To Endau and back: parallel universes and other thoughts
Our last week in Kenya has been dominated by our visit to Pamoja’s clinic at Kamusa, a small settlement beyond Endau, which is itself beyond where most people go. Mentioning Endau to the average Kenyan simply elicits a blank look, and even the two policemen who stopped us for a ‘check’ on the way said “Endau! The furthest point of Kitui province”, and “There are many potholes”. Both times we were waved on cheerfully: we got the impression that they thought “If anyone is daft enough to go to Endau, we’d better let them get on with it!”
In fact, the journey there was relatively smooth, taking just over 3 hours on tarmac to Kitui, then, after a refreshment break at the Moonlight Hotel (probably best seen in moonlight so you don’t notice too much…) we joined the dirt road to Endau. It was pretty rough for the first 2 hours, all the way, in fact, to the wonderfully named village of Zombe. While we were bouncing over the corrugations and potholes, doing our best to be careful, the car developed a rattling noise from the front nearside wheel. We stopped to check, but couldn’t see anything obviously wrong, so, since it was driving normally, we pressed on. Beyond Zombe, the road has been improved – still dirt, but smoother, so we
arrived at Endau with enough time to travel the further four miles to the clinic. Mildred, who was accompanying us along with Kioko (who speaks the local language), had bought stacks of basic food for the local people, and we also had
a medical trolley for Stephen, the nurse, in the car, so we thought it wise to try to unload as soon as possible, rather than leaving everything in the car overnight.
The road to the clinic has also improved…for a short distance. An engineer evidently lives locally and has had the road mended as far as his gate, but then it deteriorates into narrow, steep, rough and rocky terrain: even with a 4×4 we nearly didn’t get through. After the next rains (which the people desperately need) I think it will be Impassable by any vehicle. So, a few more grey hairs later, we reached the clinic where Stephen, Elijah (local church pastor) and Solomon (night watchman) were waiting to greet us with their usual warmth and enthusiasm. We unloaded, had a quick look round, and returned to our hotel.
If you read our blog last year, you will remember that we were not entirely satisfied with the hotel. We’re not generally too fussy, but leaky roof (onto the bed), cockroaches and bedbugs were features we could do without. Stephen had found us alternative accommodation this time, in a new hotel, Shiner’s Guest House. To be fair, it was better than the previous one, but it was still extremely hot (still around 30 degrees at night) and airless, cramped, basic and smelly, due to the drains in the washing area in each room (i.e. the section with a bowl and a hole in the floor). The toilet was a pit latrine across the yard: getting to it was a hazardous business involving crossing a trench (building was still in progress), going across the dusty yard and remembering to duck just before the toilet to avoid garrotting yourself on the washing lines conveniently arranged at neck level. In the morning, we were treated to the delightful aroma of singed goat hair from the butchery next door, as the unfortunate animal that had just been slaughtered was prepared for the day’s customers.
We didn’t get the best night’s sleep ever, and, to be honest, we were both exhausted and stressed as we arrived at the clinic after negotiating the dreadful road again. Feeling weak and inadequate for the day ahead, we sent a quick message to friends and family to ask them to pray, and, once we had gathered ourselves, we also prayed. Then we went to meet the people. Later, Stephen told us 239 people had come to the clinic that day! We had seen about 100 on previous visits, but this was quite overwhelming. Some had come because of genuine medical needs that day, but many others were there because of our visit. As far as I know, Tim, Sheena and ourselves are the only white people to visit this area, so the novelty is understandable! But there is also a genuine feeling of gratitude and affection for the clinic, and for Stephen’s faithful service in particular.
Many people spoke during the day of how they had been helped with giving birth, with various diseases (malaria, typhoid, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. etc.) and with many accidents including falling out of trees, cuts from tools, motorbike accident injuries, donkey kicks, goat butts and snake bites. One lady had walked for 3 hours, with her baby and young twins, to reach the clinic. (We gave her money to get a motorbike ride home.) People travel so far sometimes because there is no alternative anywhere nearer, and sometimes because they know they will be properly cared for at the Pamoja clinic by Stephen and Elijah. They are gentle people who live out the love of God, and speak often of Him to the people who come to the clinic. We find it really challenging to be in the Endau area for a day or
two: these people have chosen to serve the local people year in, year out. We have the utmost respect for them and love them dearly. They deserve our admiration, support and prayers.
