Greetings in Christ’s name from your brethren in Nairobi with whom you are partners in the gospel through your prayers. I have just returned from 11 days away in the western side of Kenya, and give thanks to the Lord for many encouragements received. I have not been fully well while in Nairobi (flu, stomach parasites), but on safari I have been mercifully strong as the schedule of ministry has been very demanding. You will perhaps be aware of the serious security situation in Kenya because of threats from the militants in S and who have already carried out a few grenade attacks. We are all the more aware of our need to pray that we might trust in the Lord and so live by faith.
I left Nairobi Monday 24th. October, together with Chris Gatihi (see 2011, No. 8). We were only able to depart early afternoon as the car had to be checked after my 2 days away at the funeral. We did not quite manage to get to Siaya, but stayed with Washington Gengah, Pastor in Maranda, Bondo. In the morning he took us to see their ‘Resource Room’ in town as they call their library. It has been established as a library especially for pastors so they can be exposed to good Christian literature. Many other brethren would like to start the same ministry.
On Tuesday from 10.30 to 16.00 we met with the leaders of churches in the Siaya region who have formed themselves into a loose association. We presented Biblical materials on the subject of Reconciliation and we discussed it practically as regards our church situations. One church represented had gone away from us and it was so encouraging to see 2 of the leaders present humbling themselves in repentance.
We left for the slopes of Mt. Elgon, Kenya’s 3rd. highest mountain on the border with Uganda, and did not arrive until well into darkness. Simon Chesibol is seeking to plant a church here and has up to 12 coming on a Sunday. He supports himself by selling fuel for the many motorbikes that now transport people away from the main roads.
On Wednesday morning we passed through Kitale and Kapenguria and arrived in Chepkinagh about 16.00. The days following were very busy.
We left late in the morning on Thursday for Apur because of heavy rain. It took 3 hours for just a few kilometres, but it was worth it to see the great numbers of adults and children waiting for us! We immediately set to work to preach to them on Ephesians 2:8 and Hebrews 12:1-3, and afterwards we were provided with the typical meal of rice and goat, together with tea. Before leaving various requests were presented for the nursery school in Apur and the primary up the hill in Kapkaghun. We agreed that a nursery teacher in Apur be supported ($15 a month) and for the school to begin in January 2012 in the church building.
Kapyomot and Tarakit
On Friday we walked up into the hills and into the clouds! About 30 adults gathered in the church building on the ridge called Kapyomot (= house of wind). People easily gather for the 2 sessions of preaching of about 40 minutes each, with singing in the lovely Pokot style.
Again we would like to support a nursery teacher here in order to restart the nursery school. Mid-afternoon we walked up yet higher to over 7,000 ft. to Tarakit. Can you believe that our 2 camp beds, sleeping bags, pillows and mosquito nets were carried up the thousands of feet for us to use. Of course they have to carry everything as there is no road, only a narrow, rocky path. We spent the night in Tarakit, and the picture shows you a rather developed homestead. On the left, where we set up our beds, is the modern, square, mud-floored and walled house. In the rear centre is the traditional Pokot round hut, which is both kitchen and bedroom for a wife. Front right is where goats are kept. There are also cattle that remain outside in an enclosure. We met late in the evening in the crowded church building with a hurricane lantern for lighting. Saturday morning we walked down to Chepkinagh the steep direct way and once again my knees started to seize up. I wonder how long I shall be able to do this.
We quickly turned round after a welcome bath from a basin to spend the rest of the weekend in Wasat. This proved to be one of the high points of our safari. We were to interview those who have professed faith and request baptism. I must admit I was sceptical when told there were more than 20. 3 years back there was not a single Christian of any description here, just heathen darkness. I asked for those with what were considered the clearest testimonies to be interviewed first. And how clear almost all of the 18 were! A man named Jacob Lolima was first and he said he was saved in early 2009 when he heard that Jesus Christ died for sinners. He believed the message and his life was greatly changed turning completely away from drunkenness and cattle raiding (against the neighbouring Turkana people). Like almost all he is polygamous and illiterate. Amongst the 19 who now form the church there are only 3 men, and only Peter the leader is literate (having completed high school), and only he and Daniel are monogamous together with 2 other of the women. Peter started the PTC in Nairobi at the beginning of the year but he quickly dropped out, because of sickness, and also because he helps to teach in the school. We continued the interviewing until after 23.00.
