All posts by ChrisWillB71

Christmas celebrations in Mayenze and return to Bukhadala

Christmas 2020 – celebrations in Mayenze

Great celebrations were possible this year at Pastor Stephen’s church and orphanage.

As well as celebrating the recovery of so many sufferers, his daughter Susan has given birth to their first grandchild; her first Christmas!

God Cares Foundation
Rebecca and orphans Mayenze Christmas party 2020

Many orphans who are cared for by God Cares Foundation, led by Pastor Stephen and his wife Rebecca; as well as pupils at the school, enjoyed the feast.

Review of recovery groups

Pastor Stephen continues to regularly visit as many of the groups as he is able in the face of lockdown because of Covid 19.

In general the projects are doing well, including the bee project with which there was some uncertainty initially in many communities, owing to lack of knowledge of harvesting the honey safely. This appears to have been overcome.

Working further afield

Visit to Turkana

In December Pastor Johnstone made an eight hour journey, travelling 260 miles to Lodwar, Turkana, where his sons Michael and Emanuel have been experiencing some challenges as they serve in church mission.

Turkana landscape
Turkana landscape

Turkana is a very hot semi-desert region in North-West Kenya, where there is a great deal of poverty, although it is very rich in minerals, including gold; and also oil reserves.

Teaching

Johnstone found that the culture of the region had changed since he had left 47 years ago, and that the advice which he had given to his sons, with respect to the approach to adopt, was no longer appropriate.

Lodwar school
Johnstone with his son at Lodwar
Lodwar huts
Dwellings at Lodwar

Alcohol abuse proved to be just as much a problem here as elsewhere in the world, perhaps even more so due to the high temperatures (37*C). Johnstone reported that the women were in general receptive to what was being taught, but that the men were more reserved.

A traditional god called Aguchi continues to be a focus for worship.

It is hoped to visit this area on a return trip to Kenya.

Annual Conference of Kenya Church of Christ in Nairobi, December 2020

Pastor Johnstone was able to travel to attend this annual meeting of the network, of which his church is a member.

One of the main agenda items at the conference was the problem of drug and alcohol abuse, in particular how it affects the youth. This is acknowledged as being a huge problem throughout Kenya.

Cover of addiction recovery document
Cover of Discussion document at conference

The best solution to the problem was recognised to be the Twelve Step program with reference to scripture.

There was no opportunity for Johnstone to share his experience, as no time had been allocated for delegate discussion; but he was able to speak to many of the pastors present, who had never heard of a recovery program such as the one we are operating.

Clearly there is great opportunity for wider out-reach, and much work which needs to be done.

 

Group Growth in Uganda during lockdown

Visits to groups continue in Uganda

Pastor Stephen has been able to revisit the various groups during the pandemic, for teaching and encouragement.

Pastors at Wandago church
Pastors Stephen and Zakaliya distancing during lockdown November 2020

He reports that the groups are growing; people are being saved from addictions; families are finding strength together; new groups are forming, including a new one at his home church in Mayenze; and the projects are flourishing, providing means of income.

Projects provide prosperity

Church at Wandago
Pastor Zakaliya and Pastor Stephen on left with church congregation in Wandago

In Wandago, where Pastor Zakaliya Wakhata leads the church, people have become sober but continued to produce alcohol for sale. With the introduction of the teaching concerning breeding of rabbits they have been able to stop distilling alcohol, as there is a greater income produced from the rabbits.

One of the first lessons to be learnt was to hold rabbits in a certain gentle way, as seen in this video; and not by the ears, which although it might seem convenient is painful.

A happy bunny is likely to produce the greatest number of offspring!

They are determined now to try the bee keeping, which Pastor Stephen has also provided teaching for.

Ugandan bees
Buzzing beehive at Konta Sironko

This has already started in Konta Sironko, where colonies of bees quickly became established in two hives; a third one is about to be put in position.

Bugobero pig breeding

Recovery group project

The Recovery group in Bugobero, Uganda started in 2018, thanks to the efforts of Pastor Stephen, who travels widely visiting many communities.

During the first visit to the group in March 2018 the white ants were taking to flight as they left their nests. They are very good to eat, apparently; but they are not a commercial proposition.

White ants nest
White ants leaving their nest and taking flight in Bugobero   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pigs less likely to fly

Pigs are much less likely to fly away, as well as more easily marketed; the breeding of pigs has been embraced by the Recovery group as a project to create wealth in their community.

