It is Saturday just after Thanksgiving and I am off for another African adventure . Through
We were late getting into
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
It rained all night and the roads were muddy today. Ronald was leaving for Christmas at home in
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.
Friday at noon, Chris and I left for the drive to
Over the past few months of selling rice in
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
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
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
Chris then met me at the buildings under construction for the
5:00 AM Sunday morning we rose and headed to the airport in Kisumu and then for the trip to
Our sales force in
We just finished crossing the Atlantic, coming over the east coast of
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