Walden Revisited

Kitui County, Kenya

Forgive me I pray, it has been more than two weeks since my last post. As a matter of penance, there are more than 150 new pictures up on my photo page mostly from my safari on the Masai Mara.

The other night, I was strongly reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden. As some of you know, I am not exactly Mr. Thoreau’s greatest fan, and I hold special enmity in my heart for Walden. In the book, he waxes eloquently about the joys of living in nature, while in fact; he is living on a corner of his friend Emerson’s estate in a completely civilized part of New England. I can go on, but I am told that people actually like the book. My problem is that despite my dislike for it, it stands out in my mind at odd times. There is a section in the book where Thoreau talks about the travails of warring ants. No doubt he meant to make a larger point, but the image that I always get is that he was so bored or lonely or something that he was watching ants. This struck me as relatively insane until the other night when 6 of us sat around a table for close to 2 hours watching ants carry away some bread that the were ripping off for them seeing how large a piece that they could carry off the table without falling to their doom. This was no passive activity either. We were all standing around the table eagerly, cheering loudly when they fell, videoing the action, and overall being completely fascinated. The episode testifies to the limited options that we have more evening entertainment. We have no television. The guesthouse’s electricity has been spotty at best lately. We all already spend a lot of time reading, so ants consumed our interest for quite a while.

This may look like score more to Thoreau, but despite the equally limited options for entertainment, there is a sharp distinction between Walden and Nyumbani – community. Last night, Patrick (a new long term volunteer from America) and I were leading a college group from Chicago around on prayer visits. The first home that my group and I went into started out fairly normal. We found one of the older children who spoke English, asked what they wanted to pray about, and prayed with them. Just as we were getting ready to leave, our impromptu-translator Florence asked if we could sit back down because the Shushu wished to give us a gift. Not knowing what to expect, we sat back down. It turned out that the Shushu kept a number of chickens and wish to slaughter and cook one for us. I admit that I had to think about this for a second. On the one hand, a chicken dinner represents a major expense for her family. One chicken equates to about 3 days wages a minimum wage. However, what won out in the end was the sense that she was giving us this incredible gift, and it would be a terrible thing not to honor that. So, we stayed. We ended up hanging out with the family for almost 3 hours watching them cook, singing worship songs, and learning more about each other. There were a couple 8th graders from Nyumbani Teen Club that came by. The Shushu did a dance to recognized honored guest, and we sat down to eat. The food itself was excellent. Along with the chicken, the made soup, chipati, and potatoes. It was sometimes difficult to tell what part of the chicken one was eating (I definitely ate the lungs and the heart), but it was an absolutely unforgettable experience. After the meal was over, the Shushu prayed over us. I will never know what words she said in her prayer, but the force and spirit behind the prayer was palpable. In missions, it is sometimes easy to slip into the idea that we minister to the people in our assigned community. However, tonight, with the meal and the Shushu’s prayer, it reminded me that we are in ministry with the community. We all ministered to each other last night sharing the love of God.

Patrick’s group had similar success. At their first house, everyone from every house in the cluster of four squeezed into one room to pray together, and they perfuse in their invitation to come back again. Overall, this was the single most successful evening of prayer visits yet. In a way, it is sad to think that I leave the village so soon.

Everything else here in the village is starting to wrap up for me as well. I finished the student computer lab in the polytechnic and help convince them to start upgrades on the facilities to prevent so much dust from blowing in and killing the computers. Construction on the new walls has already begun (much to my surprise). My teen club partners Suzanne and Dee left at the beginning of the week, so Nyumbani Teen Club is in its last week. Friday, I taught my last preschool lesson with Lettie. I leave the village on Saturday to return to Limuru for a week. In less wistful news, I now share my room with two kittens, Ginger and Sir Stripes-a-lot (I take no blame or credit for their names), and their mother, Lulu. They were born about a month ago and previously lived with another volunteer who left, so, now they live with me. They are fairly adorable and mostly wander around my room doing things that are cute. It gives the place more of a homey feeling.

In terms of upcoming logistics, expect one more post this week either Friday or Saturday wrapping up my time in the village. From here, I am in Lumuru for a week doing more class, then London for 2 days to visit my brother, Drew, and then it is off to Peru. In short, you can expect updates all the way through August 22nd, when I go back to class. Please stay tune, and as always, thanks so much for your thoughts, comments, and prayers.

Mungu Akubariki,