our great partners and friends.


Tukamonana, catch ya later
Kevin and Helen


death

2009-08-31

We’re on the road travelling from a village back to the city of Chingola. We’ve been out visiting partners out in the bush at the town of Chisasa. We were reminded again this morning how the Chinese are invading Africa. They are everywhere, at least 11 of them staying in the little guest house we stayed in. They have their own cook and spread out each morning to look for minerals. They don’t greet you just walk past, the locals loathe having them around. Back in Ndola they are building a huge football stadium, no locals are employed, everyone has come from China to do the building. Anyway, we’re here to visit our Zambian friends.


We spent last evening hearing about the situation in the villages around Chisasa. The partnership sees the Kampelembi’s assisting 209 children to go to school, most of whom would not get there unless these people had a heart for them. Along with that they are running a carpentry training school, and they are developing a farm with bananas, pigs, fish and a grinding mill. They are such good people and very humble. Their house is full of children, mainly their grandchildren but 3 orphans as well. They want to care for more children as there are many needy in the community.


Last week a crazy guy killed his wife and three other women just near to where they live and ran off into the bush. 13 more orphans were created by that one act. Africa is not just about sickness and disease, there are many causes of death and hardship. The Kampelembis wonder how they can care for this new group of orphans.


We didn’t sleep that well last night. The generator, the one the Chinese guys brought with them, was parked right outside our room and didn’t go off till about 10 pm. There are no lights in the guest house but these guys bring their own power so the can use their computers and internet. It came back on at 6:15 for the cook to make breakfast. Kevin is all stuffed up with sinus so there wasn’t much sleep between coughing, sneezing, generators and a narrow bed! But we’re OK, back to some civilization by around midday.
We left Maplehurst Farm on Friday and stayed the night in Ndola. During the day we visited a training institution out in the bush behind to which Jerry and Hayley Field will be going in September. Met some interesting people there. We then went on to GLO where we stayed the night. Before bed we spent the afternoon with the Nkausu family. They are caring for 24 orphans in the community. We met 17 of them. It’s school holidays and some were away but these ones came with their school bags and books and dressed in their uniforms. Nice little children. One guy was so traumatised by being there with white people he screamed the whole time. We had evening dinner with the Muchimba family.
Saturday we headed into Ndola and met up with an old rugby mate who owns a restaurant / cafe. We had lunch there and watched the All Blacks beat the Wallabies!! It was a bit heart stopping and a close win. But good to be able to see it live. Good to win after the previous two games as well.


We then went out to Babs Patching’s place and stayed the night there. It was lovely to catch up with her again and chat the night away. Then it was off to Kamatipa village for Sunday. We picked up Rebecca Kaumba and got to the village about midday. We spent the afternoon talking to the team in the village and working out plans for the future. There are 25 vulnerable kids in the village being cared for, some are so very poor it’s hard to imagine how hard life is for them. One little guy, Willie is only 8 but he is very sharp. He can do any maths sum you give him, quick as a flash. What’s the future for a little guy like this. We’re going to try and see if we can get him into a better school so he can fulfil his potential.
We stayed that night with people in Chingola, we have known then since we lived here back in the 80s. The early Monday morning we headed off to Chisasa. Andy Patching came with us and it’s been great to spend some time with him as well. Hayley stayed in Chingola as it’s pretty hard on 16 month old Sophie to be carted around in the bush with us. So it’s back to Chingola. This afternoon we are visiting a couple more partners and then tomorrow we start heading back towards Maplehurst Farm. I’ll sign off here and finish this and send it off when we get back to civilization.


It’s now Sunday now, more than a week since I started this blog. Tuesday we drove back to Chingola and visited two partners. Titus Mambwe and his friends from 3 different churches are caring for a bunch of kids, sending about 60 of them to school. We met about 45 of them, they came for lunch. There were a few elderly people there as well as this programme cares for vulnerable of any age. We had a couple of speeches and talked to the kids. Then we talked to the leadership team mainly about how we can help them become self sufficient. Looks like a sewing programme and a farm. They are pretty keen about the vulnerable in their community.


Another sad story, last year one of the team we met, Ethel, was looking after a whole bunch of kids. Well about 4 months ago she died of cancer leaving about 8 kids. She was their aunt. We get so sick of death stories here. Everyone has one, a recent one! It’s like death is stalking everyone and here it catches many unawares. It’s so in your face it’s impossible to escape it’s damning claws!


We left those guys at about 4:30 and then went to visit Elizabeth and her kids in Lulamba. She has 30 kids in her community she looks after. She visits them in their homes, makes sure they get to school and from time to time brings them to her house to encourage them. They were there the afternoon we arrived and we played games with them and encouraged them.


Last year we interviewed two sisters, their parents had died. Their maternal uncle had taken their inheritance and they were left with an aunt who struggled to cope with them. One of the girls, 13 years old had really sore eyes a year ago. We had been able to get her some help, but on Tuesday we heard that she had been diagnosed HIV+. 14 years old, a death sentence, again. She has become so depressed that she failed her exams last year and has to repeat grade 9 again this year. part of the tragedy is that the people think she was born with HIV, the reality is that she was infected at a much more recent event than her birth.


We left Elizabeth’s place quite discouraged. We were tired from not much sleep the night before, but our spirits were damaged by the story of Abigail. We returned to our friends place and at about 7 o’clock were so tired we went to bed. Well Kevin did at least, fell asleep in the chair and then flopped into bed. Not much company that night for our friends.


The next morning we visited a potential partner and travelled an hour to Kalulushi and Oliver and Emeley Mulenga. We spent the rest of Wednesday and Thursday morning talking through the various components of their work we are supporting. There are some real issues to sort out here. So many kids are coming to their programmes they have had to cut some of the services. But this is compromising the overall impact so we have to address that. We have such good times with these guys, they are so hospitable and generous.


Thursday we got back to the Farm around dark. Suzy had cooked dinner for us. It was great to be treated like that. Kevin visited the doctor Saturday morning – bronchitis. And now it’s Sunday. Went to church early and then caught up on some emails and then some friends came to hang out at the pool.


Helen is going to the doc tomorrow morning – bad sinus. Not a good start to this week which sees us planning to travel about 1,500 to Chipata and back to visit 4 partnerships. We’ll let you know how we get on there.


In the meantime, I’ve put a few more pictures of some of our friends and their families and projects. Thanks for staying with us on this trip, we’re pretty tired really, too tired. Not sure how we’ll manage to get all the reports done, but I guess a couple of 8 hour trips in the minibus will give us a chance to catch up.

Love to you and your families, it’s such a privilege to be able to partner with these people and put barriers in the face of death.


Love
Kevin and Helen


sick, sick, sick

2009-09-08

Helen got the medicine OK for her sinus infection. That was more than a week ago, it’s been a sick week. Neither of us has been that good. Helen has got over her sinus but it’s taken both of us a while to bounce back. The team here has been unwell too.

Last Tuesday, we headed off to Chipata, on the border with Malawi. We took Annariette from South Africa with us as she was heading to Malawi. Hayley Field didn’t come as Sophie was sick. We got to Chipata OK. Spent the evening and the next day with Dick and Anita Mwamba, he is Zambian and she comes from a little island of 1,000 people in Micronesia. Find that on the map! 3 of their 5 kids were around so we caught up on what they were doing and the little community school they run. During the night Jerry Field started vomiting so that was him out for the rest of the trip. It’s a week later and he’s still not 100%. The Boddys who run the farm have been sick too with diarrhoea, we’re a pretty sorry bunch.


Anyway, on Wednesday Helen and I went out and stayed in a village and over the next 2 days visited our partners, spoke to 3 groups of church and community leaders and ate lots of local food. We travelled about 100 km over shocking roads and on the final day walked about 6km to a community school and back through the African farmland. The road was too rough for a vehicle. Friday afternoon we left Chipata and drove the 8 hours back to Kabwe and the Farm.


Sick isn’t just a state of body, we met a lot of mind sickness on this trip. By the time we got back we were sick of hearing stories of people making dumb decisions:


1) sick - two 16 year old girls with 1 ½ year of school left got pregnant and their parents “married” them off to the guys that got them that way. I reckon they have about 11 years of misery left!


2) sick - a Christian girl who has been through Bible School and who was engaged to a guy she met there decided to have a fling with a non Christian guy. Pregnant and afraid she tried to commit suicide amongst a number of other options she thought she would try. But Grace was born healthy and placid.


3) amazing – her parents have adopted her daughter Grace so she can continue to follow her dream to become a teacher.


4) sick - two years ago we met a family: mum, dad and 6 month old daughter, all HIV+. A year ago the dad died and guess what? The woman has just had another baby to some random guy and guess what? Another child is born into sickness, death and poverty.

5) guts – Victoria, HIV+ and 1 of 11 siblings, is 1 of only 2 left alive. She hobbled those same 6 kms we walked to give her testimony to the church that Jesus is alive and they have the responsibility to look after themselves. She, her 14 year old daughter and 80+ year old mother had grown enough food last year to send her daughter to school, to provide the medicine she needs and the food to sustain them. First time I met them, 2 years ago, she couldn’t walk and I thought this family would be gone in months.


6) health – awesome to interview 8 orphans who have been going to school now for a year since we started a new partnership. They talked of their dreams and visions and what could stop them fulfilling those dreams. Beautiful young people, full of life, energy and optimism. I hope they survive the pressures that Africa will pummel them with in the next few years. I hope they live a lot longer than 35 – 37 years life expectancy of a Zambian.


Tomorrow we head off up North into the Samfya area for a few days to catch up with partners there. Hopefully the health will hold up. I’m sure we’ll get to hear many more stories and meet more amazing people. I hope we stay well and it’s not just another sick story.


We’ll check out a community development partnership in Kaishe, a little rural village. We’ll visit our largest partnership ever in Samfya town. We’ll do budgets for a large beef farm that is developing in the North of Zambia. We’ll hear reports about a new initiative to train the guardians of around 170 vulnerable kids. We’ll check out a Bible School that has opened a clinic to support itself and an agriculture programme to develop self sustaining graduates. We’ll decide whether or not to put a rice mill into a village so the churches and community can assist the vulnerable to go to school.


And we’ll watch the All Blacks thrash the Springboks so badly that we’ll win the Tri nations! Wouldn’t we love that after the humiliation of the two losses in South Africa just a few weeks ago.

So dear friends, we’re sick of bad news and long roads. But we’re doing OK. Thanks for being with us in this. Just a week left in Zambia and then its lots of farewells to our friends before we fly to Kenya.


Its been great staying at Maplehurst farm with Aaron and Suzy Boddy and their kids and Jerry and Hayley Field and Sophie. We really appreciate what they are doing here, and we can see how hard they have been working.

Yesterday Helen was visiting the Boddys and someone came into the house screaming that a spitting cobra was just outside their back door. By the time we arrived at the scene one of the workers was beating the snake with a piece of plastic pipe and it was no longer a threat......another day in Africa.


We really appreciate your emails, blog messages and your prayers as we travel.


Lots of love to you
Helen and Kevin


another chapter closes

2009-09-15

We had a great trip to Samfya and tomorrow it’s goodbye to Zambia and hello to Kenya. It’s been good to be here, based in one place for a few weeks. From tomorrow it’s on the road again with no more than a couple of nights in one place until we get to NZ on Oct 21st. When you say it that way it seems like a long time. 5 weeks today!
In Samfya we met a number of our friends and partners. Let me tell you about a few of them:
1) Isaiah Chalwe – he actually lives in another place and travelled to Samfya with us. He is a great guy and trains people to confront their mindsets and take control of their lives. He trains them in sustainable living, growing their own food and food security. It was great to spend some time with him and hear the impact of his training.
2) Charles Chibale – he is a guy transforming his community. He and his team are supporting a bunch of kids to go to school; they are teaching people to grow gardens and giving them loans to start growing gardens and care for themselves; and they have developed a skills training centre.
It’s a very poor area, Kaishe. We’ve just had a team there from Christchurch, New Zealand helping to build the skills training centre.
We heard that for more than 40 years a Catholic priest lived in this area. On leaving the place he made this comment in a speech to the community – “this place is as likely to develop as the possibility of filling a 50kg sack with dead mosquitoes.” It is a desperately poor area and despite having water and land they just hardly grow anything. Since starting the kitchen garden loan scheme small vegetable shops have sprung up on the roadside, one small indicator of development. We talked to the guy who is the chairman of the Skills training board. He has started a garden and for the first time in years he has money in his pocket.
3) Mark and Carmen Brubacher – they are from North America and have been living in Samfya for a couple of years. They have 2 little kids and have given themselves to transform this community. It’s great to be there and see the changes that continue to develop in this place. They send their oldest child (6) to a local school and the kids are part of the local community. We loved the time there with them hearing the changes going on and the challenges they face. We could do with 100 people like that around the world.
Actually, as I think about it, we do. Actually, many more than that 100.
4) Samfya Bible school – we are helping the team here are developing an agriculture training component to their training course. It was great to see the gardens and the chicken houses being built. The best part was to hear the story of Talaka and Carol Mwenya. They are from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They have been involved in children’s work there with 230 kids. They are such hard workers and have a great attitude. It’s great privilege to serve people like them.
5) Peter Bobo Chomba – Peter is helping the community he comes from in Chaba. It is a very remote community about 7 hours across a lake from Samfya. They are looking out for nearly 200 kids to get them to school. We started to look at installing a rice harvesting mill in the community so they can generate enough funds to send their own children to school. This will be an interesting project to get this thing installed in such a remote place. A job for jerry Field and Aaron Boddy I think.
6) Gershom Kasongo – I’ve probably talked about him in previous blogs. He is in charge of two large partnerships: 1) KERO farms – we are developing a large farm to support 100s of orphan children and their families and 2) Beracah – a church in the USA is helping the guardians of the orphans to become self sufficient. Again, it’s going to be interesting to see the way this one develops. It’s like this community has a chance it’s never had before. Watch this space.
We travelled home from Samfya at night, a very silly thing to do actually. You hear horror stories about night travelling and the accidents. So, last night trip in Zambia! We take safety for granted a little and are constantly dependant on God’s protection as we move around some of the most dangerous roads in the world.
It’s warming up in Zambia and the swimming pool is now in use. The kids on the farm here and most of the adults meet at the pool around 5 pm for a splash and a chat. It’s nice really. Lot’s of people come around on the weekends, it’s a nice way to relax on your day off.
So we leave Zambia with heaps of reports to write and new conversations and interviews to process and heaps of decisions to make. I wonder when that will happen! We go right into a busy time in Kenya.
We’ll do our best to stay in touch over the next few days. Please don’t send us any large e-mails over the next 3 weeks, its back to using internet cafes again. So don’t worry if you don’t hear back from us immediately. It’s been a luxury here in Zambia to have access to the internet so readily. It’s expensive though.
So it’s Tukamonana from Zambia and Karibu Kenya
It’s into the rainy season up there I think, certainly when we got to Uganda. That will be a change, no rain since we left NZ about 6 weeks ago. By the way, there have been riots in Kampala so we are keeping our eye on that. It seems to have settled for the moment, fortunately we only have about 4 nights in the city, the rest is in the rural towns and villages.
Love from Kevin and Helen


it's us again - Jinja

2009-09-25

I’m sitting on the bed in the YMCA in Jinja, Uganda. Someone’s knocked on the door, I’ll be back in a minute.


It’s been more than a minute or two, in fact it’s been more than a week since we were in touch. Since then we’ve been in Kenya for 6 days and now we’re into the Uganda leg of the trip. We should have updated this before we left Kenya cause there we had 24 hour internet. Since Uganda we’ve had none and it’s hard to find out here in these rural towns.
Kenya was great. We were met by Robert and Rose Gitau and taken to their place in Tala, about 90 minutes out of Nairobi. We spent two nights with them. We visited the school they run in the local church and the little hospital they run. We then went into town and visited another little church they have started and met the lady who looks after it, Margaret. Then we drove for 15 minutes into the bush and found another little school and church with 200 children. It’s a cool little place and they are teaching really well. It’s very dry here, there has been no rain for months, in one place more than 3 years. There is hunger here, you can see it in people’s eyes. If the rain doesn’t come soon there will be a disaster. Already animals are dying, the Maasai people are travelling 100s of km with their animal to keep them alive. They even come into the centre of Nairobi.


We spent the evenings chatting with Robert and Rose. Their whole lives have been given to God and to the vulnerable. They have no kids of their own, but they have hundreds of children. There are more than 400 in the schools they have started apart from the dozens who have lived in their home.


We then went to visit another little school and met the people who run a revolving fund. It was good to meet the new chairman, the head teacher at the school and some of the other board members. We heard some stories of huge changes that have taken place in peoples’ lives from being able to access funds from the scheme. Great stuff. We travelled into Nairobi and had lunch with some friends and then went in Kiabiu slum to visit a new partnership opportunity we are looking at. We met the team and saw the people they are working with.


For the next 4 nights we stayed at a guest house and were spoiled to have 24 hour internet. Not that we stayed on it for 24 hours. On the Saturday Kevin flew to Kisumu and spent the day looking at a great new opportunity. A British guy started a hostel out in the bush for the community but has not been able to continue it. He handed it over to one of our partners and I went to assess whether or not we should get involved in making it self-sustaining. It’s in a beautiful area overlooking Lake Victoria  and is hugely fertile. We  think there is some real potential here  for some farming development.

 
Kevin got back late in Saturday and Helen had done a bit of catching up on the computer and some shopping to get our stocks up. Nairobi has some great shopping centres, she even had a salad. You don’t take salad’s for granted here.


On Sunday we met up with a NZ friend, Gordon Stewart and on Monday spent the day in the Mathare Valley and Kariobangi with our partners. It was a public holiday so the kids weren’t in school. But it was great to spend some time seeing the developments and hearing the stories. Met a few of our friends as well, Daniel and Magdaline, Gilbert, Paddy and Douglas. We have been working here for 9 years now, one of our first partnerships.

We also met another couple who have some really interesting partnership opportunities for us to consider. It will be great developing a relationship with Ibrahim and Diane over the next months.


Tuesday we flew to Uganda. It’s so different to Kenya, wet, fertile and a lot of trees. We spent the first night in Kampala and then early on Wed morning headed off to Katosi, another of our long term partners. It’s great to see the way it is developing. When we first came it was a ramshackle bunch of buildings with kids stuffed into makeshift buildings. Now it’s hugely improved, 600 kids, better facilities, mosquito nets, primary and secondary and a clinic. But there is still a lot to do. We spent the morning with Timothy and Janepher and two other board members. It’s great to see the vision being realised.

Then it was back to Mukono for the night and the next morning to Jinja. Jinja is parked on the edge of Lake Victoria, a lush beautiful place and the source of the Nile River. It’s huge at it’s source no wonder it’s so big at the other end. We’ve spent our time here with our friends Thomas and Joyce Lubari. They are refugees from Sudan and have settled here in Jinja. They have started a church and a school ad Thomas spends a lot of time now back in Sudan trying to aid development there. We’re talking about the establishment of a micro-loan programme in Jinja and an agriculture development in Sudan. All pretty exciting really.

The story with these guys is very inspiring, this last couple of years has seen them hit by one family tragedy after another. Thomas has had 3 brothers die, two of them this year and now he is responsible for all their children. The last one died earlier this month leaving 11 children, 10 of them in school. How will they do it, support all these kids and their own 5 and the two vulnerable kids in their home! that’s why we’re here, to come alongside people like this.


Well friends, we’re sipping beautiful coffee at the moment as we settle into the internet cafe for the rest of the day. Tomorrow we head off to Busia on the bus!! So we’re making the most of this!

Love from us at the Source Cafe, Jinja
Helen and Kevin


Out of Africa

2009-10-04

We survived the bus trip to Busia. It was fun to be at the grassroots. Kevin sat in the front beside a huge woman who was a fishmonger. I could tell she was before she got into the bus. The aroma spread about her as an aura and oozed out of pores and Kevin was squeezed against her for 2½ hours! Helen sat in the back and for the first part of the journey next to a lovely Kenyan woman who lived in a Ugandan village attempting to live out the Christian message amongst them.


But we got there OK and hopped out at Namungodi, a little trading centre on the side of the road. We then got motorbikes into Buhoya the village where we would stay the next 4 nights. We stayed with James and Gorret and their family. It was great to be there and to see how they live and how they serve people. Some notes from our stay: 1) we met with the board of the ministry they run. This ministry has a number of components including education, leadership training and micro-enterprise; 2) Kevin spoke at church on Sunday morning – the service went for 3½ hours! The sermon was obviously a short part of it, the rest we couldn’t understand! 3) we spent a lot of time with Charles who is the administrator of this partnership. He’s a really nice guy, we also went to his home village and met his wife and family including his father three uncles and their wives. It’s a lovely village with huge trees and lots of birds; 4) we worked on a budget with the board. It’s going to be a challenge this next year! 5) we sat around at night talking about the issues they face in the villages they live in, 6) we interviewed a number of people about the changes that have happened in their lives since the partnership started. We have to say, it’s very inspiring and humbling to hear about the life change and the mindsets that are being reshaped 7) we observed many people coming to their home to repay and receive loans.


It was all very inspiring and challenging. On Wednesday morning we left early and drove to Mbale about 90 minutes away. There we met Anna and Simon and took Anna with us for the next two days. We then travelled to Soroti and out to a little agriculture training centre where Miriam is training. Anna is the head of a family we are supporting. This partnership is 28 children who were disrupted by the Lords’ Resistance Army. They were found in Refugee camps and we were able to rescue them. So now we have the responsibility for them until they are all self sustaining. Miriam is one of the older children and wants to be an agriculturalist. So it was lovely to meet her.


After meeting her we travelled by a short cut to get back to the main road and 6 hours later we got to Lira, not having found the main road!!! One puncture and many “almost got stuck” experiences later we got to Lira on dark to a huge welcome from the children and those who care for them. The next 36 hours, apart from sleeping was filled up with: 1) working on budgets for about 4 hours, this is going to be a challenge. and these kids are growing up and tertiary education here, takes years. But if we’re going to bring real change here we have to stick with these kids and do a deep work in their lives. 2) We interviewed a number of the older children, their stories are very challenging and one day we’re going to write a book about them. Amos is a case in point, he will start university next year and wants to be a doctor or a vet. Just 5 years ago he was alone and on the street about to die from the severe beatings and malnutrition he had received while with the LRA bandits. Now he is a lovely, gentle young man and a total inspiration. 3) Helen heard the stories of a number of women who are all widows and who help the children. Their stories are mind-numbing and desperate. They are asking for around $US2,000 to help them become self sufficient, mmmmm, we’ll be working on that one. 4) Told stories to the children at night and many of them responded by talking about the things that control them and trap then into doing the wrong thing. They are such a responsive group; you should hear these kids pray! Every day they pray for Bright Hope World because they think of us as their parents. 5) we played some games and heard about Alan and Elvis, two brothers who are both HIV+. These little guys are so funny, especially Alan. What’s the future for them? I don’t know, they aren’t old enough to be on ARVs so it’s hard to know what the future is. They are usually well, but sometimes get quite sick. Such a shame.

Friday we travelled back to Kampala and are hanging out here catching up on sleep and writing up some notes. We’ve got a lot of reports to write up and we’re meeting a couple of groups here over the weekend. Last night we had a lovely evening with Desiree Stewart who is a lovely NZ friend working with Watoto children’s ministry. We went to the children’s hospital she is involved with and saw lots of little children, about 80 under 9 months of age. The smallest is just 700 gramms, .7 of a kg. Meg would fit into Kevin’s hand. Sandra died today; she was just too sick when they found her. These kids are mostly abandoned. The enigma for me was this, just outside the walls were many prostitutes plying their trade producing what was being cared for inside the walls!!! Damn this is a stupid world.


So tomorrow we leave Africa again and head off to the UK on the way to the USA.
Thanks for hanging in there with us on this trip. It seems like a really long trip this time but we’re getting there and are so blessed. One observation, costs have gone up in Africa like you would not believe. We’re going to have to review the way we do this thing in the future. We’re having trouble getting e-mails in and out in Kampala so you may not hear from us until we get to the UK on Tuesday.


Lots of love
Kevin and Helen


flying home today

2009-10-19

Where have the last 2 weeks gone? It’s been a blur and I can’t believe that tomorrow we climb into 2 more planes and get to hang out at two more airports, yay!!! Like we need more!!


Monday morning, 5th October we got away from Uganda without too many difficulties and found ourselves flying to London from Entebbe. The day before we left, Sunday afternoon, we spent a couple of hours talking to 3 young Ugandan guys. They are passionate about helping the poor and young people in their part of Uganda and want to help them to become self sufficient by starting a chicken project, each family getting a number of chickens given to them. It was great to hear their passion for the lost and the poor. We had supported the training of these guys in Zambia in 2008. The enigma is this, none of them have employment; they are poor. Very poor, poorest of the poor and yet they have a plan to help the poor. If only we in the West would get it!!!


We arrived in London and our friend Craige picked us up and took up out to their place in Southeast London. They live in the beautiful little town of Caterham. We spent two nights with them and it was great to catch up with the Amos family. Craige and Corinne, Beth, Joel and Ben were so helpful and hospitable. It was lovely to hang out with them and despite the weather; it was great to be at their place.


Then it was another plane and another flight from London to Chicago. We spent 3 days there, Rob Purdue met us, we hired a car and headed off to our friends place. Phil and Sue were there and made us feel very welcome. We hung out at their place for 3 nights while we had meetings around Chicago. We met with the mission leaders at Willow Creek church, talked to the Bright Hope people in the USA, met with the Bright Hope Canada people and had a few meals with other friends we have met on trips to Africa. Mike and Anita took us out, it was lovely to spend some time with them. There are some people you just like spending time with, some people who encourage and inspire you and who strengthen you by just being with them. Mike and Anita are like that, beautiful people.


It’s Fall here and the trees are turning into beautiful colours. Summer hasn’t been great this year in Chicago and it was cool and damp while we were there.


Right now it’s early Sunday morning and we’re sitting in north Dallas looking out the window as the sun comes up, it’s just beautiful. But between Chicago and Dallas we went to San Antonio, Texas. The guy we were to meet there had to leave so we had nothing to do for 3 days. So last Saturday we flew off to Sam Antonio, hired a car and a cheap hotel. Rob Purdue was with us as well and we had a chance to catch up with a lot of stuff. The weather was pretty atrocious so we didn’t get out much.


Sunday it poured all day. We went off to a church just up the road from where we were staying. The pastor is a guy called Max Lucado, some of you may have read some of his books. He spoke and the subject was the poor. He used examples from Ethiopia, it was very helpful and stimulating. We then went off to a shopping mall and wandered around the huge Barnes and Noble bookstore and got a couple of books we’ve been wanting for a while. Then more talking and a couple of reports, fortunately there was wireless internet in the hotel.


Monday the weather cleared for a few hours and it was a holiday, Columbus Day. We headed off to the centre of town and wandered around. San Antonio is a large city, 7th largest city in the USA. We checked out the Alamo where Davy Crocket fought and died and then did the River walk, a beautiful meander through the centre of the city with 100s of cafes and restaurants. It had a kind of European feel to it, very nice and relaxing.
Tuesday came and after talking all day and making plans, we took the rental car back and boarded the plane to Dallas, just 40 minutes and another 30 minutes sitting in the plane waiting for another plane to leave. John Stanley was there, our mate from Chase Oaks church that we are here to spend some time with. As I said, it’s Sunday and the last few days have been a blur of meetings. By yesterday we were so tired we could hardly stand up.


Actually, it’s now Monday morning, Sunday seemed to just disappear like all the other days we’ve been here in Dallas. When I think about it we’ve actually done quite a bit while here. We: 1) met with the key leaders of the church that are sponsoring a huge partnership in Ethiopia, 2) survived (so far) getting swine flu from one of the pastors, 3) met with a couple (3 times) who are probably going to help us get something significant going in the USA, 4) met with a young guy, Lane, who is going to be with us for around 9 months from March next year, he’s going to travel through all our partnerships and do photography and report writing, 5) spent some lovely time with Jeannie Pascale, out hostess here in Dallas, she is such an amazing woman with energy like it’s hard to measure or describe (we’ve laughed and shared and eaten amazing breakfasts, had fast car rides around the streets of McKinney, eaten steak and swum in her heated pool at 10 pm,) 6) we went to church at Chase Oaks 7)spent a lot of time with John Stanley, our main man in Dallas and Ethiopia, 8) Spent a morning with the elders of the church talking about partnership mission 9) met with a number of other people usually in restaurants and 10) done a bit of shopping. This is the place to get electronic stuff and we’ve been able to upgrade some things.


So later today we do two more flights and 20 hours later end up in Auckland. It’s going to be good to sleep in our bed again. The first 2 weeks back is going to be crazy, with a truck load of meetings but then hopefully we’ll get a bit of a break! Who organised this itinerary. We’re pretty excited though. There is just so much going on, the next few months are going to be crazy but we’re expecting some significant growth in BHW.


Friends, we will write again to sign this trip off when we get back to NZ and upload some photos for you. Thanks so much for travelling with us and upholding us. We know you’re busy and you don’t have a lot of free time, but you’ve taken the time to read the blog, pray for us and send us notes. You have no idea how much we appreciate that.


Lots of love
Kevin and Helen


last for the year

2009-11-07

Back Home, awesome, same bed, regular meals, family, Hugo.....nice.

We got away from Dallas OK, our dear friend Jeannie took us to the airport. It was so nice to stay with Jeannie, she is one amazing woman with generosity like we’ve rarely experienced. Got to Los Angeles with 4 hours to wait and surprise, surprise – an upgrade to business class. 6 hours sleep, beautiful meals, thanks Qantas for overbooking the plane. There are some benefits from having a lot of air points. So we got back into Auckland feeling reasonably OK.


It was great to be with the family again, Jared, Ruth and Hugo met us and we then caught up with Sara and Karl and when we got back to Tindalls Bay, Kevin’s mum was there as well. So it was awesome. By the way, Kevin’s mum has bought a house up here and will be shifting some time in the next 3 months. It would be nice to say that we’ve been resting up a bit since then, but, well, you know!!!


Saturday, Hugo’s 1st birthday party at our home. Heaps of people came around, it was great fun. Hugo loved all the boxes and paper, he got some beautiful toys as well. Dad and granddad have had fun ever since!


Monday, Kevin shot down to Wellington, hired a car and visited some friends in Raumati. They had been in Zambia working on one of our partnerships and it was time to catch up and see how they were doing, bit of a debrief. Then it was overnight in Levin and the next day up to Marton. Had to speak at a girls college, one of our friends is the head of chapel and it was a good opportunity to support her in her faith walk. She’s like a daughter and is coming to live in Auckland next year. It’s great to be able to come alongside people like her.

That night he visited a church in Feilding that is partnering with us in India. We reported to them and started talking about the future and a visit to Delhi. Then it was back to Levin for the night and an early trip Wednesday morning to Wellington for the flight to Auckland.

Friday morning, into Auckland to meet with Rod Purdue and Fraser Scott. Rob is our boss and Fraser is starting to work with Bright Hope on a part time basis. We met with 3 pastors who went to India with BHW in August / September. Debrief, lessons to learn and planning what the future might look like. Real opportunities to take up in India but a lot of questions to ask as well. Is it core to BHW, how do we engage church leaders in NZ and help them to lead their churches, how do we build into the lives of the Indian leaders we partner with .......


Saturday and an early morning trip to Hamilton. Both of us, Rob and Fraser were participating in a seminar for church leaders about how to become more effective in missions. Plenty of talking and answering questions, pretty positive time. We were at CBC church which has a cafe and uses Le Mai, BHW’s coffee. Good to be with a church that is grappling with the issues. Their leaders were in Thailand with us earlier in the year. Went to Campbell and Lorraine’s place (pastors) for dinner and then across to Te Awamutu for the night.


Sunday, Kevin spoke at the church, about 250 people, missions Sunday. Seemed to go well, people were challenged and encouraged. Lunch with the mission team and then a session with the church leaders helping them think through their global impact. Great bunch of people. TABC has been involved a bit with BHW in the past and we are seeking to develop stronger relationships with them. On the way home Kevin had a meeting in Auckland, we got home that night around 11:00, stuffed!!!


We had a couple more meetings on Monday and Tuesday and dropped Rob off Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday evening Kevin had a meeting with another church in Auckland about missions and Thursday we spoke with 15 young people who have just finished a missions GAP year. Now it’s Saturday, we’ve survived, it’s a fine day and there are no appointments for a couple of days and no sermons to prepare or people to think about talking to and what will we do with ourselves!!!!


Now it’s time to catch our breath. There are still decisions to make about a farm in Ethiopia, a chicken farm in Myanmar, some budgets for three other p/ships and planning the trips for next year. So there is plenty to keep us busy. We’re planning to start a new branch in the USA and that will require some thinking about and some planning. But the deadlines are off in a sense, some space for some brain rest we hope.


December and January will be pretty full on. We’re planning to be selling cherries in Auckland as a fund raiser for expenses. We’ll have 4 or 5 stalls spread around various parts of Auckland and that will require picking up fruit very morning and delivering it to the stalls. It’s going to be fun as well as a lot of hard work. But, the poor are our partners and friends, there is no option but to throw everything at the quest to alleviate their poverty and give them a chance at life.


We’re planning to have a break in Feb / Mar before hitting the air again in April. This will be the last note for a while, until we feel the stirrings again to pack our suitcases for another year of adventure. Thanks for the support and friendship this year. We’ve put a few pics up for you to see. We hope you have a great Christmas and New Year, hopefully we’ll be able to catch up with you over the holidays.


Love and Merry Christmas – even though it’s still 7 weeks away.
Helen and Kevin


another last message

2009-11-10

HI there friends, 

we said in the last note that we would put in a few pictures but we couldn't upload for a couple of days, so here are few.

For those who live in Levin, we will be in the Levin area for 2 nights, last minute arrangement, on Friday and Saturday the 20th and 21st November. Would love to catch up with as many as possible. In a few days we'll be in touch with a note about where we'll have a get together on Saturday evening teh 21st. so pencil it in, would love to see ya'll.

Kevin is off to Christchurch on Monday until arriving in Levin the 20th with Helen.

Love to everyone

Kevin and Helen


Visiting Levin

2009-11-12

Hi there friends, especially those in or near Levin

 

Helen and I have to come to Levin on the 20th November to do some business. It's a while since we were there with you so we thought it might be a good opportunity to catch up, if you're available.

So, on Saturday evening the 21st November at 7:30 we're going to have a meeting for those who want to catch up. It will be at Doug and Hannah Rowan's place, 35 Burn Street. Thanks Doug and Hannah for opening up your home. Hey, if you're coming, bring a plate as we're really hungry!,

We'll talk about this last year and about the partners we have been visiting and have some pix. Feel free to talk to others about this as well.

So, lot' s of love and look forward to seeing you there

Kevin and Helen


Happy Christmas

2009-11-26

 

Dear friends

This will be the final one for this year!! I seem to remember that saying that before!!! Kevin survived the time in Christchurch catching up with the team there and working on our various partnerships. it was good to catch up and be able to start a couple more partnerships.

We had a nice trip to Levin. Helen was able to catch up with her 3 sisters and be at Faye's birthday party; not her 50th!! It was an unexpected bonus to be there on that weekend.

Kevin was able to spend some time with some of our friends at Queen St Chapel on Saturday evening and chat to them about some of the things we've been up to. it was great to have about 18 people there, we have such nice friends there. Thanks to Doug and Hannah Rowan for lending us their home to host it.

Then Sunday am we were able to be at church and share for a few minutes. Lovely to catch up with more friends. We got back home on Monday. Kevin hasn't been well since part way through the Christchurch trip and is having tests to try and find out what's going on.

The rest of the year looks pretty busy tidying up all the partnership issues before the next year starts.

One exciting development has been with Jared and Ruth. They have started a new business. check it out on http://www.wurld.org.nz/blog/ It's pretty cool to see them going for it and trying to make a difference in the wurld.

So friends, Happy Christmas to you all.

We'll be back in touch in March some time before we head off to Asia for our 1st trip next year.

Love and all the very best.

Kevin


Happy Christmas - again

2009-12-23

It's a beautiful day here where we live, warm and bright blue sky and water. Christmas is summer, christmas is family, christmas is Jesus, JOY TO THE WORLD.

We weren't going to write another entry until the next trip, but so much has been going on we thought we should update everyone. It's going to be be great to have our children at home for Christmas. it's always fun with them all being silly. even though they are adults with big responsibilites, they become children again and the magic of Christams invades the family time.

Kevin has to speak at church on Christmas Eve and then again on Sunday so i'ts hard to be free of responsibility, but Jesus is so worth talking to others about.

Since the last blog we've both been struggling with health. Helen's right shoulder froze up and it's taken 3 or 4 weeks of treatment to get it working up to 90%. So that's been pretty uncomfortable for her. Kevin has had another bout of malaria with 3 nights in hospital and a slow recovery. He's still is only 90% probably and gets very tired. These trips seem to take it out of us. Mind you, 90% is probably as good as it gets!!

There is so much going on in the lives of our partners it's hard to know where to start. Christmas is very different for them compared to us. For some there will be no public Christmas, they live in countries where they are the minority. For some it will just be another work day. For many it will be spent with their church family as they have been rejected by their biological family or they have no family. So we think a lot about them at this time of the year. 

We are planning next year's trips and it looks like a month in Asia from around the start of April and then a really long trip in Africa and Asia from the middle of July to late october. we'll be back to you with the details when we have them.

So, we trust you will expereince more than just family this Christmas. We trust you will expereince the presence and grace of Jesus, the outpouring of His Spirit and the love of God the Father. Thanks so much for your companionship and fellowship on the journey this year. It's been an awesome year made much more pleasant by your presence.

Love to everyone

Kevin and Helen


underway with 2010

2010-02-10

Hey, 2010 and another decade disappears into history. Easy to look back at the past and as we do there are many memorable events and people. but there’s not much time to linger there, the future rushes at us and there’s no time to waste.


Thought we should drop you a note to stay in touch. The next 10 months is pretty much shaping up so it’s time to start thinking about the details of that and organise the dozens of flights and places to stay.


But first a short update. Helen’s shoulder has pretty much healed but while shifting house for Karl and Sara she fell and damaged her knee. So now it’s physio for that and also a little for her back. It’s a strange injury as she is able to walk OK, but around the knee cap it’s swollen and uncomfortable. Age I say, but not to her!!!


Kevin has continued to battle with malaria. He’s had two bouts in hospital and for a period of about 2 months has really struggled with it. But the right treatment has been administered and now he’s feeling a lot better. So we battle on ,much more aware of the issues some of our partners face. Many of our friends constantly struggle with malaria, it’s a constant companion. An unwelcome one too.


Christmas was great, we had an awesome time with our family and seeing presents and other stuff with Hugo around was hugely funny. We’ll add a p photo of him at Christmastime. Some friends gave us a holiday break up at Tutukaka for a few days and it was lovely to hang out on the beach and relax. We did a few walks and some snorkelling, New Zealand is such a beautiful place.


Both of us have been sharing with people and groups about BHW over the last few weeks. We had a women’s group on Tuesday, we’ve got a group of 15 teenagers this afternoon and evening. Saturday evening a small group just North of Wellington and Sunday at a church in Feilding. So it’s now all go. It’s great to meet people who are totally focussed on making their lives count and who are passionate about the things God is interested in.


This year, mmmmmm. Here’s are a few of the things coming up for your interest. Of course we’ll keep you up to date as we go along.


13th – 23rd Feb – we will be in the Marlborough Sounds with Rob Purdue to plan the year and develop strategies for Bright Hope. A few folks will come to visit us while we’re there. Might be some fishing as well!!


End of February – Kevins Mum shifts to our area so we’ll be helping with that
First weekend in March, 4th – 8th – some meetings in Taupo on the Saturday with a partner organization talking about how we can work together. Then we go to Rotorua to meet some partners / friends and speak at a couple of churches on Sunday. Rob Purdue will be here with us. While Rob is here we’ll also be visiting other people about BHW partnership.


March 9th – 15th – we’ll be in Christchurch. We have a Bright Hope World meeting there with a group of strategic people whose input we need. It’s going to be a fantastic time, the calibre of those coming is huge.


19th – 22nd March – Kevin is going to Tasmania, Australia, for some meetings with a church there. The exciting thing about all this is that there are people wanting to become involved with BHW and make a difference, we are now exploring what that looks like and how we can make it happen.


April is trip one, the problem is that Kevin is doing the trip in Asia and Helen is doing it in New Zealand. It’s just so expensive to travel now we have decide this year for Kevin to do a one month trip to Asia with other BHW personnel and then we’ll do a longer trip later in the year together. So, this is what they look like:


Trip one starts on Easter Sunday up to Thailand and across to Myanmar for 3 days. On the 9th April it’s across to India to visit 3 of our major partners. We will have people with us from the USA, it’s orientation for them. They are helping BHW to start up in the USA, it will be called HOPE World Partnership in the USA. We leave there on the 23rd April and come back to Thailand for 8 days visiting our partners there. The USA guys head back home and then Kevin heads off to Cambodia for a few days to explore a new opportunity. He gets home on the 5th May.


Meanwhile, Helen is planning a road trip through the North Island to visit our friends and catch up with people. So look out, you have been warned. Seriously though, we value your support and friendship so much and want to catch up.


Trip two is a mammoth trip starting on the 14th July. The plan is to have a few days in South Africa visiting partners and cleaning up after the Football World Cup!!!
Then it’s a week in Mozambique in some pretty rough places. So that will be an adventure.


Then through Zimbabwe and onto Zambia. We’ll have about 2 weeks there catching up with partners and attending a conference. There will be people there we assist from all over Africa.


Then a week in Kenya, 8 days in Ethiopia and back to Kenya for a few days. We’ve got awesome partners in this part of the world. In Ethiopia we’ll be working to further establish a school and set up an agriculture / grain trading programme and loan scheme to generate income for supporting other programmes. Back in Kenya we’re visiting our existing partners and looking at a new agriculture and tree planting project. It’s looking fantastic. Kenya has so few trees left and is struggling from constant drought, shortages of water and desertification.


Then it’s a couple of weeks in Uganda and back to Kenya for a 1 week break!!! Yay. During this whole trip we will have a young guy travelling with us. you’ll get to meet him as we report. He’s from the US and his name is Lane Davis. He’s going to be a photo journalist for us and is working for BHW for about 9 months. So there will be some amazing stories and pix from this trip, few of them will be ours!!! This takes us to around the 17th September and we then fly into Asia.


We have a week in Pakistan and hope that they are not attacking tourists at that time! The worst thing about Pakistan is that every flight I’ve ever gone on into that place arrives about 3 am! And if your bag is missing......


Then it’s on to India for 2 weeks. Really looking forward to that, our partners there are totally amazing and it’s inspirational to be with them. We always come away from that place refreshed and inspired.


5 days in Nepal follow India and it will be great to spend time with Niranjan and Sonu and their family. There are good things happening there and we’ll be heading out into the rural areas of Nawal Parasi to see the development as well as establish a micro loan programme.


Then it’s onto the last leg of the trip, Thailand, we have new partners to meet and existing partners to visit. There is the possibility of a trip to Myanmar for Kevin during this time as well. We get back to NZ around the 20th October.

You know, as I write this out, unless you guys are on our team it’s going to be real tough. There is so much that could go wrong. But, you’ve been with us in the past and we count on you for the future. Of course, we are totally dependent on God to be the leader of the expedition, but we need you guys as well.


We’re not going to count beds this trip. Maybe it should be toilets we have visited, but that could be a bit too much information. So we’ll think of something and continue talking about the people we meet.


We’ll be back in touch again about the time the first trip starts. We don’t want to become too much in your face or inbox.


Enjoy the recent pix.

Love
Helen and kevin


Off again

2010-04-01

Hey there friends,

it just seems like a few days ago and we were arriving home from the last trip. but when you think about it..... two bouts of malaria, Hugo's birthday, Kevin's birthday, Helen's birthday, Kevin's mum sold her house in Levin and bought one near to us north of Auckland, New Year, a trip to Tasmania, a week in Christchurch and a week's holiday up north courtesy of some generous friends. Wow, there's been a lot going on.

Sunday Kevin heads off to Asia. check out the itinerary for the stops. He's away for 30 days. Helen isn't coming on this trip sadly, we hate being apart. Helen will head off to the south of the North Island to visit a few friends. so that will fill in the time and give her lots of excuses for coffee.

on this trip Kevin is travelling with John Vlaming, the Bright Hope World (BHW) Agriculture Director. we've got a number of farming projects to look at, chickens in Myanmar, crops in Nepal and buffaloes in India. So it's going to be a varied time.

Then two of our team from the USA come into meet us in Indai and we check out two of our main partners in Delhi and Kakinada. you'll hear more about these as Kevin travels.

Then it's back to Thailand and another of our team joins us for 10 days.

feel free to drop us a note, hopefully Helen will get the chance to update this as well from time to time.

enjoy the trip!

Kevin and Helen


Hot, Awesome and connected

2010-04-09

Hot, that’s possibly the only word to describe the last few days. It’s been over 40 degrees every day and humid as well. John Vlaming and I are in Kolkata for 24 hours. In a couple of hours we head out of this little room we have been sharing to drive the hour, 15 kms, back to the airport. Then it’s off to Kathmandu, hopefully a little cooler, 35 degrees would be nice. Talking about hot, John and I went out onto the street last night and got dinner in a little roadside restaurant. The dining area and the kitchen were about 5 metres by 4 metres. The tandoori oven was in one corner and that added to the heat. The food was amazing, and we’re still alive this morning! Actually it wasn't too hot, the food that is!!


Actually, there are other words that describe the last few days as well. Amazing – yea that would work too. The people we met in Myanmar are great. Most of them are working in very hard places to establish little churches and care for the poor. The two go hand in hand there. One guy said “the poor are very responsive, the rich do not respond.” Pretty similar in most places I guess. The church planter or pastor has many issues to deal with in this community. The poor expect the pastor to support them, to feed them to transport them, to heal them..... the works. So it’s tough, really tough.


I’ve not had a chance to sort out any photos so you’ll have to wait for those. Sorry.
Fortunately we’ve missed the worst of the problems in Thailand. Hopefully they will all be sorted by the time we get back there in 13 days. We do have an issue you could pray about if you’re into that. Both John and I had our itineraries altered and it’s meant we have had to spend today in India before going on to Nepal and then coming back into India. The problem is that our visas both state that we have to have 2 months between leaving India and then re-entering again. So, on Wednesday when we arrive in Delhi we may have some difficulties. Hopefully the immigration people will be less pedantic than the silly little man in the booth through which we entered!


Not much else to report. Connected – that’s another word to describe the last few days. It’s been great wherever we go to have the internet. It’s incredible how this has change in the last couple of years. Even in Myanmar I was able to video skype back to NZ. 2 years ago you couldn’t even telephone. Though, hot does not go well with connected when the connection is video skype,  it’s too hot to have many clothes on!


So I’ll sign off for now
Catch you in Nepal perhaps.
Kevin


Kakinada - sweating it out

2010-04-20

Hey friends from Kakinada,

man if it was hot before, it’s sticky now. it’s like I’m melting away as are the rest of the team here with us. I was hoping to get some pix on this time for you to see but it's a bitof a task. i'll try next time, hopefully later today.

We had a great time in Nepal. Niranjan and Sonu are amazing people. a couple of year ago they adopted a girl they recued out of prostitution. Now, every day they feed 10 boys and two of them live with them, the other 8 stay with church members as they have been kicked out of home. I mean, this is on top of all the stuff they do.


While we were there we travelled out to Nawal Parasi, 170 kms from Kathmandu. We left at 8:30 and started well. half an hour later a traffic jam and 90 minutes later we have travelled another 3 kms. Anyway, we got there eventually and checked out the stuff that was going on in the project. A clinic is now operating and the really exciting thing is that there is a newly formed agriculture cooperative with 200 farmers as members. It’s amazing to see the change that is starting to emerge in this area. They have a dream now for the first time.


We were going to stay there for a couple of nights in Nawal Parasi but the Maoist opposition party called a general strike for the following day so there would be no way of getting home again. Then, the following day was New Years Day 2067 and a whole lot of stuff would be closed down. So, 16 hours after we left Kathmandu we were back again. It was great to find the Higher Ground Cafe with wireless internet to write up our stuff and get it out. We had a lovely time with our friends, it’s developing into a great partnership making a lot of change it a lot of lives.

We met Durga, she’s been given a loan to grow her business so now she’s training 3 students and making a good income. Now her two boys can go to a decent school and she is really fulfilled. A whole bunch of other people will be trained to sew in other parts of Nepal including a whole bunch of bonded workers who are like slaves.


We are really concerned about getting back into India cause our visas were multi entry but needed to have 2 months between visits, now it’s 4 days since the last visit. Well, John and I were the 1st ones off the plane and up to the counter and we’re into Delhi within 5 minutes of the plane landing, awesome. Thanks to those who prayed. We hung out in the airport until Susy and Linda arrived from Dallas. They are starting up Bright Hope in the USA and are visiting some of our partners to get to know them.


Next morning we’re up at 4:30 and catching a train to Dehradun. The girls are pretty shocked walking through the train station. It is pretty tough seeing so many people sleeping rough all crammed together on the concrete platform. Dogs were snooping around and little kids were scavenging in the garbage.......


7 hours later we’re in Dehradun meeting with students and hearing their stories. Next morning we’re travelling to Rishikesh, it’s a city on the Ganges River and it’s Hindu Festival time. Tens of thousands of people swarming into the river to wash their sins away....... for a day. Such a shame when there is such a grace solution to sin at the heart of the Christian Good News. Pretty amazing experience.


I dropped my camera!! It’s still working, just.


So we caught the train back to Delhi and caught up with our partners there and spent Sunday travelling to Kakinada, where it’s sticky, real sticky, hot. More about Kakinada over the next few days.


Helen has been in Levin catching up with folks and having a nice time with our friends there. I’m missing her pretty bad, she’s my girl.


Half way through the trip today, it seems like trouble is following us around. the red shirts in Thailand and we’re going back there in 4 days. The Maoists in Nepal and now they are bombing cricket stadia in India. So watch out if we come to your place! Seriously though, there is a lot of danger around and things can turn nasty in the blink of an eye out here. That’s why we need your prayer so much.


See ya
Kevin


Kakinada, sewing, lepers and vulnerable kids

2010-05-01

It sure does seem like trouble is following us around. I should say me, as I’m the only one left. The red shirts are causing a few hassles around here but it’s not too bad. I’m in the part of town in which a policeman was killed yesterday.


But, before we get to that, I’m about 2 weeks behind on this blog and so it’s time to catch up. Sorry about that. I was intending to be up to date. But you know!! Anyway, I finished last time in Kakinada and it was hot. We visited a number of sewing projects run by our partners there. Some were current ones, others were finished so we were able to talk to those who had completed their training. Amazing is the only world to describe the changes that have been brought about by learning to sew. Families transformed. Most men are agricultural workers in these rural villages. The land is largely owned by wealthy people and there is a feudal system of labour. Basically, the landowners also own the people, largely because they have accumulated debts over the years. And so every day the men go off to work not sure if they will get anything today. The women can now stay at home and generate some income and being at home cuts down on costs as well. In the process of this, the kids are better cared for and the women can earn more than the men. Things improve at home in every way. As well as this, most of the women and many of the men and children become followers of Jesus as well. soon after that, they start to question the justice of the system and begin to break free. We saw the same in Nepal.


We went to one church and it met in a nice little building on the front of a house plot with the house behind it. the house was obviously being built over a period of time, but it is going to be a nice house when finished. 2 stories, they are m bringing their vision into reality. The story of this family is great. The father was a drunkard in the past and used to waste his money and abuse his family. He was a typical agricultural worker until one day he was introduced to Jesus. His life was transformed and immediately he was different. No a few years later he is building his own house, has his own prosperous building, has donated the land for the church building, has his sons working in the business with him and there are more than 50 believers in the village. Transformed person, transformed family, transformed community, that’s the process we love to see been worked out.


We also visited the 2 leper programmes. Again I was reminded of the abject poverty and injustice of a system that treats people like lepers. What sort of culture builds housing for lepers next to the cemetery and the crematorium. I guess they at least built them houses. But the revolution continues in those terrible places. People are being transformed and I’ve got a fair idea where Jesus is living in India. It’s probably near to the cemetery and the crematorium.


We had 4 great days in Kakinada. Our partners there, Emmanuel and Jessie cared for us and fed us like kings and queens. Awesome people.


The 22nd and 23rd of April were pretty tiring. We left Kakinada about 11 am and travelled 90 minutes and stopped to visit a sewing programme. Spent an hour there and then went on to the airport in Vishakhapatnam. We were to visit 2 more projects but the people were out so we skipped them this meant we had a 3 hour wait in the airport. Then a one hour flight to Kolkata, arriving after dark. No problems with baggage and a short walk through the car park to the International terminal.


It was interesting travelling with Susy and Linda. Pretty much first time travellers in places like India. Interesting talking to them about the things they were seeing. I realised how much I didn’t notice anymore, the lack of signs telling you where to go (I either know the way or am not afraid to ask,) the smell in the toilets and outside the toilets, the filth on the floors, the spitting into rubbish bins despite the signs that say don’t do it, the huge brown spits of brown beetle-juice and the brown stains on the footpaths, the constant hooting of car horns ........ the list goes on.


Anyway, back to Kolkata. We had to wait from 7 until midnight before we could check in. So we camped out in a quiet little place and watched a movie on Susy’s i-pad. Yes an i-pad, brand new out of the USA. Pretty impressive piece of tech is have to say. People often stopped to have touch of it, on airports, on planes and trains and wherever it came out, people recognised it. we got through Customs and immigration and took off at 2 am. It’s only just 2 hours flying and we lost 2 ½ hours so we arrived in Bangkok around 6:30 am. Now we had another wait, the flight to Chiang Mai wasn’t due to leave until 1 pm. So we waited around, drank coffee, wrote reports and met up with Roger. Roger joined our team here and spent the next week with us. I’ll tell you more about him in the next blog, cause we spent the next week in the same room!


