Monday, November 19, 2012

Vision for Nutrition in Rwanda

While living in Rwanda and working for MANA Nutrition, I developed the vision for safe, affordable, nutritious, locally-produced foods, accessible to those who had the greatest need for improved nutrition. This was, and remains, primarily women and children. (Unfortunately, MANA's Board elected to discontinue operations in Rwanda, so I didn't have the opportunity to put this vision into action. Bummer.)

With the escalating conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, I thought of this document and decided to post it here. Perhaps the dream will inspire others (maybe you?!) who will take it forward!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Micah Bournes - The Justice Conference

Yeah, I know ... two blog posts in a single day. One post per month wears me out and requires a nap, so this is extreme. And I haven't even had my post-lunch espresso. Which reminds me ...

Okay, I'm back, typing faster than ever. Sit down, buckle up, then watch. What you do after that is your choice. I'm willing to wager that you'll do something.


This morning I received a link to a short video documentary from The Nyaka School in Uganda. Having lived in Uganda for almost three years (1999-2002), I absolutely loved watching this! Nyaka is authentic grassroots and is making a tremendous difference for all generations in their community. Just take a look at this video, then I encourage you to get involved by helping fund the project below. Mwebale inho! That means, "Thanks, y'all!"

Monday, October 29, 2012

How Peanut Butter Save Lives

November is Peanut Butter Lover's month, and I plan to celebrate! Now I realize that not everyone is as fanatical about peanut butter as I am, and that's cool. Some people just don't like it, others may have severe allergies, some just have never gotten in the groove of making peanut butter part of their regular diet, and some might be afraid of peanut butter due to well-publicized product recalls. All legit and respected.

Before you hit the back button on your browser, just take a look at the pictures below. Showing you what peanut butter can do might just change your appreciation for the golden spread.

Here's the story:

My little friend Dominique lives in northwest Rwanda in the foothills of the Virunga volcanoes. When he was 7 months old, he was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, a medical condition that affects 24 million children every year. A healthy 7 month old should weigh anywhere from 14-22 pounds; Dominique weighed just 10 pounds.

The globally-endorsed protocol for treatment of severe acute malnutrition includes Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), a specially-designed peanut butter product that includes powdered milk and minerals and vitamins. RUTF is purchased by organizations like UNICEF and Doctors Without Borders and distributed to health clinics around the world. RUTF is proven and incredibly effective.

While living in Rwanda, I conducted an efficacy study for RUTF, and that's how I got to know Dominique and his mother Constance. When Dominique was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition, he received a prescription for a six week treatment of RUTF. I saw him every week and also visited his family in their home. 

Over the six weeks of treatment, I saw Dominique grow and grow. The peanut butter stuck to his ribs. The pictures provide the proof that RUTF works! I also saw a dramatic change in Constance. Just look at her expressions in the two pictures above! 


You can probably understand why I'm a big fan of peanut butter. I've personally seen how the lives are children are being saved with this simple concoction of peanut butter, powdered milk, and minerals and vitamins. 

Would you consider celebrating Peanut Butter Lovers' month by providing RUTF for kids who need it? Consider supporting our good friends at Project Peanut Butter who make RUTF in Malawi and Sierra Leone and deliver it to kids in Africa. For just $45, you can provide a six week supply of RUTF for a child. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hope rising from rubble

“If it weren’t for the food from the US,” Pastor St Cyr commented matter-of-factly, “Haitians would have eaten Haitians.” 

These words hit me hard in my well-fed stomach as a group of us sat just a few hundred yards from Tent City in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, listening to Pastor St Cyr recount the first minutes, hours, and days following the January 2010 earthquake that devastated the country. He spoke of trying to get wounded people to the hospital, only to discover a crumbled building. He talked about a visit from the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and he told us about the tremendous work of the US Army in the aftermath of the earthquake. He shared stories of the prayer meetings and times of worship to which thousands of Haitians flocked every day for months as they buried family and friends and struggled to survive in the midst of overwhelming suffering.

And he spoke again the common refrain by which he lives and breathes: “God loves us! We are not without hope!” One may wonder how these words, when heard in the context of intense grief, could possibly resonate with - even inspire - those who looked to this man for counsel and guidance. Another story from another country consumed my thoughts.

There was never a darker period in the history of the country.

Subject to a more powerful empire, the country’s king had been deposed and taken to the capital where he lived as a captive. The emperor placed the king’s uncle on the throne, and the country served the interests of the empire for a decade. And then the king rebelled against the emperor.

In 588 bc, Nebuchadnezzar, emperor of the Babylonian empire, brought his entire army against the city of Jerusalem where Zedekiah was king and laid siege to the city. After sixteen months, there was no food left for the people to eat. The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah was an eyewitness to the horrors of the siege and recorded these sights:

All her people groan as they search for bread; they barter their treasures for food to keep themselves alive. My priests and my elders perished in the city while they searched for food to keep themselves alive. My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, “Where is bread and wine?” as they faint like the wounded in the streets of the city, as their lives ebb away in their mothers’ arms. Young and old lie together in the dust of the streets; my young men and young women have fallen by the sword. 

