February 13, 2019

Dear friend,

You’ll be delighted to learn that our projects took giant steps toward being self-supporting in 2018. Pastor George, his family and his larger community are so grateful for our 2018 donations ($29,514 this year; up 4.29% over 2017). Every dollar has helped move them forward toward full sustainability. This has been a welcome miracle, as education expenses have risen sharply as the children have gotten older (and smarter)! More than 75% of our monthly and one-time donations went toward school-related expenses this year. The remaining donations were used to move new projects forward.

George took a break from weeding the banana trees to send us a year-end update. In George’s own words:

“I have every reason to thank God and thank you and thank the ones there with you, because I can now stand and look back from 2007 and surely say this far has the Lord brought us. It was His own doing and no human on their own could make this good. We send our love and appreciations!”

George is right. Over the past 12 years it has taken a Village – and God worked through us humans!

Once again, thanks to George’s hard work in the community and our donations, so many miracles have happened this year. I’m writing you today to joyfully report that:

  • The 5 acres of rented farmland are officially self-sustainable. Sales of maize and beans continue to support the farming project, while also providing enough for the family. Some of the melon harvest failed this year, due to bad seed. The family harvested enough for some roadside sales – and the seed company is providing new seeds for the coming season, for free. The farmland rent, planting and harvesting costs are all now covered by the project itself
  • While the family had several health challenges, ALL medical costs were covered by the health insurance they all have now ($60 a YEAR for the whole family!)
  • The two cows provide enough milk for the family and when the second cow is done calving, it will provide milk for sale again.
  • Egg-laying chickens have aged, and non-producing ones have been sold for meat and to get new chicks, who are now maturing enough to produce fresh eggs again for sale.

WHEN I GET OFF THE PLANE IN NAIROBI IN 10 DAYS, IT WILL HAVE BEEN A DECADE SINCE MY FEET SET FOOT ON KENYAN SOIL.

While I wanted to return sooner, it was more important to me that every single dollar I had available be donated to The Village Gathering so the money could be used directly for our projects on the ground. The $2,500 in travel costs was money that would keep 7 children in school for another semester. Knowing that we need to move the home purchase project forward in the next few months, I’m especially grateful to the donor who graciously made a no-interest loan of the money for my plane ticket so I could be on the ground, reporting!

Last month, Pastor George got creative so he could keep the children in school when our donations were down. He raised money by renting out the family truck we had helped them purchase last year – and the irrigation system – to another local farmer. Thanks to our good payment history at the schools these past few years, they were willing to take partial payments from him which allowed the four youngest to return to school for the January term. He also paid a month of Irene’s hostel (room and board) so she could continue with her college education. All of Leon’s school and housing expenses are covered until May.

As I shared last year, education is everything to families here in Kenya. It lifts a family out of poverty, prevents girls from becoming child brides and, on a grander scale, creates economic security for young people and families. Free public education ends at the equivalent of 7th grade (primary school). Public schools usually have 80 students per teacher – and sometimes as many as 200 children per teacher (imagine a class of 200 first graders!). They don’t teach English at the public school and only 2% of public school children go on to secondary school (8th grade and beyond) – because their families can’t afford it.

FAMILY UPDATE

Naomi (George’s wife) has keep the home running, managed the produce sales (like the individually wrapped juicy watermelon slices!), and has begun traveling daily a few towns away to do some time at a pharmacy – so she can keep her nursing license active (think CEU credits). 

Pastor George’s mom was in and out of hospital several times and bounced back robustly each time. I look forward to enjoying a meal of home-cooked chicken stew with her in a few weeks (and maybe learning her secret recipe!)

George continues to preach weekly, while becoming quite the farmer – in fact, he currently sees adding a third milking cow as a higher priority than creating a cyber-café and charging station. Fresh milk is a hot commodity in Kitale!

Willie continues to do his own thing, as he contemplates going to mechanic’s school with an aim to owning either his own motorcycle taxi, or working in a mechanic’s shop.

Irene (and several friends) were laid low by food poisoning in the past few weeks. She had an unexpected few days in hospital – and once again we are thankful for their all-inclusive health insurance! She’s taken a part time job with Safari-com, which gives her spending money for school.

Leon is enjoying his second year in university. Like Irene, he is studying law – and their two schools square off against each other in their moot court contests. It’s a loving rivalry that keeps both of them focused on their schooling, for sure!

Lavender continues to excel in school and is constantly receiving awards!

