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Small Boy

Dear Reader,

If there is anyone left out there who is still interested in this blog, I thank you for your patience during my long lapse of silence over the past few months!

I have been back in the States for almost 5 months now, but my Kenya story is not finished. Maybe it never will be finished. I hope not. But however many volumes that may be left to write, I do know for sure that I cannot leave my blog dangling with “This Old Guitar” as the last chapter!

There is still a lot to say and I plan to be blogging more again in 2012, but for this installment, I’ll just try to sum up my last days in Kenya, starting with our last trip to Barwessa, in the Kerio Valley.

(If you haven’t read my previous blog post, “Cactus and Wild Honey,” you may wish to do so here: https://ordinarydaisy.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/cactus-and-wild-honey%E2%80%A6-5-wonderful-days-in-barwessa/ )

“…And the Rains came down…”

Driving through the flood

…And the dirt road leading out of Barwessa was flash-flooded in four places. The floods were the result of an answered prayer, so it was hard to be discouraged or fearful in the face of the roaring red-brown waters, even while swim-driving through the floods in a little white car with water flowing around the doors. Once you make it through the first crossing, it gets easier to do it again…and again.

I’m no stranger to desert rains and flash floods—-it is a way of life in Arizona during monsoon season. I’ve crossed and romped in flooded roads (or trails) all over the southwest–from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to Baja California. Doing the same thing in Africa was only one more reason why it felt like “home” to me.

I guess I am getting ahead of myself. By these floods, I am referring to our drive OUT of the Valley on the evening of Sunday, August 7th, after our descent into it just a few days earlier.

Our Group

The May-July trimester had just ended at EERC and I would be flying out of Nairobi on August 11th. Before I left, we gathered together a few teachers and students from the school for one last hurrah in the desert, before I returned to the land of pavement, shopping malls and Starbucks. I had been longing to go back to Barwessa ever since I had spent a week there in June. I couldn’t bear the thought of returning to the States without returning for one last visit. I had promised local ministers Songol and Jesina that I would do my best to come back, and I had dreamed of bringing a team from the school with me. I couldn’t have been more delighted that things worked out just as I had hoped and prayed.

The Skirt Brigade

With me was one of my great Kenyan friends–Abraham Kiptoo Tarus–and two of his daughters; 11 year old Upendo Love Joy and 13 year old Faith. Another student joining us was Happy Daisy, aged 14, and her mother Eunice; one of the teachers at the school. There was another matatu (van) driven by a brother whose name slips my mind, carrying several other teachers: Carol, Joan, and Ruth. All together, there were 10 of us from Eldoret.

When we finally arrived in the Valley, the first things we heard about was the need for rain. The rainy season seemed to have dried up early. Every afternoon, a few clouds would pile up, but–apart from a few occasional drops that mostly evaporated before they hit the ground–the stubborn clouds were refusing to release their rain.
The whole region is absolutely dependent upon the rain for survival. If rain does not fall, the crops would do grow and if the crops do not grow, there is no food to eat unless an NGO or charity organization brings some. The Valley had been through drought before. Everyone knew someone who had died of hunger. In fact, that very month–August–the eyes of the world were turned to northeast Kenya, near the Somali border, where people were starving. There was a drought there too, in the whole region surrounding the Daageb refugee camp.

One of the first things that Songol said to me, was “Now that you are here, I believe God will answer our prayers and send rain.” I am glad that God handles the pressure for things like that! Inwardly, I lifted my eyes to the Lord and said, “Lord, You heard him! Let Your power and love be seen here this weekend!” All summer, while praying for the Kerio Valley up in Eldoret, I had seen a frequent vision of the rain falling all over the Valley—both literal rain–and the washing, enlivening, freshening rain of the Holy Spirit.

Little desert girl

The first night, there were some light sprinkles. A few sporadic drops that did nothing more than bang lightly on the tin roof and leave faint pockmarks in the dust the next morning.

During the weekend, we ministered at the children’s meeting hosted every Friday night by Songol. The highlight of the meeting (for me) was seeing our EERC girls minister in drama, and praying for a young girl named Anna who was rather mute.

