Tuesday, December 30

Fw: End of Year Gifts

David Gruber co-founder sent this very nice message to his friends. I am blessed to have him as a partner in Partners for Care, Connie

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Date: Tue, 30 Dec 2008 13:56:05 -0500
To: <Undisclosed-Recipient:;><Invalid address>
Subject: End of Year Gifts

In case any are interested in making an end of year charitible contribution, and have not done so, please let me know. I would be happy to meet with you tomorrow (Dec 31) in order to be sure the donation is processed for a 2008 tax year deduction.
Connie just returned from a very successful trip, through which more than 10,000 were presented the Gospel and learned about HIV/AIDS prevention and how living according to God's principles, HIV could be eradicated in Kenya and beyond. During the stops on this "what if?" tour, more than 300 accepted Christ, and hundreds were tested to learn their HIV status. You can read more on the blog site, http://partnersforcare.blogspot.com. The theme of these events was "what if there were no HIV pandemic?" - what could God accomplish in lifting the people of Kenya out of poverty and broken families and lives which have resulted from this disease. We are supporting our Kenyan friends in trying to accomplish something so impossible, that it is doomed to failure unless God is in the middle of it - to create an HIV-free generation in Kenya. Pray how you might be a part of that, whether by praying, giving, or going on a trip - or go for the Trifecta, and do all three.
Connie and I are grateful for the support provided in the past, and pray for a healthy and prosperous New Year for each of you.
God Bless,

Friday, December 26

What If? Concert tour a success

The last of the What If? Concerts were held in villages near Mombasa. The team returned to Nairobi on Christmas Eve day travelling through the night. The team was tired but not too tired to arrange to meet and interview Dr. Lumumba for the TV story to hear his words about the What If? Concert tour and the next steps. He launched the tour in Lumuru at the first What If? Concert so we wanted to end with him. He was so inspiring and encouraging. He has become our spokesperson for this What If? campaign. He said it is time we win the war against HIV/Aids, declare victory and have the NGOs pack and go home. He said we need missionary zeal to fight this disease that is destroying people and the economies of developing nations. He said this is a marathon not a relay. He wants us to do a big What If? Concert in Nairobi using all the media and the chuches. I will meet with him when I return.
During this tour over 10,000 were reached with the message of living pure for Christ. And 323 people said yes to Jesus! All were given bibles and taken by a local pastor for followup. Thousands signed the committment cards committing to do their part to create a HIV-free generation - to wait until marriage, be faithful to one partner and to test and know their status. The team from their experience of doing 8 What If? Concerts have developed a four hour What If? presentation. The Temples of Worship open with some worship songs, Pastor Omondi then asks the audience What If? there was no HiV/AIDS. What would the world look like? What would Kenya look like? Then more worship songs. Then Pastor Omondi preaches a powerful message of Living Pure for God. He asks the audience to sign committment cards that say Yes We Can create a HiV-free generation - committing to test and know their status, wait until marriage and stay faithful to one partner. Then as the cross is raised and the Temples of Worship sing Remember Me he asked those not born again to accept Christ as their personal savior. Those who step forward are taken to a private area and given bibles from local pastors who record their names and contact information. This approach not only focuses on awarerness but calls for people to accept Jesus and live pure for Him.
The next steps will be going to as many venues as they can with these presentations - high schools, colleges, universities, large church youth groups, etc.
Thank you for your prayers and support. We travelled all over Kenya sleeping in small hotels, eating local food, and sometimes not sleeping much but the team did well. The team also had many spiritual challenges but we prayed through them.
Fighting AIDS in Kenya, Connie

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Wednesday, December 24

What If? Concert Tour

If someone doesn't believe the difference sin and salvation can make in an individual's life and even in an entire community they should come visit the two villages near Mombasa where we have held the What If? Concerts. The first village MTV was so oppressive with sin and darkness you could see it everywhere and even feel it as you walked through the village, as you went into the shops. Everywhere and I really mean everywhere you see old white American men with young (as young as 16) Kenya women. Prostitution is very common here. Pastor Jack, our host GOA church told us there is widespread drug use and child trafficking. He said the village sleeps at 5 am and wakes up late in the afternoon.
Pastor Omondi leading people to Christ

