father's day · Lifesong Kenya · Mission Field · Running for My Life · Standing with boys · the making of Jim Buttons

How to reclaim victory from a losing position

A father is a man who expects his son to be as good a man as he meant to be. Frank A. Clark

My memory of seeing female-led homes being on the rise dates back to when I was a little boy. Not a single fortnight passed by without a young man dying in our village and living behind a widow and orphans. This forced the mothers to play both roles of a father and a mother. Strangely enough, even the mothers whose husbands were alive were not spared either!

We grew up with desiring to have a father who would do the following:-

  • provide guidance and direction
  • speak positive things into our lives
  • teach us from personal experience

We were not looking for a perfect man. In fact, we would have easily learned more from the failures of Othorong’ong’o who met his wife on a Wednesday at Akala Market. Othorong’ong’o used to wear a cowboy hat, had a permanent toothpick dangling from his full lips and knew how to correctly fill up the Daily Nation crossword puzzle.

We also admired how he could dance and perfectly sing to General Defao’s Famille Kikuta, Koffi Olomide’s Julia and London Beat’s I’ve Been Thinking About You. Even though I had long forgiven him for marrying Nyar Sakwa instead of the most beautiful I had seen him kiss on our way from Kajomoko Primary School, I desperately wanted to learn how to be a man from him.

Instead, he never seemed to have a minute to spare. And with time, we walked the same destructive path he had walked; leaving a number of confused, pregnant and heart-broken teen mothers in our wake. The best he could do was brush us off unless his wife needed someone to fetch water, split firewood or buy bread and milk at Kambare Market.

Many years later, I still see the same trend. The only different is that it is becoming worse than it used to be before. Women are becoming used to playing the role of a father and a mother, which points out to how low we are sinking as a community, nation and world. Much as we may applaud our women to be strong go-getters who are able to get the job done, it is also affecting our children more than we can ever imagine or fathom.

Different generation of fathers, same script

There are many homes where either the man is physically absent as a result of death or he is working far away from home. There are other instances where the man can be present but spiritually and emotionally absent. Such a man may engage himself in a number of activities that includes but not limited to:-

  • work as he seeks to provide for his family
  • watching football matches and sports betting
  • mastering PlayStation and gaming
  • drinking and being an expert in political matters

The result has been so devastating, the family unit as we used to know it is rapidly disintegrating and decaying. Not only is this a problem facing our nation, but the whole world in general. While researching for ‘Fathers at the Forefront of Gender Equality‘ which I was going to present to fathers drawn from Kwale and Kilifi counties, I remembered to include Agence Courage by General Defao.

Little did I know that the song would enable the 70 fathers who turned up for the presentation to share their own experiences growing up without fathers. While our children may have graduated to new emerging musical heroes, the issues that affected us as young boys still abound. In fact, they have become more pronounced. If there was a time that men collectively needed to take action, this is the time!

How to reclaim victory from a losing position

Most of the men and fathers I have met failed to get the right nurturing, guidance and direction from their own fathers. While it is not as easy to give that which you lack, we can always start from somewhere. I look back to the presentation I made in Kilifi to 70 fathers, and would like to point out that it wasn’t an easy thing to do.

Most of the things I am learning about fatherhood are as a result of working with boys. It is a high calling that demands of the very things I wished I would have experienced as a young boy. Were it not for the power of the Holy Spirit at work, I wouldn’t have the strength to address fathers leave alone work with boys who thirst for the active presence of a father.

I believe we have the responsibility of becoming the men and fathers who will break the cycle of fatherlessness. We should teach our children and those who need father-figures how to expect the best from themselves, how to dream and achieve dreams as well as how to relate with other people.

Our efforts will be like planting trees whose shade we don’t expect to sit under. However, the fruits of our efforts  – whether they happen today, or tomorrow or when we are long gone out of this world – will sweeten the lives of our future sons and daughters.

Here is an exercise to help you start off.

Take a piece of paper and write down the word ” F A T H E R  (from top to bottom).

index

Write one word for the kind of husband and father you would like to be for each letter. Start with the letter “F.” Then move to the next letter “A” until you finish the word “FATHER.”  Here’s what I wrote down…

 

F – Faithful, friendly

A – Attentive, amazing

T – Trustworthy, treasured

H – Honest, helpful

E – Earnest

R – Real

 

After you have done this you can move to the next level asking yourself the following questions:

What if every boy and girl had a father who did the things you have written down?

