Upako School Van

After their venue was ransacked and destroyed last year, the school and then the orphans at Upako UpakoVan1Centre had to relocate to a new site. As God always does, He has worked this out for the good and today they are thriving in their new venue. Leadership did not want to leave any of the children behind in the transition, so they have been transporting students to the new school, having to rent a van to get the job done. This week, Pastor Francis wrote me the following update concerning their school van:

Dr. J,
God's grace is amazing. We have been using an old van to transport some children from Kawangware to Dr. Stanko Academy for a fee daily on school days. The owner took it for repair and painting but instead of painting the ordinary colour, he painted the van with our new school colour and branded it DR. STANKO ACADEMY. He asked us to continue paying him the daily fees of 23 dollars as usual until we buy our own. The Van looks good UpakoVan2and we are happy with the branding. God can command a stranger to help along the way. Step by step, things are falling on the right track and I thank God for everything. God bless you for continued prayers.
Blessings - Pastor Francis
I was blessed that they were blessed with this development and by the looks of everyone in the pictures, they truly are happy and blessed! There are many things I appreciate about our partners in Kenya, and one of them is their faith in God. They trust Him daily, not putting their faith in us but in Him, where it should be. For that reason, God watches over them and grants them unexpected blessings as Pastor Francis described.
Won't you stand with our friends who are standing in faith, trusting God to use you to meet their needs? You can help with their van expense, their teacher salaries, the bunk bed needs for the orphans who actually stay and live in the classrooms, or the school feeding program by contributing to my ministry. You can use PayPal via my website or send a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for your help, and may God bless you and our friends in Kenya as together we serve God's Kingdom through our faithful service.

Textbooks for Upako

I heard from Pastor Francis this past week and it was exciting news from the Dr. Stanko Academy. Here is UpakoTchrs1what he wrote:

Dr. J,
The teachers received their pay and they were very happy. I am also happy that the work with the orphans here is taking shape and there is a lot of improvement in the lives of the children and the workers. I am very grateful to you for choosing to work with Upako to save the lives of the orphans here and I am praying that you and your team share in the children's blessings. Had it not been for you, some of them may have not been made it alive today. We managed to buy some school textbooks to boost the teachers efforts with what we had yesterday. We are happy for your involvement with the ministry and may you experience Gods goodness.Tell all those who are praying for us that we value them so much. - Pst Francis
UpakoLittlesThe children getting textbooks is great news! I have been in the classroom when the teachers, often in stifling hot conditions in their metal shack classroom, have to teach 25 to 35 students with only one textbook that the teacher is holding. That means the teachers must teach nonstop for hours every day, covering every subject through sheer determination and devotion. Now that the students have some books, the teachers job will become a bit easier and the students will learn more.
We take for granted that a school means that the UpakoKidsWithBooksstudents will have books and supplies, but that is not the case in Kenya. We also take for granted that the teachers are getting paid, but in Kenya, that is also not always the case. Your contributions toward my work in Kenya are making a big difference as our partners do the little things that make a difference - little things like textbooks, teacher pay, and daily meals. You can contribute toward this work using PayPal through my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank  you for your help, and may the Lord bless our partners in Kenya as they continue to make an impact one life at a time!

Upako Report

I returned from Kenya 10 days ago for what was a quick trip mostly spent in the Bomet area. I UpakoTchrstalked with Pastor Francis while I was there, but here is the report he sent me this week, along with the latest pictures of the teachers, our little Mary, the classrooms, and the "dormitory." First, let me share with you Pastor Francis' report:

Dr. J,

Greetings from the Dr. Stanko Academy in Kenya. The teachers are more committed to their work since you started paying them, and this is a very big boost to the education of the children and the community at large. We UpakoMaryMaynow expect the outcome in the children academic development to rise. The teachers now need school supplies and we are going to buy some for them next week. Paying the teachers is going to go along way helping all the children.

We are looking forward to an equipped library, dormitory for the boys and for the girls, and a modern kitchen. Keep on praying for us. Blessings to you all - Pastor Francis.

We began sending $600 per month to support the teachers (that's $600 total, not $600 per instructor), since teachers would volunteer at the school and serve until they found a paying position. Therefore, there was constant turnover, and the children were the ones who suffered. We feel like supporting the teachers is the best way to support the students.

