Friday, November 21, 2014

Joshua's Story

I just had to share this incredible new video from Nuru International with you!

Joshua Makira Chacha is from Ihore Kenya. He’s been farming with Nuru for the last three years, and his story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Heartbreaking because no one should have to go through the challenges he and his family had. They did not have enough food to eat. How heartbreaking would it be to look at your children knowing that you and they were hungry and not having any idea what you could do about it or when the hunger would end.

In Joshua’s words, “Not being able to provide for my kids and my wife made me feel like I was nothing.” When Nuru came,  Joshua learned new methods for planting and provided a loan of good seed and fertilizer. Joshua was able to go from growing five bags of maize to twenty two bags of maize on his farm.

Not only that, now Joshua is teaching other families, He and his family are not only able to address hunger, but they are practicing healthy behaviors like boiling water, sleeping under mosquito nets and using latrines—so he and his family can stay healthy. He also joined a savings club which helps him to save in case of an emergency the money will help him.

Very happy because he can now feed his family, has beddings, house, and cattle. Nuru didn’t give him a handout, but rather gave him the ability to provide for his family.  And now, the result is not only seen in the improved crop yields, but more importantly, in the restoration of Joshua’s dignity as a human, as a man, as a husband, and as a father. In his own words, “Now when I hang out with friends, I feels like I am somebody, a real father.”

And stories like Joshua’s are becoming reality for literally thousands of families in Kuria West, Kenya.  It is an honor to work together with you and Nuru to make this change possible.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


The brilliant video above is the latest promotional piece from an incredible advocacy organization called ONE. ONE was started by Bono, the lead singer of the band U2, in an effort to challenge governments and individuals to take action in the fight to end extreme poverty. Jamie and I have been members of ONE for several years, and just this summer, Jamie took a volunteer position with ONE as the Congressional District Leader for the state of West Virginia.

The video above illustrates a challenge we all encounter in our lives—the challenge of waiting. We live in a world where we expect immediate gratification in every arena. As a culture, we are becoming increasingly self-absorbed and we easily grow impatient with slowness in download times, traffic, food service, and you name it.

And yet, when it comes to bigger issues, we often sit by—watching. Meanwhile, there are people who are waiting and hoping for individuals like you to take action and use your voice and your time to make a difference.

Right now, the Ebola virus is devastating West Africa. For some, the problem is far away and out of mind, but we are no longer all that separated as a global community. Within hours, anyone on the planet can be anywhere on the planet. What affects one truly does affect us all.

Every day we wait to take action on issues like Ebola and extreme poverty, more people die. People die while waiting for funding to reach the ground, waiting for doctors and nurses to be deployed, and for shattered medical services to be rebuilt.

So what can you do? To start, sign ONE’s petition asking world leaders to step up and take action on Ebola. Beyond that, start spreading the word—tell people what THEY can do to address the issue. That’s why I wrote this post. I’ve signed the petition, and I want you to do so as well. Looking for more steps to take? Stop waiting and joinONE.

May we each take appropriate action as we are able so others can stop waiting for a response.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Beams Of Our House: A Future Book By Trey Dunham

My friend Trey is a really smart guy. We’ve known each other and been friends for almost as long as I’ve been a Christian. We’ve worked together in various capacities over the years, and he even officiated mine and Jamie’s wedding!

I’m really excited about Trey’s latest efforts to develop his skills as a writer and share some of his insights about life and faith with a larger audience.  His most recent focus has been the exploration of marriage in a fictional futuristic account that merges Trey’s background in writing about technology and society with a commentary on the Song of Solomon.

Trey’s first book in this six part series is called The Beams Of Our House. In an effort to launch the series, Trey created a KickStarter project to raise the funds needed to launch the book. He is currently trying to raise $15,000 to cover the costs associated with producing and marketing the book.  Jamie and I decided we would invest in this project, and we wanted to encourage you to do so as well. If he hits his funding goal, by November 29, 2014 every person who invests at least $15 will get a free tshirt. Also, everyone who gives at least $15 will be able to receive a digital copy of the book!!!!

At the time of my writing this post, Trey is $4,475 shy of his goal with ten days left. Will you help him hit his goal by investing in his project? Even if you can’t invest, will you at least share Trey’s Kickstarter campaign with your friends?

Personally, I’m really looking forward to reading this book!

Nuru International’s New Website

After months of planning and preparation by our team at Nuru, we are excited to launch a brand new website that we feel helps people connect with our work better than ever before.

I’m personally really excited about this website, because each time Nuru accomplishes a new milestone, I take it as a personal moment for reflection and for vision. I can remember early conversations with Jake Harriman and John Hancox when Nuru was an idea back in summer 2007. And I can remember when our first team was formed and hit the ground in Kenya in September 2008. And now, Nuru has projects in two countries serving thousands of farmers and their families with programs that seek to build capacity, restore dignity, and long term are able to scale locally. We’ve made many adjustments along the way these last few years in an effort to serve more people, keep costs low, and impact high. And daily, whether through a blog post, a video, or a connection with other staff, I’m reminded of just how far we have come.

