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 · 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

18664413_1530520380313577_4468610782398792362_n
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

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

Hanging On a Shoe String of Hope

Hanging On a Shoe String of Hope

“Hello James, did you go to court on Tuesday?” Sister Bertina asked this morning. I have been dreading this call and anything else to do with my work with the boys in juvenile prison.

“No, I didn’t,” I replied, and all of sudden the pain and remorse I have been feeling since that fateful Tuesday afternoon when I failed to attend Diamond’s court case set in. I swallowed in pain, stammering in the process, a blanked of heaviness hanging over my weary head.

“What happened? Are you alright?” she asked, when I hesitated.

“I attended a meeting in pursuit of resources I have been chasing for the past few months,” I replied. “However, I didn’t receive anything other than promises to look into it in the near future. Because I have been down this road so many times, I should have known better than to miss Diamond’s court case!”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself James,” Sister Bertina, an experienced social worker, replied. “We get strung along by people in this business of begging on behalf of the people we seek to help. Take heart and do not despair.”

“Thanks for your reassurance,” I said. “Would you like to speak to Diamond tomorrow when I see him?”

“Yes, alert me when you are there,” she said. “I was also calling to let you know that I can’t find Diamond’s mom on phone. I don’t know where she is right now or if she made it for Diamond’s court case.”

“I’ll find out and update you tomorrow.”

“Please be strong for those boys,” Sister Bertina continued. “The images of what I saw in prison still linger in my mind and I am going to continue praying for you.”

Hanging on a shoe string and hoping for the best

There is no single day that I don’t reach out to one more person, organization or institution asking for partnership. Because my original plan has always been using part of my income as a content writer and reading club to conduct Lifesong Kenya’s activities, asking for financial help isn’t top on my to-do list. This being so, I seldom know how to ‘package’ proposals and promoting my work with the boys in juvenile prison. Besides, how can I package my ability and willingness to spend time with the boys?

Like Patty Liston, Standing With Boys president, said when she visited with us, only the LORD knows what kind of work you are doing with these boys. And He alone can give you strength to continue interacting with these boys.

And indeed, God has been faithful. I am not, financially speaking, where I used to be after quitting my job to work as a full time volunteer. I am now able to earn from my writing while my reading club is taking shape. My fundraising through running half marathons and triathlons is also bearing fruit. It is only a matter of time before my income generating ideas fully blossom. This has given me personal fulfillment. What seemed to be wishful thinking is finally becoming a reality and making sense to me and the people closest to me.

Final thoughts

Much as failing to get more resources from a potential partner is a setback, I will keep using my latest failure as a launching pad towards success. There are lots of valuable lessons to be learned, especially by me, concerning everything that is happening. I feel, deep in my heart, that the lessons are adding value to my life as a man, husband, father and visionary leader of the young men God has brought into my life.

Who knows, the next phone call could be from a contact I made a long time ago asking for resource. As I keep waiting, I feel like a man who is hanging on a shoe string and hoping for the best. Because it is a matter I have diligently prayed for I am going to completely trust God and leave the rest to Him. And just as I am about to sign off, my phone rings! It is a new number. Allow me to pick it up and update you tomorrow…

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”

― John Lennon, Imagine

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

Dealing With Blowers of Flickering Lights

18581888_1527486077283674_4380188832606793227_n
Kelvin Hondo celebrates after finishing his run during the Lukenya Trails Run last Sunday

I don’t know how disastrous my failure to turn up for Diamond’s court case was yesterday. I didn’t turn up in court due to a meeting where I hoped, and failed, to get more resources for my work. Because of this, I will be spending the next two days wallowing in anger, remorse and fear of the unknown. I am also battling with a thousand ‘what if?’ questions.

What if I would have attended court instead of going to a meeting I hoped would empower me to continue meeting the needs of the boys in juvenile prison?

What if I would have not completely trusted I was going to get a breakthrough despite the danger signs I kept ignoring along the way?

What if nobody really cares about the welfare of the boys I work with?

Because I had been so blinded by my quest to achieve something that has eluded me since I begun working with boys in juvenile prison, there is pain in my chest. I don’t know how to deal with it, or how I am going to face Diamond and explain why I failed to turn up in court when he needed me most. And by failing to turn up in court I ended up defaulting on my word and promise to be there.

