Pioneer Missionary Work In Kenya
We have just visited Rendille in north Kenya and returned home at 5 p.m. September 8 just before the rush hour. It is difficult to be stuck in traffic having started at 6.30 a.m. Our faith was tested, particularly in relation to the arrangements for the wedding, and in the times we got stuck in the car in mud and sand, and we found we had such little faith. We were either overly concerned, or lacking in prayer. We were able to fulfil almost everything we went to do, and it turned out to be an even more busy time than usual, but the Lord upheld us to the end.
I went with my faithful companion on these trips, Mohammed, who takes charge of the diaconal side of things; Stephen Silamo, a Rendille from Korr, who is also a second year student in our PTC; and Nadesol, whose family stays in Korr while he works in Nairobi. Stephen was personally a great encouragement to me in some of the disappointments. Nadesol blossomed! He has professed Christ but has been unwilling to be baptized for some reason. We made great progress on this, and he was a zealous witness for the Lord on all occasions. As usual, the purpose of the trip was to encourage our brethren in the various places, especially Korr, and to preach the gospel as widely as possible. In addition, there was the wedding of Daniel Galale.
The weather was tough, so windy at times that we were enveloped in clouds of dust. The sand on the dry river beds was so soft that I got stuck twice and had to winch the car out. How strange to arrive at the normally dry Malgis river bed and find it flooded over about 100 metres. Far off in Maralal it had rained in the hills. It was either attempting to go through or a detour of about 100 km. and that after a whole day’s driving from Nairobi. Again, twice the winch enabled us to get through the mud and water.
Wedding of Daniel & Rehema
On Friday we were worried by the weather; if the dust clouds had continued into Saturday it would have made the wedding very difficult if not impossible. But the Lord gave us such a lovely morning! When we arrived we found that nothing had been done about the reception and the money available was – nil. Stephen got into action, to arrange for firewood (kilometres out of the town), and 900 litres of water from the wells, both needing hiring of transport. 50 kilograms of rice and 3 animals to be slaughtered for the reception had to be secured. One of them was killed by a hyena Friday night. We wanted to make it as Rendille a wedding as possible, without the unnecessary trappings of a Nairobi/European type wedding that seems to be so insisted on. Rehema wore a long African type dress, with the Rendille beads around her neck. There were only 3 bridesmaids, and 2 flower boys/girls, and a best couple. Of course there were no flowers. At the reception, they drank milk from a traditional container, provided rice and meat, and there were no speeches. At least 150 attended the ceremony with only a few able to be under our corrugated iron shade that serves as our temporary ‘church’ building. The thing that was most ‘European’ was that it only started 30 minutes late! As usual I gave 4 reasons for God instituting marriage, exhorted each to enter into Christian marriage; they exchanged vows and rings. I then preached simply on 2 things that are peculiar to Christian marriage, as opposed to the traditional Rendille marriage – it is between one man and one woman (no polygamy), and it is a man loving his wife and a woman willingly submitting to her husband. Many traditional Rendille were present, especially all the family members of Daniel and Rehema. The reception was in the compound used for the Rendille Bible translation and literacy programmes. Guests queued up to give or promise gifts – money and animals, as well as simple things for the home like cups. By 2 p.m. it was over and I took the wedding party the short distance to Daniel’s hut on our church compound. It was nicely decorated inside with streamers, balloons, and coverings over the coffee table and 3 piece suite. Daniel was so happy; Rehema overawed by it all. PRAY that they might grow together in the Lord, and that Rehema (at 19 years of age) might be a real encouragement to Daniel.
A man who is a Chief and a professing Christian has gone more and more into drinking. He comes back home with threatening behaviour. The Christian wife is so tired of this and scared that she wants to divorce him and, when I went to visit her, was in the process of destroying the home (made of wood). I hope I persuaded her to desist and just remove herself and her things and return to her parents. Everyone knows what this action means – if you want me back you are going to have to come to my parents, from where you got me in the first place, and solve the issues.
There were about 35 adults present. It started a little late, i.e. 9.15, with some singing. Boniface then led a Bible study on John 9:1-12. After a break, a reading from Exodus 12:37-51 was explained. Both of these are consecutive Sunday after Sunday. I preached on Mark 1:40-42, that leprosy is a picture of sin, and that Christ is both an able and a willing Saviour. Jennifer Ogutu was there, working with TEAR Fund and malnourished children. She is an attender with her husband in TBC Nairobi. Ilmothe was there, a man I had first met a number of years previously when preaching to the young men looking after the camels. I had a long talk with him and he says he is convinced by the Christian message. Time will tell. But there are a number of Christians there and I think it will soon be time to constitute the church.