When Pastor Omondi preached and made the call for those to accept Christ he could feel the resistance of the crowd, feel the hardness. A few stepped forward. In the morning after a powerful message from Pastor Omondi a dozen people came forward which was a big victory for Jesus.
We prayed for the people of this village the next morning as a team before we moved two hours further up coast.
A picture of the people present during the concert

Now we are in Watamu - an entirely different village. The people are gentle, respectful and welcoming. We worked with about a dozen pastors here on the ground. After meeting with them and showing them Dr. Lumumba's speech they have formed a pastor's group to address the HIV/AIDS issue. They will keep in communication with us. I have referred them to Rick Warren's web site on how churches can get involved in the HIV/AIDS issue. And when Pastor Omondi made the call the first night 73 stepped forward to accept Christ. The second night 85 gave their lives to Christ. All names were recorded by the church leadership and each was given a salvation bible.
We were blessed once again to visit Justus' and David's home, meet their pastors and walk their village. They have become the village heros. People from the church where Justus slept for three years cried when they saw Justus on the stage singing. They have many family members in this village. Franko another Temples of Worship member also has many family members in and around this village. The Temples of Worship performed their very best for their hometown crowd. David sang to the crowd "Smile Again". With the cross on the stage they sang "Remember Me" with Justus singing to the people where he wrote the song.
The Temples of Worship singing Remember Me

It was all most impossible to leave. The crowd stayed around the bus as we tried to load and leave. The pastors and the people just want the team to return and stay longer.
We have much of the What If? Concert Tours recorded as Elly is still with us and recording for a TV story. Blessed to see so many say yes to Jesus, Connie

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Friday, December 19

What If? Concert Tour Update

The What If? Concert tours focusing on calling the youth to create a HIV-generation were inspired from Louie Giglio's Passion conferences. Having been blessed to volunteer for Passion for two years and watching the Passion Conference DVDs over and over I wondered What If? The youth of Kenya came together shouting praises to God and believing Yes We Can wipe out HIV-Aids in our generation. The Partners for Care Kenyan team of course doesn't have the resources Passion has been blessed with. And the audiences attending walk from their villages or live in a slum and could never afford to pay to attend the concert - some of them barely survive because of a lack of food. We have as they say "gone interior" to the village people. But, the team does have some of the things Passion has. It has passion. Passion to wipe out AIDS. Almost every member of the team has an infected family member, has lost close family members who have died from AIDS and some are caring for the orphans left behing. Even in the Partners for Care house where many of them live we have with us Brian. Brian is one team members' nephew, who at age six has AIDS. The team has Temples of Worship, a gifted group of artists who want to see AIDS eliminated from their Nation. We don't have Louie, Beth Moore, John Piper or any of the other wonderful speakers from Passion, but we have Dr. PLO Lumumba, one of the most elegant orators in Kenya who has agreed to be a spokes person for the What If? campaign. And we have good, strong, passionate pastors like Bishop David Thagana and Pastor Omondi to preach the purity mesage that will wipe out AIDS. And, the former Youth President of Kenya Mwangi Mukami is working with us speaking at some of the venues. Most Kenyans know both Dr. Lumumba and Mwangi Mukama and respect what they say. It is God's favor that we have the blessing to work with these men of God.
The What If? Concert in Siaya was all we had prayed for and more. The on the ground work the Partners for Care staff had done was deep and wide. They worked through families, friends and Muma Churches Fellowship an organization of 22 churches in the surrounding villages. The pastors from this organization had posted the posters, distributed handbills and announced the event from the pulpit. They came and met with us before the event. We asked them how they wanted us to conduct the day. We asked permission for Pastor Omondi to preach. They said very much so and one of their pastors interpreted. A very known artist, Sara, from the area performed. Also a local theater group performed a HIV/AIDS awareness drama skit which was very much accepted by the people.
The day was amazing starting in the morning at the hotel. The hotel staff had seen our hats and our t-shirts What If? and knew we were there for HIV-AIDS awareness. One hotel staff came to Sam our communication director and said please test me now. I want to know my status. I am tired of living without knowing.
We moved to the village market area where the concert would be held. We knew we were deep in the interior where poverty and lack of opportunties is great - signs were everywhere. No cars - everyone walked, poor unpaved roads, children in torn and ragged clothes. The people from the villages come to this marketplace on Tuesdays and Fridays in the afternoon.. When we arrived there was a "stage". Not what you typically see even in Kenya. It was constructed from boards.....well you would just have to see it to understand. But, that stage performed very well!
After we sat up we walked around this market. It consisted of small wooden structures with small stores, two table restaurants, shops etc. In a large grassy area were wooden structures. One by one women carried in produce - potatoes, onions, clothes, fresh fish, fruits and soon there was a full "shopping" center with hundreds of people shopping. The What If? Concert was opened by the chairmen of the Muma Churches Organization. He introduced Pastor Omondi who explained the purpose of the What If? Concerts - to create a HIV-free generation. He introduced the Temples of Worship who sang and danced. One of the Temples of Worship - George comes from this area. His whole family including his parents were there to hear George worshipping on the stage in the open market village.
The local leaders estimated the crowd at over 2,000. The cross was raised to the platform as Pastor Omondi asked those that did not know Christ to come forward. Over 100 people stepped forward to receive Christ.
People giving their lives to Christ

