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Hyenas, Ugali, and Jesus Day 7

A dirt road pockmarked with many years of abuse and travel, our vehicle barely making its way to its destination. Many times our tires becoming nearly stuck before gradually and begrudgingly pushing our van forward. It was well over an hour since we were on the paved road and now our top speed at times 35 mph while our average speed may only be 25 mph. We pass mud hut after mud hut, some with corrugated metal and others with simple thatch. These are people who have been homesteading long before it was the niche thing to do like in the U.S. To us it’s a fun, quaint way of sticking it to the big corporations a way of proving we can be “off grid” and self sufficient, here it is for survival.

The area is inundated with hyena, so there are many fences to try to keep their livestock safe. Even when we stop, I notice a large paw print beside our vehicle that has likely been left earlier that morning. Luckily for us, the heat of the day is on our side, but it also makes the over cramped van ride very hot and the windows do very little to make us comfortable. But even at that no one complains. No one sighs, no one is afraid. We ride with purpose,  contemplative at what we are all expecting but none of us have really seen. Of the team that rides to Sendemke, only Rebekah and Pastor Gary know what lies ahead.

We have been told that this is a nomadic tribe of people that are agrarian and are very timid and mistrusting of outside people. Past attempts to become close have only pushed them further inland and into the rolling hills of the countryside. But for the Watu this is how they have lived for hundreds of years and being in isolation has helped them to survive. In faith, C.B.E.M. started a school on a 6 acre plateau many years ago trusting that if they were able to provide something special for their kids that they may linger and it worked.

As we arrived at our destination and made our way up to the plateau on which the school and village is located, it opened out into a beautiful valley where you could see for many, many miles. In the U.S. land like this would be several hundred thousand dollars, but here the 3 acres was purchased for only $5,000. (See the more info below on how this was acquired.)

Before we arrived one of our host team, members named, donna stopped to get items for the teenage girls. Even simple items for them like under clothes and feminine products are extremely difficult to get and in rare supply in these areas. Donna has been working with the girls for a couple of years now and has built a good rapport with them. They are very excited to see her now as she greets them from the van window.

Hesitatingly young men stand in the distance, weary of us as foreigners and to our intentions. Even though outsiders have been coming here for years, they stand just outside the rows of maize-corn (as they call it) and wait. Have you come to bring something or come to take something? Disputes with other tribes who graze animals though their land have built up some animosity towards others but they quickly warm to us as we begin to unload boxes of medicine that they know will be used to help their children and elderly. Here in these villages the week die from simple things that we may take an over the counter medicine to overcome and Evans and his wife Florida are a welcome sight as is the brightly colored red, blue, and white shirt of the C.B.E.M.

We are greeted by 6 bush pastors. Men who have grown up locally in each of the bush areas and later became serving pastors in those areas. They attend the Seminary at C.B.E.M. And have regular accountability from Pastor Harrison. A tall, lean Kenyan who coolly makes his way to greet us. He spends his time in the bush and also at Chafisi Baptist and its connected Seminary. He is their mentor and shepherd. These 6 men are the lifeline from CBEM to the tribal peoples that they serve. They live as the people live, a hard life of struggling to keep crops alive, animals from being eaten by Hyena, and children from infections and other dangers. This is one of the many, many things that makes CBEM a wonderful ministry to support. There IS no one a part who lives in luxury or has a nice car or clothes. Pastor Frederick himself wears a Fossil watch, not a Rolex and does not personally own a car or a motor bike but relies on the ministry’s vehicle that is shared by many others members of CBEM.

During the service the building is full of colorful wraps and outfits that make the room feel alive with a warm vibrancy. It is a beautiful picture of humanity. All peoples coming together to hear and to worship the One True God, Yahweh. Introductions are made and the 20 or 30 children sitting in the front are slightly restless at times, but they know respect. They sit for the 70 minutes or so without disruption. Even children as young as 18 months sit dutifully and wait. Our team is introduced along with Alex, Dragi, Alena, Anastasia, Katerina, and Kremi (I’m so sorry for misspelling your names). We are announced as the team from 3 continents and the crowd comes alive. As the bush pastors are introduced, it is made known that 2 of them are sick, one of them very sick for many months from a lack of access to insulin. But they are a proud group of men who are happy to represent Jesus Christ to those whom they live and serve.

We are invited along with the team from Bulgaria to share a song of worship and every promptly gets amnesia and forgets every worship song we have ever sung and it takes several minutes as we struggle to come up with a plan. Glorious Day. Yes, that is perhaps one that is known by all American team members and is a favorite. However, after hearing the song by the Kenyans, we feel very inadequate to follow but are met with many smiles and loud clapping as we commence. (By the way, if I haven’t already said so, they clap on 1 and 3, not on the 2 and 4 backbeat as is suggested by the statement “stop clapping like a white person”. Now I will simply retort, “I’m clapping like a Kenyan, thank you.”)

