NEWS end of April 2004
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The fellowship of (African) pastors in this small town in Western Kenya were totally united in their support for this lady preacher from a coastal region to come and hold a crusade. They helped her to organise it, and then sat to listen in so as to share in the blessing.
Loud music with dancers jumping about on stage was followed by numerous testimonies of people who have been healed, particularly of aids. Then came the time for the preacher lady herself, with her deep masculine voice, to take stage. Herself a widow whose husband had died of aids she now testified how she'd been at death's door before receiving a miraculous healing from God. "We don't need to take our sick to hospital to the white man's medicine", she and others testified; Jesus is enough!
If you said that in my home Country you could be arrested, I commented to my colleague. It is incredible how despite Kenya's great dependence on the West, hitting Western knowledge still turns out to be so popular. The PA system, the vehicle the people came in, the careful development of the Swahili language that they were using, I suspect even the design of their clothes, are from the West. Yet now the means of getting all that is attacked and mocked, in the name of Jesus. It is hard to speak against such rally rousing, as people are testifying to being healed!
This is a classic meeting of African with Western culture. The globalised West stating that aids is incurable, meeting an enormous popular reaction. Ironically, the very power of the message arises from the discoveries of science (that aids is incurable), without which the healings reported would have been relatively normal events!
The people attending this crusade, are the same ones who send their children to learn English, Maths and Science in school, at great personal cost (i.e. reduction in the size of the home labour force and forcing their children to spend the prime years of their childhood to learn this foreign wisdom), steeping their children in a foreign language and ways, forcing the death of much of their own culture. People do not quickly see the contradiction - between educating children in science, then encouraging them to go to a meeting offering "miraculous" healing.
The church indeed has in numerous ways become the focal place for the preservation of peoples’ ancient values and customs. A haven from the meaninglessness on offer from modernity.
The irony becomes even greater, when one realises that the same people who are investing their time and resources in a big way into miracle healing, are then putting out the begging bowl for the West to look after their children (child sponsorship for orphans and others).
What does one do, when the very people who are refusing on principle to help themselves, are pleading poverty to the West? Compared to the West, indeed, the poverty is real. To someone comprehending the carefully reasoned hard work of the West, people here are engaged in something akin to suicide.
The reasons these things happen become a bit clearer when one remembers peoples' commitment to power, or "force". School brings force, as it can result in someone being employed. Big healing meetings also contribute force-power. Anything with force, is desired.
PS I am not denying the possibility of divine healing, but am concerned that the West that is so little understood is yet so powerful in Africa.
More Luo than I!
It was a strange experience to visit Nairobi on 13.4.4 and met up with an American Maryknoll missionary who knows Dholuo (the language of the Luo people) better than I! Pray for Michael Kirwen who is a Catholic missionary and who is running a training centre in Nairobi for people interested in learning about African culture at a post-graduate level. (This seems to be an excellent means to get to know African people and culture via a post-graduate course.)
I sat with this African church leader for about 3 hours. He tried every means he knew of to convince me that I should raise funds for his church. Every suggestion he made I countered by sharing, sometimes from hard experience, how harmful it is for a European to get involved financially with an African church. I refused to become a donor. I told him that what we had on offer was God’s Word, through our teaching at Yala Theological Centre, and no money. He told me to meet him 8 days later.
A week later I found him overseeing a meeting of a Yala church. After the meeting, we sat and talked. "Yes, you can teach our people" he said. "I was testing you last Saturday to see if you were going to try and buy our people and bring us problems with your money. You passed the test, and I note from asking around, that your reputation proves the same. We are an independent church. We will not enter into any signed agreement with you, but I will encourage those church leaders who are under me to attend the YTC classes." A small victory for God’s word over the encroaching tidal wave of materialism.
Uganda for a day
Give thanks for a successful one-day trip to Uganda. Myself and one of our KIST assistant librarians were able to visit and spend time with the widow of our ex-student who died in an accident last September, and also visit and get to know better another student.
Matatu’s (buses) in Kenya have never been greatly favoured by foreigners, due to their chaotic nature and the likelihood of being squeezed in like a sardine, left hanging on the outside, and / or verbally or otherwise abused. Give thanks that new government regulations have significantly improved this situation.