Thursday, January 31, 2008

UPR Part 4 Latest Update

Dear Friends and Family,

Again, thank you so much for your prayers. This country needs God's help. As do we. Thank you!
Today ******* was quiet. We heard very few shots fired. There was one incident at night, but that was when the power suddenly went off at the police station and the refugees there thought the Kikuyu were coming to get them and everyone started screaming. The police shot into the air at that point but all then went quiet when they got the generator running.
The first time ******** ventured into town we were struck by the bizarre situation. The town appeared to be mostly back to normal. People were in the streets, the taxis were running again, the market was open, many shops were doing brisk business as people came into town to refresh their dwindling stock of supplies. Along the streets were some shops which had been broken open and all the personal effects burned outside: tables, chairs, even bicycles and refrigerator coolers. (They even burnt one …. woman's expensive Toyota Landcruiser!) How would the displaced people feel – those whose lives have been threatened, who have lost everything, may even have had loved ones hacked to death – if they would see the other tribe members just getting on with their lives as though nothing had happened?
In one of the poorer areas of town we came across an unusual sight. Amongst the narrow trails between the houses there were many piles of burnt personal effects outside poor people's houses. The paths had been cleared of the boulders but these were still strewn along the road side as though in preparation for the next wave of violence. But as we drove behind one house we saw on one pile of ash all kinds of furniture and other personal effects. You couldn't help wondering why the things had not been burned. Did the youths run out of petrol? Or had they expended their hatred? Or did they maybe break into the wrong house?
We didn't see the smoke clouds billowing up from the town neighbourhoods like yesterday. Only one huge plume of smoke was evident. But even that makes you wonder if something is about to blow up again. Everybody is very much on edge so the smallest thing is enough to make you wonder if the violence is about to start up all over again.
In the afternoon ********* made another trip to *******. As we approached ******* we suddenly heard gunfire nearby. Motorbike taxis suddenly raced away from the scene. People on the road suddenly began to flee. We wondered if something was blowing up. But fortunately things settled down right away again.
We also saw a small lorry filled with soldiers pass us. As they went by, the vehicle suddenly backfired. Those soldiers just about leapt out of their seats, looked sheepishly over at us once they realised what had happened and that we had witnessed their fear!
We took some more food to the people we know in ****** today. The Red Cross had been there so they had received a little bit during the day. Nevertheless, they were so grateful to see us as the situation in the camp is quite dire. 2000 people have to share four toilets – now you figure that one out! I just do not know how that is possible, especially as the toilets also serve as washrooms – when they get water.
As we dropped off the food our friends took me to meet their extended family. So many had lost everything they had. Now they sit in the …. grounds wondering what will happen next. ******** will eventually return to normal. But the wounds which have been created will take a long time to heal! How will the tribes ever be able to live or work together again? How will we be able to run our multi-tribal (programs) again? (programs) where many members of the "other tribe" attended? …. Their lives have been threatened, sometimes by neighbours they called their close friends. How could they ever be able to find the courage to remain in this neighbourhood? And what we experience here …. is but a small part of this large community? How long till the wounds even begin to heal?
In ******** as in the ******* everybody worries that they are still not safe, that the (a tribe) will attack them at night. This fear together with the hunger cannot be good! ****** lives close to the *******. As the displaced people became hungrier they started roaming further from ******* looking for food. The situation became so dangerous for his wife and child (he was away at a funeral at the time) that she had to flee their house. One man came up to ******** and told him, "we will not forget what has happened to us in these last few days." Revenge is on so many people's minds. It's impossible to blame them for that! And yet, as long as people go down that road it just makes the situation worse.
The people in ******* also do not trust the government. So many believe the Mungiki are being used by the government to help it retain its power. (The Mungiki are a Kikuyu cult whose aim is to call the Kikuyu people back to their traditional ways. Men take secret oaths to bind them to the group. They are responsible for particularly heinous crimes including decapitations of their enemies.) People from different tribes all say that so many of the youth who caused the problems in ********* are not from this area. Others are convinced that powerful individuals are helping the youth. Many were arrested yesterday but today they are back out on the streets after their bond was paid by others with money. You can also see the influence of the Mungiki all around town. Since this whole thing started you no longer see women in town wearing trousers. Many women are also wearing head scarves. These are clear signs of the influence of the Mungiki. What I cannot understand is how the Mungiki have so much power in this community! A very high proportion of the population of ********** would call themselves Christian. Where is that influence? Why do you even hear of pastors encouraging or taking part in the violence? How much influence has Christianity really made on this community?
Anyway, that's what we experienced today. Thank you for standing behind us in this dark time for Kenya.

Dear Friends and Family,
We've heard from some of you who think so highly of what we are doing. It is really hard to hear these things as we see what you say and then look at what we're actually doing and cannot see that we really are doing all that much. I just wish we could do more. When you see all the suffering that so many have gone through, our little help seems so feeble.
But is it right not to help more if you have the means? That is what we are wrestling with. Someone has to take a stand and do something! …….So, what to do? We haven't yet worked out the answer to that problem. On the one hand is the need to help more, on the other the need for protection. We're still working out that one. … We will wait and see, and in the meantime we'll continue to make regular trips to ******** to help out there and make their life just that much more bearable.

