From February 1-10 I had the privilege to return to the Rendille people of north Kenya with my son Jonathan. He left home in Nairobi in 1994 to study in the States. As it was not until 1996 that we started to get into contact with the Rendille in Nairobi he has had little personal knowledge and had never been to where they come from. He will write a report from his own perspective. I have chosen to give you the highlights on a day to day basis.
Now that we have an eastern bypass around Nairobi I did not have to leave before 06.00 to beat the traffic jams. We left at 07.00 and the first stop was at Nanyuki after more than 3 hours. We had increasingly good views of the majestic Mt. Kenya before we descended into the vast plain that is north Kenya. As we crossed the last permanent river at Archer’s Post, the Uaso Nyiro, a noise forced me to come to an abrupt halt at the police barrier. My 2 belts had broken. A policeman obligingly used his mobile phone to get a mechanic who had just the right belts for my car and in less than an hour we were away. This was an amazing providence considering Archer’s is just an outpost. 100 kms. further north, at Merille, the lovely smooth tarmac ends and it was more than 2 hours before we finally arrived at Korr our destination just before darkness fell (75 kms. NNW). While the brethren warmly welcomed us, asking about Nairobi and Sudan, unpacking the car, and providing such refreshing tea, and supper, I started to hear about problems that need to be solved. Some people were not happy when Patrick was on leave in December because they did not get the preaching they were used to. The Chief had expressed concern that rumours have spread about having money and this could compromise our security.
We visited ‘goobs’ (= circular villages) up to 10 kms. north of Korr town. There may be 50 huts/families in each goob.
(1) Ongeli Dadikahaan. We have started a nursery school here and this was the first time for me to visit. There were only 10 children with the teacher, and we were told that the others had gone with their parents to Korr to collect relief food.
(2) Urowween. There is also a nursery school here but we found nothing in progress. We found out that the teacher has another job and left without saying anything. Perhaps he was looking for 2 salaries at the end of the month. We had tea in the hut of Mzee Silamo although I had to provide the tea, sugar and milk!! I have had a lot of contact with him. He said he is following Christ, but I repeated that he must leave trusting in traditions. As yet we do not have any regular Sunday meetings in this area, only occasional preaching when we visit.
(3) Tubcha. We used to have a nursery here, but another church sadly caused trouble although they are doing nothing. There is an empty permanent classroom that we have permission to use and this could eventually develop into a primary school. We were able to talk with a couple of men here, including Mzee Galale to whom I have preached the gospel for 15 years. We often used 1 Peter 1:18-19 about “the futile ways inherited from your fathers”. But they openly said how hard it is to part with their traditions. Thank God He is able to change their hearts, and this is what we pray longingly to see take place.
(4) California. This is the name given to the part of Korr where the church meets, where many of the Christians live, together with a nearby goob. We attended the weekly prayer meeting. Afterwards, talking with Patrick, I had to warn him against people who come with wonderful stories, who seemingly could be so useful. But they are false which is why no one else has taken them up. We have been disappointed by many. In the evening we walked to the nearby goob (car headlights were not working) and it was so encouraging to preach the gospel in the moonlight to 30 women plus children and a few young men.
Dubsahaay Dogo. We have a nursery school here and a few people who are part of the church. We started by being with the children under their great spreading tree, then went to 9 wazee (men) under their tree in the sand. I asked them if they knew the Gospel, and one man encouragingly had basic knowledge. Then it was an opportunity to tell them about the Lord. When one many wanted to talk about the school needs we left them as there is a committee that deals with such things. People see me as ‘the white man’ as having dollars written all over me and it can deflect them from considering spiritual needs.
Nahgaan. Going to the west of Korr we visited two ladies in their huts who come to TBC, Korr. Timo is a widow and a church member. She has completed 2 years of adult literacy and is beginning to read the Bible. I encouraged her to continue with Acts 20:32. Ali Leeba’s family I have known closely for many years. His wife professes to be a believer in Christ alone. Ali himself was not present; as with so many men he is away from home much of the time finding pasture for the animals far away.