Pig breeding in Bugobero
Pig breeding in Bugobero by Recovery groups

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The temptation to eat them rather than breed them will always be there, and formal agreement between group members is needed for breeding programs and marketing, as well as secure housing for sows and their litters, in a land with so many predators; often with two legs!

 

Distributions by Pastor Johnstone

Greater Needs in the Covid Pandemic

It is not hard to imagine the problems faced in rural communities in Kenya during the lockdown, where people are so dependant on one another, their relationships and community action.

This is particularly the case for those in the process of recovery from addictions, as there are not only the problems common to all of anxiety, social isolation and reduced income, but also the inability to meet in groups with other Recoverers to share strength, healing and hope.

Facing the need

Pastor Johnstone has remained busy as far as he is able visiting and encouraging members in the vicinity where he lives, sometimes as small groups but more commonly as individuals.

Distribution by Pastor Johnstone
Food distribution and masks at Machakha, Kenya Church of Christ, to Recoverers donated by The Potter’s Wheel through New Life Rehabilitation Concern (CBO) by EV. Kapa

 

During July he was able to distribute food and face masks to those groups he could reasonably access.

 

 

Future plans

Pastor Johnstone is hoping to complete the purchase of a second hand motor cycle soon, which will make visiting and supporting the groups easier, rather than being dependant on motor cycle taxis.

Healing in Wandago

Groups continue to meet

The visit in March of this year was first opportunity to teach the Twelve Step program of recovery in Wandago, at the church founded by Pastor Zakaliya Wakhata in 2018.

At the end of the teaching people were invited to form Recovery groups in order to fellowship and share recovery as they followed the program.

Recoverers in Wandago
Recovery group in Wandago with stills in background

Pastor Stephen and his wife Rebecca travelled the long distance from Mayenze this weekend, and report that four groups continue to meet now in mid-July.

Teaching rabbit rearing and bee keeping

An important aspect of recovery is to develop group projects as a means of income and to develop skills.

As part of the teaching this weekend Stephen and Rebecca shared knowledge and discussed the possibilities of these possible projects, which seemed particularly suitable for Wandago, where there is no agricultural land for planting crops or rearing animals.

All the income and activity of the community is centred on the brewing and distilling of alcohol, which is sold widely: not only locally, but also in Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Zaire, Tanzania and Rwanda.

It is felt that rabbit rearing may be successful, but bee keeping was not considered a good enterprise. This had been previously discussed; sadly, it was felt that the hives, or the honey, or both might be stolen. Keeping them on the rooves of the houses was not seen as a solution.

It must be very difficult to achieve sobriety with such ease of access and constant temptation.

May the community find alternative means of income to replace alcohol.

Bees a’buzzin’ in Kenya

Pastor Johnstone in Tongaren, Kenya has been very busy during the time of lockdown, which has prevailed worldwide as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic.

Bees:

His group in Machakha now has eight beehives, all of which have been successfully colonised by bees.

Beehives in Kenya
Beehives in Machakha, Kenya

It is hoped that other recovery groups will gain from the experience and construct hives of their own, making use of the knowledge to gain a rich food source and means of income.

 

Rabbits:

The rabbit project is now also succeeding.

Rabbit hutches in Kenya
Kenyan rabbit hutches

 

Initially the rabbits being reared were attacked by some animal which killed them without devouring them, but now secure hutches have been constructed and the project is a success.

Rabbits in Kenya
Malchakha bunny

Once the restrictions are lifted it is hoped that other groups will see what is possible, so as to be able to answer the question commonly posed by sufferers who are still drinking: “If we don’t drink, what are we going to do?”

To have vision and purpose is essential in recovery.

Kingdom work continues during world pandemic

Thankfully most African nations have been somewhat graciously spared during the Coronavirus pandemic, relative to Europe, South American countries and the USA, .

It should be remembered, however, that the big killers in Africa are malaria, which kills over 4000 African children a day, and worse than that diarrhoea, which kills more people than malaria and AIDS combined.

During this viral pandemic similar restrictions to those which prevail in the UK, apply in Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, with social distancing, no group gatherings, etc. This means there are no church services, resulting in reduced income for pastors and for those dependant on them, such as their orphanages; and no recovery group meetings either.

Busy pastors

Nevertheless the pastors are active using their mobile phones and visiting individuals also small groups to give the encouragement needed wherever they can.

Pastor Johnstone and his grandchildren making beehives

Literature was supplied to enable bee keeping at the visit in February. As a result Pastor Johnstone has started to make bee hives to master the skills needed, which he can then pass on to the recovery groups as one of their groups projects, providing not only nourishment but also a source of income.

