Welcome to my blog. Hang out and feel free to make contact if you have any questions. (If you are looking for Kate Ellen just ask me and I will point you to her.)
Another area of my life where I feel real optimism is my faith. My faith is at a point that, honestly I can say is greater than ever before. Or maybe a better word would be it is healthier than it has ever been. I believe in the Divine. I follow Jesus. I believe there is more to life than what I can observe with my five senses.
Many of you, who have followed my journey for awhile, will be aware that I separated my faith from my religion around fourteen years ago. That process of separation took a few years, but the two came apart officially back in 2005. Never shall they be rejoined. I do not hate religion, for some people it holds meaning and is useful, however it only harmed and hindered me. That is a story for another day, today's story is about hope in the future of my faith.
When Kate and I made the move out to this rural village on the outskirts of Nakuru I made a decision. That decision, which I believe was prompted by God, was to take a three year sabbatical from all things spiritual. I mean all things.
I had already ceased regular Bible study and ritualistic reading. (God asked me to put the Bible down a few years before the sabbatical. It seemed counter intuitive to my faith at the time, but after a few months I understood why He asked me to do that. The Bible had become a god to me. It was an idol. Plus having read and studied it for years I was familiar enough with it and God was saying that I should use my time more wisely.) I stopped reading books on Christianity or any other topic of faith. I attended no religious meetings and had few conversations on spiritual matters. I stopped praying. I took a break from all things spiritual.
Three years stretched into four. When it was time to break my spiritual fast I began to analyse what had happened to me during my four years of no spiritual (or very limited) activity. Not much had changed.
Certainly I had not grown spiritually. i did not feel more in tune with the spiritual side of life. I did not feel closer to God on a personal or intimate level. However I had not gone backwards. I was in the same place as I was when the sabbatical started. No spiritual or relational growth with the Divine had occurred, but I had not digressed either. Emotionally I was alright. I felt good about myself. I was still a good person rescuing orphans, pouring my life into them and the work here in Kenya. There was however one place in my life where massive growth had occurred during the sabbatical; my faith.
How could that be? That is the question that the old Johnny asked. That Johnny who fervently attended a charismatic/Pentecostal flavored church. That Johnny who prayed in tongues multiple hours each day. That Johnny who read the Bible religiously each morning and evening. He reared his head and asked, "How can by not doing the things that are meant to build faith actually end up building faith?"
The answer it turns out was quite simple. Those spiritual practices, at least the ones I was fond of, do not build faith, instead they tend to reinforce religious behavior. Praying in tongues, which by it's very nature is not understandable, cannot build faith. To my ears it was meaningless mumbo jumbo. It served to prove to me, and I thought to God, that I was faithful. Look at me pacing back and forth in the back yard praying in tongues for hours and hours. Look God at how faithful and spiritual I am. Look at me! Those practices were meant to show God how cool I was and how deserving I was of his attention. My religion had taught me that God hated me from the moment of my birth since I was born a sinner. God, I was instructed, could not even stand the sight of me. Naturally then I needed to find a way to show Him how worthy I was of his sacrifice of his only son because I was born a sinner.
That kind of spirituality only built in me layer upon layer of practices. Rituals meant either to please God or to make me more worthy of His love. What happens when you add more and more layers upon layers? The center, the core purpose, of those practices becomes smothered under all those layers and layers. Remember the Pharisees and their building of fences around the law? Eventually you cannot even see that core anymore, only the spiritual practices are visible. I had even begun to mistake some of the layers (practices) as the core. i.e. the Bible.
When I went cold turkey for my break from all things spiritual, I was able to peel back those layers one at a time. It took four years but eventually I arrived back at the core. That faith which bloomed in an eight year old Johnny in a little Assembly of God church in Splendora Texas was still there. Squished under years of religious obligation and sin management, but it was still there. That kernel of faith that is God's gift to all of mankind was uncovered and shown the light of day again.
I realized something right away, that kernel was huge. My faith had grown leaps and bounds during my sabbatical.
My emphasis on my spiritual practices had distracted me from the simple act of believing. Stopping them allowed my faith to once again grow. I believe more now than ever before. I am willing to trust God and take steps that before I would have to have spent months in prayer, Bible study, intercession, and the consulting of gurus known to us as prophets before deciding what to do and therefore missing the moment.
