Starting, I’m going to make a couple of corrections that might have no consequence to most of my readers but are a matter of accuracy. My hearing challenges (many don’t know I am nearly deaf and must be able to see your mouth moving to hear you speak) compounded with hearing English spoken with an entirely different dialect have combined to create some real misunderstandings. Unfortunately, most of the Africans seem willing to allow me to call them the wrong name rather than to risk embarrassing me by correcting my error.
Okay, I guess all that is just more cultural immersion.
Last evening I left with Stakwell to travel to Lake Turkana, a ‘city’ on Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world. And that drive resulted in me having to make one of the largest corrections related to my travels here. I thought the road I traversed with Peter, my race car driver, at the wheel at the first of this week was about as bad as a road can get. WRONG!!! Lake Turkana is the capital of this district of Kenya and there was a meeting of government heads we were attending this morning where Stakwell was making a presentation. I cannot comprehend what possessed a state to select that location as their capital city! The drive there was way beyond what our drive last week was even though Stakwell was driving and he is slow and cautious in comparison to Peter. I did not know there was anywhere in the world as hostile as that country through which they have half attempted to fashion a road. Picture 20 trillion rocks ranging in size from baseballs to basketballs to houses stacked endlessly for 60 miles. It is even rare for the cactus to get a root in that environment. I’ve taken both snapshots and videos for any who just can’t believe what it can be like.
When we got to the actual “city” I was even more confused about why the selected this location, just 20 kilometers from Ethiopia, for their capital. Nonetheless, they credit the city with having a population of 20,000 which includes many scattered huts clustered about in small clearings carved out of the rocks. There is ONE industry in the place; fishing. …make that two, with farming various governments being the most profitable. Everywhere I looked there were signs advertising “This program sponsored by ___________” Surprisingly to me, most of the financing is coming from the EU and Japan, two entities heavily backed by American taxpayers. This left me questioning why we are funding governments (through foreign aid) who in turn provide funding to 3rd world countries and receive all the political traction for the help? Why don’t we just reduce the amount of foreign aid provided to various governments by the amount that feel they have in excess to give away to 3rd parties? Then, if we want the good will gained through the beneficial support of actually needy countries, we could give directly to those countries and cut out the middleman who neither appreciates us nor credits us for their ability to finance these projects.
Getting off the political philosophy and dealing with the cultural realities which are my reasons for being here…
Africa is volatile, Kenya is right up there at the top of that. Yesterday before we took off for Lake Turkana I was visiting with a missionary working in Kurungu, just up the road. He showed me a bullet hole in the left hand passenger’s door and told me about the event. The prior missionary was driving down the road when bandits ambushed them; he raced away and escaped the attack but the bullet that pierced the door struck his wife in the leg, severing a major artery and she was bleeding to death even as he was racing away for their life. He staunched the blood flow the best he could and called the American Inland Mission organization who got a Cessna 206 in the air almost instantly. They coordinated a rendezvous and the plane landed on the primitive road, picked her up and rendezvoused with a jet air ambulance that got her to a hospital. Although they saved her life, the couple returned to the states and this missionary is now here from Toronto. Then just a few minutes ago I heard the head of the Red Cross in this part of Kenya, himself a Samburu native, tell someone on the phone that he wouldn’t be somewhere in the morning because it wasn’t safe to travel after dark and he was staying put right here at Stakwell’s camp until morning. We also have a large group from South Africa who arrived here this evening about the same time we arrived back from Lake Turkana.
So, after hearing these things and seeing the near-fatal bullet hole in the Land Rover, (I understand they replaced a good bit of glass in the vehicle after the incident too) I started rethinking the inconvenience of having a squad of armed security forces riding with us to Lake Turkana… standing up through the roof with their rifles—actually looking for antelope for meat, not for bandits. I’m sure that sight would have deterred most bandits along the road.
On a semi-different tack, not personal security but African volatility; my trip might be changing shapes due to the Nairobi airport burning down today. I’m not sure this is in the international news but numerous vendors had just been served eviction notices in the past 3 days because of being late on payments… then the place burns to the ground. Hmmm… Of course, it was primarily still the frame structure erected by the British around the second world war. Of course, this will affect those who are coming here to join me more than it impacts me as no international flights are arriving in Nairobi. I’m sure I’ll just be assigned to another flight out.
I’ll be here at Stakwell’s about 2 more days then will be heading to Kisumu where I will be teaching in the Barnabas School of Pastoral Development. This role is beyond stimulating to me to contemplate!
Again, today at Lake Turkana I was impressed with how Kenya has such abundant natural resources and yet is awash in poverty. And I was impressed all over again how Christianity and education (the two go hand in hand) impact a culture and improve the lives of everyone who comes to know God. Although I cannot say such at this time, I am getting a strong impression that God’s calling upon my life was not just for one brief trip here… HE has been changing me daily since arriving in Africa, just as I have prayed that He would.
Please, continue to lift me up in your prayers,
Jack was raised in a Christian home where he spent his youth preparing to preach God’s word. First published at thirteen, writing and speaking became Jack’s passions. Whether through newspaper columns, magazine articles, radio broadcasts or public speaking engagements, Jack continues to share his heart with his readers. His life’s motto: To Know God, and To Show Him To Others.