Partners and Friends,
First of all, we need to apologize that we have not been as faithful with updates. As many of you know, Jamie has started a Masters Degree in International Development from Eastern University, which is already greatly impacting and benefiting our work. Adding the work of this course load into the mix has made life much busier, and sadly, updates like these have suffered. That being said, you are all a critical component of this work, so it is very important to us to keep you informed and updated. After the first of the year, we will get back into the rhythm of a more regularly scheduled update. Thanks for understanding.
We came back to Kenya in August, after 3 months in the US. Since returning things have been a bit unsettled in the country, but things are slowly returning to normal. Kenya held presidential elections in August, with incumbent President Kenyatta winning the election. However, the opposition appealed that the results were flawed. The Supreme Court sided with the opposition declaring an additional election in November. A short time before the election redo, the opposition claimed that the necessary revisions had not been made to ensure a free and fair election leading them to boycott. The opposition also called all supporters to boycott the election. This resulted in extremely low voter turnout, however, President Kenyatta won the reelection with ease. This entire process has led to tensions along political and tribal lines. There have been incidents of protests and violent clashes as tensions have boiled over, but most incidents have been controlled relatively quickly. That being said, sadly, many lives have been lost. In recent weeks, things seem to be settling back to normalcy, and the majority of Kenyans simply long to move forward. Please keep the nation in your prayers as they continue to move forward.
Our family is doing well. As mentioned above, Jamie has been finding a balance between being a full-time grad school student, while not letting it negatively affect our work. He seems to have found a good balance, and the coursework is already adding great value. In addition to assisting in our work, Jessica has been in an extremely busy season with her role at Rosslyn Academy. She coordinates the HS CFS trips (16 of them!), alumni relations, staff recruitment and the annual Christmas Project (this year the school raised $17,000 for 4 excellent local organizations). She loves being able to serve in this capacity. Sophie and Ethan are both doing well. They are halfway through 2nd Grade and Kindergarten. Sophie has enjoyed taking ballet and gymnastics this year, and Ethan continues to enjoy soccer on Saturday mornings. We are all looking forward to Christmas, though it is always a difficult time of year to be away from family.
One big change for our family is that we moved to a new house in September. It is located just outside of Nairobi so that we get the benefits of being in the city without being in the middle of the madness. Some of our closest friends live next door, which has been an incredible bonus for us and the kids. Our new house is located in the middle of a large coffee farm, so we get the benefit of driving through beautiful countryside each morning (pictured below). There are always issues with moving into a new space here (power inconsistencies, water and plumbing issues) that we have had to navigate, but we are extremely happy with our new space.
People to People and Ministry
Tana River Village Food Production Projects
Earlier in the year we began a partnership with local missionary, Bocha Hussein, to start food production projects in villages in the Tana River Delta of eastern Kenya. This area is prone to extreme drought and the needs of the community are extreme. The pilot project was done in Peponi village in April 2017. A water well, irrigation plumbing, and funds for land clearing and seeds were provided. The farm has been extremely successful, providing vegetables and maize to the community. They are currently in the second cycle of maize, and the farm is thriving. In September, a second project was started in Gardeni village. They are in their first harvest cycle, but they have planted tomatoes, maize, and other vegetables. The crops are growing well! It is our hope and prayer that the wells will continue to produce copious amounts of water, and that these farms will continue to thrive, providing much needed food sustainability to this community.
In January, we will start an additional food production project in Odhole village, through local missionary Lucy Chengo. Lucy has a school and feeding program within the village, so this farm will help sustain these programs. There are also numerous villages in this area that Bocha works with that we hope to start similar projects for.
If you are ever interested in specifically supporting such projects, donations can be given here: Dunning Ministry Account (choose ‘Ministry’ in account drop down menu).
As many of you know, East Africa has faced a severe drought over the last year. Many of the communities we work with have faced tremendous circumstances. Fortunately, People to People Ministries contributed a generous amount of funding so that we were able to distribute relief to over 800 families in Tana River County, Isiolo, and Tharaka. Rains have returned, however, much more is needed to overcome the great challenges that this drought has caused.
Rosslyn CFS Trip to Kanja
Every fall we have the joy of leading a group of 16 Rosslyn Academy Sophomores on a CFS trip to Kanja to work with Emmanuel Worship Prep. School. It is always a great experience for the students to learn more about the culture and beauty of this country that they call home. It is also a great opportunity for them to serve alongside amazing men and women that pour into the children of this school every day.
Coastal Pastor’s Conference
Jamie had the priviledge of joining colleague, Kevin Sneed, on a trip to teach at the Coastal Pastor’s Conference in Mombasa. It was a great time to connect with pastors from this region and to learn about some of the work going on there. He was able to try out Kenya’s new train service, the Madaraka Express, to Mombasa.