Charlie is a prefect and a Christian Student Union leader. His school dormitory had a fire and we helped replace everything from his mattress to his books.

Paulette was first in Poem Reciting so she traveled with her school team at the Kenya National Music Festival – Nyeri. It was the first time she and Paula were separated.

Paula, like Paulette, is in kindergarten. She won the award for most organized and disciplined student. She also loves a good joke – if you know of any good ones, please send them to me to share!

HOUSING UPDATE

We had a “near” setback as 2019 began, regarding the property we’ve been leasing for Pastor George’s family, which also contained the shell for a girl’s school, so Pastor George could re-establish a new school. Three years ago, the widowed owner graciously allowed us to rent the six-acre property prior to purchasing (which was to begin in June of this year). We were to buy the house, the six acres, plus two wells. This parcel was part of a 50-acre plot. The widow’s brothers-in-law had other ideas and sold the entire parcel to another politician on January 2, 2019 and informed Pastor George the following day.

 They offered to pay to move Pastor George’s family to another house they owned (in Kitale city) and transfer the remaining 6 months of pre-paid rent to this new property. Making this move would have required him to get rid of the cows and chickens, and wouldn’t have offered any storage for the crops, and would have eliminated access to a garden and orchard, which provides additional food. This would have undone the progress toward sustainability. They also would have needed to move again in 6 months, as the actual rent on this house would have been unaffordable.

Thanks to a longtime friend of George’s, who is a local lawyer (who intervened on our behalf at no charge), we were able to convince the widow’s family to provide George with a “comparable” property. They gave the lawyer permission to locate such a property, and that’s when the next miracle happened! You see, in 2016, Pastor George and I penned a book called “Forward Ever, Backwards Never.” In that book we wrote:

In looking for a home with land to rent or buy, the Kibomet area of Kitale offers more land at lower prices. One property for sale that we find very promising is a four-bedroom house on 4 acres. The home already has electricity and tap water. The house is 100 meters from the tarmac road. The price is 6,000,000 Ksh (approx. $60K). This is the best offer we can get in the area. This home would provide room for growing food and nurturing animals (including chickens and a cow). Plus, there is enough room for George’s entire family, and room for expansion, in case any of their parents or siblings need to come live with them. This would also provide room for small groups to stay with them rather than incurring hotel expenses when traveling to Kenya to be of service. The house would be titled in the names of Pastor George and Naomi. 

The attorney took George out to look at suitable rental properties. The first property they looked at, was, in fact, the house we had highlighted when it was for sale! Unable to sell the property back then, the owners had rented it out – and the tenants had built a cow shed that can house 5 cows, a chicken house that holds up to 150 chickens, and a storehouse for crop storage! The tenants had just moved out and the caretaker who was staying on the property needed to move on – and the rent through June? The same 90,000Ksh that we had left on our lease!

On a day’s notice, George, Naomi and the children packed and moved. I will meet with the landlord and his wife in a few weeks and start the process of helping George and Naomi buy the property for the $60,000 they’re still asking.

In Kenya, you have to put down 10%, and the remainder has to be paid over 7 years. This will eliminate the $2,500 annual housing cost and stabilize their home for good. We could then build another “tiny house” on the property for guests, who want to come and stay and help with farming, school and hospital projects!

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2018:

  1. Family resided in a house with electricity and running water, a family garden area to raise vegetables, plus the chickens, 2 cows and a calf!)
  2. Family had enough funds for three meals a day, most days, as well as funds for living expenses such as health insurance, electricity, and truck expenses.
  3. Pastor George has made the farming projects self-sustaining, rotating crops on the 5 acres throughout the year, expanding the chickens and cows to provide eggs and milk for sale as well as for family food.
  4. Willie, who graduated from high school a few years ago would like to get a university diploma as an automotive mechanic. Irene (2nd year) and Leon (1st year) are both at university, studying law. Lavender is finishing up her final year of high school and Charlie is in his first year of high school. Paula and Paulette are in kindergarten.
  5. The family went the entire year completely debt-free. They often went without, and things were sometimes tight financially, but they stuck to their commitment to not take on any debt.

