Kenya Update 3

Today we visited Lin Joka, a small village where Sodzo International hosts one of its family strengthening programs. Family representatives are invited to join in groups of 25-30 people who meet weekly for education and financial support. Each family contributes a small amount each week - about 20 shillings, the rough equivalent of 20 cents. The group accumulates this money over time and collectively decides how to use it by making micro loans to group members who have a need. For example, if this week I have school fees to pay for my children, the group loans me the amount I need and then agrees to a time period for me to pay it back. In this way, the group serves as a local bank by keeping the resources within the local community and enabling individual families to meet needs without becoming dependent on people who do not have their best interest at heart.

In addition to these loans, the groups provide opportunities for training and education. That was where we came into the picture today. We were divided up to provide training for groups depending on our areas of experience or expertise. For example, a couple of our group members are business professionals, so they led a discussion on how to price and market the products these families produce, most of which are agricultural in nature.

I was asked to lead a discussion on interpersonal conflict and how to deal with the diversity of personalities that exist within any household. Through a translator I used different animals to talk about the way our personalities differ from each other. Some of us are lions, which means we are natural leaders. Some of us are beavers, which means we are hard workers and rule followers. Some of us are family dogs, which are loyal an eager to please. Some of us are otters, which means we are fun loving and light hearted. This one presented a challenge because these villagers did not know what otter was, so we had to work together to come up with something more familiar. This is the joy and the challenge of working across language and cultural boundaries!

There were probably 300 people present, most of them women, who then divided up into smaller groups for the training session. When we arrived, the women were all seated on a hillside to begin their weekly session. They began by singing a praise song and praying over each other. Then a group of traditional dancers welcomed us with a performance of a traditional tribal dance. By the time it was over, they drug us into their circle so we could dance with them. Of course, I am using the word “dance” in the loosest sense of the world! It was an experience that definitely goes on the list of things I did not learn in seminary.

The take away for me today was the communal nature of how these people address their problems. There are no lone rangers here. They understand that whatever they face, they face together. By sharing their concerns, their needs, their ideas, their resources, and their lives, they are finding ways to gradually lift each other up to a better place. The amazing thing is to read Acts 2 and 3 and discover this is exactly how the early church did it! We are seeing the church in action.

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