At this stage, I want to digress to make a wider point. Being in Endau, Magina and Ongata Rongai (the area of Nairobi where the Kware Care Centre is) emphasises the two Kenyas that seem to exist in parallel universes. There is the Kenya of the grand shopping malls, the well-stocked supermarkets, the posh new 4x4s, the gated houses with razor wire fences. Then there is the Kenya where people earn 65p per day (when they can get work), where children play in the piles of stinking rubbish in the slums, where people dig for water in sandy river beds, and where the definition of ‘doing OK’ is having access to a pit latrine. The two worlds only seem to interact when the poor people have the opportunity to be the servants of the rich, or clean the toilets in the malls. There appears to be little regard from the rich for the fate of the poor. To be blunt, for a country that is over-run by churches of all shapes, sizes and denominations, the Christian message of a God of love who has a heart for the poor does not seem to have penetrated very deeply, if at all. Sunday mornings is for Church, and the rest of the time is for making money and having a good time. Yet we believe in a God who loved us so much that He came from the glories of heaven to the depths of this earth in the form of the Lord Jesus and he died to save us from our sin. ‘Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor…’ Salvation is a free gift from God, but accepting this gift means that we agree to follow His way, not our own. Amongst many other things, it means that we have a responsibility to act upon what God asks us to do in the Bible: this includes having compassion on the poor, caring for orphans and widows, and of course, the greatest challenge of all, to love our neighbour as ourselves.
There are also parallel universes when it comes to justice. Pamoja is emphatically not a political organisation, neither does it comment upon politics, so I will be careful what I write here. But it is very easy to find examples in the Kenyan newspapers (The Standard and the Daily Nation are both available on line) that backs up the assertion that corruption is rife and that there seems to be one law for the rich, who can afford lawyers and can pay bribes to judges, and another for the poor, who cannot do these things. As well as having a heart for the poor, our God is a God who loves fairness and justice. If you think God is not interested in justice for the poor, read (for example) Isaiah chapter 58 and Amos chapter 5! And if you think those who ride roughshod over the poor will get away with it, read Psalm 73, which speaks of the psalmist’s despair when he sees how the wicked seem to prosper. “These things were too difficult for me…until I went to the sanctuary of God…. then I understood their end.”
From everything we read in the Bible, from the way that Jesus treated people when He was on this earth, we know that God values every single person and regards them all as having
equal value. Surely, we must do the same.
I know Kenya is not unique in having these problems. I am also aware of being a guest in this country, and of being welcomed warmly by so many lovely people. But I write these things so that you might pray for those who have such a hard life, and that you might be encouraged in your support of those who try to help them. We have said before that Pamoja cannot change the world, or the country. But it can help to change the world of some people…and we believe in a God who CAN change the world, and who offers hope and a life far better than anything this world can offer.
Back to the clinic! We spent the day talking to people individually, through our translator, because our Kamba language Is even more limited than our Luo! We spoke to the whole crowd together, expressing our own thanks to the team at the clinic and sharing some thoughts from the Bible (Philippians chapter 2) with them. Sue helped Stephen with some patients and also sorted out some of his equipment and paperwork, as well as playing games with the children who arrived. Mildred did a great job in organising the distribution of food to the most needy. We also exchanged songs with the crowd: we heard some memorable singing from them – imagine that in a doctor’s waiting room in UK! Stephen shared with us his plans to extend the clinic to provide more privacy for patients, and his need for a solar powered fridge (there is no mains electricity) so he could keep vaccines, immunisation drugs and lab test cultures. Tired, but feeling grateful and fulfilled, we drove back to the hotel where, later, Stephen and Elijah joined us for more talking, praying and wonderful singing in harmony from our four African friends. We felt the joy of being ‘one in Christ Jesus’ and ended the day being very thankful for the power of so many prayers that were made for us that day.
After another sticky night at the hotel without much sleep, we made a quick getaway from the scruffy little town of Endau just as another goat was being prepared. I’d investigated the noise from the car and found that it was a faulty shock absorber, but advice from mechanical friends and relatives was that it would OK to get us back to Nairobi, which was just as well, because Kwik-Fit has not yet opened a branch at Endau…in fact I have no idea who might fix the car if it went wrong out there! We were grateful to God for a safe journey home: not too many hairy moments other than the usual maniac bus drivers and two lorries overtaking us as another lorry approached from the opposite direction (fortunately, the driver of the lorry who was on the correct side of the road had the sense to brake and get out of the way). We were thankful to reach our destination safely and find a comfortable bed and a peaceful place to spend the night.
As I write this, we are now back in UK after a memorable six weeks in Kenya. We have so many memories, we have seen so many difficult situations and heard so many individual stories. We have been greatly encouraged by three fine young men with whom we spent time in Magina; Anthony, Emmanuel and James, whose lives have been transformed through Pamoja’s sponsorship. Coming from desperately poor and difficult backgrounds, they now have a hope in this life through education and training, and a greater hope for the next life through their faith in Jesus Christ. We feel privileged to have had the opportunity once again to be in Kenya to meet such people personally. Those who lead the works – Mildred in Nairobi, Millicent and Eric in Magina, Stephen in Endau – are faithful servants: please pray for them as they are often under pressures that those of us living in the comfortable West do not experience. For those of you who cannot go, please take our word for it that your sponsorship, your gifts are well used and are worth your investment, and above all your prayers for all those involved with Pamoja are valuable beyond measure. And for us, we can only say thank you once again to all of you who have supported us with your prayers through this visit.
Jesus – us – Pamoja. Together, we can make a difference. Keep believing it!