Saturday, March 30, 2013

Day 13: Part I - I.D.P.

Our view from the drive down

Our last day in Kenya was spent at I.D.P. (Internally Displaced People). It's more or less a refugee camp for tribal groups of Kenya. Every ten years there are elections in Kenya. They are divided by parties like American politics, but the parties are split by tribal groups. 

IDP from a distance - see tin roofs and community of buildings

During the election ten years ago, there were two tribes that were in opposing parties. To help explain this, imagine that you belonged to Tribe A and you lived in the same neighborhood as a person from Tribe B; one or the other tribe would try to run you out of your neighborhood. While in Naivasha the previous week, one of our dinner hosts told a story of escaping from his own church family that tried to kill him during the elections, all because he was from a different tribe. Lacking details and historical backgrounds of the tribes and politicians, that is all I understand of the situation which was the reason I.D.P. was established.
The elections for 2013 just occurred on March 10th. We have all been praying that the 2013 elections were favorable for the nation and the tribal groups living among one another. (I actually heard from a student of mine from Congo who said that the same president is still in office now, so that may prove to keep some peace for a while). 

Now that you understand some of the history of the peoples issues, we can talk about I.D.P. This is a small village in the flat lands below the mountainous regions where we had been staying. From the long drive down, we could see the sun shining on the tops of the tin roofs. Anywhere from singles, mothers and fathers with and without children live among each other as victims of the riots of the past elections. There is something to be said about the ability of the human spirit combined with the provision of God to survive the greatest of trials and tragedies. 

We visited the school of I.D.P. and taught them the Zacchaues song – I think all the children of Kenya know this song now! It was a nice tool to have in our belt since we visited several schools; it could be reused and it was appropriate for each place.

The typical classroom
The most prominent observation of I.D.P.: austerity. Everything was as simple as it could get down to the walls and the roofing. Basic trusses, Kenyan style, held up the tin walls and roof all resting on roughly 15 inches thick cement foundation. The children were much more reserved than the Elementary Mob in the Kikuyu school. They were somewhat somber. The obvious stares me in the face, they had probably experienced so much tragedy and loss that it rested heavily on their souls. 

Their joy wasn't as noticeable, however, they were content and grateful.

Remembering my thoughts and emotions of the anticipation of visiting I.D.P. – I was scared, unsure of what we would encounter, and hesitant. I had built up this I.D.P. camp to be a place of sick and pain filled people who would be in such need that it would suck all of our joy and energy away. It was quite the opposite as I described. I guess I assumed that seeing people living after a great tragedy, it would be chaotic and hopeless.

Is that my own culture coming to the surface? Is this a representation of the Kenyan culture and their ability to survive in all severity? What seems to be is that they had community and commonality of values; but what is most evident is God's blessing and provision for His children.

George and some kids

Distributing "sweeties" (sweet cookie-like crackers)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Day 12: Chilly Beginnings and Warm Greetings

Today we visited a few different churches under the leadership of the pastor that the Irungu family has been networking with since they arrived in August. As we drove down, and further down the mountain in the cool of the morning, passersby stopped and waved. We were entering a place that didn't see a lot of vehicles or Mzungu's (white people).

 We got out and went into the cold, dusty stone church. We had a short worship time, while various groups got up the sing. What seemed to be the ladies choir, if you will, sang a few songs with a large drum made of animal hide. We even got up to sing some songs that the church knew in Swahili.
We seemed to do that a lot :)

I sat with the Irungu kids and kept them out of trouble while George, John and Matt shared a message with the church. After the service was over, we had some T Shirts that we brought from our church to hand out.

While we were handing them out, two pre-teen girls had been talking to our Carrie. They said that their mother sent them to the service and said good bye before they left in case they were given an opportunity to come back to America with one of the visitors, meaning us. Carrie was so gracious in saying that they could stay with her someday when they come over either for school or work. It was so sweet to hear the girls' stories. They went home with the consolation that they would be welcomed if they ever got to come to America.


There was another woman there with what we thought was a baby, but in fact it was a girl about 5 years old who was so deformed that she looked infantile. To have a child in this condition was such a shame for the mother and if anyone touched the child, they too were thought to contract whatever deformity the child had. Carrie prayed with the woman, the child and the bystanders by laying hands on the child (you can see her holding the child in the front row wrapped in the pink blanket).  This as I mentioned was unheard of. But the women all prayed along and agreed in their hearts for God's provision.

This was a shorter day as we were preparing to go to Nairobi the next morning.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Day 11: T.I.A. and Elementary School Mob

The first morning spent in Kijabe was a long one. We had our previously mentioned driver, John, who was to drive us the for week. He came up against a few challenges that morning and we were 3 hours late to a church service that was being held waiting for us... but T.I.A. - This Is Africa! The service was held to raise an offering to support a woman who had had a stroke 15 years ago. She hadn't been able to walk or talk for 15 years. She walked and talked for the first time the previous day. So, much celebration was going on. In the typical African way, a long church service was held. When we arrived, the word was being preached and continuing to be preached. Even after our inexcusable tardiness, the service went on at least another hour or two. Two of our teammates shared a brief message. This village spoke Kikuyu, a tribe and language within Kenya. George, our translator and host for the week was also Kikuyu. 

After we left the service, we were headed to a primary school to share the Zacchaues story once again. This was a school consisting of children from Kikuyu families who don't receive usual visitors, especially white visitors. We don't talk about color too freely in America because of past mistakes of mistreatment and racial pride, but I feel free enough to talk about it from the African point of view. As I was saying, these children behaved like they had
 never seen a white person in real life, ever.
They were shy as usual at the beginning. We had them gather around to greet them and share a message. After some time we shared the Zacchaues story and song. Once we got comfortable and sang with them, they just opened up! They were behaving like children should behave, not sheepish and coy.
There was a lot of down time in between the end of our song and dance and our departure. I attempted to talk to the kids in what little Swahili I knew. I even tried some Kikuyu. I was saying words to them like, 'beans', 'corn', 'chapati' and they were just rolling with laughter and praises of approval! They were truly the most enthusiastic primary school we had visited; I believe we visited three total. There again lies the resemblance of the most impoverished and simple life of a village having the most joy and satisfaction in the smallest things. After standing around, trying to break the language barrier, a few of the kids still wanted to shake my hand so, I let them. Then one wouldn't let go, and another, and another, soon there were about 10 kids holding onto my hands, wrists and arms from both sides. I felt like I was going to fall over! When they saw my instability, more and more latched on like hungry leeches! Not to say they were unfavorable leeches; they were just so excited to be touching a white person's skin. They started pinching and pulling my skin like I was something on exhibit or display. It was kind of cute actually. Then they went for my hair. After one kid pulled his fingers through my wind blown and ratted hair, they all laughed and reached to touch it. I had to pull away at that moment because I was honestly going to fall straight to the ground. I wanted to enjoy my time with the kids, but their excitement got the better of them. I tell people this story when they ask me about Kenya. This was one of the most memorable days. The children all gathered around are quite beautiful.