Would the problems we are facing right now be prevented? 

What kind of son or daughter would you raise? 

What would your children begin to believe about themselves? 

What kinds of choices would they make for themselves and how will it impact families, region and community? 

Final thoughts

By teaching our sons to have dreams of becoming better men who are full of love, compassion, character, integrity and respect not only for themselves but for other men, women and girls, we will be able to start transforming our children.

 

The-true-meaning-of-life-is-to-plant-trees-under-whose-shade-you-do-not-expect-to-sit.

father's day · Mission Field · Running for My Life · the making of Jim Buttons

Where I Grew Up They Didn’t Hold Hands and Kiss… in Public

Where I Grew Up They Didn't Hold Hands and Kiss... in Public

A woman who runs holding her breast has got nothing pursuing her! I remember the very first time I saw this African proverb when Tabitha Onyinge Omenya posted it on her Facebook wall. The first thing I wanted to do was laugh out loud.

Yes.

I wanted to do an LOL.

However, I didn’t.

Listening to any radio talk show in town you will discover how endangered our women and children are. Unfortunately, our women are not running towards the loving arms of a dad. Instead, they are running, as far away as they can, from him.

It is therefore no surprise that if you blink your eyes this coming Sunday, you won’t notice that Father’s Day has come and gone. Save for the four fathers I saw yesterday on Victoria Rubadiri’s Victoria’s Lounge, many women and men have nothing to celebrate as far as fathers are concerned. Four years ago, I heard a conversation that shocked me between a group of women.

I don’t need a man in my life, neither do I need to get married, one of them said. All I need is a good looking man to make me pregnant. Because I have everything I need to take care of a child or two I don’t need a man in my life. 

I wouldn’t like to downplay the fact that men, including me, have done nasty things that have caused the society to look down upon fatherhood. However, I strongly believe that having a dad is very important for the development of a child.

 

homes-with-fathers

Children borne out of love songs and balads

 

We use songs a lot during our sessions and end up learning and discovering a lot of ways we can empower our boys better. One of the songs we have used is Mapenzi by Kidum. I asked the boys to discuss the lyrics and who was its intended consumer. I asked if they could notice what the song is about, who is being addressed and what inspired Kidum to sing the song.

I asked one of them to sing the song

Zama nimezama ndani ya bahari, la penzi lako (I’m drowning in an ocean of your love)

Siwezi kusonga mbele, kurudi nyuma (I can’t move forward, can’t go back)

sijielewe (I’m confused)

Haya mapenzi ya fujo hayafai (This complicated love isn’t necessary)

Kama wanipenda jaribu kunipa raha (If you love me, try to give me happiness)


“How would you use these words to a girl?” I asked.

“To convince her that I need her love,” one of them replied.

“And what are the results?”

“We end up having sex,” another boy said. “We have usually have sex in the toilet when our parents are asleep,” he added.

“Okay,” I said after a long silence. “What if the girl offers to give you a life jacket so you can save yourself from drowning? What will you do? Was Kidum telling a story about someone else or was he sharing his own experience?”

Looking back over my shoulder

I still remember the very first time I witnessed a kiss. I was 11 years old. An uncle of mine, the most beautiful girl at Kajomoko Primary School and I were coming from school in the evening. I was walking in front, oblivious of what was happening behind me. Along the way – for some unknown reason – I turned my head only to see my uncle grasp the girl’s neck before their mouths hungrily and furiously came into contact.

Because I was there, and they must have noticed I was staring, the kiss lasted a short 28 seconds. In between the time the kiss begun and ended, I thought about nothing else but Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman?” by Bryan Adams. I had heard the song on Sundowner, on KBC English service.

To really love a woman
To understand her – You gotta know her deep inside
Hear every thought – See every dream
And give her wings when she wants to fly
Then when you find yourself lyin’ helpless in her arms
You know ya really love a woman

I spent many years after this kiss searching for an experience that could bring Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? to life. And along the way, I left behind multiple broken hearts. Now that i can clearly think about it, I know most of these girls had fallen into the trap of thinking they had found someone who really loved, appreciated and accepted them. How I wish I would have had an experienced man take me aside and teach me how to become a responsible man.

It isn’t a surprise to me that the boys I work with are just like the many of us out there. They also want to be accepted, appreciated and loved. They also want to do the same. The only problem is; they don’t know how to express themselves because no one taught them how to properly love others.

