Monday, 24 November 2014

Some of the great guys I got to work with this year...

Job (yellow shirt), with children from 7W.
Solomon, in a min (hut).
Lowa (front right), at an end-of-term party.

Chulayo leaving his house.

Abel, outside his house.

Saying goodbye to Mohammed!

Reuben and Harule.

Friday, 14 November 2014

A kaleidoscope of colour and smiles.

Just thought you might like to see some of the people I've been spending time with in the last seven days... 

Mr Letipo (Headteacher) with his growing family.

Film afternoon for Class 7

There's nothing quite like being an individual

I was there too!!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Kids

 Did I mention that I teach some great children? 

Below are the two classes who I have been working with: Seven East and Seven West.

Class 7E with Mr John.

Girls from Class 7W

Lads from 7W: Jamal diving in. 

Lads from 7W: Galah Lito and John

Friday, 7 November 2014

The Speech

The Speech
Imagine you are about to sit the biggest exams of your life. You need to calm your mind, but you can't. You are so incredibly nervous. Now imagine that one of your classmates stands up and gives a speech...

This week, that's exactly what Chulayo did, minutes before his KCPE Maths Exam. 
Stirring stuff, as he shared his thoughts to encourage his classmates. 

If you're not able to view the photo, this was Chulayo's plan for his speech:

Be Strong and Courageous

1.When we are weak or discouraged how does God help us?
Romans 8v26 > Spirit helps us

2.When we are fearful and very anxious, how does God help us?
Isaiah41v10 > Always be with us to strengthen, help and hold us up.

3.How does God help us when we are weary and burdened?
Matthew 11v28-29 >God gives us peace.

4. Like No.1 >2 Thessalonians 2v16-17


Chulayo backs up all of his confidence in the words that come from God himself, as we find those words in the Bible.
(Check out those Bible verses - they're great!)

Inspirational stuff!

Chulayo is on the right - only a young lad!





Monday, 27 October 2014

Youth

You know the next time you complain that it's a bit squashed with three sitting in the back of the car? Check this picture out...
Off to church
The AIC church in Korr is thriving. Recently, I accompanied about a hundred youth, on the back of this truck, as we headed for the nomadic church for the Sunday service. Great trip, good times. 

It was great to see a good friend of mine, Abel, stepping up and preaching in Rendille. 
Abel
Nomadic Sunday service, in the school hall
We had time in the afternoon for lots of discussions and speeches. Abel was a busy man, co-ordinating various items.
Abel, chairing the meeting
For those who pray: please pray for these churches, the young people and leaders like Abel. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Snow in the desert

Not been there. 

Not seen it on TV (I don't have one). 


Never even heard of it. 

When you are teaching children who live in the desert who have no television, few opportunities to travel, and almost no access to the library of photographs we see throughout our lives, it can present some challenges when you're attempting to explain things. 

Like snow

Try explaining snow to a class of children who have never seen snow. Never made a snowman. Never had a snowball fight. Never felt that cold. 

The other day, we were talking about the correct terms for homes in an English lesson and got to the word "igloo." 

"Some people actually live in houses made out of snow."

"Teacher, no... No!" 

"Really, they do!" 

It's funny trying to convince children of the seemingly impossible, when you know that it is a fact.

"But surely the snow house is too cold? Surely the house melts?" 

I thought I'd throw the newer phenomenon of 'ice hotels' into the conversation, just to really make them wonder. For these kids, there is a huge world out there, out of reach. 

(Will any of them make a 'snow angel' in their lifetimes?) 

As the lesson progressed we moved on to bears.

"So, where does a bear live?"

"What's a bear?" 

Stupidly, I hadn't expected that question.

"Hmmm, good question." Bears in Africa. What is a bear? Who took all the bears from Africa?

Eeee, I love my job!









Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Raw


With regret, this is a follow up to my last post.

What happened to the boy in question?

On the last day of September we buried Lopir Kiambati. His grave may be unmarked and a simple pile of stones, but I'll never forget him.

The second teenager to be lost to us in a month. Needlessly. In the land of no hospitals and no doctors, the tragedy of teenagers moving on to the next life just becomes part of life.

How I would love to see just one qualified doctor in Korr. 

