15 July 2012
I am sitting outside the Sunset Hotel, overlooking beautiful gardens, enjoying the cool of the morning before going to church in Atemo. But, alas, the internet is not working, so who knows when this will go out.
Dr. Just will be preaching at Ringa Girls School today, in honor of Pastor Mark Rabe’s last Sunday in Kenya. Pastor Rabe has been serving in Kenya for the past two years. The drive to Atemo is a familiar one and it takes a little over an hour. We pass fields of rice, maize, bananas, lemon grass (for the cows to eat), pinapples and sugar cane. Our driver, Samwell, is a competent driver as he drove matatus (the little vans used by many for transport—crammed full of people) for several years. He has an ever-present smile and a gentle presence. In fact, I trust his driving so much, I actually sat in the front seat the other day! And for those of you who know how crazy the driving is in Kenya, you can imagine my trust in Samwell’s navigational skills.
I had a few days rest last week, followed by visits with deaconesses in Kisii. This is hill country, with much more rain than the Kisumu area. The soil is fertile and moist. The setting is sublime. Mud huts dot the hills and it all seems so serene and lovely. At least that is what one is lulled into thinking…
We arrived in Ogongo around 1:30 on Thursday afternoon to meet Deaconess Evelyn. We then picked up Deaconess Elizabeth and made our way to our first visit. We are rarely sure of where we are going, with whom we are visiting or what the needs are, but we follow the deaconesses as they walk for miles to visit those in need. Our first visit took us up the familiar red dirt, and by that I mean MUD—trails, meandering through grasses, shambas (family farms), looking out over the beautiful green hills. As we walked, more and more people joined us. These were neighbors and “Christians” from the local Lutheran Church. The small mud hut stood on the side of a hill next to a pineapple field. There were two small children sitting outside the hut. Both were very dirty, but that can be common out in the villages where water is scarce. At first glance, I thought the children were twin or at least very close in age.
As we entered the very dark hut with mud floors and no furniture, we were assaulted by the smell of urine and feces. It took a minute or so to adjust to the darkness of the hut—and another minute to register what was not in the hut. There was no furniture, not even a stool. No beds, nothing. We were led into the second room of this hut to find a man, John, lying on top of large white plastic bags used in many outdoor markets, unable to move. The story is that John was while walking alongside the road in the dark about five years ago. This left him with a traumatic brain injury, rendering him paralyzed and unable to speak. He now needs help with the simplest of activities. Turning over and sitting up are major efforts requiring the strength of his wife, Violet. His skin is covered with sores and rough areas. His existence seems to be confined to the back room of this dark, dank hut. I have no idea when he was last outside in the sunshine.
John and Violet have four children: Diana, Joseph, Steven and Brian. Steven is four years old and Brian is nine months old—and they are the same size. It was obvious that Steven is very sick and malnourished and perhaps Brian looked “ok” since he was breastfeeding. The older children were wearing filthy clothes and in need of some good nourishment. This situation was as bleak as I have yet to see during my visitations. It was difficult to muster up any hope for this family or to even begin to think about what to do. In my mind, they were nearly a lost cause. And then I thought about Christ cared for the poor and needy—that he came for the lost ones. And how Mother Teresa would literally pick up a dying man from the gutter. She would clean his maggot infested body, give him clean clothes and a clean bed and let him know that he was loved—even if he only hours to days to live. (And believe me, I get that I am not Mother Teresa). We left some shillings for medical care and food and then began to think of how we could help this family at least have some basic comforts.
With the help of David Chuchu, we figured out how we could purchase a mattress for this poor man and get it to his hut via matatu or motorcyle. We will also purchase a bucket for water, soap and lotion so that his skin can be can be kept clean and dry. We will give money to Deaconesses so they can provide food for the family. And as we gather with the deaconesses this week we will talk about how to mobilize the church to care for her members so the deaconesses don’t have to face this bleak situations on their own.
But for now, here are the needs if you are so inclined to help:
Mattress, transport for the mattress to the hut, bucket, clean linens, soap…..about 3,500 Kenyan Schillings. Which amounts to roughly $43.
The best way to help is this: Make a check out to Holy Cross Lutheran Church.
Earmark it for Kenya.
Send it to 4701 Grove St.
Rocklin, Ca 95677