29 January 2008

Kenya National Anthem

O God of all creation,

Bless this our land and nation.

Justice be our shield and defender,

May we dwell in unity,

Peace and liberty.

Plenty be found within our borders.

Let one and all arise

With hearts both strong and true.

Service be our earnest endeavor,

And our Homeland of Kenya,

Heritage of splendor,

Firm may we stand to defend.

Let all with one accord

In common bond united,

Build this our nation together,

And the glory of Kenya,

The fruit of our labor

Fill every heart with thanksgiving.

Explanation of the flag

Black represents the majority of the people in Kenya. Red represents the blood shed during the struggle for freedom. Green represents Kenya's agriculture and natural resources. White represents unity and peace. The traditional Maasai shield symbolizes the defense of freedom.

February Prayer Letter

Who woulda thunk it?!

I’ve long been aware of Kenyans’ pent-up frustrations that have brewed over the past decades. I’ve known, for instance, that many have harbored prejudice in their own hearts, while at the same time condemning South Africa of apartheid or the unfair treatment of blacks in the United States.

However… I certainly never could have imagined things would deteriorate so quickly to the desperate situation this nation is now facing. The violence continues to mushroom and escalate.

Each and every one of us living in this beautiful country – both native Kenyans as well as expats – listen to the news every day with heavy and broken hearts. Indeed, we’ve all become consumed with the unfolding events. At any social gathering, it’s the topic on everyone’s lips. I’ve always been an avid reader of one of the local newspapers; now I’ve also become a keen listener to BBC and Voice of America radio programming. I wake up wondering and dreading what the latest shocking and alarming news might be.

It’s almost impossible to articulate what we’ve all experienced in the past month. Things seemed to have calmed down for a few days, only to flare up again last Friday. It could appear to be a downward spiral.
Feelings of disbelief and helplessness alternate with anguish and fear, pain and stress. One can’t help but be overwhelmed with grief over the latest distressing reports of flare-ups and fatalities.

Sadness wells up inside. Weariness sets in.

There’s a prevailing sense of tension on the street. Suspicion and distrust lurks within the minds of many.
Depression threatens to overcome the very psyche of this nation.

Generally speaking, though, Kenyans are more hopeful than fearful. There is an ever-present sense of optimism. In fact, this is something that has always intrigued me about Kenyans! In the midst of dire circumstances, there’s always the belief that tomorrow will be a better day.

I find purpose for my own life and presence in Kenya by personalizing Mordecai’s challenging words to Esther. “Who knows? Maybe you are in Kenya for just such a time as this!”

I echo the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, as I minister to those to whom God has called me:

“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.”

The following quote (also mildly modified) of Henri Nouwen’s encourages me:

“I am not the healer, I am not the reconciler, and I am not the giver of life. I am a sinful, broken, vulnerable person who needs as much care as anyone I care for. The mystery of ministry is that I have been chosen to make my own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.”

“I carry a weapon, too. My weapon is not crude, like a machete, a bow and arrows, an axe, a club, a chain, or stones. My weapon is love. In this critical time in Kenya, may the love of Christ shine out from me. May others sense the calmness of the Holy Spirit within me.”
- A word of exhortation last Sunday at church

“Carry on.
It won’t be long before we’re gathered around God’s throne.
To the lonely missionary… this is not the time to let up.
It’s time to lift your head up.
When you sow in tears, you’ll reap in joy.
Don’t stop, carry on.”
– Ray Boltz (in his song, Carry On)

Such horrible happenings as Kenya has just witnessed conjure up a multitude of questions in ones heart and mind. Most of them have no answer.

Interestingly, Oswald Chambers says that all questions in life can be answered with the words of Jesus, “Come to Me”. How true! As we look into the face of Jesus, nothing else matters.

I appreciate your fervent prayers on my behalf as I carry on!

These ongoing atrocities have profoundly affected all of my Kenyan friends in very significant ways. They’ve been traumatized. Please also pray fervently for them.

Latest Updates on the Situation in Kenya

Kenya Chapter of the International Commission of Jurists rescinded the Jurist of the Year award they had bestowed on Kivuitu (chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya). The Law Society of Kenya struck him from their Roll of Honor and disbarred him.

Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Southern Sudan, and the DRC – all dependent on Kenyan transit for fuel and vital supplies – grind to a halt in the early days of chaos in Kenya.

Free flow of goods and services are hampered in many parts of the country. Milk on dairy farms goes to waste. Gas station pumps dry up. Matatus and buses are grounded.

Some inter-tribal marriages disintegrate in midst of post-election catastrophe.

Rape (including gang rape) and sodomy occur among displaced people who have become residents in hastily organized refugee camps throughout the country.

Genocide Watch (Washington DC-based organization) issued a “Genocide Alert” on Kenya, saying, “Ethnic massacres are an indicator that the risk of genocide in Kenya has risen to Stage 6 (of 7).”

January 10 – As the death toll passed 300, Kenya’s internationally renowned writer and social critic, Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o, called on the United Nations to investigate the “massacres” in the country.

January 11 – Kipkemoi arap Kirui, who blew the whistle (a mere one hour before Kibaki was declared the winner on December 30th) regarding gross negligence in the vote tallying, reveals that he has sought asylum in Europe after his life was threatened. He was involved with the ECK during the election process and said that his “conscience would not allow” him to remain silent.