This growth in faith has filled me with optimism. God is with me and I am with Him. I, like the sheep, can hear His voice, and the road it is leading me on is very exciting.
I have returned some spiritual practices to my life. I pray, admittedly in very disorganized fashion, but it is semi regular. I meditate. My meditation is specific to me, and does not resemble any guided meditations I am familiar with. (I will still do a guided one from time to time, especially if recommended by a friend. ) Contemplation is a serious part of my spiritual life. Finally I have returned that spiritual practice of communing with God. Where I attempt to know just a little more of the unknowable. Futile perhaps, but it is a necessary part of my life.
I now keep these things in check and regularly examine them to make sure they are not becoming the thing my life is about.
Believing I have come to understand, really should not be that difficult.
Fundraising can be such a pain. Why? Because often you (I) end up doing it when I really need the money. Meaning that the needs have become so pressing that I am forced to speak more directly about money. Like right now. I recently posted this about my immediate needs.
The thing is I end up then playing catch-up and having to focus on today's needs and do not get a chance to talk about the plans for the future. It also tends to sound like I am whining or complaining when talking about the urgent immediate needs. Yet they are there, those pesky needs. I even have a list, and another list of "less immediate needs." If you are willing to help please follow this link and see how you can get money to me here in Kenya.
Kate suggested I do a fundraiser, not for the immediate needs, but for the future. I have decided that to return my focus to working in the slums of Nakuru with sick single mothers and grandmothers I really need to be living in Nakuru. It would make all aspects of that work easier to be closer. Which means I will need some money to rent a place and buy a bit of furniture. If I am in town I can live without a car. (Kate will keep the Land Rover to use on the farm.) One of the great things about Kenya is that public transportation is everywhere and cheap. Bad thing is that it is not always the safest nor most comfortable way to get around. All this just to say I am considering Kate's advice about running a special fundraiser to help facilitate this move.
Which is difficult to think about when I have to figure out how to feed the girls and animals tomorrow. (I have received some gifts related to these needs. Thank you to those who have given.)
See I told you fundraising is a thorn in my flesh.
I recently shared how I was feeling optimistic about the future for the first time in a long time. I talked about shifting the focus of the community work that I do here in Nakuru to sick (bedridden for the most part) single mothers and/or grandmothers caring for grandchildren. You can read about it here. I also mentioned that I would share other areas of optimism I am feeling about my life with you, and well that is what we are doing here.
Fundraising is never an easy thing to talk about. I am a missionary who depends on the generosity of others to not only conduct the work I do but also to survive while doing that work. It takes a long time to come to terms with the fact that you have to ask people for money on a regular basis, it is humbling to say the least. It is a reality of this life. To help others I need help.
When Kate came out as gay and our marriage fell apart it was all very public. The money coming in was drastically reduced, understandably so. Donors saw a dramatic change happen in our lives, a change they nor I was prepared for. The future of what we were doing here in Kenya was suddenly cast in a shadow of doubt. That did not create a confident space for donors to send their hard earned money. Some of that future is still in flux, but one thing has not changed; and that is my commitment to what I believe I am meant to do here in Kenya, help provide hopeful futures to as many hopeless people as possible.
Admittedly of all the things I am optimistic about fundraising is the hardest one to maintain that bright outlook in. I think mostly because I just need to catch up, restock the house, and have cash to assist in the community. When that occurs then I will have more time and energy to devote to rebuilding monthly donors again. (Those of you still giving, thank you. You have been a huge blessing to us.)
This is me asking you to help me maintain this optimistic outlook on fundraising by helping me with some immediate needs. All these needs (listed down below) are related to feeding the girls, maintaining the property, and taking care of myself. It is not a big need and meeting it will not have any long term impact on the mission, but it will go a long way to creating a happy space in our household here in Kenya.
I need approximately $500 dollars to meet these immediate needs. (I created a little wiggle room for exchange rate fluctuations, bank fees, and the inevitable thing I forgot.)
