Thursday, December 23, 2010

Trip 75 Nov/Dec 2010

It is Saturday just after Thanksgiving and I am off for another African adventure . Through Minneapolis to meet up with Barbara and then on to Amsterdam. Leaving in the middle of the afternoon for Europe makes it hard to sleep but we did get an hours worth. With 4 hours in Amsterdam, the shower always feels good and then on to the next leg of the flight. By now a person can nearly sleep standing up, so as soon as the plane is loaded it is time to go off to LALA land, which by the way is the Kenyan word for sleep.

We were late getting into Nairobi around 10:00 PM but at least all the luggage arrived. As usual we had hundreds of pounds of tractor parts, plus a new windshield for the spray plane and a few clothes. By midnight we were in our hotel rooms asleep. Monday morning came early with a meeting at 7:00 AM to choose designs for our dog food bags. Meetings followed all day until we were back at the airport for the flight to Kisumu. One interesting meeting was with Embassy people from a European nation seemingly eager to help us with a small grant to help with the training of local young people in agricultural vocations.

The flight to Kisumu left late so by the time we got to the farm it was 10:00 pm; as usual dinner was waiting for us. It was a short nights sleep with Ronald waiting for me to go to the fields at 6:30 in the morning. It had rained a bit overnight, so the fields could not be worked until after noon. The crops look good except for 2 fields which weeds simply overtook. Herbicides are always in such short supply here and importation is impossible without going through years of government approvals, but we are in the process of becoming suppliers to at least fix the problem for ourselves, and the other rice farmers of the country.

The rice mill is almost out of stock and the stores are calling hourly for deliveries. It is a good thing to sell everything we grow but the periods of no stock severely hurts our cashflow. Next year it should be better if we are not hit by a disaster of some sort. January has been a bad month for us over the years, with floods, wars, and hail storms coming in three successive years, costing us millions. In 2010 we were spared such a time, by the Grace of God and we pray that we will be protected again this coming year.

When it rains in Kenya weeds and grasses grow rapidly. The solution is to pull as many weeds as possible. 450 women grace our fields daily doing this important job, and they are thankful for the work and the paycheck. They start each morning early with prayer and singing, then attack the fields. They toil away bent over for 9 hours a day and then walk home full of smiles. I often stop to speak with them and they are so proud of being part of Dominion Farms. As I sit here early this morning, Barbara has gone to the field to work with them for part of the day. She will be worn out, but they will be honored that a white company director actually came to spend time at their level. The women are now bonding together as a team from the surrounding communities. Those that did not even meet before are now praying together and for each other each day. Their husbands are now becoming ever more supportive of them, cooking meals for the women to eat when they return home from the fields. Some walk 2 hours a day just to get to work and then do it again to get home. As the women become more self reliant, the husbands are no longer going after a second wife, but instead pouring out their affection on the one they already have. Barbara has noticed that the transformation of the people has begun.

After 7 years of living in a tiny space I am finally moving to a bigger house. As we began releasing some of the Americans and senior staff over the past months, some homes have become available, so I am going to take one. Much work needed to be done and over the past month the people have worked so hard to make the place nice for me. The colors are not perfect, but they are proud to make things look so good.

The shop area is coming together well and projects are being completed which have sometimes waited a year of more to be finished. The workers still make mistakes, but they are becoming fewer each month, and they are proud to not be under the control of a domineering manager. They will all get there given time, in their jobs. Our gardens around the buildings are looking great. For the past 6 months Barbara has been training an employee, Charles in landscaping and a month ago we set him up in his own business with the first contract being to maintain our properties. He is doing great, working hard and learning how to operate a business. He has 3 employees and works long hours himself, building equity to expand with.

Wednesday was fish day for me and I spent virtually the entire day with Enos, going over fish diets, water quality, flow rates, feed production and everything else we could think of. Enos is a professor and scientiest, but it is now time to make him into a businessman and manager of a large operation. This transition will not come easy but with training and time he will make it. We have constructed a beautiful new home for him and his family up on the dikes surrounding the fish farm. The breeze is cool and the view is awsome. To the front of his home he oversees the the ponds and fields of rice waving in the soft breezes; to the rear he overlooks 1000 acres of reservoir, flowing gracefully over the dam. Today, Ronald got another 86 acres of crops planted and by Saturday should have 80 more ready to go.