Sweet Anna

She had already experienced a miracle when Songol prayed for her a few months earlier. She had not been able to walk, but could only “hop like a frog,” as her parents told me. After prayer, she was instantly able to walk on her two feet and had done so ever since. However, she still had difficulty speaking. Her miracle was still in progress. As we prayed for her, Anna began to speak, saying her name, “amen,” “hallelujah” and similar phrases. We were greatly encouraged. I expect that the next time I see her, we will be able to have a normal conversation!

Chebore

Songol (left) and Jesina

The next day, we hiked the 17 mile circuit out to Chebore and back–across the Valley floor through the white desert elephant country. Songol led the way, carrying his Bible in a plastic bag, as he always did–no canteen of water or food to snack on. He and Jesina are co-pastors of three churches between them, stretched across a 40 mile radius–and they do it all on foot. With a smile always on their faces, I might add…and with homes and farms and families to take care of as well.

I was a bit worried about some of our team on the long hot hike. City-slickers from Eldoret, most of them were…and not used to hiking. Some of them did not even bring proper shoes to wear and we had to stop at the general store in Barwessa and buy cheap rubber sandals for several of the ladies—an upgrade from their dressy sandals with heels.

Hiking feet

Nevertheless, they did great on the hike—better than I would have done in those uncomfortable plastic sandals. By the end of the trip several of us—including me–had swapped out our shoes and sandals, trying to help one another avoid blisters.

Church under a tree

I was so very proud of our group all weekend. Everyone, from the kids to the matatu driver participated in ministering; whether in drama, leading in singing, sharing testimony, preaching the word, or just loving on people and praying with them. Our arrival was big news for the scattered desert dwellers, and many of them hiked from miles around to attend our various meetings–always held outside, under a shady tree.

I was especially proud of Eunice, who shared her testimony with the entire group—her discovery of God’s love and purpose for her life. When Eunice was a baby, she crawled up to a pot of boiling water and tipped the whole thing over her head and body. She was terribly damaged and almost everyone advised her mother to let her die. But her mother had faith. She carted her baby down to the hospital in Nairobi and left her there. Eunice lived in the Hospital until she was 4 years old, undergoing constant skin grafts and treatments and rarely seeing anyone from her family. Against all odds, she survived. Half of Eunice’s face is scarred and she is blind in one eye–not to mention the rest of her body–but she learned to overcome self-pity and focus on the fact that she was still alive–surely her life had been spared for a reason.

L to R: Ruth, friend, and Eunice

As Eunice shared her story, I could see many of the group listening intently. A story like Eunice’s, they could relate to. To her own surprise, Eunice was becoming a preacher! She’s also the best preschool teacher I have ever seen and a great interpreter and worship leader.

Teacher Ruth had confessed to me right before our trip, that as a little girl, she had had an interest in becoming a missionary. This was her first experience of doing something like this. With her gentle spirit and kind heart, she won friends everywhere we went; singing with the kids and ministering in Kalengin. I was so proud of her and Joan and Carol as well. I had just spent the previous few weeks going through the Song of Solomon with the teachers, and it was beautiful to see them carry that message of love and intimacy to others.

Grandma walking home

Out in the Chebore desert, I was thrilled to see the old grandma with the damaged leg that Wesley and I had met back in June. (The first time we saw her, she was dragging herself through the dirt between a shady tree where she spent the day and the small hut where she slept). She had since been to the hospital (courtesy of Wesley) and her leg was healing nicely–enough for her to slowly make the trek to the meeting with a walking stick. In the past few months, her life had been greatly improved. She had given her heart to Jesus and was full of gratitude and the joy of the Lord.

Ruth singing with the kids

I recognized many others as well, including many of the kids that I had met while ministering in the schools. People I didn’t know would greet me by name as they drove by on a piki piki. Children grabbed my hand and we sang songs as we walked together. By some deep muscle memory, my hiking legs kicked into gear–despite the fact that I am sadly out of shape. I was “built for this.” Everything in me knew it–and rejoiced. It felt like I had returned home.

The calf with her owners

I was also able to check on the family with the little calf that had almost died on my last visit. They live right next to the guesthouse, and I was thrilled to find them eating breakfast outside. I am happy to report that Pbhhh Pbhhh was doing quite well, and so was the rest of the family.

