Second instalment 2019
As I write we are sitting in our little tin hut in Magina listening to the rain beating on the roof and thunder rumbling around. There was a power cut earlier – one of the reliable things about Kenya is that if there is a storm, the electricity will go off – but this time it was restored within an hour. We have solar lights here anyway, so we wouldn’t be left in the total darkness of an African night.
It’s been a busy week, travelling here from Nairobi and then being around the school most of the week. They have now closed for public exams, which means that no one apart from the Head, the candidates and the appointed government invigilators are allowed near the school until Friday: an armed guard is posted outside the school to enforce this! Please spare a thought and a prayer for the children taking these exams: there is huge pressure to do well, and the exams are not in the least pupil friendly. All we can say is that at Mier Pamoja School, the pupils have been prepared as well as possible, and in a helpful and supportive environment.
Our journey here last Saturday was, not to mix words, dreadful: certainly, the worst we’ve ever experienced. I’m not usually one to attribute every setback to the devil, but it really did feel as though someone was trying to prevent us reaching here. We ground to a near standstill for the best part of an hour just outside Nairobi because of a flood in the dirt road that was being used due to roadworks. Then we somehow missed the turning onto the main highway and got on the lower road which is full of extremely slow lorries grinding their way up the Rift Valley. I just got past one such vehicle (10 mph) when I was stopped by the police and told I was being arrested because I’d crossed a single yellow line. This was true – but I was about 10 yards away from the end of the line and I could see the road was clear. The fact that we see downright dangerous driving, grossly overloaded vehicles motorbikes with 3 people without helmets etc all the time is, of course, irrelevant. I’m ashamed to confess that faced with the alternatives of a 5000 Shilling ‘bond’ followed by a court appearance in Naivasha the next week (at least 4 hours drive back from our destination) and probably an even larger fine, we opted to ‘pay’ the policeman 2000 Shillings (no receipt) and go on our way, rather shaken by the whole experience. Pity the honest Kenyans who are trying to live with this kind of thing all the time. Soon after that, torrential rain started and continued almost until we reached our destination. The earlier events and the continued heavy traffic (it was a public holiday weekend) meant that the last hour of the drive was in the dark. That means no streetlights and oncoming vehicles with no lights, or one light, or lights on full beam. The final obstacle was turning right off the narrow, busy road down an embankment onto the dirt track that leads to Millicent and Eric’s house. Very kindly, their son Kevin came out with a torch to guide us. All in all it took over 9 hours to drive 150 miles – not a journey we want to repeat! We were extremely thankful to have reached our destination safely. As we recovered, I said that I think it will be the stress of driving in Kenya that eventually brings our adventures here to an end.
But then we received such a warm welcome from Millicent, Eric and Kevin, and we settled into our little place for the night, and the next day, although tired and still trying to process the experience of the day before, the world seemed a better place again. We heard the sound of children singing in the tin Church across the compound and it brought joy to our hearts. Then we went across and found Clinton teaching the children. Three years ago, Clinton’s life was a mess: he was caught up in a group of devil-worshippers at his school and didn’t know which way to turn. At the time, we were able to try to encourage him – he has since said that three words ‘Never give up’, stayed with him. He made the decision to worship Jesus, not the devil, moved schools and turned a corner. He is now about to complete an electrical engineering course and already has a job. To see him with the children last Sunday was one of those wonderful moments that makes everything worthwhile. It’s also a reminder that God never gives up on any of us, either, no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been. If we truly turn to Him in repentance and faith, He will never turn us away.
On Sunday afternoon we went to the Care Centre to play games with the children: always good fun! And since Monday was a public holiday, we went back there again for more activities, including Sue organising biscuit decoration. Simple things work really well with the children here.
From Tuesday onwards, we’ve concentrated on the school. It’s been great to be around: there are more children attending than ever and there is a lovely atmosphere. Many of the staff are the same ones as we saw last year (staff turnover has been a real problem in the past) and in particular, Benard, the Head, George, his deputy, and Betty, the administrator, make a very good leadership team. They are lovely Christian people who lead by example.
During this week we’ve organised sponsored children to write thank you letters to the people (like you!) who support them back in UK. They are always very happy to do this, and we try to explain that it’s a real gift to them for someone 4000 miles away to decide they’re going to spend some of their hard-earned money on supporting someone that they will probably never meet. Of course, there are no guarantees on the outcome of sponsorship, but at least we have given these children a chance, and there are quite a few who really make the most of that chance.
On Wednesday, we attended the pre-Primary graduation. The little ones look very cute in their gowns! It’s fair to say that we’d organise things a bit differently in UK, though: it supposedly started at 10 (actually nearer 11), but didn’t finish until about 1.30 after several long speeches. The children sat patiently (one or two sleeping): they are incredibly well-behaved, but they must have been incredibly bored. Sometimes it seems our Kenyan friends don’t have a clue about child psychology – and this extends to the appalling way that teenagers are treated in the Form Schools. (See blog from 2015 for more details – nothing has changed.) Eventually, it all ended with photos, smiles and food, so everyone went home happy – including us!
On Thursday we organised our now customary games day, which has become a bit easier over the years, as the current teachers know what we want to do, and are very willing to join in. It’s still hot though, and we end the day pretty tired! And on Friday we did some songs and a Bible story with the school, as well as listening to them entertaining us, and meeting a large group of parents who are clearly very happy with the direction in which the school is heading. Long may it continue!
And so ends another week. Next week, we have some practical tasks in mind, like getting new gutters fitted at the Care Centre (we need to catch the rain when it falls!), and organising a house to be built for a local man with learning difficulties who is currently homeless.
After a horrible day last Saturday, this has been a good week. It’s been great to be here, settled among our friends in this area once again. We miss our family and friends back home, though! We are appreciating much better internet connections than we used to have, allowing instant WhatsApp messages, to fly around the world! And we are above all thankful to God for His ongoing care, protection and direction.
Thank you all for your love, support and prayers.
Sue & Richard