We have discovered that these boys have never had the opportunity to dissect songs and consider what message could be lying underneath every lyric. Upon hearing that they should take responsibility over their actions by treating girls as they would like other boys to treat their future wives and daughters, the boys look start consuming love songs and treating girls with respect.

The first time I asked them to look at themselves as fathers and husbands, silence enveloped the whole room. Even Promise who is usually so quick to throw in a joke, kept quiet. There are many women, girls and boys looking for someone to make up for their dad’s failure to connect with them physically, emotionally and spiritually. Unknown to them, they must have been a result of the coming together of passionate teenagers drunk and high on a love song.

Call to Action

My work with children in schools and juvenile prison is proof of how much the world needs fathers (and if there are none, father figures) who are actively involved in their wives and children’s lives. Much as many of us never grew up enjoying the privilege of having a loving and actively involved dad around, I believe we can end and break the vicious cycle of irresponsible fatherhood.

We don’t have to wait for someone to come up with a love song whose story line has nothing to do with us. As you head back home, envision yourself hugging your wife and embracing your children and getting lost into their world. In the end, you will discover that spending time with your wife and children will be the most precious thing they will treasure for the whole of their lives. Start thinking how your family can provide the same experience to mothers and children who desperately need the guidance of a father-figure.

Have a lovely weekend, will ya?

 

Lifesong Kenya · Mission Field · Running for My Life · Standing with boys · the making of Jim Buttons

Father’s Day is 3 Days Away, But Who’s Counting Down?

Father's Day is 3 Days Away, But Who's Counting Down

Father’s Day is a sort of celebration meant to honor fathers and celebrate fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in the society. This will be the first Father’s Day I will be celebrating by speaking to 100 men in Kilifi County. I still remember how I first responded to the confirmation email. To tell you the truth, I didn’t think it was going to fall through. This is not to say that I am pessimistic about my chances of receiving good news.

Having been used to receiving rejection letters, emails and seeing numerous doors close in my face, I finally resigned to fate. I would begin and end every new day with the same feeling of defeat. With time, I continued seeing fresh regrets merge with older ones. Now, resigning to fate and knowing nothing you do will ever matter, isn’t a good position for a man to be.

I also don’t think that even men – who seem to be navigating through life like a plank of wood being tossed in the ocean of joblessness, self pity and dead-beatness – wake up in the morning wanting to end up miserable. Yet, day in and day out, rejection has a way of killing a man’s morale and weighing him down.

That exactly how I used to live my life.

There is no single day I spent without sending an application for an online writing job. In between, I would also send hundreds of requests asking for donations of all kinds for boys in juvenile prison. It reached a point where some people started avoiding me, and my constant phone calls because they knew I was going to ask for something.

As a capable man, being in what Sister Bertina calls ‘begging career‘ I find asking for things like groundnuts, underwear, tissue paper and toothpaste to such a straight forward thing, I don’t think it needs to be sugar coated in any way. I keep thinking, what is there besides just asking for something?

With time, I learned – the very hard way – that there is much more to asking than just asking. And the more I kept asking, the more rejections I received. And of course, I started believing my asking wasn’t meant to amount to anything tangible and meaningful. I expected to fail.

Terribly.

The year I started getting everything I want

My failure to get things was so chronic and so devastating I thought I needed to take a break for whole of last year. I took a break to think about what I wanted to do with my skills, passion and mission as a man. It was then that God begun talking to me and sharing His divine plan for my life and work with boys during my morning runs. That is how running for my life begun.

I remember last year’s solo run during the Lukenya Trails Run. Because I had arrived and started running 54 minutes behind, all the official photographers had left. This being so, there was no one to take photos of my solo run. At some point, I wanted to give up. Then I recalled a conversation John Wollwerth and I had had concerning photos.

“I am never allowed to take photos at the juvenile prison,” I lamented, on Facebook,

“Why do you need photos,” John asked.

“So I can show people what I am doing,” I replied.

“Have you ever thought about having a host of angels taking and posting photos on your behalf?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“The Holy Spirit of God is taking note of what you are doing and your intentions,” he explained. “You don’t need photos to convince God to bring you the right people, resources and funding, do you?” he asked.

“Okay,” I said. “I get it.”

Thinking about that conversation enabled me to find the strength I needed to finish the run. It is not easy to run 20 KM alone in a marathon where all the runners are an hour ahead. However, not only was I able to finish the run, I also decided to resume my work with boys in prison this year.