Stones of Remembrance

Chebore stones

I am a lover of stones. Their ancient stories intrigue me and their colors and shapes never fail to catch my eye. As silly as it may sound, one other reason that I had hoped to return to Barwessa had to do with rocks.

Just a few weeks after arriving in Kenya, I was cleaning out my backpack, when much to my surprise, I found a handful of stones–8 to be exact–hidden in a deep pocket. I had picked them up in the canyon in September, while home for my dad’s 60th birthday party– and I forgotten they were there. I had to laugh at the irony. It had taken me days of packing and unpacking my big suitcases, trying to make them both fit at just under 50 pounds. Many things I had sacrificed and left behind–children’s books, shampoo, extra shoes, t-shirts. But apparently these Grand Canyon stones were begging to be reunited with Mother Continent. I was just the pawn in the game; the unwitting human who carried them home. In the secret world of rocks, I was moved by a force bigger than myself…and I became an accidental stone-smuggler.

A few Canyon rocks in Africa

After I made peace with the fact that the rocks had stolen a whole pound or two of precious weight, I was delighted. And when I first discovered the rocks of the Senebo desert–colors that reminded me of the Bright Angel Shale around my childhood home–I knew exactly what I was going to do with some of my stone stowaways I would give them a new home with their cousins. I would plant them like a seed; like a piece of my heart and history. The new world and the old world would kiss. Their new home in Africa would be a promise for all that has been scattered across this globe to be re-gathered and brought to One.

Can you find the Canyon rocks?

When I lovingly laid the stones in the desert, I thought of the North Rim snow melt, my childhood rock collections, all our hikes up and down the trail around our house…I thought of my dad, and how he always arranged the shale into beautiful patterns by the side of the trail. I hoped these rocks wouldn’t be lonely in their new home. I kissed them and blessed them and told them to be a blessing in the area. And then I took a few of the Senebo rocks to take home with me. Shhhh.….Not telling what I am going to do with them!

Sunday Rains

decorated tree

On our last morning, we had a meeting under a tree in Jesina’s yard. He lives on top of a little hill near Senebo, and he has a beautiful view of the valley and rolling hills. His daughters had threaded fuschia-pink flowers on long grasses, making beautiful decorative flower chains which they hung from the tree. Jesina had also crafted log benches–an upgrade from our last visit. It was a gorgeous place for church.

It was Sunday, August 7th. I knew that a week from that day, I would be back in Richlands at Kingdom Life Fellowship. The thought was painful, exciting and overwhelming. I had to constantly put it out of my head, so that I could simply enjoy the moment–the warm breeze causing the flower decorations to sway in the tree above me; the sound of Kalenjin and Swahili worship, and all the beautiful faces of people I had grown to love.

Worshippers

While every service in the Valley had been special, this last one touched a higher place in worship than all the others. I love the way Africans worship. No designated worship leader or team. No hymnal or words projected on a screen. One person will spontaneously lead out in a song–and that person will carry the lead on the song the whole way through, leading in the call and response style worship, often making up the words as they go. Then someone else will launch out with a different song, and on it goes. Just about everyone has a great voice, so the main thing that matters in leading is that you have tapped into the “song of the moment” and you are genuinely worshipping. (There is sometimes a vast difference between a worship leader and a song leader, but that is for another writing).

Jesina's daughter

During our extended worship that morning, I was so touched by Jesina’s 14 year old daughter, who has a heart like a lion. In just a short time around her, it was obvious that she was powerfully set apart by God. During my entire time in Africa, I had seen few people throw themselves into worship the way that this young lady did. Not only did she direct the children’s choir, but she also boldly joined our EERC girls in acting out the story of the Prodigal Daughter and was a key part of the service in every way. She exuded strength, confidence and wisdom.

While the group was singing and worshipping the Lord with all their heart, a portion of Scripture from Hosea chapter 2 came to me:

Morning glories

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, Will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope; she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.

Pearl necklace

“And it shall be, in that day,” Says the LORD, “That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’ And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’ For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals, And they shall be remembered by their name no more. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, with the birds of the air, and with the creeping things of the ground. Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth, to make them lie down safely.

“I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the LORD. “It shall come to pass in that day that I will answer,” says the LORD; “I will answer the heavens, and they shall answer the earth. The earth shall answer with grain, with new wine, and with oil; they shall answer Jezreel. Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’”

Just reading that portion of scripture again now brings tears to my eyes as I think of the beautiful people of the Kerio Valley.