We caught the plane to Chiang Mai and were met by our friends there and taken to the hotel. Got there about 3 pm, been travelling with no sleep for 26 hours already. 30 minutes and back down to ITDP headquarters and a briefing by Mike Mann, the leader of our partnership there. I’ll tell you more in the next blog about him.


We left the next morning at 8 am having had the most amazing green curry in the night market in Chiang Mai. Then we spent the next 4 days in Mike Toyota on some of the worst roads imaginable. But that’s for next blog in a few days.


I’m in Bangkok now and leave for NZ later today. it will be great to be back with Helen and to be able to download my head and my heart. It’s been a good trip but there are issues to address in a number of our partnerships. At the end of May the 49 kids in the children’s home in Kakinada will be out on the streets. They can’t find accommodation so we’re working on alternative plans.


I just received an e-mail from our friends in Nepal. The Maoist Party and it’s thugs are disturbing the situation in rural Nepal and this may cause problems for the clinic and the agriculture project. Every business will be the target of extortion, threats and looting. They are plain criminals and in most other countries would be locked away for life for the crimes they have committed.


So it’s not easy for our friends on the sharp end of serving God in these countries. There are issues we can’t dream about. But we can stand with them in the hour of their need. That’s what partners so. We don’t walk away like the TV ad says, “spray and walk away!” At the same time we have to be sensitive and understand that we can’t actually help a lot, they have to work it out in their own culture and us being there may actually make the situation worse.


Anyway, thanks for taking the time to follow along. I’ll do a wrap up in a week or so and get some more pix uploaded. Hopefully the roads to the airport won’t be blocked by the red shirts who are crippling Bangkok and the rest of Thailand.

i hoped to upload some pix but am doing this in the airport and don't have time. so, next wekk i'll get some to ya'll.
Love
Kevin and Helen.


Mike's Toyota

2010-05-04

Mike’s Toyota! 5 of us spent 4 days in it travelling on some of the roughest roads you can imagine in the North of Thailand. The purpose of this trip was to check out where the La Mai coffee is grown, if you don’t know about La Mai then check out http://brighthopeworld.com/coffee/ and order some.


So on Sat 24th April we headed off south west from Chiang Mai and up into the hills towards the Myanmar border. It’s rugge country. Linda and Susy were pretty freaked by the roads and Roger and I were being guys, making out like it was no sweat. We stayed in the village of Mahojo, just a few families there in this beautiful valley. We checked out the electric generator and water project that is powering 5 villages, the school and the clinic and the little church. This valley, so far from civilization is being transformed by the involvement of ITDP. They are becoming self sufficient, won’t have to go back to growing opium or selling their girls away and the school means their kids will be much more educated than they are. We sat late at night listening to them tell of their dreams for their children, “they will have a vision we cannot have,” one of the fathers said. One third of this village of animists have become followers of Jesus in the process of development. That is vital if the transformation is to stick, there has to be a change of world-view.


25th April, Sunday we drove back to Chiang Mai and on the way stopped off in the village of Som Poi. We had to drive an hour into the hills on the side of the highest mountain in Thailand to get there. Here we saw how the coffee is grown and the start of the process. We talked to a bunch of coffee growers and heard of the changes in the last few years because of stable coffee prices. This meeting showed many reasons why paying a fair price over an extended period has the ability to change communities. This village is further down the development track than Mahojo and is a great advertisement for the power of development. We visited a coffee orchard and saw the bushes growing under the forest trees.


In this village Starbucks have built a clinic and we talked about the real value this is to a village who previously had to travel 30 kms on foot to the nearest clinic. Pretty impressive and replicable.


We got back to Chiang Mai and the news that it was going to be difficult to visit one of our partners in Bangkok because of the activities of the red shirts. So Roger brought forward his leaving date to the 28th April and I managed to bring mine forward a couple of days. Then we ate out at the Thai restaurant that became our local haunt! Duck – awesome and it cost about $4.


9:00 am on the morning of the 26th and we were in the lobby of the hotel ready to head of to the north-east of Chiang Mai for another foray into the hill country of northern Thailand. We convinced Mike that a diversion past the local Starbucks cafe might be a good idea and he didn’t require much persuasion. The town was quiet after a bombing at a local police station the night before; the red shirts had struck in the North, not surprising as the politician they support comes from this area.


We got out of town with no problems and the road was great. We turned off the main road and climbed through a National Park alongside a set of beautiful, spectacular mountains. 2 hours later and after the road became decidedly worse, we arrived in the village of Baan Pa Gluay. The name has something to do with snakes which really impressed Susy and Linda. We had lunch, climbed up the hill behind the village to see the new water project recently completed and saw the buffaloes they were growing as part of the project. This village is pretty remote and in the early stages of development with ITDP. It was great to hear some of the stories and meet the people on the ground who are making a difference. We drove slowly out of the village and along the road so the girls could enjoy the river ford, the log bridges and the sheer cliffs. That day got longer and longer it seemed. We finally arrived at Phan Ghong village near to Chiang Rai at about 8:15 in the evening. It had been a long day and a storm was about to hit. The meal prepared for us was amazing and the bed on the floor was very comfortable. These are Akha people whose ancestors came to Thailand because of persecution only 60 or so years ago. So they have no citizenship here in Thailand and suffer because of this. but their food is amazing and their hospitality. Of the 103 families in this village, 30 had become followers of Jesus. We met members of the co-op the following morning, heard their stories and drank some of their coffee freshly brewed.


ITDP was awarded with the best coffee production in Thailand last year, so that’s a bit of a coup. They got an award from the Princess and some of the people from this village went to meet her to receive the award.


Tuesday the 27th we drove back to Chiang Mai by the direct route, it only took 3 hours. Mike treated us to a lovely pie shop on the way home and we got back to the ITDP base around 1:00 and had lunch there. We spent the next couple of hours seeing the rest of the coffee process once the beans get back to Chiang Mai. Then it was a few hours break before dinner in an Irish pub and a crazy trip around the nightlife of Chiang Mai in a tuk tuk. I was totally embarrassed by the actions of the other 3 team members!


Mike took us to the airport on Wed morning, it was sad to say goodbye, we had been blessed to have his great company and fellowship in the car for 4 days. I came away from our time with Mike Mann and ITDP with a very strong sense that we could easily work with these people. They share our grassroots philosophy, our desire to see holistic development and transformation and have great people on the ground. I have the feeling we will be there again in the future.


Back to Bangkok on the 28th, into a hotel near to the airport and the girls decided they wanted to leave if they could. The situation in Bangkok was hard to read so they decided to try and get out. Roger headed off to the airport and got away OK and around 7:30 pm we went back out there to try and get onto a plane to London and then Dallas. I left the girls around 10:30 and they were to let me know what was going on. They got onto a flight which was then cancelled and spent the whole of that night and the rest of the next day in the centre of Bangkok in a hotel until the plane took off 24 hours later!


Meanwhile, I was oblivious to all this and on Thursday the 29th headed over to the North of the city where our Bangkok partners are based. I spent the afternoon talking to the Good News Team and had a lovely lunch with them. They are doing a great job of helping children to discover Jesus. The next day I met with Prasert, another of our partners and along with Irene from Malaysia visited and talked about their work with children and church planting. It was great to see them at work and hear the stores of life change and family transformation. We visited one family in desperate circumstances who have just decided to follow Jesus. Awesome stuff. That night I spent the evening with Lorraine and Val, two kiwi women who have given their lives for the Good News in Thailand. Very stimulating and challenging.


The 1st May saw me hanging out at the hotel until checkout time at midday and then out to the airport for a 7 hour wait until my plane. Caught up with some e-mails and reports and hung around. I’ve become an expert at navigating Bangkok airport. Went through it 7 times on this trip, it’s pretty impressive! Took off on time, no decent movies, popped a pill and woke up with less than 2 hours to go. The 2 girls next to me thought I had died and had to climb over me to get to the loo. Got in 40 minutes early and Helen was there, all is good, got home two days early.


Now? I’m going to rest better this time between trips. Not many meetings to take so that’s great. We have a lot of stuff to sort for teh next trip. we are visiting 12 countries and have a number of people travelling with us for various legs of the journey. we have to do some serious thinking about a number of our partnerships and a few plans to make. There are new opportunities to develop so we’ll not be standing still. Here are some of the things to work on and pray about:


1. A new chicken farm in Myanamr
2. A computer shop in Myanmar
3. More loans in Nepal
4. More opportunities for sewing in and around Delhi
5. What to do with the kids in Kakinada
6. A buffalo farm in Kakinada and setting that up
7. Partnering with IDTP in northern Thailand – need more partners
8. How to sell more coffee in NZ and the USA


And there are a bunch of other issues to think about as well in other countries. The world doesn’t stop because we are on a trip:


9. A sewing factory in Pakistan
10. Building a school in Ethiopia
11. Funding a grain trading business in Ethiopia
12. Finding some farmers to go to Zambia for some years at the end of this year. Maybe you are a farmer or you know one that would relish the experience and the challenge?
13. Planning a conference in Zambia for April next year
14. Setting up a rice growing joint venture in PNG


So, we’ll not be sitting still until we leave for the next trip on the 9th July, starting in Cambodia and Africa.


Thanks for your love, support and messages. We really appreciate you and your involvement in our lives and the lives of those whose lives are being transformed.


Kevin and Helen


Away we go again

2010-07-06

hey there everyone, it's time to hit the road again.

we're off on Friday for 15 weeks and a bit of a trek. i've updated the itinerary but will paint a bit of a picture here of the plans.

Before that, it's been a few weeks since Kevin got back from Asia and we wonder where the time has gone. A few highlights to keep you up to date before we leave again. It's been great to spend some time with Hugo and see him growing up, he's such a funny little guy and we love him so much.

We had a weekend in Levin and a week in Christchurch with the team there. There are some real growth signs in the development of Bright Hope World in NZ. A number of people are coming on board as donors and some onto our team. It's all very exciting. We had a day in Wellington with one couple who have joined the team to oversee India. James and Nicki Rees Thomas  are currently in Canada but by this time next year will be taking the load in india.

Kevin had a weekend in Wellington running a seminar, speaking at a partner church and meeting some of our partners. It's always great to spend time with friends who are on the same journey and the same page. We then had a weekend around Waikato and Rotorua with Rob Purdue visiting friends and partners and a weekend with Sara and Karl in Tauranga. So it's been pretty full on and now we're heading off for a rest!

This trip sees us spending a few days in Cambodia to check out a new opportunity that is developing before we head off to Africa. We have a couple of days in South Africa getting sorted and meeting our travelling companion for the whole trip, Lane Davis. Lane is a young guy from the USA who is working with us for a year as a photo journalist. Check out his photo diary at www.totellastory.org. he has amazing pictures and you'll have another way to follow what were doing.

We then head off to Mozambique for a few days to catch up with 2 partners. one lives in the town of Angoche and it's pretty basic and rural I think, we've never been there before. Then it's back to Sth Africa to catch up with partners. We have about 30 hours in Zimababwe visiting a new opportunity on the way to Zambia. Just 10 days there this year to attend a conference and meet a couple of partners. Susy Warren from the US flies in for a few weeks. She travelled with Kevin last trip and this is her orientation to Africa partners as she leads the development of the new base in Dallas.

Then it's onto Kenya for a few days to meet our partners and then Ethiopia for a week to catch up with Worku, our main man there. He is so busy it's hard to get a squeak out of him. Susy leaves us from Ethiopia and we go back to Kenya. there we are checking out  a new p/ship and Matt and Judy O'Byrne from NZ fly in to meet us. We fly to the border of Uganda to check out another partnership and then drive across to Busia on the Uganda side crossing the Equator on the way.

We'll have 10 days in uganda and leave Lane, Matt and Judy there and head back to Kenya where we'll have a bit of a break. Lane can't get a visa for Pakistan cause he's from the USA, so he'll stay on in Africa and meet us in India. Matt and Judy are staying on with a partner for a couple of weeks before heading off to Zambia for an assignment.

After having a weeks break somewhere,  we head off to visit our 2 main partners in Pakistan. we have a week there so it's going to be interesting. Islamabad / Rawalpindi for a few days looking at sewing programmes and Lahore to see the computer centre and explore new opportunities.

Then it's down to Delhi to meet Lane again and our partners and across to Lucknow to see the development of the work. A couple of days in Lucknow and it's on to Bangalore, hopefully to stay at SAIACS and meet our two main partners T Raja and Vidya Sagar. Lot's of stuff to talk to them about. Heather McLennan, our BHW office manager is coming out to join us and meet some of the partners she knows well but hasn't met yet. it will be great to have her with us and good for Helen to gain some female moral support! mind you, even if there were 10 males on the team with Helen we would be outnumbered!

Four sleeps in Bangalore and it's North East to Nagaland. We fly into Jorhat and drive down through Nagaland to Dimapur. We'll be looking at some new opportunities and meeting some key people. In Dimapur it's pigs, pigs, pigs. We'll be planning the strategy for the coming year and working on the growth of the work. We're hoping it will become a significant financial resource base for mission and poverty reduction in the future, it's starting to develop that way.

We then fly up to Siliguri near the Nepal border and after a couple of nights with our partner Primala we'll cross to the nearest town on the Nepal side and fly to Kathmandu. Niranjan and Sonu will want us to go out to Nawal Parasi where the work is developng and hopefully won't suggest we visit the goat village. That's a vertical climb for 90 minutes. it's also a Nepalese 90 minutes, double it for us large Westerners. They don't realise how hard it would be to carry me out of there!

Then it's back to Thailand to check out our partners we couldn't see last time there because of the redshirts and a new opportunity as well. We get back to NZ on Hugo's birthday, 22nd October.

So, seatbelts on, it's off again and welcome along for the ride. Love for you to follow along, we love your interest and crave your prayer.

Love, Helen and Kevin

 


hot and cold

2010-07-14

It’s hosing down with rain, has been for the past 3 hours and we are due to fly out of Phnom Penh in about 3 hours, hope we get out.


Been an interesting few days. Got to Bangkok OK Friday and the luggage had been sent thru to Phnom Penh! Great start! Off to the hotel without our bags and we didn’t sleep very well! Up at 4:30 and out to the airport for 7:50 flight to Cambodia. Mmmmm interesting flight. A couple of half-drunk Russians swigging whiskey and sharing it around, most of it onto the floor. A half drunk Frenchman from NZ all going to Cambodia. The Frenchman and the Russians almost came to blows on the way out of the plane. Welcome to Cambodia.


Been here more than 3 days and have met a lot of people and heard many stories. Everyone here has a story of grief, pain and loss. Went to the genocide museum, amazing story and the violence and cruelty was unbelievable. 1975 – 79 is etched deeply into the psyche of Cambodians, for good reason. And yet, still today little girls are raped and abused by locals and foreigners in this land, women are trafficked for labour and little boys are sold for sex. I’m not sure much has changed; certainly the hearts of men are desperately wicked and distorted.


Now we’re at the airport in Phnom Penh, we’ve survived:

Next stop Bangkok, 5 hours and then off to Johannesburg. After the All Blacks victory on Saturday it will be very nice to walk into Jo’burg!!


While in Cambodia we have visited some of the shelters run by Hagar ministries and met some of their people; heard the stories of many little girls, boys and women sold for sex or cheap labour; wished I could be in a dark room with the animals that rape and abuse little children including one 14 year old girl who attempted suicide twice while we were here; spoken to 12 counsellors of these abused women and children; seen a social enterprise business being set up to help with development, nutrition and employment; visited shelters for women, children and disabled kids. Hagar has a pretty comprehensive programme for the most difficult poverty and abuse and great people running the programmes. We visited some of the cafe’s and restaurants run by ministries attempting to release those trapped in the sex trade. The girls and women being freed are trained to work in and run the projects and in some cases have been set up in business themselves.


Our main purpose for coming to Cambodia was to visit one2one, a trust set up to care for the poor and address medical issues in Cambodia. The medical issues include running clinics in villages, poor squatter communities, jails and schools. It also includes training in the local universities and bringing in teams of people from outside Cambodia to help with both treatment and training. It’s very multicultural; we met Irish, Americans, Taiwanese, Singaporeans, Swiss and kiwis. It’s run by Annie Chen-Green a Taiwanese kiwi doctor from NZ. She’s like the energiser bunny, so much energy and passion for the poor, the hurting, the disenfranchised, kids and lost people.


Three days in Cambodia, I need a week to process all the stuff we’ve seen and we’ve only just started the trip!! Got to move slower, we’ve been saying that for a long time........................zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


It’s now Wednesday morning and we’re in Johannesburg. Still the bunting and trappings of the world Cup are around and one hears the random bursts of vuvuzelas, but it’s all gone very quiet for the moment. We had a good trip from Cambodia to Bangkok, 4 hours there and then 11 hours on the plane. We knocked ourselves out and now we’re sitting in the airport waiting for our mate Lane to arrive. He’s getting in 3 hours after us from Zambia. We will spend today and tomorrow catching up on things and then we‘ll be off to Mozambique for a week.


I will now try to send this out. I’ve had a couple of attempts but haven’t really had the opportunity to get it finished. Our friends where we’re staying have broadband so I’m hoping to get it out and add a couple of photos.

35 degrees in Cambodia and 1 degree in Johannesburg. eeeeeeeek


Love from us, so far we’re keeping well.

Helen and Kevin


mainly Mozambique

2010-07-23

Thursday 15th was catchup day in Jo’burg. Well it was meant to be so we spent the morning catching up on e-mails and generally organising ourselves for the 1 week trip to Mozambique. We are only taking one bag with us and are leaving some stuff in Jo’burg to take north when we return. Helen spent a few hours in the afternoon with Greta and Dave took Lane and I to meet a guy for lunch. He’s running a recovery programme for people with addictions, interesting to hear his story. Then we went off to Roodeport to visit a couple who are starting a programme for vulnerable and poor in the central city. This city was designed for the elite whites, but right in its heart is a huge open sore, a squatter camp. In this place live large numbers of poor black people who are well below the poverty margins.


It was lovely to spend some time with Willie and Henrietta, newly married and giving their lives for these people. We will follow their progress with interest and see if there will be opportunity to partner with them in the future.


Mozambique on Friday morning, early. Flew into Maputo from Johannesburg and met our good friend Patrick. Patrick and Grace are friends from way back. We knew them when we lived in Zambia in the 80s and now they are long term missionaries in Machava. We arrived too late to visit the school we sponsor so spent the rest of the morning and afternoon talking to them about the development of the work. Machava is a large low cost housing area with huge problems, poverty and abuse. 85 kids go to school in their church building and then they get them into the local school. They disciple a bunch of lovely young people with great potential. We are assessing whether or not to start a scholarship fund for these kids to make sure they can get jobs. If these young people don’t get jobs the future is bleak for them. In the evening we went to church with them and interviewed some after it had finished.


Saturday morning - watched the All Blacks beat up the Springboks, it’s great being in South Africa having hammered them!!! Ha. Then we talked again all afternoon to Patrick and Grace about the lives of these young people they are helping.


Sunday – off to the airport and flew to Nampula, 2 hours north of Maputo. Then it was onto the back of an open ute for a few hours and we bounced our way to Angoche. A couple of rain showers kept us awake! Angoche (once Antonio Eves) was obviously once a prosperous rural town with wide streets, huge cashew nut and fishing factories, very productive and fertile soil, some magnificent haciendas, lovely villas and beautiful islands. But that is all in the past; the Portuguese have gone.


Now there are decaying buildings, abandoned buildings and it feels like a ghost town. Hundreds of kids roam the streets and play in the decaying parks. It’s a shame to see such potential being wrecked and destroyed. It’s a shame the way the Portuguese treated the local people back then, it’s a shame that the economic development could not be retained, it’s a shame that people cannot live in peace and see the big picture.


But out on the islands just off the coast there are huge changes developing. People once trapped in poverty and despair are being transformed. People with little hope for the future are now worshipping the true God instead of a false one and they are free of the burdens of fear and superstition. It’s great to see and experience.


Monday 7:00 am we walked to the beach below the town where the boats come in. We hung around for 15 minutes while our guys got organised and then we boarded our dhow. A lanteen sail made of plastic, no motor and the only 3 life jackets were snapped up by the guys coming with us. The weather was pleasant and we sailed onto the island an hour later through the mangroves to the village. My guess is that the lifestyle of these islanders has hardly changed in the last 1,000 years. We walked up through the village with a herd of young people following us and across the dry sandy inlet that is under water when the tides are very high. 30 minutes later we were in another village where the followers of Isa (Jesus) were gathering. We spent the next 5 hours with a remarkable group of people. We drank coconut milk and then scooped out the insides of the coconut. We participated in their worship service, shared some bible verses with them, shared communion and had hands laid on us as they prayed for us. We then ate a huge meal of cassava, rice, beans and beautiful prawns cooked in a delicious coconut milk. We then had to wait for an hour for the boat to come in so we talked to some of the people while Lane went off hunting for good photos.
Then, at about 2:30 we waded through the mangroves to the edge of the island and out into the sea to board our boat for the trip home. It was very calm and warm, like summer in New Zealand. The guy at the back with the sweep oar brought us gently to shore and we walked about 1 km back to our little house. We ate so much that we won’t be having much dinner tonight, a bun, a tomato and an egg will be plenty.


Now it’s Tuesday evening and it’s been another full on day. We left at 7:15 a.m. and walked to the Centre, about 15 minutes. We passed 3 schools on the way and the kids laughed at us, we do look like a pretty funny bunch of people! We hopped on the back of the ute for another hour and a half trip to the village. By the time we got to the meeting there were 11 people on the back with us. Helen got the good seat in the front, Lane and I were dispatched to the back! When we got to the meeting there was a crowd of about 160 singing and clapping and we had to shake hands with them all on the way in.


We sat under the shade of a huge tree and there was a lot of singing and dancing for about 45 minutes. Then a sermon by someone, not too long so that was good! Then we took photos of the key people in their zones of work. The stories they told were great and taking the photos turned into a large party. They laughed at everyone getting their photo taken and when we showed them the results were hilarious. This is a very remote area and many people here have never seen white people. It’s obvious by the way people gawk at you, especially Helen, and Lane with his big Texan beard!!


And then we were presented with a gift...Two pigeons in a cage....We’ve been given chickens, goats, rice and a duck before... but the first time for pigeons.


We had a huge lunch of rice and then it was back into the ute for another 90 minutes back to town with a couple of stops for a blocked fuel filter. We started with 20 people, most standing and they sang like crazy. We stopped every 10 minutes to let a few more people off and the singing got quieter and quieter. Got back to our house at around 2 and then at 3:30 we walked back to the centre to meet with the leaders of the work here. Shared with them and then had our 2nd huge rice meal for the day, with cows stomach! Lovely.


Back at base around 5 and writing up stuff and resting up. Off to meet with 35 of the key people tomorrow. Got to speak to them and interview some. BHW has been sponsoring them and helping with the bikes for the last 4 – 5 years so it will be great to see them and meet them for the first time since we started.


We’re stuffed, so it’s off to bed. Report back tomorrow.


Tuesday - We’re now in a meeting with the training leaders. Every week they come together to learn and then go off teaching and training others. They sang and prayed, listened to Kevin for 10 minutes, we took the photos of the zone leaders, they then presented their weekly reports, and gather in groups to learn. 11 of the leaders got new bicycles to help them move around their areas.


Lunch is cooking outside and it’s very distracting. In a few minutes their learning will be over and we’ll have dinner, more rice! Then it’s a meeting with the 8 main leaders here. After that, who knows? You’ll find out at the next sign in.

We left the training at 2 and walked home, 15 minutes. We went back to the centre at 5:00 (we’re getting good at walking) getting money from the ATM on the way past. We then walked for about 2 kms to Pimo’s (the administrator) place paying for our accommodation on the way. Had a nice time with Pimo and his wife and ate a tasty fish curry with rice. On the walk back to our accommodation we called in to visit a family of 5 children, eldest 19, whom the church is supporting. Their mother ran away 6 years ago and the father has major mental issues. So they live there by themselves. The church in Angoche supports this little family. It’s hot tonight, very muggy and cloudy all day, had to use the air-conditioner to get to sleep.
Thursday – we left at 7:15 from the accommodation and passed by Inacio’s place to take a photo of the family. Then it was 3 hours on the back of the ute to Nampula. We had a good trip with no stops for fuel blockages! Got to the airport around 11:00 and after a few hassles with a stroppy woman who wouldn’t let Kevin’s bag on as cabin luggage as it was too large! We hung around to see if Lane could get onto the flight but it was full and he will have to stay for another day to get his flight in the morning.


So we arrived in Maputo and the Customs guy made an issue that I had 800 metecais ($25) in my pocket so I “bought” him and his colleague a coke and everything was fine! So now we’re waiting in the departure lounge to fly off to Johannesburg in an hour. Not looking forward to the 10 degrees C it will be there after the temperatures we’ve had in Angoche.

After a 1 hour flight to Johannesburg we caught the new Gautrain, installed in time for the World Cup to Sandton and our friend Darryl picked us up. Our friends here are very kind to us, very hospitable and serving. Anyway, we got home to a beautiful meal, hit the sack and are now awake on Friday morning catching up on stuff. Helen’s computer is a real dog and I think we’re going to have to dump it and get another. The battery won’t work and now it won’t connect to the internet. There’s only one thing worse than travelling with one computer, travelling with two!!!


So friends, we survived the bush experience and have a couple of meetings over the weekend and Monday. That will give us time to get some reports out so it’s not a bad thing.
We’ll catch you in a few days, hopefully I’ll get some photos up to go with this, check them out on our photos. Forgot to mention we murdered some mosquitoes in our bedroom in Nampula.... and they were bloody....Not sure which body they attacked?


Thanks for praying for us as we travel. It’s great to hear from some of you, we LOVE hearing from you.


Love to all
Helen and Kevin.


One Day

2010-08-03

Monday 2nd August – in Zambia at Maplehurst Farm. It’s been a bit of a quiet week really since leaving South Africa a week ago. We got up real early last Tuesday morning, 3:50 to be precise though one doesn’t sleep well when having to rise with the birds. At least one of us doesn’t sleep well!


Out to the airport for a 6:30 flight to Zimbabwe. It was a small plane and Lane does not like leaving all his expensive camera gear on the tarmac at the mercy of the people loading the plane. But it all got there OK. Zimbabwe gets such bad press but we found the best of people in that place. The people at the border were very pleasant if a little disorganised. But our friends outside were waiting and what a lovely welcome we got.
They whisked us off to the hotel they insisted on paying for and then began one interesting day. We met with a high up church leader to talk about the situation and heard about the difficulties of living in Zimbabwe for the past 10 years or more. Harrowing is the only word to describe it. He was a really nice guy, the coffee wasn’t too bad.


Then it was off to Norton, 40 kms to the West of Harare. We drove past huge farms now relics of former glory days. It’s like someone has swept their hand over the place and just removed all the development of the last 50 years. We drove past farm after farm that once produced and exported food all over Africa. It could happen again if the right conditions were created again. I’m not getting into the politics, but there must have been a better way to bring about equity and more fairness.


We spent one day with our friends in Norton, hearing stories that shocked and appalled us. Our friends there are a family of three brothers and their wives and extended family. We met them first in Zambia a couple of years ago and they invited us to go visit. It’s taken two years! The 3 couples are Elecson and Rudo, Victor and Deliwe and Lloyd and Locadia, lovely couples with deep faith and great concern for people. They are trying with their own meagre resources to make a difference in the lives of some of the most desperate people we have ever met.


We talked about their dreams and strategies and then met the people they were telling us about. Maybe it’s a while since we sat down and interviewed people, or maybe it’s a while since we’ve interviewed people who have not been receiving basic care from others. But it was story after story of death, hunger, rape and abuse and corruption like we’ve not heard, apart from in stories from internal conflict or war. Maybe it’s the desperation created by the situation over the last few years, but at times the story tellers were in tears and the listeners as well.


We don’t think we have heard anywhere such accounts of rampant abuse and blatant cover up by the courts for a few bucks. The team here are very angry about it and are asking for help to prosecute the filthy creeps who prey on young children and who perpetrate such crimes. We’ve thought a lot about hope in the last few days and realise that there is little hope for many of these people in this lifetime. It would take impossible things, many impossible things to put it right. But one day!! That’s the only thing that keeps us sane, to know that One, the judge of all the earth will do right. There is little chance any of the perps will read this blog, but I put you on notice today, one day you will stand condemned before a righteous judge and he won’t be bribed. I was reading in the book of Psalms where it talks about the judges being gods, the only time the Bible refers to people actually being gods and in a positive way. You see, judges act like God when they dispense justice. I want to put all the judges who deny justice to the vulnerable on notice today, one day!! One day you will experience true justice. And if it’s not in this life, you will stand in the blazing light of The Judge... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

In the meantime, we are going to do what we can to alleviate the pain their actions have caused and love the poor. And when we do that, we act like God too. Sorry to get so worked up about it, but sometimes you just want to scream out in frustration and do something, now. One day Kudakwashe you will be vindicated and restored. And one day Monicah that creep that crawls into your bed at night will meet his judge and your virginity will be restored and the HIV / AIDS will be dealt with and you will be free!


So it was a disturbing day in Zimbabwe, one we’ll not forget. We’ll be back again I get the feeling.


The next day we were in Zambia, just a 45 minute flight on Air Zimbabwe!!! Not our favourite airline or plane. It’s been meetings and report writing as we settle here for a week before heading off around a few partners in Zambia. We’re here till the 11th August and then off further north in Africa.


Lane Davis has gone to the Victoria Falls for a few days while he gets the chance so it’s pretty quiet around the place. On Thursday Susy Warren from the USA office arrives, so then it will get noisy again, it will be a lot of fun. Susy and Helen might cause a few problems I think.


So dear friends, thanks for listening and letting us download the pain. The good thing is we are doing what we can and you are helping. Dispensing God’s grace and mercy can be a grief filled process at times. But one day!


Thanks for being there for us and following with interest.


We are always thankful for your support to us in so many ways.
It’s so encouraging to know you are praying for us, and we appreciate hearing from some of you.


Helen and Kevin


hanging out for a day

2010-08-14

It’s now Saturday the 14th August – Kevin is catching up on e-mails and reports in Java House, a cafe in Nairobi and Helen is off in the local Game Park with Susy Warren from the US to try and see a few animals. It’s a bit of a catch up day. We’ve only got one more day here in Kenya before heading off to Ethiopia on Monday. We’ll be back here later in the trip, a couple of times.


Since we were last in touch we have had Susy warren join the team. She is helping us set up Bright Hope in the USA, there it will be called HOPE World Partnerships. She’s meeting some of our partners and we’ll trying to give her an overview of how we operate. So, after she arrived on the 5th we have met a whole bunch of our partners at a conference in Kabwe, Zambia. We then did a two day road trip North and stayed one night at GLO Zambia and another night in Kamatipa village. This was a new experience for Susy, sleeping in a mud hut with a grass roof. But we have such nice partners there it’s easy to forget the inconvenience and remember their attitudes, servant hearts, love and hospitality.


Then on Tuesday the 10th we drove back to Maplehurst Farm in Kabwe, the next morning we were away at 8:00 am to catch the plane to Kenya. It was coolish in Zambia though starting to warm up after the cold of July. Our friends that run Maplehurst Farm, Aaron and Suzy Boddy are leaving Zambia a a few months so it was the last time we will see them there, next time back in NZ. It’s going to be hard for them to settle back into New Zealand. They love it so much there in Zambia and have fitted in very well. It’s been a privilege to work with them and look forward to the next steps on the journey of faith with them. Their kids are a lot of fun, Maplehurst Farm won’t seem the same without Toby, Max and little Katie. All the critters on the farm will be a little safer and less under threat of capture, and release.


It’s cool here in Kenya too. It’s 1:00 p.m. and I'm sitting outside, but I’ve got my hoody on. we had two nights out in Tala with Robert and Rose and laughed much of the time. Rose tried to murder us with all the food she produced! This is a tough place and without the ability to laugh, these folks would have left this place long ago. The poverty and need just crashes in through their doors every day. Abandoned orphans live with them, sick women are hanging around with their kids, dying HIV victims constantly come to their house and the list just goes on and on. All our partners are great, these guys exhibit compassion on a grand scale. Both are unwell. Rose has diabetes and constant headaches and recently had to have all her teeth removed. They now have a bill of around $US7,500 because of that. 2 years ago Robert almost died with asthma and often struggles with his breathing. They had a huge bill for that treatment hanging over them until recently and just as they were coming right, another hammer blow. But they smile, laugh and joke and love the strays that wander through their front door.


Their friend Muthui and his wife Hannah are not dissimilar. They live in Nairobi; yesterday we had lunch with them. they are the products of Robert and Rose’s ministry. They were young strays when the came through Robert and Rose's front door years ago and now they lead significant ministries in Nairobi blessings hundreds of people. A few months ago Hannah was diagnosed with cancer and has had radical surgery. In 3 days she starts radiotherapy and then perhaps chemotherapy. They too have a huge debt now, but you would never know it. They are full of joy, constantly serving people and lifting them out of the pits of poverty and despair. Today they are at a wedding, one of their boys is getting married, rescued with is family out of poverty with a little loan and a lot of love. Amazing people. No one but God to lean on.

Tomorrow it’s into the Mathare Valley. A foul place that it being transformed as lives are rescued, educated and empowered. It’s a shocking place and we’ll be taking Susy in there for the first time. It will be a shock for her I’m sure.


So dear friends, we’re keeping well apart from a minor skirmish with diarrhoea yesterday for Kevin. All better now. we’re sleeping like logs most nights, wrung out most days, sleep comes quickly and lasts long.


It’s awesome to be able to let you know what’s going on in this part of the world. We are conscious of our friend Worku, working really hard in Ethiopia. We’re sure looking forward to seeing him in a couple of days. We’re also aware that many people are now suffering in Pakistan. Our friends there are struggling to bring relief to the Christians there. Remember many of them are Christ followers.


We’re also aware that you are praying for us and following with interst and we bless you for that and thank you.


Love from


Helen and Kevin


a week in Ethiopia

2010-08-23

Monday the 23rd August, Addis Ababa, cool, wet and muddy. It’s been an interesting week with heaps happening and lots of things to listen to and respond to. This has been a week of Ethiopia and we thought we’d do a bit of a summary of the week. It has turned up a lot of issues for us and a better understanding of some of the issues our friends here face as they try to transform their communities.


The coffee in Ethiopia is great. One of the perks of the job so to speak. Ethiopian Airlines has improved a lot. The last time we were here in the rainy season we spent 3 days stuck in a airport because the planes couldn’t fly in the rain. They now have a fleet of new Bombadier aircraft that are very good. We had one abortive landing attempt yesterday on the way back from Gondar to Addis Ababa but they are a lot more efficient now.


Some of the things we saw and had to deal with:


1. We have never experienced aggressive poverty like you experience on the streets of Ethiopian streets. Beggars literally chase you up the streets and if your taxi is unfortunate enough to stop at a red light, they can literally break into the car to get money off you. It’s appalling. What’s even worse is the system both political and religious that produces that kind of poverty.


2. We met the Mayor of Gondar. Gondar is one of the major Northern cities of Ethiopia. It was the centre of much of the ancient kings and has amazing castles form the 16th Century. It also has a university with more than 20,000 students. So it’s a relatively important place. Worku, our main man in Gondar has been trying to get land on which to build a school for more than 2 years. he thought it was sorted but there was a demand to pay a lot of rent. So the whole situation still has to be resolved. The Mayor seemd to be very helpful and has written a letter to support the application. We had a pleasant meal and chatted briefly. Hopefully before long there will be some movement in this area soon.


3. The little kindergarten they have started is going really well. It has become the model school in the area and teachers are sent to check it out. They have great resources, something few other schools have. The plan is to deliver quality education, quality is something the government cannot deliver and that other private schools will not spend the money on. Worku’s policy is that quality will create real value and then people will send their kids and pay for it. It was holiday time while we were here so we had to trawl through accounts from last year and budgets for next year. As soon as we can get the new buildings built we can save around $US10,000 rent for the current buildings.


4. Some of the leaders have left and disappointed our friends in Ethiopia. Added to the attrition rate is Mebratu. He’s the guy running the school in Gondar and he has got a green card to go to the USA. So he’ll be lost to Ethiopia. It makes me mad that Western governments poach all the best people from these countries. You can’t blame them from going and taking the opportunity. In Zambia only 5% of the University graduates remain in the country. The rest are nurses and in other positions in Western countries while their own countries fail to advance and in some case go backwards.


5. We visited some very poor people while in Gonder. In one place the old people gather every day for a meal. It’s pretty basic but without it they would be out on the streets begging. We followed one disabled woman home. she lives with a blind 90+ year old who is blind and bed-ridden. No welfare state to look after her, a disabled stranger living in her house and bringing her free food. The disabled woman weaves little baskets with the painfully crippled hands. It takes three weeks to make one  and she’ll sell it for 30 Ethiopian Birr, about 3 New Zealand dollars. Do the maths, she’s not going to get rich in 100 lifetimes. It’s people like that who need the hope a simple meal, a smile or a touch can bring that BHW partners work with and reach out to.


We visited two other homes and the widows who own them were out, probably begging. But at least they have a roof over their heads now. we’ve been able to get roofs for their little houses for the cost of around $NZ200. It’s the rainy season and they would have been totally soaked for months had these roofs not been given. One had taken a loan from someone and she couldn’t repay it. So he was about to some and take the house from her until our guys found out and intervened.


6. The poverty is pretty extreme. We met a number of people who have received little loans to help them out of poverty. They will probably not become very rich, but at least they have the dignity on not having to beg from people, sell themselves on the streets or grovel in the mud for crumbs.


Two sisters have been given a loan to start a shop in at the front of their house. One can now become a nurse, the other bring up her little girl. She was abandoned by her husband after a few months of marriage.


Three  friends have a loan and have opened a cell phone accessories shop. They employ one woman to run it, one is training to be a barber and the other has a small peanut packaging business. We went to his house, it is a 4m x 3m room in which he lives with his wife and 2 kids and in which he roasts and packages peanuts.


We also met a bunch of widows whose children are being sponsored by Tear Fund. They got together and asked for a loan from us and now they have a little business making and packaging food selling it to restaurants and the University. Well they would be but the guy who bought it last time hasn’t paid them and they have no ability to force him to pay. What would you do! The whole project had ground to a halt and we spent some time working through their options. They had some, but none they could see.


When you have nothing and your worldview is shaped by poverty, you are really very vulnerable. No one will advocate for you. Those who are supposed to do it won’t because you can’t pay them. Even if you get to court, the guilty one will have used the money he could have paid you with to bribe the guy handing out “justice!”


While we’re here in Ethiopia, dealing with all the stuff we confront here we are very aware of our friends in Pakistan and the people they work with. What a shocking situation for so many people. We’ve got a number of e-mails from people asking if they can give, the answer is, yes you can. Bright Hope World has listed status in NZ so can give you a tax receipt for funds you give even though it’s going offshore. It will be used with our partners in Pakistan to alleviate the situation there, especially for Christians. Christian people will get little or no relief from non Christian agencies if you get me drift. They will get international help like all others, but they will be cut out of local help. So our friends will be assisting the Christians to get something.


If you’re not sure how bad it is, it’s worse than the Asian tsunami, Samoa, Haiti, Hurricane Katrina and the latest floods in China all combined in terms of people affected and losses to property. If you want to do something then go to the BHW website and contact the office, we will be there in less than 4 weeks to see it firsthand. Of course, our major emphasis will be rebuilding people’s lives.


Tomorrow its back to Nairobi and the next day we do a road trip to see another partnership opportunity with a couple we met last year. They are very enthusiastic and have lots of energy and the husband is a real visionary. I think there will be a lot of opportunities emerge from that one.


From a cool and damp Addis Ababa, did we mention the coffee is great

We appreciate you taking the time to read  our blog and pray for us and our partners. Its over six weeks since we left NZ and we are very thankful for good health and safety.....and our bags arriving with us after every flight. 
Love from


Helen and Kevin


uganda

2010-09-04

Wow, where has the last few days gone. We’ve just got into an internet cafe and heard of the earthquake in Christchurch. Such a shame, seems much safer in Uganda. We’re thinking of our friends there. We can’t access the BHW server in NZ at the moment so we have heaps of e-mails to get in and out.


We got back from Addis Ababa OK to Nairobi. The trip out to Garissa was real interesting. It’s a totally Muslim community and our friends there are developing a school and a clinic. It’s like being in the desert. Camels wander everywhere, it’s kind of surreal. We drove for 6 hours out to there and then back the next day. it was great to spend time in the car with Ibrahim and Diane Omondi and get to know them. there could be some great opportunities in the future with agriculture and tree planting.


Helen was suffering with a dose of the you-know-whats so stayed in Nairobi; spent most of the two days in bed. Actually it’s lasted for a week but she’s doing OK now. The day we arrived back from Garissa our friends Matt and Judy O’Byrne from NZ came in. So it was catch up time with them that evening. We then had a day off and caught up on things and that evening had dinner with Jude Goatley, she used to work with us at BHW and now is living in Nairobi. It was great to catch up and see that’s she is doing well there in the city.
Saturday, a week ago saw us out at the airport early flying out to Kisumu in the West of Kenya and then driving out to Maseno. We spent two nights with our friends in the children’s home working on strategy. There are a lot of opportunities here as well as the guys seek to develop and school for the kids from Mathare. Mathare is such a horrible place it would be great to get them out of there, Maseno is a good option.


Two nights there and then across the border into Uganda. It seems such a long time ago. We spent a night in the Rand Hotel in Busia and the two nights out in the bush with our friends. We heard many stories of education triumphs and the impact of micro-loans on the community. We’re pretty encouraged with what’s going on there.


Then on Thursday another 2 hour bus trip to Jinja and more stories of progress and the impact of loans with our friends Timothy and Janepher from Katosi and Thomas and Joyce from Jinja. Yesterday we spent the afternoon in a very basic informal housing area where Thomas and Joyce have started a church. Great stories of change occurring in the lives of people with little loans. Most of these people are refugees from Sudan scraping and begging and existence.


So this week it’s been:
1. Huge new opportunities to develop
2. Significant impact from small loans
3. Poor kids graduating from universities with degrees and doctorates
4. Lot’s of great people interviewed
5. Great coffee at the Source cafe in Jinja.


Tomorrow we drive off to Lira. It’s about 6 hours away and we’ll be there for about 3 days. We’re then trying to get a few days break before we head off to Pakistan. I think we’ll need some energy there.


Love to all, sorry for the shorter note, we’re struggling with the internet a little here. Can’t get e-mails, maybe related to the earthquake in Chch and our server not working.
Love to all, hoping to get some photos up in the next week.


Kevin and Helen.


Lira and a break

2010-09-11

We had a great trip to Lira from Jinja, Sunday 5th. We hired a vehicle between the 5 of us to keep the price down, sure made for a pleasant ride compared to the options. It was father’s day in NZ. Heard from all our kids via Facebook so that was nice.

Lira, mmmmmmm. Every time we go there we are reminded of the depravity of so many people. we heard more stories of the terrible trauma people have faced and the few resources they have to deal with it all. Highlights of our time in Lira were:

• Meeting with our good friends again, Penninah, Anna and Simon. They are such nice people. They overwhelm you with kindness, and food!

• Interviewing some of the widows in the newly started loan scheme. Sheesh the poverty is overwhelming. Some are selling 2nd hand clothes in a market designated by the local council, in the middle of a storm water runoff area. So what happens when it rains!!!! Right through the middle of the ramshackle stalls. There are hundreds of places this could work, but no, they designate this place! The councillor with us was very proud of his organising ability and when it started raining wasn’t the least bit concerned that they all had to pack up and leave. Another group are breaking rocks to sell. They lever them out of the hillside and heat them in a fire to crack them. Then they lay into them with various sized hammers to chip them down to gravel for roads and concrete. Tough work, hard hands, sharp stone chips, no protection. They don’t want to do anything else. They can’t imagine anything else I guess. Both the young women, sisters, doing this had their husbands hacked to death in front of them by the LRA and now have 3 kids each to care for and educate.


• The grinding mill. Simon has been building the grinding mill factory. The size of it surprised us; he has big plans for the mill and the business. He wants it to fully support these kids.Great stuff Simon. The neighbour is taking him to court for the building and it’s costing a lot of money. Basically he’s jealous about it all and is trying by all means to stop the mill being built. So that’s a snag. They went to court Thursday and the idiot didn’t show up, so now it’s put off for another month. Uganda is so corrupt, I’ve rarely seen anything like it, it’s everywhere. You get to the point where you cannot believe anything that people say to you.


• We met the mayor of the city, he showed up one night for dinner with us. He appears to be a nice guy and supportive of our friends. He’s seeking re-election as mayor for the 3rd 5 year term.


• Rain, it rained every night we were there so we had to wait until the thunder stopped and then dash the 500 meters down the road in the dark to the hotel we were staying in. they said we had bought the rain, it was a blessing and they were thankful.


• The kids in the Home. They are such lovely little guys and girls. They are always playing, singing, dancing, telling stories and laughing. It was nice to see Emmanuel again. He was having real problems a year ago but our talking with him last year really helped and now he is a transformed little guy. Alan and his bother Elvis are HIV+ and Alan isn’t growing or doing well at school. So that’s a concern. Amos wrote a book for us about his story. My goodness, it’s a terrible story but he has found redemption and hope, very inspiring. Is it a book to publish? Mmmmm, something to think about. Visiting Lira is really all about the kids. That’s why we are here. All the other stuff has sprung out of our interest in this family of 28 children.

We’ve got a lot to think about in the next few months, especially with all the stories and photos Lane is taking, 100s and 100s of photos a day. What do we do with them? How do we use them to tell the stories of our people? How do we generate interest in poverty or BHW? How do we generate funds to help? So many questions, not a lot of answers at the moment. Check out some of Lane’s stories, thoughts and images on http://totellastory.org/

We had just 3 nights in Lira and left there on Wednesday. We are having a break for a few days, which we planned from the start of the trip. So we’ve had a couple of nights in a Game Park and visited the Murchison Falls. The Nile Rover drops 45 metres of an escarpment and through a 7 metre wide chasm. It’s very impressive. We saw some lovely animals and birds as well.

We said goodbye to Matt and Judy O’Byrne in Lira. We had been together for a couple of weeks and it was lovely to spend time with them. They are such a generous couple and willing to give anything a go. They are still in Lira and over the weekend go to Mbale to visit another partnership and next week move on to another of our partnerships for a couple of days. They fly out to Zambia on the 18th. Thanks guys, we look forward to continuing the journey with you in the future. We left Lane Davis in Lira as well. Looking forward to the stories and images he produces from there, it is truly an amazing story. We’ll catch up with him again in about 2 weeks in India.

Yesterday we travelled from Murchison Falls to Kampala. The first leg was in a nice minibus with 4 tourists, a couple from Israel, Anoushka from Poland working in South Sudan and Harvey, a retired lawyer from Vancouver. We had a lot of laughs and chats for the 90 minutes we were together. We actually had dinner the evening before with Harvey so knew a little about him. Really nice people. They dropped us at a mini bus station so we waited till the bus was full and then headed off for Kampala. It was fun, only 3 hours so not too bad. We hired an extra seat so our luggage was inside, fortunately we did as we came through 2 very heavy downpours. The 3rd leg was when we arrived in the chaos called the Kampala new taxi station. Helen stayed in the van and kevin went searching for a taxi. After about 15 minutes we located one and a guy hoisted out 40 kg of luggage onto his head and we followed to the taxi which brought us to the New City Annex Hotel, a grand name for a pleasant little hotel near the centre of town. It’s close to most places we want to be here in Kampala.

Talking about “the night before” we were in a really interesting discussion about oil in Uganda. The last night we were at Murchison Falls 3 guys came into the restaurant. They were obviously not tourists, in their working gear. After they had eaten and had a few beers they started to talk about what they were doing. They have found massive deposits of oil in Murchison Park and were the exploration team. It’s absolutely huge they say. All The guests around broke out into questioning them about how it works and the impact n the environment etc. As we drove out of the Park the next morning we stopped to look out over the beautiful rain forest and bush spread out in panorama below us and wondered if this might be another place where the planet is ripped apart and another animal sanctuary is obliterated by man’s greed. Hopefully they can do it in a sustainable way. Somehow, I doubt it. Hundreds of oil wells, accommodation for 1000’s of workers, an underground pipeline to Mombassa about 1,500 km away where they will build a refinery before it is all shipped off to China! Say no more. The end of another piece of paradise.

Now it’s a couple of days in Kampala and tomorrow we head off to Nairobi and Mombassa. We’ll have 5 days there before we head off to Pakistan. Not sure what we’re thinking about in regards to that one. We’ll be visiting our partners and the projects they run, but we’ll have to get out to where the floods have been so destructive. We hear that a lot of people have sent funds to help there. That’s great because there is a lot of resistance about giving to that place. Our partners are working with the poorest of the poor there, most of the poorest people there are Christians and they will be the last inline for help from any govt agencies.

So friends, we’ll sign off and leave you in peace.

Thanks again for your friendship, support and prayer. We’re looking forward to some relaxation for a few days and some catch up.

Love

Kevin and Helen


Pakistan

2010-09-22

Pakistan – fascinating place. Of course the news is full of the floods and devastation. We haven’t been to the floods, it’s too dangerous for us to go without accreditation and security. So we’ve been spending time with our partners in Islamabad. We had planned to come here before the floods hit, so we’ve been sticking with the plan.

We arrived around 4:00 am Saturday morning and were the last ones through immigration. But the bags were slow and we still had to wait a while. It was around 5:00 am before we cleared out of the terminal and about 5:30 we arrived at our friends place. After a few hours sleep went off to visit a sewing programme then back home for lunch and a rest. Then in the evening it was back to the sewing centre and the graduation. After a year of study 25 women received certificates which of course we presented. Then after Kevin gave a rousing speech, we presented 7 students with sewing machines, it you pass the exam with 70% or more you get one. Then back home for dinner at about 10:00 p.m.
We have both been pampered with foot massages from the family we were staying with and kevin gets the extra attention with some back ones...Nice !!
We’re struggling with the high carb, late at night meals and the next 4 days there will be many more of those. Sunday we went to church and of course Kevin had to speak again! After church we talked to the church people about the need for them to stop thinking they are poor and to take control of their lives. There were lots of questions. Urban poverty is not an easy issue to deal with, even those who have jobs are poor by anyone’s standards.

Sunday afternoon and evening we talked and wrote reports and did e-mails. Monday we visited the school that Barbara has started and talked about possibilities there for partnership and looked around Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi and Islamabad are twin cities. Monday evening we drove into Islamabad and had dinner outside with the family. Tuesday we talked budgets and further opportunities in places like Kashmir. Mmmmmm not sure I’m too keen to go there but that’s what they want us to do next time here.

At the moment we’re in a bus travelling 4 ½ hours from Islamabad to Lahore. We’re going through amazing country. You would never know there were floods in other places. Here it is beautifully green and every square metre is cultivated with grain.

Both of our friends here in Pakistan have been helping in the flood areas. It’s been great to see the number of people who have given. We’ve seen lots of pictures of the problems and camps, this is truly a catastrophe. The funds given have gone to food in the first instance but from now on will be aimed at medium term issues. Winter is coming so clothes and blankets will be in great demand. Out friends will be back there in a few days to take loads of blankets.

The bus is comfortable and road we’re on is great. About another 40 minutes to go.

Before coming to Pakistan we had a few days break, just got away by ourselves to rest up a bit and catch up. it was great, first time in Mombassa. We lounged around and Kevin even went bird watching! Then last Friday we flew from Mombassa to Nairobi and spent a few hours in the airport before a 5 hour flight to Doha. Then a couple of hours and onto the 3 ½ hour flight to Islamabad. It was all pretty painless really. Hopefully the rest of the trip goes as smoothly.

Saturday we’re off to Delhi and have 3 days there. From all accounts the Commonwealth Games are about to start, or maybe not. There could be a lot of people and I’m sure a lot of security, especially seeing we’re coming from Pakistan.

Anyway, we’ve got about a month left on this trip. we get home on the 22nd October and although it’s a month away we’re starting to think of home and seeing family again. Hopefully we’ll get this out at Lahore. We’ve funded a computer centre there so hopefully we’ll get to use it. We’ll then update again in Delhi and hopefully get a few pictures up.

We’re keeping really well so that makes travel a lot easier. We have such generous friends wherever we go it’s amazing. They worry about a lot more than we worry. Our friends in Islamabad were very concerned about us going by bus and wanted to drive us. But we finally got our way. Helen has been given some lovely Pakistani clothing and jewellery which she’ll wear while in this part of the world. It’s very comfortable and she looks just like a local from a distance.

It’s meant to be over 30oC in Lahore this week!! I hope we survive! Hope you’re not too cold wherever you are in the world?

Thanks again for following our blog and we appreciate your prayers and emails.
We LOVE hearing from our family and friends!

Well, we’re in Lahore, in the Punjab. There are army and Police all along the roads, little boys are playing cricket, no-one on the roads looks sideways or backwards, a bunch of people dressed in yellow are sweeping the road, another army guy, two donkeys pulling trailers are doing U-turns at the traffic lights and are holding up the cars. The policeman is waving furiously and the two guys on the trailers are laughing at everyone. Two more army guys with machine guns, that motorbiker is getting a ticket, the bus stop is full of fruit vendors and rickshaws.

Love from
Helen and Kevin


Pakistan and North India

2010-09-30

Lahore was an interesting time. We stayed with a lovely family who looked after us very well. We were given a lovely bedroom with an air conditioner which helped at night. Mister and Mrs Manzoor Jalal live in the house with their family. He works as an electrical engineer in a sewing factory and she runs the home. He is also the leader of EGM, our partners here.

Eldest son Edward Qasar and his wife Shakeela also live there. He was a teacher but he now pastora a church and leading the work. for example he had just come back from 25 hours on a train from the coast in the middle of the floods. He had been down there delivering the funds to help that BHW had sent them. 1,100 km with the train stopping and breaking down all the time. He was pretty tired for a couple of days. Shakeela is a nurse but is having a baby so she was around home most of the time. Edward and Shakeela gave us their bed, they have only been married since April.