January 12 – In urban slums and rural areas, after displacing their neighbors, residents claim abandoned houses as their own. “I’m only taking back what belonged to my grandparents.”

January 13 – The East Africa Community (EAC) observer mission issues its verdict that the Kenya general election was flawed and fell short of a free and fair exercise. They state that the vote tallying was grossly mismanaged, thereby critically undermining the credibility of the final stage of the electoral process. They went on to claim that the delay in announcing the results fuelled speculation and fear that the results were being tampered with.

January 14 – New York-based, Human Rights Watch, called on the government to halt the “shoot-to-kill” police policy and to lift its ban on live news coverage.

January 15 – The country’s education sector is facing one of its worst crises ever following the unprecedented exodus of pupils from schools in troubled areas.

January 16 – Much of the town of Kisumu has been destroyed by looters.

January 18 – Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice releases a report titled, Countdown to Deception: 30 Hours that Destroyed Kenya. In it, they claim that the Electoral Commission of Kenya could not have determined the winner of the presidential election from the flawed results received from different constituencies. They detailed numerous anomalies which discredited the election outcome. The report also states that the disputed tallying of the presidential outcome was the main cause of the violent protests sweeping Kenya.

January 21 – The government’s move to close down Nairobi’s Jamhuri Park camp where thousands of displaced people have been living has left a trail of tears and sorrow. Most of the internally displaced people, particularly women and children, say they have nowhere else to go or to start rebuilding their shattered lives. As the announcement to close the camp was relayed to them, panic gripped the camp.

January 22 – Kofi Annan arrives in Kenya. Appointed by the African Union to mediate reconciliation, the former General Secretary of the United Nations will be joined by other members of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities – former South African First Lady Graca Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.

January 23 – International airlines reduce weekly flights to Kenya.

January 24 – It was the handshake that rekindled hope for peace. As millions of Kenyans watched on television, President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga stepped forward yesterday and clasped each other’s hand in a gesture which carried with it the destiny of a battered nation… A collective sigh of relief seemed to sweep across the country in that magic moment – mediator Kofi Annan clapping gently while Kenyans clung to the hope of security after three weeks of bloody protests which brought their nation to the brink of civil war.

January 25 – Human Rights Watch claims ODM officials and elders in Rift Valley province planned and organized ethnic-based violence.

January 26 – Over 50 are killed in a fresh eruption of reprisal violence in Nakuru. Police seem unable to deal with the scale of violent uprisings and put a curfew in effect. The total death count in Kenya since December 30th is now estimated to be around 700.

January 27 – Violence breaks out in Naivasha, with 20 deaths and burned houses. The main highway between Nairobi and Eldoret is closed as unruly young men stop all vehicles, demanding to know the ethnicity of all passengers.

January 28 – Two are killed in Kisumu and chaos continues in Naivasha. Rioters destroy a bridge on the vital highway to Uganda near Eldoret. Traffic in both directions is stopped. Violence also occurs in Kakamega.

January 29 (today) – This morning's news is that the newly-elected member of Parliament from Embakasi (an area of Nairobi, where Bishop and his family live as well as Karo and Jeremiah) was killed last night as he entered the gate to his house. He was from the ODM party. This morning, chaos has erupted in many parts of Nairobi and schools in that area are hurriedly closed.

Basic reasons for a month of chaos and violence

1. Inequality and poverty – Kenya is the world’s 10th most unequal country in the world and ranks among the poorest on the globe. 10% of the population controls 43% of the nation’s wealth.

2. Land hunger – Kenya is an agricultural society; unresolved injustices regarding land go back to colonial and pre-independence days. This has caused deep-seated bitterness that is always simmering just below the surface.

3. Ongoing ethnic clashes – Unresolved wounds (that go back many generations) have continued to fester. The decade of the 1990’s saw many flare-ups and eruptions of ethnic clashes. The flawed 2007 presidential election exacerbated these ever-present and underlying tensions.

4. Poisonous politics – Elections are not issues-oriented; for the most part “tribal mathematics” governs the outcome of all elections. Politicians have mastered manipulation techniques.

5. Failure of leadership – Corruption is rife among Kenya’s political leaders. There is no firm commitment to democratic principles, nor is there any evidence of selflessness or statesmanship. Rather the leaders can be seen as solely greedy for power and the spoils that accompany it.

6. Long overdue constitutional reform – Kibaki was elected in 2002 with an overwhelming majority and a sense of euphoria. He was given a mandate to generate a new constitution in his first five-year term; he failed to do that.

7. 2007 presidential election – The fact that it ended virtually in a dead heat, plus the perception that it was rigged and “stolen” were both the final straw.

Additional factors:

1. Most of the participants in the rioting, mayhem, destruction, and murder are idle, unemployed young men who have lost hope. They have nothing to do and nothing to lose.

2. Vernacular FM radio stations enflame feelings of hatred.

3. Hateful text messages make the rounds via cell phones, adding fuel to the fire.

4. Frequent use of repressive and brutal force by the police and military has aggravated volatile situations.

5. Violence is along tribal lines, pitting one ethnic community against another. Then a cycle of revenge reprisals develops.