Faith, Upendo and Jesina's daughter in the Prodigal Daughter

I preached out of that chapter that morning, reminding the people that they were the beloved of the Lord, and of the power that He had put in their mouth…that as they “sowed to the heavens” in prayer, worship and prophetic declaration, they were literally changing the atmosphere. They were sending up vapor to rain back upon the earth. We began to pray and declare the open heavens and the rain (natural and spiritual) to fall. The kids worshiped and danced. The soft breezes blew. And the clouds gathered. And a few—just a few–raindrops began to fall.

Inside Jesina's decorated house

Would this be another false alarm? We ended the service and went into Jesina’s small house to eat a meal of stewed chicken and ugali. The clouds continued to pile and they were darker this time. We quickly decided that we needed to get back to the guesthouse, pack up, and head back to Eldoret before it got any later and darker. By the time we got back to Barwessa, a heavy rainstorm had preceded us. Sukuku met us at the guesthouse with an ear-to-ear grin. The ground was soaked, the air was fresh and the people were elated. Rain was falling all over the valley. As quickly as we could, we packed our gear into the vehicles and took off down the muddy road–which brings me back to the beginning of this story, and the four floods we had to drive through.

I will never forget that drive home as we splashed and laughed our way out of the Valley, under skies as dark and swirling as smoke. If we were staying later, I would have danced in that rain, up and down the muddy roads, and confirming to the good citizens of Barwessa that this mzungu is indeed quite nuts!

And in my heart, that is where I still am–dancing in the muddy streets. I am singing in every language I know and some I don’t know. I am singing in the tongues of angels. I am a dancer, “dancing upon injustice,” and crushing chains beneath my feet. I am sending rainclouds of out my mouth to blow where the Spirit wants them to go. I am twirling. I am laughing. I am roaring.

And so are the children with me. We are for signs and wonders. We were built for this.

God's precious jewels

There are a good deal more many photos to go with this blog. If you want to see them, just copy and paste this facebook address in your browser: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2351965756889.2140826.1182485335&type=1&l=69c4cd8c15

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I felt a little like John the Baptist on this last journey to the Kerio Valley…Maybe a mix between John the Baptist and Nicole Kidman driving a herd of cattle across the Australian outback! Instead of locusts, I ate cactus, but the wild honey was truly wild; full of bits of chewy honeycomb and dead bees. I even tasted a truly rare honey that comes from a bee that lives in the ground. Thinner than regular honey and with a pungent lemony taste, this special honey comes in very small batches and is used for medicine.

I have so much more to talk about than honey, I don’t even know where to start. Last week was a pivotal week for me. I fell in love with a new part of the Kerio Valley and cannot wait to return to the desert rocks and trees and most of all the precious people who manage to survive in the dry land.

Downtown Barwessa

Barwessa has a bit of the feeling of an old west or outback town on the edge of rough-hewn civilization. The main street is red dirt and rocks, and it was muddy when we arrived, due to the long awaited rains. I could have almost been on a reservation somewhere in the American Southwest.

It is an area that has been largely overlooked by the Kenyan government, NGOs and missionaries. The people are very, very poor, and in times of drought, they starve—sometimes to death.

We stayed at the best guesthouse in town; clean and tidy and closed to drunkards.

Welcome 2 Barwessa Guesthouse

Each room was constructed of wooden boards with glints of light that gleamed through the cracks at night, a cement floor and a tin roof. The mattresses were foam pads which rested on home-made wooden bedframes. There were no pillows. There were several “choos” and one room to bathe in. To take a “shower,” you simply carried a jug of warm water and a plastic basin into a room that was constructed just like the bedrooms; hanging your clothing and towel on a wire which was strung between two nails.

Wesley and Apollos, our Korean friends, had been in the valley for some time, but at time we arrived, Wesley was there alone. (Apollos had gotten ill. After recovering in Eldoret, he was down in Mombasa). Wesley already knew many people in the town and had been leading bible studies everywhere. Most of the people consider themselves to be Christian, but there is rampant alcoholism, prostitution and AIDS in this town. In fact, we were surprised to discover that Barwessa has one of the largest HIV populations in the northern region of Kenya. Survival is difficult and life is cheap. I was horrified to discover that it is not uncommon for the very old to be locked inside a hut with a few days worth of food and water and left there to die–by their own children. I suppose that is what happens when there is just not enough food to go around and hope is thin.