All the other kids live at home as well. Lubna is a nurse, Faisel is studying as is Sobal (both guys) and Saba (girl) is as well. Then there are the two youngest girls, they have been adopted, Sunna and Saina. Everyone was so helpful and lovely and the meals were great.

As well as all these people staying in the house there are all the neighbours coming and going and people from the church and friends, it’s a bit like a railway station, great place. The church building is up the stairs on the second floor so that’s often being used and the computer centre is up there too, that’s used every day for classes. So this “house” is pretty multi-purpose.

While there with the Manzoor family we talked a lot about the structure of the work. There is so much that could be done and they have a very clear vision. They want to train more women to sew, more young people in computers and a sewing factory to employ around 40 people. So there is plenty to talk about.

We also had to talk through the delivery of funds and relief to the flooded areas. Edward was near to tears telling us of the situation in these areas. We got photos and reports written up that will be put online sometime soon.

We opened a new sewing programme in a little Christian community on the edge of Lahore. About 300 Christian families live in this place. Most of them are sweepers and there is no school in the area. It’s a sad place with little life or vibrancy. People have little to be happy about and many lose their faith and hope in places like this.

We were also involved in the graduation of the EGM Computer centre. 37 students graduated from the 3 month foundation course where they learn MS Excel, MS Word, MS PowerPoint and a programme in which you type in English and it converts to Urdu. Only 28 of the students were present as the others had gone out to visit family members affected by the floods. It was great to see all these young people keen to learn. About 7 or 8 others were there who will be starting the next course soon.

We also went visiting some of the homes. These folks are pretty poor with sad stories of poverty, loss, discrimination and death. Some were families of the trainees, others were church members who insisted we came because we went to the neighbours place. In one little room we found a lovely little family with a 13 month old toddler named Ruth and a little 2 month old baby. There was obviously something wrong with Ruth and they couldn’t afford to go and see anyone about her. She was not developing normally, that’s for sure and poor, beautiful little mum was in tears as we talked and prayed for her. Mmmmm.

We flew from Lahore to Delhi, only 45 minutes. Delhi at night travelling by taxi to a hotel I booked on the net that was “near” the airport! An hour and a half near, never believe the adverts on the internet! It was OK but way overpriced. We saw half of Delhi though which was fun! Early next morning we got a taxi across to Pahar Ganj, a suburb near to our partners at DBI. We found a nice one and checked in, by this time it was too late to get to church. So we cruised over there and at midday met up with Lane Davis who had arrived from Nairobi at 3:15 that morning. He had been in Uganda and Kenya while we went to Mombassa and Pakistan. So we had a long catch up and peach iced tea!! Oh boy it was nice, and gooooood coffee. There are some really nice cafes at Khan market.

So Sunday was catch up day and Monday we spent most of it at DBI talking with Isaac and Gloria. Lots to talk about as this partnership develops with emerging new opportunities. This is a very impressive ministry with a growing impact in many communities. That night we wandered around a few streets in Pahar Ganj and caught a tuk tuk to the centre of the city. We caught a meal at an Indian restaurant and the next morning!!! Crook. The Delhi belly caught up with Kevin and he felt terrible that whole day. Lane was down as well, we felt like we had run into a brick wall. The problem was we had a flight to Lucknow, fortunately only an hour away. We survived the trip and crashed when we got to DBI.

Wednesday we were fine again, strange bug that one. We spent the day talking to the students and listening to their stories. A really interesting bunch of young guys all training to go into villages in North India to transform their communities. Most are from the Dalit caste so are the untouchables, one is from an animist tribal group shunned even by the Dalits. Their stories are tragic at the human level, but full of hope at the same time, because of Jesus. Some from Hindu backgrounds, some from Christian, one from Buddhist the other an animist and Secunder, he has no idea. His parents died and at 4 he was on the street as a beggar. For 6 years he survived until a Christian couple took him home and brought him up. Now he is here to learn how to serve God, he can live anywhere, he has lived anywhere. Most of them poorly educated but can read and are passionate about the one they are following.

Today we leave here and head off to Bangalore. As I write this Heather McLennan our BHW office manager and chief will be in the air on the way to Bangalore to meet us. Hopefully we get there in time to meet her, otherwise Kevin will be in big trouble!! The only problem is, there is a big court case decision coming out today about the ownership of some land. The case has been going on for 60 years and there is the possibility of riots. So, we’re going off to the airport early so we don’t get caught up in it.

Travelling on the streets in India is amazing.... such organized chaos!!Horns blasting all the time, lanes are seldom used as so many different types of vehicles push and jostle to move forward. There are cyclists, motorbikes, rickshaws, buses, cars, bullocks and donkeys pulling carts, taxis, and pedestrians dashing between all the traffic. And there are cows wandering along the streets and sometimes sleeping on the roads oblivious to the traffic and noise around them! Then there are the beggars knocking at your windows when your vehicle is stopped wanting money.

We had several rides on the rickshaws and it gives you a close up view of traffic and city life! So driving back in NZ is kinda dull and boring! Some taxi drivers drive like lunatics and they expect everyone to get out of their way and they are constantly blasting on their horns. They are like boy racers, but of course can’t drive fast with so many vehicles on the streets.

It’s pretty hot here. Low to mid 30s, so it’s OK, a bit warm but better than the NZ alternative. We’ll send this out when we get to Bangalore hopefully.

Thanks for your prayers and messages on the blog and emails.

Love to all
Kevin and Helen

p.s. we got safely to Bangalore and heather Anderson got here safe as well. so the last leg of our journey begins. 11 more days here in India, 5 days in Nepal, 6 days in Thailand and it's back to NZ.

there are a couple of pix uploaded here too for you to check out


india, what a place!!

2010-10-12

Where the heck has the last week gone. We’re in Dimapur, North India and we’ve kind of lost track of time. It’s raining here, been raining solid for the last two days. We’re hoping the plane flies out tomorrow, if not we have a few issues and the possibility of a long train ride!

Anyway, at the farm in Nagaland and we’ve been talking about and eating pigs. The whole place has turned to mud and our plans are going down the gurgler, so it seems.

Since we last communicated we got to Bangalore OK and caught up with Heather. Heather McLennan is the BHW office manager and she flew in for the rest of the trip. We got into Bangalore airport about an hour before her and went off to SAIACS where were slept for 4 nights.

The first day there we spent at another partner’s place, T Raja and the Home of Hope. He is a most amazing guy with a commitment to the poor it would be difficult to match. Basically, he has 300 street people living in his house! The police deliver people to the door in all sorts of states of desperation. They are sick, mentally challenged and as poor as it’s possible to be. He just loves them and lives amongst them with his family. Fortunately his house is growing and the men have recently shifted to another location and the children have been moved out as well to a rental. The good news is that we have been able to find some resources to assist with the development of the children’s ministry to provide them with a se cure family home.

We spent more time with them the next morning as well. it was interesting to spend time just hanging out at the place and seeing how things operate. It was a Saturday morning and we were very surprised. A number of groups turned up to visit and help at the centre. A local nursing school that teaches in English sent their staff down to spend time with the kids, especially the 3 that are physically challenged. Two Korean ladies came and taught Bible stories to the kids. The husband of one of them comes every 2nd day and prays with the residents, especially those that are terminally ill. 3 people died the two days we were there, this is average for the ministry. They have around 300 residents, over the last 10 years more than 3,500 have gone through the home.

Of course some are rehabilitated, but most of them have died. We met some who were married last year and some of them have had children. Saturday evening T Raja flew off to Singapore to tell the Home of Hope story to a conference.

Saturday midday we visited other partners Vidya and Ruth Sagar. They have a number of things going including a business making balm, training of rural church leaders, a school and other things, too many for us to get a handle on. Ruth is the best cook in India, and we again can give personal assurances this is true. The meal was fantastic and Helen got some new recipes.

Sunday was a catch up day as we had a lot of reports to write. So we hung out at SAIACS and got ready for the trip to Nagaland the following morning.

Monday we spent travelling. Up at 3:15 am to the airport. A flight to Kolkata and then another to Jorhat and then a 4 hours drive to a village called Mopungchuket, high in the hills of Nagaland. This is stunning country. For 2 days the largest piece of flat ground we saw was a football field. Our friends Subong and Sunep travelled with us showing us the story of the Ao Naga people and their journey from being head hunters to becoming almost 100% Christian. We saw parts of the story in museums and heard the fascinating tales of missionaries who came here in 1872 at the risk of losing their heads. There are churches everywhere, some with 1000s of members. It truly is an amazing story.

But, the rest of the story is still being written. The Ao were given a responsibility to take the Good News East. They did that to the other Naga tribes and in the 70s there was a huge revival here amongst the other tribes. But now the East is across borders into the border area of China and Myanmar and our partners are starting to think of ways to achieve that strategically. I’m a bit worried about that part as the next trip here may require some trekking to get to the villages!! I’ll send Helen!!!!

We visited a Bible School the next day where many of the alumni are now working in these remote areas and there is the potential for significant partnership with them to train people for these other places. There are students there from Myanmar who travelled 3 days on a bus to get to Impur and then 4 – 5 days walk on the other side of the border to come from their homes. The second night in Nagaland we slept at Mokukchung, a large grouping of Naga villages.

Wednesday we drove the 6 hours from Mokukchung to Dimapur, spectacular scenery, dangerous, rough roads. By now it was raining and for the next 3 days we were constantly damp as the end of the monsoon refused to leave the area. During that time we walked around the farm that has been set up here, we talked and talked with our friends, we met s group of people who have received loans and were part of a self help group and we were involved in the Board meeting of Bright Hope Nagaland. It was so wet we couldn’t spend as much time on the farm we wanted to. But it was good to see the great progress.

They have started giving money away to other projects and have started self help groups. One lady in a self help group told how she was given a pig and now she has 9 of them. This makes wealthy and at weddings of relatives she is able to give the best gift, a pig and shames her wealthy relatives! Oh, we also ate well at the farm, plenty of pork and pork fat! Helen was in heaven.....

Amazing people, the hospitality is incredible the development is impressive. They have had their challenges. They lost 12 pigs with a type of swine flu so this has compromised the whole project, but they are on top of it now. so the future is looking good. The government people constantly come to look at it and marvel at the quality of the whole thing, they received and order for 100 piglets from the neighbouring State while we were there. So the potential is very good.

We’re always sad to leave Nagaland but we had to go. So on Saturday we flew out to Guwahati and on to Bagdogra / Siliguri. We”ll tell you that story next time.

Since starting this we have actually arrives in Nepal. So, the Siliguri and Nepal story will come in a few days, before we fly out to Thailand on Saturday. We really value your prayer. Kevin has been unwell for a week with dia...... and has pulled calf muscle. We have some very dangerous roads to traverse in the next 3 days and so, if you’re pray-er, we need you on the team.
Love to all
Kevin and Helen


developments in India and Nepal

2010-10-17

It’s a week since we arrived in Siliguri. Those of you who are tea drinkers will know about Darjeeling. Well it’s in that area and about 30 kms from the border with Nepal.

We spent 2 days with our partner Primala who is a lady with lots of energy and passion for the poor, needy and vulnerable. She has started a school and does everything from teaching, feeding, adopting and overseeing the building projects. There is also a hostel on site and her 20 girls live with her and the teachers. Most of the kids are orphans. There are about 30 kids in the school.

On Sunday they have a church programme in one of the classrooms, one of the teachers lead the singing and worship the morning we were there with them. We were rapt to watch the kids worship and praise in song and dance. They just love singing and it was delightful to hear their sweet voices and then have them share some of their favourite songs. Kevin talked to them and it was interpreted in a couple of languages. There were also some ladies and girls from the community there who aren’t Christians but like to come.

After that while some of our lunch was being cooked on an outside fire in a huge wok, we were entertained by the kids and teachers with some more dancing. They asked Heather and Helen to join them, and then they grabbed Kevin....it was a bit energetic for him and he pulled a calf muscle....ouch!! It was incredible to watch how much food some of the little kids could eat!! HUGE plates of rice with a bit of pork. Three times as much as Helen can eat and 5 times Kevin’s capacity!

Many of these kids are from the people Primala is working with and are from the Adavasi people. They are thought to be the indigenous people of India. Now, they are below the caste system, lower than the untouchables even; treated like animals literally and not thought of as human. Their kids are sold, traded and abused and are frequently seen scavenging amongst the rubbish. They are lovely people but so downtrodden they have no hope. These people are as low as you can go in India and Primala has found the most vulnerable to work with.

Then we interviewed some of the kids. One of the girls, Pinky was 11. As a 3 year old she was sold by her mother along with her other 5 siblings. She and two of them went to a circus; then her mum committed suicide. Over the next few years she was resold 2 more times, saw her brother eaten by a lion and a tiger in the circus and was frequently beaten in training. An aunt “rescued” her and then sold her again to someone. In all she was sold 5 times before Primala found her and took her into her home. Now she’s safe. As safe as an 11 year old Adavasi girl can be in a culture like that...

Next day we drove about and hour to the Nepal border and had no hassles at customs either side; the Nepal guys were very friendly and helpful. 40 minutes drive in another taxi and another flight, this time from Bhadrapur and we found ourselves touching down in Kathmandu.... We got on an earlier flight than planned so arrived an hour early. On domestic flights you don’t go to the terminal, the luggage was delivered outside to lots of grabbing hands and after showing luggage ID tags you then try to pull heavy bags off the table and fight your way through the crowds. We had hoped to see the Himalayas, perhaps Mt. Everest even, but it was not to be. There was lots of cloud and rain as we were only 12,000 feet in the air. We needed to be at least 16,000 according to those who claim to know.

It was the first time to Nepal for Heather and Lane, they were fascinated by the different buildings and then our taxi driver didn’t seem to know the difference between 1st and 4th gear. It was good to meet some church planters and hear their stories. Amazing stuff as we heard about them hearing the good news and becoming followers of Jesus. Then they told of the transformation that started in their villages as they try to live for him and engage the very poor people who live on the sides of these impossibly steep hills. We spent the Tuesday with Niranjan and Sonu and a group of guys they work with.

Another road trip Wednesday, from Kathmandu to Nawal Parasi and back again on Thursday. Should have taken 4 hours each way but it was 61/2 one way and 7 coming back. Accidents, road blocks and traffic jams all conspired to hold us up. In Nawal Parasi we checked out the things going on there. Some of the things we saw were pretty impressive considering the work has really only been going for less than 2 years here:

We visited the clinic that our partners have developed. They treat around 20 per day and it’s becoming a very helpful tool in the area

We met with the local leader of the farmers’ cooperative that started less than a year ago. There are 500 farmers in it now getting the benefits. They have bought a rice husker and polisher and a grain crusher. They are starting to save for a tractor to help them be more efficient. Some of them have received loans as well. All this is done largely with their own money.

We walked around the area and Lane, our resident photographer, took a lot of photos. This is turning into an outstanding development. We stayed at a local “resort” for $10 a night. But we did get to go for an elephant ride to check out the local rhinos, and we saw a few but no tigers. The elephant ride got us into the right frame of mind to get back into the van for another 7 hours of mental and bodily torture. The roads were appalling, the vehicle a piece of junk, the driver pretty average and the other drivers plainly demented! Still, we got back to our abode early evening, the Hungry Tree. $10 a night and worth every cent. It comes with livestock and smell and every sense is stimulated.... all night.

Why do we do this stuff? There has to be other ways to fill in the days. We often wonder about that, especially when we’re in the capital city of a large country and the whole place is shut down for some festival. Not for a day, for a week! And we just happened to be there for it!! Well the answer to the question is this, we do it because we want to bless our great friends who live here and who give their lives in very basic ways to the people they have been called to serve. We cannot speak highly enough of them. They are truly amazing and the small risks we take and hardships we face are nothing if it means they can be more effective.

The last morning we found ourselves sitting on the steps outside a closed internet cafe in the rain, tapping into their wireless internet connection. We got more than a few strange looks for the 15 minutes of connection with the world.

Anyway, we survived Nepal and came away deeply encouraged by what God is up to in that place with our friends. Now we’re in Bangkok and tomorrow we head off into the rural areas to see what’s happening there. We’ll be away one night and then back to check out the other partners in Bangkok. Thursday we head back to NZ but we’ll try to drop another note to you before we leave here. Kevin still has the runs and Helen is keeping well. It’s good to have one of us working at 100%!!

Thanks for your prayers and emails and messages We love hearing from you.

Lovely to chat,
We’ll be in touch
Love from
Kevin and Helen


home and crash

2010-10-27

hey there friends,

It's back to the lovely weather of Whangaparaoa and we've had a 6 day break to get our heads sorted out. The weather has been amazing, balmy evenings and bbqs, summer is here! It was lovely to come home to a long weekend and to have all the kids here for a couple of nights. It was Hugo's b/day the day we arrived so parties started immediately on arrival. Two is such a funny age, Hugo is so much fun, we spent much of the weekend laughing at him!

since leaving Nepal we had 5 nights in Thailand. we arrived late on Saturday evening and met Lane and Heather who came from Kathmandu through Delhi! it took them many hours, we came direct, 3 1/2 hours! We left in the pouring rain on a holiday with hardly any taxis around. Anyway, we met  our friends OK and off to the hotel near the airport. it was a nice hotel but early the next morning, Sunday, we drove right across Bangkok to the area we were staying. Lorraine, our kiwi freind came to take us to church and Lane went off to try and get his crashed computer sorted in the middle of Bangkok. fortunatley he was able to find the right place and hand it in for repair! We had a nice time at church in Muanthang and met our lovely freinds and partners there. There was a church lunch which we enjoyed and then a meeting with a lovely lady who has presented us with a new opportunity for the future; caring for young boys in remand who have no hope of rehabilitation.

Monday morning we were off for 2 days in rural Thailand. But not until Helen and Heather managed to spend some time in one of the huge shopping malls! Sad to say she yielded to the temptation of the shoe department. I'm glad I was there to restrain her!!!! Ha, no chance. Heather was no help at all, in fact she had a decidedly serious influence on the whole team after her arrival. Ha!!

Anyway, early Monday morning the 4 of us crammed into a king cab ute and off we went on an 11 hour trip to the north of Bangkok. It's beautiful country and it seems so productive. On the way to the rural village, which is called the Switzerland of Thailand,  up behind Petchabun, we visited a mushroom farm pilot project we have funded. it was great to see it and how successful it has been for the people running it. It seems like a really good plan for future small-scale home based industry. We also called into a hostel being run by the people we have been partnering with. over 100 Hmong children live there during school semesters so they can attend a decent school. Anyway, we left Bangkok at 8 a.m. and arrived in the village at around 6:15, wet most of the way. After rest and a lovely meal, we were down to the church to meet the local Christians and hear their vision for their people. pretty impressive one would have to say for a group of people who are struggling with their identity in Thailand. Kevin spoke to encourage them and they seemed to enjoy that.

slept on the floor and it rained all night, really heavy rain. They grow cabbages for Asia in this area, it's high up in the hills and the erosion is pretty disturbing. early next morning we named a baby and drove to Lom Sak to catch our bus back to Bangkok. it was pretty uneventful despite kevin still with the Delhi belly from last week! Luxury coach for 6 1/2 hours, got back to Bangkok at 6:30 and to the hotel about 7:15. We found a cheap little restaurant close by and had a nice Thai meal.

Wednesday Heather left us. We put her on a taxi to the airport and we went to visit our Bangkok partners. First it was the Good News Team. It was great to see them again and hear about the changes God is making in the lives of so many children and families. Then it was downtown to Patpong, the seedy, foreign heart of Bangkok. In that place they are rescuing girls from prostitution and retraining and trying to restore them to some sort of stability after the trauma of the lives they have been trapped into. It was nice to see them at work making jewelery and to visit the place some of them now live. Prai showed us around, she is a remarkable young woman with a lot of courage. We set up for Lane to revisit and spend some time there after we had left on Thursday.

And so it was back to the hotel and two more nights to chill and catch up with stuff before leaving the next day. Sadly, late the next morning Kevin's computer crashed and most of the photos from the whole trip are at risk! Lane left us around midday Thursday and shifted closer to the centre of the city and we stayed till 2:30 and headed out ot the airport. The rest was pretty uneventful. We waited for a long time but caught the plane, slept most of the way home and there were Jared, Hugo and Ruthie to meet us, awesome! lovely to see them and be home again.

Since coming home a lot of people have asked about the highlights of the trip. Too many to list just yet but we will do that. In general it was pretty good, no major dramas, just a lot to think about and process now, especially the new opportunities and expansion of existing partnerships. hopefully we'll get to tell you about them sometime soon.

Friends, we'll do one more update in a week  with a few photos if we still have them. should know later today. Christmas stuff is already in the shops, it's summer already and there is such a lot to think about before then end of the year. We appreciate your journeying with us and friendship as we traveled. Thanks for all your prayers. Hope you enjoyed the ride?

Love,

Helen and Kevin


Last note for the year

2010-11-23

Hi there friends,

Hard to believe we've been home more than 4 weeks. It's nice to be in one place for a while and the same bed! Great to spend time with family and friends. 

Kev's had a frustrating time with his computer.The hard drive was replaced which took a week, and he has lost all his photos from the trip... Thank goodness Lane travelled with us and we can get some of his shots. Lane flew into Auckland a few days after us and stayed two nights. Then we all flew to Christchurch for a week. Its was a busy time debriefing with Rob, going over all the partnerships,looking at new opportunities, and making plans for next year. Also got a board meeting and a meal with the BHW team. 

We often say that our greatest asset in Bright Hope World is our partners. Along with them go the great people we have in our team here in New Zealand.  They  are awesome.  We appreciate spending time with the BHW team, its so encouraging knowing they are so supportive. 

What a shame it was to see so many damaged and demolished buildings and houses in Christchurch and to hear the stories from our friends. It's such a shame that so many people have been so badly affected by the earthquake. We even felt some after-shocks the first night we arrived. People here are very thankful no-one died and few suffered serious injury. Its been hard for some who haven't been able to live in their homes and are waiting for approval to have repairs done to their homes.

Last blog we said we would share some highlights of the trip. So, here goes:

1. Meeting our friends in Angoche, Mozambique. It's amazing to see what is happening there and to see the community changing. Now we are working out how we can respond to their requests for help to become self sustaining with a farm and gardens. 

2. Zimbabwe - we met an amazing family who have a vision to help their community which consists of many widows that are HIV+ and orphans. We heard stories there of abuse that made us really angry. The challenge now is to try and turn that anger into positive action that sees the wrongs righted, the poor helped and long term sustainable income created for those very vulnerable people.

3. Kenya - spending time with a bunch of people with a vision to transform deserts into productive orchards, gardens and forests and uneducated kids into productive citizens.

4. Uganda - There are so many great stories in Uganda. We visited a church of Sudanese refugees and it was inspiring to hear the stories of change that the loans were making in their lives. We are constantly amazed at how a small amount of money can make a huge difference. We were also impressed by Simon's vision in Lira to generate income to support vulnerable kids. a bunch of women there got loans as well, they are breaking rocks to earn a living, we're thinking about ways to lift their heavy load.

5. Pakistan - such devastation. Still 7million people without housinmg and winter is coming. A very harsh winter with snow and rain and sleet. Millions of kids sleeping in makeshift houses and with little foodnd no warmth a. Many will die and be sick for months. Our partners will only be able to help a few. Dilemma..." there will always be poor people" Jesus said, mmmmmm, true. Many poor people there will always be. Our partners are moved with mercy and compassion to do something.

6. In India there were many highlights. One was teh time we spent in Siliguri with Primala and her family of very vulnerable girls. To see pagan kids who have been rescued from slavery and fear leading the church worship was amazing. Their stories were heart breaking but the change was impressive. We were reminded again that money is not what saves these people, it requires committed people like Primala who forsake their own personal comfort and give themselves for others.

7. Nepal and Thailand were great, the main impact was what a few bucks can do when loaned to people who want to change and develop. A farmers co-operative with 500 families in Nepal and loans for goats. in Thailand it was loans to start mushroom production units that impressed us. And all it takes is a person with a vision, a faith that transforms a pagan into a Christ follower and a few dollars.

So, now it's reports, meetings and setting up for next year. Along with that it's sorting out our communication methods, meeting with key people in NZ, trying to generate more income to invest in our friends. Hopefully it will also be a lot of barbecues with friends, fishing over the summer and some time out.

Next year we'll probably travel a little less!!!! maybe. Our team is growing so that's a great thing. But the opportunities are also increasing which means we require more resources. We'll be working at that more in teh next 12 months in New Zealand, Australia and the USA.

But, we'll stay in touch. This will be our last note for a while. As our plans for next year come together we'll let you know. In the meantime, have a great Christmas.

Love from Helen and Kevin


about to hit the air

2011-04-26

hi there friends,

mmmmm. April and it's about time we headed off again into the wild blue yonder to visit our friends out there. So, this little note is to warn you about the imminent departure and alert you that we will be starting to communicate again.

We've just heard that some of our friends in Zambia have been badly injured in a car smash and that one of them has been killed. we are very concerned about those in hospital and their treatment. It reminds us how dangerous the roads are in the countries we spend a lot of time in. So, please continue to pray for us, and them?

We have updated the itinerary for you to check out and follow as well.

So, buckle up and put on your seatbelts.

love

Kevin and Helen


inspired

2011-05-25

hey there friends,

hope you're doing OK and you're inspired by something today.

Since last blog we've surived a trip to Brisbane where we had a great time with family, Bright Hope World team and then some friends at Recliffe Church in Redcliffe. It was great to get to see Uncle Inky and Aunt Lorna Ingram in Gold Coast. He's my mum's older brother and still up to mischief at 85!! Good to catch up with cousins we've not seen for years. i'm inpsored by older people who are still passionate about life and who grab every day with enthusiasm.

We also spent a few night with Helen's brother Gordon and Christine. it was lovely to catch up and see what they're up to. We spent a nice day in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. Lovely to spend unhurried time with people close to you.

Anyway, after a busy weekend speaking at church we came back to NZ to finalise preparations for the next jaunt "out there" with our partners. everything has come together pretty well and I (Kevin) am writing this from Bangkok. I'm travelling with 4 guys who are meeting partners and looking at opportunities for partnership from their church. The first day was great and we heard story after story of what God is doing amongst the people they work with. truly amazing stuff as people meet Jesus and their lives are transformed.

We heard stories of financial change, of sick people being healed, of relationships restored and kids rescued from prostitution and drugs. so inspiring out here on the front line in the battle for peoples' lives, minds and bodies.

last night we were in Patpong, the heart of the "sex industry." so sad to see oung women and men having to sell themselves. So sad to see so many men so controlled by the sex urge that they have to resort to this. in teh midst of it, there are Alex and Sarah from a little rural town in New Zealand, living their everyday lives in this hell hole. Making a difference, nurturing damaged people, encouraging local people in their work, living in community with rescued girls. Pretty inspiring really.

So today we check out another partner and fly up to Chiang Mai in the North of the country. It's the wet season so it's going to be a rough two nights in the bush. We're hoping that the roads won't suck us into holes we can't get out of. pretty sure we'll be pushing the vehicle some some of the journey!

Helen is doing OK in New Zealand. It's nice that Sara, our daughter is staying with her for a few days. It's only 3 weeks till we meet again in Ethiopia.

So, what's inspiring you today?

Love to all

Kevin and Helen


great partners in Thailand

2011-05-29

Oh boy, what a few days.


It’s been interesting travelling with 4 other guys and seeing our partners and the world we’ve been exposed to through their eyes. It’s helped me understand what great people we have as friends and partners.


First it was Bangkok for two full on days. We arrived late Thursday night and slept near the airport. Next morning it was off across town to meet our friend Prasert who told us of the work she’s involved in with kids, pretty interesting to hear of poor kids whose lives have been transformed and whose families are now experiencing a degree of relationship that was impossible before they discovered relationship with Jesus. Then we heard from Chuenjit and her story. She works with boys who are sent to a remand home, most from lives of crime and drugs and living on the streets. She befriends them at the remand home and then as they come out she offers them a home and tries to get them back into education or to find jobs. She has them at her house a lot and continues to visit the remand home. She is seeing some remarkable changes in the boy’s lives. After that we had lunch with a team of church planters who told us stories that are almost unbelievable. Young people with great passion introducing people to Jesus, whole families being baptised..... there is something happening here that is very exciting.


Then we booked into a hotel and took a taxi and the sky train to the centre of the city, Patpong, to visit Rahab Ministries. It was lovely to spend some time with Alex and Sarah and hear the things they and Prai and the team have to deal with as they seek to befriend and rescue bargirls. It’s such a complex issue. This part of the city is crawling with Western “sex travellers” about 5,000 a day come to Thailand for “sex tourism.” So the team hangs out in the bars to befriend the girls and offer them hope. Some take up the offer and come out of it and the team then takes them on the journey to recovery, wholeness and self sufficiency. On the way, many find relationship with Jesus. But they face many issues not the least the reluctance of Christians to accept them into their church! Tough work, amazing people.Then it was “home” to the hotel after wandering in the rain through the night markets and strip joints of Patpong Soi 1. Great people.

The next day we were off early to The Good News team where we heard amazing stories about children coming to faith through the correspondence courses. Most of the team members were away running programmes in Chiang Rai. But Nok showed us around. She is one amazing lady and you should hear her pray. Let her loose praying and Satan trembles. Faith like it’s hard to believe. We said goodbye around 2:00 and headed back to the airport where we said goodbye to a team member. His son was sick in hospital in New Zealand and he felt he wanted to be there. Seeing we were heading into the bush for 2 days he was not that comfortable being out of touch for so long. Fair enough, not easy decisions those ones..... at least the boy is improving now.


We got to Chiang Mai around 6:30 p.m. and drove for 3 hours on good roads to the resort at Om Koi with our partner Mike Mann. A slight misnomer, “resort,” but it actually was a lovely place. We didn’t see much of it as it was off again at 7:00 a.m. after breakfast in a little restaurant on the roadside, soup for breakfast! I am loving the food here again, amazing. For the next two days we bounced around some of the most unbelievable roads. Is cannot even begin to describe them.

We got back to Chiang Mai Saturday evening around 8:00 p.m. with many amazing experiences including:
• Spending most of the 750 kilometers in the back of the Toyota Hiace. I only have one split on my head which in itself is a miracle
• We had the most amazing meals at roadside restaurants. I kid you not, Thai cooking in NZ is good, here it is out of this world. $5-6 for a huge meal you’d pay 4 times the amount for at home
• Sleeping in a Karen village with the family of the pastor, a lovely old man
• Seeing heaps of coffee growing in very interesting locations
• The village of Mokh o Jo (Mo Ho Jo) and their new school. Beautiful, beautiful kids at school, it would not have happened if Christian people had not got off their butts and got involved.
• Hearing stories of many communities transformed with the Good News about Jesus and water, sewage, electricity, roads, loans, education and health. Very cool.
• Schools and clinics built by coffee and the good will of some large companies
• Talking with the travellers about grass roots stuff related to missions. It’s very interesting hearing people grapple with the issues of prostitution, poverty, church planting, education, health, development all in the same conversation.
• Seeing where La Mai coffee is grown and talking to the growers. By the way, 18 tonnes of La Mai coffee is about to be shipped to the USA. I’m hoping to see it on Monday.


Anyway, after a good sleep Saturday night we’ve had a day off. Visited a fantastic elephant place with at least 70 elephants. It was a funny show and then to see some tigers. Hugo our grandson would have loved it. It’s been good to have a day off to catch up. We’re back into it tomorrow thought it won’t be as strenuous. I’m missing Helen and the family, but it’s great to be here as well. It’s only 3 weeks till Helen catches up with me in Ethiopia.

Before then there are a lot of things to do:
• Prepare and send off a seminar outline tomorrow
• Visit Myanmar for 4 days from Tuesday
• Write up a few reports
• Travel to London to see the Queen, not. To visit a large potential donor and partner
• Travel to Glasgow to speak at a church and a Bible School Graduation and some other meetings
• Travel to Strasbourg, France, for a conference and deliver the seminar
• Fly to Ethiopia.


No sweat.
See ya, and thanks for being on the journey with us.
Kevin and Helen


leaving Myanmar

2011-06-05

Hey there from Bangkok,
Overnighting here before heading off to the UK. Had an interesting time in Myanmar, such a different place from anywhere else we go. It’s not like I haven’t been there before, but you can’t help but notice some stuff. Here are a few thoughts from my time there, observations and experiences:


• One of the most obvious observations is the huge number of Buddhist monks on the streets. It seems like Buddhism produces beggars. They all flock around the streets begging for food. Well not all Buddhists are poor of course; some are obscenely wealthy, including the leaders.

• I noticed a man working on the streets. I walked past him a number of times over the 4 days. His job, picking the grass out of the cracks in the tar seal along edges of the roads. He moved about 40 metres over the 4 days. His tools, a bucket, nothing more, nothing less. Every weed and piece of grass was picked by hand. On another occasion I saw a group of people fixing cracks in the tar seal; their tools? A bucket full of sand mixed with tar. They shovelled it into the cracks and patted it down with their hands!

• Taxis – amazing machines they are, every one dangerous and decrepit. No seat belts and most of them 1970s and 1980s Toyota Corollas. Mind you, it would cost you $US30,000 to buy one. But that’s not all. The government gas stations will only sell then 9 litres of fuel per day! If they want any more, they have to buy it on the black market for double the price. One wonders where the black marketers get it from!

• Of course, one also wonders how much it costs to buy one of huge black Lexus’ you see roaring past and you wonder where that came from.

• Mmmmm. A number of Christians told us you have to be corrupt to own a car or a house. And some pastors own 2 cars and others a number of properties! Lots of questions it raises. Along with this the number of Westerners coming here their own personal projects! I talked to a couple of people in the hotel, pretty alarming frankly.

• Traffic – it’s fortunate there are few new cars in the country. It’s bad enough without them. At one set of traffic lights a policemen decided he could do a better job that the lights. He managed to turn the whole intersection into a farce. Half the drivers followed his directions and the other half the lights, they were not in sync! Talk about laugh..... the highlight of the trip so far!

• Arm waving at cars – I think deeply embedded in each male Burmese is a policeman. Every time a car tries to do something like back or turn into the traffic a number of people quickly emerge to create chaos. At one place as I walked past a policeman and 4 others were trying to get a car into the flow of traffic, each one giving different directions and arm signals.

• The guys we met made an interesting observation. Of you are a Christian, you are poor. If you become a Christian you are poor. That’s reality here, and in most of the places we find ourselves visiting. Poverty, now is the time for the Western church to partner with our brothers and sisters to help them se their dreams for their families, their churches and their communities. It’s a great privilege to partner with people like the 3 leaders from Mt. Albert Baptist who came with me to Thailand. They are serious about this issue and are working hard to come up with ways they can be strategic in partnership.

• And of course, a huge privilege to partner with people like Joshua Bawi Vum, Khup Hlei Thang, Samuel and Dawiet Thang who have a strong vision and clear strategies to bless people. We heard of many people becoming followers of Jesus, people becoming healthy and whole, economic independence and development through chickens, gardens, pigs and small tractors. Amazing what is going on.

So, in a few hours I’ll be off to London. Another 12 hours in the air and a couple more airports and a very different world. I meet Rob Purdue in London and we’ve got a couple of important meetings. Then on to Glasgow and meetings and I have to speak at a graduation ceremony for a number of missions students. So I’ll have to try and iron a shirt, mmm, find a shirt to wear that isn’t work out, ripped or dirty and a tie! Ha, no chance.
Helen is well and spending the weekend with two of her sisters in Eltham, NZ. I’m pretty sure there are some pretty crazy conversations going on. Only 14 days till we meet in Ethiopia!! Roll on the next two weeks.
Blessings and thanks for your interest
Love
Kevin

p.s. check out the new photos as well? go to our photos and click on the photo for a little description


the UK

2011-06-11

London, it’s certainly a bit different from Bangkok – the temperature being the most noticeable difference of course!


While I Bangkok overnight I caught up on reports and two events made me realise how amazing our partners are as I worked on the notes I’d written .


I interviewed one of our partners who has quite a large ministry going around Myanmar, Church planting, a Bible School, raising 3,000 broiler chickens at a time and 80 kids in a hostel and a lot of other stuff. It was the start of the school year and they didn’t have enough money to send get them started. So he pawned his wedding ring to make it possible for teh kids to get to school on the 1st day. He hopes he’ll get the money from somewhere to buy the ring back in the next two months. I wondered if I was that committed to the ministry?


The next day I interviewed a young man, Joseph who has been working in a Buddhist community for the last 7 years. His denomination wanted him to shift but he felt he had invested too much time with these people and begged to stay. They agreed, but said they could no longer support him. So, he and his wife determined to help the locals and themselves to become self sufficient. And so, to get together a fund with which to start their self sustainability programmes they sold all their wedding gifts and the gold they have been given by their families at their wedding. Now, there are more than 60 adults in the church and many small businesses established. The next one will be a building supplies store in a neighbouring village. Mmmmmm...... incredible commitment.

I had to laugh, in fact I’m still laughing about this. In the airport at Bangkok waiting to leave. Got some chips and a drink at Burger King and a Korean family came in. The father was immaculate, dressed entirely in white, shoes, trousers, shirt and jacket, white cap perfectly aligned and a white leather back pack. He kept glancing at himself in the mirror on the wall and he was obviously pleased with what came back at him. He sat down the others went an ordered. You know how the way things come in 3s, this guy was about to get 4, in 10 minutes! It was almost like he set himself up for something to happen.
First one of the little guys passed him a pile of chips and they dropped onto the table, covered in tomato sauce. He got a major splat right across his front from the drop. A couple of the family jumped up to help and in the process dropped a little burger on his arm, splat number two. By this time our man was rather vocal and waving his arms around, just as a guy walked past with a tray in one hand and on the corner of the tray was a large Coke. You guessed it, his hand clipped it and it flew with great accuracy on to the table in front of him, the top came off and washed away all the tomato sauce from his shirt and jacket. He sat in shock as the Coke went all over him and seriously dented his image. He was soaked. And unfortunately, his i-phone which had been lying on the table in front of him was now awash with Coke, and ice!


What a mess. The whole restaurant was in an uproar. The things you see!!!

On the trip to London I sat by a couple of Welsh brothers, Huw and Rob, who had been in Pattaya for 10 days and were more than a little the worse for wear! They talked rugby until told to shut up cause everyone else in the plane wanted to sleep, fortunately I got about 7 hours sleep and woke an hour before landing. then on the tube to the hotel and met Rob after lunch in our postage stamp sized bedroom. The next day we had a couple of meetings, one with a large foundation to talk to them about what we do and then to Victoria bus station to meet a partner who had come to meet us. Back to the hotel, cheap meal for dinner from Sainsburys.


Wednesday morning back onto the tube ant to airport and off to Glasgow. Spoke that night in a church a 50 people turned up. They took an offering, largest in our lives for one meeting. Thankyou Lord, the people here are so generous. Then came Thursday, hopefully this is the busiest day of the trip! Lectured to students at GLO UK for two hours and met with two other leaders for meetings about BHW and missions. Then to a meeting with our UK partner organisation, Shared Hope, and had to go through all the partnerships they are funding. It took about 4 hours of talking so by 11:00 pm it was crash into bed.


Yesterday we had a quieter day. Howard Peebles took us off to Culzean (pronounced Cullane)castle, about an hour away. It was great to wander around in the beautiful grounds and through the building beside the sea. It was a beautiful but cool day and very relaxing. Then at night I spoke at the graduation at GLO UK in Motherwell, students from Scotland, Ireland, England, France, Italy, Faroe Islands, Zambia, D R Congo and India. Great to see keen people taking the time to get to know God.


So it’s early morning here, still quiet and we’re off to France today. Still missing my girl and the family, only 8 days till we met again in Ethiopia. By that time I’ll be over being in a room with Rob!


There’s so much going on with our partners and it’s a struggle to keep up with it all, but it’s fantastic. Still building houses for $US900 for flood victims in Pakistan, Worku has just got back to Ethiopia and we’ll meet him soon (much to see there,) Jerry Filed and John Vlaming are out visiting partners in Zambia and Zimbabwe and about 8 or our partners coming from all over the world to the conference in France, so it will be nice to get together with them there next week. There are about 500 people coming from almost 100 countries. Got a seminar to run on Tuesday but apart from that it’s just networking with good people.


So friends, next time it will be about France, before we head back into Africa and meet in Addis Ababa on the 19th.
Thanks for your prayers, such a blessing and so sustaining
Kevin and Helen


beautiful place, nice people

2011-06-16

Strasbourg is a very beautiful city, I have to say it's got a lovely ambience. it was nice last night to wander around teh streets with Rob Purdue in the warm evening and soak some of it up. the catherdral is pretty impressive as well. it's a drizzly afternoon and i've sneaked out of the conference. got a sore head and a sore throat, feeling less than good. But it's been good to have some time to think and process what we've seen and heard.

It's been quite a week since being in touch. Last Saturday Rob and I flew out of Glasgow and into Paris. it was nice to feel warm again. however, we enjoyed our time up there in Scotland. after taking forever to get the hire car sorted and then the stupid GPS we headed north from hte great city. What a beautiful country France is. It is easy to fall in love with. rolling hills, no fences or powerlines to clutter the eye space. Very easy on the eyes and the spirit. Once we had worked out the GPS it all weorked pretty well. the next couple of days was a break and a personal pilgimmage i had wanted to make for years. Two great uncles were killed in this are during WWI and i had never been the area to visit theri graves. For me it was a moving time as we visited the Australian war memorial just outside Fouilly. 1,000 of gravestones in neat rows. hard to imagine the horrors of this place almost 100 years ago and then again just a few years later. All the graves contained boys, younger than my kids and a number "known only to God."

We stayed that Saturday night in the little town of Corbie, Rob on the floor! He wouldn't share the bed with me. Sunday morning we headed back towards Amiens to the little town or Daours and there in the cemetrary found teh grave of James Copppin, 24. he served with the Australina 1st battalion and died in the area along with many of his mates. Kind of surreal to be there and see a stone, many stones that represented so much wasted potetntial. mmmmm.

then into Amiens, it has teh most amazing catherdral. we spent an hour or so wandering around and there had an interesting meal, raw beef and a raw egg!. Not sure I would have ordered it had i known what it would be!  l often try different things on the menu, that was different. then off across country for 90 minutes to the Crossroads cemeteray, near to St. Quentin and the famous town of Le Quesnoy. Found the grave of Fritz Honore, a bit of a childhood hero of mine. About 22, a bit of a rebel, but even rebels die young. a beautiful, quiet place. no place is a good place to die or be buried really. Life is so precious and even young life so fragile. Still thinking about a lot of stuff really as a result of these two visits. It's wierd really, these two guys we're brothers in law but possible didn't know each other. They died within dayhs of each other and with 90 minutes of each other as well. another coincidence, Fritz's family, and therefore mine, were chased from France during the Reformation and went to Germany, then on to Denmark and then to New Zealand. they were chased from the Mons area which is just an hour away from where he is buried.

Anyway, enought of that stuff. after spending 30 minutes at teh grave and meeting the custodian who shook my hand profusly, we went into Le Quesnoy and wandered around the area that the NZ Army freed from the Germans. The whole town has adopted New Zealand adn we went to the NZ memorial and drove around the streets named after parts of home. it was amrket days so roads were in chaos. we got out of there in good time and set the GPS for Strasbourg. The idea was to drive for a couple of hours and then find somewhere to stay. Being trusting types, we followed the instructions and about 15 minutes later found ourselves crossing into Belgium. we asked the GPS to take us the direct way with no tolls. ha, over the next 12 hours drove across Belgium, stayed teh night in a motel near to teh Luxemburg border, crossed into Luxemburg and back into France!! i'm sure it was teh quickest way, but I bet it wasn't the shortest!! Anyway, we got to Strasbourg just after lunch on Monday, dropped off teh car at the airport and signed into the conference we're attending.

Met some interesting people here. They are from all over the world. 90 something countries and lots of stories. some you hear in subsequent blogs. Thinking seriously about involvment in a couple of them, very interesting, one in a place we can't talk about. It's int eh news virtually every day and the conditions for Christ followers is appalling.

anyway friends, i'm getting real hungry and i'm off to get some chow. 3 more sleeps and Helen and i will meet up in Addis Ababa. Awesome. really missing her. Sleeping in the same room with a couple of snorers and being on the top bunk ain't an ideal arrangment so i'm looking forward to much more comfortable nights ahead.

you guys are great. please pray for Helen as she travels from Auckland to Addis Ababa, as i travel from France to Ethiopia and for the next coueple of weeks as we host a team of church leaders around Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

catch you

Kevin and Helen


back together in Ethiopia

2011-06-22

The conference in Strasbourg finished well. It was inspiring to meet such great people. One guy we’re going to follow is a lovely old guy who is a Christian in Jordan. He has such a desire to see his country at peace and with openness of religion. He was often in tears as he told us stories of young people following Christ who are heavily persecuted and of the thousands who have had to leave the country for fear of their lives. He told of the thousands who have had to flee Syria and Iraq for the same reasons. All they want is freedom to worship their God. It looks like there may be trips to the Middle East in the next months as we develop opportunities there.


There were stories from South Sudan as it becomes a new country and that there is such a need for vibrant, authentic Christian faith in that place. Alongside it, stories of horrific abuse and systematic rape and torture.


There were stories of hope from Burundi as we talked to a fantastic couple who have decided to stay in their poverty stricken neighbourhood when they could leave and work internationally for a multi-national organisation. Why do people choose these pathways, why do you give up so much for seemingly so little return? It became obvious from many sources throughout the conference as we talked to our partners that there are levels of commitment to following Christ that we in the West are rarely confronted with. It’s all become too easy for most of us.


I was reminded of that today again as we talked through the things we are observing in Ethiopia. Our partner here made a startling comment. He said, “the church here has been able to resist the pressure of persecution and hardship but is struggling to deal with the temptation of money.” Materialism is such an insidious temptation. We don’t even see it as a negative in most cases in the West. But here in Ethiopia, it is ripping the heart out of the integrity of many, even those in leadership. There have been so many lessons to learn for us as we’ve met so many fine people.


Enough sermons!! OK. The conference ended on Friday and that evening we went with a bunch of NZers to dinner with a kiwi missionary living in Strasbourg. It was lovely to catch up with Irene and meet some of her friends. The Lebanese food was fantastic too. Then on Saturday Rob Purdue and I left Strasbourg and flew to Paris and then on to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. We arrived after an uncomfortable overnight flight from Paris at 6:00 am. Not the best time to arrive in any city really. But, 5 hours later I was a happy camper as Helen flew in and we were together again. Worku, our Ethiopian friend had organised things well. We were not expecting to have internet for a few days but we found ourselves in a hotel with wireless internet!! Miracles still happen. Up until this year it’s been a really hard place to travel and stay in touch.


We laxed out a bit for the rest of Sunday and then Monday we went off to the commodity trading floor in Addis to see how sesame seed is bought and sold. We’ve been doing that this past season to generate income. It was good to get a better handle on it all. Then it was out to the airport to meet the team from Chase Oaks Church, Dallas, Texas, USA. They were to arrive at 9:00 pm but got in at around 10:30. We were still waiting an hour later before we saw them..... wandering around looking for something. Luggage. Nothing, not one bag from 5 people; we finally left the airport at 1:00 am. The context, we had to be up at 5:00 am for a flight to the north of Ethiopia the next morning. So, here we are, 11:00 pm two days later and they still haven’t got their luggage. We leave Ethiopia Friday, hopefully with their luggage!!


In the meantime here in Gonder in the North of Ethiopia we’ve been to visit the widows feeding programme, visited the land on which the new school will be built and then met 10 blind children that have been sponsored to go to a little school set up by the blind association. It was lovely to meet 10 young people from off the streets who within one year have learned to read Braille in Amharic and English and get into 3rd grade. Awesome stories.


Then today we met the 90 kids in the kindergarten, we spent 3 hours listening to stories of change agents in the rural parts of Northern Ethiopia and met two sisters who have been given a small loan to start a business and we drank their coffee. It’s very inspiring and humbling to be given such hospitality by such poor people. Well you really do have to re-define poor when you meet people with so little money but such vast reserves of kindness and gentleness and generosity.


So, tomorrow it’s back to Addis to find luggage and then Friday to Kenya and a whole bunch of new experiences. I’ve put some pictures this time.


I forgot to tell you about the amazing Cathedral in Strasbourg. It’s smaller than the one in Amiens but very impressive still. It’s a lot taller and in better repair. I’ve stuck a couple of pix, but it’s so hard to understand the scale of the place.


Anyway, I’ll head off to bed and leave you to have a nice day.
Lovely to be back together......
Love
Helen and Kevin


Nairobi in the rain

2011-06-26

It’s Sunday in Nairobi and half the city will be off to church. It’s the last day for a while that we’ll have decent internet so we’ll drop you a line and throw in a few pictures.


We left Gonder in the north of Ethiopia on Thursday morning and said goodbye to Worku, our friend there. It was lovely to spend time with him again. He’s such a level headed guy with patience like you wouldn’t believe. We hope to be able to start building a school there in the near future. We go back to Ethiopia in a few weeks and hope to be able to report a start to it.


We travelled back to Addis Ababa and spent the afternoon catching up on stuff. Then early Friday headed off to Nairobi. We were met on arrival by Jude Goatley who has been helping us set up this part of the trip. it was lovely to see here again and spend the afternoon with her.


After going to the guest house we’re staying at we headed off to the Mathare Valley. We’ve talked about this place a number of times in the past. It still smells, it’s still a terrible place but there are some signs of minor improvement. But as Gilbert says," Mathare is still Mathare." He means it is still a hotbed of poverty, that there are still enormous needs, that people are dying of preventable diseases every day, that young people are being abused and raped, that there are way too many child headed households. The team with us were very quiet as we travelled back to the guest house through rush hour traffic in Nairobi.


Yehaaaa, a huge thunder clap and it’s now pouring with rain. The locals are very happy when it rains here. They live on the verge of disaster much of the time and the rains not as consistent as they once were.


Next day we headed off to Tala, 90 minutes away and spent the day with Robert and Rose. Good friends they are and it was great to be able to introduce them to our friends from the USA. We visited the schools they are developing and spent a lot of time trying better understand the issues of the good news and poverty. It was a treat to eat that night at Java House cafe. Nice food and coffee. It’s a tough city Nairobi. A mega-city with all the positives and negatives of a large city. One of the negatives is security and I find myself constantly looking over my shoulder, especially after dark!


Sunday has been busy. It’s now almost 5 pm and we’ve been out to a 2 ½ hour church service, have interviewed a partner from the DRC and interviewed 3 young men who are beneficiaries of the revolving fund operating in Nairobi. Great to hear what a blessing it has been to them. We have one more interview before dinner and then it’s packing to leave tomorrow morning for the west of Kenya and on to Uganda.


The pace at the moment is a little fast to be frank. We’re looking forward to travelling slower once we get to Uganda. We hardly get time to talk about anything or to have any mind space. Mind you, the team we’re with are great, it’s just that there are so many things to have to organise and keep on top of when there are 8 people to look out for.
It’s been a week since Helen got here and apart from flopping into bed at night we’ve hardly had time to talk. But that will change soon and in a few days she’ll be sick of just having me to talk to!!


So, we’ll head off into the evening rain and thunder and try and find the next person to interview, the next meal to find and the next bill to pay. Oh, got to arrange the taxi for 6:15 in the morning too. Mustn’t forget that one or I’ll be in real trouble.


Thanks for hanging in there with us. Thanks too for the messages on get jealous, the e-mails and contact via face-book. It’s great to stay in touch. We’ve been surprised and spoiled with good internet connections but it is going to change this week.

Bless you and thanks
Kevin and Helen


phew!

2011-07-02

Where the heck has the last week gone?! We’re sitting in a shopping mall in Kampala, Uganda wondering where it went. Last time we updated you we were in Nairobi we were off to bed having organised a taxi for the morning. It all worked out OK and by 7:00 am we were sitting in Nairobi airport waiting to head off to Kisumu on Lake Victoria. Plane was on time, no worries. Our friends were in Kisumu to meet us and we headed off to the hotel. We dumped our luggage as it was still early and some had breakfast. We then found out that the average hotel was $50 / night, much more than we were happy to pay for what we were going to get. So, after a few arm waves and repacking of the luggage, we headed off to the St, Anna Guest House, more than adequate, clean, quiet and half the price.


We then headed out to FAME children’s home to check out the state of play. We saw the cow we had bought, visited the greenhouse and the land purchased to make the Home self sustaining, toured the gardens and met the kids living in the hostel. They sang for us and quoted a few memory verses and then went back to school for the afternoon. We then talked through the dream for this place. It looks like a secondary school for about 160 kids from the Mathare Valley, a way to get the kids out of that terrible place. It was good to spend time with Daniel and Gilbert and talk with them about their dream. Can we help here? You’ll have to stay on the journey to find out! We hope so.


We slept well that night and early in the morning hired a van to carry us the 2 hours to the border with Uganda. We had told a few horror stories about the border crossing so our guys were a little up tight. It can be frightening for those not used to the chaos of African borders. But, there were no bus loads of people trying to get through at the same time and it all went off without a hitch. It was positively peaceful and our team wondered why we had made such a big deal of it!! The last of our teams that went through here had their money stolen from out of money belts!!


We met with James and Charles that afternoon and they shared stories from the partnership. Then Helen and I left the team at the Rand Hotel and we headed out to the village to stay with our friends. It was good to spend time with them though they were very busy as James’ uncle had died the week before and we were with them 2 days after the funeral. So we slept in the dark, quiet village house until the roosters woke us. I always sleep well in the village.


The team arrived and we spent the day interviewing beneficiaries of the loan scheme and hearing more stories of change and development; very inspiring it was. The real strength in this one is the connection between the loan scheme and the education scholarship fund. We met a bunch of very impressive young people who are so well educated and motivated it brought tears to our eyes.


Back to stay at the Rand Hotel on Wednesday evening and then on Thursday morning it was off to Jinja, a couple of hours away. We arrived and headed to the Source, a Christian initiated cafe and community centre and caught up with e-mails. Then to Thomas and Joyce’s for lunch and off to their very poor church to hear more stories. On the way we were arrested by the army for taking pictures, no signs saying not to do it and one of our team members had a proposal for marriage at the end of the interviews. We heard many stories of tragedy and loss. Desperate stuff. These people are so poor and discouraged they could not even smile for a photo. What is there to smile about! Thomas and Joyce have one of the most difficult ministry locations I have encountered. They are such lovely people and so hospitable. Thomas had a motorbike accident a few years ago and is in constant pain from a damaged neck. We left heaps of ibuprofen for him. That night we had our final team meal and debrief at a great Chinese restaurant in Jinja. Back to our filthy hotel and up early to get to the Source cafe again for breakfast, internet and fantastic coffee! Do we have to leave! We did and at 9:00 am after changing some more money – where does the money go – we were on our way to Kampala and the New Annex Hotel. Average place but central and clean, that makes for a change and the water is hot. We met with a new partner and developed a micro-loan programme, we said goodbye to Rob Purdue and sent him to the airport and had a final debrief with the USA team. They had been out shopping and came back with the need to repack. Then at 7 p.m. they headed off in their two taxis to the airport. Quiet, peaceful alone, it felt really strange.


They were a fantastic team, I’m not complaining. Lovely people with a great desire to learn and be effective in God’s great world and very generous. It's a privilege to partner with Chase Oaks Church, Dallas, Texas.

We’ve been able to leave 2 computers with two partners and have already heard from them on their new toys. They will be a great boost to the work they are doing, loans, kids to school and that sort of thing.


I’ve just heard from the US team. They have arrived in Amsterdam and are visiting a couple of missionaries there. While writing this I’ve also scoffed an amazing pepper steak and Helen has knocked of a couple or snapper fillets. It’s nice to eat Western again after all the local food. Tomorrow we’ll be back to that again, it’s lovely but we’re not entirely used to it.


We have another day off tomorrow if you call writing reports and updates time off, and then Monday it’s 6 hours north of here to Lira on a bus. At least the road is better than last time when I had the most uncomfortable ride in a bus ever!


We’re about to head back to the internet cafe to upload this and some photos and catch up on the scores in the Super 12 semi finals. Go the Blues, go the Crusaders!!!


It was encouraging to hear the comments of the US team at our final debrief. Their lasting impressions were related to the calibre of the partners we have a Bright Hope World. They also commented on the tragic poverty and the difference between Kenya and Uganda and Ethiopia. Ethiopia is so much poorer in comparison.

So we said goodbye to them and now look forward to the next few weeks. 12 days here in Uganda, a week in Ethiopia, then a week in both Pakistan and India. It still seems a long way to go but we are encouraged by your reading the blog and praying for us and sending us e-mails and messages. We are able to text as well from here. In each country we buy a local sim card. Check out the updated BHW website if you have some time: www.brighthopeworld.com 

 
Love
Kevin and Helen


the widows and their cows

2011-07-08

We have arrived back in Kampala for one night on our way from Lira to Katosi. We travelled up to Lira on Monday morning, leaving the hotel at 6:00 am and departing the bus station at 8:00. It was chaos. The hawkers were constantly coming through the bus selling stuff, an amazing variety. One wonders why you would buy the stuff they were selling while sitting on a bus. It was incredible as people shoved and pushed and shouted at us and all the others sitting on the bus to buy their goods. There were shower caps, sunglasses, torches with their lights flashing, radios blaring, dictionaries, shoes, cosmetics and toiletries. But wait there’s more....wigs, cell phones and chargers, soccer balls and toys, newspapers, chewing gum, kitchen graters , thermos.. AND then there was the food.....bread, samosa, donuts, peanuts, local food, sodas, water, fruit salad, biscuits and more. If you didn’t yield to their demands being pushed at you inside the bus, they shouted outside by our windows... Who needs to go to the Mall when everything comes to you while you sit on a bus for 2 hours waiting until it’s full? You don’t prebook tickets, just arrive and grab a seat!! And pay the conductor later....


Anyway, we headed off at 8:00 and got into Lira around 1:30. It was a pretty uneventful trip really, apart from the day old chickens constantly chirping behind us and the other chickens squawking and flapping from time to time.


It was great to spend time with our friends in Lira. They are a family that was devastated by the LRA, 28 kids, most of them related. This isn’t a normal partnership for us. It’s really too long term. But what can you do when you stumble across 28 severely traumatised kids in a refugee camp but go the journey with them. It’s lovely to see the progress they are making, the games they play and the camaraderie that exists in this special family. There is still a long way to go. We’ve been involved since 2005 but reckon we’ve got another 10 years of involvement before this one ends in its current form.


I (Kevin) come away from Lira an angry man. There were times there when I had to struggle to control myself; where if a certain individual walked into the room right them I would probably have to be restrained. This is a close family in Lira, kids who have been abused and raped and had those closest to them tortured and killed in front of their eyes. And still this community makes life as difficult as possible for these vulnerable kids. There is no justice or fairness, there is no protection, and nothing has really changed in grassroots Uganda. Another Idi Amin (Last King of Scotland) or Joseph Kony (Lords’ Resistance Army) could easily be produced by this disturbing place.


I am tempted to write a scathing attack and send it to the newspapers or storm into the mayor’s office and demand an audience. But I’ll make do with venting my spleen to you guys. Sorry, but I am incensed by the rampant corruption and injustice and need to get it out of my system.


It’s not the big things that are so irritating, it’s the day to day, constant rubbish ordinary people have to cope with. Earlier in the year there were elections in Uganda. Pretty much a joke really but the polling dragged on for months. The school year was severely disrupted and now, towards the end of the academic year it’s examination time. But of course, the kids haven’t been taught the whole syllabus and have little chance of passing their exams. So, “for the small fee of a few thousand shillings, we are available to tutor you so you pass the exams!” No payment, no tutoring, no pass! Education here has become an economic joke. It’s supposed to be free. But free here means the teachers don’t get paid so they charge the kids to give them free education. Everywhere we go we hear stories of kids being kicked out of school because the parents can’t pay the fees. The budgets for the Lira kids costs around $US400 a year to send a child to the last year of secondary school. How can they do it when that is more than their annual income?


And then there is the grinding mill. For a number of years a virtually complete grinding mill has been at the centre. So, last year with the help of a generous couple from New Zealand we built a place to operate the mill from and installed it. However, a neighbour who wanted the land objected and took out an injunction. For more than a year now the mill has sat ready to go but we can’t start it. The purpose of the mill is to generate local income to assist with the care of the children. Simon refuses to pay the bribes but of course the other guy is quite willing to pay. So, for the last two hearings the complainant has not turned up and the registrar has lost the papers, conveniently! But the day of reckoning is coming, he is going to be very surprised by the case we bring against him for loss of a year’s income, for all the costs associated with going to court, for every trip Simon has had to make to the court for a no show, for all the time he has had to spend getting the right papers....... watch this space.


Wednesday, Helen spent most of the morning interviewing Judy and Margaret, sisters. Judy is 27 years old, has 3 young kids, is a widow and she has just found out she’s HIV+. She is part of the loan scheme run out of the centre here. 30 widows are the beneficiaries. I was working on something else across the room and as I listened into the story I became more and more angry. These two women have a small loan and with it they buy rocks and tools and break the rocks into stones, by hand. When Judy discovered that she was HIV+, she decided she needed to let people know. I mean, all the counselling and the posters say that this is the best way. Be positive, be proud! Within hours of knowing about it herself her landlord came and asked her to leave the house. She was in the process of buying a cow and a couple of days later went to pay the final instalment. The guy she was buying from refused to take her money and refused to allow her to have the cow. “Who will look after the cow when you are dead” the cheeky sod says. So she asks for her money back. “I’ll pay it back in instalments he says.” I tell you, I was almost out the house at this stage to go visit him with a baseball bat! Like I said, this place is as corrupt, as Dark Ages and disgusting as it’s possible to be. Even the churches don’t welcome the HIV+ in these rural areas. Here’s a woman struggling to live, who can’t afford to get the ARVs (anti-retroviral drugs) that are “free,” who just the day before had her 2 school age kids sent home and thugs like these guys step in and abuse her all over again. They prey on the vulnerable. I cannot imagine what it will be like for them on the day of judgement as they stand before the judge of all the earth who does right and who loves the poor and vulnerable.


And then there’s the story of the widow and the cow! Another HIV+ widow in another programme our partners runs and another cow. She had saved hard to buy a cow. She drank some of the milk which gave her good nutrition which you need when taking ARVs. She sold the rest and with the proceeds was sending her kids to school. Anyway, she has a bad bout of ill health for some weeks and ended up in hospital. Someone else was looking after the cow, but it died! How the heck does a cow die just like that? So now she has no income, no nutrition and no schooling for her kids. Not even an apology from the person looking after it. Cows die, not their fault.


There are words that come readily to mind, probably too readily to be true, for the people I would love to meet on a dark night. I’d love to meet the guys who are leading the community in Lira and who for 3 years have been getting paid to audit the accounts so our partners can get a certificate to show they are a registered NGO and who laugh at them cause they don’t have a vehicle; I would just love to meet the two guys who are victimising Judy, evicting her from her house and stealing her cow; as for the politicians and teachers who should be funding the tutoring of the kids, hit them in the pocket the crooks; and the obnoxious guy who is perverting the course of justice and stopping the mill from starting, mmmm accidently cutting the water and electricity supply is sounding like a fair option right now; and the idiot who takes no responsibility for the cow dying, I reckon a night visit to his place might be a fair call.


But, at the end of the day, this is God’s problem to solve. But I understand that he is a loving God full of grace. But he is also a righteous and angry judge who will one day, maybe not even in my lifetime or theirs, revisit these issues. And all those nameless victims will get their reward. However, that doesn’t entirely deal with my problem and I think I’m going to remain angry a little longer.


Anyway, hope you’re having a great week and are able to process life a little easier than me. We’re off to Lake Victoria tomorrow and hope we survive the mozzies. Timothy and Janepher will be great as usual and it will be good to see the children there. Then it’s over to Jinja Saturday and preaching in church Sunday with Thomas and Joyce Lubari and their congregation of refugees and displaced people.


Love to all and have a great weekend.
Kevin and Helen


South Sudan, refugees and real change

2011-07-14

Timothy picked us up at 10.30 on Friday morning and we pushed our way through the Kampala traffic and eventually out of the city traffic chaos heading towards rural Katosi by Lake Victoria.


We stopped off at a really poor village in which Timothy and Janpeher have started a school. One of the issues here is the size of the need, these guys struggle to cope with it all and constantly find themselves starting new stuff..... and rarely finishing the last thing they started. There are 58 kids here in Mbale school, none of them were going to school a year ago. We talked about these people taking responsibility for their own children. They have money for booze and women, but not of course for houses, clothes and education. Until they get that message, how can you really help them? They need a church in that village that will help them address the real issues and introduce a whole new way of thinking and a transformed mind set.


Then onto Katosi. The kids at the school mobbed us and grabbed our hands, wanting us to play. There are now 456 children in the primary and secondary school and 168 in the boarding school. The cost of food has gone through the roof and this has bought them face to face with the reality of having to become more self-sustaining.


Had lunch at 3.00pm with the Headmaster and staff and we were given a tasty local meal which included potatoes, meat, ugali (mashed cooked bananas,) chapatti, rice, green vegetables and pineapple. It’s incredible how much food some of the little ladies could devour. I think they enjoyed extra treats like meat because we were there.


We wandered around teh village and slept the night at Timothy and Janepher’s home. They had given us one of the kids rooms with a single bed in it. L'il Kev sat on the bed and……crash. A couple of the wooden slats broke so we put the mattress on the floor and confessed about the bed in the morning. NO MOZZIES.


Timothy went up to the school at 5.30am for prayer with the kids. Little Purity crept into our room and decided it was playtime….so we got up. He was very fascinated with the computer, and all the things that visitors have in their bags.


Breakfast was the best sweet potato chips in Africa. Helen watched Janepher and her daughter prepare the food in the outside kitchen cooking on a charcoal brazier. Food preparation and cooking consumes a lot of the lady’s time and energy as does washing all the clothes by hand. No electric or gas stoves, washing machines, dish washers, vacuum cleaners or flushing loos, showers or baths. But they do have TV when the power works and cell phones.


Timothy took us back to Jinja and we had a lovely meal with our partners Thomas and Joyce. Our hotel is on the top floor…….57 concrete steps so we get some aerobic exercise several times a day….


Sunday we went to church with our friends and they sang and danced and clapped their way through an hour of singing and praise with their African drums playing.. Some people shared their testimonies of how God had helped them during the week. Kevin spoke and Helen prayed with two ladies afterwards…

It’s been good to have some time to catch up on emails, reports and skype our kids and Hugo.


I’m surprised you’re reading this after my last rant! Anyway, thanks to those who encouraged us with your comments, it means so much to know you are praying, not just for us but also for the poor. On our i-pod we have a number of sermons from various people. The ones we keep going back to are by Tim Keller. If you want your head and heart stimulated, listen to some of his material, it’s available online. Anyway, last night I was listening to a message on injustice and he made the following point and it goes like this:


“The biblical God actually chooses the poor and oppressed. It has always been the case that it is the poor who come to Christ. The gospel is particularly empowering to the poor – the gospel radically changes the economic reality for the poor. The gospel tells people they are valued by God and this stinking world will be sorted out by God. It gives people cosmic dignity and a role as his agents.”


I was reminded of this again this week as we spent time with our friends Thomas and Joyce Lubari. An amazing story really. Thomas was a refugee as a little baby and his mother died while he was still suckling. He doesn’t know what year he was born sometime around ’68 or ’69. His family fled from Sudan in one of the outbreaks of war and now he found himself in a foreign land with no mother and living in a refugee camp, what chance life.


But his dad, who was a gentle giant, found work and the family stabilised in Uganda.... until the rise of Idi Amin. Foreigners like them became targets and so they found themselves running again, north, on a bus, back to Sudan. So as an eleven year old he’s a refugee for the 2nd time and before they could even find somewhere secure and stable, his father took sick and died on the operating table of some “Arab butcher from the North!” Thomas mused that everyone who ended up on his operating table died and that it was probably a ploy of the north to kill the people of the south.


School became a major problem, in a “foreign land,” couldn’t speak Arabic, 13 years old and had no one to sponsor him to school. So began the most difficult years of his life as he fought, begged and worked his way through school. When his father died, the extended family took everything including all the crops growing in the fields and left the children to fend for themselves. All he managed to rescue was one goat. With this he managed to obtain on acre of land and on it he planted cassava. Over the subsequent years this crop and some generous got him through school coming out as the student president.


At 24 he had finished school and was now studying agriculture and another wave of terror swept through Sudan. Back on the road south again and for the 3rd time he’s a refugee. He has nothing but a strong faith to cling onto.


Since then Thomas met Joyce from a very different background they are married with 5 kids, pasturing a church in Njeru (most of the members are Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people,) leading a Bible school and running a micro-enterprise programme. How does this happen? It’s all about what Timothy Keller says, the empowerment f the good news.


We were here on the Sunday after South Sudan became the newest country in the world. Remember the 9th July, Independence day in South Sudan. There was a lot of joy and sadness as they celebrated the new future and remembered the thousands, millions who lost their lives in the struggle. So these guys have changed from being refugees to dispensers of grace, strength, security, mercy and economic empowerment for hundreds of people.


Remember that line from Tim Keller? God actually chooses the poor! Here’s another line from him, “Anyone with a true spiritual connection with God will inevitably do the same, choose the poor.” Now there’s a challenge for me, it’s like, the inevitable outcome of my connection with God, the test of the genuineness of the reality of being a follower of Jesus is - care for the poor. Of course there are many Bible verses he used. It’s a significant challenge and in a sense what drives us.


Then there is this little lady Jude we met in Jinja. An Ozzie / kiwi running a cafe to fund the support of vulnerable kids. She would have to be in her 70s. She’s been here 24 years and has given herself to the poor. She has bought up many Ugandans and given them a chance at life and at faith. She intimately knows the street boys – as I write this she is at the door of the cafe worrying about the street boy who is being beaten up over the street for stealing something! She tells us his story......


I’m not sure I can continue to grapple with the issues at this level of intensity for much longer. We’ve tried to have a couple of lighter days but you just cannot get away from the impact of poverty and corruption in a place like Jinja. It’s kind of enhanced by the huge flocks of tourists and volunteers who come through this place. It’s like central station, literally thousands of them, most of the young women carrying a local African baby from some home or other. It’s become a great big industry.


Today we leave Uganda, a 3 hour trip to the airport and then a 2 hour wait at the airport, a 2 hour plane trip to Addis Ababa and 2 nights there. We’ve got an appointment with a guy we met at the conference in Strasbourg, I’m looking forward to catching up with Mulugeta.
We’ve just heard from the New Zealand government that the bomb blasts in India have resulted in a travel warning for the two areas we want to travel in India. So we’ll keep an eye on it and keep you informed.


So dear friends, another country goes by and it’s time to move on again. Oh, got to ring the taxi guy so I’d better sign off.


Thanks for all your emails and messages and prayers.
Love to all
Kevin and Helen


In the presence of death

2011-07-21

This is our last day in Ethiopia for this trip. It’s been interesting with so much going on. But, when we arrived back in Addis Ababa from Entebbe a week ago, we got our visa and then waited for our luggage to come. We waited….and waited ….and waited! After several enquiries they told us it had gone to the wrong terminal and an hour later we were reunited with our bags. Helen was very relieved! Not the only one!


Friday we spent some time with Mulugeta, a guy Kevin met at the conference in Strasbourg earlier in the trip. We both ate something that day and our tummies reacted in different ways and directions! Fortunately we were staying in a hotel with our own bathroom. Next day we felt a lot better but Helen took a few days to recover. Thank goodness the doctor in NZ had given us some VG medicine for the occasion.


Then it was back to Gondar to spend 4 days with Worku. He is an amazing man and we appreciate his dedication to the partnerships and all the hard work trying to process paperwork and all the hassles he has to deal with. We spent a lot of the time talking through the future of the work. It’s interesting to see what is developing. It’s such a difficult place in which to do anything. So complicated, so slow, so oppressive and controlled. Even Worku has been on the point of throwing it in at times. There is no freedom to say, start a business. You have to seek approval, show how much money you have in the bank, and then wait, and wait and wait, and go back and reapply cause they lost the papers and wait, and wait ..... of course there are ways to speed the system up!! You have to have a licence to do anything, even to buy a cow you have to apply for a licence to buy a cow and of course, pay for the licence.


But it’s encouraging to see what’s happening, to hear of people being helped out of poverty, of blind kids learning to read and write in Braille, of people coming into relationship with God, of kids coming of the streets into school and of change coming into communities. We talked about kindergartens, schools, skills training, sesame trading, cattle farming, all for the purpose of helping the poor and assisting people to find relationship with God.


After the last two blogs we thought we should go a bit easier on ourselves and not get so worked up about what’s happening. But you know, we just can’t help it. You hear of the huge famine in East Africa, the first one of the 21st century and it’s in your face. There are people dying all over Africa (and other places too) in terrible circumstances and nobody cares. On Tuesday Helen wasn’t feeling great so stayed back at the hotel while kev went with Worku to visit a small town where Worku is starting a kindergarten.


There is a feeding centre in the community run by Worku. It was nice to visit and see the women coming in, having a meal, being encouraged and measured up for some new clothes. Some haven’t had a new dress for years. When asked, many couldn’t remember how long it had been. Anyway, while we were there we asked about the ones who had not come and we heard about one old lady who was now too old to walk. Her grandson came to get the food for her. Some of the widows were very concerned her and said we should visit. So we did. Mmmmm, it makes me mad just thinking about it.


We walked up through the village over huge rocks they call a road, it is also a river at times, and up to her shack, owned by the local government. We could smell the place before we entered, it was appalling. A room, 4 metres by 3 metres. Mud floor, wet mud floor. 50% of the walls had crumbled. 20% of the roof was gone. Three huge holes had been dug in the floor by the 15 year old grandson who was in sole charge of her. The holes were to catch all the water that poured in and when it rained he scooped the water out of the holes to stop the flooding. It started to rain. It was a full time job, even in a light rain shower to keep the water at bay.


She lay on the bed, under two blankets, damp blankets, damp with rain and urine. She muttered and groaned as we tried to rouse her. It was cold and dank, musty and dark. One old bed, 2 damp blankets, one plastic cup for scooping and rags wrapped around her and this was the sum total of this woman’s life. So fragile that I thought moving her might snuff out her last breath. Some of the women on our team were in tears!


The council refused to allow anyone to fix the building as it was condemned. They refused to give her another house as she was incontinent; her grandson whose parents have died had had to stop school to look after her full time. No one should have to live like this; no one should have to die like this. She will die, soon. But if our team has anything to do with it, it won’t be in that condition. And others will be spared that sort of death as well. We’ve decided to build a couple of rooms that people can die in, with support, with family, with friends and with dignity.


You know, when you’re in that sort of place, you wonder, what’s the point? The discussion after that visit, for the next hour or so, was less noisy, there was less laughter, a lot less laughter. when you're in teh room with poverty, you cannot turn off the TV, point the remote, change the channel and stop the famine and misery. There comes a point when you cannot just feed another person without asking the question, how did this happen? There comes a point when ordinary people have to get off their backsides and stand in front of the officials on behalf of the poor and confront the corruption that condemns people to die in misery. There are houses she could be moved too. There are people with the authority to make the change. And there is a growing team of people who are going to make a difference in that community because of the visit we made that day. Sometimes all we can do as outsiders is give people permission to make a noise. Some permission was given, some noise will be made.

I pulled out my camera to take some photos in the housebut honestly didn't know where to point the camera. And, it just didn't seem like the thing to do. It's kind of bad enough to be in the presence of this sort of extremity, but to capture it. At the end of the day, who needs another photo of poverty, who needs another photo of desperation. we have teh privilege of working with people who understand this as so we can help without compromise.

Apart from a day trip to the Sudan border to check out a cattle rearing project and apart from grappling with minor bouts of unwellness, we’re doing OK. Almost all the reports are up to date and it’s time to head off to Pakistan. We’ve been spoiled with pretty good beds and comfortable rooms.


Last night we had a meal with Mulugeta and his family and some other guests, Mary from England who has spent much of her life in Ethiopia with Wycliffe Bible translators and young Indian Engineer. It was nice and the family was very hospitable and kind and we laughed and chatted about some of the things we had in common like cricket!


Driving and walking in Addis sees us confronted by beggars in the streets demanding "give me” and knocking at the car windows. We observe 100s of people sleeping on streets under rags for blankets and sheets of cardboard and rusty old corrugated iron huts the size dog kennels. So much invades our noses, our eyes, hearts and heads and we move amongst it and then we leave and enter the world of a comfy hotel and nice food. Thank goodness God’s in the business of transforming lives and giving hope, in this life, and the next. It’s certainly way too big for merely human response.


Off to Pakistan in a few hours on our all nighter. 2 flights and a stop over in Dubai before we hit Islamabad at 7:30 am with temperatures in high 30s!!!


Thanks for love, prayers and emails and messages. 


we'll try to add some more pictures as well

Helen and Kevin


out of Pakistan and into the fire

2011-08-01

What a shock it was to land in Pakistan at 7:30 a.m. Friday week ago and find all our luggage had arrived and that it was already 30 degrees. It was an even bigger shock later, in a haze of tiredness to find the thermometer reaching 40 degrees. After Ethiopia where it struggled to reach 20 it was a shock. The hospitality has been pretty warm too. Last night we were in Kabul, the restaurant in the centre of Islamabad. The food was amazing, could get used to it.


We’ve spent time with Azam and Barbara and visited a sewing centre in the village of Rawat to help some of the community young people upskill so they can get jobs. There is a lot to talk about and plan for the future here. More sewing centres, adult literacy and micro-loans for those who finish training. This is just the first of the things we’ve seen. There is a school on Monday to check out, a Christian school in a very poor Moslem community. There are income generation partnerships to check and more people to see. And, lot’s of meals to eat!


That was up to Monday and now it’s almost Sunday, a whole week has gone. We’re in Delhi safely and can hardly remember the last week at all. There was so much going on and living with people meant the whole time was filled people. The best way to deal with everything is to make a list I think as we sit in the lobby of the Grand Milan Hotel, $13 / night!


I have to break into the story here as we have narrowly averted a couple of major disasters overnight. We’re staying in Pahar Ganj, a popular area for low cost travellers in Delhi. We were just about in bed last night, half after midnight in the Milan Dx Hotel, when there was a huge commotion outside in the hallway. People running and shouting and then what sounded like high pressure jets of water. We thought it might be a broken water pipe. Then more yells and commotion and the smell of burning rubber or plastic. We opened the door to be confronted by a huge wall of smoke, brown acrid stuff. We’re on the 4th floor, not a pleasant thought at the moment. So we quickly jumped into our clothes, packed our bags and pushed our way past people firing fire extinguishers and waving wet towels around trying to disburse the smoke. We struggled down the stairs with all our bags and made it to the lobby. The manager was calmly standing with a bunch of policemen and seemed surprised I wanted to leave. First he demanded we pay for the night which I politely refused and then he offered us accommodation in his other hotel along the road.


So off we go along the street, past dozens of people sleeping on the middle of the pavement to the Kumar International Hotel. The only things working were the cockroaches. So Helen guarded the luggage while Kevin wandered the streets looking for alternatives! Finally found one and crossed the street, not an easy thing really with all the concrete centre barriers and our luggage. With our entourage of willing helpers carrying our luggage we re-crossed the street and found ourselves in the lobby of the Hotel Aman Inn. Now the process of signing in! Helen’s passport, photo copy of the passport and the visa, fill out the huge book including name of father and mother..... Where the heck is my passport??? Searched the bags, nowhere to be found. Searched them again, still nowhere. So, Kevin heads of back to the Milan Hotel, people standing around in the lobby like nothing has happened. Up to the room through the clearing smoke still burning my throat and into the room. It’s been made up already waiting for the next unsuspecting suckers to walk into the building; but, NO passport. Back down 4 flights of stairs and all the staff still looking like nothing has happened, smiling serenely. “No sir haven’t seen your passport, and sir, would you please sign out and pay your bill.” NO to both and back to the Hotel Aman Inn!

By now its 1:30 a.m and it’s getting serious. We’ve only got 30 hours left in Delhi before we fly out and it’s Sunday morning and what do we do? I’ve arranged to meet a guy at 8:30 in the morning to go to church and spend the day seeing what he is doing and that’s only 7 hours away. So, we search all the bags again. Everything is strewn out in the lobby with the staff all watching while eating their curry and naan. They didn’t seem too concerned; everything is fine with the world! There are only two options, either it is still in the Milan or Kevin has dropped it somewhere. Frankly, neither seems like great options at that moment. By this time the sleeping pill that Helen had taken before going to bed was kicking in so she’s just about blotto. A photo at this time would have been something worth seeing!

So, Kevin decided it’s back to the Milan to try and get some answers. Out of the door, left turn and onto the dark street littered with sleeping bodies amongst the rubbish and filth of the previous day, no lights apart from the passing vehicles, people picking through the rubbish others groaning in their sleep on the filthy pavement. A flash of light and there is the passport, lying on the street! Some people on the streets will probably wake this morning with a strange, distant memory or nightmare of a large white guy jumping in the air clutching a little black book.

I’d like to think we had acted very spiritually and prayed about it. You know it’s tough in the middle of the night to follow the right procedure! My guess is that the outcome, a miracle of minor proportions, is the outcome of God at work in our lives because that’s what God does. He’s the leader of the team, he is there to protect and guide, he’s the initiator and we just really go along for the ride. Sure we pray but there is no formula. Thank you God.
Thank you too for praying for us, for holding us up in your prayers, for being on the team. Right then we needed God and we needed you and you were there. Bless you. Helen had the best sleep of the trip and Kevin didn’t! The alarm was set for 6:50 and we managed to put off the early departure and day at church. We’ll meet our contacts later in the day.
Anyway, back to the last week, let’s finish it off. Sorry for the interruption!

But we’ve already told you about that one.
Gotta go
Love to all and thanks
Kevin and Helen 

p.s. we have actually now got to Nagaland after a whole day sitting in planes and airports. will update again around the weekend. limited internet access at the moment


Nagaland, farms and pigs

2011-08-06

We’ve just been in Nagaland, North east India. It’s hot, it’s humid and there is no aircon. So, we have 2 or 3 showers a day to keep the heat at bay. Our friends do the same. Last time we were here, September last year, it poured with rain the whole 3 days we were here.


It was nice to be out of the city after time in Gonder, Addis Ababa, Islamabad, Lahore and Delhi. Now it’s a little farm on the outskirts of Dimapur, animal noises. Dogs most of the night and all sorts of other noises. It was great to see blue skies again for the first time in weeks after the smog and bad air and dust.This place is a demonstration farm which grows pigs, ducks, chickens, fish, cows and soon goats. So we’re out taking photos of it all happening. Subong, who runs the place is usually out buying and picking up food supplies for the animals. So we don’t see too much of him.


Delhi was a bit harrowing to be frank. It didn’t finish at the end of getting a room in the second hotel. Next morning Helen was walking down the stairs and slipped, landing on her bottom and both arms. Fortunately, her arms aren’t too badly damaged but her butt is still very sore. So she’s moving very gingerly and living on ibuprofen!


On Sunday we met with a potential new partner. A lovely couple came to visit us and shared their very powerful story. They are working very hard amongst difficult people and seeing great development. It was lovely to meet Sushil and Sarah. Hopefully you’ll hear something of their story in coming months and years. We kind of tried to catch up on sleep Sunday then at 4:15 am Monday we woke to catch the taxi to the airport. That trip was pretty scary, I’m glad there weren’t many other cars on the road. The driver did not seem to understand the relationship between the gears, the brakes and the white line on the road. All seemed rather disconnected and with less than a little English it was pretty hair-raising and not a great experience for either of us! But, we got there more by the grace of God than the skill of the driver!


We got to Nagaland after some confusion at Kolkata airport and delayed flights. It was great to see our friends and spend time with them. We really just hung out trying to understand the dynamics of the work here and the way forward. We had a meeting with the key people and made a few plans. We also met with leaders of a local missions movement who are developing plans to assist in Myanmar by training rural health workers. So, it was less intense than the previous two weeks but very worthwhile.
We’re sitting in the airport at Kolkata at the moment and I’ve just heard that one of the sows at the farm has had 12 piglets. Those piglets represent a sustainable lifestyle for 6 families in this context. It’s pretty encouraging. Over the next 2 months another 18 sows will give birth making significant changes in the lives of poor people.


So we talked, we met lovely people and ate pork. Well, Helen actually ate very little pork. Our partners here, Subong and Narola have given up a good future financially to start this farm to demonstrate a different lifestyle and way of thinking to local people. The church here in Nagaland is packed with people. Many are very poor and all the church gives them is sermons. Subong wants people to understand that it’s possible to look after their families and to challenge churches to get involved in the lives of the poor. So it’s a pretty radical move for them.


So here we sit, waiting for our plane to come. 4 hours to go, it’s a long evening. Then it’s Thailand and a week break before we head off again. I’ve tried to throw a few pix in so you can see what we’ve been up to.
See ya later
Kevin and Helen

p.s. the plane came and the internet didn't connect and we're sending this from Thailand. no sleep overnight. a 2 hour flight from Kolkata to Bangkok and it was 6:00 am, just like that.


heading towards home

2011-08-12

No worries in terms of our trip from Kolkata to Thailand. Not much sleep, but we’re having a break here by the beach to catch our breaths. 8 weeks is about all we can manage now we’re getting older. Gives us time to see each other again and clear our heads. So it’s nice to laze about and read and listen to some sermons and music and eat cheap Thai food! Mmmm, only 4 hours till dinner.


It’s hard to get the thoughts of the last few weeks out of our minds though, some things keep ringing in our minds and we thought we’d highlight some of those lasting memories about the people we’ve spent time with in the last few weeks.


Thomas and Joyce Lubari are an interesting couple. They are refugees from Sudan, their stories are very different but now, they find themselves leading a church full of refugees and internally displaced people in Uganda. While we were with them, their old country became the newest country on earth, South Sudan. You could see the hope in their eyes. We spoke at a church full of these people on the Sunday after “freedom” and there were many tears of hope and memories of those who were lost in the struggle. All of them have lost family members.


I got a note from Thomas two days ago, he went back to South Sudan. This tells you a lot about the man’s heart. “I am still in Juba. Life here is extremely difficult for the low income earners. As I travelled this morning in the bus I sighted two women at different places bending their heads down in worry about life. It is really difficult for the poor. Most of the people cannot afford lunch. They eat once a day, that is lunch or supper with no breakfast. Many who try to do some petty trading have no loan facilities to boost them.


All one can read and see in the outskirts is poverty in homes of many with a few leading heads of departments who are noted for possessing the most expensive vehicles and houses at the expense of the poor.


I really burn to serve among the suffering to comfort them with the Word and deeds.”
He went on to ask us for an advance as he had used up all his money on the trip that was needed to pay the university fees for one of his kids. They are so passionate about the poor and serving them they put the education of their family at risk.


Over the last few days I have been in dialogue with Azam and Barbara Gill our partners in Islamabad, Pakistan. We spent a week with them. Since leaving they have been out to visit again the areas where a year ago people were washed out of their homes by huge floods. People are still in tents and ramshackle dwellings. He wrote that his father had died and left him some land, and that he was going to sell the land and put the money into homes for these people still living on the banks of the rivers.


It’s a strange situation there. In some of the communities people have gone missing and not been seen again. In some places women have turned up, washed downstream and nobody knows who they are. They can’t read or write, they don’t know where they lived and they have always lived under a burkha so no-one recognises them. Azam and Barbara are working with mainly Moslem people still waiting for someone to come and help. They say 2.5 million people still don’t have houses, and now the monsoon has started again. What drives a family to sell their inheritance to help the poor? Amazing really.


While on this trip we’ve seen a lot of things and made a lot of discoveries about new opportunities for involvement in new partnerships. Let me outline a few:


• A micro-loan scheme for people in Myanmar who are bringing about change in their communities by confronting negative mindsets. There are about 7 or 8 great people initially to assist.
• A micro-loan scheme in Burundi for poor people in slum communities. We plan to visit their next year. We met an amazing couple who could lead this.
• Jordan – I have to be careful about what I say here. But, we plan to visit next year to meet a couple who run camps that 100s of young people attend each year. These are local kids and those running from places like Syria and Iraq.
• A bunch of Egyptian Christians who have started a good work in South Sudan. We’re talking to them about their dreams for that place.
• An adult literacy class in Rawat, a poor town outside Islamabad, Pakistan, for young adults, men and women who have left school way too early and now wish they had stayed. We were accosted by a number of them pleading with us to help them.
• And..... a frog farm in Thailand, a school leavers scholarship fund for skills training in Uganda, 2 orphan care programmes in Democratic Republic of Congo, investment in a nutritional food company in Cambodia – I could go on. There is no shortage of interesting opportunities that’s for sure.


We love spending time with our friends/ partners as we travel and get to stay in their homes. They are very hospitable and pamper us with lots of things like foot and neck and back massages and delicious food .Its lovely spending time with their kids and getting to know them, the older ones chat about life and their dreams and hopes. We’re always inspired and encouraged with the way they pray spontaneously and with such passion and tell us they pray for us every day.


Saturday we head off back to Bangkok and overnight there. Looks like we’ll call into a hospital to get Helen’s tail bone looked at. She is still in pain from the fall on the stairs in Delhi and after talking to the insurance people, they think it’s best to get it checked out. On Sunday Helen goes on to Cambodia for a few days while Kevin heads off to the Philippines for 4 days and then on to Papua New Guinea for 10 days. It will be strange to not be together after so long in the same space. Kevin will have to look after himself and get him to the plane on time.


So friends, we’re coming to the end of this trip, still over a week to go for Helen and over 2 weeks for Kevin. But we split up soon and have no idea about the access to the internet in the next part of the trip. Thanks for coming along for the ride. We’ll let you know when we get home and will stick a few more pix up as well.
Love
Kevin and Helen


a perfect volcano

2011-08-18

Hi there friends from Manila, Philippines.


Well, hi from Kevin at least. Helen is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and leaves later today to head back to NZ. She’s had ongoing back problems since falling on the stairs in Delhi and has been upgraded by insurance to business class from Bangkok to Auckland. So she’s rapt. She’ll have an overnight in Bangkok, near to the airport. She’s been getting some work done on her teeth as she’s been wearing a temporary plate for 3 years or more. So cheap compared to New Zealand and really good gear and smart young dentist. We were talking on Skype last night and she is stoked about the job and is really looking forward to seeing the kids and Hugo again.


The last few days have been interesting. I got to Manila on Sunday evening. Slept that night on the floor of the office of our partners here. Monday morning 3 of us headed out to the airport and flew to Legpasi, a city in Bicol Province an hour South of Manila. In the neighbouring townof Daraga we stayed for 3 nights as our partners ran a seminar for a group of young people who are starting a church there. This work is perched under the shadow of Mt Mayon, a very active volcano that just dominates the whole area. It’s famous for being the most perfect cone shaped mountain in the world. Very impressive I have to say. It last blew in December 2008 and the black lava scars are still very visible.
The whole area is covered with coarse sand from the last eruption. It’s all over the place, especially on the roads. Every time it rains more of it ends up on the roads. And it rains a lot. One afternoon we headed down to a wrecked church, buried along with more than 1,000 people in 1814. To get there we had to cross a river twice, both bridges washed away in 2009 in a cyclone. If it’s not lava raining down, it’s water. It’s a very volatile place and extreme. Some people are just returning to their homes after having run away or been evacuated in 2008 or 2009.


We stayed in a little village in a little house with the team. Ryan, Menchie and Madie rent he house and another team member lives further up the mountain. We spent 2 full days there learning and working through the issues they face as they seek to bring change to the community. These villages are full of fear and superstition. It’s a dangerous area as well with rebels everywhere trying to destabilise the government. The team were more worried about the rebels that the volcano. It’s hard not to be a talking point in a close village like that so everyone knew I was there.


Life for the guys there is pretty basic. Not many conveniences or easy days. It reminded me that the Christian life when lived out fully isn’t an easy life. Us Westerners have been able to control our circumstances pretty well for many years. But for the bulk of people, many of them Christians, it’s not that way, not even for one day. Every day is a challenge, every day is a tough grind. Some of the issues facing these guys are life and death. Some days they are hungry with no food, and sick with no doctor and they are forced to pray, to trust God for daily miracles. And the exciting thing is, God comes through. Life goes on. Things happen and God comes through, again and agin he comes through to the point where every day is full of miracles. It's an interesting, amazing way to live. You have nothing, but you have everything and all you'll ever need. it's interesting to see faith being lived as a lifestlye.


Yesterday I came back to Manila. We rode on a motorised tricycle, a plane, a mini bus, a jeepney, a train and another bus to get home. Oh, and we walked a fair bit too. The train station was crowded as was the train, there are times when it’s an advantage to be taller than most. At least I didn’t have my face in some else’s armpit.


Today we’ll spend the day talking to the team back here in the office and learning more about their lives and work. Ellen and Ella work on the team following up the young people and organising the training for the teams around the country. They are lovely people with a real love for the people they are leading. They are such fun as well and we laugh a lot..... and eat a lot to!


Tonight it’s off to Papua New Guinea. Sleep on the plane, ha ha. Then it’s 11 hours in the Port Moresby airport from 5:00 am and then on to Wewak. The guy from NZ I was to travel with in PNG has had to return to NZ so I’ll be there without him. He knows the area so it will be a bit more of a mission that I thought. I’m not sure about internet connections so I might be quiet for a while.


It’s about this time on a trip when my heart travels home and my body stays here. The next week will be tough to battle through. I’m sure I’ll make it but it’s not going to be easy. It’s always the same, especially when I’m by myself most of the time. There will be heaps of new stuff to see and experience. The main reason for being there is to check out a rice production project at Green River, right up on the border with Indonesia. I think it’s pretty hot up there. So it will be interesting, new and very rural. It’s one of the least developed areas of PNG. The local guy we deal with is from there and calls it the back pocket of PNG.


Anyway friends, it’s almost time for the team to arrive and for work to start. So I’ll say bye bye and hope that you have a lovely weekend.


Love to you all
Kevin and Helen


Home again, yay.

2011-08-30

It’s been a while, 95 days but who is counting! It’s been a great trip with so many highlights. But where to start. Mmmmm..... probably the last leg is a good place. Helen flew to Cambodia the day Kevin flew to Manila. She had a great time there with our kiwi friends Graham and Sue Taylor and Sue Hanna, catching up and getting some work done on her teeth. She’s been putting up with a temporary plate for almost 3 years and it was time to do something about it. So she’s home sporting new teeth and looking good. Able to chew without inconvenience for the first time for years.

Anyway, late on Friday night Kevin left Manila after a lovely time with the team at ECPM in Manila. They are such nice people, he loved his stay there with them. They took him to the airport through all the traffic and he got the plane for the 5 hours to Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. Our friend from New Zealand who was supposed to be there to travel with Kevin had left for medical reasons, so it meant finding his way with new people in a new place.

I arrived in POM at 5:30 am, bought a visa and entered the country. 1st time here, it’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. Then, a tedious wait in the airport until 4:30 pm for a flight to Wewak, stopping off at Madang. At least I got a lot of reports done, has to be some upside for waiting 10 ½ hours in Port Moresby airport. Arrived in Wewak on dark to be met by Kos, my host for time there. He took me to the flats we stayed in and I met Reuben, a local guy I was to travel with who was a rice expert. I was there to look at a large rice production project, so needed someone who knew a bit about rice. Had a light meal, chatted for a while and then to bed. Next morning, church, I was the speaker! After church I hung out with Reuben and an Australian couple staying below us who are there for a few years. Was able to download e-mails too so that was great.

Early Monday morning I flew on MAF from Wewak to Green River, 90 minutes to the West, near the Indonesian border. We landed on the airstrip OK and piled out. No vehicle but plenty of people. 30 minutes later no vehicle but news that it had broken down. It wasn’t going to come, so not a lot of options. Walk. Almost 2 hours later we got to the school, Green River High School. Could there be a more remote place on earth? I guess so, but it's out there. Lots of kids at school, lovely buildings, so far from anywhere. The only way in here is by plane or river, no road. So travelling takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money. The school imports all the rice in small bags by plane. The cost is astronomical. Virtually nothing is grown there so the main diet is rice and 2 minute noodles! It’s pretty bad really. I was shocked that the other options were not being explored. There seems to be a major lack of initiative to do something different.

So we hung out with the leaders and all day Tuesday spent the day with the leaders of the community to see if there were options. Frankly, it requires some serious investment and leadership. Early Wednesday morning we walked out to the plane between the rain showers. We caught the plane, flew 40 minutes to Vanimo and spent an hour wandering around the town. Then back on the plane for the beautiful trip along the coast to Wewak. This is one beautiful place. Some thoughts:

• There are 1,000s of Westerners in PNG working in oil, gas and gold exploration. They are not a good influence socially or morally

• There are a lot of Chinese and other Asian people there too, mainly after fish and timber. Ditto above, I heard many stories about their willingness to bribe their way into deals. And more stories about locals waking up to the scam too late

• PNG is hugely difficult to get around in. It’s wet, steep and a long way between stops.

• There is a real lack of awareness about what development should look like.

• There are a lot of people being sucked out of the education, health and missions sectors because of the high wages the industries are paying. It creates many issues for development and church leadership in the future.

• There is a huge opportunity in Green River but is it for BHW? Good question. I’ll need some help to make that decision. We’re not driven by needs or opportunities, there are too many to fall into that trap. So, does it fit our values and does it address the issues that drive us? Not always easy to answer, especially when you know the people concerned.

After getting back to Wewak I realised that I had almost 5 days to hang out so changed my tickets to come home early. That saw me leaving Wewak on Friday instead of Monday and home on Saturday instead of Tuesday. So I was a happy camper except that, when we left Wewak, the plane was overweight so, ALL the luggage was left on the tarmac! I’ve now been home for a few days and don’t have a lot of clothes, lost all my underwear and can’t shave!! Helen is happy for me to be home! Ha.

And now, we're in the middle of a quiet week then back into it. Helen is going to the physio and doc for further help with the tailbone, this will go on for a while. We’re looking forward to our kids and grandson staying this weekend. We’ve got few reports to finish, a few new partnerships to write up and after next weekend a few catch ups with our team. Then on the 13th we’re off to Levin and then on to Christchurch. There is a lot of catching up to do with a review of all our partnerships and some decisions to make about new opportunities. We also have to make some plans for travel next year. There is so much going on that we have to think far ahead. There is an increase in the number of people wanting to visit partners.

So dear friends, thanks so much for the ongoing support and love, and prayers. We love getting your notes and hearing from you.

I’ll throw a few pictures onto the blog as well. Enjoy
Love to you all
Kevin and Helen


venerating the sacred tooth relic of Buddah!!!!

2011-11-23

It’s not a good look frankly, should have updated this a long time ago. Not like I haven’t had the time! Anyway, a bit of an update on bigkevandnell.


Life doesn’t stop when we get back to NZ after a trip. In fact, it’s more of the same really, all over the place. We just want to put on record that Bright Hope World is great and growing. We have new partnerships starting all the time and new people joining our team and going for it. As I speak, I’m in Myanmar and all of our field team are out there doing the damage. Jerry and Hayley are full on in Zambia with a lot going on. Hayley has left Jerry in charge of the girls and has gone to India with James Rees-Thomas and John Vlaming. James is visiting all our partners in India and a couple of new ones and John V has gone with him. So they are busy. Nicky had to stay back as the doc suggested she not travel in her “condition!” she’s pretty disappointed. Worku is busy in Ethiopia starting to build a school and. Check out the BHW website for an unbelievable story from there. Mark and Emma Stokes are in Thailand assessing our partnerships here and getting acquainted with them. I’m here to help them with that and then visit Myanmar to meet some great people and check out the possibility of a micro-loan scheme. So, it’s all go for sure.


Since we got back from our last trip at the end of August we’ve been pretty full on. 2 weeks after getting back we headed South and spent some time in Levin, our old home town, and then a week in Christchurch. Met a few people, had a BHW board meeting and downloaded heaps of stuff. With 180 or so partnerships to discuss, it just requires time and lots of talking. We got about 1/3 the way through the list.


The rest of September and October disappeared in a haze of meetings and reports. There are so many great people involved in what God is doing around the world and some of them have the craziest lives. Keeping up with them is pretty much impossible. We’ve also taken quite a few meetings and been helping out at our local church, Orewa Community Church. Oh, and organising next year in terms of trips. It looks like an amazing year. Here are a few things we’ve got planned:

It looks like summer is going to be pretty busy as well. As you will be aware, costs are going through the roof in New Zealand. It’s nothing like what’s happening in some countries. Our friends in Uganda are suffering with some staple foods going up 300%. It’s 3 more times expensive than a year ago for sugar. The other issue is that the US$ is weaker now so although they get more for the $ we send in, inflation is huge. So they are much worse off than a year ago. This also means that travel and living in these places for us has increased dramatically. So, December / January we’ll be working at selling cherries for a mate around Auckland. We feel if we expect the guys at the field end to be self-sustaining, we need to as well. Along with that we’ve lost a couple of donors so we’re going to try and fill in the gaps, plus a little. Not sure how long it will be for, probably around 7 weeks work, the worst thing is it means we’ll miss summer!!!


As I said, I’m in Myanmar. I spent 5 days in Chiang Mai in Thailand before coming here. Mark and Emma Stokes are in Thailand learning about our partnerships and meeting our partners. It was worth coming to help them come to terms with what it means to be the facilitator of a field. We spent time talking through the issues and one of days travelling through some of the villages in northern Thailand along the Myanmar border. It’s always different when you discuss issues on the field rather than in your lounge in NZ.


Right now I’m in Myanmar with Mark Stokes. We’re visiting our partners here and Mark and Emma will be deciding if they can cope with involvement here as well as Thailand. We’re spending some time with our partners out in Hmawbi and hour outside Yangon talking about the establishment of a loan programme here and we’ll do some training with them. The plan would be for them to set up a team to oversee the development of this project.

so it's been visiting our partners and celebrating the arrival of teh sacred tooth relic of Buddah. ha, just joking but it's no joke for the people, it's very serious. serious enugh for the country to stop and venerate!

our freinds here are great. love spending time with them. they are very kind and friendly. has a seminar for most of the day today and will see if there is the capacity to develop a micro-loan programme with a couple of groups of people.

Tomorrow it's off to Bangkok early and then back to Christchurch for a few days before arriving back in Auckland on Wednesday next week.

Thanks for your prayer and interest.
Kevin and Helen


This episode is bought to you the letter C - Christchurch, Computer, Cherries and CHRISTMAS!

2011-12-05

Last time we were in touch Kevin was about to leave Yangon in Myanmar. A couple of weeks have passed and he’s now back in Auckland. Thursday the 24th November he and Mark Stokes left Yangon at 10 am and flew to Bangkok. You lose 30 minutes on the change in time zones and the flight was just over an hour. Mark had to go through Customs to get his flight to Chiang Mai and Kevin had a 8½ hour wait in the airport. It’s not a bad airport, but he's already spent about a day in it this year already so there isn’t a lot else to see.

So, I did a few e-mails and bought a book, found a comfortable seat and stretched out for the duration. Did a bit wandering and boarded the plane and sat for another 11½ hours before landing in Auckland around 1:30 pm, Friday. Another wait, the plane for Christchurch didn’t leave to 8:30 that night, so another 7 hours. Fortunately Kevin had a couple of lounge passes so he hung out in the lounge and Helen came through around 5:30. More hanging out and some food and then off to Chch. It was good to get to bed that night!


Lazy day Saturday, spoke twice at Riccarton Community Church Sunday and hung out with friends. The next few days was meetings and decisions about the future of BHW as it is growing and developing. Lot’s to think about with more field personnel and more processes to develop. Pretty cool really though. We have such good people.


While we were away, some good friends raised some funds for a new laptop computer for Kevin. We got back to Auckland late Wednesday night and on Thursday went off to get it. I have to say, it’s such a fast, light, beautiful piece of tech, I’m afraid to touch it in case it gets damaged! Really though, it’s such a blessing. The old one was less the 2 years old and already very inadequate after more than a few incidents. I reckon my computer is being used around 10 – 11 hours a day on average. It’s really the only tool we use in this job. It’s so cool to have such wonderful, generous friends. Big ups to John and Carol and the friends who contributed to the computer. You are amazing. This reminds us how dependent we are on the generosity and support of our friends and family. It is very humbling to have you on eth team, giving, praying and encouraging, it would be impossible without you guys. So, big ups to you as well.

The next 2 months are all about cherries Christmas! To be honest, cherries will take most of our daylight hours for the next 2 months. Kevin will be driving and delivering them and Helen will be selling them in Albany Mall. If you’re in there say hi to her, and buy some. We feel it’s important if we expect our friends to be self-sustaining in the field then we need to do all we can to help ourselves and model that as well. The costs of travelling and spending time offshore goes up every year so we are earning some extra to assist with that.


However, it would be remiss of us not to wish you all an awesome Christmas. Our friends out there will all have very different experiences of Christmas. Most would not recognise our Christmas as being particularly Christian frankly. I am challenged by some comments I heard recently that we don’t end up worshipping the Western god of consumerism this Christmas, but we put our hope in the one who was born in an animal’s stable and who lived his life amongst the poor.

The kids will all be here this Christmas and it will be a lot of fun with Hugo now 3 years old and understanding more about Christmas. He is such a funny little guy.

Thanks for another awesome year of partnership and freindship. We hope you are encouraged that God is at work in amazing ways in this great world of his. check out the Bright Hope World website and read some of the stories. Next year looks like another full on adventure and we’ll be in touch again before heading away again in February.

Happy Christmas
Kevin and Helen


2012 - the next chapter begins

2012-02-14

Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, the start of another trip and another year of visiting our partners. I want to share a few things about plans for the future in this blog. Of course, most of it is not in our control so we throw it out there for your interest and if you pray, for your prayer as well.


So, Chiang Mai in the Northern Thailand, 12 days. Kevin is there with a team from a couple of churches in New Zealand. They’re there to work with our partners here called Integrated Tribal development Programme (ITDP) who are an awesome group who assist the Hill tribes of Thailand begin the pathway towards holistic development. We’ll be in the bush for 10 days starting tomorrow. Kevin actually only stays there for 5 days and then heads off to Laos to check out a new partnership opportunity.


Kevin is away 13 days all up and will miss Valentines Day and his birthday with family. Anyway, no big deal.

The week before I left for Thailand I was with Rob Purdue in the Marlborough Sounds. It was supposed to be summer but it was freezing. Here in Chiang Mai it’s winter and very warm! Anyway, while in the Sounds we had some of our team come and spend time. Over Waitangi weekend James and Nicki Rees-Thomas were with us talking through our India partnerships. It’s great to hear the recent stories of James’s trip to India. Lives being changed, people being fed, people rescued from the life on the streets, little kids in school and safe, women learning to sew and develop economic independence….. it just goes on and on. We’re also facing some challenges there, but James and Nicky are great at thinking through the issues.


Helen stayed back from the South Island trip. She’s got a bad back, possibly from the fall last year in India but also probably aggravated by the work with the cherries. She’s getting treatment for that, it’s a concern but she’s trying to get it sorted with not a lot of improvement till now. The cherries went OK, it was a tough year for them with the bad weather and not many around.


While in the Sounds Fraser Scott came through for a couple of days. Fraser is the executive director of Bright Hope World. We went through every one of our partnerships, talking, praying and thinking through the way forward from our end. It’s very encouraging to see the development and the lives being impacted. We also worked on some other strategies around the growth of the work which is very encouraging.


2012 is a bit of a transition year in a sense. We think it’s time to cut back on the travel after this year. We have a growing team able to do some of that and so they will pick that up. We’ll still concentrate on East Africa and new opportunities, but 5 – 6 months out of NZ will drop to 3 months and then lessen more after that. We’ll concentrate on building some depth in our NZ partnerships and a few other projects back in New Zealand. However, we have to get through this year first and so far it looks a little like this:

So, you can see it’s going to be fully on and plenty to see and process.

I’ve just spent the last two days with our current team arriving and orientation in Thailand. Interesting to visit a Buddhist temple and observe nice people on such a pointless journey. The whole faith is built on a cycle that you can’t get off. What a difference for those who follow Jesus. Future hope, for today, tomorrow and even after death. No fees to pay, no merits to earn, no candles to light or incense to burn, no treks around a clockwise path, just to trust Jesus…… amazing really. And then the journey becomes one of following and serving and living life to the max.


Our team is pretty much ready to go. Tomorrow we’re into the bush having met all our ITDP friends. We’ve planned the time out in the Red Lahu village with cultural stuff, lots of digging of trenches, mixing and pouring cement and building a couple of toilets. It’s 35 degrees Celcius today so digging is going to be interesting in that heat.


I’ll be out of contact till Sunday with no cell coverage. When I get out on Sunday I’ll do another update. It will be nice to sleep in a nice bed again after the floor for a few nights. Should have plenty of photos as well.


Welcome to another chapter in the journey with us. Love to hear from you if you get a change. We are so encouraged when people drop a note onto the blog or send us an e-mail.


Love to you dear friends
Kevin and Helen
p.s. managed to talk to Helen on Valentines day so that was nice.


a legacy of hope

2012-02-19

Hey, I survived the 4 days in the hill country of Thailand! Actually, it wasn’t that difficult. The ITDP team have an amazing cook and we ate very well. Though, there were a number of early mornings, sleeping on the floor was fun! Yea right!

The 13 kiwis on the team left Chiang Mai on Wed morning after a couple of day’s orientation in Chiang Mai. We drove into the hills about 3 hours. It’s not a very remote village, the tar seal stops in Huey Sai. But the tribal people we worked with in this village are a tribe that has not integrated well into Thailand. They are at the centre of the drug trade and although the village has been there for 40 years, still has no water. They walk long distances to get water so life is a struggle. while we were there a squad of soldiers came through on patrol.

There is no proper school and of course once the kids leave the village to go to boarding schools and hostels they never want to return. The girls get married at around 13 – 15, in fact on Friday there was a wedding in the village and the bride was 14!

We got to the village and settled in on Wednesday and got straight to work. That first afternoon we got water to the village, mind you, the locals had bought the water in pipes about 4 kms by the time we got there. But we saw the kids standing under taps and enjoying the first drops.

During the 4 days I was there we dug many metres of ditches for water pipes, shovelled hundreds of shovels of sand and stones for concrete, mixed dozens of batches of concrete for the water tanks, filters and bases, built 3 toilets and did three children’s programmes. So it’s been a busy time and with the temperatures in the mid – high 30s it’s been pretty hot.

Washing in the river at the end of the day was great. It’s the first trip we’ve done like this and it’s been real interesting talking with the team each day about their thoughts. There are huge issues in these villages related to poverty and it was very obvious to our team. But there are also some keen people wanting change as well and it was good to meet with them.

The team is doing great. They are hard working and also a lot of fun. We’ve laughed a lot, mainly at each other and they’ve made me feel real welcome. We’re looking forward to a long term partnership with the 2 churches and with our friends at ITDP. There were a lot of good vibes and shared values.

The village of Huey Sai is a pretty noisy place. The roosters start at around 3 am and the dog’s chime in about an hour later and we get up at 6. Once the kids are awake there are fights, games and shouting and laughing all day long until late at night when we sloped off to bed. Each evening we had a meeting with the village leaders to review progress and address issues. 

Today was a day off for the team. They were going to walk to the source of the water project, a round trip of 3 hours. They were going to go to church, about 20 families have become Christ followers in the last 4 years, they we going to meet the local “shaman” (witchdoctor) and see some cultural stuff, teach the young people to play cricket and to lay volleyball. Sounds like a good day to leave. About now they will be knocking off to hit the boards for another night on the floors.

I left the village at 6:30 this morning with Mike Mann and drove back to Chiang Mai. I’ve spent the day trying to catch up on e-mails. Some very exciting things going on. Here are just a few of the things we’re working on, well I should say our partners are working on:

Oh well, I’ve got the rest of the day sorted anyway!

It’s been good to talk to Helen today and catch up. Only 5 nights till I’m back in NZ. She has been pretty busy with her friends and she just loves hanging out with them. I’ve got one night here in Chiang Mai and at 5:30 tomorrow am I head off to the airport and a 3 day trip to Laos. It’s going to be interesting, not been there before and it’s not a nice place for Christ followers. So we’ll see what’s going on and if there are opportunities for development. I’m not really sure what to expect, but that’s not a new feeling! I fly from Chiang Mai to Ubon Ratchanthani and then drive to the border and on to Pakse, I think about an hour inside Laos on the Mekong River. I’ll be checking out an agriculture project and see if their values are similar to ours or not. Also, hope to meet some other people but can’t guarantee that.

Thursday I’m back to Ubon and Friday fly to Chiang Mai to meet up with the team and fly back to NZ, then it’s report writing and preparing for the next trip mid March.

Seriously, our partners are doing outstanding work here. It’s hard to become a BHW partner, we only deal with exceptional people. I guess if you’re exceptional, then that just becomes your everyday lifestyle, you just do things well. I tell you, it takes a lot of strength, patience, vision and courage to do the stuff our ITDP partners do week after week, year after year. It’s huge….. but the payback, and we saw some glimmers of it this last week in the village, is hope in people’s eyes, belief that someone cares, excitement about the future and just a hint that poverty does not need to be the legacy they pass on to their children.


Thanks for being part of that dear friends.
Kevin and Helen.


a laosy birthday

2012-02-24

Another airport (3 actually) today and 3 flights back to New Zealand. It’s been an interesting few days since leaving the team in Huay Sai village in THailand. I’ll be meeting them again in about 3 hours as we make our way back home from here.

Laos was interesting. Different a bit like rural Thailand in some ways, less sophisticated and a strange old world charm. Many older buildings obviously have a French influence. Friendly people, lovely food and very hospitable hosts. It made for an easy introduction for my first visit to Laos. If only every country was so easy to visit the first time. I was also surprised at the amount of English around on signs and in conversations and the large number of tourists checking out Southern Laos. It’s obviously found it’s way into the Lonely Planet guide.

A few observations:

• Everything takes a long time. It’s like I remember Zambia back in the 1980s.maybe not that bad actually.
• Being a communist state, there is little entrepreneurial spirit. Dependency is a major barrier to development. They are always waiting for someone else to come up with the idea
• God is at work there despite the government restrictions on freedom. If you’re a local and get arrested you are sent to Vietnam for a “seminar”
• One has to be very careful about using certain words and terms
• There are no missionaries but numerous businesses
• There is a lot of persecution and some very dark places spiritually
• The people are very shy


I spent most of my time looking at coffee farms. It’s a really interesting project. A guy from another Asian country has invested huge amounts of money in setting up a company, acquiring land and developing a coffee growing operation. It’s around 70 hectares, so not small. That’s around 200,000 coffee plants. At 3 kg per plant, that will be about 600 tonnes of coffee. Local growers are trained, given some land (around 2 ha) on an annual basis, they are monitored and have to tend the land and plants. At the end of each year they are paid and in year 1 they purchase their own piece of land. At the end of year 2 they use the money to build a house and in year 3 they use it to plant coffee trees. By this time they know how to look after it. They can then stay on for 2 more years as their plants grow by which time they should be able to make a living off their own small farm. The idea is to assist people who would never have the funds of the skills to become self sustaining.
The Bolaven Plateau where the coffee is grown is an interesting place. More than 2,500 farmers of various sizes tend their trees. Most of it is Arabica coffee and there is a good infrastructure to support the industry. There is real potential to help many become economically self sustaining. One of the options here is to assist the farmers who finish, to set up for themselves in other coffee growing areas. The opportunity seems to have potential.

They also have a great cafe in Pakse. A lot of toursits go through and locals are now drinking coffee. Hopefully it will become profitable soon. So if you're ever in pakse, I can give you the details. It's one of a chain being developed around Asia to take the Lao coffee. There are 3 others established and the latest one is about to start in Shanghai, China.


The second programme I looked at was run by some kiwis and others. They teach English to fee paying students and then run a life skills annual programme for poor rural kids to help them get skills and employment. They teach baking / bread making, housekeeping and a lot of other stuff. Interesting to see the changes it makes for these young people.


It was great to stay with D and T, my hosts. They have lived in this area for 20 years and are fluent in both Lao and Thai. We ate out one night at a boat restaurant floating on the Mekong River. It was very pleasant and the food was beautiful. Loved Lao food. It’s a huge river too.


Anyway, now there is a lot of thinking to do.


There is a lot of stuff going on in Bright Hope partnerships at the moment, both good and bad. Answer me this! How does a 14 year old healthy girl die of tonsillitis? It makes me real mad. Pamela was encouraged to go and visit her extended family in the village during school holidays. A month later she’s dead. Tonsillitis they say, but her tonsils were obviously treated by some local jerk in a village and she got infection and died. It makes me want to yell and scream and bash some heads together. I seem to recall feeling this way before. Our friends there have been deeply affected by this tragedy. What do you say to encourage and support them. Hard stuff. I’ve often said you don’t play around with Africa, it bites you, stings you, chews you up and spits you out.


For almost 2 years the same partners have been fighting a court case to start grinding maize as a business. A neighbour took out an injunction against them and it’s just dragged on and on in the courts with bribery and no shows by the complainant. Last week, just as it’s about to be settled, the lawyer of our partner is killed in a car accident!! What next, what do you say, how do you support appropriately. Some days it just seems like there is no end to the injustice, no end to the stupidity, corruption and death.


Recently a number of our key partners have had unfounded accusations brought against them. So we get an e-mail from some gutless, anonymous person accusing them of terrible things and it’s so hard to know what to do. So we do what we can and have to trust our good friends and the strength of our relationship with them until we can be there. Sometimes you just feel powerless and frustrated. But at the end of the day, it’s God who defends the weak, we just do what we can to support them.


Today is my birthday. Ha, I look around the domestic departure lounge in the airport at the hundreds of people and not one of them knows my name or that it’s my birthday. There’s a family playing cards having a lot of fun (reminds me of taking our kids to Zambia in the 80s and the fun we had in airports.) There’s a tour group with a lady blaring on a megaphone to keep her chicks from running amok and getting lost. There’s group of Italians shouting a yelling in conversation. There are a number of old guys with young Thai chicks (can’t wait to get home to the familiarity of a 38 year marriage!) and I wonder why would you do it! A bunch of dirty, woolly haired, dreadlocked young people meander past with skate boards, backpacks with helmets dangling off them, back from some wild adventure and heading for the same gate a group of faceless Muslim women waddle past and I wonder what they’re thinking as they follow behind a bunch of young Thai girls in short , short, shorts! Diversity. Some people shouting, some snoozing, others hurrying, many just staring into nothing and there’s a couple singing, weird!!! It’s about time I went and got a coffee. All this people watching is driving me mad!


What’s this got to do with my birthday? Nothing really, nothing at all. Feeling a bit lonely I guess. But one more sleep till I get home and we’ll do birthday in a couple of days. So it’s goodbye to Laos and Thailand and the end of another trip. The scary thing is that it’s only 18 days until the next one starts.


Hope you guys are doing OK. Thanks for taking an interest in what we’re doing and that you care to read what’s going on in our lives. We really appreciate you. We have so much to thank God for – you are a big part of that.
Love
Kevin and Helen.


FIRES

2012-03-06

Mmmmmm, it’s been a pretty difficult week really. Too much on and too many people hurt and damaged for it to be comfortable week. Just a couple of stories to follow last blog and Pamela’s death from tonsillitis.


We’ve been working with a group of people in Myanmar, helping them to become self-sustaining. For around a year they have been raising chickens and selling them. They get in a batch, raise them, sell them and so on. They were onto their 5th batch when a wild fire swept through the area, burned down a Buddhist monastery, a heap of other buildings and of course, our friend’s micro enterprise. This was not a small operation and it’s taken away the source of income for a number of people. What to do now? I was just there in November last year wrote about them in a blog.


Then yesterday we got an e-mail from our partners in Chiang Mai, where I was a couple of weeks ago with a team from NZ, putting in a water and sanitation project. The e-mail and pictures showed that a fire had swept through same village destroying the houses of 14 families. Fortunately no one was injured, but it burned everything including their house, clothes, identity cards, foodstuffs, the lot. It’s such a shock to see the photos of them standing where their houses were, just a few burnt sticks in the ground all they have to show for their lives. But they have got water!!! What’s the journey with them now I have to ask myself?


Anyway, last time we wrote Kevin was feeling a little sorry for himself, all alone on his birthday in Chiang Mai airport! Anyway, he connected with the team later in the day, made it to Bangkok and on to NZ. He even slept a little on the flight.


Life has been a whirlwind since getting back home. Got home Saturday and chilled out for a couple of days. Then Thursday we headed south and talked to a few folks in Matamata about a partnership they going to support in Uganda. Lovely to meet the missions team at St Andrews Matamata and catch up with an old friend, Bev Turner. Then 3 nights in Tauranga with Karl and Sara. We made plans for their trip to Africa with us later in the year. Great to see them again and to catch up. Sara is into crafts in a big way and Karl is building a deck on the front of the house. Saturday afternoon and evening we spent with Mark and Emma Stokes talking through the Thailand and Asia partnerships. Such an inspiration to be with young people so passionate about God’s kingdom and his people.


Sunday we went across to Rotorua and stayed with our friends Tony and Kath Noble and their crazy kids. Well Jane is crazy anyway! Talked to the church they lead and caught up with friends there and Monday back to Auckland with two meetings on the way home.

We’re heading away for a couple of days break Thursday and Friday and then it’s Helen’s birthday on Sunday and Monday Kevin is off on the next leg of the journey. 


So it’s been pretty full on, but some awesome things happening. More people partnering, more opportunities developing, great reports coming in, real challenges to face with our partners and today we started another new partnership in Uganda. So it’s all go.
100 years ago this year Kevin’s grandfather left home and got some land in Levin. It’s kind of ironic that 99 years later the last of that land was sold and this week we wound up the company that owned the land. It’s the last real connection we have with Levin apart from our good friends there. A bit sad really I guess. But life goes on and God has a different plan for this generation of Honores.


Monday, Kevin heads off to Uganda. A team flies in later in the week from the USA and he’ll have a week in Uganda with them and then 4 days in Kenya. They will largely be looking at micro-loans and meeting leaders and beneficiaries of loan programmes. Should be an interesting trip and we hope this church will invest heavily in microloans. Uganda is suffering from high inflation and our partners there are really hurting.
Then it’s on to Jordan for a few days to check out some new opportunities. That’s going to be really interesting and he’s hoping he gets to go to Petra while there. Evidently it’s an amazing place.


So, he’s going to take lots of photos and share them with us!! Not sure that there will be much time for internet and the likes, but we’ll try. Helen has plenty to do while Kevin is away. So, tighten your seat belts, we’re about to take to the skies again and to meet some amazing people.


If you get the chance, even a minute or too, please pray for those who have lost homes, possessions and jobs t in the fires and also the poor whom we work with, the 2+ billion people who tonight go to bed hungry and who exist on less than $US2 a day.
Love and thanks
Kevin and Helen


doing the right thing

2012-03-18

Beautiful really. I’m sitting in the lounge bar of the best hotel in town. It’s 4 pm and a storm is brewing over the surrounding hills. I know they are surrounding cause the hotel is perched on the highest hill in the town and there are 360 degree views of the district. The town is Rukingiri in the south of Uganda, about 60km east of the Congo and 100 north of Rwanda. Find that one on a map, say it out loud 10 times quickly! It’s beautiful country alright, but it’s a loooooong way from Auckland. I guess there are further places, but I bet they don’t feel as far as this one does!


To get there I left Auckland on Sunday evening and flew to Sydney. A couple of hours there and then 14 hours to Dubai. First time on the A380, loved it and in the almost full plane had the seat beside me vacant!! Arrive in Dubai about 5am and waited 3 hours or so, then 4 hours to Addis Ababa. And hour wait on the plane and the final flight of 90 minutes to Entebbe. Sweet. Managed to rest up a bit Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday though there were a number of things to sort out. Had to confirm details of the trip next week with a team from the USA. Had to sort out money and a vehicle for the week, get a sim card and a modem for the computer.


6:00 am Thursday while still dark I jumped on a boda boda (back of a motorbike) and swerved through the traffic to the bus station. Got on the bus amongst all the pushing and shoving and with our partner Justus we found a seat. Just because you’ve got a seat, doesn’t mean the bus us ready to go, does it. So we waited and waited and were entertained by 3 totally drunk guys on the veranda opposite who were trying to recover from a night on the town! After a couple of hours we actually started the journey and we jostled and lurched our way to Rukungiri, arriving around 2 pm. A couple of hours later is began to feel like I’d been in a tumble drier rather than a bus. Getting too old for this methinks!


Anyway, I’m here now and have spent much of the last 24 hours with our friends in this area. They are a very keen, quite young bunch of guys who just want to see God’s kingdom being advanced in their area. It’s very inspiring to hear them talk and think through how that could work best. It’s about cows here, but it’s not that simple really. The levels of poverty are up there in terms of severity. And the guys with the vision are as poor as those they want to help. It makes for interesting discussions.


Tomorrow it’s back into the tumble drier for another 8 hours of torture, I’ll be glad to have much of Sunday to recuperate. Got one appointment on Sunday and then the team arrives late in the evening. Should be fun visiting our friends with them and helping them understand the dynamics of partnership and micro-enterprise.


If I survived the wringer, I’ll be back in touch later in the week. Helen is pretty busy at home with meetings and sat is sharing with a group of women from our church family. Her back and legs are still bothering her so that’s an ongoing issue. Hopefully it will be sorted by the time we head again (together) off in early June.


I have discovered something. There’s something worse than being tumbled around in a full tumble drier! It’s being confined in an empty one for 8 hours. I’m now back in Kampala after being flung around the inside of a partly full bus. Because it was half full, the flippin thing could go faster. So the guy drove like a maniac the whole way. And because it was half empty, he stopped to pick up everyone he could. So although he drove fast, he stopped often and it took longer than the other direction! Nevermind, I got here safe after an interesting journey. Actually, I wasn’t looking forward to this trip, the night before I got a dose of the screaming-you-know-whats, so was I was more than a bit apprehensive about this trip. But, it worked out OK, thank you Lord.


Lot’s of stuff to work on now. The guys in Rukugiri are real goers. They have started a school in a community with about 90 kids. They are starting an income generation programme and want to move on to a micro-loan programme as well. and they have nothing, well, nothing but a vision and a confidence that God will come through for them. It’s a funny little town. Very rural and quite small compared to other places. But a lot of challenges for people, especially families trying care for and educate their kids.
Also, a couple of the guys in the team want to marry and the families of their wives want a lot of money before they will allow it. So I was involved a lot in trying to encourage them. It’s such a burden for them. The Christian people don’t do the dowry thing, but their families expect it. If they don’t comply, they become outcasts from their families. Tough choices.


Also got some negotiations to do with one of our partners about commencing a farm in South Sudan. This will take place on Monday after meeting with the US team. It’s going to be an interesting discussion. There are lots of opportunities in South Sudan, but lots of challenges as well. I’ll need wisdom for that one and negotiating skills.


Interesting being in Uganda at time the Invisible Children video came out. Some of our partners were involved as victims of the LRA, Kony and his thugs. I’ve heard stories from them that you would not believe possible. The guy is not human in terms of his thought processes. It’s amazing the reaction to the video in the West and I notice that many of my friends on facebook think it’s the greatest thing. But, I’ve got a number of problems with it. One, it seems like a major driver is some sort of revenge / retribution. None of those promoting it were the real victims and the real victims feel very differently about it. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to meet Kony in a dark alley, but what would Jesus do if he met Kony in a dark alley. You know what, just like my friends in the North of Uganda, the real victims, he would probably expose him to justice and in the process of the trial he would forgive and seek to restore.


It requires a very different response from Christ followers, one that reflects the intense longing of God’s heart for justice but ….. there are many aspects of justice, reconciliation, recompense, confession of guilt and forgiveness. Yes, forgiveness. The guys who produced the video have done so out of good intent I’m sure. But it’s not as simple as they make it out to be. They need to empower the local people, the victims to come up with their own solutions. And my guess is they would be rather different.


The locals don’t get the irony of making Kony a hero. That’s a Western, non African figure of speech and frankly it’s not helpful here. To me it’s another example of good intentioned people blundering into an issue without respecting the real stakeholders. I also find it surprising at a personal level that so many Christ followers have jumped onto the bandwagon with scarcely a comment about the perspective of the African people who are suffering.


Now hear this, I’m not saying something shouldn’t be done. I’m saying that the wrong processes have been developed and that I fear that apparent driver, revenge or retribution, is something that rests with someone other than the promoters of the video. Is God out of control? No. Do I understand this or God’s timeframes? No again. Am I comfortable with what’s happened? No of course not! But do I trust God in this situation and can I trust him as I work with the terrible consequences of the LRA actions? YES. And I will so all in my power to move towards the victims to show them God’s grace.


I’ve not really explained this very well. I apologise and hope I don’t lose a lot of friends over it. But in 4 days I will be with our friends who are the real victims and I just know the sadness that will creep into their eyes as we talk about it. They are not thinking revenge, they are dealing with a lifetime of trauma that has been inflicted upon them. And they will do that with dignity, joy, forgiveness and hope, despite their history. And some of them will die as teenagers because of Kony’s activities. But it will not be with revenge on their lips, it will be of praise to their God, the one who rescued them and forgiveness in their hearts. I know this, I’ve spent hours talking to them and the peace and patience is intense. And it’s the peace and forgiveness that sustains them not the need for retribution.


I just hope this isn’t just another Western “solution” to an African issue. My guess is that it may well be. Good intentions, delivered inappropriately actually do more damage than good. I get it that people want to do something, but doing the right think requires respecting the stakeholders at the very least.


It’s only a few hours until the team from the USA arrives. Just hoping all the arrangements come together and they have a great experience.
Thanks for being with us in this thing
Missing my girl a lot at the moment
Kevin


Visible Children

2012-03-27

Mmmmm, the last few days have gone by in a blur really. I meant to write earlier but it’s been full on with the team. Last time I was about to head off to pick up the team (the team) from May Valley church in Seattle, Washington, USA. 5 people arrive and I’ve still got them all with me, that’s a bit of a plus when you’re doing this sort of thing, not losing any of them!


Picked them up at Entebbe, Uganda 8 nights ago and here we are in Nairobi, Kenya with only one more sleep left. So much has happened it’s hard to recall it all. But we met some great people. Let me introduce some of them to you. First, after a night in Kampala, we headed over to Jinja. There we met Thomas and Joyce. They gave us a beautiful lunch and then took us to their church. We interviewed a number of people and heard their stories of hopelessness and poverty. They also talked about their loans and how these had helped them. Pretty desperate this place, the team was shocked by the level of poverty. It was pretty intense for them, and these people in Njeru, Jinja are very poor. Thomas and Joyce are helping these people gain some economic independence but there is still a long way to go to achieve that.


After a night at the Explorer Inn, we headed over to Busia, 2 hours away, right on the border with Kenya. We spent the afternoon with James and Gorret Mayende. They are leading a large work there, but the focus was on micro-loans and their impact. We interviewed some of the beneficiaries and heard stories of great change. One guy we had interviewed on previous occasions came out with the new second hand car he had just bought. He has done this from the loans he has received. He’s worked his way up over the last few years to be totally self sustaining. 2 years ago he was a street boy. Now he has his own car as a taxi and I building his house for his wife and family.


We had hired a car and driver for the trip and Robert turned out to be a great driver. That cannot be said for many of the other drivers we passed by on the trip around Uganda!
Then the following day it was over to Mbale, 2 ½ hours. A large town overshadowed by Mount Elgon and a very spectacular place. There we spent a lot of time with Anna and Simon and the ladies of the loan programme. Only ladies in this one. We visited a number of their businesses and were very impressed by the strong bonds of friendships these women have forged together. Awesome stories, but at the time great sadness. There were 15 women in the room at one stage and between them they were housing, feeding and sending to school more than 130 kids. A few months ago none of them had jobs. Most of them were widows, I think only two with husbands. This was raw poverty, but in the midst of it, real hope as well. great stuff.


The next day it was 6 hours to Lira. Two of the guys took the bus for bit of a change and there rest of us stayed with the car. We got to Lira and into the hotel and then hung out at Hope Restoration Centre. Here we spent time with the children who were lovely, we talked with and interviewed some of the children and widows in the loan programme and then visited the small businesses of some of those on the loan programme. It was a lovely time and the team were so impressed by the great kids and the stories of the women. We sang, and danced, and cried and laughed, we read books and played football and prayed and read many school books. It was very hard to say goodbye to these Visible Children. Once they were being forced to march with Joseph Kony and his gang. They saw things as children that no one should ever have to see and experienced extremes of torture and abuse that are almost impossible to imagine.


I stepped into the Invisible children / Joseph Kony thing last week in my blog. I can’t help make a couple more comments about it from meeting many of his victims this last week. There were a number of articles in local news media denouncing the video. Much of it was from an extreme position, trying to justify the actions of government, or maybe inaction! Whatever the actual on the ground situation, there were many contributing factors in regards to how someone like him could rise and terrorise so many for so long. And it still continues. We heard stories from the children that made us weep. But in midst of it all the great faith and hope in these young people is something to behold. The other thing I was thinking is a guess a little more theological really, but it’s a challenge to me and adds to what I said last blog. These children, even the most invisible to the world, are not invisible to God. Do I understand why it happens? No! But do I know that God sees them? Yes! And he has always seen the plight of the poor and been involved in their circumstances. That’s the history of God’s actions here on earth. And, it is of course now the role of God’s people here on earth. I don’t see this as an option, but an obligation to engage with those whom God would engage with. And in that process the invisible kids become visible.


Anyway, after a couple of days there we left, early last Saturday morning and drove to Entebbe. It took 6 ½ hours, 2 of them inside Kampala as we negotiated our way around many traffic jams. That city would have to be one of the worst in the world to get around because of traffic. The team were pretty tired and emotionally wrung out after all the experiences and heart rending stories but along the way we did a lot of talking and encouraging of each other so that was great.


Saturday afternoon we flew from Entebbe to Nairobi and settled into the guesthouse we were staying at. It was great to have wireless internet again and to be able to update our friends and families. Sunday we were out again, this time to church where I had to speak and then to interview leaders and beneficiaries of another loan programme. This was different to the Uganda ones, but very viable all the same. Monday we spent with friends Robert and Rose Gitau and heard their very impressive story and their love for children. These guys have none of their own kids, but have bought up, nurtured and fostered hundreds of children. Their story is very inspiring.


Now it’s Tuesday. My nose is all stuffed up from the dust and dirt blowing in the atmosphere. We’re about to head off to the Mathare Valley. It’s a shocking place and the final part of the trip. At 1:00 I head off to the airport and the team goes about 5 hours later. It’s been a fun trip, lots of experiences for them and for me. The impact our partners are having amazes me all over again. Their integrity, compassion and perseverance are and inspiration.


Now I start thinking about Jordan, another new experience. I overnight in Dubai and early Wednesday morning fly there. Look forward to sharing some of the experiences from there a little later on. But for now, I’m visualising the children and trying to see them the way God does.


Helen is pretty busy back in NZ. For many years we’ve said we would be apart for more than 4 weeks at a time. Now I’m thinking 2 weeks or even less is a good idea!! Would love to be getting on the plane to head back to NZ, but that’s still a few sleeps away. Have to focus…..


Bless you guys
Kevin and Helen


the Promised Land

2012-04-01

Friday was interesting. First time I’ve ever been to a Biblical site, I stood on the top on Mount Nebo, the place that Moses stood thousands of years ago as he looked out over the Promised Land. He died near that place and there are many legends and stories around the location of his tomb. If he had turned up on the mountain the day I was there, he would have been sadly disappointed. We could hardly see the bottom of the mountain, let alone the Jordan River or the Dead Sea. The haze was pretty thick and I guess in his day there were many less people polluting the atmosphere. But, it was nice to be here and see what we did. I got a distant view of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Next time here I’ll go down the Dead Sea and to Petra as well. This trip was all about the people here….. oh and the food! But in this culture, food and people go together.

I think I have fallen in love again, Helen will be very sad, especially since it’s the food that I fallen for! We went to a large Middle Eastern / Lebanese restaurant, Reem al-Bawadi, for lunch afternoon and emerged 2 hours later totally stuffed and much better connected to our friends here. The food was stunning; there is no other word for it. The mezze had pickled and raw vegetables, hummus, baba Ganoush, and bread, skewered meats, flame grilled chicken and a variety of cooked and raw salads, tabouleh, fattoush, hummus and stuffed grape leaves!! That’s the ones I can remember!


After a night in Dubai on the way here, I got to Jordan with only a few hassles. The wait to get a visa and then through Immigration was pretty bad. 1 ½ hours and then my bag wasn’t where it should have been. So, after a few walks around the place I found it in an office with a security guard looking after it. The airline people were not acknowledging it was their issue, airport security was responsible for it. Anyway, because I had come from Kenya, they were suspicious about it. Then when they saw my passport with all the stamps in it from places like Uganda, Pakistan and India they were even more interested in me!!! But, to be fair, it wasn’t’ a big deal and the guys were OK about it, just doing their job!!!


Since arriving it’s been visiting people and eating, did mention eating. I’ve been talking to some very poor families struggling to bring their families up, visiting a preschool and some income generation businesses to look at potential to assist in this place. I’ve met some great young people and enjoyed their fun and youth. Also a number of young women who have no potential for employment and who are basically waiting to be married off. Not a lot of hope for them, apart from the freedom that comes from following a different prophet to the one they were born under. Such large families, such a narrow world view, such oppression, negativity, and difficulty for them. Life is tough for these people.


It’s not entirely like that for Yumi, a most lovely Christian girl who is recent refugee arrival from Iraq. Her mother was murdered a few months ago and now this 33 year old senior accountant finds herself homeless, stateless and penniless in a neighbouring country. She talks different and feels different and is waiting for someone to make a future for her. She and 7 other family members lost everything in the aftermath of her mother’s murder. Now they are dependent on others to put the next few crumbs on the table. What would you do? How would you feel? How would you talk about your God who seems to have deserted and abandoned you? When she thinks about the future, she’s knows that God will help her and that he does not abandon his children. She can’t wait to get to a safe country, hopefully America one day. But that’s in the future, for today it’s survival. As they stay in Jordan for the next few years they are not unlike Moses. This is their Mount Nebo, looking out across the future, hoping to reach a Promised Land. Moses didn’t make it to his Land, but I get the feeling that this diminutive little woman will. And the place she gets to will be the better for having her.


Today, Sunday in my last day in Jordan. 2 more sleeps and I’m back home. I have to overnight in Dubai and then there will be another one on the plane. So it’s time to pack again and hit the air. Before that I’ve got a couple more meetings and lots of thinking to do about this interesting place.
Blessings
Kevin


Easter suffering

2012-04-07

i cannot get the horror of what's happening in Syria out of my mind. I guess it's partly because this time last week I was just across the border in Jordan hearing stories of loss and death and grief. It seems inexpicable that the government on any country could do that to it's people. Bombarding women and children with huge guns and mortars. Their own people for goodness sake. I was reminded by our partners there that many of those being killed and mutilated are followers of Christ. And at this Easter time it's like Good Friday, it's a story of death and pain.

As I've been thinking about it all in the context of Easter, it's made me wonder about many of our partners and how they might celebrate Easter. It's interesting that in many dfficult countries, Easter is a really big thing. It's one of the best opportunities they have to engage their communities with the core message of their faith. God here on earth, removing the barrier between God and mankind. God, the author of life, crucified on a cross. God a suffering servant, torture, blood, pain and death. Just like Syria I guess. only this time the suffering had an obvious reason, he went through it all to bring us back to God. And so when our partners in Pakistan wish us happy Easter they are very aware that the Good News was born out of really bad news. They celebrate in a hostile environment with joy and happiness and courage.

I was challenged about that sort of courage last week as I heard the story of Yuli the young girl from Iraq. Her mother was killed a few months ago because she followed Jesus. Now Yuli will live the rest her life with a picture of her mother's mutilated body lying on their kitchen floor and yet, through it all she has hope because God does not abandon his children. That gilr understands the Easter story, she understands it in ways that few Westerners will ever understand it.

I guess one of the reasons is that they are having to confront death every day. So they understand it. They are also having to confront the injustice of it all every day as well so, the idea of resurrection becomes all they have. Those without Christ can only resort to revenge while those who understand God's plan can fall back on God's promises and know that resurrection Sunday is coming. In the midst of death resurrection becomes a desperate necessity. And because Jesus rose again, it becomes a dependable reality. Our friends there get it and Easter is not a family weekend, not a liesure holiday, or a few days off work, it has become a celebration of essential reality.

I've been home since Tuesday, only a few days, and am just about recovered from the trip. That trip from Dubai to Auckland through Melbourne seems to take forever. There are only so many movies you can watch, only so many songs to listen to, reports you can write and pages of a book you can read in 16 hours! I feel like saying 'never again!" But the next trip sees us doing it all over again!! And as for sleep, forget it! It was nice to see Helen again at the airport and spend the next few days taking it easy. The weather here has been great over easter, it's just like summer and so peaceful......... and as i write this my mind drifts back to Syria and Pakistan. It's just so easy to appreciate God and Easter and Resurrection when it's such a nice place. I wonder if would be able to appreciate it the same of it was my family being butchered and murdered.

The Good news was birthed out of death and torture and today that's where it is most appreciated and celebrated. Helen mentioned how blase we are about easter compared to our suffering friends. It has such relevance in that context.

There are a lot of things to think about and work on after this trip. The next few weeks see us:

So friends, there is a lot to work on at the moment and we value your ongoing interest and support. It's great to know that there is a team behind us. Thanks for the ongoing encouragment. We need it so much.

Love to all

Kevin and Helen

p.s. check out a few now photos


crazy - off again

2012-05-30

Heck, where have the last few weeks gone. It’s been crazy. Here we are, 2 days out from the next trip, crazy.


Since Kevin returned from Jordan just before Easter there have been a few things on the agenda. Easter was a time to rest and reflect. We had a church programme over Easter around art and craft which was a blessing to a lot of people. It was nice to hang out and catch up with some of our friends and family.


Then late April we drove to Wellington and flew to Christchurch. We had a 24 hour BHW Summit with about 80 people who are friends of Bright Hope. It was fantastic to catch up with our key stakeholders and tell a lot of stories about our partners and drink a lot of coffee. I was reminded again about the fantastic partners we have, giving it all up out there in hard places. We had a board meeting and a lot of other strategic discussions. Such an awesome team back here as well, doing great things to extend the Kingdom of God.


So after a week around Christchurch it was back to Wellington, Levin and Palmerston North and Masterton and the Hawkes Bay. There were heaps of meetings, lots of great conversations and awesome people to meet; we got back pretty tired to be fair. After a couple more weeks Rob Purdue came north and we continued to meet great people and drink lots of coffee. Just got back from a conference in Taupo, again, a lot of good people to network with and a sense that there are a lot of people here wondering about how to engage with what God is doing out there in the world.


It was great while Rob was here to be able to initiate two new partnerships in two new countries for us. Both of the countries are the ones we want to engage in, Madagascar and Laos. Both have huge needs, both are hard places for people who follow our God. So it’s going to be really interesting to see these develop over time. we’ll probably visit both of them next year. We are making plans for next year already. There is so much going on but our team here continues to grow with awesome, generous very relational people.


So, here we sit, 2 sleeps to go and we’re off. A brief overview is probably in order. Please remember that this is not about us and the travel. It’s all about the people we are going to meet, the people they are working with and the God they serve. Anyway, here goes.
First stop Sydney for a night and a day with the leader of a group of around 200 churches in Australia we are partnering with. It will be great to spend some time with Ross.


Then it’s up to Thailand. On Monday morning we’ll meet our team from New Zealand at Bangkok airport and head north to Chiang Mai. We’re going to a village many hours into the bush to develop a water and sanitation project. The rains have started so it’s going to be a very long drive to the location. I also meet Mark Stokes our BHW Thailand team leader there. We spend 4 days in the bush with the team and then leave them on their own.


While I’m up in the bush, Helen will be in Cambodia visiting some of our friends there to encourage them and see what they are up to. So a tornado warning is issued for Phnom Penh for next week. Helen and the 2 Sues will no doubt be laughing a lot, poor Graham Taylor!


Then we meet again in Bangkok and head off to Zambia, overnighting in Dubai on the way through. Lots of stuff to do in Zambia, talks about the future, a conference with all the BHW partners and working with our team leaders there. Jerry and Hayley are returning to New Zealand in August so there is a lot to process with that change. Then after a week Sara our daughter and her husband Karl fly in to hang out with us for 2 ½ weeks. That will be great fun and a real privilege to hang out with them with our partners.


Then it’s on to Kenya and Uganda with Sara and Karl. We’ll do a sweep past most of our partners in these two countries to get a feel for what they are doing and get an update on progress. Sara and Karl leave us in Uganda and we then head off to Ethiopia.


We’ve got a really interesting part of the world to visit then. Right out on the Nile River on the border with Sudan live the Gumuz people. A number of our partners are working there and amazing things are happening. Whole communities of these people are being made landless , the forests cut down and sold off to foreigners who have only one God, money. There our partners are working with these people to help them deal with their situation. It’s a case of corrupt officials, unjust laws, greedy individuals and amoral governments. But in the midst of, God is at work.


We then get a few days break before a team arrives from the USA. It will be great to have Jeff Jones, John Stanley and the Chase Oaks guys there again from Dallas. Another chapter of the journey begins with them. Worku, our Ethiopia team leader is currently in the process of building a school and it will be great to see the progress after many years of frustration.


Then it’s back to Kenya with the team and another large group joins us. We’ll spend almost a week with one of our partners working alongside them just outside Nairobi. This will see us painting, concreting and talking to lots of kids and young people. So that will be fun and we’ll be the team leaders and cooks for the week for 13 people plus us! Should be a laugh, thankfully I’ve been watching a few cooking programmes on TV! Not.


After most of them leave, 4 of us head back out to the West of Kenya and through to Uganda by road visiting our partners as we go. We’ve got a new opportunity to check out as well near to the Uganda border on the Kenya side. By the end of July we’ll be on our own in Uganda. Whew, it’s been pretty hectic up till now I imagine.


Last day of July Kevin will head over to Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to check out a partnership we’ve been working with for about 3 years. It will be good to meet the leaders on site and the kids and families. Helen will hang out in Jinja and Kampala for 5 days when Kevin is away.

Then it’s back to Uganda for the weekend and a break, then Burundi. First time there to check out a new opportunity. Kevin met the key people last year in France, so it will be an interesting research assignment. Hope also to meet some other people we partner with who are based in The DRC but who frequently come to Bujumbura.


By now we’ll be ready for home I imagine but on the way it’s a week stopover in Pakistan. We have such awesome partners there it would be hard not to go and see them again. It would be hard to find people who are more hospitable, though as I think about it, one of the characteristics of all our partners is their generous hospitality. So we’ll meet people learning to read, to sew and a company BHW has invested in that makes clothing. Might score a pair of jeans!


We are scheduled to arrive back in New Zealand around the 18th August. It’s a Saturday so don’t call us till after the weekend!

anyway..... buckle up we're off. stay well and follow along.

bigkev and nell (although bigkev is much smaller now!)


Litchis and leeches

2012-06-08

Hey there. Greetings from Chiang Mai in Thailand from Kevin and from Helen in Bangkok. Helen has just arrived there from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She is going to write the next blog all about it. We’re looking forward to catching up again later today, that’s Friday.

She flew into Bangkok yesterday and spends 24 hours there before we meet again at the airport later today for a flight to Dubai (overnight stay) and then on to Zambia on Sunday.

The last few days have been interesting. We left on Saturday and overnighted in Sydney with the Bunyons, people we have met through Bright Hope World. They are a lovely couple who opened their home to us, we really enjoyed their company. It was wet and miserable in Sydney that day. We went to church with them, they go to a church we had done quite a lot of work with back in the 90s. So it was great to meet a lot of people we had done some stuff with in the past.

Sunday evening it was off to the airport and the flight to Bangkok. Only 9 ½ hours so not too bad. Watched a movie and then slept for 5 hours. Awesome. I was talking to Mark Stokes this morning and said I couldn’t remember the flight and now I remember why, I was asleep for most of it! Got into the hotel at 2:30 in the morning and then left Helen there and was back to the airport at 6:30 to meet the team from New Zealand and to fly to

Chiang Mai. No worries with the flight and we were met by the ITDP (Integrated Tribal Development Programme) people. It was off to the office for orientation and a quick repack of the bags so we didn’t need to take everything off the vehicle that night. Then it was off to a local restaurant for lunch and a pretty hot meal. Around 2:00 pm we piled into the vehicles and the 11 us us plus the local guys set off for the bush in 3 x 4WD vehicles.
We pulled into the “resort” at Om Koi about 3 ½ hours later. Those of us in the back were pretty stiff so it was good to get horizontal that night. Despite the soreness, the snoring and the cicadas buzzing like chainsaws, I slept well. We spent time talking through the experiences up till now. Mark Stokes, our BHW Thailand team leader had been with the team for 3 days by this time and had been showing them around Bangkok.

Woke up early and off to the local restaurant for breakfast around 7:00, soup with pork balls. Mmmmm. Throw in a bit of chili paste and fish sauce, what else would you want? Then it was walk around the town time while a minor issue was being sorted out in one of the trucks. And back on board. Around 90 minutes later we came to the end of the good road and straight into the rough stuff.

The guys were really excited to be into some of the roughest roads you could ever imagine. Seriously rough and dangerous it was. At time we had to get our while the vehicles squeezed around corners with one wheel precariously balanced near the edge. The rains have come early so the road was pretty bad. We bumped along some of it but otherwise it was like being thrown around inside a tumble drier. We had a couple of stops, one for lunch and around 4 hours of rough stuff later we ended up in the village we were going to work in, Kraw Lor Ber. It’s a village of around 160 people, many of them children. It’s a poor village. No running water and not one toilet!!! No even one so one doesn’t need much imagination to realise the situation there and the potential for disease and illness. There is a little church there and we were there to work alongside them to bless their community.

The plan is to put in a water pipe from a water source about 500 metres up the hill into a 14,000 litre water tanm. We had temporary water going with 3 hours of arriving. Then the team will put in a water filter, pipes taps and bathrooms. Along the way the plan is to make friends and enjoy the opportunity to engage with people from another culture. Life here could hardly be more different from New Zealand, maybe more like rural life there 100 years ago, apart from the cell phones and solar cells.

So, we laid out pipe, dug trenches, mixed concrete, tied reinforcing steel and played volleyball. All in the first day! Unfortunately Mike Mann, out main Man here in Thailand had to leave the team early and Mark Stokes and I had to come out with him. This was planned for a day later, but it was important for Mike to come out.

The team is made up of Mark Stokes and I and 4 guys from St Andrews church in Waipukurau and 3 guys and two girls from CBC church in Hamilton. Two of the guys were on the team to Thailand earlier in the year. They are all great. We had a lot of fun for the first few days. They have a great attitude in terms of serving the local people, a learning attitude and are really good at working alongside the locals. The villagers are very friendly and expressed on the second night that they wished we could speak the same language. Nice, but kind of sad as well.

On the afternoon of the second day there, Mark and I went with Mike to check out some other villages in the area that need some help and partnership. Over the next few years there will be quite a bit to do here to come alongside these communities, more water, sanitation and education. It’s such a pity to see so many uneducated people. None of the kids could speak Thai. This makes them vulnerable to poverty and abuse. Not one person in the church can read their own language or Thai, so that makes Christian faith very difficult to maintain. There is a lot to think about in terms of the way forward here. But we have such amazing partners in New Zealand willing to go the distance. It’s very cool to see the first tap in the village turned on!! The surprise, laughter and fascination are funny to watch.

The local pastor is such a nice guy, really hard working and with the people there. We had a lot of fun in the short time we were there. There was a lot of fruit around, especially mangoes and litchis, mmmmm, great stuff. Though it’s not supposed to be raining the rains have come early making everything a little more difficult. It’s also bought out leeches. Mark had 6 or 7 leeches on his feet the first day and I found one on my gumboot and another just going north of my navel on day 2. Fortunately none of them had the time to attach themselves to us. Funny little things…

So, Thursday we said goodbye to the village around 6:45 am and around 2:00 pm got back to Chiang Mai. It was much quicker with the lighter vehicle and drier road. It’s great to be able to spend a couple of days with Mark making plans and developing some strategy. Really enjoy his company and am learning a great deal from him. He is looking forward to getting back to Emma and the two boys. Three weeks away is a big sacrifice to make and I don’t take that sort of commitment lightly. It reminds me that every one of our Bright Hope World team is amazing and very important in terms of what God is doing in the world. I am in awe of the ability our team members have to understand and process what is going on and to relate to people. It’s very exciting to be on the team with them and to participate in their life journey.

So, now it’s about 12 hours till I fly out of here and meet up with Helen. Quite a bit more talking to do as well before then as we strategize about being more effective.

I spent some time to day skyping Hugo our grandson. He’s such a funny little guy. I had sent him a few pictures of me on the back of the vehicle and working in the village. He had all sorts of questions about who was driving the vehicle. Then I told him that we saw some buffaloes. So he thought it was a gruffalo so had to send him a picture of a buffalo…. Such a great little guy. Missing him and the rest of the family as well. That there worst part of this thing, time away from home and family.
Lots of love
Helen and Kevin
70 days to go.


Helen reporting from Zambia

2012-06-14

While Kev was in Chiang Mai I flew to Phnom Penh in Cambodia.It was great to be met at the airport by my “old” friends Sue Hanna and Sue Taylor. Its always great to spend time with them and Graham.

Sue and Sue work for Hagar which is and international Christian organisation dedicated to the protection, recovery and community integration of survivors of human rights abuse, particularly human trafficking, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. While Cambodia is now at peace, extreme poverty, food insecurity, limited access to health and education services, low levels of literacy, lack of employment opportunities and entrenched cultural and societal norms continue to contribute to an environment where women and children can be trafficked, abused, exploited and abandoned.
Currently Hagar operates recovery shelters, education and empowerment programs, reintegration services and a social business.

I spent my days going to the office with them leaving home at 7.15 and home again by 6pm. I heard stories about many of the horrific situations kids and women had been rescued from. My two lovely friends work alongside a team of amazing people dedicated to lovingly help these victims recover.

It was very hot there with temperatures in the mid-thirties……

Some days I used the local taxi services otherwise known as a “tuk tuK”.You get a close up look at local life as you weave in and out of the traffic and inhale some of the overwhelming smells from rotting rubbish dumped on the sides of the road. Lots of local people wear face masks and now I know why!! I was reminded again how fortunate we are in New Zealand living in such a beautiful country and such a blessed lifestyle. 

Kev and I met up again at Bangkok airport on Sunday, repacked our suitcases and then flew to Dubai……Had a complementary Hotel and a four hour rest on a bed and then back to the airport to get our next flight to Zambia.

Now we are in Kabwe and its great to be with Jerry and Hayley Field and their two girls Sophie and Lucy . In a few days Rob Pudue arrives here for meetings, then next week we are looking forward to a 3 day conference with our Bright Hope World partners in from Zambia and Zimbabwe. In a few days our daughter Sara and her husband Karl arrive here. it's going to be fun travelling with them for a couple of weeks. It's 30 yrs since we arrived in Zambia the very first time. incredible, where did that time go!

We just heard a few days ago that one of our early friends in Zambia, Evaristo Kutontonkanya passed away. He came onto the team of the training place we started way back then after we left Zambia. He had a real passion for people, I remember the day he graduated from the theological college of central africa. He was so proud of his achievement and so excited, he hugged my like he was going to squeeze the breath out of me.

Jerry and Hayley expect to return to NZ in a couple of months. We're working through all the Zambia partnerships with them at the moment. They expect to stay involved with Bright Hope overseeing the development of the partnerships in Zambia, so that's great. They have made a fantastic contribution to the partners here. The conference next week will be a sad time for many with them leaving. They are really loved and appreciated by our partners and have helped many of them become more capable of sustaining themselves.

It's pretty cold here in Zambia, only 17 degrees today. The houses are built to stay cool in the heat, which means they stay really cold in the cool season. Helen is running around all togged up and borrowing clothes from anyone who will give her some!!

anyway friends, love and best regards

Helen and Kevin 


light

2012-06-21

There is a huge jacaranda tree just outside the window of the flat we are staying in. the early morning sun is streaming into the room and the early morning light makes everything look very beautiful. The last few days have seen some amazing sunsets here in Zambia, every time I come here I am amazed at the beauty of African sunrises and sunsets. That beautiful, low, golden light in the evenings makes everything seem surreal and glowing.

Actually, when the sun goes down it’s pretty cold to be fair. It’s winter, not cold like New Zealand, but cold enough when you’re out of the sun. It’s been cool out at the conference centre where we’ve been meeting the last few days with about 40 of our partners from around Zambia and into Zimbabwe. But it’s been very warm as well, warm as we have spent time with our friends here. 

You know, August this year it will be 30 years since we first came to Zambia. I cannot believe how young and naïve we must have been as I think about it. I’ll put up a photo of us when we were here in Zambia. It’s not 30 years, more like 25, but still…….. pretty naïve. Some of the people we spent the last few days with were part of that early journey and to see them now, my goodness. Let me tell you about some of them:

So it’s been pretty inspiring to hear all the stories and get alongside them. They just love telling their stories, laughing and doing skits. It’s pretty hilarious at times.

Last weekend, before the camp started we had a board meeting for Bright Hope Zambia, the company that owns the farm here. I’m the chairman so we have to go through the formalities and hear lots of reports about what’s been going on. We have made some really interesting decisions about the future of the farm that will see us making a lot of changes here. It’s going to be good with less responsibility for us from New Zealand but some good outcomes in terms of reducing our risk and generating even better profits to go into helping people. One figure from the farm, this year since January, the farm has put around 168,000,000 Zambian Kwacha into helping our partners. That equates to around $US32,000 or $NZ40,000. So that’s pretty exciting to be part of. But we have to constantly be assessing the nest way forward and making adjustments. 

Today we’re pretty excited as Sara and Karl, our daughter and son-in-law are arriving here in Kabwe. They got to Zambia on Monday and have been in Livingstone to visit the Victoria Falls. Today they come here and for the next two weeks will be travelling with us to visit our partners in Zambia, Kenya and Uganda. It’s going to be a blast, I hope we can keep up with them. I’m sure there will be plenty of incidents to report next blog.

I have to say that I’m pretty impressed by a couple of outfits, 3 actually. Just after arriving here in Zambia I realised that is was going to be in trouble as I didn’t have enough pages in my passport. This is the same passport I lost and found in India last year. Every country here requires a full page plus for a visa and we have to go through Kenya and Uganda 3 times each on this trip. So, I sent all the papers for a new one by DHL back to New Zealand, 3 working days they said, 3 working days it was. Big ups to DHL. Then I asked if I could keep both passports valid as I have visas in the current passport that I require on this trip. The NZ Department of Internal Affairs allowed this and issued the new passport in 2 days. It’s great to be a NZer! And then number 3, Heather McLennan, office manager at Bright Hope World. That woman is a star. My goodness, she made it all happen. So, Heather, I owe you coffee, chocolate and a whole heap more next time I’m in Christchurch. A team of 9 people are coming from New Zealand to Zambia, arriving on Sunday and they are bringing the new passport. Amazing.

Well, that’s enough from us for now except to say that we are thinking of our friends the Lamble family today. Mrs Lamble died earlier in the week and is being buried today. Their family and ours go way back and she was a lovely woman. When those old ones you’ve known all your life depart, it somehow tears something from the fabric of your own life and makes it more fragile. So, we’re thinking of Justin and Rae and the family today. Next meeting is about to start so I’ll be off.

Love to you all and thanks for hanging in there with us.
Kevin and Helen
p.s. check out the new photos


passports and visas

2012-07-02

Hey there everyone from Kenya. Habari. It’s cool here in Kenya, this morning started bright and sunny but the clouds are closing in and it looks like rain. It’s cooling down. People are surprised by how cool it gets here expecting Kenya to be hot.

Anyway, we got to Kenya fine on Monday. A team from New Zealand flew into Zambia on Sunday to work with one of our partners. So we met them in Lusaka. They arrived minus one bag, but fortunately for Kevin, the guy who lost the bag still had Kevin’s new passport. Yeha, he can come home now!!! So now at least Kevin should be able to get the visa required for the rest of the trip. It’s a real pain having to put your passport into an embassy for a week to get a visa when we are moving around so much. Today is Friday as we are actually in Uganda. Earlier Kevin had to put his passport into the Congo Embassy for 7 days to get a visa. If it’s a day late then we’re in trouble and won’t be able to leave the country. So, having two passports at the moment is a real bonus.

It’s great to be travelling with Karl and Sara, they are real easy to travel with. We had a nice time with Robert and Rose Gitau in Tala, Kenya. Sara was with them for a few weeks about 8 years ago. So, they were rapt to meet her husband. Karl is so good getting down with the kids and spent a lot of time playing soccer and interviewing them.

We had 3 nights at their place and then on Friday morning we headed into Nairobi and hung out with our partners in the Mathare Valley. They are such a great bunch of people. I’ve talked about this place before. But it’s still a pretty incredible place. Personally it seems to be less shocking now, maybe because I’ve been there so often. It was pretty cool to meet some of the young people teaching there who grew up in that place and who have now come back to make a difference. Pretty impressive really. If I managed to escape that place I doubt if I could go back and invest in the place. It’s certainly more than a normal response, more like a divine response probably.

We spent last night at a guest house in Nairobi and early this morning cruised out to the airport for a flight to Entebbe and Kampala. Then we spent the day organising stuff for later in the trip and for the next trip here in October. Things take time here but we got a lot done.

