Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Tales from Tanzania

While I was in the Kenya, one of the big stories, both in the national media, and among Christians particularly, concerned events in the Arusha region of Tanzania, near a town called Loliondo. Significantly, given where we were, this is only just over the border between Tanzania and Kenya, in Maasai territory. A retired Pastor there in his late '70s felt God tell him to provide a "medicine" for people, and has started doing so. This has apparently resulted in miraculous healings of cancer, AIDs and all kinds of ailments. The twist is that you have to take the potion in his compound. If you try and take it to drink elsewhere it can prove fatal.

This is having an enormous impact across the whole of East Africa, and the queues to see Babu (as he is known) stretch for several kilometres. People are taking their relatives out of hospital to get to see him - and some have died before they make it. To get a glimpse of how huge this story is, try typing "Loliondo healings" or "Loliondo miracles" into Google; you'll get pages and pages of results. If you click here, it will take you to a video from Kenyan national TV about it.

Perhaps inevitably, Christians are divided about this. Babu is a retired Pastor, who, I understand, had a respected ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran church; and it seems that the testimony he gives about all this is framed within a Christian context. On the other hand, to others this seems more like the work of a pagan medicine man than Christian healing (but equally we in the West are quite happy to accept the medicine of secular atheism...). All the information I have about this is, of course, second hand, though some of it comes from people who have been to Babu and drunk the medicine. I think, on balance, I was relieved that there was unlikely to be any pastoral necessity for me to have to make a judgement on all this! But equally, it serves as a reminder to pray for those of our African brothers and sisters in positions of responsibility who do. Discernment needed, methinks.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Musings on moments in Maasailand..

Now for some reflections on the time in Kenya. These are a bit random in terms of order, and signifcance, but here goes anyway. I suppose the one other thing to say that might explain some of these reflections is that I was last there, in the same community, six years ago, in 2005. With all that in mind, here are a few reflections and memories arising out of our time there:

  • Kenya has changed in 6 years, and there are definite signs of progress in some areas - the road from Nairobi to Narok being one good example. That said, progress is patchy and inconsistent, and there remains a lot of work to be done.

  • It was fascinating to see how mobile phones have become so widespread, even where people don't have ready access to electricity. Shops where you can pay to charge your phone have become quite common, and there was a nice touch in the church in Naisoya; it has also become common for churches to have a generator from which they might run an electric keyboard and basic PA system...and in Naisoya at least, folk attending church will hand their phones to the PA guy who will charge them while the service is going on.

  • Inflation has hit Kenya hard. That was obvious in terms of food prices, and especially in fuel prices. A litre of unleaded was around 3/4s of the UK price - and let's face it, the average income in Kenya is a lot less than 3/4 of that in the UK. I guess what all that proves is that global economic fluctuations tend, like so many things, to hit the poorest hardest. It puts moaning about prices in the UK in context, that's for sure.

  • Spiritually, while there are many Maasai Christians in and around Narok, it remains true that there are many scarcely reached areas, and it was encouraging to hear of David Kereto's still fresh vision that these folk need to be reached with the gospel and have a church planted among them.

  • The sponsorship fund that we have established from WCF continues to have a significant effect in and around Naisoya; and it was lovely for some of the team to meet not only the sponsored children, but their parents. Not that their gratitude is the reason for taking part in the programme, but it puts a very human face on it, and stops it becoming a completely anonymous donation.

  • That underlines one of the key memories for me, both with the folk in Naisoya, and with the church leaders who attended the seminar I took. It really is a tremendous privelege to be able to count these people as friends, not just objects of philanthropy. I'm convinced that the gospel makes that possible in a unique way, as we all come before God in the same way, irrespective of our background or status.

Again there's a lot more to say, but hopefully that will give a flavour of things. There's one more thing that was in the background a lot while we were there that I'll post about tomorrow...

Moments in Maasailand...

