Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who will give them a chance??

Kujo Pua!  (Good evening, in the kokomba language here in Yendi!)
Hope all is well back home, things are well here.  Over the past few days during the daytime we have been teaching business training classes to a group of locals here in the village.  They enter this training program with the hope of receiving a microfinance loan to help them start a business to support their family and eventually offer jobs to others around them.  As I have been teaching the training I have noticed something very interesting.  These people have an amazing ability to be creative, and a great passion to succeed.  It is unbelievable to be teaching people with the equivalent of a Kindergarden education, grasp college level business concepts such as gross margins and return on investment.  They are hungry to soak up knowledge and learn how to better themselves, but all their lives nobody has poured into them that way, or they have not been able to access opportunities to learn.  To explain these concepts to them, and then have them repeat the concept in a way that lets us know they understand could only be possible by the power of the Holy Spirit....these people cannot read, write, or even understand what we are saying unless it is translated properly.  Can you imagine how long it would have taken you to give up in college if you had those barriers standing in your way?  I wanted to give up at times even without those barriers!

The point is these people have vision, they have abilities, they just need people to pour time and resources into their lives that will allow them to harness that vision and ability to enrich their lives.  They are not people who are poor and helpless, they are people waiting for an opportunity to create success for themselves and their families.

Tomorrow we are heading out to the villages to sleep in huts and will not be back in Yendi until Friday night.  I won’t be blogging for those days because I won’t have access to internet or my computer but know that we are well and in God’s hands!  Love you guys, thanks for following what God is doing here.

Brett and Noah

Monday, September 12, 2011

Understanding Poverty

Today was an interesting day.  It was challenging both physically and mentally.  I think the combination of jet lag, little sleep, staying in a hut, and eating food that I’m not used to is beginning to take it’s toll.  I felt sick for some of the day, and exhausted for most of the day.  I know that the enemy is trying to discourage us from accomplishing what we came here to do, which is tell a story of the life that “the least of these” live.  Even in my self pity and ill feelings, God revealed something so powerful to me today.  I have been in Africa before and experienced the joy that the people here have, but I have never actually engulfed myself in their life and spent every moment with them, right in their poor situations, to be able to see if that joy is constant.  The thing that really stood out to me today is that even in their situations, that most of us would view as hopeless, they still have such complete, pure joy.  They are perfectly content.  Sure, they understand that their quality of life could be better, and there are certainly things that they would love to have access to, or learn.....they have expressed to us some of the things that they need, that they don’t have access to, but it does not prevent them from being joyful!  I began to think about how these people can have so much joy, and not just joy but overflowing joy, in the midst of the lives that they lead.  Here I am two days into being with them and I am already so discouraged and feeling terrible, not wanting to be joyful at all.  As I prayed over the things that God was trying to teach me through this, I started to become convinced that physical poverty and joy, are not connected in any way whatsoever.  Sure not having much makes life a lot more difficult.  It affects your health, you nutrition, and your well being, but it can never affect our joy.  These people’s joy comes from knowing Christ.  “ Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.....In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer....... (1 Peter 1: 3,4,6)

In a land where people suffer from spoiled food, contaminated water that can give them parasites and disease, children are often malnourished, and having to wipe themselves with their own bare left hand, they have joy because they are promised that their suffering will be short, but the hope and joy that comes from knowing Christ is forever.