6. Recent outbreaks in Rift Valley province have appeared to be organized. The ethnic militias were quickly mobilized and seem to function in a pre-determined manner.

“Concentration of authority marks almost all present political systems

which have become unwieldy and top-heavy:

be they capitalistic, socialist, or communist systems.

The individuals count no more,
though as voters they are styled as masters.

They present themselves at periodical elections for casting votes

and then sleep away until the next one.

This is the only political action the individual performs
once in a stipulated period…

The individual has little or no voice
in the shaping of the policy of government.

In a welfare state or a totalitarian regime

the individual is reduced to the position of a dumb,
driven animal in human form.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

For decades, Kenya has been one of the most stable countries in the continent. It was even seen as the “jewel of Africa”. Many Kenyans had the sense that they lived in a paradise of peace, a rare oasis in the midst of warring nations. In fact, the irony is that Kenya is known for brokering peace deals for her warring neighbors. However, it’s now apparent that this sense of peace was false.

At least a quarter of a million people are now internally displaced, having been violently chased from their homes. Many of those homes were destroyed. These people (many of them women and children) now seek shelter in emergency camps at churches, schools, police stations, fairgrounds, etc. Again, there’s another irony to be seen. Kenya has been known for offering sanctuary to her neighboring country’s refugees for many years.

II Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Ethnic and Political Violence in Kenya

A compilation of excerpts from articles at BBC.com

I thought it would give you a good overview
of some of the history of what's going on in Kenya.

The ethnic and political violence in Kenya has renewed debate about whether multi-party democracy can be successful in an African context where ethnic loyalties are strong. If you ask almost any African this question the answer will be: "Yes, democracy can work... if only our leaders allowed it."

It would be naive in the extreme to discount ethnicity in any African election. The reality of life on the world's poorest continent is that most people live a marginal economic existence and rely enormously, for survival, on those nearest to them.

Rural villagers rely on each other, for example, to bring in the crop, or to share food in difficult times. Urban dwellers often organize themselves to provide common services like schools because their governments are either too poor or too incompetent to deliver.

In these circumstances the people nearest to you - whom you can trust - are first, family, and second, tribe. African politicians know this formula very well and many of them exploit it ruthlessly. "Vote for me," they say, "because I'm from your tribe and you can trust me."

The most dramatic recent illustration of this kind of manipulation was the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Hutus were persuaded by an extremist Hutu power bloc that all Tutsis were their enemies.

There are many other less catastrophic examples. Politics in Nigeria, for example, is a complex chessboard of ethnicity and religion. The presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006 divided the country along ethnic and linguistic lines. And even in a peaceful, democratic country like Ghana, it is clear that ethnic Ashantis, for example, tend to vote one way while ethnic Ewes tend to vote another.

But at the same time there is usually a further explanation - beyond ethnic group - for the way people vote or the way they react to situations like the current crisis in Kenya. That explanation is almost always rooted in money - or a lack of it - and the cynical search for power by politicians. It is no coincidence that the people who usually perpetrate "tribal violence" are unemployed young men.

In Ivory Coast in the late 1990s, for example, the campaign against northerners that was orchestrated by southern politicians - and which eventually led to a full-scale civil war - was spearheaded by youths, who were paid a daily rate for the job.

African intellectuals who concede there is a problem of tribalism on the continent - or, rather, a problem of the deliberate manipulation of tribal sentiment by selfish politicians - stress that there is also a rational solution.

Part of the solution, they say, is economic development. If there is growth in the economy there will be more education and less ignorance about fellow citizens of other tribes - and, of course, fewer unemployed thugs for politicians to "buy" for a few cents a day.

Another part of the solution, they say, is genuine democracy with genuinely independent law courts. People would have no need to rely on their tribe if they could rely on all their ballot papers being counted, and could expect honest judgments from courts.

Here, Africa can point to progress in recent decades. Fifty years ago, almost the entire continent was ruled by foreign colonial powers. Even just 20 years ago, most African countries were run by dictators or military juntas.

What's behind the violence in Kenya?

The immediate trigger has been the disputed election results. But ethnic tension, which has dogged Kenyan politics since independence in 1963, is widely believed to underlie much of the violence. With patronage and corruption still common, many Kenyans believe that if one of their relatives is in power, they will benefit directly, for example through a relative getting a civil service job.

The current tensions can be traced back to the 1990’s, when then President Moi was forced to introduce multi-party politics. Members of Moi's Kalenjin ethnic group (the dominant group in the Rift Valley Province) felt threatened by the move. The region has a history of land disputes. Some of those disputes were originally caused by what was coyly called European "settlement" - which created refugees hungry for land. More recently, Kenyan politicians have practiced more appropriately-named "land grabs" in parts of the country. It is therefore no coincidence that some of the worst violence has been in the Rift Valley area.

Raila, from the Luo community, has a fairly wide support base across ethnic groups and has portrayed himself as challenging Kenya's political establishment. He promised during his campaign to address the extreme income inequalities in the country.

Kibaki depends heavily on the votes of Kikuyus (the largest ethnic group in the country) but also has support from smaller communities.

Under Kibaki’s presidency the economy has been growing steadily, but most Kenyans have not yet felt the benefits of this. In the overcrowded slums around Nairobi, residents have to cope with violent gangs, no sewers (people use plastic bags as toilets and throw them out of the window), and intermittent electricity.

Kenya’s citizens are divided into 42 ethnic groups. The five largest groups make up almost ¾ of the population:

  • Kikuyu – 22%
  • Luhya – 14%
  • Luo – 13%
  • Kalenjin – 12%
  • Akamba – 11%

More from Ngong Hills

This is Sam fighting against the wind.
Okay, so he was being a bit dramatic.

It was very windy that day, however!

A rest break for everyone
We were T-I-R-E-D!!!

Two Final Shots from Ngong Hills

Totally unsuspecting that future events
would turn so seriously violent,
we had some fun with our oranges
(that we had brought along for our lunch)
in honor of the ODM party
(Orange Democratic Movement).

Kim and Collins towards the end of our day.

We had an absolute blast!

17 January 2008

A Hike at Ngong Hills

On the day after the election, I went hiking at Ngong Hills with eleven other people. It was extremely windy early in the day, that's why I'm holding onto my hat! We had an absolutely wonderful time! This was my 6th time to hike it; I find the view spectacular. The hike itself is quite strenuous! There are four main peaks with extremely steep slopes. All together, we walked a good 15 miles!

Re-Cap and Update on Happenings in Kenya

I thought I'd include some “normal” information for you first, before my brief re-cap and update on the happenings in Kenya.

It's been raining in Nairobi the past few days, especially at night and in the mornings. Sometimes it's quite heavy. The sky has been overcast and the temperatures are cooler than normal for this time of year (considered to be “summer” in Kenya). I just walked 30 minutes from my house to Karen shops, so there were puddles and mud on the way. I saw a camel being guided by a young white guy – rather a rare sight (on both counts). The camel kicked excitedly when a dog got near its feet.

Once at Karen, I found that there's no power in most of the businesses. The lady at the post office spent a good five minutes looking for a form I needed. Ah! In many ways, life in Kenya is just "normal" as always! hahaha!

NOTE – Let me start with a very brief mention of one aspect of Kenya's history. There have been a series of serious injustices that have been commited towards various people groups ever since Kenya gained her independence. As a result, there are some very deep-seated resentments and mistrust between various tribes. Even though it could appear that Kenya is the rare African country that has enjoyed peace and stability, in fact there has always been this tension just below the surface. Flare-ups are not at all unusual; many times they are violent. So, this latest turmoil that is being experienced is no surprise to many.

A re-cap and update:

During the presidential campaigns: Women candidates were attacked and even killed

Pre-election polls: “Expected results of the presidential contest are too close to call.”

Election Day (Thursday, December 27th): Millions of Kenyan citizens exercised their right to vote (some for the first time in their lives). Hundreds of thousands stood in line for 6-8 hours. For the most part, the day progressed without violence or incidence.

Sunday, December 30th: The result of the presidential contest is announced amid much confusion. ODM (the opposition party) garnered the majority of parliament seats. They vehemently claimed the presidential outcome was rigged. Incumbent President Kibaki is hurriedly and secretly sworn in. A media blackout of live updates is ordered by the government. A week of chaos breaks out throughout the entire country.

ODM supporters repeatedly attempted to hold peaceful rallies to express their concerns. However, the sitting government declared them to be "illegal". Huge numbers of police are seen in many parts of the country.

Virtually the entire international community condemned the vote tallying fiasco and declared the election not to be “free and fair”. They have also repeatedly decried the ban the freedom of press and the restriction on the constitutional freedom of expression. The chairman and other officers of the Electoral Commission of Kenya have admitted that there were many irregularities and discrepancies in the vote tallying.

During early post-election chaos: Several hundred killed and injured, businesses destroyed and looted, thousands of homes burned causing hundreds of thousands of people to be displaced with only the clothes on their back, women and girls raped, many main highways in the nation closed, employees unable to reach their places of work, shops closed or only open for minimal hours each day, price gouging and panic buying of food, tourist industry virtually collapses. Much fear, depression, and psychological trauma sets in among Kenyan citizens. People fear leaving their homes. Hospitals were overwhelmed. Many small medical clinics closed when they ran out of supplies. Relief efforts begin to provide food, clothing, and personal effects for the displaced families.

Jendayi Frazier (US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs) and John Kufour (President of Ghana and President of the African Union) came to Kenya to help mediate peace talks, but both left without accomplishing much. Kibaki insists that Kenya can iron out her own difficulties. Frazier warned that the US may impose sanctions if a resolution isn’t found soon.

Tuesday, January 15th

Kofi Annan was scheduled to arrive (with other Eminent African Personalities) to continue in the peace brokering process; however he was taken ill before arriving.

Opening day of Parliament: ODM members of parliament refused to stand when Kibaki entered the house. The session was conducted according to standing procedures. All members were sworn in. ODM’s choices were elected for both Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House. The Speaker, especially, is a key position of power. Much healthy debate took place. The session was aired live on TV and radio; Kenyans watched it with much interest. Parliament is now on recess (likely until March), which is fairly standard practice.