How can I sum up the ten days spent in Kenya? With difficulty to be honest, but let's have a go. In terms of the basics, we spent the first week or so in Naisoya. There has been a link between WCF (and the other Harbour Minsitries churches), and Naisoya for around 10 years now; with the church there (now known as CCI Naisoya), and with the schools, via a child sponsorship scheme, whereby around 70 children are now sponsored. This sponsorship enables them to go to school, get uniform and a good meal at lunchtime. What is left once the individual child's needs have been met is then used to fund the (now 5) nursery level schools that the church has begun. Many of the children are now at the local state funded primary school, and some are shortly to begin secondary education. I spent one morning at the newest nursery school in nearby Osonkoroi, and had the privelege in the afternoon of visiting Pereruan, the girl our family has sponsored since the scheme started, and her mother in their home. Not an experience I'll forget in a hurry. The next 2 days I spent teaching a seminar for CCI church leaders (and some from other denominations), in an area just over an hour's drive away from Naisoya, with Patrick, the Pastor at CCI Naisoya, acting as my interpreter. CCI is a fast growing movement in Kenya, and David Kereto, our host and initial contact in Kenya, is the denomination's General Secretary (amongst his seemingly endless list of responsibilities and projects). I really enjoyed these 2 days, the folk were responsive, engaged and very welcoming, and there was a real sense of God's presence among us, with a number of them testifying to real encouragements. The picture below shows some of them outside the church in Ntulele, where the seminar was held, during one of the breaks. Then we spent time visiting other projects David Kereto is involved with, including a water project, some land for a refuge for girls fleeing from circumcision or forced marriage, which is due to be built this summer. In the middle of all that I managed to get my hair cut very short by a Maasai barber in Narok town (the main town of the area) for less than £1 including tip. Sunday saw us worshipping with CCI Naisoya, and I had the privelege of speaking. Then the next day we moved on to the Maasai Mara for a mini safari, before flying home.
There's loads more to say, but I think I'll save my reflections on all this for another post....

Monday, 18 April 2011

Kenya Chronicle

Just a brief update as we are somewhere with an internet connection, and a little bit of time. It's been a fascinating week, with some great opportunities. Having expected to take a 1 day seminar for Maasai church leaders, I discovered on arrival it was in fact 2 days...but it seemed to be very well received, and it was great to feel friendship and fellowship with church leaders from a very different background. As well as that it's been good to see a little bit of the many projects that the Maasai Evangelistic Association is involved with - water projects, nursery schools and church planting, and the land for a rescue centre for girls fleeing circumcision or forced marriage. There will be photos on here when I get back, and maybe some more detail too...

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Well it has been very quiet on here...and it will probably be for a bit longer as well, as tomorrow I'm off to Kenya for 10 days to visit a church and projects we're involved with from WCF, with a small team. If I find power, and an internet connection there might be updates while I'm there (although that combination is quite unlikely, it has to be said). If not, there'll definetely be a report when I get back.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Bible reading programme (2)

Part 2 of our Bible reading programme at WCF, that will take us from April to the end of June, is now avaiable online here, if you're interested....

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Church, but not as we know it....

Well, we're now into a week of readings in the book of Acts, giving us a snapshot of life in the early church. There is clearly a gap between the picture of church life presented in Acts and what most of us experience now. What I find fascinating is how different Christians define that gap.

For some, the gap is all about our experience of the supernatural, the work of the Holy Spirit. Linked to that (but not always), for others, the gap is all about evangelistic effectiveness and boldness in witness. Equally, for others it's all about the common life of the early church, their commitment to narrowing the gap between rich and poor. Or it's about their willingness to break out of their comfort zones and take the gospel cross-culturally.

The point is that we tend to read our own priorities back into the New Testament, here as in so many places. It seems to me that when we take the lenses of our own preferences off, it's about all these things and more besides. What we need more and more to learn to do is to let our reading of Scripture shape our preferences and not the other way round.