As I am writing this, tears stream down my face. I cannot shoulder this burden of reaching out for things I think I lack and therefore hope the same will hugely impact the lives of the boys I am working with. I still remember the very first time I met 100 boys in juvenile prison. I arrived in prison wearing a tucked in shirt, shining shoes and ironed pair of trousers. I had arrived in a taxi that a friend of mine had paid for, not knowing that there was going to be a time I was going to walk foot, lack decent clothes, underwear and have my house locked up due to rent arrears owed to my landlord.

I am no longer in desperate need of underwear, neither do I have a single pair of trouser nor is my house getting locked anymore. I am at a point where I have started earning income from my writing and can take care of my personal needs. This is a very good thing because as a man, I am finding meaning in what I am doing. However, my income is still not enough to enable me to carry out my mandate at the juvenile prison.

In fact, the vision behind Lifesong Kenya is getting bigger by the day and I need help. That is why I keep reaching out and asking more people, institutions and organizations to partner with Lifesong Kenya. Many are the times I have made contact in the past, thought I was making progress and only to discover – at the very last minute and not for the very first time – that I should have exercised more caution.

Back to the drawing board

IMG_20170522_112936

When I was running during the Lukenya Trails Marathon, I prayed and asked God for direction, strength and wisdom. I asked Him to provide more clients who will pay for my online writing and more members for my reading club. And much I was as not able to find partners and raise enough money from my running, I strongly believe that God has already provided for my personal needs, marriage and Lifesong Kenya’s work with boys in juvenile prison.

It was until I saw this on a wall inside a hostel for ladies in Thika Town that I remembered to revert to the drawing board. My drawing board involves totally leaning and depending on God. While I need more money for my work, God’s peace, joy and affirmation is way better than the money I keep chasing and asking for. Besides, the things my boys and their families need, are intangible and cannot be met and fulfilled by money alone.

For instance, Diamond’s mom has asked for capital so she can start a business. All she is asking for is a tray of eggs and a tin of groundnuts. That is a very humble request I am able to take of on my own, if only I was able to earn more from my writing. On the other hand, the boys need someone to meet their needs for someone to spend time with them, call and visit their family and the people they have wronged.

By going back to the drawing board, I am able to have the strength to deal with blowers of flickering lights and continue doing the things I am capable of doing to the best of my ability. By doing this, I am able to meet intangible needs that no amount of money can ever fulfill or satisfy. This is what is giving me the strength and confidence to face Diamond this coming Friday and tell him I am sorry for abandoning him at his time of need. I leave the rest to God.

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

Running and Staying On Course

18557001_1527504450615170_780613659771428431_n
Don’t be fooled by smiles shadowing the pain, sweat and tears that comes with running

Kelvin, Jared and I were up way before our alarm went off at 3:30 AM. We had barely slept 5 hours. But it was okay with me. However, because my wife wasn’t available to drive us, I knew driving, to and from Lukenya, after running 20K wasn’t going to be an easy task. Listening and dancing to Fantasia’s I Made It while taking a shower, taking breakfast and thinking about the journey ahead made it bearable.

After a short prayer from my wife, it was time to hit the road. The Eastern Bypass at 4:20 AM is a beautiful stretch of road that is a different cup of tea whenever Elisha and I ride our bikes on it. And by the we drove off the Mombasa Highway and onto the dirt road leading to Lukenya Hills, it was still dark.

IMG_20170521_055114

Looking back to Lukenya Trails Run 2016

Unlike the 2016 edition when we arrived 48 minutes after the run had started, I was glad we had arrived at 6 AM. We therefore had plenty of time to pick our tags, network and check out our ‘competition’. In 2016, I didn’t have such a luxury since everyone had had a 48 minutes head start and by the time I finally started running, 7 more minutes had ticked off.

Running alone, and following hundreds of shoe steps that had erased the markings, was the hardest run I have ever run. And with my underwear and the pair of shorts I was wearing cutting into my fleshy thighs, my run wasn’t a stroll in the park. By the time I crossed the finish line and fell into my wife’s welcoming arms, there was blood gushing from my thighs and down my feet. My toes and heels were on fire while no amount of water could quench my thirst.