It was good to discover that the cockerel received as a kind and unexpected gift by the recovery group at Buwamayi, which incidentally was given the name Charlie, continues to thrive in his new home at the orphanage of Pastor Stephen in Uganda.

The fact that he hasn’t yet been eaten implies that so far there is a sufficiency of other things for so many small and hungry mouths to eat.

Long may it be so!

May Charlie live to see many of his grandchildren; go to it Charlie!

Dance Between Mahanaim

A love song

In the present season of Passover Jewish people read the Song of Songs, otherwise known as the Song of Solomon, which is lovely, and rich in symbolism and meaning.

In it there is progression in the relationship between the Beloved and the Lover of her Soul, from “He is mine and I am His” (2:16); to “I am His and He is mine” (6:3); to “I am His” (7:10). This is fulfilled in John’s Gospel in verses 3:16, 4:14 and 7:37-38.

Choices

There is relevance to addiction recovery in what might be considered to be the tipping point in the narrative, in verse 6:13 – the Dance between Mahanaim – a Hebrew word which is translated into English as armies or military camps.

In the Recovery teaching we speak of the conflict between the animal soul and the altruistic soul, describing it as a daily battle between “Black Dog and White Dog”.

In Song of Songs 6:13 repent (Hebrew = shauwb) is repeated four times – it is translated as “return” in many translations – and then there follows the reference to the Dance, which may be recognised as our inner conflict between two possible outcomes.

It is following repentance that the Shulammite (a feminine form of “shalom”) becomes His in verse 7:10.

“Mahanaim” first appears in Genesis 32:2 where Jacob makes a choice between reconciliation with Esau (honesty), or to avoid him altogether by going around him (avoidance). It is here that he wrestles with a Man, and renames the place Peniel, considering that he had seen God face to face.

He had chosen honesty = Step 1 of the Recovery program.

Powerless…but we have a Champion!

In 1 Samuel 17:46 the word mahanaim appears again in the situation in which David confronts Goliath between two camps, a clear foreshadowing of the One who is our Champion, as we are powerless, and who fights our battles victoriously. Quite a dance!

The Dance between Mahanaim is central to the 12 Step Recovery program and to all of us as we face the daily struggle with our Goliaths. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

 It is central to Passover, recognising the need for repentance, and to seek the Redemption of our souls through the Blood of the Lamb.

It is fulfilled whenever we break bread together and share the cup, in a spirit of repentance and with humble hearts.

Return to Kenya & Uganda February – March 2020

At Home with Pastor Johnstone and his family

Johnstone Kapa and his wife Elizabeth graciously accommodated me for a week in their beautiful home in Tongaren.

Kenya is troubled at present not just by the Coronavirus Pandemic

Johnstone and Elizabeth
Pastor Johnstone and Elizabeth

and locusts, but also by persistence of the rains which should have ended in October; it rained heavily towards the end of every day of my stay. The result of this continuing wet season is that farmers have been unable to plough their fields and plant seed; also there has been a massive increase in the population of rats, which occupy every home.

It was good to discover that the Recovery groups are flourishing, many of which originate from the initial teaching in 2015. On this visit teaching was carried out in four centres, with 21 groups represented from various outlying communities; the membership of these was reported to be increasing.

Lunch in Tongaren
Lunch munching

Wherever all day teaching occurred, both in Kenya and Uganda,  lunch was provided from Potter’s Wheel funds for those attending.

Local Government recognition

At the visit in 2018 we had met with District Officer Bradwell who accompanied us when we were visiting the group projects. This time the teaching session in Tongaren was attended by a representative of the County Commissioner, who wants to gauge the impact of the Recovery groups on the communities in his area; to determine whether or not there would be value in rolling the model out more widely throughout Kenya.

At this meeting we were encouraged by the Chief who reported that the whole of his community had changed for the better as a result of increased sobriety; a fall in the levels of crime and violence; and that black magic had gradually reduced to the point when it stopped completely about 2 years ago.

Tororo

The border crossing into Uganda was much easier this time as we did not take a vehicle across. The queue of lorries waiting to pass through on the Kenyan side is generally many miles long.

Tororo is a town close to the border on the Ugandan side where we had taught very briefly at the last visit. Nevertheless, the Pastors had reinforced the teaching, Johnstone crossing the border as necessary; three groups remained active – youth, sufferers and spouses.

Mgale

There are two centres of recovery in this community which is in an astonishingly beautiful high location, looking toward Mount Elgon.

