Stewards of the Rivers and Forests

“The river of life, each curve more beautiful than the last.” The unfolding of beauty and possibility expressed in this Maaori saying was clearly present in an inspiring talk I heard last month by Tukoroirangi Morgan, a Maaori leader. He was at the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NASIA) Conference to share how his tribe was able to successfully become the recognized stewards of the important Waikato River in New Zealand.

Restoring and protecting the health and wellbeing of the Waikato was their goal. They achieved their success, not by fighting for ownership of the river, but by advocating for co-governance of the river. Now, they are able to clear their sacred river from farm and city pollution and contamination, with government and tribal members equally sharing the responsibility.

Tukoroirangi’s story is inspiring because so many indigenous groups around the world are also struggling to preserve and restore the environmental wonders around their communities – and it is a hard, long struggle.

In Kenya, the Ogiek Tribe, northeast of Nairobi is fighting to save the Mau Forest, which is being destroyed by paper companies who are clear-cutting the land. There are about 30,000 Ogiek people in Kenya but the tribe is not officially recognized in Kenya and therefore doesn’t have representation in the Parliament or government, making their goal harder to reach.

A video from an African news website shows about the struggles of the Ogiek and tells about their desire to also become stewards of their environmental wonder. This video reinforces the importance of promoting sustainable agriculture in Kenya.

If video does not work, try this link: Kenya’s Ogiek Tribe & Reforestation

I am proud of the reforestation projects near Eldoret, Kenya that Spirit in Action has supported and this video only makes me more passionate about rebuilding and promoting the health and wellbeing of the forests in Kenya.

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The Journey to Success

Woman selling tomatoes in Rwandan market

Bwima Brigitte sells tomatoes in a Rwandan marketplace.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” When I am need of some inspiration and deepening of faith, I often turn to the writings of our founder, Del Anderson. He was a dedicated journal writer and processed many musings about Spirit in Action this way.

For those who receive Spirit in Action Small Business Fund grants, the journey to success becomes a bit easier. The $150 micro-grant is not designed to get the group members to a destination, rather it is the seed money they need to kick-start their journey towards personal empowerment and financial success.

The stories we hear from the small business groups often tell of these steps to success. “We are integrated into the community, because everybody needs salt,” says Espe Chipande in rural DR Congo. People who before had been excluded from the formal marketplace now feel included and valued. They are providing a simple product and helping themselves and their community.

Bountiful garden squash in DR Congo.

The corn is high and the squash are ready for harvest!

Similarly, Jackson Barakao (DR Congo), who started a retail cowhide business with his family, now proudly says, “Our service is needed. We are respected in our community.” They can afford better medical care and feel better about their future. With all the talk in the news about the importance of vaccines in developing countries, this is an important impact of the Small Business Fund.

Congratulations to these Small Business Fund group members who are hopeful about their journey to success!

Don’t sweat the small stuff!

MAVISALO Chairperson Canaan Gondwe (center) with other members during construction.

MAVISALO Chairperson Canaan Gondwe (center) with other members during construction.

Plans are coming together for the “Strengthen Spirit in Action” trip to Malawi and Kenya! In just a few shorts weeks, my husband Boyd and I will be meeting SIA partners and visiting their self-help projects.

Taking care of each small detail can sometimes feel like a great burden. Last night, for instance, I dreamt twice that I took my Typhoid Vaccine pill, because I was so worried about forgetting to take it when I woke up. Times like these are when I need to practice what I know.

In other words, I am being reminded to TRUST and KNOW that God is directing my path. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I ignore everything I need to accomplish in the 5 weeks before I leave – it does mean that I can ask for help, take one thing at a time, and celebrate accomplishments.

When I remember to do all that, good things happen!

For example, one of the groups I am going to visit is the Manyamula Savings and Loans Group (MAVISALO) in northern Malawi. Rather than worry about my schedule for the visit, I asked Canaan Gondwe to plan for our time together. What he put together is not only well-planned, it also makes me even more excited to meet these hard-working partners and interview them about the progress they have seen in their community since starting the group!

Proverbs 3:5-6

God at work in my life – I saw this reminder at a corner store in Dayton, Tennessee.

Here is a snippet of the schedule:


  • Arrive at MAVISALO Office and meet the MAVISALO executive team and members of Small Business Fund (SBF)


  • Field visit of programs
  • Visit several SBF programs at Manyamula open market.
  • Visit MAVISALO poultry project
  • Travel to visit SBF “Sharing the Gift” program at Winkly Mahowe home
  • Visit horticultural gardens
  • Meet the executive team and have feed back and evaluation at office.

Slowly, the rest of the plans are coming into place. So, I’ll take this moment to celebrate the connections that have been made and the leadership of the SIA partners. Thank you for all your prayers surrounding this trip!

Peace on the Mountaintop – Guest Post

Women tend to their sheep in Kenya.

Women tend to their sheep in Kenya. A SIA grant helped them start their business.

Today’s guest post is adapted from Becky Sutherland’s report for the Camps Farthest Out International (CFOI) Board of Directors. The CFOI movement, made up of over 125 Christian camps and retreats around the world, recognizes the power of individual and group prayer to bring peace to the world. Becky starts her report with a beautiful parable that encourages me to push beyond my comfort zone to find God and to listen in the silent moments to find peace.


Once upon a time there was a shepherd who envied a great seer who went up in the mountain to pray while he, busy with his sheep, had to stay in the valley below.

One day the seer met him and asked, “Why is your face so full of gloom when all the world is full of light?”

“Because, alas, I must stay in the valley with my sheep while you climb to the mountain top and talk with God.”

“Why do you not also climb to the mountaintop?”

“Because I must keep my sheep here where the grass is long and the water in the pool is abundant.”

“But the grass up there is also long and the water is much clearer for the sheep than here.”

So the shepherd gathered his flock together and led them up the mountain. When he reached the top, there on the tableland, stretched out about him, was truly the finest grass he had ever seen.

“Now at last I can talk to God,” he said. But because he did not know the learned words of the seer he could not talk with God. But when his flock was filled and lay down to rest, a great peace came upon him; joy filled his heart, and in this peace and joy all his troubles came to an end.

As he was leading his sheep down the mountain that night the seer overtook him and asked, “Are you not glad that you took my advice and talked with God on the mountain?”

“Alas,” said the shepherd, “after I climbed the mountain, because I am not a learned man, I did not know how to talk with God.”

“My friend,” said the seer, “do you not know that the sheep you drove up the mountain were your thoughts? And the mountain was prayer. And when your sheep, after their upward climb, rested and became still, then it was that God came to you and talked with you?”

This parable, from Glenn Clark in How to Find Health Through Prayer, sounds like my story in working with CFOI so far. I made room in a busy, full life to do this job because I want to spend my time on worthwhile things. I want to live more in God’s Kingdom than ever before. I knew that it would be easier to remember that if I was working with CFOI on a daily basis.

My job is Coordinator. It’s a perfect title. I am not directing anything, but taking information and communication and ideas from all over and coordinating things. Herding sheep, if you will. I assemble and edit and make things presentable, but the Board is responsible for its decisions and actions. I love my role. Still, it is easy to get caught up in all the details and tasks, thinking these are my sheep that I must feed in the valley. Jesus, of course, has a higher way. He is teaching me about bringing my sheep up the mountain to eat the better grass and to let God handle the sheep and give me peace and joy.


May God increase my ability to go to the high places, bringing with me all of my concerns and responsibilities, and feed the sheep on the very best grass and drink from the clearest water.

–Becky Sutherland, CFOI Coordinator

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