15 December 2015

Celebrating Kenya's Jamhuri Day; another fun picnic at Uhuru Park plus some history for you

Jamhuri Day is a national holiday in Kenya, celebrated on December 12th. It marks the date Kenya gained full independence from the British colonialists in 1963. Jamhuri is the Swahili word for republic.

Statue of Dedan Kimathi, downtown Nairobi

Jamhuri Day is often associated with Dedan Kimathi, the executed field marshal of the famous Mau Mau, a revolutionary guerrilla force. They fought valiantly against the British colonial government in Kenya in the 1950s. At the age of 37, he was convicted and executed by the British colonial government. Kimathi and his fellow Mau Mau rebels are recognized as heroes in the struggle for Kenyan independence.

"We reject colonization in Kenya. The journey to freedom is full of sacrifices, tears, hunger, clothes full of lice, blood, and death. 
I do not lead terrorists. I lead Africans who want their 
self-government and land. God did not intend that one nation 
be ruled by another forever. I consider myself a great 
African patriot fighting, not for the liberation of Kenya alone, 
but for East Africa and the rest of the continent. 
I would rather die on my legs than live on my knees.
~Dedan Kimathi (1920-1957)

Robai and Esther enjoy a boat ride for the first time in their lives!

Joy joins me for a selfie, while we paddle the boat

The guys - Cliff and Jeremy

The other guys - Derrick and Jim

Esther and Robai also braved a camel ride for their first time. Joy, on the other hand, is quite accomplished at it.

The guys, on the other hand, all chose to ride a horse. Here's Jim ready to head out.

The kids also enjoyed throwing a Frisbee; some were quite adept at it and others not so much. And, like every picnic I've hosted at Uhuru Park through the years, we shared our lunch with several hungry street boys. Needless to say, they were very grateful. A couple of them even joined in with the Frisbee fun... a few moments of joy in the midst of their extremely difficult lives.

What's a picnic without ice cream and getting your face painted?

Jeremiah and Carol's daughter, Jaiden, is almost 7-months old.
Unfortunately Jasmine wasn't feeling well, so she's not in any of the photos.

“Work is a blessing. God has so arranged the world that work is necessary, 
and He gives us hands and strength to do it. The enjoyment of leisure would be nothing 
if we had only leisure. It is the joy of work well done that enables us to enjoy rest, 
just as it is the experiences of hunger and thirst that make food and drink such pleasures.” 
~ Elisabeth Elliot, Discipline: The Glad Surrender

Uhuru Park, just on the edge of downtown Nairobi, is quite beautiful and large.
On holidays like Jamhuri Day, thousands of people descend on it to enjoy a relaxing day.

This picnic marks 14 years for me serving the Lord in Kenya. I can't think of a better way to recognize the anniversary than to hang out with some of my friends - the very ones to whom God has connected me.

I hope you also allow time in your life for smiles, leisure, relaxing, laughter, friends, and enjoying God's great-out-of-doors. Make a point to take a break, now and then, in the midst of your work-a-day routine!

Go ride a camel!

10 December 2015

Joyful Expectancy; A great day at Matunda, my old stomping grounds

For nine years I frequented Matunda, a large market on the highway between Eldoret and Kitale. But in the past few years, I have mostly traveled past it without stopping. Recently I enjoyed a fabulous day there with good friends... including one I hadn't seen for a long time.

The selfie above was taken while on the back of a motorbike taxi, heading down the highway, with Deb seated in front of me.

"Handwriting corner"

I met Nathan, Alice, and Deb at Fountain Grammar School, just past Matunda market. We met with the deputy principal and a secretary, discussing details for Deb to enter the school as a boarder in January.

Deb, proudly sporting her new school track suit in front of the gate

Getting fitted by a tailor for one of her dress uniforms

Later we all enjoyed chicken, chips, and a soda at Olive Inn

I've known Nathan and Alice since I first stepped foot in Kenya and we've been good friends ever since. They used to live just down the hill from my mud hut and had me over for dinner many, many times. Deb, who was named for me, is their second-born and has five brothers.

Deb's youngest brother enjoyed his lunch
and even ate one of the chicken bones!

As we moved around the market, I saw several old
friends, including this fellow from whom I have
bought many newspapers through the years.

A wonderful unexpected surprise to our day was reconnecting with this young man, Martin. He used to hang out with me when he was between 5-8 years old, helping me with various chores and projects at my mud house. We couldn't communicate very well because of the language barrier, but he had an uncanny sense of knowing just what to do next in order to help me. Now 18-years old, he's had a tough life in recent years, losing both of his parents.

Nathan and Alice were also very happy to see him again!

As soon as we abandon ourselves to God 
and do the task He has placed closest to us, 
He begins to fill our lives with surprises. 

When we have the right relationship with God, 
life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.
~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

In an effort to earn his daily bread, Martin hires this motorbike and uses it as a taxi.

08 December 2015

Pope Francis visits Kenya; his first stop of three countries, on his first visit to Africa

When Jorge Mario Bergoglio (from Argentina) was elected Pope in March of 2013, he chose the name Francis in honor of Francis of Assisi. Like him, this new head of the Catholic church is concerned for the well-being of the poor.

Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has also been known for his humility, emphasis on God's mercy, and commitment to interfaith dialogue. He maintains a humble, less formal approach to the papacy than his predecessors.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his wife, Margaret, welcome Pope Francis to Kenya

Throughout his public life, Pope Francis has been noted for his humility, emphasis on God's mercy, and concern for the poor. He also believes the church should be more open and welcoming. As pope his manner is less formal than that of his predecessors: a style that news coverage has referred to as no frills, noting that it is "his common touch and accessibility that is proving the greatest inspiration."

An estimated 600,000 attended the mass at the University of Nairobi or viewed it at Uhuru Park.
Many stood in line as it rained throughout the night in order to get a spot.

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has made a point to meet the most needy on each of his 10 foreign tours. While on the continent of Africa in late November, he visited Kenya, Uganda, and the Central African Republic.

An estimated one third of Kenya’s 45 million people are Catholics. Africa's rapidly-growing Catholic population is expected to reach half a billion by 2050.

Pope Francis celebrates mass at the University of Nairobi

Sampling of Pope Francis' comments while in Nairobi

"Christian families have this special mission: To radiate God's love, and to spread the life-giving waters of his Spirit. This is especially important today, for we are seeing the growth of new deserts created by a culture of materialism and indifference to others."

Concern for the poor
"I ask you in particular to show genuine concern for the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young, and a just distribution of the natural and human resources with which the Creator has blessed your country."

People stood for hours in the rain, for a chance to see Pope Francis

"Corruption takes away our joy and our peace. Each time we put a bribe in our pockets we destroy our hearts, we destroy our personalities, and we destroy our country. Please don't develop a taste for corruption. Each of us must resist practices which foster arrogance in man."

"May you always reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things are not of God. Overcoming tribalism is a daily endeavor that requires Kenyans to listen one another to avoid division. Like Kenya, many African countries are working to build on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue, and cooperation, creating a multi-ethnic society which is truly harmonious, just, and inclusive."

Radicalization and terrorism
"Inter-religious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential. God’s name must never be used to justify hatred and violence. All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies. If a young woman or man has no work or cannot study, what can he or she do? The first thing we have to do to stop a young person from being recruited is education and work."

Climate change
“Many are the faces, the stories and the evident effects on the lives of thousands of people for whom the culture of deterioration and waste has allowed to be sacrificed before the idols of profits and consumption. We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this; we have no right. The international community has to listen to the cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself.”

Folks enduring the cold and rain during the mass

Watch as this man enthusiastically plays a Kayamba during Pope Francis' mass in Nairobi. A Kayamba is an instrument made of reeds and seeds.

Pope Francis also visited one of Nairobi's many slums, Kangemi. The following quotes are excerpts from his speech there:
“I am here because I want you to know that I am not indifferent to your joys and hopes, your troubles and your sorrows. I realize the difficulties which you experience daily. How can I not denounce the injustices which you suffer?"
"Such injustices are the result of wounds inflicted by minorities who cling to power and wealth, who selfishly squander while a growing majority is forced to flee to abandoned, filthy, and rundown peripheries."
"The poor cling to gospel values which an opulent society, anesthetized by unbridled consumption, would seem to have forgotten." 

Residents of Kangemi catch a view of the Pope as he arrives in their neighborhood

Continuing with his speech at Kangemi Pope Francis criticized the lack of “infrastructures and basic services" in slums and informal settlements.
"By this I mean toilets, sewers, drains, refuse collection, electricity, roads, as well as schools, hospitals, recreational and sport centers, studios and workshops for artists and craftsmen. I refer, in particular, to access to drinking water."
"Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity."

