First United Methodist Church

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Panua – Post #6

From Pastor David~

We have had a tremendous week in Naivasha!  Kenya is a beautiful country with warm and friendly people.  The Panua staff has welcomed us with open arms and has made sure that we have been immersed in their ministry each day.  Truly Panua brings hope!

One of the most powerful images of this for me, was watching the transformation of a young woman named Teresa. We met her Monday along with her Panua youth group.  Polite but very shy, she would not make eye contact and would hold her hand over her mouth when she spoke – even when we encouraged her to smile. Through stilted conversation we learned that she dreamed of having her own hair salon.  But she was clearly struggling. Later we learned that her primary caregiver, her grandmother, had recently died.  We encouraged her and shared our love for her.  Susie did an excellent job at connecting with Teresa as a loving mother.

On Tuesday we saw Teresa at her Panua beautician school.  When she saw us she smiled slightly and waved. Then she caught herself and started to draw back. We continued to encourage her and let her know that we did care.

On Wednesday Teresa  came out to greet us. Scott and Roy asked her to show us what she was doing. Roy even asked her to add a braid to his hair.  When we left Teresa was smiling and chatting with us, excited to show someone what she was learning.  The change in 3 days was amazing!

I know there is much that has to come yet in Teresa’s life.  But it was clear that there is power in knowing others are interested and that they care about you.  Add to that job training and a community network that supports you undersigned in the love of Christ and you begin to have hope!

This is just one snapshot of what Panua is doing in hundreds of lives!  Thank you for all you are doing to support this Kingdom work!


Panua – Post #5

Good evening from Naivasha, Kenya!  Pastor David’s blog post will be coming first thing in the morning, so in the meantime, we thought we’d share God’s beautiful sunset from across the world.

Panua – Post #4

Greetings from Kenya! Today is the third day in our journey to give our Pastors David Miller, Scott Smith, and Roy Terry a glimpse of Panua; the OVC (youth of Panua), the neighborhoods they live in, the groups that they now call their families, and the businesses they are doing to make a sustainable life for themselves and their siblings.

This morning we visited some of the businesses the youth are training for. We saw furniture making, welding, group gardens and a hair salon. We also visited the KCC group and took a tour of the community including the garden they farm for an income generating activity for their group. One of the highlights was the house that Panua built for Joseph. It is certainly the nicest house in the community and you can see how proud he is to show it off by the smile on his face.

After eating lunch at one of the favorite local establishments, Mother’s Kitchen, we went far into the hill country to see the home of George Munene. Most of you have already been introduced to George. He is the youth that we show in our Panua video (click here to watch) which explains how he lived with his 3 siblings in their grandfather’s house and had little to eat since he was only doing small jobs. Panua gave him some support of onions and potatoes. Within a short period of time he had doubled his crop and the amount of money he was making. He was on his way to being a successful farmer and grateful for the support he had through his participation in Panua.

Today, Larry Brown (Panua board member since its inception) and I witnessed how God has truly used Panua to change a life. George is one of the first Panua graduates. When he started in 2010 he was living in a mud house lined with newspaper. Now, 6 years later, he has a farm of 8 acres, which is large in Kenya, 6 cows, 3 sheep, chickens galore, fields of onions, maize, potatoes and something else. He employs 9 people to help him work the farm. He has connected solar panels to his house to provide electricity and has multiple rainwater collectors for irrigation. He now has a house, a barn, and several other buildings. George, his wife, and 2 daughters are one of Panua’s great success stories!

Larry and I have seen Panua come a LONG way. I think we were both overcome with emotion as we walked through George’s fields, petted his cows, took pictures of his beautiful wife with one of their daughters, and saw the face of a man who was truly grateful for what Panua has done. All we could do was just put our arms around each other and cry. Not only was George grateful, but we were, too. Panua IS a transformational ministry for all! God is good!

-Susie Rush, Panua Board Member (2010-present)

Panua – Post #3

Karagita.  A sprawling slum of over 800,000 just on the outskirts of Naviasha.  2 ½ years ago I had an opportunity to see how the selection process works when the potential youth are brought together to meet for the first time and each were asked to tell their story.  Florence (our social worker) was embarking on establishing herself as a mother figure and was able to coax them into putting their story into words.  I’ve said that day was a very difficult day as each story told seemed to be worse than the others.  Keeping your composure was paramount and each one there struggled.  The difficulty was finding yourself face to face with what you have been told about poverty, exclusion and hopelessness – knowing you were powerless in that moment to do anything about it.  Sure, you told yourself, Panua can make a difference.  But how long before it would be able to rescue them?