If you would like to help, and let me say thank you up front, you can use Paypal, write a check, or the quickest way is to use Wave. If you use Wave it sends the money directly to my phone in a matter of minutes (there is a verification process the first time you use it that takes a little while, but it is still fast.) If you want to use Wave just email or message me and I will give you my phone number to use. ([email protected])
Thank you and without further ado here is the list of immediate needs.
- gas cylinder $20
- feed for cows $27
- pet food $37
- chicken feed $7
- rabbit feed $5
- labor $26
- internet $10
- phone credit $5
- fuel for car $20
- food $243
- meat $20
- veggies/fruit $29
- Total $449
Thank you for reading and considering helping us out here in Kenya. Also more optimistic posts coming soon, including a rare glimpse into my personal life and emotions.
Halloween is not celebrated here in Kenya, but Edith and I decided to mark the occasion. We watched Hocus Pocus and had chocolate. Good times. The last time I spoke with `Eowyn, who is in Texas right now, she was very excited to experience her first trick or treating. Tomorrow I am sure to get the report on the candy haul.
Edith has been home from school for almost a full week now. I am not sure why but the third term this year was very short. She will be home for more than two months. (Normally she is at boarding school for three months then off for one.) I still had to pay the full amount in school fees for this shorter term. Oh well she does seem to be o.k. with being home from school for a longer period of time than normal. Education continues to be one of the best ways to bring hopeful futures to children here in Kenya, especially those orphaned or abandoned kids.
Hope you have good childish fun today.
Yesterday I posted this on Facebook:
Been pondering my future almost full time for the past few days, and realized that for the first time in some time I have optimism for said future. I am looking forward happily. (Johnny's Facebook status)
I thought I would spend a couple of posts talking about this optimism and in particular why I am feeling good about different aspects of my life even though sometimes it looks like I should have anything but good feelings about my life. Let's start with the mission, the why I am here in Kenya in the first place and how I feel good about that.
There is a passage in Luke chapter 4 which describes Jesus' calling which I attempt to emulate in my life that goes something like this:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,Because He has anointed MeTo preach the gospel to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,To proclaim liberty to the captivesAnd recovery of sight to the blind,To set at liberty those who are oppressed;To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Actually it goes exactly like that as I just copied and pasted. This is why I am here in Kenya, and it is what gives me such hope in the future of my work. Helping the poor, brokenhearted, those held in bondage, giving sight to those blinded by circumstances, giving freedom to the oppressed and repressed, these are things that I love doing. They make one feel good to do them, because they are good. Preaching the gospel of love. Expanding the Kingdom of God one hungry person at a time. (I am not talking about proselytizing. Instead I am talking about loving someone just as they are, exactly as God does. No requirement for the person needing help to convert to any belief I might possess in order to get help from me. No attempt at conversion is ever made. There are many honest conversations about faith, but without any conversion agenda.)
When we made the move to The Shire, the off grid almost 12 acres of land in rural Kenya that we have lived on for several years now, it became more and more difficult for me to maintain a high level of community work in Nakuru. To be sure it still happened, but the focus was more on developing the land and caring for the orphaned girls that also moved out of town with us. Part of the purpose of purchasing this land was to be able to grow and provide food for those that needed it. That has happened, albeit not on the scale I had imagined. Just over the past few weeks I have been able to give away a pretty good number of pumpkins, which is great. However growing said food requires a lot of time and a fair amount of effort. Being off grid means that the farming is completely reliant on weather, which is never reliable. What I am trying to say is that living out here has slowed down the work I am supposed to be doing. That took away some of my joy in life.
I have always been more or less random in my approach to working with the poor and sick. Just helping those that come into my life or those that I have found that need someone. My thoughts now are to narrow the scope and minister in particular to sick single mothers or grandmothers caring for grandchildren. Many of these women are so sick that they are bedridden. Unable to work and therefore unable to care for their children or their children's children. Over the years we have had much success with this type of assistance, which gives me the assurances that we can make a big difference in many lives.