From Nairobi (members) there is Daniel Galale and Boniface Kililo, Godana Dabalen and Gurguro and their daughter Nakuru, Arigele Sarewa, Lasantan Lethore, and Christine Nadesol. There are others who profess faith: the wives of Daniel and Boniface, Rehema and Everlyn; Wato who was widowed soon after returning to Korr from Nairobi with her husband; Rebecca who was converted a number of years ago in Korr; and a new convert from the Nebey goob where Arigele lives called Ariti. This makes a total of 13.
Visits to Goobs in the Korr Area
From Wednesday through Monday we visited goobs around Korr. A goob may be anything from a few to 60+ huts in a circle.
(1) On Wednesday afternoon and evening we went north to Urowween, Stephen Silamo’s home, and preached to 25 women and 5 wazee on Luke 5:1-11 (this was my text in most places), emphasizing what happens to us when we truly come to know God. We went on to Arigele’s goob in Nebey where we had the largest crowd ever of 40 women and 20 wazee together (unusual), not to mention children. You must not think that this happens when our local brethren go without a car, and with no ‘white man,’ for perhaps people come thinking there are some material benefits to be had when I am present. There has been some open opposition to the gospel from some wazee to our brethren. But it remains a good opportunity to preach the gospel. It was now dark but we went on to Ariti’s goob, also of the Nebey clan, where there were 15 women and 5 wazee. Finally we went to a goob of Daniel’s clan, Tubcha, where I spoke to 12 wazee and Stephen to about 12 women and children in a separate place.
(2) On Thursday noon we went west to Nahgaan goob. There are 4 ladies who walk the 5+ miles each Sunday to Korr. One is Ali Leeba’s wife, Sogurto. Ali was with his few animals in the foor – a temporary settlement where there is pasture available, up to 3 days walk away. He lost 50 of his 80 goats, and all his cows, in the drought earlier this year. The other 3 wanted to be known by us so invited us to one of their huts where they had prepared tea and rice. The 4 of them have a small business selling things like sugar and I have agreed to buy them weighing scales and give them some small capital for it to progress. It is good to see people wanting to help themselves instead of just begging. At the end we were able to gather 15 women and 3 wazee for preaching the word.
(3) Friday evening we went for the first time to Galdeylan, from where 2 wazee come every Sunday. Evening seems a good time when people have nothing to do, and 10 wazee, 15 women and many, many children gathered. It was a bit difficult, as we are always in the open air, under the glorious stars and moon, and it was very windy and dusty.
(4) Saturday afternoon, after the wedding, we purposed to go south to Dubsahaay, Godana’s home goob. Just as we were going a woman came from Nebey begging me to go urgently to pick up a new mother whose new-born had been taken that morning to the dispensary with fainting fits. So Godana and Lasantan agreed to walk while I did this so that the mother could feed the baby.
(5) Sunday afternoon we visited the 3 sisters who have been faithful in the church since it started 2 years ago. Wato and Christine had had problems and I wanted to make sure they were reconciled. Wato’s second son, Diba, goes to the other protestant Church, but she very much wants them to be together as a family, so I talked to Diba to be submissive to his mother. With Nadesol and his wife we were able to challenge Nadesol about his need to be baptized as a professing Christian, and I think we made good progress. Rebecca had not been in church, and said she was too tired after the wedding, and she has a small baby. Her husband works in Nairobi and she sees little of him, just enough to have 4 children.
(6) On Monday afternoon we had to fit in a visit north-west to Saale to see Ilmothe who had been in church the previous day. As we were drinking tea and talking about ‘sooriyo’ where they slaughter a goat and smear the blood for protection, the camels were approaching the goob as a sign of the start of the ceremony. We made a hasty get away lest we should be a hindrance, and we did not want to be part of it anyway. In the same goob I had a chat with an old contact called Kimogol. He is just literate and himself a literacy teacher using the Rendille Bible as his text book. A couple of years ago he asked me how he can leave his traditions, and of course you know the answer he received . . .sadly he remains wedded to them.
On Thursday afternoon we went the dusty and bumpy 20 miles west to the next little centre of Ilaut where the only Christian presence is Catholicism. As always people gather round any car that comes, maybe only one in a day (we hardly ever meet another car as we drive around). It is an opportunity to hand out tracts to those who can read, to Ali Noor the shop-keeper, to Matthew working with the Lutherans at yet the next centre, to Charles the Assistant Chief of the area. We preached at one goob that we have been to many times, 10 women and 2 wazee only, and Boniface promised to be going back from time to time. On the way out of Ilaut returning to Korr we also stopped at 2 small goobs where Godana was begged to bring the message of ‘the word of God.’ We also met a man called Barnabas for the second time and gave him some serious literature to read. He has been an evangelist in the past and says he likes the message we bring. Such people need patient follow up.
