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Kenya Diary

During July 2011, the Woodmansey family spent a month in Kenya on Sabbatical.  Below is their diary of the trip.

Monday 27th June 2011

Arrived in Kenya last night.  Immediately encountered the Kenyan joy of form filling and stood in the queue for passports/visas for ages. Lovely greeting from Reverend Dominic, a Pentecostal minister with 4 churches, who supplements his income by driving for the Methodist Guest House where we are staying.

Woke this morning to a cool morning – like a cool English summer – looks like shorts and t shirts may not have been the right clothes to pack!!  Off to Maua tomorrow (6 hour drive up country and 6,000 feet up –so it will be even colder!). Spent today driving around Nairobi visiting Animal orphanage, feeding Giraffes and finalising other arrangements. Yet another example of Kenyan form filling at the amazing early 20th century railway Station booking our overnight train to Momabasa for the last week here.

Dominic told Alison that most Kenyan’s go to church – I assume he didn’t include the large Muslim population so must find out what that means! The Director General of All African Council of Churches was still abroad so no interview with him after all – still the possibility that we might meet up when I pass through Nairobi later – we shall see!!!!

Kenyan friendliness
Typical Kenyan friendliness
more Kenyan friendliness
More Kenyan friendliness

Saturday 2nd July

Michael's diary for today is available as a word document.

Monday 4th July

Michael's diary for today is available as a word document.

At church in Kenya
At Church in Kenya

Monday 11th July

Michael's diary for today is available as a word document.

Sharing letters from Heworth School
Sharing letters from Heworth school

Tuesday 12th July

This morning we leave Maua Methodist hospital conscious we are leaving behind some good friends and people working hard to make a real difference in the lives of some of the poorest people in the world. As we leave we are also conscious of the severe drought affecting quite a bit of Kenya as well as Somalia. Although the micro-climate of this area means that the evidence of the drought locally is reduced, its effect is already being felt in rising food prices which will have a dramatic effect on the poorest of this community. Then two major crops of the area are both cash crops (miraa and tea) so food has to be imported from elsewhere. Malnourished children are beginning to be seen and this will probably increase in the coming weeks. Before I leave I am trying to catch up on some thoughts from earlier:

On Thursday 7th we divided up. Alison and the children went to visit a “Giving Hope” project -providing education for 3-7 year old orphans about half an hour away over roads that can only be driven by expertly driven 4 x4. They took a parachute we had brought from England along with some balls. The children were very excited to see them, never having seen a white child before. This has actually been the case for most of the children we meet –although they have met white adults, they rarely travel with their children. My visit was more depressing. I went to see the local Anglican minister who has been in post here just a few years. I was taken by Reverend Alice (Methodist hospital chaplain) and, although it was just a five minute walk to the church complex (church, vicarage, guest house and small medical clinic) they had never met before. One of the problems the church in Kenya will need to face is their insularity – they don’t have any animosity between them, they just hadn’t given any priority to contact or awareness of what each other is doing. The main stream churches acknowledge and tolerate each other but have no time for the multitude of small (Pentecostal style) churches which seem to be everywhere you look. I am told that they are set up around individuals (often as an alternative to unemployment) with no depth theologically. I am told that young people dissatisfied with the mainstream church they grew up in are attracted to the claims of dramatic words of God and lively worship, attend for a while and then give up on church altogether. If I had longer here I would try and visit some of these churches and find out if this picture is accurate. What is clear is that the mainstream churches regard these new churches as dangerous opposition not fellow workers for the kingdom. I also get the impression that the churches compete for the same people who have grown up in church life and do little to reach those who are outside church life. The exception to this is the initiatives we have been visiting which seek to provide education and routes out of poverty for some of the most deprived children and people. The local Anglican minister was also the local archdeacon. He has three churches two of which are very small (mainly women) and one which has a maximum congregation of 60. He acknowledged that this local congregation was largely made up of the disaffected from other churches and had little impact on men and older children. He had been sent here from a different district (Where his wife and children still lived) and felt unable to reach out to local men finding their culture of Miraa and drinking or business meetings very intimidating – with good reason!!! It made me question why the Anglican church wasted resources planting churches where other denominations were well established and where they had no local leaders. This also challenges the way the church works in England. Where resources are stretched do we not need more joined up thinking with other denominations – where one denominational church is being effective and the Anglican church is struggling – would the kingdom of God not be better served by blessing and encouraging the successful church and closing the Anglican church down – giving support and encouragement to the other church? The way we answer this question indicates whether we are concerned for God’s wider Kingdom first or our own denomination!!! In the afternoon I spent some time with Reverend Alice recognising that churches in Kenya face some of the same problems as in England (although perhaps a few years behind us). I wondered if the model of church we had exported to Kenya came with inherent flaws (like a computer virus) which are now becoming manifest. They have problems holding young people as they grow up and it is more likely to be the women who remain in the church. In her church (congregation around 300) they had addressed the problem of holding young people by giving them responsibilities and key activities in their worship. They saw their next challenge as finding ways to reach men more effectively. Having visited England previously she was adamant that one of the key flaws in our worship is that we just don’t give time for God. She would leave an English church feeling frustrated that everything had happened so quickly. This is one of the biggest challenges we could answer. We may not need to go to the 3 – 4 hour services that she is used to – but do we fly through the service so quickly that we don’t get a proper opportunity to meet with God and him with us? Is the idea that we only meet together for 1 – 1 ½ hours limiting God and us?