The local pastors were there to receive them into their churches. Each new believer was given a salvation bible. There were so many people who wanted to sign committment cards we couldn't pass them out faster enough.
One of the women from this region signing a commitment card

At the conclusion of the event as darkness came we met for tea with the pastors to ask them to evaluate the event and how we could do better next time. Everyone of them said just "stay longer" and "come back". They took committment cards for their churches to distribute to members who could not attend the concert. And the best of all they committed to not just encourage a pregnant woman to test to see if she is possitive but to take the woman by the hand for testing. They committed to stop babies being born in their village with HIV/AIDS.
Tomorrow is Mathare. We hear the Bishop from our host church announced the event Sunday from the pulpit. We have heard he will attend.
We feel your prayers as we feel these What If? Concerts have had God's favor.
Praying for the concert tomorrow in the slums in Kenya, Conie

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Wednesday, December 17

Devastation of AIDS

Today God took us to see first hand how HIV/AIDS has had a devestating impact on families. He showed us this in two families of people we love.
We left Eldoret heading for the next concert in Siaya district. Siaya is in Kisumu - Nyanza region which is the second largest region in Kenya after the Rift valley region. The HIV/Aids rate here is 15.3% - the highest in Kenya.
I didn't tell you yet that we have a TV, radio reporter with us called Elly. We met him during the last Eldoret sports mission. He is a young Christian man who works for Sayare, a Christian TV, radio station which partners with GOD TV. He loves the worship team and is marketing their CD now from their station. He also likes the work of Partners for Care. He joined us on the bus and he will be producing a feature story for TV on the What If? Concert tour. He was with us yesterday recording by video as we met and saw first hand AIDS in Kisumu.
Pastor Omondi had earlier asked me if we could stop to deliver Christmas gifts to a widow group he helped form and had been helping in his rural home Ugunja town in Siaya district Nyanza province which is highly infected with HIV. We bought bar soaps, kangas (wraps), sanitary pads in Eldoret before we left for the visit.
Our tour started well though the group members looked tired from their previous performance, they were excited to get to Siaya.
The journey wasn't that easy as anticipated by many. We travaced through hills, valleys, poor unpaved dusty roads. In about four hours we arrived in Ugunja where we met this wonderful group of women called Widows 'Moyie'. meaning "widows who have accepted their status and are ready to move on with life"
It was fun to watch Pastor Omondi's excitement at the anticipation of delivering the small gifts we brought them. There are 20 members in total, and 14 of them were present..The widows had gathered and waited for us in a small hotel in the rural area in the outskirts of Ugunja town.
Pastor Omondi (front) with the widows present during that visit

