JOHABETO

Bumps Along the Road

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Gilbert pushes his little car stealthily down the dirt path, skillfully maneuvering it around bumps, mounds, craters, and dung. The bottle cap wheels plod obediently over the hummer-worthy terrain, but Gilbert has a keen eye for mechanical failures and lurking perils. He teams up with Joseph’s fast-paced wire vehicle. The boys start to race down the dusty path until a wheel shakes loose or an improvised pen-for-an-axle becomes unscrewed. Then racers transition into a team of mechanical engineers, ready to contrive an impromptu repair.

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Gilbert and Joseph are two of 45 orphans that live with Martin and Ruth Shikuku at the Johabeto home. In 2010, they moved from Soy to Simatwet because of tribal unrest and land disputes. A team, directed by the Pollocks, built a new home on two acres for the children. They went from 25 children per bedroom to reasonable sleeping quarters with a legitimate kitchen.

Then Kenya Power (the government run Hydro company) informed them of the unthinkable: they would be forced out of their new home and land because new power lines would cut through their property. Fair compensation seemed like a meager consolation prize.

Yet Martin and Ruth plowed on through the bumps, mounds, craters, and dung on their path. And when the wheels fell off, they chased them like Gilbert and Joseph. They bought three acres nearby, drilled a borehole, and built two shining new dorms with common rooms and a separate dining hall with an adjoining kitchen. With the extra money, they bought a lorry, which they hope will help the home move towards self-sufficiency. The Shikukus still struggle every month to manage the home and make ends meet, but they work with what God has placed in their hands. What’s more, they do it for Gilbert, Joseph, and 43 other little people.

“Live creatively, friends… Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens… Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life”.

Here is a pic of the Shikuku's original home in Soy from 2005, where they cared for 23 extra children...

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Here is their latest home where they care for 45 extra children...

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This photo, taken while visiting the Shikuku's, puts a smile on my face. We were blessed to be able to spend a significant amount of time with the Shikuku family - eating meals, drinking chai, visiting, playing. The children were shy at first, but quickly felt comfortable and we were able to see them both sharing in duties around the home, but also playing.

From our affluent North American perspective it is sometimes hard to imagine true happiness emanating from a child who has lost their birth parents and is living with 40-odd other children as siblings, but I did wonder at times if their lives are richer than ours. I wondered if having exponentially more community, exponentially more close relationships breeds a type of happiness that we in our huge houses with our 1.8 children just can't fathom.

Kathryn

House Parents Video

ReACT has been working with Martin and Ruth Shikuku for several years and we are so thankful as we see where they are today in comparison with where they have come from. As we consider their present position, we wanted to present to you, our partners, one need there at the home that is key for their success. As Martin and Ruth do all that is needed to care for all aspects of their home, their effectiveness would be greatly multiplied if there were partners willing to sponsor two sets of house parents for these children. At their new facility, there are two dorms that will naturally transition this home into two joined families. These families, if they are run effectively by house parents much like the Veronica Home, would thrive and put Martin and Ruth into more of a management role. Sponsoring new house parents effectively means sponsoring a whole household!

Below is a short video presenting this need in front of the new dorms filmed back in April 2014. Please remember this need as many of you pray for the children of this home! house parents.

Carolyne

Carolyne.

As a deaf girl, she did not have the opportunity that the average child did for education and a future. Several years ago Martin and Ruth Shikuku looked for an opportunity to direct Carolyn and give her an opportunity. With the support of sponsors, she was able to join a trade school with the hopes of learning to sew and ultimately begin her new business. At the end of 2013, we were thrilled to hear that Carolyne had graduated from several years of training with good marks.

In the beginning of 2013, Ruth Shikuku began a sewing shop and hired a woman with experience to do the sewing there. In Kenya, many people use a seamstress to produce their clothes, especially when schools require uniforms for the children to attend a particular school. This past April, we were so pleased to be able to visit Carolyne where she now works in Ruth's shop under the guidance of her new mentor. Here she works with the new sewing machine that was purchased for her. To know where she came from and to see her today working a trade and moving towards being self-sustaining was a true blessing.

The shop is full of colourful, hanging fabrics along with completed school uniforms, men's dress shirts, and women's skirts. Carolyne is able to live with the Shikuku's just a short walk from the main road where the shop sits along with fruit stands, butcheries, and mobile phone outlet. It is a busy strip and Ruth is hopeful about the income this new venture can generate.

One of our goals with the disabled children is to see exactly what we have seen with Carolyne. A successful graduate moving into the work force with a healed heart, a supportive community around them and the chance to become a contributor to their communities. In addition to that, we are excited about seeing the small businesses that Martin and Ruth are growing in the move towards being self-sustained.

Thank you for playing a part in this transformation!

New Build

ReACT first came behind Martin and Ruth Shikuku in 2006 when they visited their home in an area called Soy. Their home was a simple mud hut on a piece of land strewn with rocks and not very arable. At the time, Martin and Ruth not only cared for their own family but also for an additional 30 children despite the fact that their home was only suitable for themselves. True religion! Recognizing their passion and vision despite their lack of resources to adequately care for the children ReACT has since simply come behind this family through some small business opportunities as well as monthly food and supply deliveries. We have never assumed any of the management of the home, rather have always left this to the Shikukus feeling it best to resist our urge to control and "import" our vision.

