12 November 2008
Rain can be a pretty restoring thing…
It rains every day here like clockwork. We’re in the middle of the short rainy season. I have never seen rain like rain in the rainy season here in Kenya. It’s crazy – I’m talking Biblical deluge-type rain. One minute, the skies are a beautiful clear blue – and then the breeze begins to blow. The next thing you know, it seems like someone is throwing softball-size balls of water at you. There’s no gentle, drizzle-like introduction – it’s just WHAM! Right in the face – then the head – then…you’re soaked in a matter of seconds.
My new friends would make incredible weathermen. These guys are awesome. They can predict these monstrous rainstorms with the most unbelievable, unfailing accuracy. Of course, in the beginning, I didn’t believe them, and – as seems to be the standard for me – I had to learn the hard way (ie. get absolutely drenched while they laugh at me) to believe in that accuracy. The wind will change direction or a certain cloud will appear on the horizon, and my buddy Andrew (one of the field officers we’ve hired), will suddenly quicken his pace as we make our way across the fields on our rounds. Sure enough, we make it to the next house just in time to seek cover from the “cats and dogs.”
Rain can be a pretty restoring thing…
I had a pretty rough day today. Life can be a little overwhelming sometimes. There is so much going on every single day here – so much to think about, so much risk and small margin for error. I mean, who do I think I am meddling with people’s hopes, dreams, and, at the end of the day…lives? Today was a day fraught with self-doubt and questioning.
Today was also the first day of farmer training – the beginning of a program that we hope will be the start of a long climb out of extreme poverty for these families. We gathered in a small church with dirt floors and no doors or windows – just gaping holes in the walls. Over 400 farmers showed up for training…on time and ready to go. There was so much hope in their faces.
As I walked to training along the small trails scattered across the breathtaking landscape, my mind was swimming with insecurity and doubt: Fertilizer prices keep climbing with no end in sight – slowly eating into the dreams of these farmers right in front of my eyes – and I can’t do anything about it. Nuru’s bank account keeps getting smaller with no sizable donor in sight to step forward and fill our funding gap to get us through to our next phase of development. I have an amazing staff working with me whose contracts are about to run out – staff who have sold everything and left their old life to join me in this fight…and I have no idea how I’m going to be able to take care of them. What kind of leader is that? I still don’t have my next foundation team lined up. How will we continue the project on schedule? I have investors that have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to this venture…backing me and my ability to do this – expecting results. And, on top of everything else… today I got a really tough letter from back home that I read before coming out to the training – further reinforcing my fears of failing – of failing these amazing people who have put their trust in me; of failing the generous investors who are hoping for a new day of lasting solutions; of failing my team; of failing those who love and care about me; and finally, of failing God Himself.
As I stood up there talking to the farmers to open the training, all I could think was, “How am I going to keep from failing them? I can’t let them down.” I stepped aside and let Andrew conduct the training we had rehearsed numerous times. As the training began to end, I saw him pause, look outside, and then continue. Then I realized why he had paused…a colossal thunderstorm rolled up out of nowhere and began dumping on the little church where we were holding the training. “It totally figures,” I grumbled to myself. Andrew finished the training shouting above the deafening sound of the rain. He did such a great job. I was so proud of him. The training was over, so the farmers just settled in to wait out the storm – trying to huddle in groups at the center of the church to avoid the sheets of water blowing in through the “windows”.
I stared at the chaos outside – thinking about how closely it reflected my inner turmoil. I looked back at Andrew, “Tutaonana kesho (see you tomorrow),” I shouted above the rain. He looked at me in bewilderment. “Mr. Jake, don’t go!” he yelled. “The storm is very bad, and you must wait.” I turned back to look outside. Thunder and lightning cracked loudly overhead and the wind powerfully buffeted the walls making them creak and groan loudly under the pressure. The thoughts of the day mounted up in my head threatening to overwhelm me in emotion. “Screw it,” I said to myself. And with that, I stepped out into the chaos.
Rain can be a pretty restoring thing… Instantly, I was hit by a wall of water and I was soaked to the bone within a couple seconds. The cold of the water took my breath away. I grimaced, put my head down against the wind, and began to press forward for the hour and a half walk home.
Something happened on that walk. There’s something about feeling the full power of God’s world all around you at once (gale force winds, torrential downpour, and deafening lightning and thunder – yes, I did think about the possibility of getting struck again in case you were wondering – but I didn’t care) that enables you to just get right to it I guess. I don’t know what you believe in or what your personal faith is, but during that walk, I cried out to God to try and figure a few things out… about this project, about this organization, about this life. Those poor farmers living in the community must have thought I was insane. They kept calling out to me in their native language to get me to come in out of the storm…but I was too deep into my conversation to pay attention – to them or the storm. I shouted in anger and cried in utter frustration, but after about 45 minutes of baring my soul to God, I was spent and fell silent…listening to the river of water rushing knee-high down the road all around me and past me as I walked.
Did all those worries and problems just disappear and the sky clear up into that spectacular blue again?? Not at all. Fertilizer prices were still rising. Funding was still drying up. In fact, it rained and stormed on me all the way home. But I can tell you that when I arrived back at home, I was wearing a smile on my face…a smile of hope sparked by an encounter with a loving God in the rain on a long walk home.
About Jake Harriman
Founder — Jake Harriman is a United States Naval Academy graduate and former Force Recon Marine combat veteran who became convinced that the “War on Terror” can’t be won on the battlefield alone; the contributing causes of violent extremism–specifically extreme poverty–must also be eradicated. After transitioning out of the Marine Corps, Jake enrolled in the Stanford Graduate School of Business to found Nuru International in 2007 with a mission to eradicate extreme poverty in some of the most fragile regions of the world in order to help stop the spread of groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. Over the next twelve years, Jake and his team grew Nuru to become one of the premier organizations at the nexus of security and development - empowering over 130,000 people with lasting meaningful choices to permanently climb out of extreme poverty in some of the toughest places in the world.Read More Stories of Hope