The introductory scenes of our trip to Kenya were nothing less than spectacular. God granted a clear and sunny day for the flight from Paris to Nairobi. It was as if He were unrolling a scroll to display His glory and majesty in the views of the creation that flowed along below us. Italy really does resemble a boot with Sicily at its toe. The Mediterranean is a unique shade of blue/green. The northern coast of Africa appears as an uncanny edge of the sea, ruddy brown and spreading along for hours. There couldn’t have been a more powerful preparation for the expansive beauty and extensive diversity of the people and cultures we experienced.
Our first few days were spent adjusting to the heat, a welcomed and comfortable time, as well as the local folks. Sandra met with the team overseeing the children’s program for the EACH conference. The joy and diligence they projected were exactly what is needed for the task. The meeting was a time of sharing about Sandra’s goals in developing the Nurturing Hearts of Worship unit studies. Lucy, Harriette, Liz, and Waiyaki expressed an enthusiasm that filled the room and carried their work along with richness.
The next goal of these early days was for us to get to know the families we would be serving. We went from place to place and meeting to meeting. We even moved house once. There were large and small groups, breakfast and dinner conversations, private and committee appointments. We met national families, expats residing in Kenya, and even families from other countries, most notably Uganda. Our favorite part of these opening days was that everybody brought their children with them. We were ultimately introduced as Baba and Mama Lovelace, a term used for close family friends, to help the young ones feel comfortable.
The second week of our visit was spent in the northern region of the country. We packed our bags and loaded them into the car the next morning at 5am. The 12 hour car ride provided more glorious scenery such as a rare cloudless view of Mt. Kenya. We also went through a number of townships where we grew in our understanding of the variety of people groups. We traveled through Iciolo where the week before a church had been raided by Muslims and several people were killed. We drove along dry river beds where tribesmen herded their cows, goats, camels to water holes.
At our first overnight stop Sandra rode on the back of a four wheeler to attend a Bible story lesson at the local primary school. The children flocked to the fallen tree cum stadium seating to hear the update on the story of Moses, Miriam, and Aaron. It was easy to measure their enthusiasm as they sang and clapped along with the song whose lyrics taught the books of the Bible. Their wrapped attention was another indicator of how much they enjoy the weekly instruction.
That afternoon included a hike up into the foothills of a nearby mountain. The river washed over an extensive rock face and formed a string of pooling water troughs. Thus the name Bath Tubs. Everybody enjoyed the cooling water, even the family dog. It was hard to remember the time and collect ourselves to walk back home. On the way Sandra discovered a set of mancala cups hollowed out in the dirt by the side of the path with a collection of small pebbles nearby to complete the game. It wasn’t hard to imagine a family or group of friends choosing that shady spot for a rest.
The next day we pushed on north and arrived at our final destination. Our time at this location was blessed by the opportunity to care for a nine year old girl who’d gotten hurt falling out of a tree. Our host was a nurse and the tribe responded with an invitation to enjoy chai together in their manyata, house of sticks and daub. We discovered that hospitality in the middle of the African bush is just as warm as it would be anywhere else when an injured child receives care. On the way back we stopped and got out of the vehicle to take in the night sky. The stars appeared in a different array, but they twinkled brightly. It was as if God were granted us an extraordinary greeting after our mission of mercy.
On Sunday Curt preached from Micah 6:6-8. He wore a kikoi, the standard skirt-style outfit of the Samburu. We learned that the people appreciated the respect this communicated. The service began with a series of songs presented by choirs from different groups of ladies. Everybody seemed enthusiastic: the boys on the window ledges, the babes in arms, the women and men seated separately, the young men in the back. Not even an attack by bees could stop the rejoicing. Curt spoke with the help of an interpreter. People gave him full attention and seemed to grasp what he was sharing. One young man later told us that he appreciated how Curt wove the Old and New Testament together.
After service we were surrounded by people who wanted to say hello. Well, that is except for the ladies who were gathering to the side for a bit. We learned they were discussing their plans for the weekly ladies meeting. There are some things that are consistent in the world. 😀 It was a short walk back to the compound where we were staying. Some of the Samburu came along with us; seeking medication, a bowl of maise soup, a drink of water, time to share their needs. The rest of the day was spent pulling things together for our ride back to Nairobi. There was much to gather and load into the trailer.