Their testimonies made us realize what horrible lives the ungodly live – they themselves kept on repeating how wicked they had been: almost everyone had been a drunkard, so easily resulting in quarrelling, abusing, neglect of children, disrespect to husbands. Some confessed their sin of involvement in the traditional practices, especially the use of divination when there is sickness. To each we asked what is their greatest difficulty as a Christian. Most replied that there is great pressure from non-Christian husbands and others to follow the traditions, and from former drinking friends to rejoin them. Christine said that after bleeding for 2 months her husband wanted it treated as witchcraft but she had to refuse saying Jesus will heal her. In this society it is difficult for a wife to refuse her husband. Jacqueline was pregnant and worldly wisdom has it that there cannot be a safe birth unless there is the beer ceremony. She refused until her husband gave up. Sarah no longer brews the beer and she is told that her children will suffer from poverty. It was a very joyful time to baptize the 18 in the rocky, muddy pool of water after the Sunday worship. In the school classroom where all of us men slept we then encouraged them to godly living from Ephesians 5:15 and following.
Andrew Chemolok is the leader here and we had a time of preaching in the primary school, having returned from Wasat, at 21.00 after the rain had stopped. Apart from the difficulties of walking in the rain in the dark, the noise on the corrugated iron roof makes it impossible to hear. Together with some members of the church there were the 30 or more boarders of the primary school. What an opportunity to impact these young lives with the gospel as they are available every day. Andrew sorely needs help as he has his local church and 5 other churches to look after, as well as being chairman of the school committee. Please PRAY that God will graciously raise up this help. There is also a great need for the building of dormitories for the growing school, and a permanent church building. Another encouragement the Lord gave is the humble return of a former PTC student to fellowship, who has recently been appointed as a chief.
Monday morning we drove for almost 2 hours round the hills to Kasepa where there is another church and primary school. We first preached to about 30 adults under the tree, and then went to the school to speak to the children about the gospel.
In the afternoon we proceeded the few miles to Kamketo where, after a quick lunch, we went to the school and met with all the staff and children. We have boarding facilities at this school and our ‘missionary’, Amos Wamukota, engages the students almost every day with the word of God. That is our privilege as school sponsors, although it is a government school. Amos and his wife Mellie have 2 children and the oldest (Abigail) is said to suffer from ‘hallucinations’ – she can certainly act strangely. Please PRAY for them as they are out of their home environment. We had problems with the former head teacher and after his transfer the government sent one who is a Muslim. He greatly respects us and we look forward to much better co-operation. After supper in every place we have preaching late in the evening, either in the home or outside where it is warm enough. Here we preached to about 30 from Ephesians 2:19-22.
Tuesday morning we drove through Kasei picking up a couple of brethren and then up into the hills on a road that has only recently been hacked out of the bush. I say ‘road’ but in places it was not obvious where it was! In places it was so steep that only the lowest gear in my low gears could enable us to go forward.
We parked the car at Kapkewa and then walked over the hills for more than an hour to Kapterema. Here the whole school gathered for a meeting. Then we walked to the home of the locally elected councillor (Domoo), who is also a church member. He is the first man in the whole area ever to have educated all his children, and he has about 20 of them, with 3 wives. After a late lunch there was again the opportunity to preach. At last it seems the Lord has provided a consistent leader for this small church, David from Kapkewa.
We walked back through the meadows and cornfields and across the trickling brooks. It did not seem like tropical Africa. On return to Kapkewa one of the wazee (older men) spoke with concern about their wives who are being secretly followed by the Pentecostal Church people they left, and are being told that Trinity does not have the Holy Spirit, as there is no praise and worship or testimonies in the worship. Also there are no fund-raising ceremonies when there is a new-born child. As a result some husbands and wives hardly pray together. So later in the evening we decided to preach on the work of the Spirit as the Spirit of truth and holiness. The meeting continued in the cold, open church building until after 23.00 with questions about prayer, spiritual gifts, receiving the Spirit and giving of testimonies. At 8.00 the next morning we gathered with the school at their assembly and spoke to them shortly. Then back outside the hut where we spent the night the school committee had assembled. The chairman ought to be from Trinity but we have not been able to get this in place because of lack of co-operation from the head teacher. They were very strong on us saying, “We asked you (Trinity) to be the sponsor and you accepted.” The implication was clearly that whatever need we present to you, you are obligated to fulfil. There are 2 nursery classes and five primary, but only 3 classrooms, and now the church building. In 2012 class 6 will be added. There are no desks at all. There are no houses for teachers, etc. This is certainly a deplorable situation yet the government inspectors have praised us for being the only sponsor that provided adequate teaching staff. Although very sympathetic, wanting to do something to help, I had to respond likewise strongly that it is not the official responsibility of the sponsor to provide infrastructure but rather to nourish the spiritual life of the pupils. If a whole government is unable then what about one small group of people? Such are the challenges of our ministry.