About four years ago, some other friends of Martin's, the Pollock family from Rochester New York, also came behind them in another capacity. They purchased and provided three quality buildings on a 2 acre property about 20 minutes south of a town called Kitale. The generosity of the Pollocks and their teams took this home to a whole new level of existence in that there was now sufficient room for the children both in terms of housing as well as the property. The two acres has not only housed the family but also has provided a generous amount of gardens for the home to move towards independence.

In the course of the last 16 months or so, a strange set of events has confronted this home and the Shikuku family. They were informed, along with the neighbouring property owners, that a new power line would intersect their current property as required by the Kenya Power Company. The KPC is a government run utility that has plans for a new power line to run through the 2 acre property, effectively requiring them to remove two of the three 4 year old buildings but with compensation. In a battle to fight this requirement, the Shikukus were clearly told that if there was opposition to the KPC plans that they would ultimately find themselves still requiring to comply but without financial compensation. This has been a puzzling and even sad process since there have been so many different people involved in getting them settled on their current piece of land, not to mention the upheaval for the large family (of close to 50). If there is a blessing in all this, it is that Martin and Ruth are being compensated such that they are able to 1) purchase an additional 3 acres of land and 2) build two new buildings to replace the ones that are being disassembled - one for girls and one for boys. They will also still have Title and full use of their current land for farming as well as the new three acres.

Martin and Ruth shared with us while we visited that when they initially began to hope and pray for a new piece of land over 10 years ago while they were still living in Soy, their dream was of having 5 acres. This didn't materialize at the time, but now with the Kenya Power Company relocation they are the proud owners of exactly 5 acres of land! We can only see this as nothing more than an answer to prayer made years ago.

Presently, the additional 3 acres has been purchased, the roof on the two new dorms is almost completed and the finishes are being worked on. The KPC has strict requirements for this project as they need to inspect and be satisfied that the work is being substantially performed before the completed amount of funds are released to them. With the rainy season started, please pray that this project is completed prior to the deadline that the KPC has put on them. While the whole process has been a frustrating one, in the end we trust that this family will be even better off than they were prior to the new power lines being installed. Like Joseph said in Genesis of his adverse circumstances, "what you have meant for evil, God intended for good!".

Through all these events, the most important thing we are pleased to see that the children are still radiant! The events on the outside still find them doing well on the inside as evidenced by their smiles and playfulness where ever they are. Ultimately, our desire is to see these underprivileged children properly cared for and come to know the loving God that deliberately made them. We are pleased to see great evidence of this! Like all of us, their outward circumstances are secondary in the light of their inward character. God is the Builder and it seems He is not opposed to using outward frustrations to build Himself on the inside.

"So we fix our eyes, not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal."

As time passes, we can begin to foresee that this home is moving towards independence and we are also excited to see how far they have come in the past 9 years. Please continue to pray for these children that in all that happens on the outside, they would find their ultimate security with a Saviour on the inside!

More to follow!

Fish Pond

In January 2013, Dave and I visited JOHABETO and were encouraged by Martin Shikuku's initiative in starting another small business. When we arrived, the children had already dug a huge pond out and they were in process of lining this pond so that it could hold water. The ultimate goal was to introduce fingerling fish that would be grown into marketable, edible fish that could be caught and sold at the local market. The pond itself, and all of the Shikuku property, is located on the downside of a large slope and this was to be an aid since much water from the upper farms would contribute to the fresh water required for this project to work.

Initially, they were met with success as you can tell from the harvest of fish shown. This was to be a project that would move them towards independence and self-sufficiency. Unfortunately, as the fish were getting ready to be harvested, a large rain storm came and, given the large volume of water rushing to their farm, the pond overflowed and most of the fish were swept away. This was a disappointment to all!

I wanted to be deliberate about sharing this with you all since we recognize that not everything we or our project leaders do is met with immediate success, nor do we wish to project an image of being successful in all we do. I am pleased with Martin's initiative and leadership in this project as he attempts to move his home from dependence to independence. This is the beautiful part of this story! Martin's leadership is an example to us all!

If any of you would like to help Martin get this project back on track for 2014, please feel free to contact myself (Michael) at any time. In the meantime, be encouraged that though you too may find yourself discouraged, remember Martin and his family and press on!

Naomi Samantha, free at last

On Tuesday, a dear girl left this earth like a caged bird set free.

Naomi was a beautiful girl that I spent some time with just a month ago. She lived with Martin and Ruth Shikuku in their home where there are about 40 children cared for on a daily basis. It was clear that Naomi's health was deteriorating as I sat on her bed, Naomi drooling and crippled up into a ball as I said to Rayel that she wouldn't be here for long.

Naomi was initially found by some street boys in Eldoret, Kenya about 7 years ago, abandoned by the river, no doubt because of her disabilities. She was brought to the Police and then the Children's Department but as time went on it was clear that no one would be coming to look for her. After some time, Martin and Ruth Shikuku were asked if they would consider taking care of her and they agreed to do their best. It was estimated that Naomi was almost 8 years old at the time putting her maximum age at 15 years old.

This should have been the prime of her life.

Ruth would tell me how she would often wake the entire house up in the night with her moaning and crying out but that everyone in the family simply accepted this as a natural rhythm of the home. As I asked Ruth about her state, she told me that Naomi was deeply loved here.

The least of the earth perhaps, but loved deeply by her heavenly Papa.

We were honoured to know her.

One day, we will dance together with the real Naomi...as she was meant to be. What a hope we have! Her cage has been opened!