Three days of “mass demonstrations” have been called (yesterday, today, and tomorrow) by ODM. They are once again declared to be “illegal” by the government.

Here’s an overview of Wednesday’s rallies:

  • Mombasa – Muslim clerics attempt to hold a peaceful sit-in. Police throw tear gas at them as they quietly sing the national anthem.
  • Kisumu – Mayhem breaks out and police use live bullets to disperse the crowds. Shops all close their doors. One person is killed.
  • Nairobi – As crowds gathered in the afternoon, main artery roads were closed throughout the city by police. Businesses closed their doors. Thousands of people were forced to walk home as the public transportation sector shut down. ODM leaders were dispersed by tear gas. Running battles occurred in Kibera, the city's largest slum.

You may ask how I’m doing amidst all of this. I haven’t feared for my safety at all. The area of Nairobi where I live has seen relative calm, although there have been some disruptions to normal life. Actually, I find the whole thing to be a bit intriguing. I don’t venture out very far on days when turmoil is expected. I continue to go to church and homegroup (biking or walking). I went to downtown Nairobi on Monday to have my hair cut. I’ve had friends over to my house numerous times.

Many of my friends have been affected by all of this. Life in Kenya is generally always difficult. The recent happenings have simply added to the situation. Please join me in praying for them:

  • Collins – He hopes to enter his new school tomorrow. He was delayed in traveling home from my place and has also been delayed in getting back to school.
  • Mark Deng Deng – He was to travel back to Kakuma yesterday (I haven’t yet heard from him regarding his safe arrival). His ability to travel was greatly delayed due to the ongoing chaos in the country (the “upcountry” public transportation industry has been overwhelmed).
  • Masudi – He has started back to school (5 days later than his school opened).
  • M – His small-scale business was destroyed by fire in the early post-election violence. My church has contributed some financial assistance for him.

Unrelated to the political situation:
  1. E and E – buried their 2-day old baby on Tuesday (she died from complications during delivery). She was their first child. I attended the funeral.
  2. Joy – She has food allergies, a zinc deficiency, and an ongoing lack of appetite.
  3. Vera – An old injury is causing her much pain. She is on an antibiotic and morphine.

How to pray for me:

  • That my walk with the Lord would be vibrant and that I would be sensitve to His leading
  • That I would have discernment to know how to minister to those God has called me to, especially during this troubled time in Kenya
  • That I would have wisdom to know when to travel to my house at Matunda

11 January 2008

Update on the Political and Humanitarian Crises in Kenya

This was a campaign poster for ODM,
whose presidential candidate was Raila Odinga

Friday, January 11th

The deadlock continues between Mwai Kibaki and his PNU party (Party of National Unity) and Raila Odinga and his ODM party (Orange Democratic Movement). Kibaki still maintains that he was legitimately elected whereas Raila is adamant that he had garnered the majority of votes. ODM insists that fresh presidential elections should be held in three months. Many have called for both Kibaki and the Electoral Commissioner to resign.

The resulting violence that rocked much of Kenya for a week has subsided. Businesses are now open and one could say that a sense of normalcy has returned. However tensions are still quite high. Many Kenyans are disappointed and angry about the turn of events.

It’s now estimated that 600 have been killed in various parts of the country. At least 250,000 have been displaced (most internally in Kenya, but some have fled to neighboring Uganda). Organizations and churches have organized relief operations to feed and cater to these homeless folks. There are thousands that have been injured; hospitals are overwhelmed. The new academic year has been greatly affected, with the opening dates of all schools (primary, secondary, and university) postponed

Last week, Jendayi Frazier (from the US) arrived to make an attempt at brokering a compromise. Anticipating effective mediation talks, Raila postponed the rallies he wanted to hold around the country. He strongly desired to hold peaceful gatherings in order to allow people to express their frustrations about the controversial tallying of the votes.

John Kufour, president of Ghana and also of the Africa Union, came to Kenya to mediate talks between “President” Kibaki and Raila Odinga, his closest opponent in the recent election. However, he left yesterday after the talks reached an impasse and collapsed. Kofi Annan (former Secretary General of the United Nations) and other prominent African leaders are expected to arrive in the country in order to make a second attempt to resolve the stalemate.

In the meantime, Kibaki has announced his Vice President and most of his cabinet positions. He has also announced that Parliament will open on Tuesday, the 15th. He seems to believe that the more time that passes by, the more Kenyans will accept him as the winner of the disputed election. Many however, question how he expects to lead this nation without a clear mandate of its people. Another interesting factor is that ODM holds the majority of seats in parliament.

Yesterday, a group of 100 women – ODM sympathizers – attempted to hold a peaceful march. Police dispersed them with teargas.

I personally know of many very unfortunate incidents. The stories are unending and it’s all very sad. Collins and Robert joined thousands of Kenyans who were finally able to travel this week, having been stranded by the crisis. Both of them confessed to me that they were quite disturbed by the scenes they saw along the highway – burned homes and cars, homeless people, a heavy police presence, etc.

The atrocities that were committed will leave psychological scars for years. Some have said that the massacres were ethnic cleansing and should be investigated as “crimes against humanity”. There have been random acts of violence committed by hooligans, but by far, most of the tragedy has been targeted towards one ethnic community.