Pastor Gary preaches another wonderful message and of the crowd of about 300 or so, several of them, 6 in all pray to receive Jesus for the first time. They are invited to join us for the baptism service that will take place the next day although it is very unlikely that they will be able to make the long journey to the coast to participate without help from C.B.E.M. Being able to assist them in getting there. There ARE no cars, nor motorbikes that we see while we are there.

After the celebration service, we begin the medical treatment and many, many families receive important medicine. A generics donation from an American in the amount of $100 has allowed Evans to top off the medicine and to purchase items he knew he would need for the Watu.

At 4pm a lunch is served to the children. Rice is cooked in what looks like a 20 gallon pot by a very strong Watu man cooking over an open coal fire. It is very hot in the small building but he and the ladies that are making the food don’t notice the heat. Their goal is to use the food to feed the 350 or so people who have now gathered on the plateau. Portions are placed on large aluminum plates resembling an aluminum garbage can lid and children share the large portion with 2 others. They use their hands to scoop the food out and enjoy conversation with each other as they eat. No one has to remind them to eat. They are focused on their meal, a rare treat on this day, provided by another generous donation. Their typical meal of Ugali, a corn cake made from drying white corn and turning it into a dense thick serving.  This is something they sometimes eat 1 or 2 times per day, it is now replaced with a rice, potato, and goat meat (though very, very little meat and potato, the sauce flavors the mixture making it very rich to the taste). This is a rare change from the food they are accustomed to eating and they are very joyous. Ugali is the staple food of most Kenyans in diverse conditions and is very filling though lacks many other essential nutrients.

After the children, the parents are taken the same aluminum dishes that have been rinsed and refilled with the nutrient dense meal. They too share it community style as well and are thankful they’ve walked and waited as many don’t have access to those kind of meal. We take so much for granted. I take so much fro granted. I stop and spend more food at a gas station for a snack than this people need to feed their large family for many days. It’s something to think about and to not forget when we return. To have learned adn forgotten is a waste of an opportunity to allow the Lord to work in each of us to not only create a greater dependence on Him, but to Trust Him as we begin to make sacrifices so that others can not only hear the Gospel but have access to essential resources.

At the the end of the day many families have gotten medicine to help their children, aging parents, or themselves, 6 have become followers of Christ and many children and one teacher will be baptized at the ocean (spoiler alert), as well as the hundreds of balloons that have been twisted into various shapes for the children and adults who have gotten stickered. Our hearts are full and after a 4:30 lunch our bellies are also full. We finish out the time singing songs like father Abraham, Deep and Wide, and even the Power Shuffle (thanks Dan and Brittney)! As we wave goodbye and travel down the road off of the hillside, we pray, rain is threatening and we have already almost gotten stuck. Our over loaded vehicles must travel for over an hour down roads that have already threatened to keep us atop the mountain.

The mood is somber and everyone is reflective only taking a break from private thoughts to have short conversations or to pray as we approach another pool of water that is nearly 30 feet in diameter. We have ALL been changed by what we have seen. Children in undersized worn out clothing, all sharing a lean-to building in which they take their classes sitting not at desks, but handmade crude benches facing a long worn blackboards. Their needs are many, and yet they have hope for a future provided not just from passionate teachers who also are willing to live in poverty, but in a Savior that they know has come to save them from their sins to give them life in Jesus.

The message of CBEM is threefold:

GO to all people groups Matthew 28:19-20

GO to all people created in God’s image Mark 16:15

GO to all people across geographical boundaries. Acts 1:8

Thank you for taking a moment to read.

More Information:

As a seed project, one of the pastors received five goats with which he was planning on raising livestock to help support his family. This was a risky investment because the area is rife with predators. He had them for several weeks before losing them over the period of a week to a pack of hyenas.

3 of the 6 acres on the plateau in Sendemke were purchased thanks to a donation that I believe was provided by Jersey Baptist Church for the building of the school. Later on, Bobby Tucker of Living Waters ministry would not only provide a borehole (well) and a tank, but also many kilometers of pipe and a pumping station is installed to be able to move water up to the Sendemke school grounds. Please consider partnering with Bobby Tucker of Living Water Ministry.

Clean Water is such a need on the whole continent many people do not have easy access. Even here in the city it is very expensive. Here locally, people use the borehole to get water for bathing, laundry, and many other daily tasks. On our way to Sendemke a woman was bending down in the street filling several water containers from a large puddle of water that is standing in the street. As the tuk tuks (the small 3 wheeled motor bikes) pass by, they make waves in the water and dampen her dress but not her resolve to fill them up with the murky water. Clean water is needed in many places, but especially for those like this elderly woman who maybe unable to walk great distances to fill her containers.

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