Transforming Lives & Communities

Agri-Stewards’ trip to Joska: ‘God had something else in mind!’

April 15th, 2014

A team of 13 people traveled to Mission of Hope’s Joska Farm in Nairobi, Kenya, in March on a 10-day trip with Agri-Stewards of Lebanon, Ind., with “grand plans of planting nearly 30 acres,” said outreach leader Brian Smith. “But God had something else in mind.”

Agri-Stewards, a non-profit founded to teach “Farming God’s Way” principles to families and communities in third-world countries, has sponsored many such trips to Kenya, and last year arranged the donation and transport of a container of mechanized farming equipment – including a tractor — to the farm. But the team’s plans to put the tractor to work this year were halted by unexpected early rains totaling nearly five inches over three nights.

“Our plans would have allowed only a couple of days’ work at the farm at Joska with the ag team, with the majority of our time spent at Ndvoini and the 24 acres,” said Brian. “We quickly had to draw up a new game plan. We firmly believe that God’s desire for us was to work side-by-side with the MoHI farmers.”

So instead, the group cleared and planted two greenhouses, repaired the tractor, planted fruit trees, mulched, started a compost pile and started planting sweet potatoes.

“All of this work with the Joska team led to numerous teaching opportunities explaining the advantages of conservation agriculture versus the traditional Kenyan farming methods,” said Brian.

Team members also had various opportunities to share with the science and agriculture classes at Joska about careers in farming and bee-keeping.

“Our goal is to broaden the minds of the girls that farming is not just swinging a hoe in the hot sun,” said Brian. “There are multiple opportunities to use math and science in the field of agriculture.”

The team was also able to broaden its ministry to the young women of Joska on this trip through Bible lessons and craft projects presented by a teacher, Jodie Lamb, and a nurse, Betty Brandenstein, who accompanied the group.

“Jodie and her assistants did a wonderful job sharing with 250 high school girls how God loves and cares for them,” said Brian. “They combined Bible lessons with crafts to build up and encourage the young ladies, some of whom have come through very difficult experiences while growing up in the slums of Nairobi.”

As always, the team members felt that they were the ones who received the blessings on the trip.

“We were all touched by the stories we heard, and saw how God is at work through MoHI, transforming the Mathare Valley,” said Brian.


Nurse Betty Brandenstein and Lebanon, Ind., farmer Dave Chance help a member of the Joska ag team start a new compost pile.


Tony Richardson, Lamb Farms, Lebanon, Ind., and Farron Miller, a mechanic from Veedersburg, Ind., work with the Kenyan mechanics to fix a tractor problem. The tractor became important as a “mud runner” instead of a field worker.


Lebanon, Ind., farmer Dave Chance teaches Joska farm workers the basics of soil health and the ‘why’ behind the way “Farming God’s Way” works.


Team members and farm workers load the tractor-pulled trailer with food supplies for the Joska Boys’ School, located about three miles away. The rain made it impossible to travel without using the tractor.




‘We can’t keep up with number of baptisms and new churches!’

April 9th, 2014

Students in CMF’s Discipleship Training School (DTS) are taking their lessons to heart, planting two new churches recently and making plans to start seven others.

Francis Yenko, a Maasai who was mentored in DTS and trained to lead the classes, recently shared some of the amazing work his students are doing in the Elangata Enterit cluster of Community Christian Churches.

“Praise God with us for the new church planted a week ago by the DTS students at a place known as Naitiami,” said Francis. “This is a very remote place where there had been no church before, and these men prayed over 85 people last Sunday who gave their lives to Jesus. We plan to send people from Olepishet Community Christian Church and other DTS students to Naitiami each week to encourage and teach the new Christians.”

Another new church was opened recently in the village of Olashaiki, added Francis, and an elder from the Olepishet CCC, William Masiyioi, was commissioned to serve as its pastor.

DTS is a five-to-six-month, full-time program that gives participants an opportunity to discover their passions and their part in God’s purposes for the world. It includes both lecture and outreach phases. Frances is excited about the changes he has witnessed in his students, and appreciates CMF’s role in the work.

“You are all part and parcel in what God is doing in Maasailand,” he said, “and especially in this discipleship training school.”

The work of Community Christian Church in Kenya continues to expand through committed and capable national leadership, according to David Giles, CMF’s Director of Church Catalyst Ministries.

“Francis went through DTS and was later mentored to lead DTS by a missionary, and now he is leading DTS and his students are planting churches!” he said. “The goal of effective church planting movements is to ‘entrust to faithful men and women who can train others,’  and it is so encouraging and exciting to hear stories of how what was poured into faithful men and women in CCC is multiplied as they train others.”

“There is so much God is doing in the more than 170 CCC churches that we cannot keep up with the number of church plants and baptisms,” added David. “Please continue to pray for these faithful workers.”