We ended the day with a wonderful meal at Ronald’s house. I went back to finish up work while Barbara remained to talk. By 10:00 I was fast asleep. Today is Thursday and it is early, but the sun is shining its head over the horizon. It will be a day of meetings with government and local officials, then security reviews for the farm. Back home in the US the office is buzzing trying to get a couple of our office building sales closed. God always provides the resources for his work, even if I am not there.

The meeting with the committes went well as we forge an alliance to head off problems and have answers for those who would question our operations and methods. The afternoon was spent with our workshop personnel. They are trying so hard but their skills are limited by tecnology and lack of training. It is time for us to place a concerted effort to finally train up our mechanics to understand more of what they need to know. They can learn and are eager but effort and patience will be needed. Final sale documents were being finished up back in Oklahoma but still not closed on the sale; tomorrow perhaps.

Friday morning was great, meeting with Enos, David, Chris, and Paul. They represent fish technology, rice and feed production, sales and procurement in their own rights. Now as we start to increase the production of fish food, a team of people will be needed to bring it to fulness of operation. They all have vital roles and must now work in unison to be in full production by the first week of January 2011. It can be done and we will build a

major business from this enterprise over the next couple of years, if only we can find all the ingredients in a hungry nation. We now have the equipment to make the feed but the country does not produce enough ingredients to make as much as is required. Now that thousands are purchasing our fingerlings the demand for quality floating feed is enormeous. Dominion will fill this need. Next, security changes are soon coming as we encourage our employees to form their own company and contract with ourselves and others for services. In Kenya, security is a large business as everything needs to be guarded. Batteries, fuel, tires, and many other things just leave if not watched all the time. We have 67 employees now doing this and they do a good job. Things are now in place for them to become entrepreneurs, and make their own way. They are trained, they are able and now it is time to cut the strings to independence. Hopefully over the next couple of years hundreds of more businesses will be created.

The country also has a shortage of propane so our fuel is limited. Next year we will purchase a boiler which uses rice husks as fuel and this should eleminate the shortage. The boiler is expensive to buy and will take months to construct.

By evening, back home in the US things were on the move; Trey and Butch were getting everything ready for the final step in the closing of the buildings. At 9:00 AM the funds started to flow, first from the buyers lender, CitiBank, to the escrow agent. Excitement was felt 8000 miles apart; prayers went up; No hang-up now. After a final check of all documents, the funds flowed on to Dominion. Shouts were heard on both side of the world. God was faithful and by 11:00 AM in Oklahoma, or 8:00 PM here debts began to be paid down. By bedtime I was debt free; all the funds I had to borrow to get the farm this far were repaid. God is good. As I sit and reflect on this transaction, it was covered by the grace of God and His faithfulness. The office buildings were built as God put the plans for Africa in my mind, and with His favor they were occupied for all this time by the Federal Government. He had a plan to fund His work way back then, if only I had the courage to step out in faith. I could have kept these properties for some elaborate retirement or for safety in the current financial storm but they were for another purpose; to save lives in a desperate land. So often we find ourselves trying to hang on to the very things which have been planned to bless others with. Our personal greed often stops the flow of funds. When we do not give, the flow of funds just stops and the needs of many desperate people are not met. My God “owns the cattle on a thousand hills”, not just one old nag which I need to clutch to myself . Oh, that I can become a river flowing with his blessings to others, to change nations.

Saturday morning, Chris and I left for Kisumu to meet with our new rice distribution manager. Teresa is a beautiful lady standing perhaps 6 ft 6 inches tall. She came in second in the Miss Nokia, Africa contest and desires to be a model but has a heart for changing the next generation of young people. I met her at Church a couple of years ago and felt she should come to work for us someday. Now she is using her beauty to market rice and reach young ladies in the slums of Kisumu. Next we went on a shopping spree for cakes, cookies, popcorn, and buckets of ice cream. On Monday we are going to have a party at the farm for our employees. Many will eat cake and ice cream for the first time.

Sunday morning my six senior managers, Barbara, and I left for a few hours retreat to learn to work better together, to build goals and to plan the way forward for next year. It was a great time of team building. We left with Barbara going to Kisumu with Ronald, and Chris riding back to the farm with me. As we passed through Luanda, a young man pulled out from the side of the road and slammed into the side of the Jeep. We both stopped and climbed out to look over the damage. The young man was terrified; how could he pay for the damage he had done? He came sheepishly forward appologizing, as the crowd gathered. His passengers were saying to him, how are you ever going to pay for the damages, but what he got he did not expect. As he came close I stretched forth my hand to his and said it is all ok. He did not know what to do as he stood there in shock. His friends came to me to shake my hand, and I told them both that all was fine, and blessed them with God’s presence. I bet they are both still in shock as they lay their heads down tonight. I drove home only to hear from Barbara, that Ronald was very sick in Kisumu. Chris and I prayed for him and called another of our employees to go see them both. Ronald spent hours in a bathroom of a hotel and everything came loose, then Caleb took him to a pharmacy to purchase antibiotics I told him to get. Ciprofaxin is the drug for most things in Africa because it works and it does it fast. Tropical diseases, and food poisoning are so easy to get here, but often they go away as quickly as they come if you know what to take, By the time they arrived at the farm Ronald was feeling better but not 100%. It is now getting late here and work starts again early in the morning. Good Night.