When we arrived at ******** this evening there was a large animated crowd present in one corner of the grounds. Apparently they had just caught an escaped felon and wanted to stone him to death. Lucky for him the police were nearby! This guy had escaped from prison last year. I guess he never imagined that he'd be coming back into the prison grounds again for his own protection because he was a member of the "wrong tribe"! Unlucky for him someone recognised him for what he was.
One more thing. We've just received word from Mombasa that there is a place there offering very affordable packages for those who want to spend some time in the sun at the beach. So, if you want the place to yourself, better take up the offer while you can! We hear many hotels in Kenya have had to close do to the absence of tourists. There's no way of telling how long this special limited time offer will be available! Maybe WE should consider it!

Dear Friends and Family
This morning ********* went into the town for the first time since all hell broke loose on Sunday. As we were driving along I was struck by familiar feelings I experienced during a trip to Rwanda in 1996 right after the genocide there – everything on the surface seemed normal and yet underneath there was a sense of brooding unease, that all was not as it should be. That's how it felt in ********** today. We drove round the town and then decided to make an impromptu visit to the prison. We stopped off at a shop to buy 10 litres of milk and went in.
We met up with ****** and his family there. He introduced me to ******* who was very anxious because her 1 year old baby was sick and she didn't know what to do. ******** friend came up and explained to me how she had managed to hide for 4 days in her house before eventually having to flee to the sanctuary of ********** 'only God kept me safe during those 4 days' she said. My sympathetic noises seemed wholly inadequate when faced with these women who had lost everything and were struggling to make sense of the nightmare they had found themselves in. Their faces said it all – distress, anxiety, fear.
******* then showed me round the 'camp'. It is very hard to describe the scenes there. It just seemed a mass of humanity all living on top of one another. Some were fortunate to have rescued a mattress to sleep on, others simply had the hard ground. Most of the women and children are sleeping in sort of halls (previously dining halls I think) but they were packed in like sardines. Weariness was etched on so many people's faces. A few of the fortunate ones had brought small amounts of food with them that they were cooking on tiny cooking pots. The rest had to make do with a small amount of maize that the Red Cross had delivered the previous day – not enough to feed the whole camp and impossible for the children to eat. There was a long queue for the water tap, I only saw one. We turned a corner and saw a BBC film crew there……. [I spoke with them about the conditions of the road to ********* should we have to evacuate – you hear so many rumours! They said the situation can change so quickly. Today they are free, but yesterday, while things were quiet here in ********, the roads had numerous road blocks. The one reporter gave me her contact information should we need it in future. She suggested they might be able to let us know whether the roads are open or not.]

I have sat at home in ****** before coming over here, perhaps eating a TV dinner while watching scenes of people suffering in parts of Africa. I found it difficult to connect with the images I saw. In many ways, I think that's a kind of normal reaction. Today, I felt moved, angry, sad and above all frustrated at my inability to be able to do more. But I think because we know so many people there, it has made it much more real to me. In fact, we met even more of our friends and acquaintances today.
We left with a long list of supplies (and medicine for the baby) for ****** and his family, and others we had bumped into along the way. ******** went back later to buy the stuff and take it back into them.
When we got back to *******, we heard some shooting and suddenly received a lot of texts telling us not to go into town because there was trouble there. Apparently, something had flared up just after we left. Will there be no end to all this?
I got back and made lunch for my family and looked at the food with very little desire to eat. ******* started fussing about his food, saying he'd had enough (with a full plateful still there). With images of the children in the ********* in my mind, I told him firmly that he had to eat everything up. I remarked to ******* that it gave a whole new meaning to saying to your kids
'eat your food up – think of all the starving children in Africa'!
We're doing OK, but I must admit that I'm feeling very tired at the moment. I'm not sleeping well and last night ******** woke up a couple of times with nightmares 'The shooting men are coming Daddy' he said one time, and then 'I can hear the guns. I wanted to call to you but I couldn't open my mouth'. It's hard to hear him saying those kinds of things. Today, when we heard a few shots ring out ***** said 'but I thought the angry men had gone away'. They are processing things in their own way too…………..

********* told us that she had been sleeping with 10 others in a Volkswagen! …….

[It must have been quite frightening for them when we drove them out of the sanctuary of ****** with all the police standing around with AK47s and headed towards town. ***** had been out yesterday shortly with the protection of two armed soldiers and had gone to their house to see whether they could rescue anything there which had been overlooked by the gangs. ****** hadn't been out since the day she fled. When we got to ****** and they could breathe easier, ******** told me the trip through town had been nothing like he'd expected. The displaced in the prison hear all these stories of gangs of youth roaming about the town and all the roads being blocked. It certainly wasn't like that when we drove through.]
I'm hoping that maybe tomorrow, if all is calm, I'll be able to take the kids and spend the day with some friends who live just outside ************ in a peaceful place that has not been affected by all this. I feel the need to recharge batteries and not worry about gunfire for a while. The kids could do with a break from all this too.
Thank you so much for all your wonderful support. You are helping us to keep going!

Take care and God bless
If you would like to help financially you can by sending a check payable to Soul Sanctuary and mail it to:
Soul Sanctuary
187 Henlow Bay
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3Y 1G4
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