Friday 8th July

Began the day by leading the prayers and bible reading in the hospital chapel. The passage was the Rich young man in Matthew 19 who wanted to know what to do get into heaven. I talked about how the issue wasn’t for him to do what was necessary to get into heaven – but what he had to release to let heaven get into him. Later I went with Andrew, Sarah and Peter on their second visit to a “Giving Hope” project providing education to orphans in a remote area. (Alison and Stephen spent the day with medical teams in the hospital) The project is attached to a local school in a remote area that we could only visit using a 4X4 as the roads were almost impassable – we had our way blocked by a truck that couldn’t cope at one point! Life has been, and continues to be very harsh for these children yet they have an incredible capacity for joy. We had brought a parachute and some balls for them to play with ad they loved watching the balls bounce and playing “Cat and mouse” and “pig, pig, cow” (This is actually “duck, duck, goose” but as they had never seen either Peter chose animals they recognised!) They couldn’t grasp the idea of competition or catching one another but just loved the opportunity to run. With all that English children have, and their security of life, it is rare to see so many children so full of happiness that radiated infectiously from them all. Maybe this was a living demonstration of the parable form the morning. The children who have so little, have little to get in the way of enjoying God and enjoying life; little to prevent heaven getting in to them.

Sunday 10th July

I had been invited to preach at the English service in the local Methodist church. This was the first of three services: one in English, one in Swahili and one in Kimeru. These services get progressively more lively and longer. The theme was “Empowering the Youth” and the passage I was given was Joshua 1: 1-9.. I reflected on the way that Kenyan society is changing (influence of Miraa, goods like Motorbikes and phones) and the need to empower a new generation of young leaders who are part of the young culture and understand it. Like Joshua they had to pray and go. (how often do we want to pray and wait – but the only time that was a command of Jesus was before Pentecost!) To claim the land will involve strength and courage but God is with us if we are staying close to him.

Michael Preaching
Michael Preaching

Postscript

I am bring this diary to a close sitting on the train. – we are finishing our time in Kenya with a few days on the coast (this really will be holiday) so the reflective diary is coming to an end. We decided that it would be an adventure taking the overnight train from Nairobi to Mombasa. This is an old colonial line, largely unchanged and not particularly well maintained – but it is recognised as one of the great train journeys of the world. Typically it is running about three hours late at the moment! Yesterday we had about 4 hours in Nairobi before catching the train and I finally got a chance to meet someone from the All African Conference of Churches. Then Director General has given a lot of time to reflecting on what the African churches can teach the rest of Christendom. Unfortunately he was still unavailable but his Deputy had agreed to see me. This was largely disappointing as he is a an accountant, not a theologian, and only had his own thoughts to share. The Director General did pop in and introduced some really interesting ideas about the abiding influence of Moses, and the 400 years that the Israelites spent in Africa, on traditional African religions. The idea that Jesus was the fulfilment of these religions was something few missionaries understood. He had to leave After this tantalising introduction and, when I asked if he had any papers he explained that he had written a book – but it was in French!. However he did give me his email address and offered to tell me more by email.