When we arrived and greeted the widows, Pastor Omondi introduced them. He introduced the organizer of the group and said, "this is Eunice my sister". Eunice is also a widow and has four children of her own to take care of. It was then that I realized that is why he had helped with this group - Eunice his sister is infected. Pastor Omondi had co-ordinated with her to start the group. The purpose of the group is to find ways in which the widows in the area can become self reliant and earn a living and boldly carry the message of HIV prevention to the community.
Most of these widows are deserted and stigmatised because of their status. Many of them are infected with HIV. They need someone to show love just as we did. It was difficult to understand how many tribulalions they were going through. The question that kept running through my head was, "What If? there was someone to stand with them when they needed help the most? What made me cry is that these women have no one to turn to when in real need. Worst is that they have either children or grandchildren to provide for regardless of their health status.
"That is what touched my heart and I felt the need to do this" says Pastor Omondi.
As a group, they practice small scale farming, work in people's farms, sewing children's clothes with a machine which Pastor Omondi bought for them. They were all dressed so beautifully and most appeared healthy in spite of their povery, the hardships in their life and the diseases they suffered from: AIDS, TB, malaria. We gave them their gifts and they loved them but mostly, they loved meeting the Partners for Care staff. We gave them bracelets written "Remember Me" as we told them we would remember them as they remembered us. The Temples of Worship sang Remember Me for them before we left. We promised to visit them again.
Next we went to Nick's family 'boma' (small piece of land with houses for family members) or what is left of it. Nick the first born in his father's family was born in Thika a town a few hours drive from Nairobi the capital. The family moved to Mathare the second largest slum in Nairobi after Kibera slums but his family is from the village of Ligega in Nyanza.
His grandmother has lost 10 of her 12 children - many to AIDS. Nick stood and introduced all of us to his grandmother. He told us how death stole his whole family. He told us at one time he used to come home for Christmas to a large family. Now it is just his grandmother and the children left behind. So many children - orphaned. Nick had ealier this year taken six of the children to community Transformers rescue center in Mathare so he could raise them. He told how he had to choose some of the children because he couldn't take them all. The last orphan from the deaths in this family is little 2-year old Elizabeth who has AIDS. Her daddy died four months ago. She now lives in the rescue center.
Nick's grandmother humbly served us tea and bread and roasted corn cooked outside over an open fire. We brought her food - Nick had said that was best gift we could give her.

Nick's family with the Partners for Care team

Charles is the the co-director with Nick of Community Transformers. He too grow up in Mathare. Nick and Charles did not know their families lived in walking distance from each other until after they began to work together helping people infected with HIV/AIDs. We were able to walk to see Charles' father. We called Charles on the phone so he could speak with his dad. His dad has been sick for several months. He had refused to test for HIV the last time Charles was here. I assessed him the best I could with my limited nursing skills. His left leg is swollen and painful with an open sore. I suspected he has cellulitis. The best was for him to go to the clinic. We arranged for transport on a motor bike and for someone to take him. The team left funds for him to be transported and assessed at the clinic. He agreed to test.
Faced with this challange of how to help not only their families but other families Nick and Charles have started Community Transformers here in their village. They have identified volunteer leaders and trained them on how to run Community Transformers. It was very humbling to see these young leaders in this village devastated by AIDS trying to transform their village.. Just like Community Transformers in Mathare they have organized volunteers to visit those infected with HIV/AIDS. They are seeing 15 clients. And just like Community Transformers they have an afternoon program for children to tutor them in their studies. They have reached into the schools teaching a program called "Choosing to Wait". At the conclusion of this program cross necklaces are given to those young people who choose to wait. We saw a young girl with her necklace - she has chosen to wait. Does she knows how important her decision is? The change begins with her. She is begining the transformation that will occur in this village as other young men and women choose to live pure for God. They can create an HIV-generation.
We left in the dark travelling on to our hotel in Siaya.
Nick and Charles have taken their anger at the disease of HIV/AIDS, their compassion for those infected and affected and moved to action - to do something to change this next generation. I envision a time once again when Nick can go home for Christmas to many people celebrating the birth of Christ.
Please continue to pray for us as we complete the What If? concerts. Pray we stay strong both physically and spiritually as we focus on the mission.
Fighting the disease of HIV/AIDS, Connie

