Part of the reasoning behind buying The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in Kenya, was to be able to grow and raise much of our own food. Plus to be able to produce food for the hungry people we work with in the Nakuru community. We spend the vast majority of funds that come in on feeding the children, ourselves, and a host of other people. When we started to look for a piece of land to buy that was one of the foremost agendas for that new land, production of food.
Now since we know little about farming and gardening we are studying and applying that timeless learning tool, trial and error. I have failed to grow quite a few vegetables and succeeded on a few others. I am confident that in the future this farm will produce an abundance of vegetables.
One aspect of the farm that has been a big success are the pigs. We bought the two pigs from a farmer nearby, and honestly I did not think they would survive. The things were skin and bones and covered with mange. Lots of food and a little medicine fixed them right up. Maggie, our sow, is on her third litter. We have been able to sell some of the piglets, give a few away, and most importantly eat some ourselves. Last week I slaughtered a piglet for dinner and tomorrow will do the same for lunch. One hundred percent organic and well cared for suckling pig is some of the best meat I have ever had.
Butterfly is hiding behind that post on her way to feed the horses. Each day they are fed four times with wheat bran, barley, and horse meal. Typically we feed them hay, but it has become hard to find and prohibitively expensive due to scarcity. They are also brushed, feet cleaned, and worked each day. It is a lot of work, but it is work with a purpose.
The horses are not just Kate's hobby. Nor did we buy the children ponies just to fulfill that seemingly ever present desire of young girls for a pony. We acquired the horses with the aim of using them as therapy animals. (Though of course some of our own children enjoy riding them as well.) There was a point in my spiritual journey that I decided to take Matthew 25 seriously. To aid and love "the least of these." Which is the reason we moved to Kenya.
And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Throughout the past twelve years we have tried to love and assist the least here in Kenya. We have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, and assisted the oppressed as best as we can. We still do these things in fact. Yet we encountered many people that we struggled to be able to help. Disabled children were a big group in this category. We just had no way to bring joy and healing into their lives, until we encountered equine therapy.
The horses do more than bring these children joy. Riding these animals forces the children's bodies to use muscles that otherwise are not exercised properly. It is a form of physical therapy using several hundreds of pounds of horse. The children sit on the horse and go through a program of games and activities designed to strengthen their backs, legs, arms, and minds. This all takes place within half an hour to a hour, but all the work to get to that small window is worth the smiles and future improvements.
We are still at the beginning of this aspect of our project, but it has begun well. We have a thoroughbred and three ponies to utilize. The Shire, our almost twelve acres here in East Africa, is not quite large enough for fields of grass for the horses, but we have created a flat space for them to be worked and buy food for them from town. (Surprisingly there is a sizable horse loving community here in Kenya. We have not had much difficulty in finding feed for them.) We are at the end of our dry season. The rains are on the way. The space we leveled to be able to do the therapy in has had grass planted and we await the rain to spur the growth. The horses seem to be waiting for the rain as well. They miss all the yummy grass that dries up in the dry season.
Thank you to everyone that helps make this program successful, and thanks to those who will help in the future. These children are worth the effort.
This particular bush, I have no idea what it is actually called, is thorny. It's thorns do not poke you, no in this bush's mind that would be too kind. Instead it metes out punishment with thorns that grab you. The more you struggle, the deeper the thorns go. I once grazed one of these while riding the motorcycle, glanced down at my arm to discover blood oozing from a dozen wounds. This bush is serious about thorns.
Asking for money is somewhat like this bush, thorny. Soon as I mention it I lose readers or listeners and we get lumped in with all the other people and projects asking for money. Yet we need money.
April is coming to an end and it will be time to pay school fees. Which is around 75,000 KES or approximately $727 U.S. dollars. We could also use $2, ooo U.S. dollars to stock up the pantry and other items around the farm. There are other needs, some of which I cannot post online, but we need money.
The good thing about getting stuck in our thorns, is that we are nice to be stuck to. We cannot promise blessings or riches in return for your money, but we can promise to use it to the best of our abilities to bring hopeful futures to children here in Kenya.
If you would like to risk the thorns follow this link:
There is also a handy app that will allow you to send money directly to our phones here in Kenya (we have a banking service on them and can purchase goods or withdraw the cash from our phone.) It is called Wave. We have used it many times successfully and find the exchange rate to be favorable to us on this side. Use my number +254723743212 https://www.wave.com/
Some time back, many months back, Juliet Barnes gave us an old kerosene refrigerator. Now if like me you have, or rather had, no idea what a kerosene fridge (or as they say in Kenya paraffin fridge) is don't feel bad. It is a pretty old piece of technology. I deduced from the name that it was a refrigerator that ran on kerosene, but I had never seen anything like it in my life before.
