Driving up over a bumpy ridge, we saw people in the distance brightly clothed huddled under a tree. This was a group of locals from the Masai tribe gathered to greet us and this was their church, the tree. Our entourage was 2 vans of the mission team, a pickup carrying the bishop and others from her office loaded with donations and a motorcycle ridden by 3 evangelists. Along the way we saw families of elephants, baboons and a giraffe, wild kingdom roadside! Also, en route the motorcycle blew a tire so they piled it on top of the 200# bags of maize and beans and the giant p/a system in the bed of the truck. The 3 men climbed in the back and held on for dear life. Travel continued Kenya style!
When we got closer the singing became audible and upon stepping out of the van, the women clasped our hands and dance-walked us to our seats ( benches made out of split logs) under the tree. Not much shade was provided by the branches and we basked in the sun's equatorial brilliance and in the congregation's warm welcome. The children always manage to squirm their way through the throng to touch us, the muzungas ( white people ).
Greetings, speeches, prayers, introductions and gift presentations followed. The Masai women are very talented in beadwork, wearing elaborate circular necklaces and ornate earrings and bracelets. They brought their handiwork to display on cloth on the ground so we then visited individually and some of us shopped. I preferred to buy items like this where the money goes directly to the families of the creators and you know they need the income.
Intrigued with the babies, I spent some time chatting with a girl named Joyce and her little brother, Bada. It's amazing how the women carry so much on their backs, shoulders, heads. Bishop Catherine taught me how to tie up a women's bundle on my back with a scarf so I'm going to try it with Keller and Sadie. Keller has grown so much, so that one might be a challenge!
Our next stop was another Masai village that had built an enclosed structure for their church consisting of wooden poles , dirt floor, metal roof and walls made of chicken wire. The room was filled with people singing and dancing their welcome greetings. Masai people have their own unique moves; I could follow with my hand claps and feet stomps but no way could I mimic their head bounces mixed with chin juts and occasional rhythmic jumps! A little girl snuggled in next to me here on the bench seating. While ceremonies were going on inside I noticed a tribesman standing outside watching, adorned in his native menswear of skirt, shawl, wooden club and stick or spear. When all the talk concluded I went outside to speak to him, surprised that he conversed so eloquently in English! His name is Samuel and he finished schooling through form 4(senior year of high school). Distressed that he could not find employment he asked for our prayers that he would find a good job and be able to better provide for his family. Currently he is living on his family's land and helping with herding the livestock. (The Masai region is too dry and rocky/arid, like some parts of west Texas, to successfully grow crops so they subsist on raising cattle, goats and sheep). This day he had left the herd to others to come and volunteer as watchman at the church gathering. In this area they have had trouble with bands of elephants tearing up their buildings so he was standing guard for us. Before leaving Samuel brought his 2 young sons out of the crowd to meet me, Baron & Professor. Hopeful names, don't you think?
Asking us to stay longer than scheduled for a "brief" meeting, their church chairman presented to us a formal document proposing all the goals that their little congregation wanted to accomplish. His presentation was fervent, researched, detailed and compelling as they had hopes to set up a preschool program for the youngest children, a regional medical clinic to address widespread health issues and a skills training program for teenage girls. He was very concerned about the genital mutilation that was an ancient practice still going on in his community, the girls being turned out of their homes where families could no longer afford to feed and care for them and the increasing amount of prostitution among these girls who found business from the military base in proximity. The problems are so big, but God does have a way of accomplishing miracles through his people!
I wonder what will happen here?
After this full day we drove through rain on slick mud roads back to Nyanuki to check into our last hotel for a one night stay. It was late and we were tired and frustrated that some of our group had to change rooms 3 times before they found ones with working toilets. A minor detail considering all we had seen today. Eventually all was resolved as we loved the hot showers and the deep sleep.
Matthew 22:39 Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself.