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.


Felix

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.


The Kids Go Swimming

In one month, I will be heading to Kenya with a team of 16 others. We will visit Upako Centre in their new venue while we are there, and I enjoy reading the updates we receive from Pastor Francis showing that the location is working out and giving the children more opportunities to learn and grow. Here is Pastor Francis' update from last week with pictures (If you are a recent subscriber to this blog, you can read more about what I do in Kenya on my site under the category Kenya or Sophia Fund):

Dr. J,

UpakoSwim1We are all well and we thank God for all the good that the children are enjoying and this is because of your continued support. Mary is well and happy at her new school and she asked me to tell you a big thank you. Here are some things that are happening with us here:

  • Teacher Lillian started a swimming class for the children yesterday at a nearby retreat centre .She says that the children needs more exposure so that they will fit in properly when they grow up.
  • The Dr. Stanko Academy is doing a lot of things with the children alongside their normal classes. UpakoSwim2
  • There is a major drought here so the bricks project has stopped because of water but we shall continue once the drought is over.
  • Belver and Lillian are continuing with counseling and distribution of sanitary towels to girls in school.
  • The orphans are more healthy and progressing well.
  • The new environment is promising and the Academy will start developing talents as the children grow.
  • We have very good volunteers who handle the children in different stages every day.

God bless you all as we work for God through caring for the orphan and vulnerable children.

Pastor Francis

I need to collect a "war chest" of money to give to your partners when I go over on March 2. That means I need your help if we are to continue the progress that they are making, made possible by their faith and labor. I am asking that you invest in their work by contributing generously to their cause. You can give through my website using PayPal or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Thank you for sharing in what Pastor Francis calls "caring for the orphan and vulnerable children."


Christmas for Kenyan Orphans

I know that my friends who work with orphans in Kenya are anxious about Christmas. They are not excited about presents under the tree or the frantic gift shopping that is customary here in the States. They are anxious about their ability to do something, anything for the children for whom they are responsible. When I was growing up in the States, we would get a new pair of shoes, new clothes, and some candy at Easter time. In Kenya, that tradition continues, but it is a Christmas rather than an Easter tradition.

Here is a message and pictures I received from Pastor Francis this past week:

Halo all,

God is gracious and kind thus He has brought us this far. We are nearing the end of the year and C'MasUpako2everyone at least has some budget for Christmas. I am also doing something to make make the orphans here feel some love even if not comfort. We C'masUpako1need clothes and food for them for this season so am asking you do something small towards them and God will surely bless you.Keep us in prayers.

Pastor Francis

What's more, we will have their school fees due right after the first of the year, but for now, we need to focus on Christmas. Can you help an orphan this Christmas season? These children are truly orphans, many with no immediate family, and I truthfully don't know how the pastors do what they do in caring for these children. Your gifts will go in total to their Christmas celebration.

Red Donate ButtonI need you to give now, today, without delay so I can wire the money to our friends in time for Christmas shopping. You can give through my website using PayPal or by sending a tax-deductible check to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. Help our children in Kenya have the basics this Christmas season by giving a gift that will provide clothes and shoes that will last long after Christmas is gone. Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you and yours!


Mary's Test Results

In Kenya, the children take a major exam near the end of what we know to be eighth grade that determines MaryGowntheir high school destiny. Their score will decide the schools in which they can enroll. I got this update from Pastor Francis this morning, and thought I would pass it along to you, as well as the pictures he included:

Dr. J,

Mary's National exam is out and we cannot hold back the joy that we have for her. Here we are celebrating her and we thank God in a special way for her.hope at last.

For you, we are saying a big thank you for transforming the life of Mary who will soon be in a position to change lives of other orphans like her. She scored 356 marks out of 500 which is high above average. She will now join high school in January next year. Thank you so much for holding her hand,she now has 4 years to be in high school before she joins University.

She made it because of you.

Blessings, blessings, blessings,


Pastor Francis

MaryBalconyWhat Pastor Francis is saying, in so many words, is that Mary will need help as she MaryBalcony2goes on to high school. Of course, we will stand with her, but we can do so only if you  help us help her. Your regular gifts go toward Mary and the other children we are helping in a like manner. Will you open your heart and give to Mary and her friends today? You can give through my website or by sending a check to PurposeQuest, PO  Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. You can remember the poor this holiday season by giving to Mary's cause. Please remember that all you give goes directly to the children and causes in Kenya. Thank you, and Merry Christmas from Mary!


News from Kenya

I received an update from Pastor Francis at Upako Centre last week, telling me that they had their Upako4graduation ceremony for the kindergarten students at the John Stanko Academy, which is the name they have chosen for their new school venue. That naming was a total surprise to me, and I am honored but also feel a sense of responsibility to help make the Academy JSUpakoGradall that it can be for the students' sake. We are finalizing our next container any day now, and of course the Academy will get some of the resources we are sending over. Rather than me tell you any more, I will allow Pastor Francis to bring the report, along with some school and graduation pictures (click on them to enlarge):

Dr. J,

I trust all is well. We have come to the end of our school terms 2016, and I am happy with how the children especially are progressing academically. Thank you for presiding over their graduation, which was formalized last Thursday the 10th of November and they are now ready to join the next class come new year.This achievement was made possible by the huge support from you are your lovely team who donate and come to Kenya every year. God bless you in a big way. We are doing what we can to come up with an academy where education, feeding, library and talents are developed.

Upako2Mary who has been enjoying her school through your sponsorship has given other orphans a lot of hope that everything is possible with God. You created the hope, your team built the hope.

I was doing research locally to see where and how we can assemble and sell bicycles here, and we found a place and technical advice on how to do that and we are happy to request you to consider sending bicycles if you can.

God bless you. Attached are photos of some of the children, and the place we went for advise about the bicycles.

Pass our greetings to all,

Pastor Francis

Someone has donated bicycles to be included in the container shipment, and we will give those to Pastor Upako3Upako5Francis to start a bike sales/repair company to help with school expenses. We are not sure how much the container will cost to ship and clear customs, but we have the first $6,000, so we are going to ship and trust the Lord for what we will need when it arrives next year.

As always, I am asking for and counting on your help for all that we do. You can contribute using PayPal via my website or by sending a tax-deductible contribution to PurposeQuest, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882. The pictures are the a inadequate attempt to connect you with the work going on throughout Kenya, for there are many lives that benefit from even the smallest of gifts.