Mgale brick making
Mgale Recoverers brick making project

Three groups remain active in Mgale I following the initial teaching in 2015, with projects such as brick making.

We visited the home of Daniel and Sarah where recovery groups regularly meet and also worship. They had suffered greatly while Daniel was drinking, but he has maintained sobriety since 2015, and their home has become

Daniel and Sarah in Mgale
Daniel and Sarah at their home in Mgale where they host Recovery group meetings

something very special. It was the only place where I saw an apple tree growing bearing fruit in either country.

A problem was identified with respect to members who continued to drink. They were advised that if people wish to continue drinking, and are not seeking sobriety, they should no longer be part of the group. Slips should be tolerated, but not continuing habit.

In Mgale II there are five groups and a prayer group, with poultry and small scale agriculture as projects. Both centres in Mgale reported that their whole community had changed; again black magic had stopped.

Transformation in Shikunga

This was the village where we had been unable to teach in 2018 owing to the drinkers playing music very loudly. We had been forced

Shikunga
Behind the group of men is what was the drinkers’ den which is now a church and Recovery group meeting place

to leave but before doing so we had prayed, among other things that the place they were using would become a church and recovery centre.

It had!

Although the teaching provided had been incomplete, 45 people had formed three groups, thanks to follow up teaching by Pastor Stephen. There is also a church in Shikunga now, led by Pastor Joseph.

Mayenze

This is where Pastor Stephen has his church, and also an orphanage which is home for 120 children, and a school teaching many

Pastor Stephen and his wife
Pastor Stephen and his wife Rebecca at his home, school and orphanage.

more children, often cared for by grandparents.

Two men attended the teaching this time who had founded churches in remote locations following the our visit in 2015. One of these had four Recovery groups operating as part of his church; the other Pastor was in Wandago.

In 2018 there had been 16 recovered heroin addicts who had staged a drama. Their group has now successfully grown to 29 and they have reorganised, in line with what they have been taught, to become three groups, under the umbrella title “Happy Families”. They have formed a church and as their project visit other churches and organisations staging dramas, dance and comedy to pass on the message of recovery.

New Groups in New Localities

Pastor Stephen has started groups in many locations and it was possible to visit some of these, with members coming from other remote places to hear the teaching.

Buwamayi is where Stephen had found a group of school teachers sitting round a pot of beer drinking through tubing. They

Buwamayi gift
Gift of a cockerel and bananas from Buwamayi

wished to break with their habit and have successfully done so. They started as a group of four, but are now 29! A church has also started here which is particularly significant as the community sits on the boundary between two tribal areas, and so through this fellowship long standing divisions are being healed.

Many of the children at the school are orphans; they were present throughout the teaching and hopefully will never take up chemical habits. They have a number of agricultural projects operating and presented me with some bananas and a cockerel as a thank you gift!

Tubana is another community where Stephen has shared the teaching and groups have been formed. Again there was the report that as people became sober, and the brewing stopped, so did the black magic.

Wandago

This community is close to the source of the White Nile at Jinja. Here there is no agriculture; the whole enterprise of the people is the distillation of alcoholic spirit from beer known as waragi. It is famous for this and supplies all the nations surrounding Uganda, including Kenya, Sudan, Zaire, Tanzania and Rwanda, as well as Uganda at

Alcohol distillation at Wandago
Alcohol distillation at Wandago – the tubes lead to 2 gallon containers for distribution to surrounding countries

large.

Everywhere there were black oil drums on fires used to boil the fermented brew with tubes leading to yellow 2 gallon plastic containers in pits. Black magic is rife here with dedicated shrines.

It is here that Pastor Zakaliya, who I had met in Mayenze, and who had responded to the teaching in 2015, has founded a church. He is supported in addressing the problem by Stephen and Rebecca who visit regularly despite the long journey of 2-3 hours.

Here as well as at other  Recovery centres, we are intending to share knowledge of bee keeping and rabbit breeding, which would be well suited to those communities where there is a paucity of land to develop for agriculture.

In conclusion, this visit went awesomely well, and it is clear that the pastors have been very active in furthering the Recovery program. By means of God’s grace, through spiritual awakening, they report that:

  • family livelihood has improved
  • crime rates have fallen in the areas where groups are operating
  • social and economic projects have started, e.g. businesses, orphanages, churches
  • husband and wife relationships have been restored
  • children are returning to school
  • social activities such as football and volley ball have started
  • membership of groups is now reckoned in thousands
  • people are more kind to one another