Monday, March 31, 2008

March 30, Rpt 39, David Zarembka, IDP's attend Friends Church

Dear All,

The whole front page and four interior pages today in the Sunday Nation were titled "Kenya's Gift to America". What is this gift? The correct answer will appear in my next report. (Since the conflict has calmed down, I need some gimmick to keep you reading my reports!)

On Friday at 3:00 p.m., Gladys and I along with two others started off to take another delivery of goods to the internally displaced people in Turbo. By the time we got to Turbo, it had begun to rain and soon it was pouring. Since the IDP's cannot distribute the food and blankets in the rain, we returned home. On Saturday morning we set out again before the rains which might start in the afternoon. As usual we were greeted and thanked by the people; there were speeches, prayer, and song. As we were leaving Gladys suggested that they come to visit the Friends Church on the following day(Sunday).

We then returned home where I got a speeding ticket going 78 kilometer an hour when I was supposed to be going 50 kilometers per hours (roughly 50 mph and 30 mph). Since there was no sign and it was between two towns, I don't know how I was supposed to know. Almost everyone was being stopped because the police clearly had a new toy, a radar gun to check speeds. So we paid 2,000/- bond ($30) and I have to go to court on Tuesday in Eldoret. Bummer.

This Sunday morning we got up and went to Lumakanda Friends Church for the 8:00 a.m. service. About 50 to 60 people were there (a little below average) plus perhaps 30 to 40 children in the Sunday school. The Service lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes and after greeting people and buying the newspaper we went home. The electrician showed up. Now that the rainy season is in full swing and it is cloudy most of the day, I am only getting about 3 hours of laptop time per day--way under my needs. But while we were away in the United States, the electric company finally put the two poles and wires from the road to our house. We had ordered this in September and paid the require $500+ fee (you can easily see why only about 10% of Kenyans are hooked up to the electric grid). Yesterday they installed the meter, but we needed to have the solar power system disconnected and the regular power connected--later we will have an automatic switch installed so that when the power goes out as it often does, the solar will be a back-up.

As this was going on Gladys got a call from the pastor of Lumakanda Friends Church. The people from the IDP camp in Turbo had come for the second church service. The first service (mostly in Swahili) is for the older people and kids, while the second one (mostly in English) is for the youth. So we went back to Church. The forty people who came from the IDP camp outnumbered the 30 or so regular people. The service was already underway and lasted over two more hours--with all those guests, the singing was better, more songs were sung, the sermon was energetic, and the prayers were fervent. It was the most lively that I had ever seen this Church. (I consider Lumakanda Friends Church to be a "tired" Church.)

At one point they had people from the IDP camp who wanted to do so to make presentations. Five did, thanking the Church for remembering them and helping them out. These were the internally displaced people who had initially been housed Lumakanda Primary School, so these were our neighbors. The first man who spoke indicated that he attended the PAG (Pentecostal Assemblies of God) Church which is located right next door and where the congregation right at that moment was singing robustly through a loud speaker. Did this increase his feeling of alienation? I had mixed feelings--it was nice for him to be in the Friends Church, but it was sad that he was not in the PAG Church because they had not done any reconciliation or relief work.

Then they asked me to give a presentation. I started with a Kirundi (the language of Burundi) proverb, "a real friend comes in a time of need," although I translated this into Swahili as "a true friend comes in a time of trouble". Next I told one of my favorite stories which I will repeat for you here. In Kampala, Uganda, there is an association of HIV+ women who hammer stones into gravel and get paid the equivalent of about 75 cents per day (if they are lucky). I have seen these women alongside the road pounding away. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the surrounding area, these women collected about $900 among themselves to send to the US for relief. They said that they had heard that people had lost their houses and everything and had to flee and it was an African custom to help out those who were in need. So they were only helping those who needed it. I went on a little bit longer, but I tend to speak succinctly.

Then there was more singing, the sermon (which was not succinct), the offering, and the final prayers. Then the pastor, James Mugeti, who had really done a good job of warmly welcoming the internally displaced people, asked that they come again, but he asked that they give notice so that the Church could be better prepared to welcome them. I think this will happen.

After the break up of the service, Gladys and I had to shake hands with many and talk to some. I found out that a truck had brought them, that is, the forty of them rode in the back bed of the truck.

Is this not a wonderful piece of reconciliation work?

When we got back, the electricity was all hooked up. But as I wrote this report, it already cut off once!


David Zarembka, Coordinator
African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams

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