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Dear Friends,

Before asking me to speak, a colleague recently took pains to explain something to the gathered congregation. “It’s not the way you think,” he said. I wondered where that was heading; what was not the way they think? Then he explained: “Jim is not actually local. He was not born here. He was born and raised in the UK. He came here when he was a young man, but already adult.” That was an intriguing way to be introduced. Also I guess a profound way – indicating that my now long-stay in the Yala area (26 years) given my linguistic knowledge was such that many people assumed me to have been born and raised in the area! (A number of people think that I must have a white mother but an African father, or vice versa, yet that the genes of the African parent had a minimal affect on my appearance.)

Meanwhile, at home, I am heavily engaged in ‘the battle of the knee’. I guess that fathers of daughters might realise what I am talking about . . . How to keep dress lengths down (i.e. up, I mean, as long as possible). Our rule has been, that when a girl sits, her dress should cover her knees. That is on the understanding, that it is when a girl sits down, that a dress tends to be pulled ‘up’, i.e. higher up the leg. So, if the dress is long enough to cover the knee when she’s sat, then the knees should be well and truly covered when she stands. This battle has become more complex, however. Girls are ingenious, I have discovered, and their number one goal in life is to show off their legs. They have a trick called ‘surreptitiously pull the skirt up when you are standing and walking, and pull it down again if sat only if a parent is watching’. Sometimes, they tell me, the act of walking itself is such that it causes skirts to rise! I need help! How can this battle ever really be won?

Another answer I’d like to know, is when talking to girls how to explain: “when a man looks at a girl, what he is probably thinking is . . .”. That is, how to complete that sentence without feeling guilty for being a man.

Another battle we are engaged in, is against little monsters, called bed bugs. I’ve was bed-bug free for years. Then a couple of years ago, our boys’ room got bed bugs. I battled, with chemical spray, and they went. (Perhaps a constant rancid smell of urine also helped.) Since the girls have got infected, earlier this year, the battle has been harder. Bed bugs had already spread over both girls’ rooms. Girls, I guess, have a lot more clothes in which bed-bugs might be hiding. Girls’ blood, they say, is sweeter. I’ve become less keen on constantly filling my lungs with insecticide spray. According to our latest strategy, all bed bugs should be dead as of last Saturday. Pray that this be true.

Another battle that engages me, is that against malaria. Some may have heard the news, that a new vaccine against malaria is being trialed here, for babies under one year old. In the meantime I confess, that we tend to interpret every headache as being caused by malaria. The problem with malaria is, that if you don’t treat it quickly but allow it to develop, that is when it becomes difficult to treat, and frankly dangerous. Sometimes that probably means that what we think is malaria (in the children) is not actually malaria at all. Usually, it seems, it pays to play safe.

An amazing experience the other night . . . one of my lads has been in the military, for over a year now (including his basic training). I asked him the other night, if he could tell the children something about ‘life as an adult’, combined with a bible message. As he talked, some of the children laughed. I think I understood why! The boy who left us 16 months ago, had become a man, ready to share a story and his advice as confidently as any! It was quite mindblowing. Perhaps I need to enlighten Westerners – and I suspect this is typical for the Kenya military (although, I don’t know). That is to say – his ‘pep talk’ was deeply and profoundly theological. I think it must be typical, as it is hard to imagine a Kenyan giving a serious pep-talk without it being rooted in being an encouragement to be faithful to God. It seemed he deserved an audience of hundreds . . .


Missionaries: aliens, providers, or fellow travellers