Please pray for wisdom for the leaders of Kenya!

Mombasa / Ukunda Photos

This is Masudi. We've been friends now for over five years. He's 17 and will enter Form Four (senior year of high school) this year. However, schools all over Kenya have delayed their opening days due to all the chaos. We spent some time at the beach. I love swimming in the ocean!

Siaya, in Nyanza Province

Karo and her children, Jim and Joy, travelled with me to visit her parents. This was Jim's first time to see their new well. He enjoyed drawing water from it!

My good friend, Karo

Her parents, Agnes and Joseph, with some of their grandkids

Joy is such a cutie! She's always busy!
Here she's sweeping in the kitchen. What a pill!

I took Jim and Lucia into Siaya town one day for some errands. Lucia is a neighbor boy who recently started living with Karo's parents. His family is very poor and really struggles to survive. Our outing was his first time to ride in a vehicle! His eyes were as big as saucers! This meal was Lucia's first time to have "chips", sausage, and a soda, as well as to use a straw!

My Place at Matunda

Jim and Martin helped me dig holes to put in a bench out in the yard.
They really worked hard!

Martin has his foot proudly placed on the new bench.

This is Martin with his family. Faith wasn't around when I took the photo.
I've known this family for over five years now.

Nathan added some more grass to this one corner of my roof. It was getting thin in areas and rain was coming inside. In the top photo, you can see that he used this 2x3 piece of "timber" to hold himself in place on the slanted roof. His "ladder" is a desk he borrowed from the school. In the bottom photo, he's using his "panga" (machete) to trim the edges of the grass.

The Matunda market area didn't escape the violence and destruction during the recent political crisis. Shops and homes were burned down and families were chased from the area. I've heard reports of some killings, as well, although I'm not sure if it's a rumor or not.

Sinoko, in the Cherangani Hills Area

Jim and I went to see a friend of mine, Ben, at Sinoko. Through the course of the day, we walked about 6 miles! This top photo is a portion of one of the walls in Ben's "sitting room" (living room). Many rural Kenyans decorate their sitting rooms in such a manner. However, Ben had all four walls covered! One thing is sure, there's never a reason to have a lull in the conversation.

Those of you from Omaha and some of you that have been to Kenya will see some familiar faces in the upper area of this wall.

This is Ben's parents and some of his family
(with a few neighbors thrown in for good measure).

Jim, Ben, and Meshack (Ben's brother)

Motorcycles are becoming more and more common forms of transportation in many rural areas. It's a little more expensive than hiring a bicycle taxi, but the speed is nice. Also, you don't have to get off and walk up any hills! This was Jim's first time on a motorcycle. You can see from his wide grin that he was quite excited!

Christmas at My House

Before everyone arrived,
Collins decorated some sugar cookies that I'd baked.
He did a great job, almost as if he'd been doing it all his life!

Jeremiah sang a song for us in Luhya

Mark and his friend, John, sang us a song in Dinka
(the language of South Sudan)

Joy, all dressed up pretty!

Moses entertained himself with my "sudoku rubics cube"

Boxing Day

This is the group that spent the night at my house on Christmas day. A total of 14 were at my house for dinner. We had a great time!

Jim and Lucia enjoyed playing Jenga with me!

This is Cala, one of my neighbors' dogs. Collins had never seen such a large dog in his life (dogs in rural Kenya are somewhat rare and are usually scrawny versions of smaller mixed breeds). Initially he was very frightened by Cala, but eventually they became friends.

On Boxing Day (a holiday of British origins on December 26th), Collins, Jim, Lucia, and I went to the Animal Orphanage (like a small zoo). We had a wonderful time!

These Maasai warriors were there to entertain the crowds.

02 January 2008

January 2008 Prayer Letter

I Deb, am under God’s plan as a missionary, a special agent of Christ Jesus, writing to you faithful readers of my blog. I greet you with the grace and peace poured into our lives by God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 1: 1,2 – this passage and others from Ephesians are my personalized paraphrases of The Message)

It’s been a hard year but I’m climbing out of the rubble.
“Less Like Scars” by Sara Groves

Indeed, it has been a hard year! My Dad died, my house at Matunda was broken into three times (with numerous items stolen), I suffered serious injuries when I was hit by a car, and Kenya is currently in much turmoil after a very controversial presidential election.

“Whenever you obey God, His seal is always that of peace, the witness of an unfathomable peace, which is not natural, but the peace of Jesus.”
Oswald Chambers

I do have peace about being in Kenya, in spite of the many challenges. Fortunately, there are also many rewarding moments.

“God created me by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for me to do, work I had better be doing.” (Ephesians 2:10)

“He’s using me in what He’s building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using me.” (Ephesians 2:21)

I often feel a sense of satisfaction that I am in God’s perfect will and that He is using me. How incredibly amazing that He would use me! I continually marvel at that.

“Any problem, and there are many, that is alongside me while I obey God, increases my ecstatic delight, because I know that my Father knows, and I am going to watch and see how He unravels this thing.”
Oswald Chambers

As it says in II Chronicles, at times I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are always on God! I look to Him for my guidance, provision, and comfort. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me!

