The threat of insecurity here rises. My thoughts have no place to rest it seems. There is a movement about them. Forever planning, thinking, surmising, praying. We left Nairobi as the security alerts had risen to Terror Threat, being careful to plan our days and events around any place that could be considered a target. Jesse very eager to get strip searched on entering any store, church or mall, there is a feel to it that leaves us unsettled and it takes rather creative planning to get all our errands done while avoiding markets, malls and masses. So so saddened to hear of the killings in Garissa. Senseless violence, hard to contain the thought of it, the meaning for it and the sorrow that now must engulf so many hearts.
We made the choice to drive back to Samburuland, although there was also intel of rain on the road and fighting between the Turkana, Samburu and Gabbra tribes over watering holes and animals stolen. We hear today that further fighting has broken out since yesterday, with loss of life and rumours of more raids to come. The dry, dry North a tinderbox for fighting as warriors are desperate and eager to quell their anger with revenge for past wrongs. In the kitchen this morning the ladies are subdued. I wonder if they are thinking of their sons and grandsons recruited to the fighting.? Are they thinking of their goats, camels and sheep that are at risk of being stolen, leaving them further in poverty? The elders are talking in quiet hushes, their cell phones ringing bearing news of the last hours and intel of what the next few will hold. Jay spends the morning doing some risk assessment, I am sure that the next day will involve packing the bags (I just unpacked) in case we need to move quickly back onto the road and away from the direction of violence. Although staying in the remote North may be safer than travelling at this point. Life is an interesting evolution of moments and events, people and places and we are the players on the stage. It is not as existential as it sounds, but life is played out, we make choices, we rely on Grace and Jesus as we cling to more than hope of safety, of life, of breath (although we do cling to those things quite heartily!) We have a lasting Hope, not just hope for the details of the days as they come together or perhaps fall apart. And although I often do not have words to describe the peace that resides within, I cling to it in moments where the world seems to make less and less sense and we are caught up in the midst of it.
The kids although know little of these threats to the peace notice something is up. Didn’t stop Nate’s water-balloon-in the bed April fool’s joke on Lily however.
In Mid-March, perhaps excited for a “march break” of our own, we enjoyed a good 10 days out of the village for some rest. The kids enjoyed the change of routine and holiday that didn’t include a regiment of homeschool books and math problems. We did discover the outcome when a 3 year old puts an African Giant Millipede down his shorts….thankfully no lasting damage. We caught up with some friends in Nairobi and Kijabe and generally enjoyed a quietness of days that were uncomplicated with the weightiness of medical or community problems to solve. Although, come to think on it, our drive down included being stranded twice having run out of gas due to the small duka in Merrille we buy diesel being closed and a leak in the fuel line. Little options but to press on and pray. On one occasion while we waited for diesel we diverted to visit the home of a Samburu man who was raising baby ostrich. We each got to hold these little birds who were the size of large chickens, long necks, prickly plastic like feathers and strong legs. Our children are troopers with nary a word or complaint, perhaps some request for hydration and snack, but they tolerate being tossed and pitched as we make our way through the dirt ditches and gullies and potholes which comprise the roads in the North. Jesse protesting the loudest at times when there is a lull in the lollipop distribution. We had driven a total of 52 hours in the last 2 weeks, dissecting the country, from North to South. Scored some kudu horns sitting at the side of the road and picked up an auntie in Korr at the side of the airstrip. We did however fail to pass on crucial instructions to auntie Alison as to how to “ride” the vehicle and it was not too long before she recognized the value of a feather pillow as padded protection as Jay shouts out “Big bump” translates to the backseat passengers to take combat/crash position, the whole lot of them including Alison ducking into the pillows as if there were some type of air raid happening. So so thankful for my sister who has come to visit, a familiar face and heart introduced to this world of ours which is often so difficult to explain. She has joined us to experience life with the Callaghans, a brave one indeed! She has entered into the usual routines of chai time with the wazee and mama’s, holds and bounces baby Eve when patients sit at the stairs on the porch waiting for medicine, helps cook meals in the greying evening light as we conserve our solar batteries, watches Nathan target practice with bow and arrow in the backyard, walks the airstrip as little Samburu girls skirt in front of us with shy greetings, smiling and giggling at this new lady while the shepherd boys work hard to appear they pay no mind as they sit with their camels and goats. She colours Easter banners with Lily and shares a joke with Luke. ‘Jesse, well he pretty well invades life wherever he moves and there have been many auntie/jesse play times and explanations of Jesse’s supreme desire (this week) to be a “winja” (ninja). We are all asking and hoping if ‘we can keep her’ here with us! but knowing that such good times can’t last forever and soon she will depart from us,- until we meet again.