Jeremiah pleaded with and called the emaciated residents of Jerusalem to prayer:

As each night watch begins, get up and cry out in prayer. Pour your heart out face-to-face with the Master. Lift high your hands. Beg for the lives of your children who are starving to death out on the streets! 

Beyond watching children starve to death in the streets, Jeremiah records this unimaginable atrocity.

Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for? 

Oh my.

These were surely the darkest days in the history of Israel. And I hear the words of Pastor St Cyr sting my ears, “Haitians would have eaten Haitians.”

The people of Haiti must have a profound understanding of the siege of Jerusalem. Like Jerusalem, I am devastated by the scene and its ... non-humanness. “How could a parent ever ...?” I wonder as I look at the sweet faces of my three children.

I see myself in the middle of the rubble of the city, with smoke rising and people collapsing under the weight of emptiness, and I too fall to the ground, weeping horrible, suffocating tears. And then I hear the voice of Jeremiah rise above the deafening wails:

The Lord loves us very much. So we haven’t been completely destroyed. His loving concern never fails. His great love is new every morning. Lord, how faithful you are! I say to myself, “The Lord is everything I will ever need. So I will put my hope in him.” 

This promise, this hope proclaimed by Jeremiah during the destruction of Jerusalem has been echoed by Pastor St Cyr passionately and regularly since the devastating earthquake in Haiti: “God loves us! We are not without hope!”

Though Haiti and her people face tremendous challenges in the days ahead, we were honored to meet and learn from Pastor St Cyr, a modern-day prophet who, like Jeremiah, boldly reminds us of God’s great love and enduring faithfulness. And as the pastor calls his people to complete dependence on and hope in God, we also answer the call and join the chorus, proclaiming, “God loves Haiti! They are not without hope!”

Notes: I was part of group that traveled to Haiti with Help One Now, a non-profit organization. You can learn more about Help One Now on Pure Charity, which is where I work. The story of the fall of Jerusalem is recorded several places in the Bible, including 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, and Lamentations. Direct quotations were taken from the New International Version, the New International Reader’s Version, and The Message.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Our Garden Adventure - 06

Today I worked for about 3 1/2 hours to spread the rest of the second load of wood chips. My lovely bride was kind enough to lay out the newspapers, so that made things go a lot faster. Well, the garden is ready to sit until spring now. Whew! Hard work but well worth it for how this will bless our family! As for tonight ... I'm going to sleep so well!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Our Garden Adventure - 05

Load #2 of wood chips from Larry was waiting for me when I got home from work yesterday! Thanks Larry! Mr. Bob from across the street offered me his wheelbarrow and pitchfork to use. So kind. I think he's as excited as I am! And I have plenty of newspapers from our friends and neighbors.

Luke immediately conquered the mountain. This also gives you a good idea of how big this pile is!

Johnna mowed the areas that we plan to claim as garden.

It was a beautiful day for working outside!

After about 5 hours of work much was accomplished! Lots of water throughout the afternoon was a necessity. Johnna fixed a delicious lentil soup for dinner.

Still some more to do tomorrow before the rain comes this weekend.

The big pile is much smaller now! Just a few more hours in the morning.

The peas in the current garden are looking great! Makes me excited to think how much we'll harvest next spring, summer, and fall!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A garden here ... a garden there

This project posted on Pure Charity today, and I know the folks at JAM. Since it has to do with gardens, I thought it would be appropriate. So if you're following our garden adventure, perhaps you'd like to help back this garden project in Mozambique!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Our Garden Adventure - 04

I finished spreading the first load of wood chips. The entire load covered 400-500 square feet. The first thing I do before spreading out the wood chips is mow the area where we're going to put the newspaper. Cutting the grass very short makes it easy for the kids to see where to lay down the newspaper. Fortunately, there wasn't much of a breeze today, so it was pretty easy to get and keep all the papers in place, which helps the kids from getting frustrated!

If you're wondering what the gray area is in the upper left corner of the first picture, it's the ashes from the grill. In my current little garden area, the green peas are flowering, and the mint is like a bush!

We're not done yet! Larry said he expects to have another load of good quality wood chips for me this week. Also, a friend from church has been saving newspapers for me for a few weeks. Combined with the daily newspapers from several neighbors, I've got a pretty good stash in the garage. FYI - I did call the local Embassy Suites regarding newspapers, and they said they no longer deliver a paper to every hotel room, so they were unable to help. No worries, friends and neighbors have been happy to help!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Opportunity Cost

Three years ago, I wrote a post that I said would be continued. Alas, the continuation. When is it that a profit can become a loss?   

"Whatever was profit I now consider a loss, compared ..."
There is a business principle called opportunity cost. InvestorWords defines it like this:

The cost of passing up the next best choice when making a decision. For example, if an asset such as capital is used for one purpose, the opportunity cost is the value of the next best purpose the asset could have been used for. Opportunity cost analysis is an important part of a company's decision-making processes, but is not treated as an actual cost in any financial statement.
When Paul was writing about opportunity cost, he was comparing his pedigree with knowing Jesus of Nazareth. Now, you have to keep in mind that Paul (formerly Saul) was SOMEBODY in his day. Just before the comparison, he lays out his credentials. They are weighty indeed, and he had placed tremendous value in them ... until. Until he met Jesus, and his life was turned completely upside down.

