Lifesong Kenya · Mission Field · Running for My Life · Standing with boys · the making of Jim Buttons · The Matrix of a Learner · throwing pebbles

Meeting the Needs of the Sons of None

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I am overwhelmed by God’s goodness, mercy and faithfulness. By providing the resources to buy floaters for some of the boys Lifesong Kenya mentors in juvenile prison, God showed He is capable of doing much more than the boys will ever fathom, imagine or envision. God’s thy fullness is so great, Micah Stampley has this to say;

Do you realize He never gives a used day? He never gives us leftovers!”

Great is Thy Faithfulness 

 
We finally distributed floaters to some of our boys and still need more. Our boys were also happy to receive two mothers who visited with us today. It isn’t funny that the boys are yet to see us bring a man (a father figure) for a visit. We have had 2 visitors before today and all of them have been women.
 
In fact, a majority of those who contribute and answer our calls for resources are women, including those who bought the floaters I will be delivering today. Having grown up around women, our boys usually thirst for male visitors.
 
Yesterday was a special day for me. I bought floaters and later, met a wonderful man who walked out of prison – free and stronger – after 10 years. During our conversation, he mentioned the father wound and how he wished fathers would gift their children lots of their presence as opposed to buying tangible presents.
 
Our prison system is filled with old men – some of them afraid to even flirt with the idea of freedom – because a man, their fathers failed to affirm them in love. These men are not the only ones suffering.
 
Strangely and sadly, there are millions of people – not confined behind bars – who are shackled by father wounds. Fortunately, we all have had strong mothers who have been our strong pillars and source of stability. However, these mothers need you and I to get involved.

Meeting the Needs of the Sons of None

By taking care of other people’s sons we end up developing a strong nation where our daughters and their children will be nurtured by strong, responsible and loving husbands and fathers. Our actions will enable us to raise young men of character, courage and conscience. It all begins with meeting the needs of the sons of none.
The boys who received floaters today had lots of things to say about their confinement in prison and what the future holds for them. Their decision to start embracing non-violent means of making money while still in prison is as a result of people visiting to encourage them, getting footwear and calling their parents and the people they have wronged through crime. We hope this will enable them to also discover they are loved and appreciated.
When you support our work, you end up touching not only our hearts but the boys’ lives forever. We have witnessed hundreds of boys leave the the prison completely changed simply because someone like you send a donation that enabled us to have transport to go to prison, money to call parents as well as buying footwear. We look forward to your continued support and prayers.

 

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

Baby Pink Shirts and Prison Bed Bugs

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It has been ages since the CITAM Woodley Music Team wore baby pink during ministry. And when it eventually happened yesterday, I also had to deal with a bed bug I must have ferried off from prison where Lifesong KENYA has its weekly mentoring sessions on Friday.
 
We were in the basement listening to a group do a presentation based on the book of Romans when the bed bug chose to show up. I actually felt there was a tiny bulldozer crawling on my right wrist before I saw it.

Baby Pink Shirts and Prison Bed Bugs

 
My blood turned cold when I saw a blood-filled bed bug on my wrist. A tinge of shame caused my heart to throb in fear. Oh no, I growled without making a sound. We had just sang a special song whose chorus went like this…
 
There are so many hurdles along the way
There’s so much resistance I meet
But I’m always on the move
I’ve set my eyes to qualify for heaven’s crown.”
 
The more I reflected on those words, the less I felt embarrassed. I remember the very first time I sat on a prison bed teeming with bed bugs. My first reaction was to bolt up and flee. But God gave me peace and reassurance that all was going to be well with me.
 
Having sat beside one of the boys, I extended my hands towards the boy. “Let’s pray and trust God for your freedom and to enable your family to visit you before you leave,” I said as the boy grasped my hands.
 
Since that day, I have trusted God to deflect and protect me from bed bugs. It is a desperate request He has faithfully honored. I have been going and coming out of prison without bothering about bed bugs.
 
However, the thought of someone seeing a crawling blood-filled bed bug on my baby pink worship team uniform is no small occurrence. It also doesn’t mean that God has forgotten to honor my plea for protection. He cares, deeply. Here is His promise from Isaiah 54:4a:
 
“Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.”