In conclusion

God has been faithful since the beginning of this year. Save for my failure to get more than 3 underwear for boys in prison, I have not lacked bus fare and transport to juvenile prison. I have also been invited to workshops and training that are adding value to my work and capacity. The most surprising thing is that these are not opportunities that I applied for.

As I continue preparing my presentation for my trip to Kilifi I look back with a grateful heart. God is carrying me under His wings to a place where things work. I am learning to start expecting to get more opportunities to earn from my writing and more resources for my work with boys. This gives me joy as I continue counting down to this year’s Father’s Day.

Lifesong Kenya · Mission Field · Running for My Life · the making of Jim Buttons

Planting Trees Whose Shades I Don’t Expect to Sit Under

Planting Trees Whose Shades I Don't Expect to Sit Under

My mind is already set on the Kericho Traithlon Series this coming September. Last year, I emerged in second position in the Sprint Duathlon event. Much as it was a fundraising events for my work, I didn’t raise any money. However, by the time my wife and I came back with my silver medal, we had already spent close to Kshs. 10, 000 an estimated USD 100.

Last year, I managed to run in five marathons and took part in my maiden duathlon event. Even though I used more money and resources than the funding I managed to raise, my fundraising through running and biking was a huge success as far as I am concerned. What used to be a figment of my wild imagination had become a reality and I was able to achieve my goals.

Taking part in these events usually cost lots of money that often leaves a dent in my family’s finances. It also takes a lot of effort and energy both before and during the events. Most of the times, I manage to cross the finish line with lots of bruises as a result of falling on rocks and coming against thorns. Save for a couple of cuts from a high-speed fall and broken toe that I experienced last year, God has protected me.

I have already experienced more success than I did last year. The first success happened when Elisha and Kelvin joined the Team Lifesong. Growing from 1 to 3 members motivated me to keep dreaming more about where this amazing journey can lead to. I am a late bloomer who is achieving the things I wanted to achieve in my early 20s. By growing Lifesong Kenya’s work and empowering more boys, I am realizing my own goals in life. Not only am I doing this for the present group of boys I am working with through Lifesong Kenya, I am also creating a path that thousands of African boys will be able to navigate as they seek to achieve the impossible.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

— Nelson Henderson.

Planting trees whose shades I don’t expect to sit under

As Elisha, Kelvin, Cynthia and I left for last week’s Parklands Baptist Church Triathlon 2017 event, there was no way of telling how it was going to end. For starters, I was still hesitant about whether or not I should have offered to be a volunteer instead of riding with Elisha. I woke up feeling tired. If it wasn’t for the three most precious people in my life, I would have switched off my alarm and tucked in bed the whole day.

Well, switching off my alarm and tucking in bed the whole day wasn’t going to be the easier route to take. Certainly not with Elisha, Kelvin and Cynthia ganging up on me. In the end, we packed up our bikes and threw them into our car and watched as Kelvin and Cynthia drove off to Parklands Baptist Church while Elisha and I took the No. 111 matatu to Yaya Centre, where Cynthia was to pick us up after dropping off Kelvin with the bikes.

“Did Kelvin take his running shoes and shorts?” I asked when we got into the car after Cynthia had made a hasty U-turn to pick us up.

“No, he didn’t!” she replied. “Crap! I left when the runners were already on the starting line,” she added.

“Drive, young lady!” I barked.

“Yes sir!” she said as the car screeched to close to 100 KM/H within seconds.

“If Kelvin fails to start with the other runners then we might all run together as a team,” I said.

“Mr James,” Elisha said. “I’m going to ride no matter what happens!”

Running for ground nuts for Diamond’s mom

 

IMG20170601120523
Winning a bronze medal is just the beginning of bigger and better things to come

The runners were already on the starting line by the time we arrived at Parklands Baptist Church. Kelvin hastily changed into his running gear as Elisha and I went to look for our biking tags. I have never been as competitive as I was during last year’s Kericho Triathlon Series. Half way through the bike ride I decided to go flat out on the biking course. I knew Elisha was going to emerge in a position that was going to guarantee him a medal.

At the end of the event, we all gathered at the Methodist Guest House for the closing ceremony where Kelvin, Cynthia and I watched as Elisha received a bronze medal in the biking category. Side by side, the two of rushed to the front where I couldn’t contain my joy as the crowd clapped and screamed Elisha’s name.

In the afternoon, I received another sweet surprised when a friend gave me ground nuts that Diamond’s mom had asked for in order to start a business. That just made up for all the money our running and biking would have raised. This was confirmed when Elisha and I gave Sister Bertina the groundnuts. This is what she said while receiving the precious groundnuts.

“This is a sign from God,” Sister Bertina smiled, “that Diamond’s mom will be able to provide for herself and thereby guarantee she will be able to provide a home for herself and her son. We should continue working towards Diamond’s freedom!”

Well, I still don’t know where our triathlon team will take part in this year’s Kericho Triathlon Series in September. I also don’t know where I am going to get the money needed to enter the event or find the right bikes. However, I know that the groundnuts we received will bring a cheerful smile to Diamond and his mom. To me, that is what matters the most.

 

Lifesong Kenya · Mission Field · Running for My Life · Standing with boys · the making of Jim Buttons

Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea

 

Parklands Baptist Church Traithlon 2017

“Do you ever dream Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?” Jane asked.

“Who am gonna be?” Forrest asked, without answering Jane’s question.

“Yeah,” Jane replied.

“Aren’t I going to be me?”

“Well, you’ll always be you,” said Jane, “just another kind of you. You know? I want to be famous,” she continued. “I want to be a singer like Joan Baez. I just want to be on an empty stage with my guitar, my voice. Just me.”

That is a scene from Forrest Gump, one of my all-time favourite movies. In fact, it is my go-to source of inspiration after I have prayed, consulted and want to reflect on the answers I have received. Thanks to the movie, I have decided that when I finally go to the US – for a triathlon, Chicago Marathon or to visit President Donald Trump and tell him about my wonderful boys – I am going to eat shrimp, at every meal.

This is what Private Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba’ Blue has to say about shrimps

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor Frankl (March 26, 1905–September 2, 1997)

Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea

 

Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea and you can do anything with shrimp. But this isn’t about shrimp. It is about the need for every human being to find meaning in life. By the end of the war, Forrest Gump decides to pursue a business idea that arose from his ‘shrimp conversation’ with Bubba. It is like thinking about having a shrimp company gave Gump hope and the will to survive the war and the odds against him.

Just like Gump and everyone of us, no single boy in juvenile prison wants to end up a nobody. They all want to live a meaningful life. After all, there is much more to having a heart that beats and a pair of lungs than merely breathing. Juvenile prison is full of young boys whose hearts beat, eyes shine bright and possess a will to do much more than breathing. They just need an extra push, a reminder about God’s purpose for them and a nudge in the right direction.

It is not something you can tell from a casual one-time visit. You just have to keep coming and exercise loads of patience. Take Promise for instance. Promise is a 13 year-old boy who has been in prison for the past 10 months. He was in Form One by the time he committed a crime and came to prison. His family has never visited him. Last Friday, he drew us a map to indicating where we can find his mom and siblings.

I remember the first time I met the whole group to tell them about my work with boys and ask if they would join our mentoring and coaching program. I was with Tracy Hanson who had come to introduce The Matrix of a Learner. All the time we spoke, Promise looked at us with lots of interest. He was quick to answer every question, even when he didn’t have a clue. With time, I discovered how brilliant he is. In fact, though he is the youngest and smallest, his wisdom defies his size and age.

Yesterday, I mentioned how I always feel like I am merely throwing pebbles into the ocean of guilt, pain and confusion that the boys have found themselves in after committing a crime. Follow this link to read yesterday’s post.

The magnitude of what lies ahead of me makes my ability and self-belief that I can accomplish this on my own to shrivel and diminish. That happens every single minute. it doesn’t matter what I could be doing at that time. I could be sleeping at night, running, biking, driving or writing for a client. The feeling and conviction is usually the same. For this to work and transform the lives of the boys in a meaningful way, I need God and His divine provision.

1, 000, 000%.

A recap of last Friday’s session

And so it happens that last Friday I asked what else the boys would like to do with their time. They are already involved in cleaning, exercise, playing soccer, bead work and mostly sitting in the sun and thinking about their court cases. Promise, like many of the other boys isn’t involved in anything apart from attending the Lifesong Kenya weekly mentoring sessions. He wakes up every day to sit in the sun, think about his court case and how he is going to defend himself. That is what he has been doing for the last 10 months. Meanwhile, boys his age and especially his former classmates have advanced to a new class and will finish high school in two years’ time. All this may happen while Promise is locked up in prison.

“Teacher Jim Buttons,” Promise said, “Why don’t you teach us how to make beads and earn from it when go back home?”

“Why would you want to learn how to make beads?” I asked.

“Because I am tired of receiving things from well-wishers,” he said. “I want to do something and be able to buy bread, milk and my own underwear.”

“Okay, how will that make you feel?” I asked.

“It will bring meaning to the time we have spent here,” Treasure, a quiet 17 year old boy said. Because he usually doesn’t speak that much, the whole group clapped for him. “I want to learn a skill that I will use to earn an income when I leave prison.”

“Well, I want us to do much more with this idea,” I said. “Let’s gather and pray about it. Think way before you exit the prison and think about what this could do to the time you’ll be spending here, from now going forward. Think about these things even as we pray,” I added as the circle completed on to my right and left.

Final thoughts

And so tomorrow, the Team Lifesong Kenya and Standing With Boys will take part in the Parklands Baptist Church 2017 triathlon. Our team is made up of Kelvin Hondo who will run, while Elisha and I will bike to raise seed capital. This money will enable us to buy beads and the other things we need for our bead making project. We also need volunteers to come teach the boys basic book keeping and business management skills. Feel free to donate and contribute any amount of your choice.

Every contribution matters and counts. Please get involved!

“James, these boys are worth saving, I can see it in their hopeful eyes,”

– Patty Liston, when she recently visited and spent time with our boys.

fundraising through half marathons · Lifesong Kenya · Running for My Life · Standing with boys · the making of Jim Buttons

The Ripple Effects of Small Things is Extraordinary

the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary

There is no time I have ever left juvenile prison and felt I was doing anything that matters. I always leave feeling what I am doing is throwing pebbles that don’t cause a ripple effect in the expansive ocean of guilt, confusion and loss that most of the boys I work with have found themselves in. Trust me, I am completely out of depth and feel like I am swimming in the deep end where killer sharks abound in plenty. Because of this, I am running for my life.

Were it not for the fact that I am born-again and fully dependent on God’s Holy Spirit, I would have folded my swimming gear and stopped swimming. I am thankful for the favour, peace and joy that God has blessed me with. I am also thankful that despite all the challenges that comes with my work, God has given me the strength, courage and the divine provision that surpasses my limited human knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

The simplest of tasks are often the most difficult

When I started working with the boys back in July 2012, my focus was on getting more money. I did this thinking money would be a perfect solution. However, and with time, I lost my job in the process and had to go through the most difficult phase in my life. There were many times I would walk, hungry and thirsty, to the prison on foot.

I remember a time Pascal Mititi, a friend of mine came visiting and wanted to meet my boys and see what I was doing at the juvenile prison. I was staying at Ayany Estate by then. Because I did not have food in the house, Pascal had to spend all he had, except his bus fare back to Mombasa, so we could have something to put on the table.

The next morning, Pascal and I left the house for the prison. We called and met Hosea Omondi somewhere in Karanja then the three of us walked to the Nairobi Remand and Allocation Prison in Industrial Area. Because we had to take short cuts through the railway, we had to contend with the human waste packaged and strewn all over the railway in paper bags. I personally could barely contain myself.

The stench mixed with the humid air was unbearable. I don’t know what stopped me from vomiting the breakfast I had taken a few hours before. The trek to prison was made more unbearable to Pascal and I due to the fact that we were wearing leather shoes. Hosea was the only one who was wearing sport shoes which were more comfortable. two hours later, the three of us arrived at the prison, dirty, thirsty and sweating like pigs.

I used to carry a list of the 100 boys I had originally met when I first begun meeting the boys. The list had the names of the boys, court dates, names of parents and the parent’s phone numbers. From this list, we would read and report the phone conversations we had had with a few of the parents. We found the most joy when we heard that a few of the boys had left prison and rejoined their families after our intervention.

We would then spend the rest of our allocated time praying and doing nothing else other than sit on the floor with the boys and spend quality time. Most of the time we would sit on bed mattresses where bed bugs roamed and eggs waited to hatch and listen to the boys. I don’t know what the boys saw in us. But with time, God begun doing marvelous things. The parents and the people the boys had wronged started visiting the boys, forgiving them and getting them out of prison. The most amazing thing was that most of the boys we worked with left prison and stopped engaging in crime.