Outsiders are very rare in this region. Whenever I walked down main street, people would huddle together and stare at me. I would smile and wave and greet them in Kalingen, which always made them laugh. Though shy at first, everyone was very friendly. Kids would follow me around, but if I turned to touch them they would squeal in fright and run away laughing hysterically. A few minutes later, they would be back. Some of the braver ones would come right up and shake my hand and practice a little English.

Despite the challenges and toughness of the land, I loved it there. I was blessed to be visiting in the time of the evening rains, so that every morning we awoke to a fresh and fragrant desert. Everyone was busy planting maize and millet in their “shambas” (gardens). If this was the region’s “cool” and rainy season, I can only imagine what it would be like in the middle of the hot and dry season (December/January).

breakfast

Because of the rain, there were fresh mushrooms popping up everywhere, some of which were delicious and according to Wesley, have anti-cancer properties. We ate them every day, along with stewed goat or chicken and ugali. We also ate cactus and bananas. Breakfast was chai, enriched with local herb that gave it a delicious lemongrass flavor, and chapattis with wild honey.

pouring musik

I also got to finally try “musik;” (“moo-SEEK”) a thin, blueish-gray sour yogurt drink that is fermented inside a gourd. In the grocery stores of civilization, one can buy vanilla or fruit flavored yogurt. In the Kenyan outback, yogurt comes in one flavor—“smoke.” I suppose the flavor comes from the bits of ash that are added to it, thus giving it the grayish tone. It takes a bit of getting used to, but is not bad at all. I had read a bit about how healthy it is and was eager to try it; so I drank it as often as I could. All of the cactus and mushrooms and musik have worked well in my body and I feel GREAT!

Senebo Primary School

Trek to Senebo

On my first full day in Barwessa, we hiked several miles out to a primary school in a little town called Senebo. We could almost have been hiking through the Sonoran desert. I was so glad that several local men were walking with us, explaining the traditional uses of every plant that we passed along the way. There is a variety of aloe vera growing in profusion; a sort of tougher, burlier version of the plant with stronger spikes, less gel and a darker juice. I slurped some out of my hand. A few drops was enough to leave a bitter flavor on my tongue for hours, but not unpleasant.

The colors of home

Along the way, we passed men working in a stone quarry, and visited an area full of fossils. It was a little like the painted desert, with all the same colors of the Bright Angel Shale; the rock formation surrounding my childhood home in the Grand Canyon. All I could think about was how much my family would love it out here. With all the native medicinal plants, maybe it could be the place for the healing center we have dreamed of opening.

We passed herds of goats with tinkling bells around their necks. We also met a young goatherd who had crafted his own flute out of some kind of reed and played lilting melodies with it–a beautiful and haunting sound in the midst of the goats, the rocks and the burning sun.

When we arrived at the school, I was surprised that it was enclosed with a big gate that looked strangely out of place in the environment. Senebo is one of the driest places in the Barwessa area; and Wesley was looking for a place where we could find water and dig a well for them.

Abraham interpreting for me

The school was expecting us, and so I led the kids in a short time of singing and ministry. I decided to teach about David, knowing that they would be able to relate to a young boy who tended sheep out in a desert similar to theirs—how he slept under the stars and wrote songs and learned to know his God…How his lonliness drove him to the heart of God and how it made him strong. How God sent a lion and bear, just so that David would learn to overcome difficulties and find courage in God, and how this prepared him to kill Goliath. How trials never mean that God has forsaken us, but that He is giving us opportunity to grow and become strong. The kids all listened intently.

Senebo Primary

I decided to act out the story of David and Goliath with them, the way that I did at EERC. I asked for a volunteer to be David–and up came a little boy who looked like a midget, with very short legs and obviously stunted growth. I was so proud of his courage! He took the “sling” and swung it around towards Goliath (me) and with great drama I fell all the way down to the dirt–dead! The kids whooped and cheered. It was awesome. Afterwards, we drank the delicious “lemongrass” chai, and I visited some of the classrooms and chatted with the teachers.