In Conclusion

I choose to believe and trust in God’s divine word, promises and protection. Not only is God deflecting and protecting me from bed bugs, He is also providing for our ministry, work with boys and personal needs. And for that, I am grateful. Glory, honor, praise and worship to Our Almighty Wow-Awesome God!
Lifesong Kenya · men of influence · Mission Field · Running for My Life · the making of Jim Buttons

The Miracle that Happened On My Way to Prison

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We still need 24 more pairs of rubber sandals for boys in juvenile prison
I was on my way to prison yesterday when I felt a huge impression in my heart to take a huge step of faith. Having done this before I debated whether to go ahead or not. My failure to get stuff and resources for my work with boys in juvenile prison pains my heart most of the time.
 
I have asked for stuff and money from friends, Bible Study members, church ministry workers, have taken part in half marathons, triathlons and asked nearly every person I meet in matatus and lifts for help. Most times I fail miserably and it frustrates and wears me down.
 
But yesterday was completely different. All I had was my phone and Facebook. In the end, I decided to plunge in and leave the rest to God. I shared that the boys I mentor in juvenile prison need footwear (underwear and warm clothes).
 
Victory Belongs to Jesus Christ
 
A few minutes later, a lady I have never met offered to buy 16 pairs of footwear. I shared this good news with the boys during our session. Much as they were overjoyed to hear this huge breakthrough, I kept thinking about the extra 84 boys who would miss out on this blessing.
 
In the evening, I went to church for choir practice, still thinking about the extra pairs of footwear I needed. I kept silently praying, hoping and trusting God. Going back, I received a second donation that has taken care of 60 more pairs!
 
I still need 24 more pairs. However, I am grateful for what God is and has been doing in my life and ministry. Engaging in ministry work isn’t easy but God’s divine provision surpasses human capability.
 
The boys we mentor through Lifesong Kenya needs lots of things. Getting footwear is just the beginning. We have a vision that has outgrown our personal resources and need the involvement of other people like you. All I can do is keep working, believing, trusting and working in obedience. There is much to be done and the victory belongs to Jesus Christ!
Lifesong Kenya · men of influence · Mission Field · Running for My Life · the making of Jim Buttons

Celebrating Bits of Success by Eating Baby Shrimps

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90% of boys in juvenile prison need footwear, especially during this cold season in Nairobi

I am preparing for another fundraising event in September where I look forward to retaining my silver medal in the sprint duathlon category during the Kericho Triathlon Series. Well, I don’t usually raise that much funding, but then again, my running, biking and swimming events have stopped being platforms to raise money.

Along the way, I became sucked into the thrill, challenge and becoming tough through running half marathons, running, biking and walking-running with my mountain bike on my shoulders. In the end, I have come to discover that God speaks to me during such events about what I need to do with the boys I mentor in juvenile prison and informal schools.

I also think a lot about my wife and the sacrifices she makes each day to support my work and vision for juvenile prisoners. Before I knew how to drive, she was the one who used to drive me to events, hand me my water and play the part of my cheering squad and first aider.

“I… Did… It!”

She kicks me out of bed at 4:30 am and orders me to go out there and run or bike! She is also there when I come back, open the door and say, “I… did… it!” With the passage of time, this has become our mantra.

This week hasn’t been different save for the fact that she has traveled and I am all alone at home, eating baby shrimps. Remember that memorable shrimping scene from the movie Forrest Gump? During their basic training, Private Bubba talks about the shrimp fishing business and recites every dish one can make with shrimp.

Well, I have come to discover that there seems to be no limit to what shrimp can do to every meal and I may end up eating shrimps 3 times a day for the next 14 days! This has also got me dreaming and thinking of going to the US to talk about boys, purpose, life and eat shrimps during the breaks.

In between eating baby shrimps, running, meeting boys and singing happy birthday to friends, I encountered bits of success this week. Calling parents, guardians and people the boys have wronged isn’t an easy task.

Most parents don’t usually expect someone to call asking them to visit their sons in prison. However, 20% of the parents I called yesterday have already made the visits after our previous calls. One boy has been forgiven and will be heading home soon. Another one has been sentenced for a few months.