Then we have our little Mary, who is now in high school. We have UpakoBedsupported this orphan for the last four years to be able to attend a better school. When she is not in school, she comes "home" to Upako and sleeps with the other children in one of the school classrooms. You can see her bed (shared with others) in the attached picture. Pastor Francis needs $2,500 to secure proper bunk beds for the 20 orphaned children, and we have $300 donated toward that need.

Then you see a picture of a classroom meal being served. The students who come to the Stanko Academy who are not orphans still eat what is probably their only meal of the day at school. You can see that Upako Center serves as a school, an orphanage, a place of refuge and employment, and a hope for the future.

UpakoSnackIt would be wonderful if you could find it in your heart to help the children and teachers at Upako Center. Perhaps you would like to contribute toward the bunk beds, or the kitchen, or the food served from their current makeshift kitchen. You can do so by contributing using PayPal through my website or by sending a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Everything we receive for the children in Kenya goes to them; not one penny is kept out for administrative expenses. This represents a wonderful opportunity for you to support the orphans that are close to God's heart. Won't you please give today to this most worthy effort?

Kenya Trip Ministry Report

GroupShotBestSome have asked me why I returned to Kenya so soon after my last trip. The answer is simple: there is a national election there this coming August, and things get focused on the election, which can sometimes be a bit tumultuous. So it was either wait until my next trip, which is in October, or go now to fulfill a promise I had made. I opted to go now.

My promise was to Pastor David Koech that I would come and conduct some leadership training in his  DavidJS area of Kenya called Kitoben, which is close to Tenwek Hospital in Bomet. Pastor David has recently been promoted to the head of the Bomet district for the Africa Gospel Church, which includes 22 churches, one orphanage, and 17 schools (12 primary and 5 secondary). The churches have spiritual responsibility for those 17 schools, and visit them all regularly to counsel and pray. They also plan special youth events throughout the year (by the way, click on any picture to enlarge it).

225InAttendanceI was blessed to see 225 people assembled for my leadership training sessions, all seated and patiently waiting for me to arrive on Wednesday, May 10. I had prepared an outline (with fill-in-the-blank format) and had purchased a copy of my book Life is a Gold Mine: Can You Dig It? from my Kenyan publisher. Since I recently revised that book, I took an outline of the revisions to distribute. I am so glad I did, for the participants treated those outlines with special care. I taught for a total of 14 hours with a Kipsigis interpreter from Wednesday through Saturday, and I was surprised at how attentive and engaged the people were! I had to contribute $1,300 to have this training, which included a generator, tea breaks, and lunch every day for four days. The books cost $1,200, but the $2,500 we invested was money well spent (that, of course, does not include LadiesTeaLine2my airfare or hotel expenses).

I had also taken an overhead projector, so I could project the answers to be put into the blanks in the JSRobeSpeaking2notes, and I left the projector there for Pastor David to use. He was so blessed and excited that he would be able to use it to show videos in the local schools. I taught on The Price of Leadership, and covered topics like biblical leadership, time management, purpose, goal-setting, and faith. I had more than a few tell me they had never heard any of that material before, and it all made a significant impact on their lives and ministries.

SundayMornYouthMtgI stayed over for Sunday and preached to a youth church, and then returned to the church where we had held the training to preach. I spoke to the youth about David and Goliath and the church about Hannah and her faith to give birth to Samuel. I then returned to Nairobi where I had meetings until I departed last Thursday.

This was one of my more difficult trips as far as logistics and travel went. Every one of my flights was PouringTeadelayed, the first one to the extent that I did not arrive in Kenya on Monday night but on Tuesday morning. That meant I spent two nights on a plane to get there. When I got over to Bomet (four-hour drive from Nairobi), I made the mistake of drinking every cup of tea that was handed to me, even if it was late in the afternoon. I was waking up at 12:30 or 1:00 AM and could not get back to sleep and could not figure out why. Then it dawned on me: It was the tea! I actually went through two nights without sleep, which made for interesting days of teaching all day with an interpreter. Your prayers and God's grace got me through, but I did sleep 10 hours the first night I got back to Nairobi.

DavidsCar2I have made a commitment to help Pastor David secure a printer and paper, which will serve at the printer for the entire district and the churches and schools therein. I also helped with his new car payments. He was in desperate need of a car to traverse the hills and dirt roads of his district. He also has an orphanage of 74 children, some of whom have AIDS and need emergency medical treatment at all hours of the day or night. Before his car, he was having to rent a motorcycle taxi to transport the sick children down the hill for the 30-minute ride to Tenwek Hospital.

I will be sending out my summer fundraising letter next week, but in the meantime, I need your help to TeaFields2continue the work we have established in Kenya. There is the need of the printer, along with the issue of rising food prices (the cost of corn and sugar has almost tripled over the course of the last few months). I ask that you search your heart and make a decision to help our brothers and sisters who are doing so much with the little they have. They have been faithful, and I would suggest that it is our duty to invest in their work out of the abundance that we have.

You can give through my website or by sending a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Every penny I receive goes to our partners in Kenya as the Lord directs us to give according to their needs. Thank you for your attention to and help in these matters, and I pray you will find it in your heart to help with a generous contribution.

Library Update; Leaving for Kenya May 7

I received the following update and pictures from Pastor Peter this past week: LibraryUpdate4

Dear Dr. John

The school holiday is still ongoing and the the students are well utilizing the library. We are happy because this place have become a beacon of hope and inspiration. We are pleased that in all our libraries the students have found a safe place for study and reflection. We wish to thank all our supporters for making this possible.

Pastor Peter

I face a busy week as I get ready to go over to Kenya next Sunday. In the meantime, life and ministry continues in Kenya, and I need your help if we are to make the most of the opportunities we have there. Here are some things for you to consider:

  1. School fees are due for some of the students we sponsor. I sent $600 yesterday and will have to send more next week.
  2. The salaries for the teachers we help at Upako are due this week: $600.
  3. I have sent over $1,000 toward the leadership training I am doing in Bomet. I would love to purchase three books to give to each of the leaders, but will need another $1,100 per book to do that ($3,300 total). I have put that before the Lord and if He wants me to give books, He will provide the funds.
  4. On top of all this are my expenses to go over to Kenya to be with the leaders and other partners we have worked with over the years.

I am not nervous at all, and just wanted you to know the things that I am trusting the Lord to do in the next few days. If you can help, or would like to share in any of the specific needs listed above, please give online using my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. If you looking for a place where your gifts will make a deep impact with no overhead, then I ask you to consider this work and others like them that I am involved with in Kenya. Thank you and God bless you!

Need Your Help; Heading to Kenya

Two weeks from today on May 7, I will be heading over to Kenya to fulfill a promise I made last year. Our team could not make the trip over to Bomet when we were there in March, and I had promised my friend David Koech that I would come back and do some leadership training for his leaders in the area some time in 2017. After going back and forth, we worked out the dates of May 10-14 for the P1200176training. Here is a picture of David and his wife Sarah from one of my visits when we presented a check to them for their orphanage that houses nearly 100 children from nursery to high school age. I am also including a picture of David standing next to the wood stove that is used to feed those 100 children (click to enlarge). They are doing a great work in addition to overseeing the many churches DSC02086in the area.

I am making a trip so soon after my last trip because of the national elections that will occur in Kenya in August. The country will be preoccupied leading up to the event, and at times conditions can be tense. Therefore, I am going over now and then will go again in October after I have visited Nigeria.

The cost for the training is $1,350 plus some books that I would like to purchase to give to the leaders, bringing the total to $2,000, which does not include my own expenses of getting over to Kenya along with housing and food expenses. While I am there, I am sure I will connect with our other partners to assess their needs and progress in the ministry.

Please consider helping me with the expenses of the leadership training next month. You can give through my website or by sending a tax-deductible contribution to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for help, and you know I will give you a full report of my time there with the leaders who are doing such a great job and are worthy of our support. Thank you, and please be praying for my time in Kenya!

Support Your Local Teacher

Perhaps you remember last year's tragedy when Pastor Francis was awakened to find that his school UpakoTeachersthat was serving the Kawangware area had been destroyed by his landlord to make way for another building (ironically, it was torn down to make room for a church). This was a devastating blow at the time, but you generously gave $2,500 to help rebuild the school in another area.

UpakoDown9Well, I am delighted to report the truth of Romans 8:28 is still in effect in that God works for good in all things. On our visit month, we found the school to be in the best shape we have ever witnessed, with new, youthful teachers and a new spirit and vision that were palpable. The school has operated on a volunteer basis and all the teachers have taught until they found something else that paid a salary, which meant the students were adjusting to new teachers every few months.