Christmas Project 2017
This year’s Christmas Project was a great success at all of our partner orphanages and school feeding programs. In all, 140 kids received new school shoes, 130 received new school uniforms, 36 received new textbooks, 100 will receive mosquito nets, 180 received new backpacks filled with food for their families and caretakers, one school received funds to complete a computer lab, dozens of staff received Christmas gifts, and over 400 children and staff enjoyed a special Christmas meal. A video update will be sent out soon with more information!
Advent Reflection from Jessica:
There is something about the season of Advent that always puts me in a reflective space. Nightly our family gathers together to light the candles on our advent wreath, we do our nightly advent reading and then put a new piece on our Nativity scene as we tell the kids the story of Jesus’s birth. We light candles that represent Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love and we pray a prayer that simply states, “May the God of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace be with us, preparing us for the coming of Jesus.” As I pray that simple prayer, I can’t help but reflect on how the God of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love has been with us throughout this year. 2017 for our family definitely had some unexpected twists and turns. We started the year anticipating our upcoming furlough. After two years of being away from our family and home, we were definitely longing for the opportunity to return for a short period of rest and time of reconnecting with family, friends and supporters. We set our sights on the months ahead knowing that they would be busy, but also saw the temporal nature of that season, anticipating the rest that would be on the other side. We navigated the ends and outs of the first few months of the year held and quickly found ourselves in April with only a few short weeks before our departure to the States. As many of you have heard our story, I won’t belabor this part. To be brief a car accident in which we flipped our vehicle (thankfully everyone was okay) and an emergency room visit for me with the diagnosis of gallstones and needed surgery once we arrived in the States, on top of a busy work season, left us feeling completely drained as we departed for our furlough at the end of April. Anticipating a need for rest in between our time in Kenya and our busy furlough travel schedule awaiting us in the States, we scheduled a stop off for our family in Scotland. What was meant to be a time of rest and renewal (and in many ways still was) turned quickly when I had a bad fall off of a bunkbed knocking out my two front teeth. This resulted in a summer of dental appointments and concern over the prognosis of how my teeth were doing and if they were in fact going to be okay. During the summer Jamie was also slated to start a Masters Degree in International Development, which he was/is extremely excited about, but that also added its own level of stress and elevated work load. We then returned to Kenya to a very tense political environment with the elections taking place just days after our arrival. Due to perceived irregularities in the election process this tension continued through the recent presidential inauguration on November 28th and if we are truly honest has yet to completely dissipate. This year has held struggles, difficulties and high level of stress.
I have talked with friends recently who could recount their year in a similar fashion and for each of you reading this I am sure you can do the same, inserting your own struggles into the story. But as I reflect on a God of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, I challenged myself to find those moments in this past year. I saw Hope as I watched the nation of Kenya navigate a political system ravaged by tribal division and tension. Yes, there is still tension and there were casualties associated with the election season, but I watched people take a stand and rise above it all. I experienced Peace when even in the midst of tragedy and uncertainty God reminded me that he is always with me, if I will take the time to pause and be aware of his presence in every moment of every day. I experienced Joy as I daily watched Sophie and Ethan grow and develop. Ethan’s personality and quick wit continually catch us off guard with the things he says and the humor and continual laughter he brings into our lives. Sophie’s compassion and desire to do good leave us reflecting on how God is going to use these qualities in her life as she continues to grow and mature. I felt love as Jamie and I continually encountered people while home on furlough who expressed that they think of our family often and hold us in their prayers daily. I experienced love from our families who support us unconditionally and who were overjoyed to have us home. I experienced love from our friends around the world who are constantly checking in and supporting us during the hard and good times life brings.
As I reflect on the year I do so with a grateful heart. Sure, I would love to change some of the events of this past year, but I am thankful for the way God saw us through all of it. My prayer for you this Advent Season is the prayer our family prayers nightly:
May the God of Hope, Peace, Love and Joy be with you, preparing you for the coming of Jesus.
Thank you for loving us, supporting and holding us in your prayers. You are continual source of encouragement for our family and we are truly grateful.
- That we would love God and others as He loves us, and that we will be faithful in all the areas that He is calling us.
- For continued direction and wisdom in our work.
- For our marriage to grow stronger every day.
- For Sophie and Ethan…that they will feel a meaningful connection to our ministry and that they both will grow to love and follow Jesus.
- For the Nation of Kenya, and the individuals, ministries, and churches we support.
- For our extended families as they live life without us and the kids.
- For good health, safety and protection.