60% of the parents picked my calls and agreed to visit their sons this weekend. Last but not least, a group of Christian lawyers will soon be representing boys who don’t have legal representation during court cases, thanks to Sam Akwale Ashene, who teaches university students law.

As I prepared to visit the boys in juvenile prison today, my heart was filled with joy, peace and gratitude. Even getting bus fare and credit to call parents is usually a huge miracle! It is a clear sign that God is working behind the scenes.

Ask a man who is and he will tell you what he does or what he owns

I got the above statement from reading Wayde Goodall’s ‘Why Great Men Fall (15 Winning Strategies to Rise Above it All)’ on my way to prison.  Because 90% of the boys I meet on a weekly basis don’t have a pair of slippers (did I mention they also need underwear and clothes to change?) or shoes to wear, their self-esteem is often at its lowest.

Can you imagine not having just a pair of slippers and having your feet and toes knock against rocks during this cold weather? Tell me, when was the last time you didn’t have a pair of clean underwear and warm clothes to wear?

I know it is cold and you could be thinking of grabbing a hot cup of dawa (a mixture of hot lemon, ginger and honey sold at Java Coffee House) or coffee to keep warm. But think about what a pair of slippers or crocks would mean to just one boy praying and trusting God for footwear. I hopefully wait to hear from you. In the meantime, allow me to continue polishing my baby shrimps, will ya?

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

Throwing Pebbles into the Ocean

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Elyms, Rogan and Britovile talking with Tracy Hanson via Skype

Most times, I do not know how hosting the boys I mentor for a weekend will influence their lives. As part of the first Journalism Club I am mentoring, there is so much to learn and the need is so huge, what I am availing to them may seem like throwing pebbles into the ocean!

Hosting these boys reminds me of five of my teachers, I call them life teachers. Two were my English teachers in primary school. Two taught me English in high school. One taught in a school for the blind while the last one used to be a university lecturer. All these men taught me how to be a man.

Opening doors to new experiences

All these teachers had one thing in common. They opened their doors and enabled me to experience new things that opened my eyes to what I could possibly become in the future. By doing so, I managed to eat a balanced diet (even if it was just for a weekend!), listened to new music and read books that influenced my life.

By working with boys in juvenile prison and informal schools, I am finding myself doing the same things to the boys I am having the honor of mentoring and coaching. Most of the times, though, it feels like I am merely throwing pebbles into the ocean because the needs of the boys I mentor is much bigger than merely hosting them for a weekend.

Teaching a 17 year-old young man what I learned when I was 13 is not easy. Teaching such a person how to be kind, caring and compassionate towards women, children and other men is not easy especially when they have lacked this kind of guidance from their own fathers.

It is so amazing that most of these boys possess what I grew up lacking… the presence of a father. Yet they are still thirsting for fatherly leadership, guidance and love. It used to bother a lot 5 years ago, when I quit my job to work with boys. I felt so inadequate; I gave up on numerous occasions.

How can I offer what I did not get from a man?

Why me of all the capable men that I see in church, offices and driving good cars?

I kept asking myself, questioning my qualifications to mentor, coach and empower boys. Thankfully, I met a group of wonderful ladies and a married couple during a mission trip in 2014. All of a sudden, my whole life started to change. Of course, it did not happen by accident. It is because of having an active and prayerful born again Christian mom and the fact that I gave my life to Christ too.

Final thoughts

I know there is usually a lot of hatred, filth and rumors impending violence and chaos every time our country is just about to have a general election. However, I believe we are at a special place to affect history, generations and the way men and women engage with each other.

By embracing and giving other people’s children a forum to experience new things, we affect the world. Let us help other people’s children instead of thinking they will outshine ours. Let us learn how to teach our children to share what they have with their peers. Not only will this empower other children, it will safeguard our own children.

By availing ourselves, our knowledge, experiences and the resources we have to other people’s children, we end up empowering them to find their own paths towards their own beautiful destinies. The results may not be evident immediately. Nevertheless, I know there are ripples happening on the surface of the ocean. There are so many children, youth, men and women who our involvement and they need us. I am throwing pebbles into the ocean and will continue doing the same, to the boys I am working with.

What about you?

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).

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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.

 

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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?