The help will still be given to individuals. While there might be a need in the world for big organizations helping hundreds or even thousands of people, that is simply not me. I am one person and work best with a more limited pool of folks. Besides the almost daily visits that can lasts hours that some of these women need, well they take up a lot of time. The good news is that for the most part it is not that expensive to assist these ladies, for the most part. (I do have Kenyan partners who I walk alongside with in this community work. We have found it works better when you can focus on a smaller group of people instead of passing out beans to two hundred people.)
My goal is to get as many of these women out of bed and back to as productive a life as they are capable of living. If that cannot happen then end of life preparations and a proper burial will be carried out.
There are tons of details that I am not typing out now, but I wanted to express part of my hope in my future. This is a big part, a huge part in fact. It is not something new for me, but rather a refocus from off grid farm living with it's time consuming responsibilities, back to my love witch is a more relationship based ministry where the aid is tailored to each individual.
Thank you for coming with me,
P.S. More details will be forthcoming about the future of A Future and a Hope now that Kate and I are divorced. She recently sent out a newsletter talking about some of those changes including her brand new project, Kate Ellen Adventures. You can read that newsletter here.
P.S.S. Expect more posts in the next few days about why I feel so good about the future. You might even get a rare glimpse into my personal life, I mean a glimpse that I have provided and not someone else.
P.S.S.S. If you would like to help me financially follow this link. I have not yet added it to the donate page, in fact so much of the blog needs to be updated, but Wave is a great way to send money. If you want to use Wave then send me an email and I will give you my phone number which you will need to send money through Wave. ([email protected])
The last post about the home invasion was pretty intense, and just a bit scary. This one will be more light hearted and easy on the old emotions. Before I jump into the bee harvest, an update on the robbery is in order.
Saturday and Sunday I basically just chilled out and attempted to deal with the trauma of waking up to violent thieves in the house. I spoke with friends and officials, read from a book, and contemplated how to better secure the house. Monday, today, I went to see the police. They were helpful and sympathetic. I filed a report, was given lots of phone numbers to call in case of any future events, and given hope that they will do what they can to help find the culprits. Today was a busy and tiring day, but in the end as I sit here on The Shire I do so with more hope and peace than yesterday.
This past Saturday I had scheduled to have honey harvested from a beehive and another hive that had been damaged moved to a new hive.
The hive we were harvesting honey from is right next to the house. We did not place the hive there on purpose. Someone just temporally put it down to go and do something else, and before they returned to the box it was occupied by bees. It was a little nerve wracking to live so close to a hive at first, but so far as I know no one has been stung by the bees yet. They are pretty calm and not scary. The harvesting went on well, and the bees seem to have gone through the invasion of their personal space with poise and dignity. I am still not sure how much honey we have harvested, mostly because the bees were still flying around and all that has been going on since the break in.
The other hive was a hollowed out log that had become broken on top some how. It was suggested to me that we try and move it to one of our yellow box hives. I agreed and the attempt was made. Unfortunately so far the bees do not seem to have taken up with the new hive. I did see some flying around today when I went to take these photos, but none coming in or out of the new hive.
You can't really see in the picture above but there is a hole on top of the hive. There was not really any honey inside either.
I just want to take a moment to remind everyone that part of the reason we purchased this land was to produce food that could be used in our work in Nakuru. To this day we have utilized some food from the homestead for relief. I have given people pork several times, which is always a real treat. Usually when you are not even sure where your next meal will come from, organic suckling pig is not even close to being on your mind. Maize, collard greens, pumpkins, and bananas have been used to help feed the hungry. The Shire is helping to feed the hungry.
I know I have not been blogging lately yet I had planned on revitalizing the blog and utilizing it again. It was not my intention to restart the blog writing with the following story, but this just happened on Friday night so it is fresh news. It was suggested to me that I go through the event again and remember as much as possible to help with dealing with the trauma, so I did and wrote it out as best I could. I have decided to share it with you here:
Yesterday started off as a fairly typical morning, lots of sunshine promising a nice day. I had conservation with my youngest brother, then went to town met friends for lunch, after that I went and said hi to someone, and came back home. I got home a bit late for me, around 5 in the afternoon. Fed the dogs, made dinner, and watched some t.v.