Kangemi residents are thrilled to see Pope Francis

A final excerpt from the speech of Pope Francis at Kangemi:
"Dear neighbors, dear brothers and sisters, let us together pray, work and commit ourselves to ensuring that every family has dignified housing, access to drinking water, a toilet, and reliable sources of energy for lighting, cooking, and improving their homes. That every neighborhood has streets, squares, schools, hospitals, areas for sport, recreation, and art. That basic services are provided to each of you. That your appeals and your pleas for greater opportunity can be heard. That all can enjoy the peace and security which they rightfully deserve on the basis of their infinite human dignity."

As is his habit, the Pope takes time to greet the children (photo from his visit to Kangemi)

02 December 2015

Some thoughts on refugees: A sampling of Scripture, some poignant photos, the UNHCR definition, and a song

Words of Jesus 
Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me. 
For I was hungry and you gave me food, 
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, 
I was naked and you gave me clothing, 
I was a stranger and you welcomed me. 
Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, 
you did not do it to me. 
Matthew 25:31-46

The fast God chooses 
Share your bread with the hungry, 
and bring the homeless poor into your house. 
When you see the naked, cover them. 
Isaiah 58:6-7

God’s law 
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; 
for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 
You shall not reap to the very edges of your field. 
You shall not strip your vineyards bare. 
Leave them for the poor and the alien.
When an alien resides with you in your land, 
you shall not oppress the alien. 
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; 
you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 
I am the Lord your God. 
Exodus 22:21; Leviticus 19:9-10,33-34; 23:22

More from God’s law
For the Lord your God loves the strangers, 
providing them food and clothing. 
You shall also love the stranger, 
for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 
You shall not deprive a resident alien of justice. 
Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice. 
Deuteronomy 10:18-19; 24:17-18; 27:19

From the books of wisdom
The Lord watches over the strangers; 
he upholds the orphan and the widow. 
Psalm 146:9

Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, 
but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, 
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, 
and he will repay him for his deed.
Proverbs 14:21, 31; 19:17

Look, the tears of the oppressed, 
with no one to comfort them. 
Ecclesiastes 4:1

The words of a prophet, God's spokesperson
If you truly amend your ways, if you truly act justly with one another, 
if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, 
then I will dwell with you in this place. 
Jeremiah 7:5-7

Thus says the Lord 
Act with justice and righteousness. 
And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow. 
Jeremiah 22:3-5

Words of John the baptizer
Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none 
and whoever has food must do likewise. 
Luke 3:11

Jesus, quoting Isaiah
Bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, 
sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free. 
Luke 4:16-21

Mark of a true Christian
Extend hospitality to strangers. 
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, 
for by doing that some have entertained angels. 
Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:1-2

Practical and probing questions from James
Has not God chosen the poor in the world? 
What good is it if you say you have faith but do not have works? 
If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food 
and you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 
Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 
James 2:5, 14-17

From John, the disciple loved by Jesus
Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God. 
We love because God first loved us. 
1 John 3:18; 4:7-21

According to the UNHCR 
(United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)
The practice of granting asylum to people fleeing persecution in foreign lands is one of the earliest hallmarks of civilization. References to it have been found in texts written 3,500 years ago, during the blossoming of the great early empires in the Middle East such as the Hittites, Babylonians, Assyrians, and ancient Egyptians.

The 1951 Refugee Convention spells out that a refugee is:
"Someone who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."

Refugees have to move if they are to save their lives or preserve their freedom. 

They have no protection from their own state - indeed it is often their own government that is threatening to persecute them.

If other countries do not let them in, and do not help them once they are in, then they may be condemning them to death - or to an intolerable life in the shadows, without sustenance and without rights.

All the poor and powerless,
all the lost and lonely,
all who feel unworthy,
all who hurt with nothing left

All the poor and powerless
And all the lost and lonely
All the thieves will come confess
And know that You are holy
Will know that You are holy

And all will sing out Hallelujah
And we will cry out Hallelujah

And all the hearts that are content
And all who feel unworthy
And all who hurt with nothing left
Will know that You are holy

Shout it
Go on and scream it from the mountains
Go on and tell it to the masses
That He is God