Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Life In Kenya: A Musungu Memoir -- Part 3

Cowboys, Farmers, And Schools In Kenya

After our first Church service in Kenya and our first experience of Home Bible Church, Bishop and Mrs. Kanuku drove us to their rural home, hours away from Machakos, on a mountain top. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Kenya looking one way and Kilimanjaro looking the other. The stars are amazing. Closer at hand you look down on forested valleys. The Kanuku rural home is a work in progress, but already Bishop Kanuku has designed and implemented all manner of clever engineering devices. He has a system to divert and gather rainwater and another system to generate bio-gas which is pumped up to the house. He is a bit of a Thomas Jefferson and this is his Monticello. On the surrounding land, he keeps a few dairy cows for milk, raises a garden (another garden – there is also one at his Machakos house), and of course, plants trees, many trees! He has plans to make his home a place of service to children which he will run after his retirement from the episcopacy in a few years (which reminds me of the game plan of one of my best friends among the American bishops – “Put in a few years as Bishop, then retire and do something good for the Church.”) 

As Bishop Kanuku showed me his garden, he explained that he is of the Kamba tribe, and they are farmers. The Masai have traditionally not thought well of the Kamba and have various derogatory terms for the things they do to the soil – a Bantu equivalent of “sodbusters.” It reminded me of the range wars and other farmer-cattleman hostilities in our history – and of course the Oklahoma classic “The Cowboy And The Farmer Can Be Friends.” It's an old conflict. It goes back to Abel and Cain and persisted all through the Hebrew Scriptures.

The next morning we began visiting schools. I honestly lost track of how many schools we visited. We had brought pens, rulers, calculators, and markers for 6 schools, but did not have enough gifts for all of them, so it was more than 6. At least 3 were the first day in the mountainous rural part of the diocese. Three were on the savannah of the Masai Mara. I think the others were closer in to Machakos or perhaps Nairobi. It blurs.

At the first school, ACK Kyandote Bulwa, the teachers and children were assembled outside to greet us with song. We then processed up a hill to the site of the Girls Hostel (which will be a combination Rescue House for girls escaping circumcision and forced marriage, a group home for girls escaping abuse and neglect at home, and a dormitory for boarding students). There Bishop Kanuku and I dedicated the foundation stone inscribed with Linda’s and my names. Then we gathered inside for a school assembly where Linda and I spoke to the students.

Then it was on to Maknonga where once again the children and teachers were waiting for us outside with song, dance, and a hearty welcome. Bishop Kanuku and I each planted a tree and I blessed them. Then came another assembly, where they gave us gifts. Mine was a walking stick with African wildlife carved on it.

And so it went, school after school, where we gave gifts and spoke with students. Bishop Kanuku encouraged hard work. I held forth on God’s call to be true Kenyans, not accepting unquestioningly the ways of the West or of China, but staying rooted in the chaste, humble, and communal morality of their own land. Linda encouraged girls to achieve equal educations and professional status.

One of the best schools we visited had a classroom named for the late wife of Fr. Lloyd Rupp. The teachers were grateful for Fr. Lloyd’s gifts of a computer (their only computer) and a photocopier. Gratitude to and affection for Fr. Lloyd was expressed at numerous schools and churches. At schools both in the Diocese of Machakos, in the Karen district outside Nairobi, and in the Masai Mara, people were also grateful for the support to individual students from Melvin Stringer and Kenya Keep. Melvin’s program is a scholarship rather than sponsorship program. They support kids who are in dire straits but they have to be more than needy. They must have the talent and the will to become leaders for a better Kenya tomorrow.

We also visited one of five schools which had malaria bearing mosquitoes eradicated with a gift from the Diocese of Nevada.

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