In order to rectify this problem, I have made a StankoAcademySign
commitment to send $600 every month for teacher support. This will enable Upako to employ teachers and hold them accountable, will allow the teachers to settle into a secure position, and will give the students a chance to bond with their instructors as students are apt to do. I have already done this for March and April, and will continue to do so until the Lord directs otherwise. I am attaching a picture of the faculty from a recent visit to one of the teachers who just had a baby. One person has already pledged a monthly contribution to help with the instructor expenses.

On another note, I am proceeding with my May visit back to Kenya to conduct some leadership training with Pastor David Koech in the Bomet region. It will be a quick trip, but with my summer schedule and the August elections in Kenya, it is the only opening in my calendar that will work. I know that I am responsible for the expenses for the conference that will include books, notes, food, and refreshments. I will let you know what that the projected cost is so you can help as the Lord leads.

ContainerAnd finally, we are "inches" away from sending our container, having held it up as book contributions continue to come in. I have also ordered a supply of my own books to send over so i can set up a distribution center for sales in Kenya. All 750 of those books have to be shrink wrapped before we ship them, and that is a labor-intensive job that should be complete this week. Our goal is to have it on its way by June 1, but that will depend in part by the shipping company's inspection and pick up schedule.

I will be having my first informational meeting about the 2018 Kenya trip in late June, so be watching for the date and come if you are remotely interested in going with the team next year. But there will be much to report before then about the growing work we are doing in the great nation of Kenya, so stay tuned. There's more to come.

Kenya Trip Report 2017

JSAcademyI arrived home last Monday after another wonderful and successful trip to Kenya. This time I had 16 others with me and, as usual, they proved to be a tremendous blessing to JSFrancisone another and to the people we visited and worked with in Kenya. I met with one of the team members yesterday, and he told me that he is still processing what he learned and saw on the trip, and I know exactly what he means. It always takes some time to allow the Lord to help me work through what I learned and what my next assignment is once I come home.

JSGladysI am returning in May to conduct some leadership training for the pastors under David Koech's oversight in Bomet, so my next assignment is imminent. I am going back so quickly because the national election is in August, and everyone is being cautious as to what that may involve (at times, there is much unrest around the elections). I will then return in October once the elections are completed. JSPeter

Here is an overview of what I was able to distribute to our friends and partners in Kenya with your help ((click on any picture to enlarge it for a better look):

  1. Each One Touch One -- $1,600 (house rent, house mother salary, food)
  2. Each One Touch -- $850 (one-day outing with the orphans)
  3. Banana Library -- $850 (librarian salary, rent, furnishings)
  4. Karen Academy -- $750 (general use where needed)
  5. Upako Centre -- $2,450 (for teacher salaries, school supplies, and general use)
  6. David Koech -- $2,500 (for vehicle purchase)
  7. Clarence Matheny Ministries -- $1,000 (conference expenses)

JSAliceThat comes to a total of $10,000 distributed, which does not include the other blessings we bestowed on individuals who are doing wonderful work but doing it by faith -- they receive no compensation. My publishing company also produced a book for a young lady who has a testimony of how God is delivering her from a pornography addiction, and we did that book as a ministry project at no cost to her. JSConference

I try to be careful and not allow us to be the focal point for the tremendous needs we encounter when we visit Kenya. There is need everywhere, and we don't want people to see us as their source to meet those needs; only God can do that. We do not want to create dependents but partners, so we do not, and can not, meet all the needs we see. Yet, we want to be a blessing and allow God to use us in a way that keeps Him front and center in the minds and hearts of the people.

JSRuthI am planning another group trip in 2018, probably a bit earlier than this year's trip, since Israel is on the schedule for April of next year. If you would like to be part of next year's trip, please let me know. We will have our first meeting in June this year to start planning, and I would love to talk to you about what it would take for you to experience what I have come to love and look forward to, and that is a chance to take a trip during which God speaks and reveals Himself to me and us in fresh, new ways.

Life in the Slum

In less than three weeks, I will be in Kenya with 16 other people. I received an email from Pastor Francis and in it he tries to explain to us the nature of the ministry to which he has been called in Kenya. His story is repeated hundreds and thousands of times by others who are serving God there, day in and day out. Let's read what Pastor Francis has to say:

UpakoFeb1The call to serve God is sometimes in unlikely places. Let me try to give you an understanding of life in this place where I have been serving for 17 years, trying to make the gospel practical. I love this work. I sincerely welcome you to my world, the world of the lost, a people who have no status in society but are considered in the heavenly census.