Praise Report

My trip to Mombasa and Ukunda to see Masudi went very well. He’s growing into quite an adult; it’s exciting to be a part of his life!

My trip to Siaya with Karo, Jim, and Joy also went very well. Her parents are still struggling just to put food on the table, but they continually give praise to their God. They were pleased when I attended their tiny church for the first time.

Jim then accompanied me to Matunda. We had a nice time at my house. Collins joined us now and then, as did Martin.

Jim and I took a couple of day trips to Cherangani Hills (to visit Ben) and Sikhendu (to visit Rose’s grandfather; I wanted to offer my condolences to the family after Doris’ death, Rose’s mom).

The Lord protected me on all these road journeys. I praise Him for that! The number of recent highway fatalities is extremely alarming, to say the least!
Don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the message that I am responsible for getting out. (Ephesians 6: 19,20)


Sunday, December 23rd, Christmas Carol service

Karo and Joy joined Collins and I for the evening Christmas Carol service at my church. I manned the laptop, projecting the songs onto a screen. An adult choir, a violinist, the praise and worship team, some children, a few soloists, and the packed-house congregation all joined in together singing rousing renditions of many of the traditional songs. Silent Night was sung by candle light. We enjoyed miniature mince pies, cookies, and mulled wine afterwards.

Monday, December 24th, Christmas Eve

Interestingly, Christmas Eve is a normal working day in Kenya. I spent the entire day shopping for groceries and cooking for my guests due to arrive the next day!

Tuesday, December 25th, Christmas Day

I had 14 friends over for a scrumptious lasagna lunch on Christmas Day! Mark prayed for the meal in Dinka and Moses read Luke, chapter 2. Besides all the food we consumed, we also sang some praise and worship songs – English, Dinka (the language of south Sudan), Kikuyu, Luhya, and Luo (mother tongue languages of Kenya). Everyone, including the children, really got into that. I gave each person a small paper sack with an orange from South Africa, plus a few other simple age-appropriate items.

In spite of the fact that there was no snow on the ground, the temperature was 80 degrees, I didn’t have a Christmas tree, and we didn’t eat any traditional American Christmas foods (except sugar cookies)... it was a lovely and unforgettable way to celebrate the birth of our Lord! We all thoroughly enjoyed the day!

Eight of my guests spent the night.

Status of water in my house: Sporadic during the entire day.

Boxing Day and Election Day

Wednesday, December 26th, Boxing Day
(a public holiday in Kenya with British origins)

By mid-morning the following day, I remained with only 16-year old Collins (who had been with me since we left Matunda together on the 20th), 12-year old Jim (Karo’s son, who had been with me since we left Siaya together on the 10th), and 9-year old Lucia (who came back from Siaya with Karo). We went to the Animal Orphanage (sort of a small zoo). We had a fantastic time, as the animals were quite active and there was a nice holiday crowd. Jim was amazed with the lions, cheetahs, and leopards. Collins especially enjoyed the restless hyena. Lucia (who was away from his village home for the first time in his life) was wide-eyed at ALL of it!

Jim and Lucia found a reserve of energy somewhere and jumped to their hearts’ content in a bouncing castle, while Collins and I enjoyed some jumping and singing Maasai warriors. We had Jim’s all-time favorite lunch of “chips” (fries), sausage, and “soda” (pop). We topped it off with an ice cream cone. It was a memorable day for all of us.

Mood of the country: There is much euphoria and anticipation about the elections. Opinion polls indicate the presidential race is too close to call. The highest turnout in Kenya’s history is predicted.

Status of water in my house: Sporadic again.

Thursday, December 27th, Election Day
(a public holiday)

While the rest of the nation went to the polls to choose their president and parliament, the three boys stayed busy playing outside with my neighbor kids, putting together a puzzle, coloring, and playing cards. In the afternoon, we all went on a 2-hour hike. It was interesting, as we passed through sort of a forested area.

Mood of the country: Voting goes fairly well throughout Kenya, with only isolated flare-ups and violence. Thousands stood in line for up to eight hours in order to exercise their right to vote. Everyone is eager to hear the outcome. International observers declare it to be a “free and fair” election, as far as the voting process went.

Friday, December 28th
(yet another public holiday by presidential decree, as people await the results of the election)

We met Karo downtown, in order to return Jim and Lucia to her. The whole area was practically deserted. Even large supermarkets were closed! On our way home, Collins and I stopped at two large outdoor markets. Both were deserted! Everyone is home watching the news to see who will be the new president.

Mood of the country: People are getting restless waiting for the results. In the evening, Collins and I walked to my doctor’s house to watch the TV coverage. Besides being my doctors, Chunge and his wife, Ruth, have become my good friends through the years. Now, they’re also my neighbors.

Subsequent Days

Saturday, December 29th

Twelve of us hiked Ngong Hills, meeting at my house at 7:30am. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! This was my 6th or 7th time there, but no matter how many times I go, I find the scenery to be absolutely stunning. We did all four of the big peaks, which is a total of 10 very strenuous miles. The altitude is 8,000 feet, so breathing on the steep inclines becomes quite a challenge. Additionally, we walked two miles (also uphill) from Ngong town to the entrance to the hills. Upon reaching the end, at “Kona Baridi” (cold corner), we walked another three miles towards Kiserian (the closest town). Finally our armed guard for the day (a requirement by the Kenya Wildlife Service) got a lift and hired a matatu to come back for us. It was good to finally reach home and take a shower!