We have a team coming in to Kenya in about 3 weeks from the USA so we were organising stuff for that. Also, getting into the Congo isn’t that easy there are no shortcuts. But, to be fair, they explained the process pretty clearly so that’s good. Then in October we have an International Summit here in Uganda and we’ve been setting up stuff for that. Finding accommodation and transport are the two biggest issues to deal with. But we’ve found some good options.

It’s getting late now and we’re about to hit the sack. Tomorrow we head north to Lira to visit some of those invisible children, victims of the LRA and their terror regime a few years ago. So it’s going to be an interesting few days. I’ll sign off for a day or so then finish this and send it out later.

Where did that time get to. We’re now back in Kampala after a good time with our friends there. It was great to spend time with the large family. 27 kids, though of course they weren’t all there. Some are away at secondary school and other training. But, it was lovely to share with them and see the growth and development of the children. Penninah and Anna were there as well and it was good to spend time encouraging them. They spent a couple of hours one morning telling us the story of their family. My goodness, it would not be believed if it were written as non-fiction and it would be too unbelievable to be a novel! It’s such an amazing story of tragedy and trauma. But it’s also about strength and recovery, solid faith, staunch courage and real commitment to make life better for the next generation.

So here we are, back in one piece in this chaotic city. Tomorrow we head out onto Lake Victoria to visit more partners and then on Wednesday Karl and Sara head back to New Zealand. We’re going to miss them, it’s been great.

We’ll be in touch next from Ethiopia most likely. By then I’ll know if I’ve got the visa for the Congo and if we will be able to fulfil our full itinerary. If we can’t get to Congo, we’ve got a backup plan in the south of Uganda. So, stay cool and God bless,

I’ll put up a few pictures with this as well so enjoy
Kevin and Helen


Gumuz country

2012-07-09

Ha, I thought last week went crazy fast, this one has completely got away from us. So much seems to have happened, it’ all a jumble. But we’ll try to unpack it a little.

Last blog we had just returned from Lira in the North of Uganda and were sitting in a nice café in Kampala reporting to you…. This time it’s not in any great city. I’m on the veranda of the once proud Ghion Hotel in Bahir Dar on the banks of Lake Tana. The local Coptic Church is in full swing punishing the eardrums of the faithful over the loud speaker system. They burble on in an ancient language only a few of the priest know but they turn up in droves and go through their rituals. Oooops, it’s dusk and the Moslems have started up across the road, louder than the Copts, in a few minutes a bunch of the faithful will trudge into that place and do their rituals. One wonders at the nonsense and noise of it all. The lake is pretty calm this afternoon, there is the gentle hum of people talking and the last birds are chirping their way into the darkness. It’s quite pleasant actually, apart from those blaring loudspeakers in the background.

Yay, they have stopped, about time. The first one started up before 5 a.m. this morning and he wasn’t popular then either. The mozzies are coming out for their evening feed now so I’ll shoot inside and cover up.

Anyway, enough of that, the last week. Mmmm, Tuesday we headed out to the shores of Lake Victoria to visit a community we have been working with for 10 years. The school there has grown a lot since our first visit in 2002. There are now almost 500 kids in the programme, a hostel with 178 children and another school down the road with about 70 kids. It was great to see a lot of the kids in school and to be there to open a laboratory for the secondary school. A church in New Zealand funded the fit out and the school very proudly opened the refurbished building and all the equipment. Now their challenge will be to maintain it all and increase the number of children passing exams. They already have a good pass record and were saying, “if we could do OK without a laboratory, imagine what will happen now.” The optimism of youth, love it.

Then it was back to our residence, the amazing City Annex Hotel. When Sara first saw it she exclaimed, how did you find this place! We are still wondering the same thing! We were used to it, but its pretty basic when we think about it. Anyway, we spent the night there and the next morning at the Java café saying goodbye to Karl and Sara. Then out to Entebbe, us to a different hotel and Sara and Karl to the airport and back to Dubai and New Zealand.

It was pretty sad to say good bye to them. It was lovely to see our world through their eyes and to meet our friends all over again through them. They were so good at relating to our partners, especially playing with the many kids they met. They got back to NZ pretty shattered with Karl suffering all the way with diarrhoea. Sara thought she was pretty smart not getting it, until she got home!! It reminded us how fortunate we are with that problem and rarely suffer from it. If you saw some of the recent pit stops we have made, you don’t take it for granted!! 

We had a couple of nights at the hotel in Entebbe and on Thursday headed back into town to get my Congo visa. No problems really either, well done those guys. Paid for the flight to Bunia and in 3 weeks today will be in the Congo, I hope, there are many things still that could go wrong.

Friday it was on the plane again, had to get up at 2:30 am to catch the first flight to Nairobi and the second to Addis Ababa and by 9:30 we were there. Cold, really cold and wet. But Worku was there and we headed off to the Semien Hotel. That day we basically hung out, catching up with Worku and hearing all the stuff he is working on. We caught up with e-mails and were reintroduced to Injera.

Out of bed early again on Saturday and another flight to Bahir Dar, 40 minutes North of Addis Ababa. We arrived to the worst airport terminal in the world. The baggage was collected in a barn, the toilets were ankle deep in water and other stuff which we had to use !! And we had to walk with a defective trolley for about 200 metres through water and mud. No use complaining, they are trying build a new terminal. Then it was into the 4WD vehicle we were going to use for our trip to visit some of our church planting friends. We arrived at the Ghion Hotel and had breakfast, jumped back into the vehicle and hit the road….well sort of. It took about ½ an hour to fill up with gas and then 15 minutes later the clutch was gone…. Kaput. The next couple of hours were spent entertaining a bunch of about 15 kids and cattle herders and about 50 people who walked past on the road. Then it was back into town, another refill of gas and off we went again, a much better vehicle and a much, much better driver.

The next 5 hours we drove through spectacular country. It’s the rainy season so it’s green as. But you can literally see the topsoil flowing into teh rivers. Half of Ethiopia lives on the main road and most of the animals in Ethiopia live on the same road. Saturday is market day in rural Ethiopia so the towns were packed with people and animals. Amazing sights we saw. I dont kn ow how the driver missed the animals, he must think like one I think!

We got to Gilgel Beles, the last 3 hours on pretty rough roads. If the earlier hotels were a bit rough, this was a bit rougher. No water, no power, but I hear they are over-rated. Saturday evening we met with a bunch of very nice people in the church there. We were there to observe what God is doing amongst the Gumuz people. 5 years ago we m ay have been killed had we gone there. Every man had to prove himself by killing another person. The women are virtually slaves, most are married by 14 years of age, many to much older men. Many still wear no clothes and these hunter gatherers are being herded into towns and their land given to corporate farmers and politicians.

Here we observed the most underdeveloped people we have ever seen. Most have never seen a white person, certainly none have ever talked to one or touched on. The kids were totally freaked by us and ran away, many of them screaming. The dirt and disease was very evident in the kids and adults. It was a very strange place to be. On the Sunday morning we drove to a little village where something remarkable happened about 9 months ago. A young boy, about 7 years old I guess, died. He lay in the house for some hours and then the parents carried him to a Christian man who lived in the village we were visiting. He was laid in front of the house dead. The man prayed for him and 15 minutes later he was up and about again like nothing was ever wrong!

The people were amazed and asked what had happened. The parents told the story and they asked about the man and his gods. They were told about the God of the Bible and in the last 9 months hundreds of people have become followers of Jesus. The day the miracle happened more than 200 people became Christ followers. The changes have been dramatic, especially for the women. The Christian men now help at home. They now will only marry one wife. They have stopped beating the women and children. Their mindsets are changing. There were close to 300 in the church that day in a village that did not have one believer just 9 months previously. We heard story after story with photos of miraculous healing apart from the original one. Truly amazing things God is doing.

We met the parents of the boy and the pastor who prayed for him and heard their stories. The boy lay dead for 13 hours and now he’s entirely normal. Mind you, he was freaked out meeting us and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he was dead again from shock!

Sunday afternoon we came back to Bahir Dar, this time through heavy rain and hail. We spent the night at the Ghion and met a number of other Ethiopian young people and this morning, Monday, we spent a few hours writing up a report for the team that arrives later in the week from the USA.

We’re going to spend the next 3 days resting up, then Thursday we catch a minibus to Gonder a couple of hours from here. Friday the team arrives from Dallas and we’re into the busiest time of the trip. 4 days here, a week back in Nairobi and then 5 days travelling across Uganda again.

So, it’s rest time, we’re half way through the trip, today is day 37 of 77 I think.

We’re both keeping well though we notice two days on rough roads takes it out of us more than it did a few years ago. It’s been great to have better internet coverage now all through the journey. It makes the distance from family seem much less. It’s been great to be able to send and receive photos and chat from time to time.

It’s really hard to write up all the stuff we see and experience. Every day is just so different. But, we came away from the meeting with Gumuz Christians with warm hearts. It was very obvious that God is seriously at work in that place. And you cannot come away the same person when you’re been at a place where God is actively at work.

Thanks for making it possible by you interest and prayer. We take nothing for granted in places like this. Health, safety, the fact that I wasn’t born a Gumuz! It’s just amazing what could happen…..

So thanks, and many blessings 

Helen and Kevin 

p.s. check out the photos?


a short break

2012-07-13

Just a short little note before we have a really busy time. It’s Friday and in a few minutes the first of our team from the USA arrive here in Gonder. I’m sure it’s going to be a great time with them. They arrive in two batches, the first 3 arrive today and then on Monday we meet another 10 in Nairobi, Kenya.

So we are now in Gonder, a large University town in the North. It boasts the ruins of a large castle, you would swear you were in Europe in the Middle Ages. Not sure we’ll get too much time to visit that, but one of the guys hasn’t been here before so we’ll try to get him a look at it.

Just before we left the backpackers the local English speaking TV guys came doing so interviews for the English speaking TV channel. Seeing we’re from so far away we were interviewed. Who knows if it will ever go to air! Helen now thinks she’s a TV star and I’ve got my work cut out keeping her feet on the ground! Joke Helen…. ouch!

After getting Helen’s feet back on the ground we set off from Bahir Dar to Gonder in a local mini bus. What a laugh it was, 4 hours of a laugh. We had a nice break in Bahir Dar, it’s a really quiet hotel with not much going on so we just slept and read and caught up on e-mails and reports. We also found a couple of nice places to eat. Then the bus arrived to pick us up and we headed off to Gonder. It’s beautiful country and we were well entertained by the guys on the bus. We booked 3 seats so we could have our luggage inside and not on the roof. It’s the rainy season and it’s no fun getting all your luggage wet. Anyway, on we got after they said luggage couldn’t go inside; I put it inside which kind of got us offside from the start. You see, there are 15 seats, and on the outside of the bus it says, no more than 15 passengers. The trouble with bags in a seat is that they take up the whole seat and you can’t fit 2 people to a seat when one of the people is a bunch of bags. So, after a good deal of arguing and threatening I agreed to pay for 3 ½ seats, it was worth it we realised when in the middle of a huge downpour!

Anyway, off we went, for about 500 metres and we trolled around town finding people to fill the bus up. It looked pretty full when we got in, but 15 minutes later we were off, well sort of. Every time we saw people on the side of the road we either crammed them into the bus or stopped, jumped out and bought something from them. At the very least the conductor shouted loudly at them!

After paying it was all sweet and we were the best of friends. You learn here that the bargaining process is essential for establishing relationships, hearing about your heritage and getting a rank on the pecking order. We obviously did OK cause we were best of friends with the whole bus and we talked all the way to Gonder. At one stage we had 21 people in the bus, not including chickens. We stopped innumerable times for drinks and chat, the local weed. Most people are chewing it; it’s gives a bit of a high from what I’m told. It also makes them chatty and we talked about New Zealand, they think it is in Europe near to Scandanavia, about farming and they were envious that even though I stopped farming in 30 years ago we had tractors back then, about the world and our friend with us was able to share about Jesus as well. It was fun even though it took 4 hours.

They delivered us to the door of the hotel in Gonder and now we are sitting on the balcony overlooking the piazza in the middle of the city waiting for the team to arrive. Oh sipping a macchiato as well by the way. They make splendid coffees for about 25 cents - mmmm, heaven for some people. 

This next week we’ll be: 

Somewhere in there we will try to write another blog, we’ll try to update the painting or something! We’ll be missing the Olympics which is a pain though I guess we’ll get the athletics while in Kenya!

We’re keeping well despite the crazy trips and drivers, the strange food and the cold and wet at the moment. Thanks for hanging in there with us.
Love to you all
Helen and Kevin


opportunities galore

2012-07-22

Hey everyone, not a long story this time. It’s Sunday evening and we’re about to head off for dinner. We’ve just finished a debrief with the team from the USA and everyone seems to have had a pretty positive experience. So that’s a major positive.

14 of us have been staying 1 hour outside Nairobi with our friends the Gitaus. They have a lot of stuff going on in their world, schools, vulnerable kids, fractured families and many, many poor people on their doorstep. They counsel, preach, treat the sick, pray for people, grow gardens, schools, churches and people. Frankly I have no idea how they manage it! But we were there for 4 days painting school classrooms . We managed to get 3 done and leave enough paint for another one. So that was great. The rooms look awesome, well done team! The kids and teachers are really excited and we hope they will care for their bright new workplaces.

We were able to find a nice place in the town to stay in with good food. So it all worked out pretty well really. The team was largely made up of an extended family from Alabama in the USA and we’ve had to learn a whole new language and accent! But a really nice bunch of people.

We survived our time in Ethiopia with the team and are glad to be heading off to warmer place from tomorrow. While in Ethiopia we spent time working on the start of a school, visiting a bunch of blind kids who are being sponsored, meeting a whole bunch of widows who are desperately poor and are being fed every day and hearing stories of transformation. We love to see what happens when people give themselves to following Jesus and sharing their lives with others. Story after story was told about life change.

Yesterday, on our way back to Nairobi we stopped over in the Mathare Valley for a visit to our friends there. I am always totally inspired by their long term commitment to a most vulnerable group of people. Like Robert and Rose in Tala, I don’t know how they have the faith to pull this off. Feeding and schooling 1,600 kids every day is no small task. But every day they turn up in the Mathare Valley with hope, patience, tenacity and bucket loads of grace and mercy. They are like dispensers of grace to people who have less than nothing. They choose to go into the pits of poverty to rescue the hopeless and I am inspired to know them and walk with them on their journey, even if only for a few hours.
So here we sit in the cool of Nairobi.

Over the last few days we also met a few other partners with new opportunities to develop. let me give you a taste of what they bring to us:

Awesome oppoprtunities and lots of decisions!!! whwn will we find the time for that?

Tomorrow it’s off to Kisumu at 4:30 a.m. a busy day we’ll have visiting our partners out there. I’ll tell you more next blog. Then on Tuesday it’s off to Uganda and a border crossing for a couple of nights in Busia visiting our partners there. The intrepid John Stanley and Collin Jones will be with us for the next week as we journey across Uganda stopping to visit partners and make arrangements for another visit later in the year.
The bus will be here to take us out in a few minutes so I’ll sign off. Next time you hear from us we’ll be in Uganda and hopefully Kevin will have more than one pair of shoes. Down to one pair of sandals and he can’t find a pair of 13 anywhere in Kenya!!! 

Love and blessings

Kevin and Helen


Lust

2012-07-28

We got to the airport in Nairobi in time and headed off to Kisumu early on Monday morning. It was kind of sad to say goodbye to the team we had spent a week with. But, life moves on and the 3:30 call of the electronic rooster was not appreciated. But, the four of us continuing the journey shuffled onto the bus and slept the 30 minute trip to the airport. There we met the other two Kenyan guys, though one of them only got there with minutes to spare.

Kisumu, is on Lake Victoria, wet and warm, new airport terminal. Nice, I was not looking forward to the old airport and picking up the bags from the outdoor arrival area. We would have been soaked! Then, off to St Anna’s guesthouse, check in and breakfast. Onto the minibus again and out to Maseno, 45 minutes into the beautiful, green Kenyan countryside. Out here our partners are caring for a bunch of 20 children in a small hostel. It’s not an ideal scenario, but slowly it’s coming right. Our friends inherited this place when an Irish guy gave it to them. But, it’s not sustainable and we’ve been working with them over the last few years to try and make that happen. We spent the day talking through the strategies, looking at farmland and gardens and making plans, lots of plans. There are some really positive changes emerging here that we’ll be working on over the next few months. Developing sustainable partnerships takes a lot of time, vision and strategizing. These partnerships are fragile. We funded the purchase of 200 laying chickens earlier in the year and a few weeks ago they were due for Newcastle disease inoculation. So, they were dosed, and then all died!!! 17 weeks of work and food all wasted. Of course, no comeback on the people who killed them. So everything is set back by half a year!! Such a disappointment for everyone. Oscar, the main man there is really annoyed. 

Kevin bought some shoes!! A few weeks ago Kevin’s trusty shoes dissolved in the mud. For a while we,ve been shopping for shoes but without success. We thought Ethiopians and Kenyans would have big feet, but no. size 10 was the largest we could find. Then, last Sunday, a pair of size 12s almost worked. Anyway, finally on Tuesday, on the side of the road we found them, size 14s, nice. But size 14 basketball boots!!! Not a lot of options so we bought them. And now, there is no room in the suitcase, though the boots are large enough to carry many kg of luggage!

Last Tuesday morning, we headed off to the Uganda border, about 2 hours from Kisumu. On the way we crossed the Equator, overheated the minibus and stopped into a village we were due to visit. There we looked at a beautiful piece of land on which to start a farm to assist vulnerable widows and children to grow gardens and learn agriculture. We have been developing a relationship with Ibrahim and Diane Omondi over a period of time and now it looks like we’ve found something to work together on. I really like this new opportunity in Got Osimbo. This village used to have the highest HIV / AIDS infection rate in Kenya. There are dozens of child headed families here that need help. So it’s pretty cool to be able to work with them.

Later that day we crossed the border into Uganda without much incident. We spent a couple of days with our friends in Busia, then to MBale for another night and some awesome people with loans, then to Jinja for 2 nights and tomorrow it’s over to Entebbe. We’ve met many poor people with a lot of hope now because of the changes that small loans have made in their families. Awesome. We’ve also been reminded again of the huge commitment our partners make at huge personal cost to themselves.

3 times in the last few days we found ourselves talking about lust!!! The first time was in Got Osimbo talking with the local people there about the fact that there were so many vulnerable families in that community. We asked why this village was so affected by HIV / AIDS. We talked through some of the reasons. One was that in these communities if a man dies, one of his brothers inherits the widow and children. So, if the wife is HIV+, the new husband then becomes HIV+. He then sleeps with his first wife and she becomes HIV+. He dies and the wives are taken off to the other brother and the scenario is repeated. Whole families are being wiped out, whole generations disappearing. We asked where this wife inheritance came from. One of our partners told us, “it comes from lust!” There is no other reason for it, there is no obligation from the culture, it’s become a way for men to have many women.

The next day, across the border in Uganda and another conversation. This time it was about micro-enterprise as we heard the stories of women having to support their families while the men just sat around to drink. The women told us time and time again of being sick and their husbands bringing many women into the home. One said something like this, the only thing the men do is to spend their money on more women. We women have to work, feed that family and send the kids to school while the men play around. Then that word came up again, lust. “It’s all because of lust.”

Whether we like it or not, men are the cause of most of the grief in Africa. Most of the poverty in Africa is produced by the dumb actions of stupid men who are full of lust. And women and children are the victims, generation after generation of women and children have perished because of men and their unbridled lust.

Later that night we talked about these two lust conversations. As Helen, John, Collin and I chatted into the evening we realised that this is not merely an African problem. We lamented at the sexualisation of our Western cultures as well, how that it’s hard to go an hour without being confronted by pornography, how hard it is for young people to stay pure and how easy it is to access sexual material. We went to bed that night, I guess more than a little unsure of whether what we were doing actually made much difference. We face incredibly difficult challenges. Many of the people we meet in Africa who are here to help are actually part of the problem. African and Western cultures are no help in addressing the issues that plague this continent and when you add into the mix the issues of corruption, poverty and mind sets that produce death, one wonders if it’s worth it…….. One wonders often…… it would be easier, much easier to just walk away and leave it to someone else.

Tomorrow, Sunday we head off early to the village of Katosi. Kevin has to preach in the church, we need to get some more video around the area and deliver our two USA friends, John and Collin to the airport. So it will be a long day. Then Monday Kevin heads off to the Congo for 4 nights while Helen stays in Entebbe by herself. Value your prayers for all this that we’ll be safe and learn a lot. More when Kevin gets back from The Congo in a week
Blessings
Helen and Kevin


choas

2012-08-03

It’s only a couple of weeks now till we get back to New Zealand. To be frank, it would be nice to be going home about now, but, another 2 weeks to complete this tour of duty. A couple of years ago we did a 14 week trip and I don’t know how we managed it. This 11 week trip is long enough. It’s not the people or the places or even the travel, I think it’s the constant grind and never being able to shut down. There is always another question to answer, another problem to solve or the unknown of whether or not the plans for tomorrow will come off.

Like now I’m sitting in Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC for short, pondering what will happen if this thunder continues and the plane that is supposed to take me back to Entebbe, Uganda will fly into this looming thunder storm. Frankly, the chances don’t look good. Note to self: next time come in the dry season to take the weather out of the equation.

If I don’t get this flight I’m here for the weekend. Then I’ll, have to fly on Monday, and Monday we fly out to Burundi. And what if the weather is bad on Monday? If the plane doesn’t fly should I then catch a bus to Entebbe, about 15 hours? Will I get the refund for the flight I didn’t catch? How will I let Helen know? All these things start buzzing around in your head and it’s draining. I think it’s all that stuff, the nervous and emotional energy you use up when travelling every second day. Did I remember to call the guys for tomorrow? what will happen at the border? is this guy a good driver? what if a team member gets sick? should I eat this fish head (last night’s dinner?) will the rain stop? should take my umbrella? is the internet working, yes, no, yes, well sort of and then the power goes off.….. it just never stops 

I’m not complaining, I don’t have to do this job…. Or do I!

When you’re sitting in the ramshackle building this family calls home and you hear their story and you pray with them and they tell you you’re the first person who has ever prayed for them like this in their home, and 1st white person who has ever visited them….. it would be hard not to be doing this. And then you do it again, and again that day, more than 12 visits a day and you leave them with a little bit of hope that God cares for them and that they are not alone, yea, it would be hard not to be doing this.

Let me tell you about Albert and Rose, he is 83 and she is late 70s they think. Albert was an agricultural worker for the government and was posted in Bunia at the time of his retirement. He had bought a piece of land while working and we were sitting in the house he had built a few years ago. It was very basic, I cannot describe how basic really. I’ve seen worse for sure, but it is very basic. But we had chairs to sit on. (I’ve put up a couple of photos of Albert and Rose and their family.)

They told about how they had been caught up in the fighting in the 2001 – 2003 war between various rebel factions. They were moved in Internally Displaced People camps by the UN. One of their sons refused to go into the camp and some time later was killed. He had 4 children. Some time after coming out of the camp, the mother of the children came to visit them with the children and then left the kids with them. She married another man and he didn’t want the kids. So, Albert and Rose inherited them… Just like that. It’s one of the scenarios we see often here. Here those kids are called single orphans, one parent is still alive, but to all intents and purposes, they are orphans, abandoned, very, very vulnerable. They are possible more vulnerable than orphans as there are many NGOs what will have programmes for full orphans, but few have any programmes like these kids, they fall outside the box.

One of the things I love about working with BHW is that there are few boxes. If a kid is vulnerable, let’s help the little guy. He doesn’t have to have a certain tag on him we design or she doesn’t have to fit into a box we make up before we can help. Anyway, back to Albert and Rose. Here they are bringing up these children. They are too old to work and they have to send these children to school, and then to secondary school. Of course, it’s a major struggle for them and the kids are often sent home because the fees haven’t been paid.

It got so bad that the oldest boy ran away and now works in a gold mine. He fossicks around in the bush to find gold and only gets paid if he finds something. He rarely does. He works in perilous conditions and is hungry the whole time but at 15 he thinks this is a better option than the frustration of being at school and frustrated. We heard this story a number of times during the day. Albert and Rose were almost in tears as they explained their frustration at not being able to give the boy a decent future and now, their frustration that they could not bring their grandson home and save him from his current situation.
But, through our partners here we have been able to help the other kids in the family and they are going to school, and loving it.

Yesterday afternoon I visited a place that inspired me. Mozart, not the old, dead guy from Germany or wherever, has with his wife been caring for orphans for a long time. It started when they took an orphan into their home a few years ago. Then it was 2, then 3 and so it went on. Now it’s about 300, though of course they don’t all live at their place. They have built a school for these kids to come to where they disciple them and teach them. One day a new Congo will be led by these told me seriously. He said it so passionately, I have to believe him.

My goodness this country needs new leadership, that’s for sure. At every level corruption rules. It’s just so disorganised, no one knows the real story and everyone if fighting to survive. The city of Bunia is such and enigma. Huge new houses going up, swarms of Bangladeshi UN soldiers driving around in Hummers trying to look fierce, dusty roads one minute and swamps the next after the rain, thousands of motor bike taxis…. In the midst of this there are good people just trying to survive from one day to the next. And somehow it works. It fact it might work better that in some of the neighbouring countries where there is more institutional corruption.

The fact I’m sitting I’m sitting here on the porch of the hotel downloading e-mails and waiting for the rain to clear is a miracle in itself. Last Sunday we drove from Jinja to Kaotsi where Kevin spoke at a church to a couple of hundred people. Then after a beautiful lunch with our partners Timothy and Janepher and more video shots, we drove to Entebbe and dropped off the last of our US team members. John and Collin left that evening and we found a hotel on the beach for Helen to stay at while I went off to the DRC for 5 days.

Of course, a few weeks previous I had got a visa for DRC from the Embassy in Kampala. So, onto the MAF plane, a 12 seater and 90 minutes later we were on the ground in Bunia, parked between huge UN transport planes. After 3 attempts we found the office of the immigration people and the fun started. Well, I didn’t have the right visa, the Ambassador had not signed it, I had not followed the right procedure…… ha, how did I know this would happen?! This is where it works in DRC but wouldn’t in other countries. In other countries they would just say no, you’ve got the wrong one, too bad. Here it’s not like that…. well, for they payment of just another $US100 (reduced from $US150) we’ll see what we can do. 15 minutes later and hand shakes all round we left the office with a visa. It actually cost a lot less than if I had followed the correct procedure, a lot less. The Immigration guys apologised for the chaos, admitted that the procedure I should have followed was a nonsense and realised I as no threat to the countries security. I found them to be pretty good frankly and take my hat off to them that they are able to interpret the chaos.

I can leave this chaos, hopefully today.Most of our friends don’t have that luxury. Some, like George choose to come back and live here to make a difference. At the end of this year he and his family will be shifting back here from Kenya to work in a Bible College. They will continue to look after people like Albert and Rose and their grandchildren and give them a little hope in this life. But they are also committed to delivering real hope, hope that never ends and will see the chaos of countries like this being replaced by life in God’s kingdom where poverty, pain, corruption, abuse and neglect will be eradicated.

Roll on that day I say!
Love and best regards
Kevin and Helen


poverty profiles

2012-08-09

It’s damp and warm, but reasonably pleasant in Bujumbura in the country of Burundi. We got here fine from Uganda on Monday evening and our friends, Simeon and Eodie are awesome hosts. They live in a nice place, it’s pretty quiet until 6 a.m. and the local Catholic Church starts ringing bells!! What’s with that!

The last two days we’ve been visiting some loan programmes for women. There is poverty in Burundi. Let me tell you the combined stories of the two groups to give you an insight: 

Group 1 on Tuesday: this is what they own – these are the results of a discussion about what assets they have:

lady 1 - 3 pans, 2 wrap around skirts, 2 pairs of shoes, 2 hoes, 5 plastic dishes
lady 2 - Has 2 porcelain dishes, 2 plastic dishes, 3 pans, 2 bed sheets, 3 wrap around skirts, 2 shoes, 5 chickens
lady 3 - has a plot of land, 8 outfits, 4 shoes, 8 pans, a bed, a mattress, 4 bed sheets, 3 chairs, one mattress for the children and one for the visitors
lady 4 - Lives in a family house ( in-law house). Has 3 chairs, 5 porcelain dishes, 5 plastic dishes, 5 wrap around skirts, 3 shoes, one bed.
lady 5 - A widow, lives in a family house ( in-law), have 3 porcelain dishes, 2 plastic dishes, one cupboard, 2 wrap around skirts, 2 shoes, one bed, 3 bed sheets,
lady 6 - a plot of land, 3 outfits, 2 pairs of shoes, 5 pans, 1 bed, 1 mattress, 3 goats, 5 dishes, 1 hoe.
Lady 7 - 3 pans, 3 dishes, 1 sleeping mat, I do not have a bed or sheet. A widow
Lady 8 - I have one table, a few dishes, few pans, one plot which we share in the family, a cotton mattress, one bucket, 2 jerry cans. My children sleep on a mat, they do not have any bed.
Lady 9 - 1 mat, 2 bed sheets, few pans, few clothes, few shoes.
Lady 10 - a widow. I have a plot, 4 dishes in porcelain and plastic, 3 wrap around skirts, 1 pair of shoes, 2 goats, 4 pans, 2 bed sheets.
Lady 11 - a house, 2 porcelain pans, 3 plastic dishes, 5 pans, 3 wrap around skirts, 2 pairs of shoes, 1 bed, 2 bed sheets, 1 goat
Lady 12 - 1 plot of land, 1 goat, few pans, few dishes, one jerry can, 1 bucket, 2 chairs, one cotton mattress, 1 bicycle.
Lady 13 - 1 mat, 1 cloth, 1 bed sheet, few dishes, few pans, cups, 1 goat, shoes, spoons. 

If you add all that up = poverty
two woth husbands that work = poverty

Yesterday we met a group in a church on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. It’s a beautiful place, my goodness, in New Zealand the land would be worth millions of $. Here is the brief outline of the 16 women we met:

Lady 1 – a widow, 11 children, 45 years old
Lady 2 – a widow for 5 years, 8 kids, 42 years old
Lady 3 – a widow for 8 years, 6 kids and 40years old
Lady 4 – a widow for 10 years, 13 kids only 2 alive and over 60
Lady 5- a widow, 10 kids, 48 years old
Lady 6 – married, 3 kids and 27 years old
Lady 7 – single mother for 8 years, 5 kids and 40 years old
Lady 8 – married, 4 kids and 47 years old
Lady 9 – married, 7 kids and 40 years old
Lady 10 – married, 6 kids and 38 years old
Lady 11 – widow for 12 years 6 kids and 47 years old
Lady 12 – married, 3 kids and 27 years old
Lady 13 – widow for 10 years 5 kids and 44 years old
Lady 14 – widow for 9 years, 10 kids and 47 years old
Lady 15 – married with 13 kids and 48years old
Lady 16 – married with 5 kids, 30 years old.

Adding it up, 16 women with 104 children = poverty, 9 widows = poverty

Most of the women in the second group have been in a loan programme for a year. Their stories are very different from a year ago. Then it was, 1 meal a day, kids not in school, abused by the community, alone and neglected…… but now, all the family are satisfied at meal times, all the kids in school, they have dignity and a cell phone, people think they are married cause of how they look and when they find out they are widows, they even get proposals!!! A huge change. A long way to go still, but one church with compassion, a woman with a dream and a partner with some resources….

Later today we head off from Burundi to the last country on this trip. We leave at 1:25 am to Kigali, there we wait for an hour and over to Nairobi, arriving at 5:30 a.m. We then have to wait there until 2:30 p.m. Then it’s off to Abu Dhabi then catch another plane to Islamabad, Pakistan, arriving at 3:30 a.m. Why do we do this!!!

Ha, it’s all worth it, though don’t ask me at 6:00 am on Saturday morning! We’re keeping well and now looking forward to the end of the journey. This is day 68 of 77, we’re down to single digits so we’re allowed to start the countdown!

Helen has just got back from a trip to the food markets and I’ve just finished and interview with a couple of our partners from the DRC who were in the area at the same time as we were. So that was a nice bonus, to be able to spend a couple of hours with them. First time we’ve met, lovely guys doing the hard yards in Bukavu and Uvira in the Congo.
So friends, thanks for the interest and prayer. Pakistan for a week and then home. As you can imagine, we still need you to be on your knees. Pakistan is not an easy place, but we have great friends there.

Love to all
Helen and Kevin


$150 is a fortune

2012-08-16

It’s 7:something a.m. on Thursday, and early tomorrow morning we fly out of Pakistan. We’ve got today to hang out with our partners here in Lahore before the plane leaves at 3:30 a.m. We’ll try to get a sleep at around 7:00 p.m. so we get say 5 hours rest. But who knows what will happen. It would be good to get some sleep while on ground as much of the next 30 hours will be in the air.

It’s about 4 hours to Dubai and the 5 hours on the ground, then it’s 13 hours to Sydney and a couple of hours on the ground and then 3 more hours to Auckland. We’re ready to be home now, jobs almost done apart from all the reports and follow up. That’s years worth!!

Talking about long trips, last blog we were still in Burundi. Our friend Simeon dropped us at the airport around 11:30 p.m. and we checked in to Kenya Airways for the trip to Nairobi. No worries with that and around 1:30 we took off, 30 minutes later we were in Kigali and an hour later back in the air. Not much more than an hour after that we were in Nairobi. We were able to get a transit visa for nothing and get our bags. Then the long wait for the next flight. 6 hours later and sick of reruns of the Olympics we booked in, went through Immigration and were back in the no mans land of Nairobi Airport. How many hours have we spent in this place over the last 15 years? Every shop is familiar, I think some of the shop keepers even recognize us. Then onto Etihad for the 5 hours flight to Abu Dhabi, 3 hours on the ground and we’re in another queue for another flight, shouting at people who rush past to the front of the line like they are the most important people in the world. Then 3 hours and at 2:30 a.m. we’re back on the ground again, Pakistan.

Our good friend Azam was there to meet us and bustled us out of the terminal. Oh no, a parking ticket but a lot of hand gestures and thankyous later and no fine to pay, we’re off, this is Pakistan, land of Suzuki cars, made for little people with no luggage!!!

We had a nice time with Azam and Barbara in Islamabad. We talked a lot about the issues they face doing Christian ministry in this place. It’s not easy, but, if you’re Christian who has a relevant faith, the locals respect you. They don’t respect you at 5:15 am when the siren sounds and the local mosque starts up, but the rest of the time they are reasonably friendly and happy to greet you and talk. Our friends even have T_l_b_n friends he has regular conversations with about faith and other things. It’s Ramadan here so there is a lot of noise at night, a partying.

We visited the Christian School they have started. Last year it was just started with 10 kids, now it has 55 in 4 classrooms. They plan to grow it over the years from the current nursery, pre-school and grades 1 – 3, through to a fill primary and then secondary school. So we visited the school, an adult literacy class they run and a sewing class for 15 young people. There is a lot of opportunity for involvement here. But it’s a very hard place at the same time. The churches are pretty small, mainly because you have to sit on the floor I think!! We went to one on Sunday and Kevin was the preacher!! Not a lot of warning but that’s not new. Kevin also visited a Christian leper hospital, not a lot of lepers around nowadays, but the German women running it are still there and now treat a lot of TB. Some of the people we talked to had been there a year and would be there for perhaps another year. We chatted with a lot, prayed and encouraged them. Some were not going to be here much longer from the way they looked to me. It’s a really nice place to be in compared to the alternatives for many of them.

So, Tuesday morning, 8:30 we were on the bus bound for Lahore and by 1:00 p.m. were on the ground there. We thought Islamabad was hot, we had forgotten about Lahore. My goodness, oppressive is the only word for it. It’s hot and humid and the air conditioner is working overtime. Here we have attended a computer training programme graduation. 30 young people finished their 3 month course. They put through about 120 students a year here in the basic course and others in a n advanced course. The clothing factory is not doing so well. A few issues to sort out with that and we spent most of yesterday visiting the site, talking to the key people, going through papers and writing up reports. Good potential……. a lot to think about.

Today we finalise a last report on Pakistan flooding house building and then it’s waiting around for the plane to arrive; with full aircon. Last evening we spent an hour or so sitting on the roof of the house with a bunch of young people, hearing their stories and what they want to do. Hard stuff really. Two very bright girls, 20 years old, parents sick and really poor. One of them passed school leaving exams with the highest marks ever in the community, but will probably have to finish now and look after her parents. There is virtually no money coming into the home. Her future is all about poverty. Unless someone steps in and makes a difference, breaks the poverty cycle and invests in her life. I wonder who that might be? Here we are talking about $US150 per year to educate this woman, and they cannot hardly feed themselves.

So,in a few hours we’re out of here and headed back home. It’s going to be great to not have to peer into a suitcase to fish out something clean and sort of respectable to wear. And to sleep in the same bed for more than 4 nights and be able to move around the bedroom and have a warm shower!! Oh the bliss, it’s been a while.

We’ll drop another note when we get home to let you know we got there in one piece. But, don’t take off the seat belt, it’s less the 2 months and we’re back to Africa again!!! But that’s another chapter.

Thanks so much for the e-mails and messages, and your prayers , we really love getting them.
Lot’s of love
Helen and Kevin


last trip this year

2012-10-12

Hi there, it seems like just a few days since we got back from our previous trip and (gulp) in a couple of hours it's time to hit the airways again. It's been a really full on few weeks since we got back to New Zealand in August.

There were two trips to Christchurch. The first was for a catch up with the team and the second was for a get together with our BHW Field team. They are such an awesome bunch of people, just loved hanging out with them in Hanmer. It was great having their families with us and the weather was just great. 

We went to Hamilton one weekend to speak at a Missions Conference. It was nice there to catch up with a bunch of people from the past and meet some really passionate people involved in Missions and preparing to go out there. Then last week we sneaked away for 3 nights to Rotorua for a break. It was lovely to walk in the redwood forest and sit in the hot pools and have some time together….jus tthe two of us!! Then Saturday we went over to Sara ad Karl’s and stayed the night with them. Took us back to the days a few months ago where we were travelling together in Africa.

Sunday was a busy day. We left Tauranga early and headed over to Matamata and spoke at St Andrews Presbyterian Church there. These folks are supporting the development of a school in Uganda. So it was nice to spend some time with them and have lunch with their missions team afterwards. Then it was back to Auckland to catch up with Jared and Ruth and Hugo and in the evening to meet with a team from Mt Albert Baptist who are preparing to go to Thailand in February next year. Kevin will be going with them so it’s good to be meeting them this early.

This week has been finalising the details of the trip that starts in a couple of hours, planting our veggie garden, catching up with some of our church team (we have a team of 14 heading over to Fiji for two weeks leaving Sunday) and tidying up the grounds around the house.

We have been able to start some more new partnerships as well so there has been a lot of writing up things for the web and for donors. The new partnerships are in Pakistan (a school,) The Philippines (income generation activities for our partners there,) Western Kenya (a farm training programme for child headed families,) Myanmar (two micro-loan programmes) and Uganda (supporting teachers and a food programme for school kids in an extremely vulnerable community,)

In 2 hours we leave home and Helen will take Kevin to the airport. He flies to Bangkok, changes planes and then flies on to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. He arrives early Sunday morning local time and will rest up till Monday morning. Monday morning it’s into the South Sudan Embassy to try and get a visa and Tuesday it’s up to Gondar in the North to check out progress in the partnership there. Looking forward to spending time with Worku our mate there.

Thursday back to Addis and Friday off to Juba in South Sudan. Thomas will be there to meet me and to visit around the beneficiaries of the loan programme. Then Sunday I think it’s a drive to Yei, evidently not the nicest piece of road in the world. I have a couple of days there before heading off to Nairobi in Kenya to meet the team flying in.

Helen leaves New Zealand with some of our BHW team on Wednesday the 24th. We meet up in Nairobi on the Thursday and spend the next 2 weeks together with the team in Kenya and Uganda. We have 3 days around Nairobi meeting partners and then the following Sunday fly to Uganda and meet up with a bunch more people from Australia, the USA and the UK.

The main purpose of this trip is to spend time with our key Western partners on site in the field meeting our partners. There will be 21 of us that Helen and I are responsible to organise and chaperone. We’ll be doing some talking but mainly visiting key people and talking to them. We’ll meet a lot of awesome people and the poor ones they are serving.
On the 7th November Helen and the team leaves to return to New Zealand and Kevin heads off to the UK and the USA with Rob Purdue. This will be a chance to catch up with a number of key people and keep relationships ticking over. Kevin gets back on the 23rd November.

We’re not used to doing long trips at this time of year. The old mind starts to wind down a bit towards the end of the year but this year it’s all go. It’s taking a bit of mental strength to get back into the saddle. I guess it will all come back once we actually get going. So, we really need your help on the trip and thank you for your interest in the people we work with and in us.

Roll on Christmas!!!!
Love from
Kevin and Helen


death in the family and missing home

2012-10-18

I knew it was going to be bad flight from the moment I stepped onto the plane. The plane had flown in from Hong Kong and I was joining it. It was hotter on the plane than outside in Bangkok and it was over 30 degrees outside at 1:40 am.

It was like a sauna and those who had not got off were in a foul mood. The cabin crew were in a similar mood and the welcome was less than warm on arrival. It was a noticeable change from the previous flight from Auckland to Bangkok. That flight was only about 40% full so there were enough seats to stretch out!

There was someone else my allocated seat and as I was one of the last on and the flight was pretty much full there weren’t a lot of options left. The guy in my aisle seat refused to get out and go to his seat, a centre one a couple of rows ahead. I’m usually pretty accommodating about seats but after 12 hours on a flight and 6 hours stop over, I was not going to sit in a centre seat. Sorry. I had booked this seat weeks in advance, I know which seats to choose if I can. He managed to spend the rest of the next 8 hours disturbing as many people as he could, jumping up and down from his seat, pushing the call button and standing the aisle giving me the evil eye until I went up to him and had a little chat. After that he was fine and I got to hear his story. He was Nigerian and had spent almost 10 years in South Korea “doing business!” He was an importer / exporter and a year ago was caught by the Korean authorities who had thrown him in prison for 9 months and confiscated everything he “owned.” So he was on a one way ticket home! Shame, I didn’t give him my e-mail address!!

The guy across the aisle from me was Welsh and worked as a photo journalist, contracted to Non Government Organisations (NGOs.) He had just been in East Timor and The Philippines and was going to Ethiopia and then Nigeria. We talked a lot about life, faith (he was a free thinker) and poverty. During the conversation I had orange drink poured on me by the cabin attendant and tried to eat the worst airline meal I’ve ever experienced except the one a few years ago that caused me and most of the plane to vomit during the flight!

The entertainment system didn’t work. I was sick of movies from the 1st flight and the 8 hours seemed to take forever. It was cool on arrival at 6:30 am in Addis Ababa, the climate at this time of year pretty nice.

Right now ‘m sitting in a nice café in Addis having just downed a Greek salad for lunch. Helen would be impressed!! This morning I flew back to Addis from Gonder, a city in the north and 2 days with Worku. We spent a day on the site of the school he is building, it’s pretty impressive what’s now going on after many, many hold ups in the past 4 years. But now the vision is becoming reality. Awesome. In a year from now there will be 100s of kids in the buildings that are right now just foundations.

Wednesday we visited a group of blind boys that are being assisted with training. They attend the teaching programme and also attend normal schools. Most come out at the top of their classes because they have developed such good memories. Some very sad, very cool stories I heard from them. This culture is such a dog eat dog place. The blind or disadvantaged have to develop aggressive survival skills and will resort to almost anything to attain their objectives. Our guys are having to deal with a lot of difficult survival behaviour from both the students and the staff!

Then I went visit a bunch of widows and abandoned people. Such desperate poverty, it’s impossible to imagine what it’s like even while sitting there with them observing their tragedy. And in the midst of it the team spend time with each person, listening to them and touching them. They come 6 days of the week if they can make it this is their community. In the last month, 9 of the people have died. This is ministry at the hard end of life. Many are so sick and have no families so their neighbours come to pick up their meals for them.

One of the men who died didn’t turn up for his food 2 days running. They became concerned and told the local authorities. No one knew where he lived so they went out scouring the neighbourhoods until they found him dead in a house 4 days later. No one knew where he lived. That little phrase haunts me. how do you get to a point that noone knows you well enough to even nkow where you live. 

In an hour or so I go to the South Sudan Embassy to pick up my visa and tomorrow I hopefully fly into Juba. I've got 5 days there to meet the people involved in the loan programmes and make plans for an agriculture training programme on some land our partner Thomas has been given. That will be another new adventure.

Helen has had a rough time back in New Zealand. The day after I left her youngest sibling, Darcy, died. Darcy spent most of his almost 50 years in bed. He was physically disabled and his body was twisted and bent. He died peacefully from what I hear. So, the family has been together and he was remembered on Thursday by family and those who lived with him and cared for him. He was so well cared for. It’s been hard for both of us being apart at a time like this. Those moments are bonding times and I have missed the moment with Helen but also with her family. Darcy will be remembered as a happy guy despite his difficult life. There will not be one negative memory from anyone.

Not many of us will leave that sort of legacy. In our “normality” we seem to be able to hurt and damage each other with a fair deal of ability. One wonders what normal really is at times. 

And here as I am confronted with poverty and desperation it’s hard to get a handle on normal too. I just know that life is tough and I am one of a privileged few who get to be born in a relatively affluent country, into a loving family, at a time in history where there so many advantages and comforts. But still, life ain’t that easy, there are always challenges and difficulties to overcome and deal with.

I count it such a privilege to be able to lean on a God who is always there in the middle of the deepest, darkest extremity. I just wanted to say that.

Well, better go and jump in the taxi and survive the ride to the Embassy and then to another café that at which the internet works to send this out. One week till Helen gets here, great. 

catch you


a conference at Jinja

2012-10-31

hi there

just a brief note to let you know we are doing OK and sorry for the gap in communications. Kevin survived the extremes of South Sudan including crazy roads and more 4WD vehicles than any country he's ever been too. Met some people with real needs, many who have had to leave Sudan and become residents of a new country, South Sudan, and in the process losing just about everything.

then it's was back to Nairobi and a meeting with Helen and the team we're currently travelling with. there were 15 of us in Nairobi for 3 days and then to Uganda on Sunday and another 6 people joined us.

So right now we are a team of 21 from NZ, Australia, the UK and the USA. Makes for some interesting dialogue. We've been visiting a bunch of our partners and seeing and hearing how they operate. Interesting to see our partners here from the perspective of people who have just met them. Pretty rewarding really, they are an impressive group of people our partners and it shines through.

It's raining as we sit in the porch of the hotel doing internet stuff. We're off to Mbale today to meet Ann and Simon and the women they are working with. it will be another long day with travel and lots of interviews.

It's nice to be together again, no fun being apart. thanks for the prayer and notes, appreciate them very much. We're keeping well and enjoying what God is doing. At the same time we're pretty tired and needing a rest. roll on the holidays. Still, we've got another 5 days here then Helen flies home and Kevin heads off to the UK and USA.

love from us to you

kevin and helen


Thanksgiving

2012-11-14

The conference in Jinja went off well. The people with us were very impacted by the calibre of the people we work with and the huge issues many people face because of poverty. It’s such a tragedy to meet so many people with such tragedy in their lives. Mbale, where we sent the last blog from is an example of this. One woman got out of bed to meet us and show us her little project. She is very unwell and on an intravenous drip a lot of the time. But her children are dead and she is looking after a lot of grandchildren. Her living situation is better than some, but one wonders about how much longer she is going to be able to care for those kids.

And in the midst of all that you meet a woman like Grace. She is like a tornado of love and grace as she rips through life. People around her are blessed and encouraged. Her life has not been easy, but she is running a bakery that gives many women a little bit of income and a lot of acceptance and encouragement. Such a breath of fresh air.

After the conference finished in Jinja, 11 of us got on a bus and 8 hours landed in Lira. I say landed because we spent much of the trip in the air as we bounced along some pretty appalling roads and road works. We arrived to spend a couple of nights with our partners there and the kids they are bringing up. It was great to meet a number of the children and spend time interacting with them. On the Sunday Kevin talked to the kids and shared some Bible things to encourage them. A number of these traumatised children are currently struggling with the memories and memories of their shocking treatment at the hands of Joseph Kony and his cronies. We heard terrible stories of murder, abuse and torture from the kids as we interviewed them. It’s the first time they have allowed us to get close enough to hear some of the grim details. I cannot imagine the terror and fear they experienced. Em saw 4 of his siblings and parent murdered as a 10 year old and then another 60 adults mown down by machine guns before being tortured and dragged off by the rebels with him sole remaining sibling. He is now a leader in the house and talks about forgiveness…. Not sure that would be my response. I hope it would, but…..

After a couple of nights in Lira we drove to Entebbe and Helen returned to New Zealand. She got back safe with the rest of the team and now Kevin is with Rob Purdue in Chicago. On the way there they went through UK and spend 2 days in Bath and Bristol having meetings with donors. There are some very generous people around and it was great to be able to tell them many stories and brief them about the developments on the field and in the lives of our great friends there.

Kevin – had a great couple of nights in Chicago with friends Mike Murphy and Anita Lustrea. Mike is a guy who is able to get below the surface in conversation and I always come away from even a short time with him challenged and refreshed. While there we ate pizza and watched the Bears get beaten!!! On the Sunday Mike interviewed me at his church and we then went down into the ganglands of Chicago to see where he spends half his time. We drove along heroin alley and saw the stuff going on. It really is like the movies. Then we visited the men’s facility where many men with issues reside and talked to a bunch of them. Then we went to the women’s and youth facility and met a bunch of those guys as well. The woman in charge of the women’s facility that day had to give me a huge hug coming in and going out cause she needs to feel the spirit and you just can’t get that from a handshake. I imagine it’s a real tough place to live and serve, but what a place to be, representing the demonstrating the grace and mercy of our great God. Thanks for the insights Mike, appreciate you so much.

Since then it’s been a few meetings and a few more to go before Rob and I head off to Seattle tomorrow. It snowed on Monday night, soft powder all over the car and the ground, not quite enough to turn it into a postcard. But, last night Phil and Sue, where we are staying, put on a Thanksgiving meal. Bless them, for the 2 kiwis. It was fun chatting with our friends. There were 8 of us including some young folks we’ve known here for a few years.

Met a couple of fantastic men yesterday. One is from Jordan and we spent a lot of time working out how we become more involved there. There are significant opportunities to assist with poverty issues, helping the church become more relevant and self-sustaining. So there is a serious dialogue now underway. It is a hub country in the region with many issues to deal with. The other guy is an Egyptian and it was great to hear about how God is at work in that country, but that there are severe challenges now confronting the people of God there. It reminded me again just how important it is to come alongside local people and support and encourage them in their dreams. These young guys are very strategic in their thinking but face enormous challenges to implement their dream. It sure challenges me about my commitment to Kingdom values as I meet people like Safa and Fady.

Today, Wednesday we have a couple of meetings and then tomorrow head off to Seattle. Kevin has to speak in a church on Sunday and there are a number of meetings lined up. Then Monday it’s over to Dallas and on Wednesday next week, it’s back to New Zealand.

Helen has had some great times with Hugo since getting back. We were skyping last night and laughing about his crazy sense of humour and antics. It’s going to be a fun summer with him this hear. It’s been a full on year and we’re looking forward to a break and some downtime. Just about peopled out. Just about strung out from the travel and all the situations we’re experienced. But, our team is amazing, our friends and partners are just awesome and it’s a huge privilege to with alongside them all.
You’re part of that too and we want to thank you for your ongoing friendship and commitment to us.
Happy Thanksgiving……


Away again

2013-01-26

Hi there friends, in a sense this is a test run at this. Last year, for some reason, Get Jealous wasn't sending out alerts when we updated the blog. So, if you get this, please let us know either on the message board or on facebook.

Helen is in Brisbane as I write visting her brother and family. She had airpoints to use up. I am off to Thailand, Pakistan and Myanmar for 4 weeks later today. The year has got off to a flying start with this early trip.

I overnight in Bangkok and Monday attempt to get an express visa for Myanmar. it wil be an interesting expereince I'm sure. Everyone says it can be done, but Myanmar has become tourist destination of the month and a lot of people are going there right now.

Then Monday night I meet Fraser Scott, our Executive Director, in Bangkok and we head over to Pakistan. We have two partners there we'll visit, first time there for Fraser. The following weekend I get back to Chiang Mai and a team from a church in New Zealand arrives and we head into the bush along the Myanmar border area to build a school and some toilets. Should be an interesting time living in the local village with the people. It's part of a long term development project in this area with a group of villages. It sees us working on water and sanitiation, education, health, micro-loans and agriculture development.

Then it's back for a couple of nights in Bangkok visiting partners there and then on to Myanmar for a few days, training in micro-loans with two groups of partenrs and other discussions about developing their work.

I won't rabbit on as many might not be reading this. Hopefully Get Jealous will be running again at full tilt so you all get the update, if not, we'll have to work on an alternative.

It's going to be a busy year again so we invite you to sit back, strap on your seat belt and fly away,

blessings and best regards

Kevin and Helen


it's cold in Lahore

2013-01-30

It’s great to see that Get Jealous hasn’t let us down and you got the most recent blog. Thanks for those who sent messages and confirmed they had got it.

Helen picked a good time to be in Brisbane, rains and floods and generally stuck inside!! Oh well, can’t control the weather. The weather, that’s something very few people who don’t live in the West talk about. Either the weather hardly changes or they realise there is little point talking about it cause that won’t change anything!

Kevin got to Bangkok OK on Sunday and Monday spent the day getting a visa for Myanmar. Had to leave the hotel at 6:00 a.m. to get the skytrain, a train that runs from the airport to the centre of town. That connects to the city rail system. It’s pretty efficient and not too busy at 6:00 a.m. After a couple of switches he got to Surasak station and found the visa section of the Embassy. Bought an application form from the little shop along the road and ended up 12th in line to get in. There must have been about 200 people in the line, lucky to get there at around 7:30. Had to wait on the street till 9:00 a.m. when it opened. If it had been raining it would have been pretty miserable. But, although it threatened, it held off. So, out of there by 9:30 and hoping for a successful outcome. Got some breakfast and wandered around until he realised that it was going to be a long day wandering around until 3:30!!