Brother Mercy

As we hiked back, the men began remarking about my strength for hiking and dubbed me “jungle girl.”

“Mercy, you should have been a man,” said Wesley. Later, he told me that he would call me “Brother Mercy.” Wesley is a former member of the special forces of the Korean army and he regularly trains for experiences like being in Barwessa. After Apollos left, he was not expecting that God would send a woman to help out! He told me later that he expected me to come for a day or two and then leave. He was very surprised at how well I took to the food, the hiking–all of it.

All along, a phrase kept going through my head: “You were built for this!” It was what my friend John LoCurto had told me right before I left, when talking about how some people just have an anointing to pray for healing. When they see someone sick, something just rises up inside them that wants to run in there and drive that illness out of the body in the name and authority of Jesus. They were “built for it,” he said. They were built to confront; they were built for battle, they were built to bring change. Like John G. Lake, they thrive on that kind of challenge.

While hiking through that desert, I could feel something in me begin to come alive and thrive. I was built for dirt roads and remote places, I was built to share the word of God in places that others rarely visit—the outback is where I belong! I was built for it!

With secondary school students

Later that day, we went to Barwessa Secondary School to lead a Bible study that Wesley had started with some of the students who wanted to learn more. It was divided into two groups of about 10 kids each; one was led by Wesley and the other by whoever happened to be there to lead it (Apollos, Abraham, or myself). The students were sharp and we had a great time with them. I returned there a few days later to continue the study with them and I really enjoyed it.

The next morning, my original plan had been to return to Eldoret with Abraham so I could get back in time to go on a special field trip with the EERC kids, but I knew I had to change that plan. I belonged in Barwessa and needed to stay longer. It was decided that Abraham would take all my heavy stuff back in the car with him (ie guitar) and I would remain with a small backpack of stuff to last me a few more days, returning to Eldoret with Wesley on the motorcycle on Sunday.

After Abraham left, we went to Barwessa Primary school to lead a meeting for the student there. Tabitha, one of the teachers and leaders of that school, invited us. Tabitha is quite a lady. She must be about 5 feet tall, but every inch of her little frame is pure strength. A single lady with a degree in English, she is a strong Christian and pillar in the community. She also owns a little stationary store where she sells Kalenjin Bibles (at cost) and stationary.

Pretending to be Goliath

There are over 600 students at this school and it seemed that every one of them had gathered under a large tree to hear us. I decided to teach on David again, this time even more dramatically. When I fell to the dirt and “died” the kids just went into an uproar! What fun!

Trying to meet Obama

Because of these school meetings, I had kids calling out my name the rest of the time that I was town. They would come and gather outside the guesthouse and wait for me to come out so they could greet me. When eating dinner, I would see them standing behind the fence, peering in at me.

Boarding school boys

There was a small boarding school right next to the guesthouse. Every time I went past it, all these young boys would gather at the fence and so I would often go to talk to them. Our conversation usually went like this: “Where you from?” “USA!” “Who your president?” “What do you think? It starts with an O and ends with an A!” loud cheers… “Obama! Obama!” Then someone would yell, “Osama Bin Laden!” and I would say, “Obama got Osama!” and the boys would cheer again.

One day the headmistress invited me into the school. All the classrooms were constructed of tin, with girls living on one side of the compound and boys on the other. I greeted them and told them I would try to come back and give them a lesson when I return to Barwessa. (My hope is to return at LEAST one more time before leaving in September). This school was so into Obama, there was even a little boy in Baby Class named Obama. I thought it would be fun to meet Obama while in Kenya, and so the headmistress took me to him. However, when Obama saw me, he shrieked in fear and took off running down the street. I followed him for a while (I was walking that way anyway) until he ducked into his parents tailoring shop and hid behind the counter. So much for meeting Obama!

Ministry on the Mountain

David and Goliath

We took several more excursions into the surrounding area, where people invited us to come to their homes and share with them about the Lord. One such man is Jesina, a wonderful brother in the Lord and one of my teachers about native plants. He joined us on just about every excursion. He has two wives; one in Senebo and one in town. We went to the house of his first wife in Senebo, and people hiked from all around to attend the meeting, some coming in dripping with sweat just as thing were winding down. I was so happy to see the little midget boy who played David also came to the meeting and he was one of those who prayed to accept Jesus into his heart. So did an old grandma, and several others. It was beautiful! After the meeting, we drank chai and ate roasted groundnuts (peanuts) that Jesina grows in his shamba.