It was dark on Monday evening before the vehicle was packed and we said our goodbyes to the brethren in Korr. Just over an hour later we were in Namareey, Daniel’s parents’ goob almost 17 miles south of Korr. We had little more time or energy than just to put our beds on the ground and go to sleep. Our 3 Rendille brethren just slept right on the ground. We had one preaching session the next morning to 2 wazee, 11 women and 20 children. There were many conversations. The wazee talked about the Rendille belief that what happens today is because of some sin in the past (cf. John 9:1-3, Job). What a cruel teaching. But they said they believe what we teach, but it has yet to grip the heart in true conviction. While I was sitting writing up my diary a number of children gathered around and I was amazed that 2 of them could more or less count in English up to 20. A primary school has started a few miles away, but I have always wanted to start a Nursery for these children so that when they are older they can walk the distance to that school. So far I have not known of a Rendille Christian who would be willing to live and work in this remote place (this is remote for Rendille). We also had to talk with the 2 professing Christian ladies here, Ntito and Nduruba, about their relationship, which has obviously been strained.
Lontolio, Roman Catholics & Education
The last 2 full days, Wednesday and Thursday, were spent in the Lontolio area, about 30 miles south-east of Korr towards the main north-south road. We spent the time with Stephen Leseitalo who we had expected top start the PTC in Nairobi this year. We found he had gone through great difficulties because his child was hospitalized in Laisamis for one month. Not being able to fully pay the bill, his wife’s beads that they wear in profusion about their necks, and some of her clothes, were ‘detained’ until full payment be made. This led to him using the transport money for coming to Nairobi, not leading the Sunday service, and ultimately taking a job as a shop-keeper which has kept him occupied for 24 hours. Spiritually he was down. We agreed he is not ready for the studies. As the hours went by it became clear to me that we should start a Nursery School here, along with Sunday preaching, with Stephen who is so trained. Let me try to give you my process of reasoning, as I still do not consider that such schools are a necessary part of our work (most churches do so). There is one Primary School in the whole Lontolio area, started by the Community, run by the Government. Almost all teachers are Catholic; some students from a distance board, and the boarding-master is Catholic; with such a pervasive influence all students are reckoned as Catholics and anyone else is locked out. To bright students promises are made that they will be sponsored in Secondary Schools if they do well enough and if they are baptized as Catholics. If we begin a Nursery School for the Sokotei area of Lontolio where we are located and from where about half the students for the Primary come from, then on entry those from our Nursery can be put down as Protestants/Trinity and we can have pastoral oversight of them in the school and resist their being forced to attend Catholic meetings. We visited clusters of goobs at Losidan, Ulauli and Ndigir, from where a few students learn in Lontolio and board. Catholics never have to go to these places to preach, just an occasional clinic, and it is not long before the whole community will recognize Catholicism as Christianity and have some sort of allegiance. The same is likely to happen at another centre called Kamatonyi where the Government has started a new school but the few teachers are Catholic. What they do is quite illegal, but this is what happens in remote areas, especially if the few officials are themselves Catholic. We face a similar situation in Karapokot. Just a few things about our ministry in the area:
1. Lkupes’ wife, Ripena, is now pregnant after almost 10 years of marriage. I helped her to go to hospital at the beginning of the year. Sadly Lkupes himself spends most of his time with his second wife in Laisamis and we no longer count him as a Christian.
2. We were the first car ever to use the new road that has been constructed to Ulauli. I say ‘road’ but we would not have known where it even branched to start with without a guide. It is simply ground cleared of bushes and stones the width of a road. In many places it was not identifiable. Praise God that the first visitors by road were gospel preachers. One old man kidded the small children who had never even seen a car before that it was an airplane.
3. We preached to a few people in Lkupes’ goob Tuesday evening; on Wednesday noon in Stephen’s goob to 35 women and 3 wazee, and to 3 different groups of wazee in Ndigir in the afternoon (14 persons in all), and to a family as evening came on whose son I had gotten from the foor some time back as he had a serious snake bite; on Thursday we preached one in Ulauli to 20+ women and 8 wazee, to 2 different goobs in Losidan, and then in the evening to Stephen’s parents and sister-in-law at their home.
4. There are no toilets or washrooms for us in Lontolio. How refreshing to go to the well as it is getting dark, and enjoy the tepid water from the well while standing on the sand of the lugga.
We continue to long and pray for more labourers. We are considering how we can have 2 in Lontolio, and how we can start up a work in Laisamis on the main road. It is only a matter of a few years before different churches try to stream in. There are already about 7 different denominations in Laisamis, but none with a very clear gospel work as far as we know. We still believe that a missionary could be of great use in this area. Our brethren need more encouragement than we can give from being based in Nairobi. There is much to praise the Lord for.
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