It's hard to believe it's really true. His passing had been announced to the school staff just after 11am and by 6pm he was committed to the ground, with his shell-shocked classmates shuffling home.

I grieve for the loss of a warm-hearted lad who I've been teaching for over a year. I can't just shrug my shoulders and pretend that his death means nothing to me.

I'm comforted by the words of Jesus:
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” (John 11:25)

I was looking for a photo of Lopir and found this one of him in happier times. He's in the middle, holding the cup with his right hand. One of the lads! 




Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die

You hear stories of places where there is no doctor. I used to imagine places where huts cling to the edge of a forgotten volcano and yes, there's no doctor. Why would there be? Only a few people. Insanely remote. 

But what about Korr? 

There are a few thousand people here. They have mobile phones, education, churches and can even watch the English Premier League at the weekend... but there's no doctor. It's a ready-made situation for a skilled physician. The people are waiting. And they're dying.

Just over a year ago a child passed away due to not having the basic medicines for diabetes. 

This month a teenage girl died of tonsillitis in a nearby school. How is that even possible? Dying from tonsillitis. Let me paraphrase the local procedure. 

"You go to an old man who cuts your baby tongue (tonsils) out at the back of your mouth. Then you have to sit inside your home for a month or so. Don't socialise. You must drink no water."

Why did the girl die? Apparently because she drank water. 

But it doesn't end there. 

There's a boy in my class who hasn't turned up this month. He's had his 'baby tongue' cut out. And he's sat in his home, in the desert heat, under the instructions, "Don't drink water." He's weak. He's scared.

And I wonder if you can hear him today? 

In the words of Jesus:

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Uncomfortable with your own culture


A wise man once said:
If you don't like the way the world is turning out, then there's no point shouting at the TV. Try this instead: Go and live in a major city and start to exercise some kind of positive influence. Cities are culture factories. Culture is made in the large cities of this world. Do what you can to influence the culture around you by living in a city. Raise a family. Create a legacy of culture-changers who influence media and politics.”
So what's that got to do with Korr?
This may take a little while to explain...
Let me take you to one of my favourite places in Korr – the TV cottage (okay, I don't know what to call it). There is a small rectangular building in Korr that regularly houses some fifty or so passionate football fans, for the latest offering from the English Premier League. Ahhh, the wonders of television. For ninety minutes each week I have a window into my own culture.


Last weekend, with Manchester United 3-0 up at half-time, I sat back on my plastic chair, looking forward to more of the same in the second half. Ali Abdi, the proprietor of the establishment, likes to flick through the channels at half-time and on this night he settled on a Hollywood blockbuster for fifteen minutes.
Not such a comfortable half-time break for me.
The blockbuster in question played out the usual kinds of scenes:
-sleazy moments, where a man makes sexual advances on a woman and she provides little resistance;
-swaggering 'bad guy' who makes evil appear like a whole lot of fun;
-a wide variety of gruesome ways to die, in glorious technicolour;
I was the sole representative of Western culture in the room. Of course, no one turned around and blamed me for the film, but I couldn't help feeling a little ashamed. Guilty by association? After fifteen minutes of squirming (watching 'my' culture), the football was back on and the film was forgotten. But I wonder what people from Korr must think when they consider my culture, when they see the Hollywood approach to life. Sure, the special effects were impressive, but the morality?
To your average Englishman, I know that I'm sounding prudish right now, but keep in mind, most people in Korr go to the mosque or church where purity is preached and they may see very little or nothing of the world of television, magazines and the Internet from one day to the next. I heard a guy comment on this once,
The majority of teenagers in Korr are a bit like clean cotton wool. They are not corrupted by mass media like we are.”
They say that plastic bags are one of the great evils that the West have shared with the world, and I'm not denying that, but consider the effect of the 'entertainment' Western culture shares with the watching world. 
Maybe it's time to go and live in the city after all...

I do take heart from the words I find in the Bible that we can make a great difference wherever we are. Check out the words of Jesus, from the book of Matthew. 

13 You are the salt of the earth... 

14 You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."







Sunday, 31 August 2014

It's not all work, work, work...


When I came to Africa in August 2013 it was not to travel, or find myself, or run away (tried all those before... as a little lad I only managed to get halfway down the garden). 