Mood of the country: Throughout the day, each of us had received numerous updates via our phones regarding what was going on in all parts of the country. Certain parts of Nairobi were “no-go zones” due to the unruly crowds. Collins and I went to Chunge’s house again to watch the TV coverage. They’ve cancelled a much-anticipated family trip to Mombasa due to the situation. Things are not looking good. People were getting impatient to know the results; rigging was strongly suspected. The Electoral Commission did not seem to be completely transparent in the tallying process. One polling station reported 99% turnout and another, 115%! Many of the large supermarkets and almost all small kiosks closed early or did not open at all.

Sunday, December 30th

Some churches cancelled services due to the widespread unrest, but my church went ahead with theirs. Although the congregation was smaller than normal, we had a great service. We spent over 15 minutes in intense prayer for the nation of Kenya.

Mood of the country: Helicopters patroling the city can be heard overhead. Just before 6:00pm, the Electoral Commission forced the media to leave the premises of their headquarters. The incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, was declared the winner. Shortly thereafter, Kibaki was secretly sworn into office. Raila continued to claim that the counting was full of fraud. Widespread violence and destruction erupted, virtually shutting down the entire nation. Police in riot gear were dispersed everywhere. TV and radio were forbidden to give any live updates, essentially creating a news blackout. Again, virtually all businesses were closed throughout the day. There is very little movement around the country, with hundreds of thousands of families hunkering down in their homes, afraid to venture out. Fear is the order of the day.

NOTE: Kenya is composed of 42 tribes. This election, like every other one in its history, basically followed tribal lines. The violence is being perpetrated – for the most part – by the youth of a few tribes who were for the opposition candidate, Raila Odinga, pitted against the largest tribe of the nation, who were predominantly for the incumbent.

Text message I received: “Tonight will be very bad.”

Monday, December 31st
(also declared a public holiday by the president, as is common for the day immediately after the swearing in of a new president in Kenya)

Collins didn't feel well all morning, most likely due to all the distressing news we've been hearing. He went to “Karen shops” (near my house) in the afternoon, to see what food items he could find for us. None of the three grocery stores were open! He managed to find two small loaves of bread and a milk packet at a small kiosk; he got some fruit and eggs at a small produce store. Phone credit was not available anywhere!

Mood of the country: Much fear. Public transportation was almost at a standstill, both in cities and rural areas. Urban and rural market areas (including the normally bustling one at Matunda) were like ghost towns – completely deserted! Throughout the day, Collins and I were able to get the best information from BBC (originating in London). Local stations concentrated on music (due to the gag order) and appealed for peace. Late in the day, numerous reports of killings, looting of businesses, and torching of buildings and homes were reported.

Text messages I received throughout the day:

“It’s getting to be like hell. Deb, please cry out to God to intervene.”

“I can still hear gunfire. Feels like a bad dream.”

“We’ve received reports of houses and churches being burned down. Please pray.”

“Just got a call from Dad that people are starting to fight near home. He said not to come home tonight. We’re holed up at a friend’s house. Please pray.”

“It’s bad everywhere.”

"My neighbor's houses have been burned to the ground!"

“I’m almost out of credit. Mom can’t travel to her Mom’s funeral. My sister is spending nights at a police station for safety. My bro can’t come for his kids. My travel plans have been suspended.”

Status of water in my house: None all afternoon and evening. But we had filled all available containers in the morning anticipating the problem.

Tuesday, January 1st
(naturally this is also a public holiday)

I was finally able to get a good night’s sleep (10 hours)! I walked to Karen shops. Fortunately, I got to Nakumatt (a large grocery store) just as it was opening. Over 100 people poured in at the same time. Many shelves were already empty. There was virtually no produce or fresh milk. Items like flour, sugar, rice, bread, and long-life milk disappeared quickly. I was also able to get a newspaper. The stories and photos were very sad and very depressing. My friend, Mike (from church) came over for the afternoon. It’s always good to spend time with him!

Mood of the country: Much sadness. By evening the number of people killed is reported to be 200! 30-40 people (mostly women and children) died in a torched church in Eldoret, where they had gone to seek shelter. Local public transportation is increasing somewhat, but no vehicles are allowed to reach downtown Nairobi, which is the main hub of all routes. Mayhem is still rampant all around the country! Price gouging goes on in the few small shops and kiosks that are open; fuel is scarce throughout the entire nation. President Kibaki gave his annual New Year’s speech, repeating his claim that Kenya has just conducted “free and fair elections”. The international community called for an audit of the vote counting.

Status of water in my house: Intermittent in the morning; on through some of the day, but dirty. None available in the evening.

Wednesday, January 2nd
(first normal working day in since December 24th)

Life, at least in our neck of the woods, seems to have returned to a relative sense of normalcy. The newspaper is full of horror stories!

John, the carpenter on the compound where I live said this to me this morning -

"Our country - now, what can we do? It's so bad. The only thing is just to pray!"