Desert Trek to elephant territory

Elephant country

On Friday (June 17th), we did a very long hike of about 18 miles roundtrip. Wesley and Songol, a local evangelist and interpreter, had been meeting with some people way out in the boondocks, the opposite direction from Senebo and they invited me to join them for such a journey. We were heading into elephant country, with the exotic sounding “elephant forest” at the opposite end of the valley floor.

At first the scenery was green and lush. We walked along the creek, with everyone out in their shambas working hard. We stopped to visit a friend of Songol’s, a farmer named Wilson. While we were visiting with Wilson, a man came up to us and asked us if we would come and share the gospel with him and his group. We said yes, of course, and went to them. It was a bunch of men and a few women drinking homemade millet liquor (millet white lightening?) under some shady trees. It seemed a strange place to preach, but since they asked, we began to share with them about the Lord. I talked about the woman at the well; and how Jesus saw that thirst in her and told her it could only be quenched by the water of life that He gives. Everyone listened intently. More people joined the group as we spoke. By the end, about 10 of them prayed to accept the Lord and we laid hands on each one and prayed for them. Then we were back on our way.

As we got farther out into the desert, the trees became sparse and the sand turned pale and everything took on a bleached look. There were so many interesting things to see and people along the way, that the miles flew by. There were bee hives hanging high in the acacia trees, and occasionally a bed made of sticks way up in a tree. (These were built so that people would have a safe place to sleep away from elephants). “Mercy, would you sleep in that tree?” asked Wesley. “Sure, if I needed to!” I replied. “You dangerous woman!” Wesley replied.

At one point, we saw a little old lady dragging herself through the dirt next to her hut. We went over to see if she was OK. She was not OK; her tibia had been fractured and she had not been able to walk for months. She had no way of getting to a doctor, and couldn’t afford it if she could. She was a widow who lived alone with another lady (daughter?) who also seemed rather helpless and hopeless. I sat in the shade with her and put my arms around her and prayed. It was all I could do at that moment. Wesley examined her leg and told her that we would help her to get to a doctor.

Terrified kids

Later, we saw a group of small children lined up under a tree. As we got closer to them, we could hear them wailing and screaming at the sight of us. They got louder and louder the closer we got, and one little boy took off running. They were truly terrified. Songol approached them first and spoke to them in Kalenjin while Wesley and I came slower, with cookies in our hands. They cried and screamed until we handed them the cookie, which they ate silently with fresh tears on their cheeks. It was probably their first cookie, along with their first view of a white person.

Kerio River

Finally we got to the Kerio River, where we were “lucky” as Wesley said, to see a crocodile swimming by. We had a small picnic under an Acacia tree. After that, we visited several homes and spoke with different ones. Along the way, we were given a rooster. The last place we stopped was Jesina’s mother’s home. He was out there helping her plow her ground for planting, along with his second wife and their little baby, “Blessing.” We all went into the shamba and helped to plow the ground.

Baby boy

There were a few other people there also helping, and one lone baby boy sitting on his bare bottom in the dirt. I don’t think I have ever seen such a filthy little baby. It looked like he had never once been bathed. All he was wearing was a dirty shirt, and he was obviously malnourished. Unlike every other baby in the region, he showed no fear of me whatsoever. I think he may have been too weak and listless to care. His breathe came in and out with a raspy little sound in his lungs.

I picked him up and held him in my lap for the longest time, just rocking him and singing him songs and praying for him and telling him how wonderful he was. He snuggled right into me, and into my heart. Somehow, I managed to put him back in the dirt and join the others, but I was not the same for the rest of the trip–and truthfully, I have not been the same since then, period. I began to ask about the baby and discovered that he had no father and his young mother was an alcoholic. His grandmother was helping to watch him, but no doubt, she had too many other worries to properly care for him.

precious baby boy

I could not stop thinking about him the next day. At first I was trying to talk myself out of caring so much, reminding myself that I have to be tougher and not so easily grieved by situations like that. And then something just reversed in me…No! He might just be one little life, but it was a little life that God had put directly in front of me and I was supposed to do something. That little boy was part of the reason I was here in this valley. So I talked to Jesina and asked him if he would be willing to check in on that baby whenever he was out at his mother’s, and make sure he was being fed. I gave Jesina money to buy him food and medicine. Jesina was happy to help, since he had also been concerned for him. My hope is that I can go back out there and visit him again and spend a little more time with him and prayerfully assess the situation up close. I would love to meet the mother and minister to her. Please remember this family in your prayers.