Now he's writing a letter to a group of Jesus followers, many of whom might have been struggling with their faith. Paul essentially says, "I understand. I thought I had it all. Lots of prestige. Tons of street cred. But it's just a big pile of, well, you know ... compared to knowing Jesus. In fact, EVERYTHING is just garbage compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus. Losing everything? Those things weren't worth anything anyway. Knowing Jesus? Priceless!"

Jesus once told a story about a man who found a treasure buried in a field. When he discovered it, he went and SOLD ALL THAT HE HAD and bought the field. Opportunity cost. When you find something of greater ~ surpassing ~ value than that which you currently have, you're willing to exchange it all, that you may possess that which is of far greater worth.

Check it out for yourself. Paul wrote a short letter to some followers of Jesus who were in Phillipi (modern day Greece, I believe). Jesus' story about the man and the treasure was recorded by a tax collector named Matthew.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our Garden Adventure - 03

After getting the wood chips delivered, we set out to get newspaper. Several neighbors were very generous, and I was able to get a bunch of newspapers while at a company meeting. We were all staying in a hotel that delivered the USA Today to each room each morning, so I asked my co-workers to give me the paper when each one was finished reading it. I probably could have asked the hotel manager for all used papers for a day or two, and that's something I'm considering to do here in Bentonville. I have a friend who manages a hotel locally, so I'll call her tomorrow to check on it. If there are 200 rooms in a hotel and I'm able to get papers from 1/2 of those rooms, that should provide what we need!

The greatest challenge to getting the newspapers put down was that Isaac kept stopping to read the comics section!

A few newspapers then a few wood chips to keep the papers from blowing away.

Making progress!

Isaac worked hard. Glad we have that little red wagon!

We're getting there!

Luke and Isaac spreading out the wood chips.

Done for today!

Friday, September 21, 2012

What is Pure Charity?

If a merchant was willing to give money back to you when you shopped at their store, would you be interested? And if you could use that money to support charities around the world, would you do it?

This video will give you an overview of Pure Charity, a great way you can increase your impact in the lives of people around the world. When you're ready to sign up for Pure Charity, just click on this link!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our Garden Adventure - 02

We finished moving all of the wood chips from the empty lot to the backyard. Last night, we sent an email to our neighborhood asking for all old newspapers. Some generous neighbors got the collection process off to a good start! We used some of the newspapers in the front flower beds and around the river birch in the front yard. The rest of the papers will be used in the backyard for the garden.

Here's a look at the planned garden area. We're increasing our garden size from 80 square feet to about 600 square feet!

The area that has been mowed is the planned garden expansion area.

Our current 8x10 raised bed garden has red peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, green peas, and mint.

The wood chips in the backyard.

That's a lot of wood chips! And I have a sneaky feeling that it's not enough!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Our Garden Adventure - 01

A few weeks ago, my wife and I watched the Back to Eden film. We were immediately inspired, especially since we were planning to significantly expand the 8x10 raised bed garden we constructed five years ago. Beyond that, the story from the film resonated deeply with us, so we decided to put into practice the concepts and techniques from the film.

Today, I contacted Out on Limb Tree Service to inquire about uncomposted wood chips. Larry was quite helpful and said he could deliver 12 yards in a few hours for just $40. He was just wrapping up a job and would have plenty of freshly chipped red oak for us. He was right on time, and we talked for 5-10 minutes about our adventure in expanding the garden using the Back to Eden method. He affirmed the process, saying that at his own place (22 acres), he uses wood chips extensively, and the soil resulting from the decomposing wood chips is the richest on his land. He also said he'd be happy to stop by anytime he was near our house and had some high quality wood chips ... no charge! Thanks Larry!

Larry dumped the wood chips in the empty lot next to our house, and we began the process of moving the wood chips from the empty lot to the backyard, one wheelbarrow load at a time. Thanks to our neighbor Mr. Bob for letting us use his wheelbarrow and pitchfork, and to our neighbor Davey and her two boys for helping out, and to my own son Isaac (age 10) who worked with great energy, passion, and endurance. He really amazed me!

Our next step is to get enough old newspapers to cover the area where we'll be spreading the wood chips!

Watch it for yourself! The official Back to Eden film

“The ground is a living organism. As all living organisms, God has designed and made it so it is always covered with something. It's all about the covering!” - Paul Gautschi

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Uganda Poultry Project

My friend Dylan sent me the link to this video today. He works with Forgotten Song, a non-profit that does some amazing work in war-affected areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uganda.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I'm back

Well, it's been 2 1/2 years since I last blogged. We moved to Rwanda ... and back. I have a new job but am involved in the same work. The kids all are older and bigger and smarter. My wife is even more beautiful through and through. I still consider myself the luckiest man in the world to get to live this life!

This weekend we watched the classic Chariots of Fire. I've found myself going over Eric Liddell's statement, "I feel God's pleasure when I run." How would I complete this statement, "I feel God's pleasure when I __________." How would you?