A routine week bring more lessons.
Some of you have told me how much you enjoy reading Ryan’s updates from Kenya. What a huge blessing Ryan has been to me personally, to the Partners for Care staff in Kenya and to the mission of Partners for Care! Enjoy his update from last week. Connie
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The Lord’s Day brought about a meal I never would have imagined.
As daybreak arrived, I arose to get ready for the day. As I sluggishly climbed out of my bunk bed, I could hear some of the girls in the house. Sounds of a sweeping broom, the clanging of pots and pans, for their day had already begun long before sunrise. Per my routine, I hurriedly threw on some clothes and headed downstairs for the celebratory morning cup of Kenyan coffee. Made with the rich milk from some cow down the street, this cup of coffee is considerably sweeter than its American cousin – Folgers.
The sweet taste does come with a price, I am rather positive that this milk is not “skim,” or even “2%,” and I never ask about the “sell by” date. For better or for worse, while the girls are doing the morning chores, one-by-one the men gingerly make their way to the coffee thermos. Secretively, I always chuckle at this customary routine and think, “women in the U.S would kill us for doing such a thing.” Like most developing countries I have visited, most of Kenya’s day-to-day work is done by women: the cooking, cleaning, taking care of the kids, farming, laundry, and the list can continue.
The guys finishing ‘taking’ breakfast, as they say here, and headed towards the small car in the driveway. It was Sunday morning, and me and three other from the team headed towards the town of Limuru, an hour or so northwest of Nairobi. They were to lead worship at a church there and I was along for the ride. The sky was overcast and the morning air was cool and wet as we climbed our way through the hills of outer Nairobi towards Limuru. The buildings and apartments of Nairobi soon gave way to tea plantations and small huts.
Everyone seemed to be heading to church, as the landscape passed by, people strolled this way and that clothed in their Sunday best, their brightly colored suits and dresses standing out against the dark green of the tea fields. As we approached Limuru, I could instinctively feel that the elevation of the land was higher than that of Nairobi, the air was cooler and the clouds seemed to be heavier, making everything appear darker.
Limuru is an ordinary African town, with lots of colorful-albeit dilapidated shops and buildings. It was ten in the morning and the marketplace was already packed with people shopping. I am always amazed at the number of people that can be seen walking around the streets during any part of the day, I haven’t the faintest idea where they are walking to and from, and I suspect that idea may have eluded them as well. We made our way down several dirt paths and pulled up to a small metal building.
The “Sword of the Spirit” church was a nice church by Kenyan standards. A good stage, covered with an array of green plants, a nicely constructed tin roof, and about 300 plastic chairs. Whoever makes these chairs is a rich man. These one-piece plastic chairs are everywhere in Africa and usually come in some shade of white, red, or green. These are the chairs that you might see at a fourth of July barbecue. In Kenya, you can see them in every church, restaurant, or any public gathering place across the nation. I took my seat in one of these indestructible chairs and by ten-thirty the guys had begun the worship service.
It is hard to describe the atmosphere of a worship service in Kenya, partly because it is so different than its American counterpart and partly because how can you accurately describe the sights and sounds of such an active event. “Sensory overload” is a phrase that comes to mind. Huge speakers aimed at creating, not necessarily a good sound, but a loud sound, belt out the worship music. The options one has in participating in worship are both abundant and dramatic. You can sing, dance, pray, yell, dance, cry, shriek, dance, or even lie on the ground. Did I mention dance? I swallowed my pride several weeks ago on participating in worship. No matter how goofy I, a tall white dude, may look I figured, if David can do it in his underwear, I should be able to manage it.
The worship service went on for about an hour and a half. Even though I could not understand the songs, the guys were great and by a little after twelve they took their seats next to me. It was now time for the scary part, the sermon. I glanced at a sign on the wall saying the worship service was from “10 am – 1pm,” already being noon, I hoped for the best. As the pastor skipped up onto the stage, I noticed something in his hand. “Oh no…it can’t be,” I thought. It was a handkerchief.
For the next hour and a half, the Pastor paced back and forth on the stage discussing the parable of the yeast. In the Bible this parable is all of about two or three verses, but the Pastor yelled, screamed, dropped to his knees, and sang his way to an hour and a half about the topic-with no notes. “I’d hate to be here for the ‘Sermon on the mount’ Sunday”. By this time, the pastor was drenched in sweat; his treasured handkerchief had given up and his “Bernie Mac” style suit was soaked. As his cadence slowed and he caught his breath, he informed the congregation that the past hour and a half was his introduction to the lesson and he had five points to deliver. The sound that reverberated around the room was one of mixed laughter and moans! I looked at the team of guys with me, and without a word, we all came to the conclusion that it was a little past two and we haven’t eaten since seven, and with that we all got up and slipped out the back door. Who knows how long the pastor’s sermon ended up lasting, I do know however, that the church elders need to install a Gatorade cooler on that stage for the poor man.
As we laughed about the sermon on our way to the car, our attention immediately turned towards lunch. One of the guys told me he had just the place in mind, and then turned to the rest and said something apparently rather funny in Swahili. The car stumbled its way down to the town and we parked it right in the middle of the marketplace. We got out and wandered our way through the crowds and toward a line of shops constructed of sheet metal. We have arrived, one of the guys announced. I looked around. I did not see any immediate restaurants and then my gaze settled on a small hut appropriately titled, “butchery.” Ask any health expert where NOT to eat in Africa and the response would undoubtedly include a picture of this particular “butchery.” Hmm, the best way to paint the picture of this gem: take a metal rail car and throw it down a rocky mountain. When it finally comes to rest, paint the word “butchery” on the side, hang two skinned goats from the ceiling, and open up business.
I followed the guys past the hanging goats, and ducked into the dark metal container. We sat down on wooden benches cafeteria style and we were served roasted goat meat, ugali, and spicy salsa. The guys, and I am sure everyone else in the shop, thought that it was unusual an American would eat at such a place. “Today, Ryan, you are a Kenyan,” they all joked. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t eaten much that day or that the food was simply good, but I can honestly say that was the best meal I have had since my arrival in Kenya. Before I leave to go back home, I have to go back to that rail car-“best roasted goat in Limuru,” they explained, and I am inclined to agree.
After a great lunch, we all crammed back into the car and headed home. With the windows rolled down and the sun breaking through the clouds, the warming air filled the car and I drifted off in a Sunday afternoon nap.
Sometimes, I thought, after such a great Sunday, life isn’t so much about the lessons learned along the journey. However, life is just about the enjoyment of being in God’s presence. You know, just to be a kid before our Father, to focus less on the actions of worship, the power-point presentations, the long-winded sermons, or the perfectly formed illustrations. To play in His presence is something I want to do; to be near Him is where I want to be. It was in Limuru, Kenya where I had the best goat meat around and I spent the day next to Jesus and was a child before Him. All in all, it was a pretty good day.
Serving Christ in Kenya,
You can reach me at email@example.com