Wesley loves to sing. As we got back into town, we came across some young boys carrying a big pile of wood. Wesley took the wood on his shoulder for them and as he walked, he sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.” I don’t know if anyone else thought about the fact that a Korean man was singing a Black American spiritual in Africa, but I sure loved the beauty of that criss crossing cultural moment.

baby calf

On our last morning in Barwessa, we became aware of continuous bleating of a little calf next door to the guesthouse. Sukuku, the owner of the guesthouse told me that he felt bad for that little calf, since its mother had been killed by an elephant. He took it some water to drink. I joined him to look at the calf, and saw the scrawniest, boniest, weakest little calf I’d ever laid eyes on. As I began to pet her, I noticed that she was infested with fleas and had open sores, with ants crawling over her.

I went through the same thing with the calf that I experienced with the baby the day before. “What can you really do, Mercy–you are leaving tomorrow–just leave it alone and don’t get all emotional.” And then, just like with the baby, something suddenly rose up in me–maybe this was just one suffering calf, but it was in front of me and needed help! My help! As I looked into her beautiful big brown eyes framed with long eyelashes, I became certain about what I was to do.

“Phbbb Phbbbb Phbbbbb”

I asked Sukuku how much it would cost to get her the medical treatment she needed–not much at all, I discovered. I gave Sukuku the money for medicine and to buy her milk for the next few weeks. And then I went into town to buy fresh cow milk. (They sell it by the glass, for about 15 cents a glass). I came back with a big bowl of 6 glasses of milk, which I fed to her in increments during the day. She lapped it up like and dog and then licked and chewed on my hand and arm for as long as I would let her afterwards. I found myself speaking to the calf: “It’s OK, baby. You are going to live. You will live and not die! You will live and have a blessed life!” A local doctor came to look at her and he assured us that with about 2 weeks worth of milk and some medicine, she would be as good as new.

Later that night Sukuku spoke with the owner of the cow and told me a beautiful story. The calf was owned by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet. After losing her milk cow, it was a heavy burden for her to now have to buy milk not only for her kids but for the new calf. None of them were getting enough milk, but she was out of money and there was nothing she could do about it. That morning, before she went to her shamba, she looked at the cow and said to it, “Calf, there is nothing more I can do for you. I put you into the hands of God! Maybe He will help you survive.” She came home fully expecting the calf to be weakly lying on the ground—instead it had wandered off, and she wondered where it had gotten the strength. Sukuku told her that we had fed the calf, and she wept for joy.

I realized that when she had put that calf into the hands of God, that God took her seriously. It was HE that moved on Sukuku’s heart, and then mine, to care for the calf! When I told the calf that she would live and not die, that really was God speaking through me to her, for in utter helplessness, she had been placed into His hands. What a good God!

The next morning I met the mother and her children. The mother was “Mama Faith” and her kids were Faith, Kevin and Vivian. The calf was named, “Phbbb, phbbb, phbbb.” (Basically, a farting noise that is used to call her….That’s the truth).

I can’t wait to go back and see how Phbbb phbbbb phbbbb and the little baby boy are doing—as well as all my other new friends in the valley. Getting home on the back of Wesley’s motorcycle was a whole other experience, but this blog is already too long, so I will close for now.

Please pray for the babies and children and families of this valley–for Songol and Jesina and all the others. There were many times there when I just had to take a walk by myself and pray, because it was all so overwhelming. The problems seem insurmountable, but I know that God can and will fix them through a people who will seek His face–and do whatever He says to do. THY KINGDOM COME, LORD!!!  ~Mercy Aiken

P.S. I took a load of pictures, more than I can share here. I uploaded the rest (over 100) of them into a public photo album on facebook, which you can see through my Facebook page or through copying and pasting this link: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2160312565679.2132905.1182485335&l=5076c124a1

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