At the same time, I’m compelled even further by our vision for the future. Can you imagine seeing the end of extreme poverty in our lifetime? There’s no doubt that we can’t do this alone, and the problem will take all hands on deck to see a meaningful solution, BUT, we are building a solid foundation, and together, with your help, we will see the end of extreme poverty in our lifetime.

So, I invite you to take a look around our new website, and share it with others. As a West Virginian, a global citizen, and as a passionate pilgrim Shawnee seeking shalom, I’m incredibly proud of all that has been accomplished over these last few years and excited about what will take place in the years ahead.

May we each rise up to the challenges and opportunities presented to our generation to build a legacy for the future of this world and its people!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Connectedness and Brokenness from 37,000 ft

Yesterday, I started what will be a 2 day journey to visit Kuria West to see how much Nuru's work in the community has grown. It's hard to believe that it has been nearly six years since we launched Nuru, and so much has happened in such a short time. It makes me really hopeful for the future.

As I started this trip, I found myself reflecting on two ideas that seem to be incongruent and yet they exist, tragically. The world is more connected than ever before, and at the same time, it is incredibly broken and fragmented. My in flight entertainment featured music from artists from around the world. Coke has created an album featuring artists from India. I can listen to music from around the globe while sitting on a plane. And if I listen to the voices around me, they are all speaking different languages. And we are all together. In one plane. All of us are taking in the same sensory experiences as we travel across the ocean.

And yet, as I write this, conflict continues in Gaza, Ukraine, and even Ferguson, MIssouri. Ebola continues to spread across West Africa. And people all around are living frustrated and angry lives. We are frustrated by the actions of others. We are frustrated by traffic, by inconvenience. We are angry and impatient.

We have no IDE how truly blessed and broken we are. The world is magical if we don't all ourselves to be consumed by the brokenness within us and around us.

We have an incredible opportunity before us. The world needs US. The world needs ME. The world needs YOU. Perhaps need is too strong of a word. What I mean to say is this. We can contribute to the problems of this world, or we can be the beginning of a tiny revolution from where we live. We can push back the darkness just a little bit. Wee can smile at trying circumstances. We can choose to be a source of light and hope. We can give our time, talents, and reassures in service to God and others.

Or...we can live in the illusion that life is about us. If we choose the latter path, it is substantially easier, but we will never find ourselves satisfied. We I'll never find peace. We will never experience shalom, wholeness, the way things are meant to be.

May we choose the way that allows us not only become more connected, but more whole.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Solstice 2014

As I awoke this morning, I thought to myself, "Today is going to be a long day!" ;)

And then I started thinking about past generations who watched the patterns of the sky and learned to judge time without a watch, but instead by the position of the sun at different points during the year.

And then, I started realizing, that our generation, is largely disconnected from this type of observation. I marvel at the fact that there are entire civilizations who arranged the structures of their buildings and their cities to orient toward the rhythms of the sun in the sky, and while I don't want to find fault with the fact that we don't tend to be tuned in to these rhythms, I wonder how different our lives might be if we were tuned in.

Even as I'm writing these words, I'm writing them with my own personal realization that I'm probably not going to run out and build a sun dial or start mapping my yard with stakes for where I see the sun rise and set each day, probably because I don't see that as a productive use of my time. And maybe that's why we don't take in these observations as a society either.

But with or without these observations of the rhythms of our calendar year, with or without solstice celebrations of the longest day, might there be something we could benefit from with regard to giving a pause to our day to observe what is happening around us?

Our society moves really fast; it's something we pride ourselves on. We love to knock out projects, send out emails, and constantly be doing. But maybe we need to create some intentional spaces for slowness in our lives. Maybe those emails can wait. Maybe those phone calls can wait.

Over the last few years, I have felt more and more of a tug drawing me to not slow down, to not take time to observe the world around me, to not find a space for reflection. And yet, when I listen to older people share what they wish they took more time to do, they say things like, "I wish I had taken more time to reflect."

So today, I'm not encouraging you to start marking up your yard with where the sun rises and sets over the next few months, but I am asking you to take a step. And honestly, I'm asking myself for the same step. Let's start taking time to observe a little more. Let's hit the pause button for a moment. I believe that the solstice provides us a great opportunity since we have a little more daylight than any other day during the year. Maybe during those few extra minutes of daylight, we can all unplug, and soak in what is happening in our immediate environment. Who knows, maybe we can begin to cultivate a new habit.

Happy Birthday West Virginia

Yesterday, my home state celebrated its 151st birthday. West Virginia was born during the height of the civil war on June 20, 1863, and many believe its formation helped turn the tide of the war toward the union. Being born during a time of heavy conflict must have been hard on the folks who were here, but the 35th state presses onward. It is the only state created by Presidential Proclamation, so we, the people of West Virginia owe much to President Lincoln.

