Owning the Challenge
Ganze is a small settlement just 80km from Mombasa, yet the contrast between these two places are stark.
Mombasa is teeming with international development, has diversity with its multi cultural population and is clearly an affluent area. With a bit of money you could live a comfortable life here - and many do, judging by the houses we passed on the way to the beach.
Journey out of Mombasa over to Ganze and a different life emerges. A slower pace of life and one filled with challenges. The views are beautiful with rolling hills as far as the eye can see. The scenery stirs a desire to explore and roam to see what can be discovered. Yet, it is in taking in the beautiful views that a hint of the hardships this area faces starts to appear.
It does not take long to notice that a vast majority of the trees are dwarf in stature. Closer inspection reveals that not only is the majority of the 'forest' under two meters in height, but much of the agriculture appears miniature as well. Maize fields producing crops only a meter tall suggests there is something unusual happening.
This is where the conversations with local people started, and a picture of the challenges in the Ganze area began to be painted. Rain is unreliable in this area and the water table sits very low. This means drought is common place, often with many months between rains. People struggle to get by as many rely on subsistence farming so they do what they can to survive. The bigger trees have been cut down and turned into charcoal that people can sell.
Economically Ganze is struggling. There is a high rate of childhood pregnancies. Understandably, many people prioritise work over making time to attend church so the churches and pastors struggle too.
Ganze has faced these hardships for many years. As a result, people say many NGOs have worked in Ganze over the years, bringing some alleviation for a time. But they also said that the NGOs have come and gone. They have made a difference for a while, helped a few people - but ultimately when they leave, the same problems and struggles remain.
Dignity was invited to the area by a church in Mombasa who are following up a prophetic word about Ganze. Joseph, Pastor Jackson and Pastor David, a local team we have been working with, have been helping people to plant Life Groups for 2 years. 11 Life Groups are up and running in the area. The team want to see Life Groups empowered to respond to the challenges faced by the community and asked us to return to help more groups start. We recently did so, running our Intelligence School of Rural Evangelism.
It is hard to enter an area like Ganze. Life is tough there and we do not simply want to offer a short term solution as people say other NGOs have. This challenge was most clearly summed up by Thomas, one of those who attended our training:
“We have seen so many projects stop. There are two reasons: First, when the donor is there the work can happen. When the donor stops, the work stops too. Secondly, we don’t own the work we are doing. If we are working with an organisation, the work we are doing belongs to them. Even if they give me a nice house I know it is them that own it, not me. Even if I live in that house till I’m an old man, it will still be theirs. Not mine.”
This is something we have seen before and are very mindful of in our work. By the end of our training event we had shared the idea of Life Groups with people. Together we explored how Life Groups can build unity between the church, bringing people together and reach out to others in the community in both our words and our actions. Our time together finished with a planning session where we helped people to make the plans needed to start a Life Group if they want to.
At this point we checked back in with Thomas, asking him about his plan. He is going to return home and share the idea of starting a Life Group with some friends. He thinks that together they can be a trigger for change and hope in their community. He said:
“This is my plan for a Life Group. It’s not yours, I own it!”
Please pray for:
Thomas and the other 29 people who joined us in Ganze. We think there is potential for up-to 10 new Life Groups to start but it is up to the people of Ganze to make it happen!