Went to bed around ten p.m. Was woken at midnight by dogs barking and the sound of the back door opening. Looked out my open bedroom door and say a guy standing there. I said something to him, can't remember what exactly and he replied with something as well, I think he actually asked me how I was. I rolled off the bed picking up a club that I keep next to the bed and a flashlight. As I am standing up something hits me hard in the right arm, but I don't take much notice of it at the moment as I am charging towards the guy I saw at the door. I chased him out of the house through the lounge and quickly lock the door behind him. I turn on the electricity and start switching on the lights and trying to figure out how he got in. While doing that I come across a second guy by the back door and he exits the house. I close the door and lock it and discover that they made entrance through a tiny window in the shower. So I lock that door from the inside, then lock the girls bedroom door from the inside as well. That's when I hear someone trying to pry open the wooden window in my office. I go and see some kind of farm tool being used to break the window open. At some point, and I really have no idea when, I had removed my computer from the office and put it on my bed. The window gets opened and I start fighting with the guy there, who I can now clearly see. I did not recognize him, though I was pumped up on adrenaline at that point so it is possible he is someone I have seen around. He is talking to someone that I cannot see next to the window, and I can hear someone breaking into a window in the girl's room, which is the room next to the office. Around this time the adrenaline begins to wear off and I started to be able to think straight again, and since I had no idea how many they were I started to try and figure out how to get out of this without serious injury to myself. I start talking with the guy at the window, who claimed his name was Simon and that there were five of them altogether. I only saw two, but could not be for sure how many where out there. He told me some story about how they were just hungry and trying to get something in order to get food. So I offer him the cash I had, three thousand shillings, and he takes it while also taking my headphones off the desk. I was tempted to smash him with my club at this point, but not knowing how many I would have to fight afterwards I thought better of it. I re-close and lock the window as best I can.
Now no one is trying to break in and I am trying to figure out if they really have gone. The dogs were still barking and close to the house, which gave me reason to think they had not gone. Though next day after going over it I believe they went through the fence to the neighbors and down towards the road. I only have one small light outside in the front of the house, and I cannot turn it on from the inside. So I go around turning off lights so I can see out the windows. Did not see anyone, and dog barking had moved off down towards the front gate. Now my arm is hurting, and I decide that I cannot just stand in the hall by the toilet for the rest of the night. So I go out and check around. I did not go too far from the house, as I did not want anyone to sneak in while I was out. They had left. This game me time to examine my arm, which is just bruised and not broken. I found what he had thrown at me, a heavy car part.
Spoke on the phone for awhile with Kate, Andrew, and Butterfly. Everyone I know in Kenya would have been asleep at this point. Anyway the night passed without further incident. I called the chief around 9:30 in the morning. She was not around but promised to come by in the morning. She will help me with reporting to the police and talking with the elders and neighbors. Ali came to check on me and stayed for awhile.
All in all a fairly terrible night, but I am glad to have escaped with only a minor injury and a small loss of cash. (They also broke into another of the houses which I did not find out till daylight.) Also first time in the past five months that I was glad the children where not here. (Edith and B.T. are away at school, and the others in the U.S.)
The following is my July newsletter which I am sending out right now:
Here's the thing, I do not know what to write in this newsletter. Do I share my feelings about the massive changes that have taken place in my life? This e-mail hardly seems like the right place for that. Do I share with you, my subscribers, the fear I have in making wrong decisions for the future? Again this monthly update for A Future and a Hope just does not seem like the appropriate venue to express those emotions. Can I express the regret I feel for decisions made decades ago? I think not. What about the hope I feel for the future? Or the sense of freedom that I now have in my life?
No this letter is meant to inform you of what is going on with the work here in Kenya.
A Future and a Hope still has children in school. In fact I spoke with Edith, who is at a boarding school in Nakuru, on the phone a couple of days ago. She called because she needed some school supplies, but the very first thing Edith asked me was, "Is it still boring there?" Which is Edith speak for "I miss my sisters who are in the U.S. right now." As do I. The seem to be having a good time, despite the requirement to wear shoes everywhere they go.
The Shire, the almost twelve acres of land I am living on right now, is lush and deeply green from the rain that it has been receiving. Despite that the weather man predicts that it is not enough rain and as a result we may have crop failures in parts of the country. It is hard to despair of that amidst all this greenery, and of course the weather man has been wrong before.