And because I lacked and didn’t have enough money I learned a very valuable lesson. It would have not been possible for me to learn those valuable lessons if I had had the kind of money I had thought would have made me more effective. There were numerous occasions when I was locked out of my house due to rent arrears. I also lacked food and other than asking the caretaker to ‘please open the door and allow me to stay because I had nowhere else to go‘, I would also ask the caretaker to give me flour and money to buy kerosene and vegetables. This may seem to be fiction to some of you. However, Jared Junior and Wanjoki aka The Man Upstairs knows what I am talking about.

Fast forward to the present

Thankfully, God cushioned me through the tough times and I am glad I went through that. I am not working with 100 boys anymore. However, when I get bar soap, slippers, underwear and shaving resources, then I target the whole group of juvenile prisoners which totals to about 200. I have chosen to work with 14 – and have room for 6 more – boys. Much as this is a small group, I still leave Lifesong Kenya’s weekly sessions feeling I have done nothing.

Spending time with the boys, accompanying them to court, calling their families and the people they have wronged seem like very small things. But they matter the most to my boys who expect us to accomplish them. Yet this is still not enough. That is why I woke up with a very heavy heart, until Charles Manene sent me a message on Facebook.

“You are doing a very good job with our boys,” he said. “Congratulations bro.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked, fishing for a reason why I should feel inadequate.
“I just listen to them when you leave and hear what they say about what you are teaching them,” replied.
“Wow, I didn’t know that! Most of the times I leave feeling I am doing nothing that matters,” I said.
“Why bro?” he asked. “I would like you to know it is very important to change one boy at a time, rather than change none! Even Jesus talked of one lost sheep.”

“Thanks for this Charles,” I said, relief flooding my heart.

“When you feel weary that’s when your miracle is near the door,” he said. “Kindly press on.”
“I will sir, thanks a lot.”

 

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

1 Corinthians 1:26-30

fundraising through half marathons · Lifesong Kenya · Mentoring boys in Kenya · Mission Field · Running for My Life · Standing with boys · the making of Jim Buttons

Fundraising Progress Update

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Having Kelvin Hondo as part of our fundraising running team is a blessing from God

It is one thing to raise funds when you have a network that you built in college or university. It is entirely different when you are a graduate of Home Grown University and the connections you make are limited to social media accounts. I used to think that getting 100 bob from each Facebook friend would fund my work with boys in juvenile prison. Well, thankfully it didn’t take me that long to learn how wrong I was!

Much as fundraising is a necessary component of my work, it is the least favourite on my to-do list. For starters, I don’t know how best to ask other than simply asking. Raising funds for a cause is no cup of tea, especially on social media. I believe the likes of John Wollwerth, Jane Anyango, Eric Simba, Oluoch Clifford, Carl Hughes and Julius Wangore will concur with me.

Secondly, I believe that I will be able to raise enough resources from my writing and trust that God will bring clients who will be willing to pay and support my work with Lifesong Kenya. Indeed all the funding I have been able to raise from running and Facebook is God’s doing and confirmation that He is a divine provider who defies all human understanding and reasoning.

Depending on blind faith and belief in God

I am depending on blind faith and belief that God will bring people by divine appointment. I believe that this is the only way I will get the following category of people:-

  • writing clients through Candid Writers
  • children to sign up for holiday reading camps
  • individual and corporate sponsors for running and triathlon events

Latest fundraising progress report

We recently took part in the Lukenya Trails Run where Kelvin Hondo, Elisha Maketa, Jared Junior and I managed to raise a total of Kshs. 23, 000. This will enable Lifesong Kenya to run its program at the juvenile prison for the next 3 months. We will be able to conduct the following activities:-

  • visit and spend time with the boys at the prison
  • engage the boys in bead work and entrepreneurial skills
  • accompany some of the boys to court
  • call and trace families and the people the boys have wronged

In conclusion

Despite the daily challenges we face in our work, I am optimistic and confident. I know, beyond a shadow of doubt that God has got us covered. He is the One Who is turning what used to be a solo project run by an individual into a team effort. He is bringing the right people into the team.

By having Kelvin and Elisha in our running and cycling team, God is building our vision, one brick at a time. We already have our eyes set on cycling and running on June 1st as a team. Our duty is to continue working, praying and trusting God to sustain Lifesong Kenya and our juvenile prison program.

Feel free to reach out to us. There are numerous ways you, friends, family and institution can get involved. Every contribution – material and finances – counts. Now only will you be empowering Lifesong Kenya to meet the needs of boys in juvenile prison, you will also be equipping 200 boys to become men of conscience, character and courage.

fundraising report