21 August 2006

The Young Boy

I went to town early. After alighting from the matatu, I briskly walked about twenty minutes through the ever-busy downtown sidewalks to mail some birthday cards to the States. Upon entering the post office, I was glad to see there wasn’t the normal slow-moving line. I then met Deng Deng (Mark), a polite young man from my church. He had requested my help in transcribing his life story into English. The horrific atrocities that so many Sudanese refugees have experienced are heart-rending. We drank our chai as he related his personal story of tragedy.

Next, I headed to a cyber cafĂ© to print and photocopy some handouts for my next teaching time at the church in Kwa Njenga. That process took longer than I’d expected, as the girl voluntarily collated them all for me. My next destination of the day was to meet Judith. On the way, I bumped into a few people I know, which naturally required at least a brief conversation with each one. Just as the bells from the Catholic church signaled that it was noon – our meeting time – we found each other at the crowded bus stop. We grabbed a #46 bus and headed to her restaurant of choice, an Ethiopian one in the Kilimani area.

As we sat down at a round wicker table to celebrate her 30th birthday, our rather aloof waiter removed its tall conical cover. The food was quite interesting and completely covered the small table. Served on a large circular bed of “njera” (fermented rice bread), it also consisted of a mound of cheese and spinach and a huge pile of “minced” beef (raw, partially done, or cooked thoroughly - - we opted for the later choice). Both of us ate from the same tray, using a torn piece of njera to grab a small amount of beef, cheese, and spinach with our fingers. The final step was to dip each clump into the small dish of “wat” (hot sauce). Our conversation – about being one of the few that succeeds in accomplishing success – was stimulating and encouraging. After browsing at the boutique next door, we walked a few minutes in the same direction before parting company. I picked up a few groceries and actually successfully read and responded to my email. My previous two attempts had been futile, as either the internet was down country-wide or Yahoo was intermittent.

It had been a good day, but a long one. The fellowship with both Mark and Judith was enjoyable and I’d accomplished several tasks. I was now tired; I headed home. I grabbed a #24 “mat” (matatu) and settled into my seat. That particular ride home takes about an hour. As we bumped over the rough roads, I noticed our driver and conductor seemed to be in even more of a hurry than is the norm. They were doing a rather creative circuit on that route, in an attempt to quickly pad their pockets for their day’s take. The conductor rushed each and every passenger that boarded or alighted. The driver took no concern for our comfort as he roughly maneuvered the twists and turns in the road.

Once we reached the Karen shops – approximately the halfway point – all but four of the passengers got off. During the long wait for the other nine seats to fill, I wondered if I’d ever reach home. As we got on our way again, it seemed that many people boarded for just a short distance. We were constantly pulling off the road to let someone on or off.

As one man boarded, the conductor roughly grabbed his young boy and hurriedly put him in the vehicle. “Simama hapa. (Stand here.)” [Children normally stand so they aren’t charged fare.]

A few other people jostled to either get in or out, as the conductor hung out the open side door, soliciting more riders. The driver roughly pulled back onto the road. The young boy, about three or four years old, looked a bit shaken by the ordeal. As he caught sight of me, our eyes locked onto one another. He was so glum as he stared intently at me. I grinned at him, while simultaneously wondering if he might cry.

For the longest time he maintained a somber look, all the while keeping his eyes glued to me. Eventually his expression softened a bit.

A man sitting between the boy and I placed his small hand onto the seat in front of him. “Shika. (Hold.)” The young boy absentmindedly complied but immediately looked back at me. He mustered a small, fleeting smile.

Then suddenly, he offered a full-fledged grin to match mine.

The boy let go of the seat in front of him and tapped his dad on the shoulder, “Baba, baba!” Immediately the man between us placed his small hand back on the seat in front of him. The way our driver was handling the vehicle, this was a prudent move on the young boy’s behalf.

The boy repeated his attempts to raise his dad’s attention by again removing his hand from the seat to tap him on the shoulder. “Baba, baba!” I’m quite sure he wanted to add, “Ona mzungu! (Dad, Dad, see the white person!)”

The man between us, oblivious to the interaction between the young boy and myself, again placed his small hand back onto the seat in front of him. The boy did not take his eyes off of me. His infectious grin remained.