We drove across the Soysambu Consverancy to get to her house (also a mud house) and pick up the fridge. She had not used it in some time and it is pretty ancient. Juliet advised us to drive as roughly as possible on the way home to shake up the chemicals that cause the cooling. We did so, but alas could not get the thing to work. We tried a couple of times and more or less gave up on it.
Enter Andrew, our nineteen year old son, he spoke with a fridge fundi (repairman) in town and got some advice. The fundi told him to turn it upside down and listen. If he heard the chemicals moving than great. The fundi said to leave it for a day or two then turn it over and try it out. We lit the flame in the evening and had ice in the morning. It works!
Now this refrigerator is small and will not be able to meet all our needs, but it is helping to keep the milk fresh. Thank you Juliet.
The flame that heats the chemicals that causes the cooling action.
Elementary and high school are something that I took for granted as an American. I started school in kindergarten and finished twelfth grade without ever once worrying about being able to attend school. Certainly there are some Americans that do have that struggle, perhaps they have to leave high school to help support the family. However I imagine that the majority of my peers had little fear of not attending school. I was never sent home because my parents failed to pay school fees.
Unfortunately that is not the case here in Kenya. Many children miss out on part of their education or all of it due to the inability to pay the school fee, buy a uniform, pay the lunch fee, or whatever new fees the head teachers dream up for that term. When a child has not paid the fee they are still expected to turn up to class in the morning. Then they are called out and sent home to collect the money from their parents. Who of course do not have it, which is why they have not paid the fee in the first place. This repeats the next day or perhaps the day after. The result is much absenteeism, creating holes in the learning process.
In a couple of weeks it will be time for us to pay school fees for the children we care for plus a few others in the wider community. Kate and I believe that education is a vital part of creating hopeful futures for orphaned or abandoned children here in Kenya. A child who has completed high school has more of an opportunity for higher education, vocational schools, and jobs. It is important, vital, that we keep as many children in school as possible.
“True education is a kind of never ending story — a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.”
Easter is my (Johnny) favorite holiday. Searching back through my memories it seems that I have always loved this holiday. Certainly as a child it was more about candy, getting dressed up for church and egg hunts than any faith related event. There is just something about searching around the back yard for brightly dyed eggs and those oh so precious plastic ones full of jelly beans.
When I decided as a teenager to get serious about figuring this God thing out, which I still have not, the holiday became more about the resurrection of Jesus. Remembering the crucifixion and all the events leading up to it took precedence over the candy and eggs. I even adopted a few years back the practice of meditating on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Morning on the fact that the original followers of Jesus did not expect his resurrection. They would have been devastated at his murder by the state and trying to figure out whether or not it was worth following his teachings even though he had been so easily captured and executed. I like to think, or hope, I would have still followed his teachings and example, even without the hope of the resurrection. Guess I will never know, since I learned the end of the story first.
I know there is a lot of theological debate about the resurrection and the events leading up to it. There must be thousands of atonement theories out there. Many people, there are even some days I must admit I am one, cannot even accept the resurrection. It is just too big a magical leap for a good number of us educated folks. There are times when I get bogged down with the details and theology. I have to be honest and say that I do not mind getting lost in the story and trying to figure it out. I love that kind of stuff. However, that is all it is when you deconstruct it, stuff.
What really matters is what does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you? How it works is just fun talk and speculation. Not a single person reading this was there in Jerusalem a couple of thousand years ago. No one wrote down details about the event; first century Palestinians did not write play by play accounts of events. If we are being honest, or at least honest enough, we have no way to know definitively what happened on that day.
I can already hear/read the response, "I know what happened on that day. It's in the Bible. If it's in the Bible it must be factual." Today we are celebrating Easter 2017. That is the year 2017. This year. We know stuff. We know stuff about stuff. Our stuff knows more stuff about stuff than the smartest person knew in the first century. There is no scientific evidence that the resurrection took place. None. Zip. Nada. Yet I still believe in the resurrection. Why? I choose to have faith.
Faith is not scientific. Faith is not black and white. Faith is not measurable with a scale or a ruler. Faith is believing in something unbelievable. Living for something bigger than understanding. Faith transcends science. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. It is not something provable, which is why it is called faith.
I believe in the resurrection because it gives me hope. I have hope in Jesus. In him. Not the religion that Paul and others founded in his name, but in the man Jesus who was from Nazareth. Jesus came and preached a radical anti-empire anti-religion and pro-people message. He did this knowing that the Empire regularly crucified people for doing that very thing. He continually admonished his followers and listeners to love their enemies knowing that these very people where longing to overthrow their oppressors and mete out justice on them. He willing went to the cross in faith that his message would be preserved and passed down the ages.
