SAFE IN KURUNGU
After an 11 hour day of driving we made it to Kurungu. We passed by gazelle and elephant crossing signs and then hours of nothing but scrub and bush and a few dick dick (mini gazelle) which would skirt across the road path. I guess I could call the road a path, although it seemed to change faces every so often from rock to dirt, to powdery sand, dry riverbed, to corrugations which prompted Nathan’s alarmed warning to Jesse, “Jesse, don’t pick your nose you never know what will happen with all these bumps”. The corrugations makes one feel like you are in a toy car driving back and forth over a washboard . The road shook the car so badly that it striped all the fastenings to my door. By the end of the trip,- I was holding the door closed for fear that I would fall out or it would fall off. The clutch seal which we had just replaced the week earlier had blown and there was a precarious hour or two prior to the climbing of Mt. Nyiro where we wondered if we would make it. There was a quiet hush as we would approach a steep incline, prayers whispered as Jay would put the car into low differential lock and then the car would seem to climb in the way that monster trucks tackle rally cars. We finally pulled in at dusk and got out, stretching our bruised and dust coated bodies into handshakes of welcome and familiar Samburu greetings of Sirien. We are so very thankful that we made it and the kids really did a fantastic job, managing the ‘flying’ parcels in the back, comforting Lucy the dog and keeping Jesse entertained with songs and games.
The kids are so glad to be back ‘home’ and we are thankful that they are beginning to think of this place as their own.
The work continues….
August is a break month for Kenyan schools. July the Kenyan teachers were on strike so Jay is a bit uncertain as to what the third semester will hold. His plans for the month include working on station projects and much needed repairs… including fixing the water system (our hot water tank which sits on our muguti (thatch) roof has a hole in it…. so, this is a priority job!). Other projects include: building a chicken coop… prompted by a night time meeting with the mongoose, and finishing a fence to keep children in and livestock and the wild out as well as finishing the ‘clinic’ room in the back of our house which needs some more stone work to ‘pave’ the mud floor. The clinic room will be very useful for assessing the many sick who come, it gives a room for privacy and allows some shade for those waiting to be seen. Currently right now between 40-50 patients wait sprawled out on the front steps of the house.
Jay continues to have opportunities to meet with the Samburu and build relationships. Often he will hire one or two men to help him with bigger repair jobs having the opportunity to get to know some of the Samburu that are around looking for work. One of the men who works three days a week is Mzee LMakolin. He speaks English very well and often jokes as he goes about his day. He prides himself on being one of the best Samburu singers. I am not sure if he gets hired out for events, but On Monday, LMakolin was feeling very weak and requested some funds for transport so he could go to a hospital for further testing. LMakolin was treated for active TB about one year ago, yet he still struggles with breathing difficulties, feeling weak and losing weight and we wonder together if the TB has returned. Please pray for LMakolin, that the test results and the needed treatment would be clear.
As for the medical work, I have been encouraged by the director of health ministries for AIM to consider opening a dispensary in Kurungu. Although I feel that this is more than I can do on my own, I am willing to inquire with the medical officers of health in the district to see if the government would be able to assign a nurse to Kurungu, who I could work with. Presently I returned to find that my interpreter Jeremiah, has gone to Nairobi. Please pray that I would know how to proceed. Jeremiah had finished nursing school so was a great fit for helping with the medical needs. There are very few English speakers who would be able to assist me with translating for a medical clinic. Today I treated a lady who came with a terrible skin infection, a boil about the size of a golf ball at the base of her skull. She noted that she had been cursed and that the lesions on her skin were eyes of others looking at her. I was able to give her some medicine and also talk to her about Jesus who can break even the strongest curse. It is during these informal discussions that i wish I had more Samburu language to be able to speak freely.
