21st August 2013
The first full day in Kenya for Ruth and I involved an exciting drive up into the rural hills north of Nairobi to help at a Pastor’s seminar being run by our hosts, Silas and Rahab Waweru, at Cornerstone Mission Church in Muthure.
As we drove through the posher suburbs of Nairobi, those that had formerly been the residence of the colonial British, it was quite a shock to see how quickly they transitioned to the shanty towns that encircle the city just outside the official town limits. It is clear that living in our guest house in the centre of the government district we were getting a rather rarefied vision of Kenya.
The plan is for us to see more of church life in the shanty towns tomorrow (Thu 22nd). For now we drove on up the hill and as we drove I realised that – while the exact nature of the vegetation might be different – the rolling green tree lined hills, grey skies, the sound of cattle, and in particular the distinctly chilly weather, all made a Scot like me feel quite at home. Perhaps that is why Nairobi had been such a favourite with the colonials, and still seemed to be such a favourite for the NGOs. Certainly the WHO folk at breakfast seemed very pleased with themselves as they swaggered around in their distinctive blue body warmers.
As we got to the destination the unashamed stares and excited giggling by the local children at our white faces helped remind us that we were a long way from home. I remember only once before feeling in quite such an alien minority. That was many years ago when we were visiting Ruth’s sister in Aston, Birmingham. I took both sets of young children to the play park and after some 30 min suddenly realised that we we were the only white faces in the park. That experience – and this one in Kenya – should be a requirement for every white Brit. It is good for the soul to know what it feels like to be the minority outsider. It cannot fail but bring greater empathy to all but the hardest of hearts for all those who spend their lives as an ogled minority.
Nevertheless, the local pastors and church leaders quickly made us feel welcome with their warm handshakes, wide smiles, and excellent grasp of English language. The church building turned out to be a glorified shed with thin wooden walls, many wide gaps and broken windows, and a tin roof that gave little insulation to the morning chill and then afternoon heat. It made even the old Mickfield Gospel Hall feel very sophisticated.
Once again though, the overwhelming feeling with these people was of oneness and fellowship. Whatever the latitude or longitude, whatever the language, whatever the skin colour, there was a oneness in our humour, smiles, and greetings. And more importantly there was a oneness in the Spirit as we quickly understood our shared experience of the same Lord and Master.
The opening worship in Swahili was amazing to hear. This group at least had not fallen into the trap of taking our alien western worship songs and translating them into the local language. Instead we heard the moving rhythmic call and response songs of their heart language and culture that resonated with the surroundings and made me recall all those childhood BBC documentaries about Massari warriors.
Gathered together were many pastors and evangelists from surrounding areas, both old and young, experienced and novice. My brother, Dr Silas Waweru, then took the first session which looked at some of the theory, background and biblical examples of mentoring being used as a descipling tool and a method of developing leaders. After lunch of luke warm milky tea stewed in a teapot, and buttered bread served from a plastic bucket, I led a session on practical guidance on what mentoring/coaching was and how to make a start putting it into practice within a church environment.
It was a fun time with great humour and enriching open discussions powered by the wealth of experience of these pastors. It very quickly became evident that the challenges, successes, failures, hopes and fears of these rural Kenyan pastors were so very similar to those we had found in rural England, rural Ireland and rural Romania. It never ceases to amaze me how quick we are to look at differences on the surface (in skin colour, in culture, in environment) and somehow feel people are similarly different inside. How wrong we are, and how obvious this becomes when we meet people in person.
It was an exhausting, exciting, and fulfilling start to our time in Africa. Roll on tomorrow!