Matarbah. Here are Sagante and his wife Wareiya, who used to be with us in Nairobi. On returning home he fell back into traditions and married a second wife. He has professed repentance and spoke humbly about his fall. They go to the nearby AIC church as they find Korr far (8 km.).
Goob Sirayion. We again walked to a nearby goob where there are some who attend TBC. I preached again from 1 Peter and there was some discussion after. Chirodo, one of our members from Dubsahaay Dogo spoke of the difficulty of leaving traditions because of opposition from the community that will surely follow.
Leaders’ Meeting. Patrick Ochieng from near Kisumu is the pastor. Ogom, Godana, and Nadesol are the 3 evangelists. Each one spoke about their problems: repairs to huts, school fees, motorized transport, medical expenses, extra huts so children do not sleep outside. They find difficulties in the work as the people hold to their traditions so strongly, many of them are constantly moving with their animals, and there is an increasing sense of insecurity from tribal clashes and robbery. As real as these things are I challenged them to think more of spiritual needs and to get on with the work of preaching the gospel even to the point of exhaustion.
Galdeylan. In the afternoon we visited the wazees of this goob to the east of Korr and preached to 22 under their tree. We received a warm welcome as I told them: We have all inherited empty traditions not in agreement with the word of God, the greatest problem is our sin, and only Christ’s blood deals with the problem (1 Peter 1:18-19). As we returned we were able to talk with an Administrative Policemen about the Lord who is working in Korr far away from where he lives. The opportunities are limitless.
Visitation of church members. Wato is a widow with 4 children whom we support monthly. Nadesol is one of our evangelists. Rebecca is also a widow with a number of children who is seeking to support herself by baking bread.
Korr church building. Before it got dark we went to see the progress on the church building. The foundation has been laid and money has now been given to bring it up to the lintel level.
We met with the church under the ‘shade’ as we affectionately call it. Amazingly people start coming early and singing began before the prescribed time of 09.00. Many people recite verses they have memorized, children, parents and even the illiterate. During the Sunday School, when children also have their class, Patrick explained Acts 10:34-43 as they go through Acts section by section. I preached in the service to about 50 people (more than 30 are church members) on Ephesians 2:8-9. There is also an afternoon meeting, not so well attended, when Jonathan spoke from Colossians 2:8-10 and I spoke from Ephesians 3:14-19. The rest of the Lord’s Day was spent talking with various people, reading from Job 18, and sitting outside in the cool evening breeze.
We were to leave early to go 30 kms. south, but I am always delayed by those who want to have a last minute talk/request. We went with Patrick and Nadesol for the rest of the days and then to Nairobi.
Goob Letore. The village is named after this large extended family. One man from here was with us in Nairobi but got terribly lost spiritually upon returning. He eventually married and settled back here and we are seeking to bring the gospel for the first time to this village. We challenged him as to why he has never told his wife anything of the word of God. Under the tree with 2 wazee and many children I tried preaching for a few minutes in Kiswahili (the first time ever) as my translator did not know English!
Lekuchula. This is a large goob at the foothill of Bayo, a mountain that rises to almost 6,000 feet. I have been coming here since 1998, but only recently have had a warm welcome. The children welcomed us with much singing but we had to stop them when they began to sing about ‘Maria’. There is a strong Catholic influence through the primary school some kms. away. It made us want to follow up the more than 20 children who were sent to this school to class 2, as we do not yet have class 2 in our primary school at Lekuchula. We also reflected on the fact that almost all our teachers are from a Catholic background as the Catholics have by far the largest input into education. This is one reason why we have also got involved. It was so encouraging that, Laibor, one of the nursery teachers, wants to come to Korr every school holiday to be instructed from the Bible by Patrick. It was after 22.00 when I was getting into my bed which was outside by the car when Patrick started preaching from Romans 6:23.
Lekuchula. We first had a meeting under a tree where Patrick preached to 20 women and 3 men from Luke 18:9-14. Then we went to the primary school we sponsor that just has class 1. One of the Christians in Lekuchula, Nduruba with her husband, slaughtered a sheep and we had the most delicious mutton and rice for lunch. The other faithful lady, Ntito, recounted with her usual animation how she became a Christian and how she single-handedly started the school. We left in the afternoon picking up a couple of extra passengers, and this is always a wonderful opportunity to preach the gospel – a captive audience!