It was because I felt convinced that God wanted me here for this year. 

But it's not all work, work, work. There are just too many wonderful places in East Africa for me to avoid them all.



Shameless tourist

On the way up Mt Kenya

Anyone for tea?

Wonder of the world...

That abandoned beach feeling


Bashful baby leopard

Almost at the summit of Mt Longonot



Psalm 148
Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.





Friday, 8 August 2014

All the boats are leaving the island

There's a funny feeling at the end of a school term. I'm talking about transport.

Some of the students and school staff in Korr are actually from a different part of Kenya, or have to go for further studies in the holidays. And everyone wants to head south during the same few days. The problem is that there are only a handful of vehicles available, so there tends to be a mad scramble to secure a place on the back of a jeep/lorry/bus... anything.


Some of the people I work with in Korr.

It feels like a whole bunch of people on a desert island, all waiting for boats - but if you miss the boats, then you remain on the island, scanning the horizon hopefully. In some ways, Korr still has that feeling of being cut off from the rest of the world.



In my case, I had been told that if I paid a set amount, I would be able to join about a dozen of the other teachers, to travel in comfort all the way to Nairobi. If I was up at 3am then I would be "picked" from my house ("pick up" rarely gets used around here. It's much easier to just say ' pick').

A little after 3 o'clock, I heard some full-throated beeping from the gates of the compound (the concept of 'noise pollution' is not as widespread as you might think). My ride! Within two minutes, I was riding in the back of a medium-sized jeep, under the cover of tarpaulin, stretched over the steel frame of the vehicle. I felt like Harry Houdini trying to find a place to park myself, as the jeep was already overloaded with luggage and adults. Ten sardines. Well, at least I didn't need a seatbelt - I was tightly fastened in between two colleagues, who didn't grumble, even though we were basically crushing each other. And then the bad news: we still have five more people to pick. In the words of John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious." Amazingly, under the cover of darkness, we folded another five people into the air pocket.

For four or five hours we lurched around, as the driver did the necessary off-roading to take us all the way to Isiolo. After we had counted our bruises and nursed our dormant legs back to life, a few of us decided to find a shuttle to Nairobi (a shuttle is a refurbished matutu with more leg room than your average matutu. The teachers marvel at the wonders of the 'shuttle'. I've got to admit - I like a good shuttle.).

As we continued on our way to Kenya's capital, I did a lot of looking out of the window and I couldn't help noticing a few quirky little differences. I kept thinking,


You don't see that very often in England... 

For example:

1. A truck with a deployment of soldiers parked at the side of the main road, and about thirty guys lined up to empty their bladders, in the broad daylight. In their defence, they were wearing plenty of camouflage. Furthermore, I haven't seen a service station for months, so, what were their options? Also, I appreciated that they were stood in a relatively straight line - regimental, orderly, efficient.

2. A shepherd herding his goats by launching stones at his precious flock. (I am told that goats can be particularly disobedient animals.)




3. Police stopping your vehicle and asking for ID from everyone. This happened at least five times.

4. Zebra crossings and mountainous speed bumps on a motorway. The Thika Highway looks just like any ordinary motorway until you hit one of the 'sleeping policemen,' followed by very long zebra crossings (across maybe eight lanes of traffic) and, even more amazingly, people actually using these black and white crossings. Who needs extreme sports when you can cross the road for FREE?

On a serious note, I'm thankful for a safe journey, I really am. Only this week, a young Headteacher from Korr lost his life on these roads. God gives us the days we have. Let's use them wisely. 

I love the advice at the start of Ephesians 5:


Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.


 









Monday, 28 July 2014

Exile


Almost twenty years ago, a guy called Peter Shaw said to me, with complete conviction.

"You should live in another country for at least a year."

And I remember what I thought at the time.

"No."

Funny how life turns out. Funny that I never forgot what he said.
The power of some words: lasting.

So what's it like, leaving your own culture for a year?

Let's go with the positives.

There's a lot of deep stuff I could say about the Rendille people and God's goodness (perhaps another time). However, for this post I've mostly just had a bit of fun, by skimming memories from the top of my head, which means that what follows is predominantly random, light and fluffy. 