Monday morning came early with a 6:30 meeting with our women working in the fields. The ladies roared with excitement when I told them they would be given rice on Saturday. Two thirds of these women have orphans living with them, and food is so scarce. Today one lady stopped Ronald in his truck and on her knees, literally begged him for a job. Her two children had no food and she had not eaten for days. “Ronald just please give me a job, I will work hard, I will do anything.” We now have 451 women working. Next it was time to get bills paid and the sale of the buildings now will bring us close to current with this. It is hard to make money when our cupboards are bare, waiting for the next fields to harvest, so other funds will be needed to get us to that time.

In the afternoon it was party time. All the permanent and contract employees assembled at the work shop and we had a Christmas party. This was a special time for many as we gave out rice, ate ice cream and cake, topped of with popcorn, cookies, and as much soda pop as they could drink. Most had never eaten ice cream or popcorn. We went through 7 gallons of ice cream and finally just ran out. They had a feast and then one by one I shook their hands and handed them a big bag of rice. For most it was worth a days wages and will feed their families for a week. They were gracious and so thankful. We will give away thousands of pounds of rice to our employees for Christmas along with a small bonus. We have not made a profit yet but next year looks good, so we gave in advance. The workers were so impressed by us as managers, especially being white people serving them, and treating them as equals.

The evening was a surprise for me. Before leaving for Kenya, I put in an offer for a farm in Texas, but the price I would pay compared to the owners request was far apart, so I just walked away. They have now come back twice and reduced their price. We are not there yet but I believe it is possible for us to get there now, or at least I am willing to give it another try. That farm will be a copy somewhat of the farm here with grain, soy, and fish. We will use the genetics we have developed here with an indoor fish farm utilizing all of the crops to make fish food. Nobody has really tried this, that we can find in the world, but it looks like it will work well both here in Kenya and in the US. Time will tell, but at least we will have good tasting fish. We will train people to go and transform the developing world from there as well.

It rained all night and the roads were muddy today. Ronald was leaving for Christmas at home in Louisiana. Much still needed to be done for those being left behind. Two years ago when everyone left for home at Christmas, war broke out and people could not return for months. It was a very costly and trying time, but Kenya has changed, and those days are in the past. The staff was still giggling about the good time they had at the Christmas party, and were so moved by the fact that Barbara and I did this for them. They still could not believe that they were served by white people. One of the men said they never thought they would be served by a white person to Barbara as she went around giving out more popcorn. She replied with saying it is my pleasure which took everyone by surprise. Barriers were broken between races, cultures, and economic status of people from different corners of the same world.

Tonight again it is late, but things are good here. The rain ended, after giving our crops a nourishing drink of water. The road dust is controlled, and our people are smiling. On Saturday all the causuals which include our field workers and those not on payroll will be paid and given more rice to feed their hungry famlies. Christmas is a time to reflect on the needs of others and to be thankful for the provisions we have. In our little part of the world we have much to be thankful for. Goodnight.

Thursday in Oklahoma the funeral was held for a very special person, David Thomas. He was a friend for years and a pastor at our church. It was through him that I was initially brought to Kenya. After struggling for years with a form of brain cancer, he passed away. I was asked to write a eulogy for him to be read at the funeral and did so. I will attach a copy to this report as well, for those of you who knew him.

Friday at noon, Chris and I left for the drive to Kampala. It takes around 6 hours to get there including an hour at the border. It appears that the Ugandan police are getting after the Kenyan vehicles as I was stopped twice on the trip for nothing but a hassle. With patience they finally understood that I would not give in to intimidation and finally let us go on the way, but it was a bit of a pain. In Kampala we had a good dinner with my sales manager and another friend from Oklahoma. Chris has malaria and was sick so headed for bed shortly after dinner. After sitting for hours of driving and meetings I needed a walk.

