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A letter from Kenya

Joyce Njoki Muriuki explains how she moved from being a frustrated farmer to being an adventurous one – with results that have transformed her community

Joyce Njoki Muriuki, 45, now a church leader and family counsellor, used to describe herself as a frustrated farmer. Nowadays, she’s far from bored! Joyce reflects on her personal journey and on how the church is mobilising communities to see real transformation

My name is Joyce. My husband John and I are blessed with six beautiful children, three boys and three girls. Where we live the land is quite flat. Most of the year it’s very hot and dry, but the rains come twice a year. We mostly grow maize, beans and millet.

I used to be completely dependent on my husband. My crops didn’t do well and the harvest seldom met our families’ needs. To be honest, I was quite bored of farming. It frustrated me. At that time my life lacked direction and purpose.

My situation changed drastically when I took part in some classes at our local church led by our church leader. She really challenged us to think about both the physical and spiritual aspects of life. We were so used to priests preaching about ‘how to be saved’ and ‘how to get to heaven’, but this teaching was new and refreshing.

She used to say to us: “God has provided resources locally and if we open our eyes we can see them.” We studied the story of how Jesus fed the 5,000 with just two fish and five loaves of bread (Mark 6:30-44) and started thinking harder about what resources we might have around us.

My husband and I talked about what we could do differently. We decided to consult a retired agricultural officer who lived nearby. He gave us some advice on how we could improve our farming methods by planting crops earlier and by using manure instead of fertiliser.

I realised that it was true, God has placed resources around us. The agricultural officer had always been there, unrecognised, and his expertise untapped. I took his advice and started to see great results.

My maize harvest increased from an average of two to three bags to between 10–12 bags. That’s enough for my family to eat and some to sell as well. My bean harvest improved too, from half a bag to four bags. I’ve also started growing mangoes to sell too. From this new income, I bought a dairy goat which has gone on to give birth to two sets of triplets! I sell two and a half litres of milk every day.

I’ve become a more adventurous farmer! I have introduced a certain variety of millet which adapts very well in dry soil and doesn’t need much water. The seed heads even have spikes which stop the birds from eating them. This is a really good crop for the area where we live.

The classes at my church moved me to consider God’s vision for my life. I dropped out of school when I was just 15 because I fell pregnant. My parents took me to a college where I learnt sewing, but I had to give it up to get married and I always felt that what I had learnt had been wasted. So, prayerfully, I decided to venture into the tailoring business and bought a sewing machine and some fabric.

Finally, I’m doing something I really love and I’m able to support my husband and contribute to our family needs as an equal. As a family we have come up with a new vision. We’ve formed a fellowship group with my extended family and we pray together regularly. Our children are part of this too and we’re really seeing the value of that.

And reaching out to our community, we’ve started a microfinance welfare group. It’s known as ‘Kwimenya’ which means ‘Realising your Potential’. We have 167 members and have saved about Ksh.800,000, to be used as loans to cover school fees and other needs of the members.

I am so happy. My tailoring business is growing. I’ve taken on a few employees and I’m teaching some children sewing skills for free too. My own children have a better diet and we all have more opportunity. I have realised that, for me, poverty was in the mind. The changes I have experienced are miracles that came about through studying the Word of God.

+ Our article is provided by Tearfund whose mission is to see the global church embrace its calling to address poverty and injustice. They say: “Working through local churches to help people see the value of the resources around them brings hope, self-esteem and transformation, and enables whole communities to work together to build a future that is better than the past.” www.tearfund.org

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