Ndikir. After negotiating a very dusty road and crossing the dry Malgis River (when water is flowing it can cut Korr off), we came to the area called Ndikir where there are 4 large goobs. Raphael Bulkash and his family live and minister here. His wife Lucy just delivered twin girls. They have been here for a year and await the first person to respond to the gospel in faith. In the evening we went to the ‘nabo’ to preach to the 10 wazee present. The nabo is just ground encircled by cut thornbush where only married men are allowed and where a log is kept burning continually. It is a place for traditional prayers and discussion about the affairs of the goob. I preached on Romans 5:6-8 seeking to show them how great the love of God is.
We began the day by being with the school children at Ndikir, an evangelical organization called Kindfund being the sponsor.
Lontolio. We went to visit Stephen Leseitalo who became a Christian some years back. He is a very intelligent person who had to cut short his secondary education many years ago because of fees problem. He began the PTC in Nairobi and then withdrew. He has been helping in the local primary school in order to get some daily bread for the family. He has taken his stand against traditions and has moved his hut outside of the goob a few hundred metres, and has started Sunday services. I had the opportunity to preach to about 20 women where they meet under the tree outside his plot. After, I asked Stephen what he believes the Lord has called him to do. He clearly said he believes he is called to preach the gospel of God’s grace to his people, and I exhorted him to do just this and lay everything else aside trusting the Lord. I urged him to give notice at the school for the end of March and then resume his PTC studies in May. Pray the Lord will give him grace and courage to do this.
Losidan. This is a very interior place where we have become the sponsors of a primary school that now has classes 1-3. The leading Mzee, Lepakio, told us of his concern for the school – the Headteacher is so often absent and he seems to oppose TBC as the sponsor. Apart from TBC no one ever comes to preach to these goobs. We walked to Goob Lolora about half an hour away from the school where all of us had a word to minister. In the evening we went to meet with the wazee in the nabo and there were eventually 10 of them. We spent the night on the veranda of the school.
Losidan. The morning was our opportunity to speak to the children at the school and then at the nearby goob. I preached to many from Mark 7:14-21 longing that they might be convicted of their sins.
Sokoteey. On the way back to Ndikir we stopped to visit Leparkerei and his family where Raphael used to minister. The opposition of the people here forced him out. As we drank tea I was able to talk with the mzee and his wife about the need for forgiveness of sins and how that can be received. Because Jonathan is with us he wants to know if we have the time to wait so that he can slaughter one of his animals. Of course we do! At the end, having taken pictures of the family, we exhorted them again to put their trust in Christ. Surely the word of God will bear its appointed fruit in God’s time.
Ndikir. We visited the nabo in the evening and I preached the last time on 1 Peter to about 10 wazee. They have futile traditions: blowing trumpets and praying to the moon when it becomes new; sacrificing a sheep to smear it blood on their houses and camels and to tie bits of skin in order to protect them. May the Lord open their eyes to the one and only sacrifice of Christ for our sins and reconciliation with God.
Our safari was complete and we set out to return to Nairobi. At Laisamis, the District HQ, we met with the Assistant Education Officer to talk about the schools we sponsor, and to tell him of our concern for the school at Losidan. There were some problems on the way with the car, overheating as we climbed up the steep slopes of Mt. Kenya, and a tyre that was completely worn out. Near home we were caught up in a traffic jam and where drivers showed their complete lack of concern for anyone but themselves. As I come back to Nairobi from places like Rendille I always ask myself, “Am I really returning to civilization, or did I leave it behind?”
Leaders. Patrick and the 3 evangelists in Korr, Raphael Bulkash in Ndikir, Stephen Leseitalo in Lontolio.
Conversions. Especially amongst wazee, and in Lekuchula, Ndikir, Lontolio and Losidan.
More workers. We need preachers for the Urowween area north of Korr, for the Lekuchula area, and for Losidan.