At 10.00 we descended in just one hour, so thankful to God that it had not recently rained to make this ‘road’ impassable, as it surely would have been. In such things we often saw the providential mercy of the Lord facilitating our way. Added to this I found that neither my 4 wheel drive nor winch were functioning. We immediately went to the Kasei primary school to preach, and then on to the secondary school just across the road. There are 17 registered students in form 1 of the school and I felt it was such a privilege to meet with them. I suppose I was going back to when I started in Kenya in 1968 as a secondary school teacher. To gaze on strapping young men, smartly dressed in their school uniform, made me sense what an opportunity we have as a church. Most of them are local, and as the only such school in the area, these are leaders of the future. There are 2 completed classrooms, 2 about to be finished, and a dormitory block set to be completed early in the new year. At least 30 new form 1 students are expected to enrol in 2012 (February). The government has provided 2 teachers, we support 2, and the school another one. I told them how privileged they are to have 5 teachers for 17 students. One of the teachers seems to be a genuine Christian; at least he said publicly that being saved is more important than being educated.
Chris told them about his conversion and giving up things like a good job in coming to serve the Lord in Kenya. They had prepared a poem to recite on ‘Dreams’, dreams for those very things that Chris relinquished! The one urgent need the Principal gave for the school was a computer, a printer, and a power source (solar).
Joshua Sitet is the leader here in Kasei and he has such a great need for help in the ministry. In addition he has responsibility for the churches and schools up the hill (Kapkewa and Kapterema), and is chairman of the primary and secondary school committees. Many of the pupils in upper primary and all the secondary boys are boarding. There is need for a chaplain to get alongside them on a daily basis. We do not have someone who can obviously fulfil this role here at present. Is there some mature, young man who could come say for the 7 months from January to July 2012. All education is in English in upper primary and secondary levels. The opportunity is there and you would be highly welcomed in the name of our Lord.
Heavy rain again delayed our afternoon meeting which was to be in the church building but which had to be relocated to Joshua’s house. We spoke on the church as a family from Ephesians 2:19, and on prayer from Psalm 12. By this time the leaders of the various churches had arrived to talk about the way ahead for the ministry in Pokot North.
They emphasized the great importance of the secondary school in Kasei. To take advantage of the opportunity we must have a Patron/Chaplain. The boys all go to the church on Sundays, together with primary pupils, so there is becoming an urgent need for a larger, permanent church building. From 2012 there will be 30 or more additional boys attending. The church should continue to support 2 teachers ($100 each monthly) which by faith we will seek to do. The school needs to be fenced so the boys cannot wander out at will. They would like to develop a leaders’ training centre using the facilities in Kamketo (our only permanent church structure). The other 2 leaders, Thomas and Joshua, would appreciate having a motorbike as Andrew has. We are in agreement in principle as they want to develop fully the present opportunities, develop ministry skills in those who are presently leaders, and reach out to communities as yet untouched by the gospel. My response was to request them to prioritize and indicate what input they would have.
We were sitting waiting for supper and I asked one mzee from Kapkewa why there are so few wazees in churches, he being an exception by God’s grace. He gave many reasons:
The church is a recent phenomenon and men are first interested that their wives go in order to learn not to be stubborn (as if men have no problems!).
The church is against polygamy, but only a man with many wives is honoured in the culture. Further, he faces the humiliation of having to sit with women.
If they go to church they will not enjoy the copious gift of beer when he agrees to give his daughter in marriage. Paulo remembers the 5 days of celebration he had before he became a Christian.
He will not be able to enjoy eating the meat of the sacrifice in the river bed as they pray towards the holy mountain Sekerr.
I further asked about the traditions as they have never been very clear to me. They involve the slaughter of animals for blessing and in problems – invite those respected persons to eat who you want to be like; a greyish cow would be slaughtered in order to bring the rains and in times of sickness and need. There are highly respected prophets who could divine where animals are to be raided and the most propitious time to so raid. God is believed to be in the hills, the rivers and special trees. There is no hope of life after death.
We ended the day after supper preaching to 20 adults, many of whom were tired as it was after 21.00. We rejoiced in the blessed truths of Ephesians 2:8-10.
Thursday morning we left for Nairobi, but only got as far as Eldama Ravine, where brother Wilfred Kiplagat & Jane were still present after the funeral of his first wife. We were a bit late so decided to stay the night and fellowship with them before proceeding to Nairobi on Friday, where we arrived about noon.
1. As at present we do not have any suitable Pokot speaker, we are praying that the Lord will provide help for ministry for:
Joshua Sitet in Kasei, for help in form of a Chaplain/Patron for the secondary and primary schools (English language). Someone from the West could help here.
Andrew Chemolok in Chepkinagh, for help in form of co-worker in schools and churches (English & Kiswahili language).
2. Training of leaders by the brethren in Pokot North (2 Tim. 2:2).
3. Continued provision of needed financial resources.
4. Building up of the churches and the planting of more churches in unreached areas.
We hope this has been a joy for you to read and not tedious. We returned encouraged by what we had seen and heard and wanted to share these things with you and to give thanks to God for His grace and power in extending His kingdom.
Yours in Christ’s service,
Keith & Priscilla Underhill