Pediatrician comes to aid of young Nairobi burn victim

March 5th, 2014

Four-year-old Natalia Ochieng didn’t know it, but the day she walked into the medical clinic at Missions of Hope’s Bondeni Center in Nairobi, Kenya, was the turning point in her young life.

Natalia was burned and severely disfigured at age 3 when she fell into a pot of boiling water. The man leading the clinic that day was Dr. Alvin Hartness, a retired pediatrician from Fayetteville, N.C., and a member of Snyder Memorial Baptist Church, which is a partner with CMF in Bondeni.

“Our hearts immediately went out to her and her mom,” recalled Dr. Hartness. “Children like this are shunned. She may not have much of a life if she has to live with these disfigurations she has.”

Dr. Hartness, a veteran of many medical mission trips around the world, felt a real burden for Natalia’s situation. When he returned to the U.S., he began praying and searching for people and funds to help her. Through a series of medical connections, Dr. Hartness found a plastic surgeon, Dr. Peter Nthunba of Kijabi Mission Hospital about 30 miles north of Nairobi, who could do the surgeries right there.

“Dr. Nthumba and I emailed back and forth, and he said if I could raise the funds, he believed he could do all of Natalia’s procedures there at Kijabi Mission Hospital,” he said. “This act of compassion saved thousands of dollars in medical and transportation costs.”

Dr. Hartness and his wife Shirley went right to work, contacting friends, relatives and church members, and by the end of November has raised more than $4,000 and wired it to the hospital.

“Natalia had her first procedure Dec. 17 and tolerated it well,” he said. “She is now in the stage of stretching the skin with saline infusions. George Kimani, the nurse who has been shepherding Natalia and her mom from Mathare to the hospital, says she is a very good patient.”

Natalia has also now been accepted into the MoHI school in Bondeni, and is sponsored by a Sunday school class at Snyder Memorial church.

Things are going well, but Dr. Hartness emphasizes that the family needs continued prayer and financial support for additional surgeries, transportation, meals, and other logistics. If you are interested in helping support Natalia and her family with your prayers and funds for her ongoing plastic surgeries, please contact Dr. Al Hartness at for more information.

Mara North churches celebrate 196 baptisms, four new churches

March 4th, 2014

Unity and outstanding church growth were the themes of the January meeting of the leaders of the Mara North cluster of Community Christian Churches in Kenya, reports David Giles, Director of Church Catalyst Ministries for CMF. Mara North is one of the 27 clusters that make up the 170 congregations in the CCC.

“As each Kenyan leader began to report on the growth and challenges in his church, all the leaders were amazed and excited to hear how God had been working among them,” said David. “In just three months, from November 2013 through January of this year, 196 people have been baptized and four churches have been planted.”  

Although these leaders often feel inadequate for the task of carrying the Gospel and discipling believers, they were reminded yet again that they are not alone. 

“The growth in these churches in Kenya is not simply the work of missionaries, although many strong and dedicated people have served in this capacity, nor is it solely the fruit of the work of the national church leaders, although many wise and courageous Kenyans have led the way for their people,” said David. “Each of us is blessed to join God for a time in His work, but the work is indeed His.”

The leaders will meet again on July 6.

“We are waiting with great anticipation to see what God is going to do with His Church in Kenya between now and then,” said David.  “We are already looking forward to the reports of His goodness and are proud of these men who are united in His purposes.”

New churches, new believers highlight 2013 in Maasai, Kenya

January 22nd, 2014

This past year was a good one for the churches of the Narok Central Cluster in Masaai, Kenya, according to Kenson Otuni, a key Maasai church leader who serves in the Ewaso N’giro congregation and as manager of the Ewaso N’giro Training Center for church planters.

“There was unity, cooperation and good teamwork among all our leaders in 2013,” he reported recently. “We were able to plant churches in Esupetai, Oldonyio-orashha and Orgilai, and plans are underway to open a new church at London Estate in the northern part of the town of Narok. In addition, 48 people from those churches gave their lives to Jesus and were baptized in 2013.”

The Narok Central Cluster is one of a dozen or so church clusters in Kenya that comprise the Community Christian Church. Each cluster of churches has leadership and fellowship and work together to oversee the efforts in the cluster and initiate new ministries.

“We are experiencing God’s presence in our cluster,” added Kenson.  We are doing well and expecting God to do more powerful things through us in 2014.”

Other good news this past year concerned a long-standing dispute between the community and the Ewaso N’giro Training Center.

“In the last few years, the leadership of the Center was turned over to the cluster, with Kenson Otuni as manager, and now the issue has completely died down,” said David Giles, CMF’s Director of Church Catalyst Ministries. “We are happy to hear from Kenson that there is now a relationship of peace and love between the churches and the community.”


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