As I write this I'm sitting in the home of two other West Virginians who are currently living in Colorado (another beautiful state). It's fun to reflect on the fact that John Denver wrote songs about Colorado and West Virginia as I'm sitting here too!

I love my state. I love watching the cardinal (our state bird) when it flies among the sugar maple (our state tree) and the rhododendron (our state flower). In fact Jamie and I have a rhododendron that flowers each spring in front of our home.

My family has called West Virginia home for as long as we have had a family history. Long before our state became a state, we have called this our home, and perhaps that is why my parents instilled such a deep love for this place in my heart.

I can remember taking trips as a kid to places like Cooper's Rock in Morgantown or traveling through Pipestem near Princeton. In high school, college, and beyond, many were the trips toward Elkins, Davis, Thomas, and places like Blackwater Falls, Canaan Valley, and Hawks Nest. And nearer to home, I can remember many days of riding my bike along the Ohio River, or going fishing at Mountwood Park with my dad, my uncle, and my cousins. We used to picnic on Sunday afternoons and all of us kids would rush off into the woods to explore, or into the creeks to catch crawfish.

And the people of our state, while we have an array of challenges before us, we also have an attitude of never giving up. Our state motto, montani simper liberi (mountaineers are always free), is one that I have often taken to speak toward not just our love of freedom, but of our willingness to persevere in adversity.

And so as our beautiful state grows another year older, I'm hopeful of her future, and I look forward to savoring many more moments walking along her forest paths, fishing in her rivers, and working hard toward an ever brighter future among these beautiful hills. Happy birthday West Virginia!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Training For A Marathon: Training For A Life

Running a long distance race has been something I've often thought about doing, but I always thought my first race longer than a 10K would have been the Parkersburg Half-Marathon. I guess I've never really been one to do something half way. ;)

Last October, Jamie and I joined 20 other runners from around the country to run the 38th Annual Marine Corps Marathon in an effort to raise funds and awareness for Nuru. And we are doing it again this year. It was a pretty incredible experience running through our nation's capital with over 30,000 runners from around the world. And it was an added bonus to have the support of the men and women of the United States Marine Corps as we journeyed along the 26.2 mile course.

This year, as we start training, we look forward to being joined in DC for the race by my best friend in the whole world, Willie, and possibly my sister, Becky. Willie has never run a marathon, but my sister has (and she flew!). A year ago I had never run a marathon, and neither had Jamie. I highly recommend giving it a try for anyone who has ever thought about it. In fact, it would be great to have you join us in running for Nuru in the future.

We found a training plan from a runner named Jeff Galloway. His plan boasted that it had helped thousands of runners train without injury. And the plan was available for free online! Back in the year 2000, I had started getting semi-serious about running, and I picked up a copy of a book by Jeff Galloway called Galloway's Book On Running. It's a great one if you are looking for a book to guide you in getting started running. Back in 2000, it was one of about five total books I could find on the subject at the bookstore. Now there are tons.

What I love about training for a marathon, is that it equips you not only with the discipline you need for running a long-distance endurance race, but also for the discipline you need to accomplish any major goal. You see, most people can't just go out their door and run a marathon tomorrow. They've gotta train for it; they must plan for it. When I started training, I had not run with any regularity in years, and the last time I had run, it was for about 2-3 miles and it was probably 6 months prior to signing up for the race.

Training last year started toward the end of March, and culminated at the end of October. Slowly and steadily Jamie and I added miles. We had to plan for even the 30-45 minute runs we did twice weekly. But the long runs required much more planning. I knew that if I wanted to have any chance at finishing a marathon, I had to be disciplined about getting out to run the longer runs. I had to block out hours of time for the longer runs. And I knew after those runs I would be really tired. So six months, three times each week, I needed to block out time to get ready, run, and rest. I needed to buy something to keep my energy levels up as I ran, so I bought Clif Shot Bloks.  It took planning, it took preparation, and it took discipline. And we all need that if we want to accomplish any larger goals in this life. Most people don't just sit down and read the Bible, they read a little bit at a time and get to their goal. Most people don't wake up and start playing the guitar. They practice, and little by little they build the skills to be able to play a song or two. It takes time. It takes discipline. It takes desire.

And that's why most people don't run marathons. Most people don't play an instrument. Most folks have never read the Bible. Most folks in the states have never planted a garden (not true for our global neighbors though).

So this year we planning to run another marathon. And that's another thing. Just because you have done it once, doesn't mean it is automatic. But, going through the process this time, we know we can do it--because we have done it. It isn't as daunting, but it takes just as much effort.

What is your big goal? It may not be to run a marathon, but whatever it is, you are going to need to map out a plan for it. Get to it. You are burning daylight. Every day you wait is that much longer before you complete your goal. You will be glad you started, and likely the world will be better because you took the time and applied the discipline to see yourself to the finish line. And, after you finish, the next goal will still take hard work, but it will be a little bit easier because you know what it takes to finish!