I couldn’t help but thinking that maybe it’s not them that really live in poverty.  Sure they don’t have much, and could certainly use help and compassion to gain access to a better life, but do I spend just as much time in poverty because I fail to have complete joy in my promise of salvation?  It became clear to me that there is a difference between being poor and living in poverty.  These people are definitely poor, but it is those who haven’t realized and experienced the joy of knowing Christ, that truly live in poverty.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wow


Today reality set in.  We are living in an African village that is basically a circle of mud huts.  Residing in a village in one of the most remote spots in the world is truly mind blowing.  I had heard what to expect or what we were getting into, but you don’t really understand it until you are there.  We stayed with a man by the name of Paul.  Paul’s family of 7 lives on about 10 Ghanaian Cedis per day, which is roughly 6 dollars.  Although Paul’s family does not have much, they gave us their best.  They rarely eat meat, but for dinner, they killed a duck and cooked it for us.  What a beautiful picture of sacrifice and being willing to build relationships.  There were a few things that I experienced that really spoke to the level of poverty some people live in, and they were things that I never expected.  The most shocking thing was this morning.  I woke up and went outside, and a child was squatting down over the ground.  I didn’t notice what he was doing right away, but as I looked closer, I realized that he was pooping.  The most disturbing thing that I saw, that I didn’t realize I would actually see, was a child who lacked a basic necessity such as toilet paper.  It’s not a necessity that you or I would think of such as food, water, or shelter, but toilet paper is not a concept that village people are familiar with.  In Ghana your left hand is considered dirty, and you never use it to eat, or shake hands….now you know why……..no child should have to wipe themselves with their hand………

Sleeping in the huts wasn’t bad, we were so exhausted from travel that we probably could have slept anywhere.  It definitely wasn’t normal and we didn’t sleep that great, but we did get some sleep!

There have been some amazing experiences as well!  We went to church this morning and what a great experience!  They have such a passion for Jesus here, nothing like what you are used to seeing in America.  They DANCE for hours in church which I think is awesome, maybe God will call me to plant a church where dancing is an accepted and normal form of worship!  My sense of adventure was fed today as well (as if staying in a hut in a remote African village isn’t adventurous enough)  we got to travel by motorcycle from village to village with the people we were staying with!  What an amazing way to see the world God has created!  I feel lucky to have this type of adventure.  I think it’s so cool how God knows us so well, that often times we enjoy and are passionate about the things he calls us to do.  God can use me to touch lives, while also fulfilling my need for adventure!  Unreal! 

It’s difficult to upload pictures, but I will try to do that and possibly a video update later in the week if I get the chance!  I will blog again tomorrow!  For now we are safe and well protected by our Father!  Love you all

Brett

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Next Journey Has Arrived!

Greetings friends, Desba! (good morning!)
I am writing to you from the village of Tamale in Northern Ghana.  We arrived in Accra last night and stayed the night before heading north to the villages this morning!  Our flights were great and we are safe.  Today we are visiting some of the families we will be living with while in Ghana and tonight we will begin life in the huts with families that live on $1.25 a day.  We are prepared for an eye opening experience.  We can tell already that it will be quite different then our experience in Seattle.  I can't wait to begin experiencing what God has in store for us here.  The people here are great and experiencing third world poverty from a first hand perspective is something that we know will rock our world.  Keep checking back, I will blog each day with a stories, learning experiences, and struggles that we have.  Reality has set in that tonight we will be sleeping on a dirt floor inside a hut, with very very limited resources.  Keep us in your prayers, but know that we are being protected by the God of the universe who has blessed this project.  Love you all, thanks for following and praying

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Story That Must Be Told.....

https://www.wepay.com/donate/walkingbelow

Hey friends,

I wanted to come to you with an opportunity for you to get involved in the story that God is telling through "Walking Below,"  our journey to try and learn first hand what it takes to live below the extreme poverty line, $1.25/day.  I saw many of you following our blog as I lived homeless a few weeks ago, on the streeets of Seattle.  I also receieved great feedback from people who's lives were changed as a result of the things God was teaching us while living among the homeless in Seattle.  Since then I have been back to Seattle, and it is strange each time I go back.  Walking around the streets there reflecting on the things I experienced it becomes very emotional to reflect on all that God allowed me to see during the time when I was living on those streets, even though it was temporary, and not my real life.  Each time I go, I think of the many people I met there who's stories completely changed my life.  We set out to make a film that could share with the world exactly what people go through on a daily basis, living below the extreme poverty line.  Next week, Noah (our filmmaker) and I will journey to Ghana, Africa to finish telling this story.  I am so excited to see how God will again shift my perspective and continue to grow our hearts for those in need.  We will be living in the village of Yendi in Northern Ghana, with a few families there who have very little.  We will be sleeping in huts, farming, cooking, fetching water, and doing everything that they do, in their daily lives.  I will continue to blog during that time and hope that you will continue to share in the stories, and phenominal experiences that I will have there.