This brings me hope. The God I grew up with would never have endorsed the Sermon on the Mount. No sir. That god wanted to squash me for looking at girls. That all powerful god needed my money, or rather as I was taught in church he wanted his money back. The god I grew up with hated people so much that he created a place of everlasting torment just so he could watch them suffer. That god scared me; in fact that was the point. Hope dawned as I read the Gospels for myself. I was stunned. After that I read the entire protestant Bible front to back several times in a row. Then I parked myself in the sermon on the mount. This Jesus was a man that I did not have to fear. He did not want to stab out my eye, or deposit me in hell to be tortured day after day for all of eternity just because I forgot to dot an i or cross a t. He was lovable and full of love.
The resurrection is God's stamp of approval on Jesus. It is God's way of saying this guy is worth paying attention to and following. Easter brings hope. I have hope that if we can live the message of Jesus, our lives, the whole world, will become paradise.
Not to worry the only thing lost was a compost bin. Unfortunately not everyone thinks about how dry things are before throwing coals onto a compost pile. We managed to contain the fire before it spread too much. The biggest loss, all the precious water we had to use to contain that fire.
I am covered in dust from head to toe. My skin itches from handling bales of hay, and I feel really dirty because we have to ration water during this dry season.
As many of you are aware, we are starting up a Horse Therapy program, and you might be asking yourself, "WHY?"
There are moments in my day when I am sweating outside running around a round pen training the new ponies that were given to us, that I ask myself that same question.
"What was I thinking?" crosses my mind as I shovel poop out of a stall. But then, I bury my face in a freshly combed horse mane (the cleaner she gets, inevitably, the dirtier I am), and I remember. That smell takes me to a place back when I was 14... I could bury my face in a horse's mane and not have a care in the world. He trusted me, and I him. He listened, not only to my stories, but to my cues when I asked him to carry me on his back. He was my friend. I used to read the bible looking for every horse scripture I could find. (There are many, by the way). I wanted to continue spending time with these beautiful creatures, but my, at the time newly divorced, parents sold my horse when I went off to Bible college.
Move forward to a few years ago, I didn't know anything about equine assisted therapy. Donors helped us buy our farm, and I knew immediately, I wanted a horse. I wanted my kids to learn to muck out stalls, clean tack, brush fuzzy horses, and learn how to ride, all the while having an amazing experience bonding with a creature whose history is marked with changing the world through their loyalty and sacrifice.
In my search for an affordable horse, I came upon a lady named Sue Anderson who was running a Riding for Disabled program in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. She had a horse she needed to place in a home immediately due to bad behaviour. We offered to take him on. When we went to her home, we helped with the therapy program as 'sidewalkers'. It was a thrilling experience seeing the children's faces light up, watching them do the exercises and seeing how it affected their core strength. Up until that point, I had NO idea that horses could actually help disabled children physically. (Keep in mind, I have lived outside of the Western world for 12 years). Seeing 'Horse Therapy' sparked a curiosity in me to find out more.
Meanwhile, we had a new horse to care for who was naughty and traumatised, BUT he was ours (along with a bunch of tack Sue didn't need, too). Now, our daughter Edith had a difficult time adopting me. She is my daughter, but our start was a bit rough. She hardly spoke a word to me in seven years. I will skip the details now, but in short, when I put Edith on a horse, suddenly, she became more open with me. Maybe she felt accepted? Or maybe she realised that she was 'one of us?' Whatever the reason, she and I have finally connected. Having that naughty horse was one of the best things we could have done. My daughter Edith is finally a Brooks to her core.
So over the next few years from 2014-2016, I found myself doing more research on horse therapy. I took Makena, Butterfly, Haley, who is my friend who works with disabled kids in Nakuru, and Starlette back to Sue's in Nairobi to learn how to do horse therapy. All the while, I was being told by someone that posting photos of our horse would cause us to lose donations because they have a stigma of being costly. I felt guilty for owning him. I am the kind of person who loves self-denial. I won't buy things for myself. I feel guilty if I eat anything extremely delicious or sugary. I wear ONLY second hand clothes and shoes, etc... It is just how I am... So I started calculating costs to justify having a horse, and it turned out he cost less to keep than one of our dogs.
Then it happened. I was standing in my bedroom with its cow dung covered, mud-cracked walls thinking, praying, meditating about how our Kenyan daughters are growing up and in a few years, they will be finding their own path... Having given our entire lives to these girls, this is a big transition...What are we going to do? The scarier question yet, what do I WANT to do? (Self denial type people like me have a difficult time enjoying things without LOADS of guilt). So I treaded lightly as I delved into the possibilities of what would bring me joy and help the human race, as well... This was a terribly scary question that I was afraid to ask... Then, the answer floated up out of my soul and consumed me in a way that made me feel excited, happy. overjoyed and terrified all at the same time! Horse therapy is what I WANT to do!
"But it is impossible." responded my husband when I shared my heart with him. (As was his response to me telling him we should move to Africa, or take in orphan teens, or buy land...) "No one will support it." And so the push and shove began, just like it has happened every time in the past when I suggested we move our little ship a different direction...