Over the past few months of selling rice in Kampala, we have tried to use our rice as an incentive to get “women at risk” off the streets. We hired our first lady about 5 months ago and she did very well as a merchandiser, but then began getting sick day after day and not recovering. Three months ago I requested she get tested for HIV/AIDS and the results were not good. She is no longer able to do a day’s work with her illness. Chris and I have gone to the streets to recruit these women and it seemed to work well, but for tonight I just wanted to get some exercise. That didn’t last long. As I turned the corner there was a young lady asking to speak to me, but I just went on by ignoring her plea. After a couple of miles it was time to come back to the hotel. A car pulled up beside me and the same young lady jumped out and almost ran into me. “ I need talk to you?” then came the proposition of her trade. I just wanted to walk away and did but she pleaded, “can’t we just talk and be friends?” Of course this had to be right in front of the hotel with many watching. I imagined what they thought, “ a white guy with a prostitute,” and it was uncomfortable. As I walked away I thought of Jesus and the woman at the well, and came back.

First I set her straight about my non-interest in her advances, and she said that was fine. I did not know where to take the conversation, but began asking about her family, her education, and what was important to her. Her mother died at the age of 6, and then her father married a woman who abused her, so she was raised by her sister. Children raising children in Africa is so common. She told me how she hated what she was doing and wanted to get out of it but had no job or way out. She has a 4 year old child that must be supported, and could not find a job for 5 months now so has to turn to the streets. She said she had tried to talk to me a half hour earlier and that I just walked away; then she got picked up by a John who tried to take her off somewhere bad and she panicked and when he stopped the car for a moment she bolted out almost at my feet. I asked her about her relationship with God and she said she was a born-again Christian. The past Sunday she went to church and told the pastor she was having to be a prostitute, asking for his help. He told her to pray that God would send her a way to get out of the mess. I was still uncomfortable standing there on my own, so tried 3 times to call Chris, sick or not to come and help me out with this, but he did not answer. It was just uncomfortable being there with all those prying eyes of the hotel guests, in both the restaurant and lobby. Then I made the decision; ignore the people and just do what was right. I stood and talked with her as a father to a daughter and she listened. She told her story of coming to the streets and asking God to protect her but being so desperate for money, she did what must be done to take care of herself and her baby. Afterwards she would go home crying to God for forgiveness. She was a Christian and went to church every week to pray, and ask for their help but none came. Her father only took money from her and the step mother was a tryant. She hid her profession from all, living away in Entebbe and sneaking into the city at night when she was out of money. She had not eaten, and was desperate. She did not have bus fare to go home, so would sleep on the streets until she found a man to pay her for services. What do I do next?

I told her how Dominion has a program to get young ladies selling rice for us and she was interested, but we are out of rice for another month. If I don’t help her now I know she will have to sell her body and may end up like Sandra, sick and dying. She did not carry protection with her because she did not want anyone knowing she was prostituting. My first concern was to get her off the streets that night then try to find a permanent solution the next day if possible. First, I made her promise that if I gave her money for bus fare and something to eat that she would go home to her own one room space that night, and she agreed. Next, I asked if I could pray for her, and she agreed. So there I was standing in front of a crowd of gawkers holding the tired and weathered hands of a prostitute praying God’s protection over her and for God to bring her out of her mess. I gave her money and sent her on her way, then walked through the crowd back into the hotel, every eye on me. I knew down deep that I had not done enough.

Back in the room I told Chris of the girl and he suggested we have her come back and find out more about her and come up with a solution. A phone call was made and she was only at the bus stop, so she came back where the three of us could speak outside of the prying eyes and ears of others. The hotel would not let her in until we gave them permission.

Chris spoke to her so gently and she began to tell the story to him again, but in embarassement began holding back on things. The problems were much deeper than she was revealing and I just sensed a very hurting child there with a past full of pain. “Jessica I think you have a hole in you that is hurting so much to be filled; you are searching for love and acceptance which you have never received. You mother died and left you abandoned to an abusive father and you have never known real love and acceptance in your life. When you are with these men you somehow feel needed and accepted, if only for a few minutes, and equate that to love, but it only leads to hurt, self condemnation, and more pain.” I couldn’t believe I actually said all that to her! She collapsed on my lap and began weeping uncontrollably. All I could do is comfort her and let her cry. She pulled herself together and It was time for her to go as we promissed we would not forget her. As she stood to leave she first hugged Chris and then me. She hung on like a child hugging her mother. Perhaps this was the first time she really felt loved and released in her life. She left for home and sent me a phone text saying she made it safely.