When we get back, we will be working hard to have the final cut of the film produced by mid-December so that we can begin to share our experiences and unique story with the dozens of churches, college campus' and youth ministries around the country that have asked to view our film. 

Noah and I have poured all the we have into this film, and this experience including our time, efforts, and personal financial resources.  We feel that this is not only a compelling story, but one that MUST be shared with people around us.  We thank the Lord that he has brought us this far, and are very thankful for the people who have prayed, given money, and their time to help us get to this point.  We are about $3,000 short of what we originally planned to pool together to finish the project. https://www.wepay.com/donate/walkingbelow   We have seen God provide in the past, and know that this is his will, so if you feel compelled, please consider giving to help us share this incredible story with the world.  A few thousand dollars is a minor obstacle for our God to work around, and we know this is a project that is blessed by Him and that He has called us to complete.  Please pray and consider being part of helping us raise the remaining money we need to do what has been set out for us to do.  If you have been impacted by this blog, and the story that has been told, please give anything that you can to help us share those same stories with others.  Below is a link to a site we set up to try and raise the funds we need to complete our journey to Africa, and put together a phenominal film that will allow us to help others spend a month walking in another man's shoes, below the line. https://www.wepay.com/donate/walkingbelow   Thanks so much for your generosity, and for being part of an incredible journey.  We hope you continue to feel blessed.

Sincerely,

Brett Kolomyjec & Noah Russell

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Not What I Expected.......

Well, I've been living homeless for nearly two weeks now, I started with $17.50 in my pocket that was going to last me for two weeks and as I approach the end of this first part of my journey, I have realized something.  I am pretty much THE POOREST ONE OUT HERE!!!  Since being here I have learned that the homeless here in America, including myself, do not lack resources.  With the exception of the first day, when I wasn't sure where to get help, I have not been hungry at all.  There are numerous shelters and soup kitchens that provide meals for the poor.  Today, because it was a Saturday, there were numerous groups of people that came to the park, set up a table, and handed out food to those living homeless downtown.  Other days, I have been able to eat two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners if I had wanted to because most of the shelters have their meals at different times.  In all honesty, other than using my money to go to Mcdonalds or something and give myself a break from soup kitchen food, I think I could have made it this two weeks without having any money at all!  In addition to not needing food, these people have more money than I had too!  Most of the homeless people come into the shelter at night with a sack of food from the grocery store, or a Coke that they are drinking....whatever it might be.  Since being here I have learned that most of them get food stamp credits around $100.00 per month, and most of them get unemployement checks for around $800 at the beginning of each month.  That's astrounomical compared to what I brought out here.  What is that like $30 a day?  I'm not saying that that is a lot, but it's definately not below the extreme poverty line that I set out to live below.  Most of these people spend almost twice as much per day, as I brought out here for the entire two weeks.  This is surprising to me....when you see people on the side of the streets they seem like they have absolutely nothing, which is what I expected to see when I came here to live.  Now I'm not saying that their lives aren't hard, or that my experience hasn't been extremely difficult and challenging in many ways, but the homeless in America, from what I can tell, don't struggle due to a lack of resources.  There seem to be resources available everywhere.  Can't wait until the second half of my journey in Ghana, where I can compare my experience here, to a situation that I believe will be true extreme poverty.  I have two more days out here in Seattle, stay posted for more updates and thanks for following!  Much love.
Brett