The Beginning of this Journey
The journey of Baskets and Beads Kenya started because of an opportunity that was offered by a man who will be remembered for all of the blessings that he has shared with the world.
Pastor Steve Rutenbar passed away on Monday, November 8, 2021. Steve was the bridge that connected me to Kenya and the reason I’m now working with the ladies of Kipsongo in Kitale, Kenya.
I met Steve at an event in September 2017. I had a booth at the event and so did he. He was raising funds at that time and gathering supplies to take to the victims of Hurricane Harvey which had ravaged the Texas coast.
I sat and talked to him for about 2 hours about his work in Kenya, our mutual faith in God, and my business. I had a short 10-minute presentation during that event and was working on getting exposure for my Think Like A Negotiator brand.
Steve shared about some upcoming mission trips he was preparing for in early 2018 and that I was invited if interested in going. I remember that conversation lit something up inside me, but I didn’t act on it. Later there was another event. He was sharing about Kenya and had a video of some of the experiences there and the people they had been serving.
I felt the pull inside my spirit to go to Kenya and made a decision to go in February 2018. I had to raise funds to go and I remember struggling with asking people to donate to send me on a mission trip to serve the suffering and displaced people in Kitale, Kenya. Despite that challenge, I managed to raise what I needed and the extra was used to buy enough socks and underwear for kids to fill a large duffle suitcase.
We arrived for the 10-day trip and I met some wonderful people including Leila who had been coordinating for Pastor Steve’s group for over 10 years there in Kenya. Towards the end of that 10-day trip, we went to the Kipsongo slum and I met the ladies who are now the foundation of Baskets and Beads Kenya and Leila is our Kenya Director.
I remember thinking I was going to go stay in the background and serve wherever I was needed. I looked at the schedule a few days before we left and saw “Eldonna speaks” at just about every place we were visiting. I found out later he told everyone there about me and that I was a public speaker.
We went to a place called Mt Elgon and I was told previously I would be speaking to the women. After the church service and when we were getting ready to give the food and other supplies we brought, Steve told me I was speaking to the men and asked me what I was going to speak about. I thought for a second and said “Can you negotiate with the devil?” My solution was “put on the full armor of God” that was the first time I shared that talk with an audience.
Steve was like that, he would see a situation and make a change in an instant to adjust the situation to what he saw as a better outcome. He was wise, a strong leader, and focused on others at all times.
During the visit to Kipsongo, the women sang and danced and celebrated with us. Steve had me and one other woman share our stories of faith and hope with the other women there. We also had brought supplies, blankets, and food. After we shared, he asked those women to gather around us and pray. We kneeled down and they prayed in their Turkana language. I didn’t understand a word they said but felt the strong presence of God in the room. I was crying as they were praying for me. These women who had very little were praying over us with all they had. I was touched and humbled.
As we were getting ready to leave, one of the ladies, Patricia gifted me with a paper bead necklace which is what sparked the idea of Baskets and Beads. That night I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea to buy some beads and sell them with my book when I speak. I brought back half a suitcase of beads and here we are today building out to a sustainable level so the now over 30 women can live a sustainable life and provide for their children.
I only knew Steve for 4 years but went on 4 mission trips with him to Kenya. My son went on a trip as well. I enjoyed the time I spent with him, learning from him and hearing stories of hope and transformation over many years. I met and connected with many wonderful friends there and feel like Kenya is my second home. Steve made that possible for me and he transformed my life through the experience in Kenya. He did this for many people over the years. I often meet people when I’m out at a pop-up and they say they went to Kenya on a trip and how it changed their lives and then I find out it was with “Pastor Steve.”
His impact was felt worldwide by many many groups. He gave all he had to the suffering and displaced people around the world and never turned anyone away without a kind word, some wisdom, or support of some kind.
I was able to visit with Steve here in the US, he lived in Dove Canyon, not far from me. I was able to glean his wisdom from all his years of experience in Kenya and apply it to the Baskets and Beads business. The last time I saw him was when he had just returned in May from what would be his last trip to Kenya. He brought back an order of beads with him that I had placed with the ladies. On May 6th I met him to pick up the beads. We sat and talked for a while and I heard about his trip and the plans he had to visit family and friends in Texas. I told him we would get together when I came back from Kenya. I was leaving in a few weeks. I think he knew he would not return.
I went to Kenya shortly after that visit and while I was there I learned he had kidney failure and had told people there he would never return to Kenya. During his time there in April/May, he was able to visit with everyone he had been connected to all those years. Shortly after that, he went into the hospital and never came out.
On August 5th I sent a message asking how he was. A couple of weeks later he responded with “hope all went well, love and miss ya.” That’s the last I heard from him and he passed on Nov 8th. How I wish I could have known him longer and learned more from him on faith, leadership, and operating in Kenya. He built that bridge for me to walk over and I chose to do it. The night I woke up with the idea to start Baskets and Beads would not leave me alone once it came to me. I even rolled over to go back to sleep thinking it was a good idea but had what I call the “Holy Spirit whack.”
I came out to the breakfast area that morning and shared my idea with Steve. He told me “now that’s a great idea.” Many people get touched when they go to visit people who are struggling and their heart gets filled and their ideas are usually too grandiose to carry out. When they return home, the idea usually goes away because everyday life catches up with them. This was a simple idea, buy a few beads, sell them with my book when I was speaking. As it turned out, Leila had the same idea to work with these women somehow to help them. We became a team that day and have become teammates and sisters.
There are never any coincidences in God’s timing. He has plans for our lives, we simply can choose to act on those plans or not. I chose to act on it and will keep going until the women of Kipsongo are fully supported by their own contributions.
There’s a saying that goes “some people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime.” Steve came into my life for the reason to connect me to Kenya and although I only knew him for a short season (4 years) his impact will last a lifetime.
Thank you, Pastor Steve, for all you have done for me and all whose lives you touched. You will be missed here on earth. Enjoy your heavenly home. See you again when I come home too.