OUR MOST PRESSING NEEDS FOR 2019:

SMALL PROJECTS 

  1. Buy the family beds and mattresses (they’ve been sleeping on the ground, on piles of cloth, for 3 years now. Beds cost: for Pastor George and Naomi ($350), Charlie and Leon ($330), Irene and Lavender ($250), and the two little ones (Paula and Paulette) ($150).
  1. Keep the family fed and take care of basic needs. For example, your $16 one-time donation feeds the entire family for a day. $60 a month keeps the lights on in the house. A single $60 donation pays for the family’s annual health insurance! (we raised our monthly stipend to $800 which makes it possible for Pastor George to set aside small savings to cover unexpected expenses, like truck repairs and health costs (like when both Naomi’s step-mother and George’s mother needed emergency medical attention last month).
  2. Buy the family a router ($120)and pay for monthly internet ($60). (access at internet cafés is expensive.)
  3. Get Pastor George on a monthly, limitless cell phone plan ($50), rather than “pre-paid.”

MEDIUM PROJECTS 

(Every dollar donated toward these projects helps move them forward!)

  1. Buy a third breeding cow for milk ($1350), 3-5 goats for breeding, meat and milk (@ $315/each or $1575) and expand the farming operation with a more effective automatic irrigation system ($455)
  2. Pay the down payment on the house, due by June. ($6000)
  3. Expand our educational donations, paying school costs for the coming year for all seven children, which totals $11,500 for the coming year (as little as $93/month keeps a child in school for the year!). The four youngest are all on a tri-semester schedule, while the three oldest will be on a two-semester “university” schedule, starting in May. (Four primary/secondary students: $1160/semester; $3500 for the year. Three university students: $4000/semester total; $8000 for the year). As the children are getting older, and move into secondary school and university, their tuition has risen. In addition, Pastor Evans, who has worked hard over the years to keep the Church at Bukokholo, as well as securing and maintaining our hospital property, has two sons we would like to help get through high school, too.
  4. Get Naomi ready for the NCLEX-RX in London ($2000) so she can come to the U.S. to work for 1-2 years (which will give the family 7-10 years’ worth of income!).

LARGE PROJECTS

Our first large project is an immediate desire for this year. Here is our wish list for large projects.

We welcome monthly and one-time specific donations, legacy contributions, and low interest impact loans for larger projects.

For details on how you can include The Village Gathering in your estate planning, or how to make a low-interest, high-impact loan, call 720-539-6098 or email revpaula@thevillagegathering.com.

  1. Have 10 paid travelers on our service-safari trip July 22-30, 2019. $5045/per person, double occupancy; includes non-stop flight from JFK Airport in NYC.
  2. Purchase the 4-acre homestead with the house (with electric and running water) borehole, and land (The first payment is due by June 2019, so now is the time to start building our Housing Fund). Purchase price is $60,000 outright, or roughly $8,600/year for 7 years.)
  3. Buy a van suitable for 9+ passengers so the whole family can travel together. ($17,000)
  4. Create a solar-powered internet café and charging station in Kitale that will double as a computer training center for area families and students (roughly $35,000)
  5. Finish and open the girls’ school with an endowment for scholarships for deserving students from low-income families ($100,000)
  6. Finish, staff and open the Bungoma community hospital ($50,000)

YOUR CONTINUED PRAYERS, FINANCIAL SUPPORT AND WILLINGNESS TO SHARE THE WORK WE ARE DOING MAKES A DIFFERENCE. ALWAYS REMEMBER: ANY DONATION IS GRATEFULLY RECEIVED.

ALL DONATIONS ARE TAX-DEDUCTIBLE– including recurring ones AND legacy gifts! Donations can be made directly to The Village Gathering through the “bitly” PayPal link at the bottom of this letter, wire transfer, Venmo or via old-fashioned snail mail at: The Village Gathering, PO Box 7530, Denver, CO 80207

DONATE YOUR MILES! We also welcome donation of frequent flyer miles that can be used on British Airways/American; KLM/Delta or Lufthansa/United. This helps us travel to Kenya, and will offset the cost of transporting Naomi to London and to the U.S.

I am so blessed and so grateful to have you as part of the Gathering Family. With your continued support, we’ll soon be able to bring clean water, health care and advanced schooling to more women and children of Kenya. Thanks to you, we are helping reduce the incidence of child brides and increase the economic stability and independence of this young democracy. You ARE changing the world, with every penny, shilling, shekel and rupee you give!

As Pastor George would say, “Karibu Nyumbani Dada Yangu” (Nearly home, my sister!)

All my love,
Rev. Paula Langguth Ryan

Please know your 100% tax-deductible gift is gratefully received. Thank you for sharing our passion with others. We are humbled to have fed your spirit and we thank you for feeding so many others with your prayers and support! Whenever guided, you can conveniently donate online! Simply visit our PayPal link (button below) and press the “Donate” button. Thank you!

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