By now, he couldn’t restrain himself. Once more he removed his hand from the seat in front of him. This time though, instead of tapping his father’s shoulder, his hand went to his open mouth. Behind the hand, his mouth was now in a permanent smile. He was apparently astonished, not only to see a white person, but to be in such close proximity. Pure, unqualified joy now radiated from his face.

The man between us diligently put his small hand back on the seat in front of him, kindly but firmly yet again telling him, “Shika”. And once more, the young boy absentmindedly complied. However, after only a few seconds, he removed it from the seat and returned it to his open, smiling mouth for the second time. The scene continued to repeat itself so many times; it was truly comical.

All the while, the driver recklessly hurried down the road. The conductor continued to harshly tell the passengers, “Haraka, haraka (Hurry, hurry)”. Like a game of musical chairs, people continued to board and alight. The old Kikuyu woman with her two large “kiondo” (colorful bags for carrying produce, etc.) was likely too tired to care after a day-long attempt to earn her daily bread. She uttered, “Aye,” as she difficultly squeezed her large frame past the young boy. The polio victim in front of me, with one of his legs badly shriveled, was likewise unaware of what was going on. He was perhaps contemplating how he would manage his two sizeable boxes of goods as he walked home with his homemade walking stick.

Even the young boy’s father knew nothing about our delightful, albeit silent, connection. No one – except the young boy and myself – was aware. We were alone in our enjoyment, all the while in the midst of subdued chaos.

The incident truly touched my heart. What simple ecstasy. The boy’s wonderful smile and unadulterated amazement caused me to completely forget how tired I was.

A tear or two rolled down my cheek as I thanked the Lord for such wonderfully common experiences here in Kenya.

May I never be too tired or preoccupied that I miss out on such encounters with another soul.


Wherever I am, I seem to find a paintbrush in my hand. I enjoy not only the finished product - of a fresh, clean, new look - but also the process of applying the paint. Here, I'm painting the tiny kitchen of Karo and Jeremiah.

Beautiful Joy

This is a little bit blurry, but I think it's still worthy to post. She's a beautiful baby and always so content. She truly exemplifies her name and brings Joy to all that see her! She's 2.5 months old now.

19 August 2006

More from West Pokot

The top photo is a home with a typical fence around it made out of sticks. The middle shot is from the sole duka that was open. This guy is waiting patiently for a customer. The final shot is a typical scene anywhere in Kenya - clothes hanging to dry on a fence or a bush and smoke coming from the kitchen.

12 August 2006

West Pokot - Gorgeous View!

While exploring West Pokot, Geoffrey and I got a couple of rooms at a Lutheran Guest House between Sigor and Chesta. After our 2-hour trip and 30-minute walk, we relaxed and enjoyed the gorgeous view. While enjoying a cup of tea on the veranda, we encouraged one another in God's Word.

Chesta Market Area

About a 30-minute walk from the guesthouse where we stayed, and near the road, was a little market area. However, it was practically deserted. There seemed to be nobody around at all. With the exception of one, all the "dukas" (shops) were closed. The large bag contains charcoal (used as fuel for cooking). Next to it is firewood. There didn't seem to be anyone in the vicinity selling either of the items. Perhaps they'd all gone to market day at Sigor. The goat skins are drying in the sun.

10 August 2006

An Old Pokot Lady

After church, we walked about 20 minutes to Geoffrey's house for lunch with his wife. On the way, we passed by this lady. I found her to be quite intriguing. She lives alone on the corner of this land in this small house. As we passed by, she was sifting through some beans. I agreed to her request for "pesa" (money) for the privilege of taking her photo. (This makes the first time I've ever done that. Ususally when people insist on money for a photo, I politely decline. Usually they then agree to do it for free.) When I handed the 20-bob coin to her, she just stared at it in her outstretched palm. She asked Geoffrey (in her broken Swahili) why it was so little. He told me later that he figures she thought it was a 1-bob coin. She's likely never seen 20 shillings since it was minted as a coin a number of years ago. Apparently, handling money is a bit of a rare occurance for her.