This has been a year to make the most of the daylight hours. Apparently, 9pm is "missionary midnight" and this rings true for me. I'm often in bed by 10pm. My parents both grew up on farms, where milking hours were early, so surely they can swell with pride that I've been waking at the crack of dawn on almost every day. Make the most of the day and all that...

I am now a walker. Every day, I take the trip to school on my feet. Imagine that! No car. No visits to the petrol station (what petrol station!?). I'm really hoping that this habit continues back in the UK.

My appreciation of fruits and vegetables is at an all-time high. That has to be good, right? When you go for weeks without either, your body rushes to meet that fresh tomato. Nothing like a big, red tomato! Cabbage becomes exciting. No. Really.  Given my new appreciation of the humble vegetable, I have to agree with Proverbs 15v17:

"Better a meal of vegetables where there is love
Than a fattened calf with hatred."

Notably, the middle-aged belly has gone. The "Korr diet" (core diet?) really works for me. No cake in the staffroom for people's birthdays helps enormously. There's no McDonald's in the entire country, so I can't just nip out to 'top up the tummy' with a few cheeseburgers. One bowl of getheri (beans and maize) for the 12 hours between breakfast and the evening meal really deals with any lingering folds of flesh. Marvellous.

I don't have to flush the toilet for months at a time. Think about that for a minute! (Being free from having to pull the flushing lever has saved approximately 17 minutes 15 secs over the course of the entire year... ... !?) The cockroaches deal with everything for free. Yes, cockroaches are the misunderstood good guys!!

I have not had a cough or cold all year. Now that is something to be thankful for. The ongoing hot, dry weather really clears up the snivels. I've not had that miserable combination of feelings of blocked sinuses, competitively-thick cough, rain pouring down, dark outside, driving to work with your wipers swishing wildly in front of your nose, wet playtimes all week, and kids cooped up inside.

Random. Light. Fluffy.

Although I am now curious as to how 'one year away' has affected other people, for those who've been mad enough to try it.

How was your year away?


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Death-bed delight

Picture the scene. It's your death-bed and you think to yourself: What did I do with my life? Was it worth it? Did my life make a difference? Too many people are caught with the same thought:

"I wasted it. Oh, how I wasted it."

Let's change the scene to a different, but related scene.

I was able to be part of an extraordinary prayer meeting on Sunday night. Emotional. Inspiring. One couple, nearing the age of retirement, shared their thoughts, looking back over 35 years of work in this part of Kenya. God has used them to reach a people group who knew nothing of Jesus, so that now an 'unreached' people group has become 'reached' in their lifetime; on their watch. They have been able to write down the Rendille language for the first time and translate the New Testament into this local tongue. Checking still has to be done, but the majority of the work has been completed.

And to think, for the first 13 years of living in this remote area, not a single person became a Christian. I think that a lot of people, people like me, would have packed up and gone home. You can only take so much. I'm glad they stayed! Today, the church is thriving and changing lives.

Another couple in the prayer meeting had never been to Korr before. What were they, tourists? Far from it. The guy began to open up. It turns out that they'd been praying for the work and supporting the projects in Korr for about 30 years. They have done what many Christians do: support and pray for places that they may never visit. For decades. Visibly, they were overwhelmed to actually be in the place they had spent years praying for. They were seeing for themselves what all those prayers could achieve.

Let me encourage those of you who have prayed for years and you question yourself:

Is it worth it?

I've seen it with my own eyes. It's worth it. Keep going. God is faithful and He will do it.

And one day, as your life ebbs away, you can rest peacefully in the knowledge that heaven is smiling down on you now.




1 Thessalonians 5

24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.




Saturday, 28 June 2014

Celebrating half-time

How long does the average Brit live these days? 80 years? I think it's pretty close to eight decades. Which means that the birthday I just celebrated marks half-time for my entire life. (In this figurative vision, I guess that it's also time to nip out to the toilet and put the kettle on?). 

So, double twenty. Sure goes quickly. 

I heard 'old people' say that to me over and over again, but it's so true. Life is short. 

Anyhow, how do you mark a few decades when you're in the middle of the desert? (I was half-dreading it. My 30th had been great - time with old friends and family. But how would that work in a location far from ALL those people).

