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News for End of June 2005

Lecture on Death

Most of us think about death. But not all of us think about it in the same way, I realised when a lecture was presented to us on 15th June here at KIST.

The lecture was presented by Gladys Hopillo, a researcher working at AICMAR, the Africa Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research, that is just about 2 ½ hours cycling from KIST (2 hours from my home in Yala).

After someone has died people people like to dance and celebrate, we were told. Why, we asked ourselves? "So as to mock death" was the answer.

Death is a major blow to a community. Many African communities have devised means over the centuries to help them to cope with it. As people dance, we were told, they mock death by saying "Hah! You think you have taken our person? Oh no you haven't! He has simply gone to the land of the departed.
You have not defeated us at all!"

Death in Africa, we were told, is a process. Someone is not totally dead until they are totally forgotten by all the living, our speaker explained.

Providing healing from the pain of death is the most important role of funeral rituals, we were told.

Cattle Rustlers

Cattle rustlers came to my home on the night of June 18th 2005 (to steal cattle from grandma).

12.45am - something wakes me up. I look out of the window. The moon is bright, but I see nothing. I go outside with my lantern. The cattle are not in the kraal, but wondering around in the paddock. I close the gate to the paddock. It seems likely that it was my moving around with a lamp that scared away the thieves who then abandoned their project.
3.00am or so - our neighbour finds that the cattle have escaped by another gate and are making a noise eating her maize. She informs grandma, so grandma and her stockman get up to deal with the situation. The stockman spends the rest of the night out with the cattle.
3.10am - some of the ladies that stay with me go out to see what is happening. They get the shock of their life when a stray cow crashes through the gate coming back into the paddock! The ladies run!
6.00am - one cow is missing.
12.00 noon - the missing cow comes wandering back by itself. It evidently ran in fright.
6.00pm - I talk to grandma. All the cattle are now back safe and sound. "I do not want any thieves caught or any bloodshed in my home" she explains.
Grandma says God is her protector, and she is right. Thieves have tried a few times even while I have been here (less than 3 years) but have yet to succeed in stealing anything!

Give thanks, but continue to pray for us!

Do what say and say what do.

"The difference between the Whites and us" shared a student of YTC, "is that, unlike us, the Whites say what they will do and do what they have said." He added: "Not like us, as we can say all sorts of things but not do any of them."

This profound difference in how language is used trips up many a missionary or other visitor to Africa. Those who do not know this expect an African
(Luo) person to follow Western/Anglo-Saxon pragmatic rules (language use
conventions) and to follow through - that is to do what they say they will do and to say that they did what they actually did, and so forth.

The origin of this difference between the world of words and the 'real'
world can be explained in various ways. 'Wach en gi teko' is a favourite Luo phrase. It can be translated as 'a word has power'. To the Luo pople, saying somthing is in itself expected to make it happen.

Secondly is the question of what is the 'real world'. Luo philosophy is in some ways more in line with Eastern than Western thought - in which the physical world is not 'real' but an illusion. If the world is an illusion, and life consists of pitching spiritual powers against one another, then a failure to follow up what one has said in a physical sense is hardly an issue.

Such beliefs are (it seems) these days very much on the increase, especially due to the interaction of the Luo people with the West. Western education consists of learning many foreign words (English) that are said to be very powerful. And indeed they are. The right English words said at the right time and place to the right person (especially a European) can bring incredible influxes of wealth and prosperity. This happens regardless of the connection of these words with the 'real' world.

Siaya news

Due to low class attendance so far this term, we have decided to suspend teaching at Siaya. We will utilise the remaining Saturdays to visit churches and in other ways promote Siaya Theological Centre. We intend to re-start the teaching programme in September, or January.

Best wishes,