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Sunday, December 14

What If? Concert Tour Launched

With a packed church in Lumuru Dr. Patrick Lumunba lauched the What If? Concert Tour. What If? Dr. Lumunba asked the audience there was no Aids? What if this next generation in Kenya, in the world made a decision to live holy for Christ and create a HIV/AIDS generation? The people listened in silence as Dr. Lumumba passionately described the impact in the world of HIV/Aids. The sickness,, the deaths, the orphans.
Dr. Lumumba launching the concerts, in Limuru

What If? He asked if there was no Aids. Every village could have clean water, every school a computer, roads could be built connecting the unreached tribes in the distant parts of Kenya. What If? Hon. Mwangi Mukami, former youth President of Kenya, spoke and called the youth to follow God's principles and say no to HIV/AIds. He said it was not too late to change their behavior, repent and declare their intent to live holy lives.
A picture of a section of the audience present during the Limuru concert

The Temples of Worship sang and the people shouted to sing more. Hundreds of people made the decison to sign a committment card saying "Yes We Can" create a HIV-free enviornment. They pledged to do their part - test and know their status, wait until marriage, be faithful to one partner. Pastor Mungai of our host church asked his sister to come forward and she told us she was infected but God was good and she was on ARVs and felt strong. The pastor shared how she was the person in his life that encouraged him the most. She works with infected women in Lumuru encouraging them. The team worshiped through the night and as morning came a wooden cross was placed at the front as a reminder that He died for all people and He offered redemption for those who accepted Him as their savior. Lights were dimmed and candles were lit illuminating only the cross. The Temples of Worship sang Remember Me as David and Justice knelt at the cross when they sang "we come to you". When they finsihed Pastor Omondi took the microphone and in a quiet voice said "halleluiah". He closed the concert asking who wanted to receive Christ. Twenty people said yes to Jesus. They will be disciplined by the host church.
Thank you to those who have been praying for these concerts. We ask your continued prayers. We travelled all day when a bus full of sleeping people arriving in Eldoret by 5:00 pm. We arrived in time for the award ceremony of A-Step's four month Peace Tournament. The second concert will be Sunday at 1:00 pm. I will share more about the A-Step Peace Tournaments in the next update.
Blessings, God can create a HIV-free generation. Connie

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Thursday, December 4

Maggie's School

Sometimes you get news that just makes you smile. Praise God. We just reveived such news! 160 Turkana children are now attending school at Maggie's School! I know Maggie knows this and is smiling, too. It wasn't easy to get this school open. There is a reason why this is unreeached people group. Far, far away in the desert there is now a school. 160 children wake in the morning and for the first time go to school to learn. There are three teachers and a cook. The cook is important as she will prepare lunch (outside over fire) for the children because food is very scarce in this area. We are grateful to Bishop David Thagano GOA who sent GOA missionary Peter Wagura to the school last week to help complete what needed to be done to open the school. He along with two GOA pastors and Andrew, Partners for Care social worker gathered supplies for the school and headed out in a vehicle through the desert to the school. After completing over only one hour of the four hour drive the vehicle broke down stranding them in the desert. Fortunately another vehicle came along and took Peter back to town where he secured assistance for the broken vehicle. Somehow they all made it to the school with the supplies! After sending us news the 160 children were now enrolled and teachers were in place Peter took the long 24 hour bus ride back to Nairobi. He has pictures which we are all eager to see. I will send them to you as soon as I receive them. Next the toliets will be built for the children thanks the Christian school Maggie went to who has adopted this Turkana School and raised the funds for the toliets. My sister is planning to visit Maggie's School with many of her friends in July. I will be blessed to be with her as she witnesses first hand how she has honored Maggie in this wonderful way that will literally transform a generation of Turkana children.
Blessed to witness the building of Maggie's School in the Turkana desert, Connie
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