The Quiet and the Chaos

I’m wide awake by the time birds start singing. The variety of birds here is truly a wonder, and their songs are both louder and richer than home. They begin their sweet chorus just before sun-up at 6 a.m., and the beautiful noise of the children at school does not lag far behind.

I have mentioned Betty before. Her full name is Beatrice Musindai. She works very hard from before dawn until after dusk, keeping the mission house shipshape and preparing three fine meals each day. I call her the “miracle worker of food.” She has prepared delicious meals that blend African foods with things we are more familiar with in the States. There is always lots of food and it is taboo to eat too little. I remember that, as a child, someone would always ask a visiting missionary, “What do you eat?” Here breakfast is a bit tricky. At the hotel last week, the buffet included baked beans and chicken wings. But Betty knows how to cater to Americans. We’ve had boiled or fried eggs, diced potatoes, and even beignets that can be pulled apart for a little spread of Nutella. Dinner and supper are standard American fare also, with a few exceptions. They make a vegetable gravy that resembles a thick soup, meant to be eaten over rice. We’ve had some ugali, a corn substance that looks like mashed potatoes but is so thick it must be sliced. There’s chapatti. Lots of chapatti. It’s a good thing I like chapatti. They also eat a flat bread that resembles thin pancakes with just a hint of sweetness. I asked, “What do you call these?” They looked at me with incredulity and answered, “Pancakes.” As you can tell, they eat a lot of starches. It is why even someone who only eats once daily may still maintain a healthy weight. And why I always come to Africa thinking it will be a good opportunity to lose a few pounds and come home having gained a few instead.

All of the women here work hard, at least as hard as the men. When I shake hands, I notice that their hands are just as rough and their grip just as firm as any man. This tends to age them prematurely, not in appearance but health-wise. Many 60-year-olds here are “Mama,” a title of respect for those who have done hard labor for so long that they simply can’t do it any more. And many of the younger women here have back problems. Part of it, I suspect, is their working stance. If they are weeding a garden, or washing clothes, they bend over at waist and stretch to the ground to do their work. It’s like the “toe-touch” exercise of calisthenics, only they could plant their palms flat on the ground and do so for hours on end.

The demonstrations in the major cities continue. It is a downward spiral. Authorities declare it illegal for people to demonstrate. That brings out even more people than before. Police crack down, use tear gas, and even shoot a few in the crowd. That brings out even more and incites the demonstrators to respond. It’s impossible to know which side is inciting violence and which side is responding. Both sides take to the airwaves to point fingers at the other. Maybe things are not so different here. Today, demonstration leaders have called for the “Mother of All Demonstrations” in Nairobi. The irony of the acronym is not lost on me.

I’m safe in the rural areas. The Echoes of Mercy compound is walled and gated. People here are working too hard to scratch a living out of the dirt to get caught up in the fury of the city. This afternoon we travel to another village, and I will preach again. I understand the group will be small. I asked for an appropriate theme, and Pastor Moses explained they are struggling with many issues right now, like financial problems at a time when food prices are rising because of the disturbances in the cities. He said they need encouragement. So I plan to speak on “hope.” That suits me just fine.  I still consider it my purpose to “Give God Glory, Give People Hope!”

gkr1996 posted at 2017-10-16 Category: Kenya 2017