They wake up in the morning without a plan UpakoFeb2because that is what they understand that it is to be alive. Nothing is  planned but night means going to sleep, sleep in whatever fate brings forth. Some sleep in the corridors, the streets, in garbage sites. Maybe it happens for some to be under a roof, then maybe they sleep on the floor with no blanket or one small blanket for 6 children, boys and girls together. During the day, they have either one meal or nothing at all, so you see them begging or trying to get something from the garbage pile to eat.

The slum where I minister is called Kawangware. When I first visited the area in 1999 to do a church planting survey, I thought I was dreaming and I believed that my choice and direction to work with UpakoFeb3the lost communities were wrong. But God insisted that the people were to be reached, so I had no choice but to do church with them. I went down with my family to live with the lost people so that I could understand them better and lead them out to life. After working there for 4 years, I had given out almost everything in a bid to save them until I got lost myself. We can share this story someday.

Visiting Kenya and sitting with the widows and the orphans sharing in their journey to new life is not a fun but real experience in ministry. When you come, just hear, watch, and feel; then you will understand the gospel from an upside-down perspective.

Your brother,

Pastor Francis

If there is one comment we constantly receive from those who travel to Kenya with me, it is that we did not prepare them for the povertythe sights, sounds, and smells of the life in the slums. The aspect of our visit that is so moving is that those who live in those situations are joyful, thanking God for what they have, and living from day to day. Their goals are our goals: feed their families, educate their children, find work that will provide for their needs. Yet, their opportunities are so limited when compared to ours that we cannot help but be moved and our hearts go out to them.

Whatever I raise between now and my trip on March 2 is what I give to our partners in Kenya. If it is much, then we give much. If it is little, we give little. I am trusting that you will hear what Pastor Francis is saying and them help us to bless our friends when we visit. You can give using PayPal through my website or by sending a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. I appreciate your willingness to help. Now I need you to follow through on what your heart is moving you to doand give. Thank you and please pray for our friends and partners in Kenya, and our team that will be traveling from March 2 to March 17.


FelixPic2On March 2, I depart for Kenya accompanied by 16 other people. Of those 16, 9 will be going for the first time, while the other 7 are returning veterans. We will visit orphanages, churches, libraries, schools, and also participate in a leadership conference (we will help in the kitchen, with registration, and anything else our hosts require). I will be speaking at the conference.

I have been asked why I take people to Kenya every year. My answer is simple: When God wants to speak to someone, He often takes them on a trip. When people travel, they pay closer attention to their environment, and thus God is able to speak to them more clearly and through the new scenarios they will encounter as they go. A wonderful example of this is little Felix, whose story I would like to share with you.

A few years ago, we visited a ramshackle nursery school that was a converted livestock pen. We had met Susan, the main teacher, on a previous visit and wanted to go by and say hello. While we were there, we met a young boy named Felix. Felix was almost deaf, and had a dilapidated old hearing aid inserted in one ear. Felix could not attend that school, for when he did, he could not hear what was being said. There was no "special needs" education in that old cow barn.

The Lord "spoke" to several people on our team to help Felix, which they have done faithfully since then. They have not only tended to his hearing needs, but also to his education. Below FelixPic1is the report I got from Pastor Peter this past week, along with some pictures. (I include the picture of Felix and his school to show you the condition of the "schoolyard"; click on it to enlarge and see what I mean.)

Dear Dr. John,

Our boy Felix is doing well and his school fee for the term is paid. Special thanks to Sue and Janet for empowering Felix.

God bless you.

Pastor Peter

God could not have spoken to Janet and then Sue if they had not been on the trip to Kenya. Because they went, God was able to connect them in a special way that has changed the lives of Felix and his family.

Now I am counting on God speaking to you through our experience. When we go in March, we will encounter more needs like the one we confronted when we met Felix. There will be heart-breaking cases of need that we cannot meet in our own resources, no matter how much money we raise. Yet, there are things we can do with the money God supplies, and that's where your help is urgently needed.

Your gift between now and March 2 will help us help the children, widows, and orphans whom God has placed in our path. I promise you that every penny you give will go directly to the needs in Kenya. Not one cent will go toward administration. You can give to Felix and those like him by giving through PayPal on my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.

Help me gather a large fund for this trip that we can apply and invest as God speaks to us along the way. I promise to give you a full report, and I also promise that we will communicate your love, and the love of God, to the people we meet. Thank you and may God speak to you about the role you are to play in this trip.