I wan to take the time to thank those donors who have stuck with me during these radical changes. Your hard earned money has enabled me to continue on here in Kenya. Several donors elected to move on after Kate's video and our split, which I can hardly blame them for. I am not sure how to go about adding new donors, but I have faith in what I am doing and in the one whom I follow.
Once again thank you to those of you still here. Not just those who give money, but the ones following my journey as well. Your prayers, messages, packages, gifts, and thoughts all have had a huge impact on many many people over the past fifteen years.
Here's to the future.
Collard greens, I harvested a couple of bunches and gave them to a couple of herdsmen. Not sure they were very excited seeing as to how this is a relatively cheap food here in Kenya and when a white man drives up on a motorcycles and asks you if he can give you something, well sukuma (collard greens) was probably not high on the list of expectations.
I could use your help, specifically your financial help. Funding has taken a dive and I need to restock the house (in preparation for the school holiday coming up,) feed animals, and continue to help the poor and sick in the wider community. Please consider sending a donation my way, every bit counts and makes a huge difference. You can send via PayPal using [email protected] or send a check to :
A Future and a Hope
7286 N. Birdsong Ln
Prescott Valley, AZ 86315
Please note this is a new address as Bob, who handles the banking for us, has moved from California to Arizona.
Thank you for all your help.
I hope you all had a fun and contemplative Easter weekend. We spent the weekend at home and enjoyed grilled pork for Easter Sunday, some homemade chocolate eggs, and an egg hunt. Not overly exciting, but plenty of opportunity for meditating on resurrection and it's place in our lives.
He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Now—on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.” Mark 16:6-7
There is another passage, but I cannot remember where off the top of my head, that speaks of that same resurrection power that Jesus used to come back, residing in us. We possess the ability to resurrect. Now since I have never witnessed someone bringing themselves back to life after death, I will be taking this metaphorically. Which to me is just as powerful, actually maybe more so. I have always appreciated the power of story and faith more than facts and evidence.
With all that is going on in our lives right now I admit to finding it difficult to hope in resurrection or to find it's power residing in me. There is much uncertainty swirling in the future of our family. I do not have answers for what will be three, six, or eight months from now.
I spent much of Saturday thinking on the darkest emotions and thoughts that have been attempting to surface in my head over the past months. I just let them bubble up to the surface and proceeded to meditate on them. Looked at them from one side, then another, flipped them over and took a look at the underbelly, and when Saturday was finished I was able to expose those thoughts and feelings to the power of resurrection.
I am a practical minded person. I spend most of my time in the here and now not up in the spiritual realms. I believe in the spiritual, it just does not have much place in my day to day life. Yet there are moments in the year when I embrace the spiritual whole heartily, Easter weekend is one of those times. The spirit of resurrection had an impact on me and all my festering thoughts and emotions. Cleansing so to speak my mind.
I feel whole and right.
I am still sad that Kate and I are no more and still feel some trepidation towards the future. Yet hope has returned. Faith can be a wondrous healer.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Hey guys, I know we hardly write blogs (not even sure blogging is still relevant), and I hope to change this. In fact, I hope to start a new blog with a different title, and I'll get into all of that another time!
We recently lost one of our biggest monthly donors because they felt lead by God to donate elsewhere. I get it, and I understand that what we do in Kenya is not for every one, nor do we expect people to give for the full duration of our work. Those folks helped us through SO MUCH, and they were a huge support over the years. Sometimes one must make a change. It is so important to follow one's heart.
So at the moment, we are down a sizable amount, and we are needing help finding folks to help us fill this gap!! Don't worry if your gift is only $5 or $10 or whatever... any will do. Seriously. A bale of hay for the horses is $3 a day. If you could help with that, that would be great. Seriously. ANY amount.
Would you consider supporting us monthly? We are a project that you can actually talk to. I am an individual, not an institution. I am ME. I help children, women, single moms, etc... I am conscious of the environment, and I hope to be an encourager to those who feel as if they want to do more with their lives. YOU. CAN. DO. IT.
If you'd like to give monthly, you can visit Paypal.com and donate to [email protected] or use the following form: