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NEWS mid May 2004

Reading Ace

I shared some time ago that on doing some reading with my children at home over the December vacation, we found that one particularly stuttered badly. I can report that there has been CONSIDERABLE IMPROVEMENT since we have repeated the exercise in this April vacation!

New Affiliations

I am now officially affiliated with SIM (Serving in Mission) – the mission that took over from AEF, who I worked under up to 1991 (or 1993, depending on how you do the counting). I give thanks to God for the privilege of being so affiliated.

I have also applied to become a Research Associate with the Institute for Development Research, that is based at Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, Oxford in the UK. This will be a good forum for researching on vital issues facing Christians working in transformational development around the world.

Three New Students

Pray for three students, now studying at Ibeno Bible college in Kisii in Kenya, as sent by Yala Theological centre. They are due to spend alternative terms studying at Ibeno, and helping us in the teaching in Yala.

Spreading the Word – doesn’t end!

10 years since we began, I have yet to tire of telling people of our Bible teaching programme. I tell big people and little people. "Gima utiyo en Bible Study koso" (what you are doing is Bible study isn’t it?) asked this "big" man. "Da" (no) I responded, "watimo pounjruok Muma" (we are doing pounjruok muma.) [Bible study to me is trying to make someone into a Western Christians, but "pounjruok muma" (i.e. the Luo translation of the same) is bringing Christ to people in their lives and cultures!]

"There are many groups who come to Kenya these days" he said. "Some of them have very questionable teachings." He gave me an example of a man he knew who used to drive a 4WD around and to eat well, but never to do a stroke of work. He had obviously deceived some foreigners into supporting him for nothing.

We conversed in Dholuo. When I told him that our school had been around for 10 years, he began to take me seriously. "Perhaps something that has kept going for 10 years is worth having", I guess he thought to himself. I wrote down our teaching programme for him. He said he’d come along to one of our classes and see what we are doing. Let’s see if he does. He insisting on pushing my bicycle up the muddy track from his house to the road for me – that seemed to be a good sign!

I have often said that your best friend in Africa, will not be the one who meets you with a smile when you first arrive. That one specialises in welcoming new folks, and doesn’t always know what to do with them when they have been around for a while. Maybe I have made a friendship that couldn’t have been made without 10 years of running around first?

Daily Asking

My eleventh year in Kenya, and still a day rarely goes by without my being asked for money. Yesterday an old lady asked me for £3.50 to help her to go to hospital to be examined. She tells me that she is in constant pain in her joints. Today a colleague pleaded for me to give him £60.00 to pay his younger brother’s school fees – his brother just having been sent home from school because he hadn’t yet paid enough. The previous day there was a big celebration commemorating the 10 year anniversary of the death of a villager who has now, according to the reports I hear, had a very smart house (i.e. mausoleum) built for him over his grave.

Neither young men nor old men seem to realise that actually school is intended to help people look after themselves in their community. (I have discovered that when you are taught something in someone else’s language, then it is easy to continue to look to "someone else" to employ and pay you after you have finished learning. For something to help you to function with your "own people", you really have to be taught in your own language!) The family who spent a small fortune on their late relative clearly think that he needs more looking after than some decrepit widow somewhere. The widow asking me to pay for her to go to hospital was a bit of a self contradiction – she clearly believes herself to be bewitched, so why go to hospital? (If you have been bewitched, then you need a witchdoctor, or to be prayed for.) I prayed for her, and will continue to visit her and pray for her. I will also pray for the young man who has been misguided into thinking that school will solve his problems, and the wealthy family from Tororo who feel that not providing for their late father may result in his haunting them. (Some details altered). Please join me in prayer for these people and others like them.

Postscript. I appreciate that the above writing is not based on Western values. Reading it, may be a culture shock. I concede also that there is some guesswork involved - how do I know that the mausoleum was built through fear of haunting? I don’t "know" this, but many locals seem to think it is the reason, so there must be some truth in it.