Not being particularly well versed in monkey ways, I’m not certain what those two were doing on the tin roof of my cabin last night as they raced from one end to the other and then rolled and tumbled from the ridge down almost to the eave all the while making their peculiar monkey noises. Were they fighting, playing or was it amorous? I don’t know. All I do know was it wasn’t helping me get to sleep!
Then this morning I awakened (late) to the most amazing cacophony of bird and animal noises I’ve ever heard. South Horr has no PA system so if any of the Muslims here do the daily prayers—which I’ve seen no sign of here—it is unheard and invisible. I do know there are some Muslims here, but suspect they are non- . But what we do have here are the sounds of nature and a pastoral society. Cattle, goats, camels, sheep, chickens (well, I guess you don’t herd chickens) all add their voices to the dozen or more bird species that are vocal here in the morning hours. Now this is a sensory delight to one who is most at home in the outdoors and loves farming and ranching.
I received an unusual and accidental compliment yesterday from several people in the community here. Few people got a good look at me as we came roaring into South Horr with my LeMans driver, Peter, at the wheel of the truck on Sunday; but some saw a larger, older, white haired anglo in Stakwell’s Land Cruiser and word spread that J.L Williams was here. Then as I walked the village Monday morning with Thompson, one of the young men here at the camp whom Stakwell had assigned to help me find things, several of the older men called out to him to ask whether I was J.L. Of course, he explained that I was not, but that I was a friend of J.L.’s which I have learned carries a lot of weight in itself. I was humbled by the mistaken identity as I have come to appreciate the impact J.L. & Patt Williams have had upon humanity around the globe; they are truly one in tens of millions for the good they have done for untold numbers of people. One of the clear manifestations of their impact can be seen just in this Samburu village. We drove past several dozen villages on the way here and yesterday I visited a couple of other tribes briefly and one Tuscana village extensively and the contrast between this village and all those others is beyond description. It is almost as great as the difference between this village and a U.S. city. Quite a few years ago J.L. met an ambitious young Samburu man, Stakwell Yurinemo, and came here to visit his home and that was the beginning of a tale of service, transformation, and advancement that rivals any I’ve ever seen. Stakwell was just wanting to build a church building for the growing congregation of Christians here in South Horr and while J.L. facilitated that simple desire he also cast a vision for that young man which ignited a spark deep within Stakwell that is unlike anything the Samburu had ever experienced in their centuries of history. We at Dayspring and in America know mostly about the evangelistically oriented aspects of Stakwell’s life, which is significant, but he has gone on to be not only a tribal leader extraordinaire but has become a regional voice and force with a worldwide network of associates and influence. He has been instrumental in making South Horr the object of numerous other missions and has helped in bringing societal change of a nature that has not only created a new kind of wealth growing in this area but is transforming a warring tribe of nomadic herdsmen into a settled and growing civilization supporting itself and attracting industry and international investment. Wherever one goes, even among “enemy” or rival tribes, Stakwell’s name elicits smiles and welcomes. He is impacting everyone in the region. He argues before the government the case for a tribe of Massai—a rival or enemy people to the Samburu—who are otherwise without an official voice or an articulate spokesman. Some corrupt government officials are seeking to run an ancient tribe of Massai off their land so they can give the land to some corporations for the development of geothermal energy which is a tremendous resource of that area. Stakwell has succeeded in putting this issue in the international spotlight so that the Massai can retain ownership of their property and prosper from the development of the energy there. He is doing the same for another group north of here where oil and gas surveying have indicated substantial resources.
And the project that I have personally witnessed is the ground stages of an international wind power development that will not only be located on but will benefit numerous tribes, including the Samburu. Stakwell serves as consultant, data gatherer, and facilitator of the development—projected at 7-8 Billion dollars but which is already pumping money into the area. They have erected towers on high country in the region to the north of South Horr which are gathering data for the development. Well, this is Africa, a 3rd World Continent and Kenya, a 3rd world country even after years of British colonialization (and still host to considerable British forces). Other companies would steal the data, various tribes would steal the materials, from cable to tower, and some would just seek to destroy the program to preserve the old ways. (of poverty, short lifespans, and intense daily struggle… but they know nothing else and fear change) So, it is necessary to protect the towers. Stakwell managed the hiring of security forces from the tribes to protect the towers. These forces, out of concern for their own lives, I’m sure, as much as protecting the equipment, have transformed these hilltops into fortresses. The outer perimeter is a high barrier of thorn shrubs interlaced to form an impenetrable wall of deadly thorns; this protects against lions and would also be a deterrent to human attack. Then inside that they built about a 4’ high stone circle around their hut which is just a woven branch thatched thing where 6 men sleep and live. A few feet away is a smaller enclosure of stone which is a defensive firing pit. As I surveyed the place I realized they were relatively secure from any opposition that would likely come against them with the only outside firing position that could reach inside their defenses being a rocky knoll about 800 meters away, not likely a threat from anyone who would be coming against them here. The men are equipped with a mix of .303 British Enfields (WW I era rifles which are still very serviceable) and AK47’s. These men are ‘deputized’ or unofficial police force and it is humorous seeing their attire with various pieces of uniforms from multiple different militaries. So, there are about 24 families among the local tribes now receiving soldier’s wages even while remaining largely at home… a huge step up for these men who would otherwise be herding goats during the day with no income. We went there because there is no water anywhere near those ridges where the wind towers would be located and we carried 22 five gallon containers of water to fill their 55 gallon plastic drums. It was approximately 50 km one way to the security camp and Peter, the race car driver J, and Rio a worker here at the camp, were making the run so since Stakwell was in meetings all afternoon, I just jumped in and went along. Was I ever glad I did!