Today I heard them tell us what they had accomplished over the last 2 ½ years.  I remembered seeing these same young people, unable to look up when they spoke, barely audible in their speech, some not looking very healthy and not acting in any way as part of a group of like-minded young people.  Although I recognized them from before, these were not the same people.  Clean, well dressed, polite and looking intently at each and every one of us there. There were some who had taken part in hospitality training.  For example, they were now capable of getting a job as a waitress.  They could approach someone, stand tall, take an order and speak clearly.  Not major accomplishments in our world for most people, but light years away from where they were.

There were boys and a girl training as an auto mechanic.  They love Toyotas as the majority of cars here are some version of Toyota. They got excited when one of the pastors asked about their favorite football (soccer) team and since he is a big fan he got some heated discussions going about Real Madrid, Manchester United, and other teams I know nothing about!  Several of the youth got a goat or a sheep as their start-up for the business and we got to take turns helping to present them.  I am not a goat wrangler by any stretch but I gave it my best shot.  I learned later that shortly after they got the one of the goats home it had given birth, so she now has two.  Pastor Miller declared a BOGO.

Clearly some were pure entrepreneurs and were doing very well.  A tomato seller wants to expand beyond selling tomatos and make tomato sauce so nothing goes to waste.  Lilly has a café and is mentoring other youth in running the café.  She’s off and running.  She has made enough money to include a small TV on the wall to entertain her customers.  She will impact her community beyond what any of us had ever dreamed for her.

So back now to how it felt 2 ½ years ago to hear their stories and feeling helpless about getting immediate help.  One thing I’ve noticed here is time is not the same for them here as it is for us.  While the need was great, the process to solve that need was in place and was implemented and our part in writing letters is an integral part of that process.  Today we hand-delivered letters you have written and the reaction was tremendous.  They shared with each other, giggled together as they shared and the excitement was obvious.  Time has played a part in the process of change for these young people.  You could tell the journey is not over for them by a long shot, but the pressing need is no longer hanging in the air.

Panua – Post #2

Today we visited two of the working groups and were treated to a lunch prepared by members of Kabati – “Shakers”.  The second group was Kayole – “Smart Working Group”.  More about the group names in a minute.

We heard each of the members present (some were working and were not able to attend, but most were there) stand up and introduce themselves, telling us what they were doing in terms of work and were asked by Florence to talk about what Panua had meant for their lives.  They could talk to us without looking at the floor, they had confidence, they spoke in English as they realized they needed to develop that skill in order to take themselves into the world of commerce.  Of course we heard things like they wanted to be the best at what they were doing or wanted to have the biggest business of that kind in Navashia, but they also said that Panua had given them Hope and the confidence in themselves that they could achieve their dreams, and that was something that they could never have done before Panua. There were more than a few who added that they wanted to take what they had learned and help others going through what they had been faced with.  They led us in prayers, gave financial accounts of the working groups’ finances, and talked about their faith in God and their thankfulness for the people back in Winter Park.  I tried to tell them that they were helping to transform us by their example and what they had overcome.  I’m not sure they understood or believed that they could have an impact on us.

Now about the names.  Understand that these youth have had very isolated lives prior to Panua.  They don’t have afterschool programs, birthday parties, playgroups, or soccer teams to play on.  When they are brought into the program it’s the first time they are around other people in a social setting and when they share their personal stories, they realize they are not alone in the world.  This opens up a new possibility for their lives.  They elect a chairperson, secretary and treasurer.  They also decide on an identity for themselves.  They have never had any power to associate themselves with any kind of positive image and as such they look for a name to give them motivation, and to help define how they will be known within their communities.

The ‘Shakers’ want to shake things up, the ‘Smart Working Group’ says they want to be known as smart.  Not a bad thing to be known as!  One group chose ‘Bazooka’ as their name.  When asked about the choice of a weapon as a name, they said, not the weapon but the explosion that occurs when the weapon is used – another way to say lets shake things up.  They were once known as a drain on the community, beggars, social outcasts.  But now, they can be smart, they can bring about change.  They can shake things up….

Panua Update

The sun is shining, weather is pleasantly cool and I am anxiously waiting to take part in today’s worship service. Our Pastor Miller will be delivering the sermon this morning and we will be taking communion as well. Lunch will be taken at the church and then in the afternoon, all three pastors (Scott Smith from Ormond Beach and Roy Terry from Naples along with David) will conduct a session of pastor training with a group of local Methodist ministers. This will be a busy day for the pastors, but for me it will be a chance to soak up a memorable worship experience.

Tomorrow starts the busy schedule we have in front of us as we will meet with the staff of Panua, and then meet with as many of the Panua Youth Groups as time will allow. This will give us a chance to see how they are progressing in the program. I’m especially excited to meet with the Karigita group as I had the opportunity to be there when that group was being taken into Panua and heard their individual stories. For those of you back in Winter Park who were there that day, you will remember how difficult that day was to witness the need in that community. From all the reports we get from the staff here as they monitor the progress, I am hopeful that this will be a much different experience. As we are 7 hours ahead of you, I hope that you all will be in prayer for all here as we move through this coming week.