On Friday we went shopping for animal feed inputs and the Uganda cupboards are bare. The country is short of so much as Kenya is. If good crops don’t come in, hunger will be on the horizon soon. We had lunch with Joseph, an aid to the President, and a friend; it was time to head for Kenya. I arranged for Jessica to meet with Dereck as we left town. The drive home was slow with lots of rain along the way, but we made it by 9:00 pm. Dereck called to say that Jessica and he had talked for 2 hours and was perfect for merchandising our rice.Though we have no rice for a month we will get her off the streets now, letting her clean the warehouse or wash the truck or who knows what. The girl is just one of so many that need rescuing. We plan to make this a major program when the Transformation Center is finished, but for now we must wait until God provides the funds. The farm just can not support this yet.

Saturday morning was pay day for all of our casual workers so around 600 lined up at the front gate to get their money. The Police send heavily armed officiers on paydays since there is a lot of cash involved. Today the workers were in for a treat. We took the last of our rice and kept it to give to our workers and each got a bag along with the money. It will go far in this Christmas season to feed hungry mouths of their families. Barbara stood patiently and gave away each of those 600 bags along with a smile and a word of blessing.

Saturday was the time for me to wrap things up at the farm. Many documents and checks had to be signed as the year comes to an end. Endless people kept coming by to give their Christmas greetings, but I needed to see the fields once more before leaving. The place looks great, with many turning ripe for harvest in just a few more weeks. But then the sky turned almost black as perhaps 500,000 birds decended on one of our fields. They were back. Qualia birds destroy crops all over Africa and the UN has a control program for them but for right now they are out of control again. The UN will be there soon but who knows how much damage will be done by that time.

Chris then met me at the buildings under construction for the Transformation Center, and we prayed and planned to somehow have it operational by the middle of next year, with the funds coming from somewhere to get it done. If Jessica can pray for a solution to her monumental problems on Sunday and have a job and forgivness by Friday, then that same God can provide the funds for us to finish this place. We are going to be ready, one way or another. Just before dark Barbara and I walked through the village with all the children running along behind. Their hope is in Dominion Farms, for a future without hunger. It was time to pack.

5:00 AM Sunday morning we rose and headed to the airport in Kisumu and then for the trip to Nairobi. That morning we held 2 interviews for an assistant sales manager who could take over Chris’s posituion when the Transformation Center goes into operation. Both people were nice, but the second one was made for the job. She has been marketing rice for a competitor but their product could just not keep up with ours for quaility so she wants to join our forces. She is cute, bright, can drive a truck, and loves what we are doing with the youth and women’s programs. She will fit in well. I hired her on the spot to start after the first of the year.

Our sales force in Nairobi consists of 4 young ladies and a warehouse operator, and it was time for a year end dinner. We took them to an Italian restaurant where they feasted like they had never done in their lives. The lives of poor Kenyans is limited to survival foods, and things like lassange or pizza are never even tasted by most. They are scared to try new things but today was their time for adventure. We had milkshakes, pizza, fish, suckling pork, appetizers, and 5 kinds of cakes. They were stuffed and almost giddy after the meal. We gave them all large bags of rice as we left and they were already planning for next years dinner. They really opened up about their lives and plans for the future. One will be married soon and wants us to be at the wedding, another is married and says she will work for us until she is 60, and the others are looking for husbands. Their aspirations are simple as compared to those of us in America, yet just as important to their lives. They could not believe how long Barbara and I had been married to our spouses. They live for food, a simple roof over their head, and most of all for relationships. For so many, Dominion Farms is the basis for the building of their lives and development of their relationships.

We just finished crossing the Atlantic, coming over the east coast of Canada. Severe cold weather and lots of snow will greet Barbara in Minneapolis and not a lot warmer conditions await me in Oklahoma. We both can’t wait to get home to our families, and those we love, to soon celebrate the Birth of our Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, but we also leave our other family behind in Kenya.

May God grant both them and you who read this, a very special Christmas season, full of the generosity and love of Christ.

Calvin and Barbara

Dominion Farms

1 comment: said...

Dear Calvin and Babara
Greetings in the name of our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I am speachless after reading your blog which has alot of inspiring and encouraging information about what you are doing at Dominion farm, i can't believe nobody has commented on your blog. i work for a regional organization called EASSI working on a project called Gender and Trade in the EAC and wanted to organize an educational trip to your farm to encourage women from the five partner states to emulatate the good work you are doing. From my heart God richly bless you and Babara even as you minister to his people. Transformational Center is it on??I am really interested in seeing lives transformed.RECKY or