I used last year’s run to reflect on whether or not I needed to continue working as a full time Lifesong Kenya volunteer with boys in juvenile prison. In fact, that is what I focused on throughout 2016. In the end, God spoke clearly to me, through a number of people, signs and personal convictions. I have already resumed my work as a full time volunteer and enjoying every challenge that comes with it.

I am now in a position where I am able to find and get clients for my online writing, reading club and the various income generating ideas I have. I am also getting a number of organizations and people interested in partnering and supporting Lifesong Kenya and its effort to empower boys from all works of lives.

Thinking about a tray of eggs and groundnuts

 

IMG_20170521_065359
Having Kelvin, Elisha and Jared by my side me gave me more courage to keep believing and trusting God

“James, what should be our strategy tomorrow?” Elisha had asked the night before.

“I expect a top position from Kelvin and you,” I replied. “Jared will grow our network by sharing our work and vision for boys with those who will be willing to give him a listening ear.”

“Alright!” Kelvin exclaimed.

“Above all else, let’s all have fun and know this is for a good cause,” I said. “This doesn’t mean the run is going to be easy. Trust me, it is going to be painful, tough and you might even spill blood.”

As I kept on running the face of the boys we work with and the young men God has brought into my life kept flashing by. Most of the time, I wished I had a pen and notebook or a laptop to record the ideas that kept streaming into my brain. I thought about Diamond and his upcoming case on Tuesday.

A lot has been happening ever since we met Diamond in juvenile prison. Because the court had given him a free bond, provided we find a school and a place he can call home, our biggest challenge was convincing his step dad to accept him back home. With Sister Bertina having guaranteed she was going to look into taking Diamond back to school, we knew meeting Diamond’s step dad was what lay between us and Diamond’s freedom.

One day, I got a call from Sister Bertina, “James, we have a problem,” she said. “Diamond’s step dad is dead!”

“Well, that is good news,” I said, without knowing why I was saying this. “It means Diamond can now stay with his mom.”

“Yes,” Sister Bertina replied. “However, she cannot pay rent anymore.”

“What should we do now?” I asked.

“She is asking for our help,” she continued. “I know you still don’t have a place where boys like Diamond can stay. However, I need your help walking with him as well as his mom.”

“What about her?” I asked.

“She needs a tray of eggs and a tin of groundnuts so she can sell boiled eggs and roasted groundnuts.”

“Okay,” I replied. “I will work on that. You keep working on finding a schools for Diamond.”

I also thought about Pistar who went to Bible College without having all the basic things he needs for his studies. Much as I had shared his needs with members of our ministry in church, I doubted whether anyone done anything tangible. It is my belief that helping others calls for faith backed by action.

It is then that I decided we were going to drive to Machakos. Having made that decision, and knowing how harder it was going to be after running 20K, I decided to go easy on the run. Seeing most of the runners I had overtaken a few minutes before, was a bit discouraging. However, visiting Pistar to see how he is settling down and doing without the basic things he urgently needs was more important.

Pistar had just arrived back at the college after hospital ministry where he had prayed, encouraged and played songs to patients. Compared to many of his classmates, his need for an official suit made him stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. His engaging and genuine smile just about made up for the material things he lacks. Hearing him play one of his inspirational song on purpose was a worthy reward for our trip to Machakos.

20170521_112133
Pistar had just came back from hospital ministry where he had played his guitar to patients

I also thought about thousands of orphans and their widowed mothers back in Luo Nyanza where I grew up. I don’t know why this came to my mind. But it wasn’t for the first time I was thinking about building an iron sheet and mud walled houses to 3 widows this year. I have thought and prayed about it more than once and because I still don’t know what God wants me to do about this, I kept praying about the matter as I kept running.

In conclusion

My running has become more than a means to raise funds for our work with the boys we work with in juvenile prison and elsewhere. It has become a means through which I pray, reflect and listen to what God has to say concerning my engagement with boys and young men. As I continue recovering from the Lukenya Trails Run, I am thankful for the amount of money we managed to raise during this run.

I am also thankful that Elisha, Jared and Kelvin were able to join and be by my side. Their support, and of course my wife’s tremendous faith and support, enables me to continue working as a writer who spends his 9-5 empowering the boys and young men God keeps bringing into my life. It is the most wonderful place and position to be in and God willing, I will continue running and staying on course.