Our last week in Magina
Apologies for lack of blog for a while – we’ve been busy! This blog takes you from Sunday 4th to Tuesday 13th November, our last week in Magina, and back to Nairobi.
We had a memorable day on Sunday, going to Church with Eric and Millicent at Magina, where there was a real sense of life and joy in the Church. Afterwards, we visited some widows and distributed some gifts bought with money given by the elderly residents of Surrey Court, Chandler’s Ford, where Richard goes to take a short service once a month. The Kenyan widows really appreciated our visits, and it was wonderful to be the channel through which people in the UK could connect with people of similar age far away. We visited Zilpha, who inspired us last year with her joyful singing in such poor circumstances. This year, we found her much frailer, hardly able to speak: surely not long before she goes to meet the Lord. But we took her outside in the sunshine, Sue washed her feet, and we prayed together before we left, shedding tears. We then visited Juanita, the grandmother of one of our sponsored young men. She was full of joy, her face shining as she sang and prayed with us despite her near blindness. We went on to see Pamela, another grandmother of a sponsored child, living in desperately poor circumstances. As well as the gifts from Surrey Court, we were able to give her solar lights which Tim had organised from UK. Finally, we met Peres, living with her daughter and grandson in a tiny (9 feet square) mud hut with no windows. When it rains, she cooks inside on an open fire right next to her bed – so dangerous. Sadly, we have run out of money on this trip to be able to help her directly, but we will flag up her situation with the Pamoja trustees so we can try to do something for her in the future.
Monday was the official bridge opening day, starting at 10 am. We duly arrived at the first bridge at 10.00 to be greeted by absolutely no one! After a few minutes, we decided to walk on to the second bridge, where, by 11.00, about 30 people gathered for a short ceremony involving local community leaders, who were very appreciative of the bridges and promised to care for them, Eric and Millicent saying the inevitable ‘few words’ and Richard speaking on behalf of Pamoja UK, explaining why we made this project happen and explaining how Jesus makes a far more important bridge between ourselves and God. On Friday afternoon, we returned to the bridges with signs designed and painted by Sue and Emmanuel. One has the official word
s about the bridge opening plus (in Luo) John 14:6 ‘Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”’. The other sign has a picture showing God on one side, people on the other and the cross of Jesus bridging the gap. We had just finished fixing the signs when the heavens opened and we trudged back about a mile through sticky mud getting very wet, listening to the impressive thunder!
Tuesday was the postponed swimming outing. This time the transport arrived, only 30 minutes late, and when we arrived at the pool, the kind gentleman in charge let us in at bargain rates and told us we could stay as long as we liked! The children had a great time, staying much longer than they would have been able to if we had gone as originally planned on the previous Friday afternoon.
Wednesday morning meant a trip to visit the famous Akaii hardware shop to buy cement so Emmanuel and his friend James could build proper steps on one side of the second bridge, where the builder had left a steep, rough slope. This was evidently supposed to be ‘disabled friendly’: the only possible relationship to ‘disabled’ would be the likely state of people trying to use it! James is a local Pamoja lad, currently sponsored to do a building course at the local technical college: he and Emmanuel spent a long, hot day constructing the steps on Thursday. Sue and Emmanuel spent the rest of Wednesday designing and writing the bridge signs.
On Thursday morning we had to go to Kisumu because the car was making a horrible scraping noise from the front nearside wheel. Eric used his local knowledge to take us to a scruffy backstreet where a converted shipping container proudly proclaimed that this was the official Isuzu dealer in Kisumu! We were a bit worried when they needed to borrow our jack, as they didn’t have one, but it turned out that these were knowledgeable, honest people who correctly identified the problem as a worn-out brake pad and got us going again temporarily with some Chinese imitation parts while they ordered the proper ones from Nairobi. It all takes time… but eventually we got back to the Care Centre where the children and staff had prepared a farewell party for us, starting with a procession up the driveway with everyone singing! We spent a very happy evening together with food, dancing (African style!) singing and drama. So good to see so many children who have had such a difficult start in life now living happily together. Of course, there are no guarantees for the future, but the leadership and care at the Pamoja centres in Magina and in Nairobi enables firm foundations of faith and love to be built.
Friday started well, with an early meeting between Betty, the administrator, Regina, the social worker and Richard to discuss admin and finance. Not the most thrilling of subjects, but very necessary! Betty and Regina have both joined Pamoja within the past year: they are both lovely Christian ladies who are really dedicated to the work. Then Friday became frustrating. Earlier in the week, we had walked across the fields with Eric and had identified a piece of land that could be bought for Berina, the housemother in the Care Centre, who was driven away from her family land after the death of her husband. When she returned there a year or so ago she was met by a gang of thugs who threatened to kill her if she ever tried to build there, so Berina has no home other than a bed at the Care Centre. The land was to be bought mostly with Pamoja money, but supplemented with some other personal gifts from UK. Buyer and seller agreed a price: we just needed the Land Official to come with the paperwork, which he agreed to do on Friday morning at 10 am. Despite Eric phoning twice early in the morning and several more times after 10.00, each time being told ‘I am now coming’, or ‘I am on my way’, he never came. At 2.00 we gave up and made our way over the to Care Centre to say farewell to the children and staff. It was good to spend time with friends, reminding us of why we are here, after the earlier disappointment. Kenya often brings delights, but it can also be the most frustrating place to try to work! If someone can’t or won’t do something, why don’t they just tell you ‘I don’t work on Fridays’, or whatever, rather than agreeing to something they have no intention of doing! The story has a happy ending, however, as after we had left, he came on Monday, so Berina now has some land on which she can build in due course.
Saturday morning meant another trip to the Isuzu dealer in Kisumu to put the proper brake pads on. Then, our goodbyes said, we packed up our little tin house and left our friends in Magina on Saturday afternoon for a pleasant drive to St Andrew’s School Turi, where our friends Tom and Karen Andrews are currently teaching.
I wrote last year about the extreme contrast between this school – aiming to be the best in East Africa with phenomenal facilities and a beautiful, peaceful setting. Tom & Karen were kind enough to host Emmanuel, who was travelling with us. Before he joined Pamoja’s Kware Care Centre as a boy, Emmanuel (one of 20 children – he had a polygamous father who had three wives) was brought up in Kawangware, one of Nairobi’s slums. One of the stories he told us was of a period in his life when the boys in the family had to take it in turns to sleep because there simply wasn’t floor space for everyone to sleep at the same time. It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast to the place we took him to! But Emmanuel has a great ability to adjust to any circumstances and happily chatted, played with Tom and Karen’s children and, at church on Sunday morning, easily fitted in with the people there whose background was so different to his own. A very impressive and immensely likeable young man with a firm faith in the Lord Jesus at the very core of his being.
We travelled back to Nairobi on Monday, and spent Tuesday preparing for the trip to Endau…but that’s another story!
Thank you once more for your interest, support and prayers.