Geoffrey's Church in West Pokot

The Sunday School children sang some songs of welcome for me. Notice the paper decorations overhead. I didn't ask, but it's my guess that they were put in place on my behalf. The little girl in the top photo is Brenda. She's adorable! The one in the red dress (lower right corner of the 3rd photo) is Geoffrey's daughter, Ruth. This other litte guy, I don't know, but thought you would enjoy his photo. The second photo is Geoffrey preaching.

04 August 2006

Flame Tree Flies

I saw these flies on the leaf of my Flame Tree at Matunda the other day. I found their coloring to be remarkable! I'm assuming they are engaged in being fruitful and multiplying!

02 August 2006

Choo and Washroom Slab Construction

Mixing the cement, sand, stones, and water.

Rough "offcuts" were used for the forms. You can also see the form for the eventual "toilet" hole. On the right is where the "washroom" will be located. A plastic tube was put in place for the water to drain from it (you can barely see it protruding in the 3rd picture). Supporting the slap are several pieces of offcuts. I imagine they will eventually rot. The 14-foot deep pit is underneath (I had it dug last time I was at Matunda). In between two layers of concrete is a piece of "wire mesh" for added reinforcement.

My construction crew consisted of three pastors! Morris (first time I've met him), Nathan (my good friend), and Tom (who I've known for some time). They did a great job!

After the walls are built, a final thin layer of "plaster" will be put in place for the floor of the toilet and washroom.

August Prayer Letter

Praise Items -

I took George, Linet, and their boys to a Fourth of July picnic. They enjoyed such American foods as hamburgers, chili, and cotton candy. Derrick and Jeremy liked the bouncing castle, the clowns, and the pony rides. I think the highlight of the day for all of us, though, was watching the greatly amusing competition at the Tug-of-War.

My time of teaching at Karo and Jeremiah’s church in Kwa Njenga went well, I believe. Karo acted as my very capable interpreter. I was comfortable with the session and the congregation seemed to understand the basic concepts about God’s Word that I taught.

The suitcases sent for me from Omaha finally arrived, after an unexpected 6-week delay. Many thanks to all of you that took part in providing the items I was in need of.

My first trip into West Pokot District, accompanied by Pastor Geoffrey, was very interesting. I’ll be posting a narrative and some photos soon.

I’ve finally started the long overdue project of having my own toilet/washroom built at Matunda! With a secondary school on the same compound, it seems obvious – on many counts – that I should have my own. The pit has been dug and the slab has been laid. As the funds become available, the next step will be the walls made of clay bricks.

Please pray for my Kenyan friends -

Karo and Jeremiah are just about to open a milk “kiosk”. Please pray that this small new business venture will prosper.

Continue to pray for their church at Kwa Njenga. They are hoping to find a more suitable place to meet. They are also raising funds for a PA system. The Lord recently blessed their church with a keyboard, for which they greatly praise God.

Charles and Agnes struggle greatly just to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.

Nathan, as he continues to pastor his tiny church and struggles to provide for his family with his small piece of land.

Vera, as she pursues her dream of attending nursing college in Uganda.

Judith, as she leaves behind a stable music career and pursues her dream in an entirely new field for her – farming.

A couple of the guys in my church homegroup (Sam, Mike, Jean Claude, and Nathaniel) are somewhat at a crossroads in their lives. Pray that the Lord’s plan will be accomplished.

Remember my friends at school: Collins; Rose and Sammy; Masudi, Musyoka, and Masha (my friends from the Coast); Jim (Karo’s son); Anaya and Avoga (Robert’s boys); Derrick and Jeremy (George and Linet’s sons); and Angela (Bishop and Margaret’s youngest daughter). They will all be on “holiday” during the month of August. September will then begin their 3rd and final term for the school year.

And for myself -

As always… please pray that I will stay focused on my God-given assignment. I believe the following passage (from the New Living Translation) is an indication that John (the Baptist) not only knew but also was immoveable in regards to his specific assignment. He knew exactly who he was; likewise he knew who he wasn’t. I desire to be equally resolute in carrying out my specific assignment.

John replied, “God in heaven appoints each person’s work.
You yourselves know how plainly I told you that I am not the Messiah.
I am here to prepare the way for Him – that is all.”

John 3:27, 28

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He who has not reached his destination never gets tired.

-Kenyan proverb