On any normal Monday I would be teaching, but this was "mid-term break" (basically, a long weekend) so I had a free day. A whole Monday to celebrate. 

I used to hide away on birthdays, but time has changed me. Celebrate the years that God has given you. See some precious people.

Here are a few highlights:

1.By 8am I already had a huge smile on my face. I had crossed town and was sat with John and Regina, with their kids Joel, Judy and Kennedy, in one of the two small rooms they live in. They left their comfortable old life to come and speak to the Rendille about Christ. We read some Bible and prayed.  They also sang for me: "This is the day that the Lord has made... This is the hour... This is the minute... This is the birthday..." Five smiling people, singing and dancing: I didn't know where to look. I'd arrived in my shorts and t-shirt. John's family were decked in their 'Sunday best': shirts, waistcoats, dresses... After munching biscuits and slurping chai, I was off to see some teachers.   


2.Oscar, Paul and Mike all live at Amina's Guest House. During the week we all work from the same staff room. How was this going to work out? Little did I know that they had planned to preach at me. A "preach-off." Oscar crouched, pouted, smiled, flung his hands around and within two minutes had completed his message. Paul, who was wearing luminous pink shorts over a formal-looking shirt and trousers, stood and commanded the 'crowd'. Before I knew what was happening I was up there, joining in the preach-fest. So THIS is how to spend a birthday morning!?





3.Mike walked me on to Zulakha's for chai. Eric and Daisy were standing outside: these two Kenyan teachers from the Secondary School always bring a smile to my face: humble and happy. What more could you ask for?  



4.Kiambo lives in a traditional Rendille house on the edge of town and he was next on my list. He'd gathered a few more teachers (including two of the friendliest Muslim guys you're ever likely to meet: Mohaa and Jillo). After a few photos, sodas and pancakes I was off home for lunch. 

To cut a long story short, by the end of the day I felt so blessed. Paige and Kim, the two American girls who live on the same compound as me, were so thoughtful all day. For example, while I was away in the morning, Kim was making a chocolate cake with icing... quite the treat out here (i.e. it's my first one all year). The afternoon was spent watching "How to train your dragon" with a few kids - great film! And still I had been asked to go to Jim and Laura's for pudding. I arrived to find presents, balloons, and even ice-cream. I was overwhelmed, having never seen ice-cream in Korr before. Somehow Laura had managed to find every reference to '40' in the Bible and chatted through the list. Naturally, I'm not a thoughtful guy. Thoughtfulness is alien to me. All the more reason to be impressed by the thoughtfulness of others. 

I'm so thankful for the memories and to those who made it special. 

Let me finish with what Daisy said to me, suggesting that this might be my attitude for the next forty years: Psalm 34 v 1

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.


Sounds good to me! 




Saturday, 7 June 2014

We all need encouraging.

True, isn't it? We all need encouraging. But when did you last encourage someone else? (When did I?)

The encouragement I received was at a gathering of mission partners who live and work in Northern Kenya. We had all arrived in Kurungu for a weekend to pray.  
Warm-hearted folk
The sun shone. The stories came tumbling out. And I was encouraged. What a difference it makes when people really listen to you, know where you're coming from and give an encouraging response. 

I had a great surprise when I found out who I would be sharing a room with: Josh and Frazer. Because we have mutual friends back in England, I'd already received lots of information about Frazer and his team-mates, but never actually met the guy. It was a real tonic to hear another British accent and speak about familiar people and situations. He's doing remarkably well, given that his team are living almost entirely off the grid, seeking to share the love of Jesus with those who have never heard of Him. I've gotta say, I'm pretty impressed with his "missionary beard." 
Cup of tea, sir?
But the encouragement was not over. Two U.S. gals had turned up (Paige and Kim) and were going to come back to Korr to be part of our team for a couple of months. People to talk to after school? Fantastic! Okay, so one of them called me, "Dad" but we're all getting a little older now, aren't we? 
The Korr collective: Jim, Laura, me, Paige, Kim
After a couple of movie nights and campfire singing under the stars, I managed to sneak a cheeky (free) flight over the mountains and back home.

Kurungu runway

Beautiful flight
So who are you going to encourage next? 

Or, in the words of Hebrews 3v13 ... "encourage one another daily..."