Back onto the BTS (train system) and off to a big shopping centre, MBK. 5 stories of shops. Air conditioned more to the point with coffee and wi-fi. Basically spent the day hanging out there and caught up with a lot of stuff. Back to the embassy arriving at around 3:10 and this time it was near the back of the line, and it was raining, BUT, he not your ordinary idiot, by this time he had bought an umbrella. Actually, if he was really smart he would have bought about 150 of them and sold them. He had one and about 10 others and everyone tried to crowd under the 10!

Met some interesting people under the umbrella. It seems like all the travellers now want to go to Myanmar. I guess for all the wrong reasons it will be influenced by tourism. Though, if they don’t improve the process for getting a visa it might not grow real big! Oh of course, if you were organised you would apply in advance or something. Anyway, I met Japanese, Finnish, Swedish, Dutch and English and we had a nice time under my umbrella. They were fascinated that I wasn’t going to be a tourist but to help people and they had no idea about the strength of the church in Myanmar and the issues they face. Most just wanted to go get drunk on the beach!

Then it was back to the hotel, picked up the bags and out to the airport. Got there around 6:15, checked in and hung around till the plane left at 8:30. Met Fraser Scott, the BHW Executive Director at gate E3. He had been in Northern Thailand for a few days with a family from Australia who have been funding water and sanitation projects. They have done a couple and now are going to do a bunch more. So, off we went, 6 hours to Dubai and a 3 hour wait, then a 3 hour flight to Lahore and an hour of torrid fighting and scrambling to get the bags, get them through a “security” machine and then get 3 plane loads of people and luggage through a double door and out of the building. Half of Pakistan seemed to be at the airport that morning welcoming the other half who were returning from Haj. Every second person through the door got a clip around the ears from an angry policeman who didn't like people hugging each other it seemed. fortunately no-one hugged me. 

Anyway, it’s now 24 hours later and we’ve had a day of meetings with our partners. Interesting to work through the issues they are facing trying to run a business to generate local resources to help people. It’s a tough situation but Fraser was able to apply his considerable knowledge and help the guys get their feet on the ground. The next 12 months of operations will be intriguing.

After visiting the garment factory we then walked through the terrible streets of Youhanabad where we are staying. Basic is a word that comes to mind amongst a number of other adjectives. We arrived to visit at a school run by a friend of our partner. 360 kids crammed into pretty tight quarters. 16 teachers, tidy grounds, beautiful children, desperately difficult circumstances. Growing up as a minority people is very hard. The centuries of oppression have created an environment of poverty in the community that has become a mindset and a lifestyle. There is little appreciation of beauty or value on education producing hopelessness and futility. The downward spiral has robbed most people living there of dignity or big thoughts and aspirations. It’s a depressing place to live. And then you come into the school and although there is great poverty, there are also a few people with a dream to make a difference, we met some people like that in he school today. Inspirational,

We’ve got all day here and tomorrow it’s off to Islamabad by bus for a couple of days to meet our partners there. It’s cold here, almost like winter in New Zealand. They are talking about the weather. I think I prefer warm really, though cool is better than the heat we experienced here last year.

Wow, January has gone already. Next month Kevin will be 60 and the following month Helen will catch up, can’t believe where the last 60 years went. Been reminded about the brevity of life with the death of our friends Brian and Grace Johnston in Kenya. They travelled with us and 8 of their kids back around 2004 or 5. It sure made us think of the crazy roads we’ve travelled over the last few years, the near misses and other accidents we’ve come across. Such a loss those two, such an inspiration. Life is just like God says, a breath, a mist, a flower that is around for a little while and then it’s gone and then… make it a valuable one I reckon.

well, off to dinner and then to bed, an early start in the morning

 


Pakistan and TED

2013-02-03

I’ve just got back to the hotel in Chiang Mai after a couple of days of travel. A team of 10 will arrive here in 10 hours from Mt. Albert Baptist Church in Auckland. Then we’ll be off to the bush for just over a week. It was amazing, while out getting some food earlier in the evening and met really good friends from New Zealand. Some of you will know Gordon and Barbara Stewart, in Chiang Mai visiting their son and family, working here with YWAM. Small world.

Last ThursdayFraser Scott and I got the 7:30 bus from Lahore to Islamabad and were met by Azam Gill who took us home. We caught up and had lunch and at 4:30 went to Rawat to meet the sewing women and those in the adult literacy class. We presented certificates and sewing machines to a number of the women and talked to men in the adult literacy class. They were all very pleased to have received the training and asked that we continue with the sewing and that we start a computer training centre. They are keen to do that and I have asked for a proposal from them about it. Azam and Barbara would like it to be an internet café as well and for the men from the church to run it as an income generator. I think there is some merit to the idea. The adult literacy class is going well and they would like to continue it for another year. I think it’s worth it.

We then dropped Barbara at home on the way to the Kabul Restaurant and a meat meal! Then it was back to the Gills and slept in the same bed with Fraser! Scary doesn't begin to describe it!! ha.

The next morning we went to the school that Barbara has started. It’s developing nicely and the quality of teaching seems to be really high. The number of students is around 55 now and with the new intake it should reach around 80. They are really thankful for the support and generally I think this a really good investment. We then talked through their vision for the future and there are a number of things to think about.

Fraser and I played with Azam and Barbara's kids for a while Friday evening evening and then rested for an hour or so before “waking” at 12:15 a.m. Around 12:40 a.m. we headed off to the airport for the flight out of Pakistan. What came next was probably the worst airport chaos I have ever experienced. The place was total anarchy and it took almost 2 hours to get into the airport, through “security” and checked in. Then through another security check and more stamps from officials and finally into the queue for the bus the plane! Crazy stuff. The plane left pretty much on time at 3:15 and 3 hours later we landed in Dubai and Fraser had to get into another queue for at least 40 minutes to pick up another boarding pass! Then another queue for security. Anyway, I guess it was more interesting than sitting some sterile lounge.

Participating in queues in other countries is an interesting place to experience another culture. I am amazed at the patience of people who just put up with some who push in ahead of them, bully their way to the front of the line and pay off officials to take them to the front. More than one was called out that morning to the amusement of those standing around. One well-dressed woman was incensed when politely asked to go to the appropriate place in the line by a large kiwi. She sputtered and huffed and shouted until security asked her to go the same way I had indicated. Of course I smiled sweetly at to her later when standing next to her on the bus! Luckily I wasn’t sitting next to her on the plane! Ha.

Didn’t get any sleep on the 6 hour flight to Bangkok. Got to the hotel fine, cleared e-mails and slept well, 40 hours awake! Nice to talk to Helen on Sunday morning by skype and then flew off to Chiang Mai.

When preparing to go to Pakistan, and Fraser experienced this as well, many people were surprised that we would go to such a dangerous place. It got me thinking about how we form our opinions about people, especially those from other ethnicities and cultures. In western cultures we love to hear a story about someone, a personal story, not just facts and figures. The problem with that is we form our opinion of a country based on that story. We often type cast whole ethnic groups and countries on the basis of that story. So we have a picture that Africa is a hopeless case, full of poverty stricken people. Mission agencies and NGOs often contribute to this as well by picking stories that tug at our emotions to elicit a response and give money. This further reduces the listener’s capacity to get the whole picture.

Mention the word Pakistan and we imagine bombs, terrorists, Moslem extremists and suicide bombers. We met some lovely people on this trip, very generous and hospitable. And some of them were Moslem’s and one was even Taliban. The time has come for Christ followers to wake up to the world and grow up in their perceptions about what is really going on. Of course there is a Moslem extreme minority, but they are a very small percentage of the population.I think A much greater threat to Christianity is the apathy within the Christian community towards what God is doing in the world and our lack of commitment to enhancing the reputation of our master.

I was very taken by Azam and Barbara’s ability to love across the religious divide and the way they accept others and are accepted by them as friends. Most of the teachers at their Christian school are Moslems and before leaving the morning we visited they asked us to pray for them, having asked if we were Christians!

A friend sent me a link to an address given by Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian author. It is a TED presentation called “The danger of a single story.” I tried to add the link but couldn't do it in Get Jealous. But, go to Google and type TED the danger of a single story and it will come up.

Anyway, I had better get off to sleep. Not long till the team arrives and I’ll have to be at my best. I put up a few pix and will do more when I get back to civilization. I’ll be off line for about 8 days from Tuesday. Thanks for following, appreciate your prayers. Really missing my girl on this trip,

Love 
Kevin and Helen


Krey Mo Kee for 8 days

2013-02-12

Sunday the 3rd I had a quiet afternoon in Chiang Mai catching up on e-mails, laundry etc. Met Mike Mann at 7:00 a.m. Monday and then off to the airport to meet the team from Mt Albert Baptist Church. All arrived safely. Spent the rest of the morning at ITDP, coffee and orientation. Went to lunch and Chris and Sandra Joll came too, they are missionaries from Mt Albert working amongst Moslems. Currently based in Chiang Mai after living in the South for many years. Worked on stuff in the afternoon while the team was visiting Doi Suthep temple which I’ve been to before. Then out to a Moslem Chinese restaurant with Chris Joll and bed.

Tuesday we drove 8 hours to the bush. Good trip, last 2 hours was pretty dusty and those on the back were covered in dust. That evening met the villagers, had a team meeting and went to bed. Slept pretty well really for an old guy on the floor. I don’t really want to be here, but I am so I’ll have to get my attitude sorted!! Generator started at 5:00 a.m. so figured I’d get up and get going before the others all arrive.

The first day went well. The team was great and got into things. The medical team went OK as well. I was involved in pretty light work, helping with shifting things around, carrying and shovelling rocks, and spreading concrete and screeding it. Late afternoon the team was playing games and I was able to get into some partnership stuff as I’m behind on it. In the evening we had team meetings and I was able to continue doing some partnership stuff again. Wednesday night slept OK, getting used to the floor!

Thursday I worked with the team doing various jobs, laying and screeding concrete, connecting school toilets to soak-away, and carting concrete and other stuff around. The day seemed to pass quickly, fortunately. Slept OK again on the hard. Friday passed quickly too. Spent it laying bricks, plastering and unloading a truck of concrete blocks. Only two days of work left. I have to speak at church on Sunday! The evening team meetings are going OK. This village is a breeze really compared to the earlier two we have worked in.

The old body is pretty stiff and sore from the work and from lying on the floor. Every time I move the back twinges or the hips groan or the old legs are shot through with pain. They say after a few days in improves but I haven’t got there yet. I think after another 4 days on the floor I’ll need that masseur in the market in Chiang Mai.

Slept OK Friday night. Put down an extra couple of mats that were not being used. Helped a little to ease the pain! Getting up early, around 5:30 most mornings. It’s pleasant and quiet for a little while and then the dogs and people start up.

Today, Saturday we are going to work on the roof of the school. It will be good to get that up. Our plan was to do the floors, the roof and toilet for the school and some toilets in the village. Looks like we’ll get onto block laying at the school too. Started on the roof and almost finished the toilet. Also started the blocks around the classrooms.

Sunday I got up a bit later, had breakfast and went to church. Had to preach and the team did a couple of testimonies and sang a few songs. Seemed to go OK, but not sure about the interpreter. I think there is a fair bit of nominalism here like in other places. Personal salvation comes second to being born a Christian. It’s a bit of a concern the lack of Christian spontaneity and vitality. It all seems a bit routine really. Still singing out of old hymn books and following tradition. After lunch we went to Kraw lor Bur, the place we did the water project in June 2012. We walked to the source for the team to see and wandered around the village. We had a discussion about the future and they are very keen for a pre-school there. Need to have a discussion with Mike about it and take it back to NZ for Hilltribe Hope. The Upper Room might be interested in doing a school there.

On arrival back in Kree Mo Kee they had caught a 3+ metre python snake, couldn’t tell the full length cause they had cut off the head. There was great interest from the team and everyone passing by as it was skinned, chopped up and later cooked for dinner. I have to say, dinner was rather exotic with wild cat and a number of other indescribable dishes. Everyone on the team thought it was great. Not sure I would like either the snake or the cat everyday. I’ve had snake before but not but not bush-cat, at least I’ve not had it knowingly. Later that evening the local villagers came around with their crafts and sold quite a lot to the team and put on a couple of cultural items.

Slept well really on Sunday night and woke feeling pretty good around 4:45 ready for another day. Lay there till 5:30 and then crawled to of bed for the last day of work in the village. Between other things I’ve been able to sort out an outline for talking to the guys in Myanmar so happy with that. Will write up a couple of things this morning for the team debrief. The morning went quickly, I did some woodwork putting hinges on doors, built a block wall and knocked off a little early to wash my shoes so I could get them dry. The afternoon dragged a little. We really finished all we could do about 3:00 and tidied up a bit. Each afternoon except Sunday some went off to do a kids programme. The others are all over at kids programme now and it’s a little quieter around the village. I’m staying in a house beside the road so everyone goes right past. It’s raised up so it gets a pleasant breeze. It’s quite lovely in the bush, though the motorbikes roar past disturbing the calm.

Kyaw Htay is an interesting old guy living in the village with his family. He’s about 60 years old though looks a lot older. He’s from Myanmar and the story goes that he fought against the Burmese army for 18 years. From the stories it appears that about 40 years ago he helped rescue and evacuate 3 Westerners from an army camp in Burma and brought them to Thailand. One of the men gave him a heart shaped dogtag with the shape of a key cut out of it which he still has. Another story goes that he went to the US for 3 months to train US army in some kind of warfare! He is a real clown, dressing up like a local peasant, dancing and cavorting around playing his little horn. He’s married to a wife 20 years his junior and she had 12 kids, only 6 have survived the rigours of living in this part of the hill country.

Slept really well on Monday night. I had less padding too as Mike Mann had come back and I was using a couple of his blankets. It’s true, the body does get used to hard beds. There was a ferocious thunderstorm and downpour yesterday around 5:00. The guys were pretty scared of the thunder. I got up at 5:00 am having gone to bed around 9:30 and feel really good. Might try this going to bed early and getting up early when I get home. We’re leaving at 7:30 for the 8 hours travel back to Chiang Mai. We plan to stop over in Ma Oh Jo for an hour to check out the school there on the way.

7 nights sleeping on the floor, not my idea of an ideal scenario. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m back in Chiang Mai. The team is off riding elephants and I’m catching up on e-mails. Whose idea was it to be out of touch for 8 days! Slept a little in the comfortable bed, I think I’m used to the floor now. Soon we’ll be having a team debrief, one more night here and tomorrow off to Bangkok.

It’s been an interesting part of the journey, seeing the team grapple with issues of coming face to face with poverty and injustice and asking a few questions here and there. Life in that area is very hard, I cannot imagine living there myself!  But the Christians are very determined to make a difference for their young people and their village, it’s inspiring to be part of it with them.

Managed to skpye Helen this morning. Missing each other a lot and not happy about all the time we are apart. 

love and best regards

kevin and helen


Myanmar

2013-02-17

Wow, almost a week has gone by, where did it go?

I’m currently in Myanmar having survived the Mt Albert Baptist team. Actually, they were an awesome bunch of people, very interested in what is happening in the highlands of Thailand, passionate about what God is doing there and wanting to be where God is at work.

After getting back to Chiang Mai we had a quiet day then on to Bangkok. Over the two days there we visited 3 BHW partnerships: Rahab – a group of people who develop friendships with the 4,000 girls who work in the bars for the “pleasure” of Western creeps and Chuen Jit – a lovely woman who lives with and works in boys remand homes, helping them become reintegrated into society after “time out.” It’s inspiring stuff really, really hard work, nothing glamorous about it…. but changing lives, giving hope to people and setting them free.

Friday evening the team left for New Zealand and on Saturday I flew over to Myanmar. 4 days and 5 nights here. I spent Sunday with one of our partners. Visited around his community meeting people, something we couldn’t do a year ago. Went to church and talked about plans for the future. There are a lot of things changing in Myanmar, obvious in one day:

I’m sure there are many other deeper changes as well but a few other things I noticed:

The next 3 days are full of meetings about partnership issues. Quite a lot to work on with micro-loan programmes to set up and some decisions to make about the direction of a couple of existing projects. There is new stuff to work on as well.

Helen has spent the weekend with friends in Hamilton, I’m sure there was plenty of mischief and laughter at the McConnell home. Not sure if Dave survived it! 

Well, it’s about time to head off to Hmawbi (pr Mobi) for the day. It’s supposed to be 37o today with high humidity, and it’s still 2 months till the hot season! I’ve uploaded a few pix as well for you to check out.
Love,
Kevin and Helen


home and 60

2013-02-26

The time in Myanmar passed quickly. On Monday last week I spent the day talking with friends about the establishment of a micro-loan programme. It was good to see what they have learned since the last time I was here. So, we made plans, discussed issues and then we agreed to start something there. It will be a pilot project for a year and then we'll look at ways to gorw it wider.

Tuesday was more of the same in some ways. A smaller group of people gathered to decide how the project will be set up. Again, it will be pilot to test the details of the project. While with this group, I also heard other stories from projects we had previously established with them. You know, it's really hard to make a living in Myanmar. The costs are not controlled, but the sale prices are by the big businessment (mafia) and other community "leaders" so they get all the advantages. Small scale projects often fail, but usually it's not because of the failure of the project, factors out of their control usually cripple them.

It's really sad when you hear stories of failure that have nothing to do with the ability of those running them. In one, the chicken project was burned by a wildfire and they have not been able to get it going again. In another, floods and then drought destroyed crops. On one occasion the local community leader didn't like the project because they had not been paid a backhander so none of the people in the community were allowed to work for our partner to plant their rice on time. It's tough and our freinds have huge tenacity.

Wednesday i spent time interviewing a group of people who are in hard places establishing God's kingdom. I heard stories of great poverty being helped and lives changed, of students being helped to learn English, of kids being taken into homes to be adopted, of famine areas receiving food aid and of many vulnerable kids being loved and interventions being made. It was all very moving. These people are giving their lives for the sake of the underprivileged.....

Thursday, early I made it to the airport in time to start the trip home. A one hour flight and then a 7 hour wait in Bangkok. Then 11 hours overnight back to Auckland. It was great to be home again. This trip seemed to drag on and I really missed home.

Then, the parties began! Not really, but you can't ignore 60 can you. Over the weekend a number of folks got together to celebrate the 120 years Helen and I have been here on earth. Where did they go. It was my birthday on Sunday and Helen's is in a couple of weeks. Jared and Ruthie and Sara and Karl put on the party, it was cool to spend time with good friends on Saturday evening. Then it was speaking at church Sunday and another get together with family at my mum's place on Sunday afternoon. 60 is really tiring!

So, what next? Well, no change really. There is still much to do, many places to go and a lot of reports still to write. But we love what we're doing, we want to continue as long as we are able. The role is changing, a lot more mentoring and after this year, a lot less traveling, we hope.

Kevin heads off in early May to the USA and Africa but before then we have:

So friends, there is plenty to do here as well as out there in other countries. No rest for the oldies. Thanks for being there for us. We really appreciate you and your interst in what we're doing.

God bless you and asante sana (Swahili)

Helen and Kevin

p.s. might be a few pix to check out too

 


60 x 2

2013-03-10

Bewteen us we have lived on the earth for 120 years! ha, lol, :).

It's Helen's birthday today and we've had a couple of weeks sharing with friends and family. All good, we are so blessed by our awesome family and awesome friends. Thanks for be there for us and being encouragers.

After the party a couple of weeks ago Kevin has been catching up on reports from the trip, 2 to go. Then a couple of friends came for the weekend and we had a day out on the Hauraki Gulf with friends of Bright Hope World. The launch took 13 of us out to Kawau Island, the seat of the first European Governor of New Zealand. We wandered around for a couple of hours and then went back and had an extended lunch and chat on the boat. It was a good time to catch up and share a little more of the vision of partnering with key people in developing countries. 

Then an hour back to the marina and home, we are privileged to live in a beautiful part of the world. Thanks to Murray Thatcher for generously providing his beautiful boat and John and Carol McConnell for the food and catering. 

Since then it was meetings around Auckland, looking after our grandson Hugo, writing reports and preparing for the upcoming trips. It's amazing how much time that takes.

Last Saturday we left home again for 2 weeks. We had a meeting in Onga Onga Saturday evening with friends from St Andrews church, Central Hawkes Bay. Then Sunday morning we caught some chickens and forced our way through the Chiang Mai, Thai market in the foyer of the church and spoke twice to their two services.

Sunday afternoon we drove to Parapraumu and spent the evening with Matt and Judy O'Byrne. They are taking on a role with Bright Hope World in Uganda. We talked through all the partnerships and we handed over a lot of information. 

Monday we woke to a gorgeous morning, Helen's birthday. yeeehaaa, she joins me in the next decade. In a few minutes we'll leave Paraparaumu and head towards Wellington for a birthday lunch and then to James and Nicki-Rees Thomas's place for the next 2 nights. We've got a meeting with the Anchor church tonight. They have been partnering with us in India and Myanmar.

Then it's over to Christchurch on Wednesday and meetings for the rest of the week. We're going to have a 5 day break next week in the South Island and recharge the old batteries, they are a lot older now of course! Someone has leant us a car and accommodation, we have awesome friends, have i said that before!

So friends, there is a lot going on. We are mindful of our friends in Kenya who are rejoicing over a reasonably safe election process. We are also mindful of our Chrstian freinds and family in Pakistan who have been totally shocked by the wholesale looting of homes and business by criminals and thugs. It has caused a lot of fear and we pray for their safety.

And we thank you for being on the road with us

Love and blessings

Helen and Kevin


Celebrations go on

2013-04-08

It seems like the party has been going on and on. The turning 60 celebrations have continued for weeks. After the party in Auckland that the kids put on we then headed South to Levin. On the way we stopped off in the Hawkes Bay for a church meeting and then to Wellington for more meetings and then on to Christchurch. Our friend Rob Purdue had a significant birthday as well so it seemed like another party. We then had a few days break in the South Island and were able to catch up with one of Helen's aunts. She is the last of Helen's father's siblings left alive so it was nice to catch up with her. 

Then it was back to Levin for a couple of nights and a party with some old friends and meetings at the church we used to be part of. Then, after nearly 3 weeks we got back to Auckland. For a day or too anyway. Last weekend we headed off back to Levin. Last year Helen's brother Darcy died. Last Sunday would have been his 50th birthday. So 6 of the 7 remaining siblings came together (one was sick) and buried Darcy's ashes and spent some time together. We spent a few extra days in Levin catching up with a few more people. So it's been parties and people.

Between all the moving around and celebrations it's been full on organising the rest of the year. It's going to be a busy one and as it's only 4 weeks till Kevin heads off again to the US and Africa, we thought we should touch base.

tomorrow we have two couples coming here from the USA and we're travelling with them to Rotorua for 3 days. It will be good to spend some time with them. Right about now they will be getting on a plane from Dallas / Fort Worth in Texas. They are from a church we work with and we've travelled with them in Africa quite often. Then the following week we go to Christchurch again for a weekend with our NZ based team. There will be about 30 of us all up. So that will be great and a lot of fun as well as hearing a lot of stories.

Its always great to spend time with our kids and Hugo our grandson when we are in NZ. Hugo has lots of energy and keeps us running and laughing...he is lots of fun! Next month we are looking forward to Jared and Ruth's new baby ....and then Sara and Karl's baby joins the family in September....

We continue to hear stories of transformation from the various places we are focusing on. Some areas of concern are the on-going attacks on Christians in Pakistan, the unsettling effect of the elections in Kenya - I think tomorrow the new President is being inaugurated, and the upcoming elections in Zimbabwe. Our friends there are very concerned as electioneering has begun.

So we continue to plan and prepare for the various events coming up. a report to the team at the gathering of our team, 4 messages in a weekend for the church in Dallas, training and orientation for the team in Dallas who are coming to Kenya in July, seminar in Melbourne on the way home from Africa and training in Sydney for a team coming to Uganda in August. And Heather at the office is on my case to get more write ups and reports on the website!!! She's lovely, really! 

So friends, we're really excited about the next few weeks and what God is up to in the lives of our partners. As I'm writing this I'm conversing with friends in Uganda and South Sudan, the USA, Kenya and Pakistan. So it's fun to wake up each day not quite knowing where we will be in the world that day.

We appreciate your love and interest and look forward to staying in touch

love and best regards

Kevin and Helen  

 

 

 


The family grows

2013-05-06

My goodness, a month has gone by and you've not heard from us. Apologies. Won't be a long note but a few things to report on. The last month has been pretty full on so here's a review of the action:

  1. We hosted our friends from the US and took them to Rotorua for a couple of days. We were proud to show off a little part of our beautiful country to friends. It truly is a gorgeous place.
  2. We then headed off to the South Island for meetings at the BHW office and a weekend with our awesome Bright Hope field team. We basically told stories all weekend about what is going on out there with our partners. It was such a great time and I am so proud to be on the team with such awesome people.
  3. Then it was down to Tauranga to visit our daughter Sara and Karl. Got the news while there that Sara's baby, due in September, is a girl...... ye ha, nanny and pop are rapt. While there we painted a ceiling and did a few other little jobs. The weather was amazing.
  4. Then, the big event, we welcomed a new little Honore into the world. Jared and Ruth had a son, Joel Bruce Kerry Cullen Honore. 7 pound 7 ounces and 3 1/2 weeks early.
  5. Kevin had a couple of days with two mates out on the Hauraki Gulf. We talked a lot and caught a lot of fish.
  6. Tomorrow,  Tuesday, Kevin heads off on the next trip for the year, number 2 of 5! First it's over to Dallas for some meetings, then 4 days in Kenya, 3 days in Ethiopia with leaders from the church in Dallas and then back to Australia for some more meetings. 19 days away and right around the world.

So, here we go again. Be great if you are able to tag along, Kevin will try to write up as many stories as he can so you get to meet some of the people he meets along the way.

 Thank you team for being there with us

Kevin and Helen


ROUND THE WORLD IN 17 DAYS....

2013-05-16

it's early morning in Nairobi and the clty is waking up. I've been awake most of the night, the hazards of a quick trip. Later today I head off to Ethiopia. At least it's a similar timezone.I am traveling with Jeff, Tyrone and Ed from Chase Oaks Church in Dallas, Texas. We're videoing some of our partners. The last 2 days it's been kids singing. They were amazing.Since leaving home on the 8th I have flown to Dallas, met with a team that is coming to Kenya later in the year, met with another church that is thinking about helping in Uganda, spent some time with the missions team of another church about partnership and preached at 4 services over the weekend. Then Monday flew frm Dallas to Nairobi. Good to get an upgrade on the 14 hour leg to Dubai. Bad to get a virus in my computer!Heien has been busy with family. mainly helping Ruth with little baby Joel. Evidently he's growing well. Sara came to visit too so that was great.sorry about any spelling mistakes in here, I'm doing it on a little smart phone and my thumb is getting tired! Really appreciate your interest and prayer on this trip. It's pretty grueling and little sleep ain't that easy to deal with.Love and Asante Sana from Kenya. Kevin and Helen


sober

2013-06-01

Last time you heard from us Kevin was in Nairobi typing an update on his little smart phone. If you have saw the size of his thumb and the size of the keys you would understand the value of that last blog!!

I survived the rigours of videoing kids in Nairobi, my word they were active little guys with such lovely voices and rhythm. It was great to see and hear them and to see the work being done by or partners there. We heard many stories of lives in the process of transformation.

Then I flew off to Ethiopia for 3 days with the guys from Chase Oaks Church. We visited Worku and those benefitting from the partnership he coordinates. We couldn’t get around everyone but met about 100 widows and vulnerable people who are victims of a savage society and who find themselves on the streets.

Himanot is just 15 and at school. Her grandmother was part of the widows feeding programme. Last year she died leaving Himanot alone. What becomes of a beautiful 15 year old girl left to fend for herself? Himanot is now part of the programme and now they are trying to find a family who will keep an eye out for her and befriend her. It’s worth it for these sorts of people.

Then we visited 10 blind kids who have learned Braille and now going to normal school. All of them were born with sight but have lost it at some time. Now they are at the top of their classes and really proud of themselves. Good on you guys.

Finally the school that is being built. It’s purpose is to generate income in Ethiopia so the work can continue without support from outside the country. More delays, but what a great location and a beautiful building emerging from the rock. It will have hundreds of students sometime in the future. The first stage will have 13 classrooms for a secondary school, then another 15 classrooms. Following that a kindergarten and finally a primary school. Wow, what a vision by Worku Tafete.

Then the long haul back to Sydney, Australia. Hopefully my computer would be fixed, sadly not. So, I borrowed a computer and got my presentation for Melbourne sorted. Had meetings with a team coming to Uganda later in the year and spent a few hours fishing in Botany Bay…. A lot of fishing but not much catching!

Then on to Melbourne and a seminar with church leaders from all over Australia, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and even Tasmania. Met some good people, one guy I first met in New Zealand about 40 years ago.

Then home to Helen and the family. Hugo is still full of beans, Joel is growing like a mushroom and Sara is blooming too, another grandchild in September. Helen spent quite a lot of time while I was away with the family; it’s lovely she can do that. I (Kevin) get the feeling it’s going to be hard to get her away so much in the future!

Oh, and I got my computer fixed and lost no data!!

This is a crazy year for travel. But, next year it’s going to cut back. Shorter trips less costs and a great team taking over from us. We’re still looking for some more people to join our team and are on the hunt!

Since coming back I’ve been reminded of the brutality of the world we live in, especially for the most vulnerable. I have had 3 reminders the last 2 days of this. A friend sent me an article about the brutality going on in Syria where the rebels have slaughtered women and children in a Christian village. The piles of children’s bodies made me weep. That dispute has become much more than rebels trying to overthrow the government. It’s become an excuse for thugs and murderers to commit atrocities.

A friend in Pakistan sent stories of young Christians and the issues they face as a minority, denied access to education and employment, beaten, raped and tortured. And this morning from India, stories of little children, again beaten and killed because their parents are Christians. And hardly anyone cares and when the story comes out no one seems to do anything. Truly this is a corrupt and brutal world. These events remind me of the caliber of the people we partner with who are intervening in these sorts of issues.

I salute you my friends as you put your skin in the game and your lives at risk to defend the poor and vulnerable in the name of the God of Justice.

Sober thoughts today……

It’s only 10 days until Kevin heads off again…. More to come


Africa calling

2013-06-10

I don’t really want to, but it’s time to start thinking about leaving on Thursday as it’s only 3 days away. Actually, it’s been hard not to think about the next trip as there have been a number of issues to deal with related to getting away. The main issues relate to Mozambique. Last time I just turned up at the border and they gave me a visa, but this time…. Oh no. Our partners in the capital Maputo aren’t there so I’m bypassing it. That’s where the hassles started. If I’d flown in there it would have been OK. But as I’m now flying into Nampula in the north, I have to have a visa. So, off to London with the application and nearly $500 dollars later they turn it down because the person I’m visiting hasn’t given me the street number of their house! Everyone in Mozambique has a street address the embassy guy says. I wonder when he was last in Mozambique! Most haven’t even got a street address let alone a number!

I’ve had 5 flight changes on Mozambique flights since booking them and I only have 2 flights! Whether I’ll actually get to leave the place will be interesting. Chances are I’ll get to the airport and find the plane left yesterday.

So, Thursday looms and then it’s off to Zimbabwe. The coming elections aren’t going to be happening while I’m there so electioneering isn’t yet as vigorous as we were expecting. However, my friends there are still nervous about me coming and I’ll have to keep a low profile. So it’s a week in Zimbabwe around Harare and then Bulawayo by bus.
After that it’s a weekend in Johannesburg on the way to a week in the north of Mozambique. I’m watching the news and just hoping that Nelson Mandela doesn’t die during this time as that event could close the country down.

At the end of the month I arrive in Nairobi and John Vlaming and Jerry Field from NZ arrive. We then spend about 12 days visiting partners in Kenya and Uganda promoting and training people in Foundations for Farming methods and talking about mindsets. These guys will be developing this programme in the future and this is a visit to connect them with our friends there so there are strong relationships underpinning the work they do.
On the 11th July, Helen arrives in Kenya and we spend 6 weeks together in both Kenya and Uganda. We’ll be visiting partners and hosting two teams. We’ll have 18 people from the USA for 10 days in Kenya. They’ll be painting a school and running programmes with a bunch of kids just outside Nairobi. Then a bit later we’ll have a team from Australia here, 8 people from a church. They’ll be building desks and furniture for a school and doing kids programmes just outside Kampala in a rural village.

As well as this we’ll be visiting all out partners with Matt and Judy O’Byrne. They are taking over the oversight of Uganda partnerships so we’ll be introducing them to all of our friends there.

So, plenty to do and places to go. Around the 19th August Helen will head back to NZ and I’m off to Armenia for a week with Ross Bunyon from Australia. Not sure what to expect there. It’s new territory for us but it sounds like an interesting place. Is there poverty there? What sort of poverty? What is the state of the church? What’s God doing there? Can we assist or would it be impossible?

The more I think about leaving the less I want to go really. It’s not a lot of fun saying goodbye for a month. It will be OK once we get underway, but till then it’s like waiting for something dreadful to happen.

Not easy to say goodbye to Jared and Ruth, Hugo and Joel either. We have a lot of fun we do. And with Sara and Karl coming up to the birth of their 1st baby I’m just hoping we don’t miss any major events! Sara would kill me! More than once!

Last week we had a quick trip to Levin to the funeral of a good friend, Bill Crighton. Bill was 96 years old and lived a full life. My goodness, what an interesting guy and what a huge influence he had. We remember many hilarious things from camps at Waikanae and Forest Lakes. We learned a lot about ministry, youth work and had many adventures. He left a very positive legacy, thanks Bill. His life is a challenge to live life well to finish well too.

Mmm, a lot of people to see and places to go. The plan is to keep you up to date regularly. I’ll try to get a few pictures up as we go along. I’ve started by loading a few from the last

trip. Hope you enjoy. Kevin and Helen


Zimbabwe

2013-06-22

Wednesday, it’s freezing in Bulawayo this morning. I’m having trouble getting my fingers to work. It’s 7:00 a.m. and the 17 kids have all gone off to school. The team and staff will be starting their chores in a while after prayers and breakfast. The goats will be let out, the steers and cow released for the day and the week old chickens are all huddling together under the brazier burning in their little enclosure. I’m at a centre that cares for a bunch of kids from a little rural community 25 kms outside the city. As usual, there are few people this far out of town doing much to develop communities.

I don’t think I’ve met a more focussed group of people as Gideon, Jennifer and their team. This community is very poor. Yesterday I heard stories from kids about how cold and hungry they are at night. And I snuggled under 3 duvets on a soft bed and went to sleep. I wonder how well they slept last night, and last night and for the next month before it starts to warm up a bit at night.

But these guys I’m with are doing a fantastic job in very trying circumstances. I cannot imagine how they are able to maintain their faith and commitment when they have nothing in terms of economics. Last night I spent a couple of hours listening to stories of miracle after miracle of the way God provided for them and the kids. Very inspiring. Very challenging. Am I getting too old for that kind of trust in God? It's very radical.

It’s been an interesting week. The flight to Zimbabwe from New Zealand was long but I popped a couple of sleeping tablets on the flight from Brisbane to Dubai and must have slept for about 7 hours. That makes the 14 hour flight seem a lot shorter. My friends in Harare were there to meet me and we had 4 good days.

Saturday we spent the day at the farm being developed as an income generator. It’s a nice piece of land and our partners have good plans coming together. We had a tyre blowout on the way but had that fixed pretty quickly. We ate huge amounts of meat that day, well, what else do you eat on a farm….. veggies!

They are such hard workers with a passion to make a difference in their country and in God’s kingdom. Three brothers and their families have this mission and work hard to make it happen. They are such different characters and such fun to be around.

This country is plagued by politics and it tries to get it’s power hungry fingers into everything. Victor has had huge issues trying to help people because every time they try, one party accuses them of being political. The politicians and their cronies see the poor as a group that can be bought with a few promises. They troll the countryside promising help to get votes and it becomes very ugly. In the process the poor are further abused and mistreated. Of course those with nouse understand what is happening, but in their scepticism can reject even genuine opportunities. However, we think they have come up with a new plan that could work.

Sunday I went to church with the family and 4 hours later escaped having had to speak, along with about 10 others! We spent the afternoon and evening talking about the new plans for the work.

Monday I spent the morning visiting a couple of places related to the farm and picked up a part for the charger on my computer. We also travelled to Norton, 45 minutes out of Harare to see the computer centre set up about 3 years ago.

Tuesday morning I boarded a bus for Bulawayo and 6 hours later arrived. My friends there were waiting and we headed out to where they are working in the country. It’s gold country; there is a huge mine just down the road. It’s also extremely rocky and dry. There is a lot of illegal gold-panning going on. The mine employs very few locals, their greatest contribution to the community appears to be the spread of HIV/AIDS. The team are doing a huge job of working with the community to address the big issues. These are local Zimbabweans who have been here for more than 10 years and only now are they gaining traction at the heart level.

I am totally impressed by what I found out in the villages today. These guys have probably the best community development thing going on that I have ever seen. They are feeding a bunch of kids who are extremely vulnerable, they have renovated two local dams and are growing gardens alongside them, they have renovated a cattle dip, they have a goat loan programme for vulnerable families in the community and another goat loan programme for vulnerable orphans and their families, a home with 16 very vulnerable kids and a programme training local communities in conservation farming methods. They have engaged the community so they make the decisions and determine the priorities. Along with that, many people have become Christ followers and you know, these local guys whose lives have been transformed are leading the change in the own communities.

Totally impressive to see God's people at work like this. I’ve got the feeling we’ll be back here more than once in future.

Friday, I managed to fly to Johannesburg and am having a bit of a break for the weekend. Helen and I were able to skype a couple of times, nice to be in touch after a week without contact. She’s got a really sore back and headaches, it’s no fun being apart when you’re not feeling well. She’ll visit the osteo and the doc next week.

I’ll not be in touch again for a week. Monday I head off to Mozambique. I’ve put in a few pix for you to look at.  Until then,

God bless
Kevin and Helen


hanging out in Mozambique

2013-06-28

8 hours waiting in Beira airport….. there must be better ways to spend a day, I can think of quite a few. My tickets were changed and instead of leaving at 11:30 am for a 45 minute flight north from Nampula to Pemba I had to leave at 7:00 am and fly an hour south, wait 8 hours and then fly 2 hours north to Pemba. So here I sit, it’s not like there is a lot of activity to look at and there certainly ain’t much to eat!

Anyway, this isn’t about travel and complaints, it’s about the people I met. And it’s been interesting out in the coastal town of Angoche with our friends. The most interesting thing was to visit a little village about 7 km from Angoche. It’s called Praia Nova – new beach. The people here were all shifted from an island when it started to wash away. The islands and most of the coast here are all sand. Anyway, the government resettled the people onto the mainland a few years ago and built a school for the kids.

Many of these people became followers of Isa – Jesus – some years ago. Once they worshipped a different prophet and a different God. Now life is different, better, much better. Gone is the fear, the darkness and superstition. Replacing it are peace, strong relationships, faithfulness, freedom, literacy and economic development.

We sat under a large tree on the sand and sang, recited liturgies they have learned (very helpful when few can read their own language and there is not a lot of the Bible in the Koti language,) listened to me for a few minutes and prayed, sheeesh they prayed. We then played a few games with the kids and prayed for one little guy who was down with malaria!

It was kind of strange, kind of amazing really! No trappings, all extras stripped away, just us and God and heaps of people watching on. The group is growing slowly, people keep asking what they are doing and why? And when they find out the join the group…. pretty cool really. A bit like the Book of Acts I guess. And people are healed, regularly. There are two literacy classes in the village cause on one can read the Koti language, most can’t read at all. So the reading is really important for these people.

Another day I attended the training for the group we are working with. They come from all around the place every Wednesday for training. They then head back home and teach what they have learned. The teacher is one week ahead of his flock! And it continues to grow. 3 years ago they were in 2 districts, now it’s 4 and they have sent people 100s of kms north to a different people group to share the same good news. One guy I met cycles 240 kms a week on rough sandy roads to visit 3 distant villages and teach them. The commitment is way up there in this place.

There are two farms that vulnerable women go and work on every year at cultivating time. So far 30 of them have been doing this. On the 1st farm 20 women go each year. Last year they were able to go and set up for the coming season without any financial help. They are making enough now to becoming self-sustaining. It’s pretty cool really. I talked to one guy whose wife is involved and she has grown more than 20 sacks of rice. That makes a huge difference for a family. He proudly told me that he now goes to help as well when he’s not fishing and they can send their kids to school easily. Wow.

As I travel I’m reading a book called “Toxic Charity” Robert Lupton. If there was a book I wish I’d written it would have to be that one (there are a few books like that actually but his is the latest.) It captures pretty much the issues have to deal with in Bright Hope World. It’s just so hard to get the balances right between mercy and justice. He has a very helpful chapter about that – chapter 3.

If I was to be really hard on myself, I think I still largely struggle with this. It’s really hard in the face of the poor, when they are knocking at the door begging for help to say no. one of our partners just about 2 weeks ago warned me that we must not do it, citing the number of times she had been ripped off with stories that were simply lies.

Tonight I’ll be in Pemba, it’s a beautiful coastal town in the north of Mozambique. It’s well known for it’s beautiful beaches, fishing and diving. I’m not expecting to be doing much of that I’m afraid! 

Helen hasn't been well but is now improving. this weekend she is running a baby shower for our daughter on Saturday. Sara is due in September so the is going to be a lot of fun and games.  Helen's voice, which had disappeared is coming back so she's happy about that!

lots of love and thanks

Kevin and Helen


more uses for a plastic bag!

2013-07-04

Helen is in Tauranga this weekend with Sara and Karl. She’s organising a 2nd baby shower for Sara as many of her friends couldn’t be at the one in Auckland. They’ll be having a lot of fun I imagine! No, can’t imagine being there really, I’ve never been to one, no guys allowed.

Yesterday we (John Vlaming, Jerry Field, Francis Kamau and I) were walking through another slum in Nairobi, Makuru Kayaba. More than 50% of the population of this large city live in slums. He showed us where he grew up, he took us to the house where he spent 10 years of his youth, where his mother died and where he has chosen to return.

After growing up there he managed to leave the place. He lived in Russia for a while and the Ukraine but found himself married to an American woman, owning his own house, with 2 kids and a managing a large budget work amongst the poor in urban America. His dream had been realised, until one day they sold it all up and shifted to Zambia to serve God amongst vulnerable children. That’s where we met him. After being there for a number of years they shifted to Nairobi, now it was time to come home, to serve the people he grew up amongst.

This is a close community. I mean we could hardly fit between the buildings. I don’t think it’s as bad as Mathare slum, but I think it’s closer. There is not one second of privacy in a place like this. There are many uses I’m sure for a plastic shopping bag but I discovered a new one there, a toilet. So you just poop in the bag and in the morning throw it in the river! (I can’t believe I wrote that.)

He made a number of statements I will remember. The one that struck me went something like this. When asked what made the transformation in his life, the catalyst for that kind of change he said, “no one came to me with a bag of clothes or food, someone gave me Christ and that was enough for me.” From that moment on, and living in the slum for another 8 years as a teenager he had no doubt that he was a child of God. And even though he had no father, he was not defined by the place he lived in and what he didn’t have, he was defined by his relationship with God.

Friends, I think that’s what it’s all about, transformation at the heart level not just a change of external circumstances or some aid that breeds dependency.

Since last blog it’s been a bit of a whirlwind:

So today, it’s over to West Kenya. We fly to Kisumu for a couple of nights and then it’s on to Uganda on Sunday for a few days.

Next Thursday I get back to Nairobi and Helen flies in from New Zealand, only 6 days and we’re back together. We both hate this being apart thing. This is the last year I keep telling myself,

So, there’s a lot going on and we value your prayer. We’ve got a lot of km to travel in the next week, driving on some pretty crazy roads, borders to cross, visas to get and connections to make.

Thanks for being with us in all this, it’s very special.
Asante sana from Nairobi
Kevin and Helen


Farming

2013-07-10

As I write this Helen will be leaving New Zealand on the way to Kenya. Yeeehaaa, after a month apart it will be nice to be back together again. It will take her about 30 hours of travel to get here, knowing her she’ll get an upgrade!

I’m in Uganda having flown across to West Kenya on Friday. Jerry, John and I have had more than a week of training and talking to people about Foundations for Farming. You can check it out on the Bright Hope World website. It’s been really interesting listening to the issues people face trying to change their agricultural practices. The people are poor and growing worse and worse crops every year and continue to do the same every year. The government agricultural officers sit around in offices and do nothing. It’s an appalling waste of resources, time and energy. It’s been great to see the lights go on for some people. I’ve included a few photos for you to see.

Friday we flew to Kisumu and had a slight glitch so spent the day catching up and making plans for the future. The plan is that John will start becoming more involved in moving around, motivating and training our partners. So we’re developing a plan for each of them and for him. Already we’ll have him in Zimbabwe in 3 locations, Zambia in 13 locations, Kenya in 6 locations, Uganda in 4 locations and South Sudan in 2 locations. Then there are other partners in some of those countries to get around and new opportunities in Ethiopia, Burundi and Tanzania to develop so, he’s going to be a busy boy is our John!

Saturday we spent with a partner just outside Kisumu with a nice amount of land to develop.

Sunday we crossed the equator and stopped for the obligatory photo, then crossed the border to Uganda and spent the afternoon talking to our Busia partners. They have a large micro-loan programme and the farming training is really needed.

Monday we jumped into a local mini-bus for the 2 hour trip to Jinja. We passed one bus on fire and an empty fuel tanker on its side so it was fairly typical and uneventful. Oh yea, on the weekend we came across a truck in the main street of Kisumu with a 40’ container on it lying on its side in the street. It had just happened, the wheels were still turning. One wonders how it’s possible. They were carting an injured guy away and 100s of people were climbing over the vehicle.

Monday afternoon and evening and all day Tuesday we spent train 12 people from 4 locations, 3 in Uganda and 1 from South Sudan. It was encouraging to hear their stories and help them take new steps. The average African farmer produces less than 1 tonne per hectare of maize. We reckon they can get it to at least 6 tonnes per hectare, probably more over time. And we reckon that churches have the network to roll out this sort of thinking. The biggest problem we face is the pastors of the churches.

So now it’s Wednesday and it’s a quieter day. We’ll meet our partner here for a few minutes then drive the 2 ½ hours to Entebbe. John, Jerry and I will spend the afternoon debriefing and then tomorrow morning we fly out. John and Jerry on to Zambia and me to Kenya. I’ve got some meetings in the afternoon and the around 6:00 p.m. Helen flies in. We’ll not have much time to catch our breath though, Friday evening we have 18 peeps from the USA flying in and it’s into tour guide mode.

Bye from a pleasantly warm Jinja, the Source of the Nile.
Love
Kevin and Helen.


The time is right

2013-07-21

My goodness, where did the last week and a half go! Apologies for the delay in writing, it’s been a crazy few days.

Kevin got back from Uganda to Kenya OK and John and Jerry headed off to Zambia. Helen arrived in Kenya and after a 1 day recovery, the team from Chase Oaks Church, Dallas, Texas arrived, all 18 of them. The last week has been full on leading that team. Some of the highlights include: 

We were there for a week and yesterday pulled out of Tala at 10:00 am and came to visit our partners in the Mathare Valley (read one of the worst slums in the world.) This place still disturbs and impacts people. The team walked down through the Valley and visited a number of families. It was a VERY quiet bus trip after that as we went out to lunch around 3:30.

After lunch we headed past the Maasai Market and out to the airport. One of the girls had injured her foot so we had a bit of sorting out to do with tickets etc. But they all left and the last thing I saw on facebook was that they had arrived in Amsterdam.

So for us, we have 2 sleeps here in Nairobi. Tomorrow it’s over to Entebbe and the next chapter begins. Matt and Judy O’Byrne arrive about the same time as us and we spend 2 ½ weeks visiting all our partners around Uganda. This will mean a lot of kms on local buses and lots of talking. We are handing over to Matt and Judy the on-going development of the partnerships so it will be a little sad as well, we won’t be through here so often in the future. We have a lot of very good friends there, people we have done a lot of years and hard yards with. But, the time is right.

It was great to skype our daughter Sara this morning, we really miss home, especially on rest days.
So friends, we appreciate your on-going interest, we’ve thrown a bunch of new pix on as well for you to look at.

love 
Kevin and Helen


computer lost

2013-07-27

Last Monday we flew from Nairobi to Entebbe in Uganda. It’s only a 2 hour flight and there were no dramas. We had to wait about an hour in line to get a visa. I don’t know why in a small airport with only about 10 flights a day they have to schedule 3 at the same time. Anyway, we got out OK, picked up our bags and got to the hotel by Lake Victoria. About 30 minutes later we met up with our friends Matt and Judy O’Byrne. They are travelling with us for the next 3 weeks.

We are in the process of handing over our work to a group of people and Matt and Judy are picking up Uganda. This trip with them is largely to introduce them to our partners and make the face to face transition. It’s an exciting time for us as other come into the development of the Bright Hope World field.

We spent Tuesday relaxing a bit and briefing about the partners and the schedule. It’s going to be a bit of a trek. We have 6 existing partners to visit, about 10 projects to look at, a new project with an existing partner and 2 new partners to meet. So it’s going to be full on. Along with that there will be 10 local bus trips and a number of motorbike rides.

Wednesday was overshadowed by the loss of Kevin’s computer. Somewhere, somehow between the hotel, a 45 minute trip to the bus, a brief transfer of luggage from the small bus to the main bus the computer disappeared. Dropped, stolen, who knows. All we know it was gone. It’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of a lot of reports and information from this trip. It’s pretty gutting really. It means there will be hours of time not able to use efficiently while travelling. Hours of time on buses without being able to write and record. So, we‘re trying to work out how to get another computer from NZ to Uganda!

The bus trip to Rukungiri was about 8 hours and pretty bumpy and hot and sticky and dusty. We arrived around 2:00 p.m. and spent the next 2 ½ days visiting a cow project, checking out a school we’re involved with and listening to many stories from those being helped and groups trying to help their people. We heard a number of issues from those trying to help. There are many things they have to deal with when trying to help people here. Superstition, jealously, poverty all combined make a potent mix of opposition.

Then yesterday, it was back again on the bus. We woke at 5:00 and left the hotel at 5:30 for the bus. At the bus park the next one was not leaving till 7:30 so back into the taxi and off to find another bus. Before 6:00 we were on the bus waiting for it to fill up. About 6:20 we drove off into the town, the wrong direction and picked up about 10 people. Then back to the original location and there were a few more. At 6:40 we headed off and stopped at every village and town for the next 80 kms. It’s was pretty slow. Eventually the bus was full and after to loo stops on the side of the road and numerous other stops we got to the crazy bus park in Kampala just after 2:00. Tried….. but in one piece. We negotiated a taxi and pushed our way through the crazy traffic to the little hotel we frequent, the New City Annex.

A hot shower, internet and a nice meal saw Kevin asleep by 8:00 only to be woken at 11:11 by the phone, a new partner is coming to visit us tomorrow. 

So today, Sunday is a rest day and tomorrow it’s off again across Uganda. We have 1 night in Katosi, one night in Jinja and then 2 nights across on the Kenya border with our friends there before spending next weekend in Mbale.

It’s warm here, pleasant really. Nice to be away from the New Zealand winter. We’re missing family and friends and when something like losing a computer happens, it makes home seem like a long way off.

Thanks for the notes and encouragement and prayers , we really love getting them either by e-mail, facebook, skype, text or reply to the blog.
I’ll wake Helen up now to add a few lines to this.
Lots of love
Kevin and Helen


IT WILL BE

2013-08-04

We’re in a nice internet café in Mbale, it’s been an interesting week.

We spent a night in Katosi. The school continues to grow, more than 500 kids and almost 250 in the boarding facility. We spent time with the kids, visited all the classes and talked to our partners, Timothy and Janepher. They are inspirational, no idea how they manage to support so many children. While there we made final plans for the team from Australia that comes in a few days.

We also visited Mbale Village School. This is one very poor community. Out friends travelling with us were shocked by the poverty of the children. It’s great that they have been able to build some classrooms, but still very basic. One teacher who is only 21 is dedicated to serving this poor community. It takes her 2 hours to walk to school every day.

Then it was on to Jinja. The weather is turning to rain so we got a little damp. We met the beneficiaries of a loan programme and heard their stories. It’s great to hear of the changes going on thought they have many challenges.

Then a local minibus ride from Jinja to Busia and 2 days with James and Gorret and their team. They are another inspirational couple. You should see her little farm, vegetables, goats, sheep, pigs (one gave birth to 7 piglets while we were there,) chickens, turkeys and soon a heifer is coming. There are trees planted for timber and everywhere you look there is something going on. We worked the budgets for another year for education, church development and the micro-loan programme. This now has well over 100 active members.

We were also able to start another micro-programme there with them. It’s pretty exciting to see the development of the loan programme here, and in some other places as well.
Early Friday morning we left Busia for a trip to the Kween District of Uganda. This has been a place of many disputes and is an area Westerners are not recommended to go. But we went to the village of Pangani. The main Village here is Atari which means Danger and Pangani which means machete for obvious reasons. It’ a huge grassland area, the roads are appalling; I’ve put us some pictures. We went to the new community school there and met the teachers, community leaders, church leaders and children, all 180 of them. There are many challenges and opportunities here.

Already since our partners have been there 3 villages have reconciled and stopped hacking each other. People are becoming Christ followers every week, they have no idea how many people come to the church. It’s more than a little inspiring. Now the decisions about the most appropriate way to engage. It is a very different place to be, I foresee many issues to deal with. But, when a community is desperate to change it requires someone to take some risks.

We got back from that day quite late and after dinner with another partner we flopped into bed in Mbale. Sleep came easily.

Saturday and Sunday has seen meetings with our partners in Mbale. They are great people. We talked to a group of women whose lives are being transformed by the loan programme. We heard stories and introduced Matt and Judy to them Matt and Judy are learning heaps and will be great partnership facilitators in Uganda. We were able to explore the start of more loan programmes and the expansion of a bakery that has grown out of the loan programme. Awesome stuff really. We love doing this stuff.

Yesterday as we talked to the women about their lives and loan programmes we started dreaming about the future. They talked about what they would like to happen. After one lady shared her vision we asked, is that possible! “IT WILL BE’ was the reply. In a real sense these were words of creation, realising a dream. She was expressing her absolute confidence in her God who had proved faithful over many years and in many tragic circumstances. She was expressing her trust in us as well as partners who had stuck with them though thick and thin and she was expressing confidence in the formidable power of community they experience here in this group.

We’re keeping well. Helen has finally got over jetlag (4 weeks) and has had 2 decent nights of sleep! We’re starting to think about the end of this trip now and all the things we’ll have to catch up on when Kevin gets another computer; it's coming over with the Australian team.

See the photos we’ve uploaded with this, a summary of the last couple of weeks.
we love getting messages and emails from you.

Helen and Kevin


twin demons, poverty and dependency

2013-08-09

A couple of days off, nice…. Though still a lot of work to do. On Wednesday we caught a bus from Lira to Kampala and 6 hours later arrived. Then a jump into the seething mass of people to get to a taxi to bring us to Entebbe. Not a bad trip really, not very comfortable but we got here in one piece and that’s a blessing. The lady opposite us had 4 small chickens on her lap with their legs tied together.

In about 4 hours a team from 8 from Australia arrives and joins us for 10 days so its back into organising and making sure everything is going OK. The plan is to make school desks at a school, run a number of programmes for kids and generally interact with the children in the school / hostel. There will be plenty to do and we’ll have a lot of fun I’m sure.

Since the last blog we’ve been in Lira. It’s the town that used to be the centre of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) terror. The family we are part of there is growing up. The first one has left now and others are leaving secondary school and getting into further training.

Amos has graduated as a nurse and now wants to go on to become a medical officer. One day he wants to be a surgeon. It’s great to see the kids becoming adults and contributing to society.

Some of the younger ones are struggling a bit. It’s incredible how the abuse in their childhood continues to impact their lives. The abuse reaches years into the future and frequently messes up their thinking and decisions. The older children are now helping with the younger ones; they understand the issues I guess.

The costs in Uganda are going through the roof. In doing the budget with our friends we found that salt has doubled in price, rice and maize flour have gone up significantly. Largely because of the levels of corruption in Uganda most of the large donors have left. Around 30% of the national budget was previously funded externally but now the donors have jumped ship. So, taxes and levies have come on, 18% has been added to accommodation and so forth. But it’s the local poor who suffer the most of course.

Frankly, it’s about time these countries started funding themselves; it’s time they faced the realities of life. It’s time for the big underwriters of these countries to realise that the bulk of their aid goes into the pockets of the corrupt and little gets to those who need it. The next thing will be for the locals to let their corrupt leaders know their responsibilities and hold them accountable for the theft and greed.

I’ve recently been reading the book Toxic Charity; it’s worth a read if you’re interested in helping the elimination of poverty and in loving the poor. One of Robert Lupton’s comments was:

We reckon the dependency that is crippling Africa has to be addressed, now. Every generation it continues will see an increase in poverty, a continued rise in corruption, more and more land degradation, injustice and exploitation and the creation of more generations robbed of their birth right.

Yesterday was Eid ul Fitr, the end of the Muslim Ramadan fast. It was crazy noisy here and a public holiday. People were out parading in new clothes and fasting was not on the agenda. But for many there was little joy in the end of the fast. There are many suffering in Muslim countries. Our friends in Pakistan have made us aware of the on-going problems of flooding and bombs, our friends in Jordan have highlighted the plight of so many refugees from Syria and then there’s Egypt and Yemen and Somalia…. Getting the Good news into those places becomes such an important mission.

Anyway, now it’s only a couple of hours till the Ozzies arrive and we head off to Katosi. That will be a cultural experience for us, outnumbered again!

On our last blog we added some new photos for you to look at and get a glimpse of some of the people and places we visit and the adventures along the way. You might have to click on the “our photos” tab.

Love to all and thanks for being on the team.
We love hearing from you and appreciate your faithful prayers.
Kevin and Helen


lasting impact

2013-08-14

We’ve been overrun by Australians, fortunately they are a good bunch of people. We managed to get them all off the plane, loaded them onto a bus and took them out to the town of Katosi on the shores of Lake Victoria.

It’s always interesting to see a place we are familiar with through the eyes of people who are seeing it for the first time. The comments are often quite funny, but it’s good to be reminded of the levels of poverty we can take for granted.

Since we got here on Friday it’s been pretty full on. Keeping the team fed and watered is a bit of a mission but we’ve kept them happy up until now. We’ve spoken at churches, turned 100s of metres of pretty rough timber into school desks, run kids programmes and painted a new library.

Katosi is a little town with many large problems. Drunkenness, prostitution, HIV / AIDS, hundreds of children and poverty are all an obvious part of the fabric of this community. Our partners here, Timothy and Janepher are great. They came to live here to serve community. They came with nothing but willingness to help and before long found themselves living in a very small house with 25 abandoned children and 100 chickens!

They started a small school and a little church and found the work growing. Now they have a school in Katosi with more than 500 children and hostel with 218 boarders, many are orphans. They have a large church in the town and have established a number of others in the islands of the lake. About 10 km away there is now another school, Mbale Village. There are currently 92 kids there and it’s going to grow.

We have talked to many young people as we’ve been here, dozens of them. All of them talk about the impact of this couple in their lives as they have been nurtured by them. 4 of the current school teachers were once vulnerable kids in the school and hostel. It’s very humbling really. Huge, deep and eternal impact. What about our impact, have we left this world a better place like they have…. Have you?

Thanks to those who have helped here at Katosi. Tomorrow we are going to open the library, commission 100 beds and mattresses and the desks we have built, around 65 I think.

- St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Matamata, New Zealand provided the funds for the library and the books. Previously they provided a science laboratory as well, it was good to see the senior kids in there a couple of days ago sitting an exam.

- Christian Community Churches Australia Partnerships for the beds and mattresses.

- Allawah Community Church, Sydney, Australia for the desks and the team that is here and

- Chase Oaks church, Dallas, Texas, USA for the books that are about to be sent for the library.

It’s great to have such awesome partners with a clear understanding of their role in what God is doing in the world. Long term impact, eternal outcomes.

Well, we are about to head off back to the school to see how the desk construction and library painting are getting on. Hope you have a great read and enjoy this part of the journey.

It’s only 7 days till Helen gets home now and 12 days till Kevin gets home. In many ways it can’t come quick enough.

Love and blessings

Helen and Kevin


Armenia and home

2013-08-19 to 2013-09-06

It’s a long time since you heard from us, apologies. There seems to be a glitch in the get jealous system. Last time we updated the alerts did not go out. So, we’ve been testing for a bit to see if it’s working, then got too busy….. you know, usual excuses.

Frankly, after a long trip, writing is not one of the things either of us feels like doing. But, we do this blog for you and also for ourselves, it helps us process what’s going on and what we’ve been experiencing. Condensing it down does help.

We survived the week in Katosi with the team from Oz. they were great and as well as making 66 desks for the school and painting the new library, we were able to run a number of programmes for the kids and make a lot of new friends.

After that Helen came home to New Zealand, no worries with the travel. We overnighted in Dubai together and then she came home and I went to Armenia, a new country and many new experiences. Let me share a few observations. I was there with a team of mainly Australians, most from Armenian descent. We had a really nice time with them and the local people.

Today as the world debates what to do in Syria, escalating that terrible conflict should be condemned and rejected as an option. We Westerners have this profound disability: we tend to think that a simple solution has the ability to solve a complex problem. The issues in Syria are beyond simple solutions, millions of people are in desperate trouble, many of them are our brothers and sisters in faith and belief.

The Syrian / Armenian refugees I met in Armenia are lost, confused, abandoned and have nowhere to go but to a corrupt system that gives them no help, in fact in many cases, increases their lostness. It was heart wrenching to hear them and see the hopelessness in their eyes as they considered the future. Many of them found faith and hope in Jesus while we were there. PTL.

I’m still thinking this one through. It’s a tough one to deal with and I cannot get some of the images out of my mind.

I’ve been home over a week and it’s been pretty full on. We are so tired at the moment that the writing of reports has been shelved for a bit. We have a new granddaughter about to arrive so we’ve been visiting the mum to be. We have 2 messages to deliver the next 2 weekends and it’s only 2 weeks till Kevin hits the air again for the next trip, 2 weeks in Kenya and Uganda.

Hopefully it won’t be as long a gap till you hear from us again.

We so appreciate it that you are following along on the journey with us.

Kevin and Helen


new arrivals

2013-09-15 to 2013-09-22

I really don’t know where to start with this update. But, first of all, I’m in Nairobi and I’m safe, so don’t be too concerned. Well, be concerned enough to pray at least? I got here yesterday, Sunday  afternoon having heard a rumour while flying that there had been an incident in Nairobi. Had no idea how bad it was until we landed and found Nairobi very quiet, almost seemed like the city was in shock. I guess when we start moving around this morning we’ll get a better idea if our plans here are going to be affected in any way.

I’ve not been able to contact all our partners yet so don’t know how many have been affected and how. Fortunately not many of them frequent Westgate Shopping Centre. Last trip to Kenya we were there are couple of times.

Since last time we have a beautiful little granddaughter. But she didn’t have an easy entry into the world. Last Sunday we got the call that Sara was starting labour so we headed off to Tauranga, just over 3 hours away. We caught up with Sara and Karl and as there wasn’t much we could do, we went over to our friends Marg and Julian Senior’s place in Te Puke to stay. They were great, just made us feel at home and we were able to come and go at the whim of the labour pains! And, come and go we did as did the labour pains. Finally, 3 days later and by c section Coco was born. What a beautiful creature she is.  I’ve added a couple of photos of her.

So it was a pretty full on week really. We  drove back to Auckland on Friday and Saturday I was gone. It all seems a bit surreal. One minute you’re doing the family thing, loving every minute of being a dad and a granddad and next minute, half a world away we’re walking into a major tragedy and a totally different scene.

I was able to catch about 6½ hours sleep on the flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi, it’s such a help when that happens. In a couple of hours we’ll be driving around Nairobi visiting some of the poorest places on earth and visiting people who are making a real difference to thousands of people.

I’ve got a team of 9 Australians, Bible College students at Emmaus Bible College with me. They seem like a nice bunch of people. It’s the first time in Africa for most of them. It will be interesting seeing the world here and our partners through their eyes.

I woke at 3:30 this morning so it’s gonna be a long day. Not too much to organise but I have to keep a couple of days ahead of the team with logistics, busses, meals, water, questions……

I’ll try to stay in touch as we move around. Helen is staying with Sara and Karl while I’m away getting some good old nanny time. It was great to skype them all a few minutes ago.

So, about to head out into today conscious that may in this city are grieving today.

Love to all

Kevin and Helen


Disturbing

2013-09-22 to 2013-09-27

I’ve had 3 very busy days in Nairobi and later today we head off to Uganda. It’s been interesting to visit a number of our partners and see them through the eyes of interested newcomers. It’s been great to observe again the calibre of our friends here as they explain what they do to these people.  The 3 days have been busy organising and moving from place to place, often caught up in the Nairobi traffic. It’s so important to have a good driver when here, one who knows the back streets and short cuts when there are traffic jams. Peterson is great and a lot of fun to be with as well.

It’s been pretty hard to ignore what’s been going on the shopping mall at Westgate in Nairobi. It’s very disturbing. Along with this I’ve received a number of other disturbing reports from some of our partners about the terrible circumstances many of our Christian brothers and sisters are experiencing. Here are some of them:

  1. A friend sent me an article about the Syrian situation titled, "the end of Christianity in the Middle East.: in what ways does that disturb you?
  2. A friend in Jordan told of an incident in Syria where el- Qaeda terrorists rounded up 130 Christian people, tied them to trees and shot them all, including children. They then threw the bodies in a hole and burned them.
  3. A friend in Pakistan wrote to me about the bombing of 2 churches in Peshawar, Pakistan. He and his family heard about the incident as they were driving home from church last Sunday. So they dropped the kids off at the house and drove 2 hours to the Peshawar to support those who had survived. Their stories are harrowing. In one family the only survivor is a young boy. There are hundreds still very badly hurt and the government has done nothing to help, in some cases not allowing them into the hospitals because they are Christians and they don’t want to have then there in case they become the next target.
  4. Another story from Syria where 3 young men were executed for being Christians, a girl with them was shot as well but survived.
  5. Egyptian Christians tell me they are facing terrible pressure, people are being attacked, their houses and businesses are being destroyed, their women and daughters being raped and abused and their churches being burnt.
  6. And then these goons in Nairobi rampage through a shopping mall shooting people because they aren’t Moslems in a country that is more than 60% Christian.

I was sitting with some young Kenyan people yesterday and of course the subject came up, it’s a very current issue here. One guy said, this sort of thing is happening all the time, it’s only news this time because Westerners and wealthy were victims. It got me thinking, what should the response of Western Christians be to the systematic murder of our brothers and sisters? It’s happening every day.

I couldn’t sleep thinking about it; somehow we have to confront the issue.

There are millions of our blood brothers and sisters losing everything in this life. They are the butt of terrible persecution and suffering and see their loved ones murdered in front of them and we are hardly moved.

Of course we could respond with violence and call in the Americans! But the human reaction to retaliate or repay violence with violence is such a hard thing to resist. Give them guns to defend themselves?

To confront the despair of displaced people is a terrible thing. “No hope” is a desperate street to live in, “despair” is not a pleasant neighbourhood.

I’ve not got a lot of answers; I really just wanted to raise the issue. I’d be interested to start a conversation about this if you want to? Let me know what you think? What attitudes could Western Christians adopt concerning the issues our brothers and sisters are facing? How could we respond to them? How do we address the injustice? Should it even concern us?

For me, I’ve had enough of this, something has to be done. I’m going to push like crazy within my network, within Bright Hope World to do more. It might be to develop more partnerships in the trouble spots, it might be to start a new field of focus and it might mean more visits to see what can be done.

Meanwhile, back in New Zealand Helen is staying with Sara and Karl to help with to help with their little one. Her full name is Coco Gia Honore Shearman. Cute. Can’t wait to get back and see them all. Sara is recovering from a c section so isn’t supposed to be doing a lot of lifting etc. So I guess between feeds, sleeps, nappies and household chores there will be a lot of family female bonding going on.

Love to ya’ll

Helen and Kevin.


Robust

2013-09-24 to 2013-10-01

I’ve only got 30 more hours on the ground in Africa on this trip. It’s been a pretty full on week really. The team from Emmaus Bible College, Sydney have been meeting a number of our partners in both Kenya and Uganda. It’s been a good opportunity for me to see a number of our partners and catch up with them. I am again impressed by them and impacted by their great faith.

Yesterday afternoon we visited about 10 widows in their businesses. Then about 20 of them gathered with us telling about the issues they face. Strangely perhaps, I came away not impacted by the problems but by the robust nature of their faith and hope. Our team were exhausted by the end of the worship time! What is it with people like this? What do they understand about faith that I still need to learn? There is a fire in them that burns very hot and that is so compelling. To listen to them pour out their hearts to God is like being transported to another realm.

It seems that the trouble and hardship produces something in them that our comfortable western charade just doesn’t produce. It’s very basic, it’s very raw yet somehow authentic. One guy we visited put it like this, “it’s like leaning against a tree, if you take the tree away, then our lives are over and we fall.” Of course God is the tree, and he doesn’t move; we do. We stand on our own 2 feet and if God doesn’t turn up, so what, the programme goes on. For these guys, if God doesn’t turn up they are stuffed.

I guess it’s that sort of faith that makes it possible to stand in the face of suffering and refuse to give up allegiance to God when staring down the barrel of a gun. I’m not sure how robust my faith would be in the face of a threat to my life; I imagine grace would come at that time. I’d still love to hear your thoughts about the attitude Western Christians could adopt to the carnage that is happening to our Christian brothers and sisters in many countries?

Last blog I mentioned the suicide bombs in two churches in Pakistan. I’ve just heard that the aunt and uncle of one of our partners there and a number of other close family members were killed in that blast. What do you say to someone who has just lost close family members as the result of a deliberate act of terror? Mmmm, I’ll have to think about it. Or, what should I do?

Tomorrow I travel with the team from Jinja to Entebbe, it’s only 120 kms but it could take us 4 hours. The traffic in Kampala is terrible, jammed most of the day. We’ve been having interesting discussions as the Emmaus students, grapple with the things they are seeing and the people we are meeting. They have been challenged by the lifestyle of these people.

Helen is still in Tauranga with Karl and Sara. Sara is taking some time to get on her feet after Coco was born but is getting there slowly. Not sure if Helen will get back home sometime soon. In the middle of next week we were planning to be in Christchurch but we may have to make some changes.

So I’m facing another long transit by plane. On Thursday I leave Entebbe to Nairobi and have a 3 hour stop over. Then it’s onto another plane for a 5 hour flight to Abu Dhabi. Then it’s another stop over for a couple of hours before the 14 hour haul to Sydney. I overnight in Sydney then back to Auckland around midday Saturday. I’ll fill in the time reading, writing a few reports, watch a few movies and a long sleep, I hope.

We appreciate your involvement in our lives, your love and the comments, thanks so much. October already, where did that year go!

Love

Helen and Kevin.


Family

2013-10-01 to 2013-10-22

I cannot believe it’s 4 weeks since I last wrote the last blog. It’s been a crazy blur of moving around, family and reports.

Anyway, in summary, I survived the trip back from Africa. I’ve now take sleeping pills on the long flights and they knock me out for about 7 hours. Makes a 13 or 14 hour flight bearable. I have to tak 2 pills though, 1 doesn’t work!

So, I got back from Africa and three days later Helen came back from Tauranga after time with Sara and her new little daughter, Coco. The team from Emmaus Bible School were a great bunch of people, got to really like being with them and I think they learned a lot.

We were only back for a week at home and then flew off to Nelson to spend some time with our team members there. We’ve got some new initiatives starting in Africa around agriculture so it was good to catch up with them and make some plans.

Then on to Christchurch and the team there, meetings, reports and more reports. We have been able to approve the start of about 8 more partnerships in South Sudan, Bolivia, Uganda, Kenya and Zimbabwe. So, pretty exciting stuff really. We also made plans for travel next year. It looks like we’ll be out of the country less from next year, always part of the plan.

We got back from Christchurch on Thursday last week and since then it’s been family stuff. Sara and Karl came with Coco on Friday, they had a wedding in Auckland on Saturday. Sara and Coco stayed on and just his morning Helen has gone off with them back to Tauranga. She will be back tomorrow. Then on Sunday Hugo, our oldest grandchild had his 5th birthday. So that was a great afternoon at his party. Today he starts school, 5 years old, so big, so quick….. where is life going?

So, now, my mind start turning to the next saga, Monday it's off again for 4 ½ weeks. Last trip for the year, lots to see and deal with and great people to meet. I’ve got 5 days in Ethiopia, then the same in England meeting donors and then it’s 3 weeks in India and Nepal. There are people with me all the way apart from a few of the flights. Talking about flights, I’ve got 20 flights in 33 days, so it’s going to be a bit of a trudge and a lot of time in airports.

I’ll let you know how the flights go and some of the people I meet. Part of the problem is going to be really wet weather in Ethiopia. The area we are going has been flooded and the roads washed out so we might not even get there. So I’ll need old clothes for that. The next part is meeting in London where I’ll need like a suit and tie (not sure I’ve got one left?) and then it’s off to India where it’s around 35o Celsius every day. So, how to pack light!

Tis going to be great to see the progress in our partners and to hand over many of the partnerships to team members.

So friends, you can have the rest of the week off, Monday, seat belts on and ready to fly. Look forward to having you on the trip with us.

Appreciate you interest and prayers and love getting messages.

Enjoy the photos, one or two family ones as well.

Love in Jesus

Kevin and Helen.


Goose bump stories

2013-10-23 to 2013-10-31

Hey from Gonder in Northern Ethiopia. The weather is beautiful at the moment, fine and warm, not too hot. It’s harvest time so the countryside is just beautiful.  Lot’s of gorgeous colours with crops at various stages of ripening. Lots of people in the fields harvesting and other activity. I’ll put some pics up next blog.

Flight one was Auckland to Dubai, 19 hours, two legs with a stopover in Sydney. The first leg was quite empty, seat 45G, bulkhead, good leg room. One of the best plane meals I’ve ever had, lamb shank! Dozed and read a bit. No one beside me but a pleasant Indian guy across the aisle with his wife and young  daughter who squealed frequently all 18 hours. They live in Auckland and we going back to Mumbai to visit family.

Leg 2 the plane had about 100 free seats. I was in 45G again with a Dutch family, 2 young kids and only 3 seats. Lovely. I spotted that 45C was free with a spare seat beside it so just as the doors closed I was up and off. A good flight really, slept for 7 of the 14 hours, watched a video, read a bit and tried to chat to the girl a seat away but she wasn’t interested in talking. Flying can be pretty lonely even though you’re in a crowd. Most are preoccupied, earphones on, doing something else, don’t really want to talk…. especially to some old geezer. The A380 is huge.

Then it was 5 hours in the business lounge at Dubai and a shower. Awesome. Then to gate B8 and I met the team from the USA. We boarded the A330-200 for Emirates flight to Addis Ababa, 5 hours. An older plane, less room though no one beside me and not enough room to work. So, I settled into seat 17G, watched a video, read and chatted with the guys from Chase Oaks Church.  Check out the Chase Oaks Church website, go to the Make a Difference tab and then Global Opportunities and you’ll see the partnership we’re doing with them? Sorry I can’t insert a link in here, I’m using the cheap version of Get Jealous and they can’t do links unless we pay for the privilege. Something to do with security. The 3 peeps from Chase Oaks Church are all staff members, Jack Warren, John Stanley and Tracy Bell-Parlin. They are great to travel with and we have a lot of fun.

No worries on the flight to Addis. We got our visas and cruised out into Ethiopia, well, a 4 hour wait till the next flight. No worries with getting onto the little Bombadier Q400. Seat 14A, seating starts at row 13. A 1 hour flight jammed in, leg room OK but seat width not great. The Ethiopian guy was trying to talk to me but I was so tired and sleepy I hardly got a word out. We arrived in Bahar Dar and Worku, our main man in Ethiopia was there to meet us. Ghion Hotel, cool evening by the lake and bed…. although bed and sleep are not synonymous. But, horizontal is better than vertical.

Got up at 5:00 am and sat by the lake for a couple of hours, beautiful and worth it. We spent the morning hearing stories of God at work in dramatic ways. What is happening in the Gumuz area of Ethiopia is truly incredible. These people have been shifted from their land because they use the land inefficiently. They are bundled into villages as part of the villagization programme of the government and their land is given to corporate farmers. They have little orientation and struggle to live in this way. The guys we talked to have gone there with the Good news and are helping the people to adapt and come to terms with what is happening to them. They have come from the stone age to the 21st Century within months and there are many things to deal with. Their past and their culture has been torn away from them and the Good News is now filling in the gap and becoming their new culture.  Awesome stuff and stories that make the hairs on your neck stand on end; goose bump stories.

After lunch we drove the 3 hours from Bahar Dar to Gonder. It would almost qualify as a low flying flight. It’s harvest time, hills and plains, harvest colours and clear skies. Just beautiful.

More later…..

Love and peace

Kevin and Helen


worn out

2013-11-01 to 2013-11-08

I’m really struggling to keep up on this trip with all the things I’m trying to do. Since the last blog I’ve not had a lot of time to myself to write this stuff.

I think I last left you having just arrived in Gonder, Northern Ethiopia. It’s a really interesting town, lots of tourists there now, it wasn’t that way when we first started coming here. So, a quick summary and some comments:

Flight 5 was a Bombadier Q400 from Gonder to Addis Ababa. It’s was a short flight, seat 12J, no one beside me. Then it was a 6 hour wait in Addis airport before checking in for the flight to Dubai. Lots more coffee, I’ve had my annual dose of caffeine now.

Later on Sunday we boarded a Boeing 777 for Dubai, seat 45J, again no one beside me. I dozed a bit on this flight, 4 hours. Picked up a hotel voucher, shot through Customs and to a free hotel for the night, I actually slept. Monday morning it was back to the airport for flight number 7, another Boeing 777 and another good flight with no one beside me. I think I must have bad breath and there’s a warning out about seating someone beside me! Flew into Gatwick, London for the 1st time. I managed to survive the British rail system and got to Victoria station, then a short ride to the hotel and there I was, Oxford Street, London.

Huh, weird, one day I’m sitting in front of some of the most desperately poor people in the world, next day I’m standing in front of the temples of western consumerism on Oxford Street, resplendent in all their Christmas tinsel and decorations. Bizarre is a word that comes to mind. It all just seems so disconnected, somehow  unfair.

That night I met up with Rob Purdue and a group of Trustees of a large British charity. Tuesday we made a presentation to them, where’s my tie! They are a nice group of guys, 18 of them.  They continued their meeting through the afternoon and Rob and I wandered around the Hotel between showers of rain. Then the train to Bristol and 2 nights with friends there and a couple of meetings. Late Thursday afternoon Rob and I came back to London and stayed the night nearby Heathrow airport.

So now I’m sitting on flight number 8, an Airbus A380, one of the first one I think. On Emirates and this time I’m in seat 45H. You guessed it, the plane is almost full but no one beside me! Pretty much worked all the way on this flight. Enough room to do it at it’s really only about 5:00 pm. 7 ½ hours to Dubai, then it’s a 3 ½ hour layover and the next time you hear from me it will be from India. Rob is on another airline and we’ll meet again in Bangalore.

It’s been nice to be able to skype Helen a few times the last few days. Nice to see each other and stay in touch. After the weekend she’ll head down to Tauranga with Sara and Karl and Coco. Missing them all.

So friends, thanks for staying in touch and praying, we so need it. I cannot explain how deep the work is that’s going on and the transformation of lives, families and communities.

Trust you are encouraged and doing OK.

Helen and Kevin


Hope and change among the poor

2013-11-08 to 2013-11-14

Flight 9 and for only the 2nd time on this trip I’m sitting beside someone. However, they couldn’t talk English! So I had to talk to the guy across the aisle for a bit. But I was tired, the flight left at 3:40 a.m. I had a good relax in the Emirates lounge for 3 ½ hours. It can get pretty lonely on these trips, you see 100s of people but you know no one. I was in in seat 44H not a bad seat in and Emirates Boeing 777-200.

The flight to Bangalore went with incident apart from something falling out of the luggage bin and onto the person behind me. I didn’t do it. Then into Bangalore, no hassles and Judith Payne, a NZ friend living in Bangalore was there to meet me. About 10 minutes later the rest of the team came in from Singapore, James and Nicki Rees-Thomas and little Lucy and Peter and Anne Kemps, all kiwis. So it’s a kiwi contingent for the next 2 ½ weeks in India and Nepal. Let me give you a bit of a summary or out time in Bangalore:

As I said, I’m travelling with a bunch of kiwis, whom I’ll introduce you to; Rob Purdue, I’m sure I’ve talked about him before. He’s the boss at BHW and is catching up with a few of his old friends here in India, it’s about 5 years since he was here; James and Nicky Rees-Thomas and Lucy, BHW India Field facilitators. I’m here with them working on the India partnerships. They are from Wellington and are fantastic people; Peter and Anne Kemps from Auckland, friends and donors of BHW as is their church. They love meeting the people they have been supporting for a long time. First time in India for them so it’s all a great adventure.  We’re having a lot of fun and seeing a lot of challenging stuff and hearing amazing stories.

So, right now I’m in the city of Kakinada. We flew here yesterday from Bangalore, flight 10 of this trip in 2 legs. Although it was only two 1 hour flights, it took almost all day. The plane was an ATR72 on Jet Konnect Airline. Leg one I was in seat 3C and leg 2 in seat 10C. I lost my boarding pass with all 5 baggage tags but was able to sort it all out and the bags arrived OK.

We got to Kakinada, had a 1 ½ hour wait at the airport as the leader of an opposition political party was on our plane and there were 100s of people there to meet him and finally we got to Emmanuel and Jesse’s place to a great welcome. After meeting the 46 kids they have in their place we visited a place (leper colony, I hate using the term, sounds like a zoo) where they have a feeding and wound dressing programme for a group of people with leprosy. More than 100 people are fed three times every week and their sores and wounds are cared for. The disfigurements are hard to look at, but these are real people with a lot of needs. It was great to spend some time there with them. Most of them would be begging on the streets without this programme.

Today we have visited a number of sewing programme in very rural villages around Kakinada. It was encouraging to hear about the change that comes when women are trained and empowered. It changes their lives and the whole family. Is some places and whole village is being changed and given hope. The stories were truly inspiring.

So, while I’m here, Helen is in Tauranga with Sara, Karl and Coco. It was great to be able to see and talk to the 3 girls this morning. Coco is growing so fast. Can’t wait to get back and see them all again.

Thanks for being with us in this. Really value your prayers, my gut is playing up and there is a lot of travelling over the next few days in pretty rough conditions. So it’s not really the time to have a dose of the you know whats!

Love and warm regards

Kevin and Helen.


clean undies and clear skies

2013-11-14 to 2013-11-20

I managed to get 4 days out of the shirt I’m washing. Not bad for India, not good for my travel companions. So first thing this morning it’s washing.

There has been a lot of travel since the last blog, let me fill you in:

I forgot to tell you earlier, but Nicki and Lucy were not with us in Kakinada, they flew straight to Kolkata the day we flew to Kakinada. Lucy and Nicky were unwell in Kolkata as well so decided not to do the next leg and will catch us in Delhi. They came and met us at the airport. I wasn’t feeling that well either on Sunday, just tired I think. All the road travel, bouncing around and different food.

To be frank, I’m over road travel for a long time. I’m over walking after trudging around the streets of Darjeeling and I’m totally over airplanes. There ain’t many transport options left as I think about it.

Hightlights: Momos, check out what they are on the internet or go to a Nepali restaurant and eat some; beautiful children with horrific, dreadful stories; a culture of children being abused, bought and sold and even given away; magnificent mountain scenery, Darjeeling tea drunk in Darjeeling is very nice and you know, the Good News about Jesus really does make a difference in the lives of vulnerable people.

Question: what stops me being vulnerable to the point where my life is transformed like theirs seems to be. Can’t shake that one as I drift off to sleep this evening.

See ya, hopefully I’ll be in touch from Delhi,

Love, Kevin and Helen.


doing the hard yards

2013-11-20 to 2013-11-25

Wednesday last week was a special day. We spent the day with our friend and partner Primala Rumtel in Silguri. She is a remarkable woman. A Bhutanese refugee, she has chosen to stay in India rather than go to the USA with her family because of the love she has for those she works with. She is developing a little school and hostel for Adavasi and Nepali girls. These kids are amongst the most vulnerable it’s possible to imagine. But here she is, a single woman with 55 young girls making a huge difference.

You know, if these girls we already on the streets and this was a work to rescue them it would not be hard to raise funds for it. But because this partnership prevents the girls ending up on the streets, hardly anyone wants to know about it. Western Christians need a bomb under them. The really difficult work of transforming communities and planting churches and addressing mind sets that create brothels and trafficking is very difficult to sell to most people who are chasing the next gimmick. The issue is not merely issues like trafficking, lack of water or education. The real issue is that of addressing the mind sets that create the need, to address the poverty mind set. These mind sets see whole villages of people living with all the resources to be productive and to feed their own families and educate them, yet they die of starvation.

There are no quick fixes to the big issues. But there are long terms solutions that most just don’t want to know about, let alone fund. Most do it so they can feel good or tick of another success story. I’m sorry, it’s much more complex than that and people like Primala are the key. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year for many years they just turn up and serve, and lead and inspire. And change happens. In the meantime, we Westerners have moved on a number of time times following the newest fads.

Thursday we flew to Delhi, a very different place to Siliguri. Friday was a day trip Jaipur checking out a partnership opportunity and also doing some tourist stuff. I have to say it’s one of the more impressive tourist locations I’ve been to.

Saturday we travelled about 2 hours north east of Delhi to visit another new partner working in a very dangerous area. People who follow a different prophet are turning in large numbers to Christ. He is doing a phenomenal work with his family and team. We’ll be starting something with them soon, very inspiring but we can’t say much about it. Again, they are doing the hard yards, little support, hard to find those willing to partner with him.

Sunday was a little quieter, church, chatting with the team, writing some reports, saying goodbye to Peter and Anne who are winging their way to New Zealand as I write. And, in the evening, between the internet coming and going, we barely survived the All Black game against Ireland.

Today we have a number of meetings with the team at Delhi Bible Institute, our major partner in North India. We’ll be reviewing the last year and making plans for the future. Then, this evening Rob Purdue leaves for New Zealand and tomorrow morning James and Nicky with Lucy and I head off to Nepal.

It’s the last leg of the trip. Really missing home. It’s been good to be able to skype some of the family. December and January are going to be quieter months…… do I hear Helen cheering.

Helen is helping with family stuff and at our local church with some end of year activities and meeting with friends. So, she’s happy, but we’re missing each other.

Warm regards and Happy Christmas season.

Kevin and Helen


HOME again

2013-11-26 to 2013-12-02

Hey there, I’m home…..

Man it could not come quick enough towards the end. Not that I wasn’t still inspired by the amazing people we were visiting and working with.

There were a number of flights towards the end of trip, some interesting ones. Here’s a summary:

Flight 13 – Thursday 21st November, Bagdogra Airport (Siliguri) to Delhi – just over 2 hours, Boeing 737, Spicejet 885. Sat beside Anne, one of the team members, actually she stole my seat by the window! The Spicejet plane was on time and the airport in Delhi is pretty nice.

Flight 14 – Friday 22nd – early, too early. We flew from Delhi to Jaipur, just under an hour. Another Boeing 737, Spicejet flight 133. It arrived on time and we headed off to see the proposed site for a new Ashram (where disciples come to learn from the guru.) Delhi Bible Institute is establishing a string of them across North India.

Flight 15 – Friday 22nd – Jet Airways 726, back to Delhi. We saw some amazing sights in Jaipur, I was surprised by the place, quite stunning the wealth of those Maharajas back in the day. Another Boeing 727-800 and again I was beside Anne, arrived back at Delhi just after 8:00 pm and we caught the underground / metro.

Over the weekend Rob Purdue and Peter and Anne left us so on Tuesday 26th James, Nicky, Lucy and I boarded Flight 16 – Indigo Airlines 31, Delhi to Kathmandu. It was an Airbus A320 and took a little under 2 hours. Managed to have some room and read most of the way.

Flight 17 – the next day, Wednesday the 27th, Kathmandu to Bharatpur. It was on an ATR 42, Buddha Air flight 351 seat 3a, just James and I with our partner Niranjan. It’s only a 20 minute flight east from Kathmandu. We didn’t get above the mountains we were flying below.

We spent just 2 ½ hours there visiting the partnership. It’s great to see the development of the farming co-operative and the chicken layers and broilers. This funds many different projects from loans, to training to resources for church planters.

Flight 18 was the return flight on Buddha Air 356 on a Beechcraft 1900d, 19 passengers. We arrived back as the sun set over the Himalayas. Stunning.

We spent the next day with Niranjan and Sonu as we talked through all the developments. We ate beautiful food as well. That night Flight 19 took me on Fly Dubai, FZ576, 5 ½ hours to Dubai in a Boeing 737-800. The plane was packed with workers going to the Middle East to work. Some could speak a little English and I had the feeling that they had no idea about what they were really going to. I am appalled at the way people are being abused and taken advantage of in these countries, it’s an international crime. I arrived in Dubai and the lines were miles long. I had booked a night in a hotel and the rep was there to meet me. He whisked me through Immigration, what a relief.

Flight 20 was the long, 15 hour leg from Dubai to Melbourne. Emirates, EK406. Seat 44A, near the front and on the aisle. The A380 was packed and I sat beside an older couple from Scotland going to visit family in Australia.

The second leg of the same flight took off 3 hours late. Fortunately there happened to be a friend on the flight so we had time to chat and catch up. I hope she settles well back in NA after 6 years in Tanzania.

So, home, it’s been a long year, more than half the year out of the country. So, now it’s time to rest a little and catch up on family. Helen has had her hands full with family stuff. We’re planning for next year but there will be less travel. It’s been great to see our team growing so we’re handing over things to them. That has already meant fewer e-mails and from next year, less travel.

I cannot believe the impact our partners are having. And, we want to thank you for being with us this year.

Christmas time, God has come, with us! Yea.

Kevin and Helen.


Time to go

2014-02-11

Friends, this is us signing back in for another year.Where did December and January go!

There has been plenty going on over summer and we're really rapt to have had a great time with family over Christmas and New Year and good times with our field team in Nelson in January. 

There has been a lot of planning going on to for the year and it's looking pretty interesting. We're planning to do less travelling this year and to decrease it further over the the next  few years. Getting a bit old for this! In the middle of it all we managed to celebrate 40 years of marriage. Told you we were getting old. 

There is still plenty going on and on tomorrow Kevin is off to Asia and Helen follows in about 10 days. Here's a bit of an outline of the next 44 days.

Tomorrow Kevin heads off to Thailand with a team of 18 people from 3 new Zealand churches. After a couple of days in Bangkok it's up into Chiang Mai and the hilltribe border with Myanmar (Burma.) A week sleeping on the floor isn't really something to look forward to, but the outcome will be great. Building 2 kindergartens and a water project in a couple of very rural villages. 

On the 24th February, Kevin's birthday, Helen arrives in Chiang Mai. Then it's a couple of days around Chiang Mai and then across Thailand to Pakse in Laos. We've got a couple of partners there and we'll spend 4 days  with them and meeting the people they work with. 

Then it's back to Bangkok for 3 days visiting partners and hopefully getting a visa for Myanmar. If we get them we'll spend a couple of weeks in Myanmar. The country is much more open now and we'll be traveliing out into the rural areas where we haven't been allowed to go before. 

Most of this time Mark and Emma Stokes will be travelling with us. They are becoming more involved with our partners now and we're handing over to them. There will be a lot of introductions and discussions as well as interviews and reporting and some great meals.

On the 19th March we head over to the Philippines to meet our partners and we get back to NZ on the 26th March. 

Over the next few weeks we'll try to keep you up to date and show a few pictures as well. There are lots of flights and kms by road so would appeciate your prayers. We really need you to start up again and follow and if you have a few minutes, drop us a note on the blog?

Love to all

Helen and Kevin 


early mornings

2014-02-16

it's been a few days of early starts, this morning being no different. But it's been an interesting time settling the team into Thailand. We spent two nights in Bangkok visiting a partner, Rahab Ministries, and a canal cruise. The team were very challenged by the situation that Rahad is dealing with. So many girls, 4,000 in 2 streets, and so many sleeze ball tourists we have some interesting discussions helping the team process it all. 

The team is made up of 4 people from Mt. Albert Baptist Church, 3 from CBC church in Hamilton and 11 from St Andrews Churchm Wiapukurau, 18 of them. 

We left Bangkok early Saturday morning and negotiated 3 train changes to the airport, interesting with so many people, and flew on to Chiang Mai. We had the afternoon briefing about the trip into the bush and then Sunday doing some tourist stuff. Now, it's early Monday morning and we're about to get on the vehicles and head into the bush. 

i'm going to be out of touch for a week, not even cell phone coverage so it's going to continue to be quiet from me. 

Helen has had a great weekend with Sara and Ruth and a couple of the grandchildren. It's been great and it's been running around and loving them. In a week she'll be on the way here, yea.

Thanks for following and praying. I'm not feeling great for this last day. I've got a really bad throat and don't feel great going onto the bush with it. So, I'd value your prayers. 

Love

Kevin 


Laos and about

2014-02-17 to 2014-02-27

OK, so it’s been a while, I realise that. I do have a few excuses:

To tell the truth, it’s been all of the above and Helen and I are now both in Pakse in Central / South Laos. The time with the team in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and then into the bush was stimulating, inspiring and very tiring. Sleeping on the floor, starting work at 6:00 a.m., mixing concrete by hand and bucket, cold showers and squat toilets all catch up with you after a while.  Right now I’m pretty tired and having a cough all the way through hasn’t helped either.

But, we’re coming right and improving by the day. It’s great to have Helen back and traveling with me again after not being on all of the trips last year. It sure makes traveling a lot less stressful. Also, Mark and Emma Stokes are traveling with us. They are picking up more responsibility for Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. It’s great to see them engaging with the partners and getting a real handle on what’s going on here.

We have one partner here in Laos. We spent time with them today checking out the training programs they are running here, mainly English but a couple of others as well. It’s very inspiring really. This is a strongly communist country still, hammer and sickles abound on flags. But people are open to learn and gain knowledge. It was fun to participate in an English language class last night.

We’re also investigating another partner who is involved in helping settle poor farmers in new areas to grow coffee. They are part of a 3 year training program and some of them after graduating head off to new areas to farm. The area that the next group are going is over in the West of the country and it used to be part of the Hi Chi Minh trail. It is still full of unexploded ordinance which has to be cleared before farming can commence. It’s an expensive job and we’re looking at how we can help. Anyone want a bomb clearing job for a month or two!?

Today we heard a number of stories of total transformation in a country where there is great oppression and opposition. You can’t suppress and you certainly can’t frustrate God’s plans when he wants to do something. I have to be careful what we say as this is possibly under scrutiny and we don’t want to compromise the work our friends are doing here.

We’ve got two more sleeps here before we head back to Bangkok for 3 nights and then over to Myanmar. I’ll try not to have too many excuses next time and report in on time!

lots of love


Pakse and Bangkok

2014-02-28 to 2014-03-04

We had a good time in Laos, really like the people we are working with. It was great to hear more stories about how lives are being changed and developed and how they are going back to their communities to bring further change.

There are more than 300 people learning English in the programme, the reason it’s so popular is the number of Western young people there teaching English. There were 4 young, just out of secondary school kiwis there. It was fun to hang out with them a little. Every year they need a bunch of people to go for a year. You might like to do that? They go to Thailand for a couple of weeks training on the way in and then in Laos for a year. It’s a pretty cool thing to do I reckon. They are also training local people to bake and to become domestic workers.

We had some lovely meals in Pakse, we really liked Lao food. Saturday afternoon we drove out of town a way to visit the home of one of the Lao staff. In the village her mother lives in a lot people work and display the various cultures of Lao tribes, quite interesting. We hung out there for a couple of hours and explored the area and the waterfall. Some of the hand weaving was amazing.

On Sunday we went to church with about 50 English speakers, mainly from overseas, people working in Laos. Then we jumped into the back of a ute and drove to the border with Thailand, left Laos, entered Thailand and drove another hour to the city of Ubon Ratchathani. There we caught at plane to Bangkok, then a bus to the BTS (light train) station and then a 30 minute ride on the train to the centre of Bangkok and then a 10 minute walk to the hotel. We passed the last camp of protesters in Bangkok at Lumpini Park. We were staying at the Bangkok Christian Guesthouse for a couple of nights, right in Silom area, centre city.

It’s a good place for getting around, near the trains and cheap restaurants and one of our partners. Early Monday morning we were up and off to the Myanmar Embassy to get visas. We got there by 8:00 a.m. and were about 40th in line. We filled out the forms, attached our photos and waited till 9:00. The doors opened and we went in waited in line, there must have been 200 – 300 people in the line, handed in the passports for checking, got our little number tag, lined up again and paid our money, about $50. We were out of there about 9:30 and back on another train to MBK, the big shopping mall. Mark Stokes wanted to buy a camera while he was here so he went off and looked at them, Helen bought a cover for her phone, we had lunch and then back to the hotel to catch up on a few e-mails and other bits and pieces. Emma and Mark went back to the Embassy at 3:30 and picked up our passports, visas approved.

The food around this area is pretty good. You can get a really nice Thai meal for $2, although we are pretty much over rice for every meal. Tuesday we went over to our partner in Patpong, Rahab Ministries. They are rescuing women from prostitution from the bars. They do it by making friends with the girls, it’s a long term programme. They told us of one woman who had just become a follower of Jesus after 30 years of working in this area. An amazing story. It was lovely to spend a couple of hours with Voranuch and Prai and hear their love for these women. This is an area set up for bars for tourists, local men are not allowed to go into the bars. It’s a hang-over from the Vietnam War…. Well done you guys!

We got back to the hotel, checked out, got some lunch while Mark went off to buy his camera. Then at 3:00 we went off in a taxi to the North of Bangkok, to Muangthang church. We’re staying in the church, they have some rooms for this and today, Wednesday, we meet two more partners. Chuenjit is coming at 11:00, she runs a half-way house for young people leaving prison. Many are in there for drugs, underage sex and petty crime. She runs programmes in the prison, takes them in and helps rehabilitate them back to their families. In the process many of them find Jesus.

Then John and Nok come at 1:00 and we have lunch and a couple of hours with them. I’ll tell you about them next blog.

At 4:30 we head to the airport for our flight to Yangon in Myanmar. This area is one of the protest areas where people have been killed so it’s a little tense, taxi drivers don’t like coming here. The protesters are now leaving and concentrating in the centre of the city. So, hopefully there will be no holdups on the way to the airport.

Next time we’ll be coming to you from Myanmar. Mark and Emma have been unwell with throat and chest issues like I had earlier. So, you could pray for them. Myanmar is going to be busy with a lot of partners to visit and stuff to sort out.

Love to all

Kevin and Helen


The Royal White Elephant

2014-03-05 to 2014-03-12

We’ve just got back from a day out around Yangon. It’s hot, really hot and sticky, around 37 degrees C and high humidity. I can’t imagine how hot it will be in a couple of months.

About a week has passed since our last communique, here’s a summary of the last few days:

Yesterday was Helen’s birthday, not a lot we could do but we had fun and she seemed to enjoy her day. It’s one of the stranger places to celebrate a birthday. Today we were able to  skype our daughter Sara and her little Coco. That was lovely.  Emma left us as well  and we will miss her.

Tomorrow we head off to Laputta in the Irrawaddy Delta, it’s a 9 hour bus ride. We’ll spend a couple of nights there meeting partners we’ve been supporting for a few years. Then we do the 9 hours back again on Saturday. So, probably no internet for a few days. It’s not a part that many tourists go to, a bit off the beaten track and no beaches, just mangrove swamps evidently. We’ll find out soon I guess. Mark heads north to Kalemyo for a couple of days as well scoping out some new opportunities.

It’s about bedtime so I’d better get this uploaded while we’ve still got internet, it comes and goes at the Royal White Elephant.

Lots of love

Kevin and Helen


the giant and the Chinese lady

2014-03-13 to 2014-03-17

It’s about time to move on again. This time tomorrow we’ll be in Bangkok for one night and then it’s on to the Philippines. So we have to pack again and get organised. We’ll say goodbye to the Royal White Elephant and find ourselves in new digs.

Last time we were planning to head off to Laputta out on the Irrawaddy Delta. This  town was devastated by Hurricane Nargis in 2008 and about 70,000 people died in the region. It sits on the edge of one of the channels of the Irrawaddy River. Nargis is the reference point out there. But, I’ll let Helen fill you in on the trip there and back.

We got a pleasant surprise early on Thursday morning to find our bus trip to Laputta was in a mini bus, nothing like our experience on African buses. Very modern and clean, it had a high roof and air con. There were only 6 passengers so we could spread out. We left the inner city at 7am - very interesting and challenging, busy, busy roads - two lanes become 4 lanes - hundreds of cyclists risking their lives weaving in and out of traffic, no helmets and most motor cyclists were the same.

It was interesting  to see the very poor and the developed city merge together. Heaps of bamboo shacks on stilts built on sides of rivers and drains. I imagine there would be heaps of mozzies and so hot and stcky.

Most of the way it was like being on a mini roller coaster, we bounced around holding on, horns beeping all the time as often the road was just one and car width with  buses and trucks racing by and along the usual pedestrians, cyclists, cattle drawn carts, tractor driven transport etc.

The rivers here are huge. We went across the longest bridge we’ve ever crossed. Lots of rice growing and prawn ponds, life is very simple and basic as we sat and watched it all. Lots of temples with ugly idols.

Road works for ages slowed it all down. It was very sad to see how hard locals work doing so much manual work on the roads using small hammers to break up huge rocks for road foundations. Also some  kids were  helping, no gloves, some bare feet and others jandals. Not hats, so hot. Pouring hot tar by hand in a container that looked like a watering can. No hot showers to go home to, no massages, hand lotion, cold drinks…

The road foundations were not that level so more roller coaster roads being made.

We finally reached our Guest house at 4pm pleasantly surprised to find a comfortable room, running water and working loo.

We had a wash and a  60 minute rest and then off to meet our friends out there. We travelled with a young man, Piang Paiang, 24 years old with good English. His family were lovely and have a home which has a church under it. We had a yummy meal and then met with the church. About 40 people came, we greeted and sang and then Kevin spoke to them. Neighbours throw stones on their roof and fence if they sing too late at night so we had to finish by 7:00 p.m.!

Afterwards we did greetings  and then  it was back to the Best Guest House to collapse and sleep. We had air con, unfortunately it was set to 16 degrees C and pointed straight on our bed and we had no remote, so we had to turn it off.

We had some funny times with transport. The first ride was arranged for Kevin and I to go on a bicycle rickshaw with two seats attached on the side. Of course it was impossible for Kevin to fit on the seat and I only just got on doing side-saddle. The poor wee driver only weighed about 55kgs! Kevin caught a motorbike.

Friday morning we both had motor bike rides, everyone stared at us. Nice breakfast, rice and eggs then off to see boats at the wharf and walk around the huge market with fish, meat, chickens, chillies, water melons…..

Then off to visit a family from church needing prayer. Kevin was asked to share encouraging Bible verses and then we prayed. After the obligatory green tea it was back to the family home.

Mid morning about 10 of us jumped into a tractor motor driven vehicle with a canopy and two bench seats and off we went, rocking and rolling on a 30 minute ride. They took us to some land where they have started a little church in a very poor community caught up in demon possession and fear. The first convert was a man who used to be a monk and another was a fortune teller. Some of the stories were very impacting. So many are ruled by fear and that has all gone now.

There’s a big tree near the little church which the community people said was infected with demons and people would die who go near it. Already they said 10 people had died there. The new Christians killed a big snake and a big black cat and ate them. The local people were convinced someone would die but they didn’t. They shared about Jesus and now lots of people want to know about this Jesus.

Kids get married young in these rural areas. Kids that are not in school get bored so one girl we met was 14 and married to a 16yr old!

There was no transport to take us  back and had  to wait on side of road for a long time. Eventually a motorbike came along and Kevin sent me off so I could get back and wash and have a rest. I had a very sore back. So off I went, we ended up in the middle of town and our guest house was on outskirts of town and driver didn’t speak English. YIKES, help Lord?

I saw a policeman and I tried to talk about our Guest House and the driver went off to another hotel. So back to policeman and this time the right directions. Phew!

A yummy lunch at our friends home, lots vegies, shrimps and chicken. In the afternoon we interviewed 5 kids who live with our friends.

I then stayed back for a bed rest while Kev went off for two more visits to people’s homes. I sat outside and watched kids playing games and showed some of  them family  videos and photos from my phone. Then another delicious meal.

After we arrived in Laputta we found out our return bus trip would be Friday night at 7pm not Saturday morning, it was going to be a big bus! We presumed the worst thinking it would be an old rattletrap. Another surprise, it was a new modern bus with aircon and seats like an aeroplane that tilt back, overhead lights and adjustable air. We both snoozed a bit on the trip. It rode comfortably over the bumpy roads and we finally got back to hotel in Yangon and settled into a room at 4.00 a.m.

We loved our visit and appreciated what they are doing in the community. There is a deep work going on out there very impressive.

People thought Kevin was a huge giant and I was Chinese!!


TIRED!!

2014-03-18 to 2014-03-23

Last Tuesday we managed to leave Myanmar after two weeks on the ground. Wow, there is a lot to recall, I’m not looking forward to the reports I’ve got to write now. It was great to have Mark and Emma Stokes with us (they can write some of the reports) and to meet a couple of potential new partners.

We flew out of Yangon early in the morning and apart from the great people, we left having eaten some awesome food as well. In reading and talking to people it became more obvious to us what our focus in Myanmar should be. Two areas, one in the area of people working amongst Buddhist people and second, up in the hills of the north where there is a huge poverty. The plan is to introduce our agriculture people and the Foundations for Farming programme.

The north on Myanmar is a huge area full of problems. The bulk of the heroin in the world is produced there and exported out through Thailand, many of the illegal hard drug components come from here as well, there are still conflicts going on between the military and local ethnic militias and then there is the “green harvest” of young women. Young girls, particularly Shan girls because they have fairer skin, are taken out to Thailand but mainly China by the truck load. It’s a “green” harvest because the girls are young…..

We were reminded of this on our last day in Yangon when we went out to the poorest part of the city to meet a potential new partner. They have a number of women and children in their programmes who were taken off to another country, tricked into a “job,” some of them “married” and then abandoned. It’s a shocking reality that this is such a common issue.

Tuesday we overnighted in Bangkok and then on Wednesday flew to Manila in the Philippines. The last few days have been a bit of a blur to be frank. We flew out to Legazpi an hour south east of Manila on Thursday and spent two nights in a rural barrio. It’s was great to be going a little slower, hanging out with a great family we have been partnering with for around 15 years. We told lots of stories, did a couple of short Bible teaching sessions, visited a group of people who are starting a new little local church in a small village and talked to a bunch of keen Christian young people late into the night.  Helen loved spending time in the bamboo bedroom and the crazy humour of the Filipina people we stayed with.

Then on the way back to the airport Saturday we visited a church built by the Spanish in 1580 something and then destroyed by a volcano in 1814. The tower is still there but crumbling, so is the volcano still flaring up from time to time. The Mayan volcano is a perfect cone, a beautiful piece of landscape. This church was around 230