Since returning it has been quiet here. I have seen a few patients, today an interesting case of shingles, a broken toe, some diarrheal illness and eye infections and a badly burned toddler who Ihave been bandaging the last few days. I go through a large banana leaf a day trying to keep the burn covered and under wraps of salve and healing. Otherwise not much activity around the area, some kids on the airstrip, Lareno and his brother who have come to greet us. We were asked to show the Jesus film for Easter, also blessed to have the MP3 treasures to hand out, and have printed the pictures of the warriors to distribute as promised. We are a bit up in the air with how to proceed. There are TB outreaches still planned in Serechoi next week. Further outreaches to Longerin bring us close to the insecure territory and fighting between the tribes which we will put on hold for now. Likely wait a few days to find out further the direction of the violence before ordering building supplies to come by road to begin the concrete floor for the Outreach Building. Seeing how dry it is and how desperate people have become without the rains, we are considering another famine feeding project. Because of insecurity food trucks for the local duka (shop) have stopped bringing in supplies leaving the villagers without food. We will look into famine relief and feeding those with significant malnutrition once again if this continues much longer.
I sit and watch the clouds move in and out and swirl around the mountains. The winds pushing to find a resting place. I reflect in the next 12 weeks we also will be moving, transitioning, looking to find a place to rest. There is a restlessness to know how everything will transpire and work out and find that I am planning for Canada and the questions of job, house, car (anyone have a spare minibus?), school for the kids, while still unsure about how the rest of the week will play out. And although I have perhaps gotten accustomed to the routine of having no routine, the multitasking of multiple transitions, I do wish to soon have a resting place. I recognize the resting place is not in the form that I perhaps search for. And as much as I crave for something else on which to build my mental and physical security, it comes to me in the form of a Person, of a Saviour. It is in Him, in Jesus, El Shaddai I can rest my heart, my worries, my thoughts, my sadness at the loss of patients, the loss of life through violence and warfare, where I can rejoice in Resurrection and new life and redemption. He is my resting place. My hiding place.
O weary mind, O troubled Soul
All the broken pieces that you hold
Turn them over, Give them up
And then watch what Jesus does.
Oh heavy heart, O heavy load
lay it down and let it go
Leave your broken yesterdays
in the open arms of Grace
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
and watch the world grow dim
standing next to him
in the light of his glory and grace
Oh frozen hope
Oh broken dreams
just like a boat tossed on the raging seas
you will walk on waves again
when you have staid your gaze on Him
Easter Morning bursts forth and the excitement palpable with people congregating near the church, dressed in vibrancy and beadwork surrounded by an ever-present voice of collective rejoicing. Singing, dancing, jumping, jiggling of babies on backs and baubles and beads. These rainbow moments will forever be retained in heart and mind. Christ is Risen. He is risen indeed. Jay speaks of death and resurrection finishing our year and a half journey through the book of Luke today. The timing providentially brilliant. 250 hearts crowd into our little building, the humidity intense and rain clouds gather threatening the Easter celebration games planned to follow. But long awaited rain is not a threat to the Samburu it is another reason to rejoice. Never did I ever think I would bear witness to mama’s hiking their skirts to line up for a sprint down the airstrip. First prize is a panga (sword like knife), second a flashlight and third a plastic drinking cup.