On our way south we stopped for a couple of days at Samburu National Reserve. Our hosts are experienced bush people who made it their business to help us find as many animals as possible. The first morning we headed out in the Land Cruiser a pair of leopards ran right across the path. There were elephants and giraffe galore as well as several types of antelope. We learned about the gerenuk that actually feeds by putting its front hooves into a tree to reach the delicate leaves. We saw a cheetah resting in a tree, ostriches, warthogs, and countless birds. On our way out of the park we even came across a pair of Graeves zebra, the last animal on Sandra’s list.
Hitchhikers in Africa could be a whole report of its own. Whenever possible our hosts would give rides to nationals they knew or other ‘northerners’ who were going in the same direction. It was nothing to have five Samburu men climb onto the roof with their staffs. They were not only strong but brave as they clung to the luggage rack while we bumped our way along rutted roads and in and out of dry river beds. Other times folks joined us in the cab. One of those ‘riders’ was an Israeli woman who’d set side a year to go backpacking around Africa. She spent two days with us as she had difficulty catching a ride further north.
The next few days were spent pulling things together for the conference. It was a busy time. Added to that activity, Curt preached at New City Fellowship. His text was from Galatians 2:1-13, the next portion of Scripture in the pastor’s preaching schedule. That worked out perfectly since Pastor Muutuki is a fellow graduate of Covenant Seminary, just a few years later. The fellowship was sweet among the believers at NCF. We sang songs in English, Swahili, and Hindi as if we’d all been there together for years. The main joy for us was that this congregation had decided to stop their Sunday school program and incorporate children into the regular corporate service. It was only their second Sunday in the new schedule and everyone reported how well it was going. Since our new book is on the topic of children in worship it was a precious gift from the Lord to be with these brothers and sisters in Christ as they embark on the adventure.
Of course there were a few sights to see. We went to the Giraffe Park where Sandra was kissed by Laura the giraffe. We visited the Kazuri factory which makes handmade beads and pottery. It was begun as a ministry to widows and continues in that vein, providing decent salaries, good working conditions, child care, and many other benefits to the women who work there. We also went to the Kitengela Glassworks where we watched a glassblower right up close. Perhaps the oddest sights were the numerous and fairly glamorous shopping malls we visited. Of course we didn’t go there to shop. It’s just that Java House, in Curt’s opinion the top coffee place in Kenya, was located at most of them.
The EACH conference was the primary reason for our trip. It ran from Monday to Wednesday and was jam-packed with opportunities for meaningful fellowship, sharing about the Lord, and generally reveling in the goodness of God. Parents gave us their attention during the sessions and responded with enthusiasm. Their questions, insights, and delight brought us huge encouragement in the Ephesians 2:10 work the Father is laying out for us to do. The children enjoyed their own sessions where they learned about life in an African village and the armor of God from Ephesians 6. Our time together closed with the children up on stage leading the parents and older siblings in singing The Armor of God song. The entire gathering united in the message, “Put it on, put it on, the armor of God. Every day we need the armor of God. We need the armor of God.”
We are humbled to close this report with three of the comments that were sent to us.
We enjoyed our moments with you during our one-on-one chat the Monday after your arrival. Talking and listening to you re-assured us that home school is not just the right thing to do but it is the NORMAL thing to do. [Father of ‘one so far’, Ugandan visitor]
Dear Sandra, I very much appreciated your sending us back to the Word of God to hear God’s voice for ourselves on all issues, whether homeschooling, or being a wife/mom, etc. Bless you! And bless Curt! Such an example of unapologetic Godly leadership – we don’t have to follow the world, or pussy-foot on our Biblical convictions. Thank you very much both of you. I was very affirmed by your sharing that we have God’s backing as we seek to raise our children in the way we know best following His Word. When we know we have God’s support, we can move on with courage. Bless you. [mother of three, Kenyan national]
Thanks again for your input, compassion and generosity during the conference here in Nairobi. I am blessed by remembering the power that your stories have to encourage, guide and strengthen others. Your stories surely helped me regain my footing. As God reveals Himself to us, step by step and day by day, we will manage to find a way forward. Thank you for that reminder. May God bless you in all you put your hands (and hearts) to. With deep gratitude, [mother of five, American expat]