The life of a Samburu woman is something I struggle with. In my short time I have witnessed the difficulties in childbirth due to FGM, treated a mama 9 months pregnant beaten by her husband for losing a goat, tended to the care of a young girl who had delivered a baby, while the father of the child decided to wed another instead. Women who have husbands that drink the little income that is found leaving the family to starve or beg for sustenance. This week I have heard that one of the ladies who attends the church, who works Monday mornings for me, has faced some significant trials in the last few weeks. Her husband tried to beat her in the head,-and she escaped only due to others who intervened on her behalf. What was discovered is that last year, this husband married a second wife, and now has decided to divorce Ongoto M. Yet divorce in Samburu is complicated, for the women, it means, that she loses everything: her husband, her protection and even her children, as they are seen as a part of the bride price that was paid. I can not imagine the hurt and loss this mama of five must be experiencing. A part of me wants to march down to the mynyatta and right this injustice ( of course forgetting the spears, bows/arrows and spare AK47’s that the morani would have on hand). But the cultural divide is too wide for me to cross at this juncture. Instead for now I bear silent witness to these things, whispering prayers of comfort to these women who live within a community and culture where they have no voice that matters, no life that is independent of what ‘wealth’ they can contribute to their husband. How to show these women their value in the eyes of the Father as created beings, and not as an object but as a person, with independent thought, feelings, wisdom and soul. I think it would be such a foreign concept for a Samburu women, who after she is married can not be addressed again by her husband, unless he uses a generic form of “woman” until she bears a chid, then, she is allowed to be called, ‘Mother of __” to know that she is prized and loved. That she is indeed precious.
As church continues I sit out on the gravelly stoop entertaining an 18 month old who is having fun poking porcupine quills into the sand. I can hear the singing and later the message as Grant speaks on James 1, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance…” And I can not help but wonder about how this message must resonate with the people here. Every aspect of church seems different here, except for perhaps the God we are worshiping. The music is definitely authenticallyAfrican, we sing in Samburu, which basically means other than a few words like “Pooki” meaning “all” and Jesu, I have no idea what I am singing. It doesn’t really matter though the rhythm and sound seems to draw me in and I end up singing the foreign words while not being able to be kept from swaying a little bit. It helps that the opening song and the offering song are always the same, which allows , after weeks of practice to feel somewhat confident that I don’t look like a lip sync wannabe. There are numerous choirs that are called to the front or in some cases, coaxed to the front. The youth choir, girls school choir, children’s choir and mamas choir all take their turns. On some occasions the choirs will incorporate a variations to the songs, such as Samburu dancing, which consists of jumping up and down very high with body and limbs pin straight or jutting the chin forward back and forth in what seems a very complicated fashion, one which I have not tried to copy as I have trouble with the logistics of hand clapping. My theory is that the 10 lbs of beaded rings the women wear around their neck somehow assist with this kind of rhythmic motion. It is beautiful to watch though, and in a flurry of colour from women who are wearing bright reds, blues, greens, along with beads and head ornaments consisting of feathers, buttons or flowers,- I am usually am in awe of the sight. By the end of the singing, many of the little children have gathered outside to sit around Jesse and I. The look, they laugh, they dare each other to inch forward. Jesse quite unaware that he is the centre of attention gawks back and offers his hand in greeting with varied reaction from the children. We are in the process of starting a Sunday School for the 60-80 children who come, but this endeavour dependant on a translator being available. So outside we all sit. It is easy to listen to the service as our church building consists of cinderblock cement structure with open windows for the air to flow through. At times, the odd camel will peek in during service to see what is going on, as there is a borehole about 20 ft next to the building, must be the borehole which must somehow allow for a “BYOH” policy (bring your own herds). Cows and camels graze, the occasional donkey will also show up. I don’t think there has been one Sunday yet where the service has not been interrupted by a dog fight. I guess that is quite a common occurrence as people generally pay it little heed, the children just jump out of the way. Outside the church there are often an interesting assortment of items. Weapons and walking sticks are left to lean up against the one side of the building while the mama’s milk jugs or water geri cans are lodged in a tree or placed in the desperately sparse flower bed which houses a few scraggly desert roses. There doesn’t seem to be fear of theft and I have yet to determine if there is a certain order to what branch people use to place their items on the tree.
It is not much to look at our church, a cement building with some wood benches, a pulpit and a plaque with John 3:16 written in Samburu, an animal skin drum and a woven reed basket which serves as the offering plate. There is no sound system, cafe or youth room. There is no fellowship hall,- although we have considered serving chai after service to give people some sustenance to help them on their journey home. But for all the differences the church remains a place where God’s people can gather and proclaim Him, pray for one another, build each other up, and worship together. If church is so different around the world, I often wonder what Heaven will be like. How many different ways can we find to praise Him?