Oh the joy of the tug of-war with about 50 mama’s on one end against the few men. Jay joins in, anchoring himself as best he can in the sandy slippery ground. Mamas and their men go eye to eye in the battle of strength…. the odds are in the mama’s favour (with multitudes of laughing children joining in) and they win. A celebratory dance by an elderly lady, a gleam in her eye that for one moment she is supreme in her victory. Bars of soap distributed as a reward. The Callaghans contributed the notion of a 3 legged race for the youth which had people crunched in half with giggles and laughs. Sack races and water balloons and Lucy the dog joining with Lily in the little girl’s race (unfortunately scaring many of the contestants as they dashed down the airstrip trying to avoid a rambunctious border collie.) It is so nice to see celebration and I can not think of a better day to be laughing heavenward than this day. Resurrection Sunday. He lives and so do I, full of life, filled with joy.
Today was a TB outreach to Serechoi, due to the heavy rains last night and this morning, few ladies arrive, there are no men,- fighting in the fora or keeping the animals safely hidden and guarded. There are many children, and even 2 baby camels. Alison blows bubble followed by the squeals of little children.
Jay somehow gets tangled up in the ropes holding two baby camels to a tree. He tries futilely to untangle the spitting, yelping camels, they kick and strip and fall down. The mother camels make their way to the scene as well as an old Samburu grandmother who is yelling at Jay while he try to wipe his face from the camel spit. I try to explain to the watching mama’s that Jay is trying to help not attack baby camels. Not sure we are getting off to a good start in this village. Jay gives up on the camels and makes his way to put out some pylons and a soccer ball for the kids to be entertained by while Amin breaks out the TB education booklet once again. Thanks for your prayers for this outreach. 3 more villages (out of 8) to complete. After finishing the first round of testing, there have been more positive results which means referral of patients to get the much needed medicine. Glad that this project can intervene in such a tangible and effective way to restore health and hope.
Every other Saturday here is known as “Soko Saturday”. On this day Samburu from over the mountains and into the forest and all the villages in between come to market. Goats, camels, cows are usually present in large numbers. It is the hot spot and happening place. This day, there are warriors and mamas but numbers are down due to security issues. There was a recent raid by the Samburu in a large Turkana area 45 minutes (by car) up the road and another attack on South Horr (10km away) with armed bandits raiding shop owners. What is amazing to me is the modernization of these raids. In a recent conversation I was told how the Samburu hacked into the Face book group page of the Turkana which spoke of some of their strategies on supporting warriors in animal raiding. My mind just can’t wrap itself around warriors using their smart phones in the bush to call for help or discuss strategy through a chat app. I spoke with a Mzee here who notes the tension is ramping up. It may be like 1996 (nomads are great historians) where there were multiple raids with significant losses of life. The police have bowed out, so it is up to the tribes now to sort this shida (problem) out. He did however identify that the increase of AK47 is what will help to keep the peace. Not sure how the increase of weapons will lead to less loss,- but he noted that most warriors are scared of the guns,- too many people have them. It is not like the combat of the past. Please pray for peace. Walking back from Soko, the market am followed by another stream of patients. Some for STI medicine, some with chest infections, a car pulls up later bringing a man who has had a stroke some weeks ago, everyone in the car opts to have their blood pressure checked, another man visiting with news of his wife’s loss of a baby could we come to help and take her to hospital.
Somedays everything merges into one moment.
I look to the week ahead: More TB testing, meeting with health officials, Jay making a form so he can make brick. (which always amazes me here the process involved in construction…not only is he MAKING brick, he is making the things needed to make the brick! We walk along the road in the village and Jay points to all the piles of rock and sand that he has gathered for the construction project, the hours of labour involved unmentionable. Many things to do and finish up here while we think and dream of home soil.
I need to walk the airstrip to be drawn in by the shadow of the mountains, watching the misty clouds rise up to expose the peaks, the sunbeams of light illuminate the brilliant shades of the tender green emerging after the rains. I need to get beyond the immediate and surround myself in the surreal, of beauty and grandeur, creation and the Creator. The hands of the One who carved this place, breathing life into these mountains, assures me of the personal ways He is carving images, memories and imprints upon my life, breathing within me His breath of life abundant.