And I might add, although I do not consider wind powered electricity a viable economic substitute for electrical production in America, the economic infusion this development will bring to this area even before it provides electricity where there is now none, is going to prove worthwhile to these people regardless of whether it ever provides an economic benefit to the European taxpayers who will ultimately fund the program through grants. In America there would not be any of the wind farms we have if it were not for the government (taxpayer funded) grants financing them. When programs are economically viable they do not require government funding because private investors will always put their money where there is the opportunity (even with risk) of making a profit. This is also why, scientifically, there is forced taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research and no government funding for adult stem cell research. Embryonic stem cell research, while destroying unborn children to derive the base materials, has never proven any value medically beyond hypothesis and thus no value for investors, while adult stem cell technology has been replacing organs and healing diseases for nearly two decades and is funded entirely by investors. Technology that works economically has no trouble finding funding and does not require government funding. But there are people along the way who will benefit from this program even if it isn’t worth much to the Europeans funding it. So, this paragraph was a mixed rant. J
We also carried water for a mission school at a Tuscana village a little further away. And that is where I spent the time in the village among the people, though I never found anyone who knew a single word of English other than the school teacher who was showing me around. It hit me so I asked, “You aren’t Tuscana, are you?” to which he replied no and explained that he is here as a missionary from Nigeria teaching the children but that his greatest difficulty was persuading the adults that there was any reason that their children needed to go to school. They have NO vision for their children beyond herding goats (the only animals they had) and living this nomadic life of abject poverty that is beyond anything I can describe. We spent about an hour together and after he had shown me the Tuscana likestyle, I shared with him motivations for the students learning that he hadn’t even contemplated and I left with him excited about how he could inspire the kids to want to learn. As we were walking through the village and I clicked an occasional photo, an older lady came running us down… one that had been hostile to me from the first if I wasn’t going to pay her to take her photo… and demanded of the teacher to know what I was “seeing”, concerned I was scoping out their property to come back and raid them. I didn’t see anything in that village that was worth carrying off if it was given to me other than a goat, not even as a souvenir. I’m serious; these people have NOTHING other than the jewelry in their ears or the beads around their necks.
On the drive we did have some excitement, which Rio attributed to my being there as he claimed it was the first time they had ever seen gazelles or zebras or blue guineas, or dik diks on that drive. We had one large but adolescent ostrich that we came upon crossing the road which decided to make a run from us down the road. I got a great video (in spite of the road and Peter’s driving) as the ostrich sought to outrun Peter and our Land Cruiser on that bumpy sand road for about a quarter of a mile before it finally gave up and left the road. Wow! Those birds can RUN! (they are also huge… much larger than the ones I’ve seen in zoos or ostrich farms. I also got a video of several grays zebras running across in front of us and a few snapshots of birds and the gazelles, including one classic pose by one male gazelle. Because of seeing the blue guineas I learned something peculiar about the Samburu; other than the Muslims, Samburu do not eat birds. (Stakwell does when he is away from home!) They keep chickens only for the eggs and do not eat the birds.
I went in a “store” in South Horr yesterday searching for a SIM card for my phone as Airtel does not provide coverage here and Kellie and I had been out of contact for just over 24 hours… the longest since I’ve been away and if I didn’t do something we would not visit for a week. Thompson accompanied me there both as a guide and a translator because my phone has a feature that makes it an issue here. As with many of the newer smart phones, the Samsung S3 uses a micro SIM card. They don’t have micro SIM cards in Africa, but I learned my first day in Kenya that a regular sized SIM card can be cut down to micro size for use in these phones. Both Samsung and Apple make a tool to do this, but I learned you can just lay your original card over the large card being careful to align the contact points and trace then trim to fit, using a knife, scissors and file, all of which I have on my multitool. Of course, that was foreign to the girls running the store we went to here in South Horr, but what I really wanted to relate was the “store” itself. Thompson and I stood on one side of the counter and the two girls stood across the counter from us. Thompson is about 1/3 my width and yet the two of us covered the store from left to right… it was less than 6’. There was just room inside for us to get through the door and stand at the counter, some stores you stand outside the store to be at the counter. Behind the counter the store extended back about 6 or 7 feet and they had shelves along the back and one side wall. When we came in the girls were playing American pop music on the radio which was plugged into a power strip that was wired with alligator clamps to a car battery. A small TV was also plugged into the strip though it wasn’t on at the time. On top of the store was a solar panel and a satellite dish. In the back was a 6’ X 6’ room where the girls lived. The total inventory in the store consisted of about 12 glass bottles of soda of which 4 were Coca-Cola and 3 were Fanta Orange, the others were assorted. They also had for sale a stack of match boxes, a package of D-cell batteries and then the display of SIM cards and airtime cards (look like scratch lottery cards). After they sold me a SIM card, they had one left and had probably half a dozen more airtime cards. That was the store. And there they make their living. But the store was built of brick and stuccoed and painted with a tin roof, a permanent structure as most of the homes and buildings in South Horr now are. As I walked down the main road through town (no pavement within 200 km) I saw people walking along talking on cell phones and spotted satellite dishes and solar panels on many of the homes and just west of town you can see a new cell tower on the hill. There is also a hardware store (actually pretty well stocked and owned by Stakwell) and a clinic. I know this doesn’t sound like much to most of you reading this, but this is the first step of civilization from the stick and grass huts or stick and mud huts that make up most of the villages I’ve seen where none of these developments have occurred.
There is even a school, single room, of course, for ADULT education and one of the graduates lives here in Stakwell’s camp and has become the manager of the new farm they have instituted just north of town that now occupies the days of 480 of their residents. This young man is the one who is providing the Internet link for me to send these letters to you. His name is also Peter, though he is nothing like our driver. The farm is a large parcel of several hundred acres fenced tight to keep the goats and wildlife out and which has an extensive drip irrigation system for each farmer to access for his own plot. There are also greenhouses and other extensive support for these farmers to learn how to do this new life. These are first generation farmers and the farm has strict bylaws about what must be done by each participant. But most people, either here in Africa where they have never seen anything but herding or hunting/gathering or in America where most people think food comes from the grocery store, have never realized it is farming that created civilization. Prior to farming there were no cities as large groups of people could not survive in close proximity. With the advent of farming, a few people could provide the food for many people, who were then able to cluster together and develop other skills. You can’t have a blacksmith (machinist), a carpenter or brick mason, an author or printer, a teacher, or any other professions until farming enabled the masses to purchase their food while they focused their attention on other endeavors to generate income and develop other technologies. Also, here in South Horr the intention is to move the people from a nomadic herding existence to an agrarian lifestyle to eliminate the tribal wars. It was the farmers and their fences that ended the range wars of the early American west.
The schools do have electricity through solar power via grants from various foundations… most of which grants trace back to Stakwell therefore ultimately to J.L. & Patt Williams in one way or another. Interestingly, the grant for the farm came from Japan and the organization here administering it, and for which Peter works, is the Kenya Red Cross Foundation.
So, seeing a people transformed through the fruits of a visionary who came to this remote land years ago and nurtured a young Samburu tribesman, then being mistaken for him as I walked around was truly an accidental though humbling compliment. And apologies to J.L., I know you aren’t near my girth, but you know to these Africans all us white people look alike.
Preaching Christ transforms lives in more ways than most ever imagine when they think of evangelism. I was reading an editorial in the New Yorker magazine by a renowned atheist from central Africa a while back who said that whether he believed in God or not, his witness of how Christianity had impacted his native people and others throughout Africa, all the good that had been wrought by those spreading the gospel whether by caring for orphans, building and staffing hospitals, educating or teaching to farm, these testified of the love of God being LIVED through his people.
I can’t help but look at my own life and wonder whether people would say that whether they accepted what I believe or not, my life is a blessing to all those around me? What about you; is God’s love reflected in your life so that all those around you see you as a blessing?
I’m going on the road with Stakwell this evening through tomorrow as he has business meetings in the city of Lake Turkana north of here; I understand that is an actual city. So, until I return, this is Jack signing off and wishing all of you God’s richest blessings… and that you might have eyes to SEE them.
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.