Tuesday, 30 September 2014


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."