Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Darker Side of Christianity Part 1

Not too long ago I had a conversation with an individual that was more concerned that someone broke an “unwritten rule” than something clearly outlined in scripture. Needless to say the discussion left me puzzled as I walked away. Not puzzled in what I believe, but puzzled in that I wonder if LEGALISM is that one thing that threatens people’s relationship with Christ more than anything else today in the church?

Legalism, has been around for centuries and is an improper fixation on codes of conduct and tends to uphold the rule of man and neglects the mercy and grace of GOD. Behind the legalist is pride, superficiality and ignorance with an emphasis on the letter of the law, over the Spirit of GOD.

I would suggest that there are 2 types of legalism.

One type is that which people attempt to earn your salvation by contributing your own works to the work accomplished by Jesus on the cross. In others words, it's a "Christ-plus" message. The true Gospel, by which we are saved, is one totally by grace through faith whereby the individual rests solely in the sufficiency of Christ's work to forgive sins, remove wrath and justify the ungodly in the sight of God. To ignore grace or combine our works to grace is legalism. Even before explaining that the true gospel was one solely of faith (Gal. 2:16), the Paul said, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed" (Gal. 1:8-9).

Then there is the more common form of legalism in some churches today, which may accept salvation by grace alone, but then believes all must follow certain prescribed extra-biblical standards for godly conduct and favor in God's sight. Legalism often begins as a personal conviction (which is fine), but then elevates that conviction to a corporate mandate expecting compliance from others in (and outside) the church as well, which is wrong.
I find it interesting that there are people who would never dream of subtracting from Scripture, but have no problem adding to Scripture and judging others who fail to comply with their standards, pressuring them to blindly adopt their burden or making them feel unholy and impure for failing to go along.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kenya from a Child's Perspective

Dear Friends and Family

It has been a while since I've written to you so thought I'd give you another update! Last week was rather strange. We've been feeling tired and demotivated which is probably a normal reaction! We did take a couple of days break though which has been good. We went to visit our friends who live in the bush again and played a mad game of Pictionary. Also, yesterday, we went to a nearby (and virtually deserted) tourist lodge to take the kids swimming. It was good to get out a bit. I must admit that the idea of going down to the coast at Mombasa for a few days seems very tempting right now, but not sure how we could work it out.

We decided to start the ....... again today. I sent a text out to the parents over the weekend and we were expecting around *** children. As I walked up to the school this morning with **** and ***** I felt quite down. I had no enthusiasm for the school and was feeling desperately sad that "J" our head teacher would not be there. I took **** and ****** into the classroom and as we walked in, there was a familiar face standing there – Teacher "J"!

I couldn't believe it, she decided to come back. The French company where her husband works is housing them at the moment (in a secure setting) and they are based just down the hill from us so she decided to come and be with us. It is still dangerous for her to be walking about on her own and in fact she told me that when she came back from Nairobi over the weekend and was dropped in town, a few people noticed her and said 'what are there still (a tribe) in town?' She was very afraid. We will now pick her up each morning with the school bus and take her home directly. ...... I was so happy to see J. again, it really made my day! Then the next nice surprise was that about *** children turned up, many more than we were expecting. They were all so excited to be back again.

All in all, it has been a tonic for me to have the school open again. I've spent a lot of time just sitting with the children and chatting with the teachers and staff. Everyone has their stories. We had a relaxed day with the children and gave them the opportunity to talk about 'why they had not been to school'. These are some of the things they said:

O – There was a battle between the wazee (old people) and the young people. The wazee feared to be cut so they ran away.

H – People were being cut and there was shooting so we feared.

I – There were policemen all over town so there was no room to pass so we stayed at home.

A – People passed by our gate with pangas (machetes) but we were not Luos so we were not hurt.

M – I saw a helicopter shoot some people and the people hit our gate with stones and the gate fell over.

C – I saw a helicopter and policemen with guns. Some cut a policeman in the face with a panga (machete).

L – I saw a police car and policemen with guns.

T – There were angry men just by the roadside and they were dying people. If you went to Nairobi you were safe, but not here.

We have now made a short term policy that we will no longer drive the school bus in the back streets of the various parts of *****, we will only pick up children from the main highway. However, **** had to drive into one of the bad areas in town as the message hadn't been clear to one parent. There were remains of burnt personal effects all over the place along with torn town telephone poles which had been used as road blocks.

We also have our cook back with us and ..... They are Kalenjin and live in ***** so again, we are taking them straight home with no detours. Some parents are complaining about this but we still don't think it is safe here, or rather, there is an illusion of safety. We have heard that leaflets are now being dropped in town telling the remaining non-Kikuyu tribes, who have so far not been attacked, that they must leave town. We are definitely not over this yet.

Sadly some of our non-Kikuyu children have not come back. We heard of one of our sets of parents who had all their things taken out of their house and burned, they even killed the dogs and burned them too. I was particularly friendly with ****, and rang her today. They are not planning to come back to ****** (not surprisingly), it's very sad. We're going to see what we can do to help them get going again.

Tomorrow ******* will have to make a trip to ******. We are still on our tourist visas which run out in a week's time so they will urgently need to look at the situation with our work permit.

Thanks again for all your prayers. Please do continue to pray for protection, both for us and those that we care about.

God bless.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Prayer Still Needed For Kenya

Dear Friends and Family

I have a couple of images that are stuck in my mind that make me smile when I think over this past terrible week (yes, there were amazingly one or two moments when we actually smiled!). One is of ****** chasing ******* on his bicycle round and round the prayer chapel in the middle of the Centre. ****** is giggling as he makes his escape and ****** is laughing as he races after him. Then this morning, I watched **** and ******* racing round on their bicycle and scooter with ****** daughter. ***** and ****** have really connected over the past couple of days and it has been great to see them playing together. You may remember that when ***** first came to us she was quite withdrawn, so it has been great to see her open up and just be a child again. For me, these are images of light and a glimpse into the start of the healing process for these two traumatised people.

******** and her little family left us this morning. They were the last to leave and I was very sad to see them go. I was speaking to her this morning and said I would miss her she replied 'I will miss you too, we have become like family and work so well together.' At least there a positive ending for them at this stage of their journey. ******* husband works for the French company who are rebuilding the road from ******* to ******* . Apparently, the company were helped by the police to get hold of a list of all the people who had been involved in instigating the violence against the (a tribe) over the last week who worked for the company. [******** told me that it was one of her husband's work colleagues who had betrayed them]. These people were then all sacked! Hooray for some justice at last! The company have agreed to take ******** husband back to work and he and the family will be staying safe and secure in the guarded company compound for a while. They will then move onto ******* for a while. ******* has a very strong faith in God and this morning she said to me 'We have suffered very much but I know that God will find a way through for us.' I feel that with this small positive step for her family, God really has done that.

******** asked a number of pastors what they were going to preach about on Sunday. What could you say after what had happened, after so many people – Christians, church goers, even church leaders – were directly involved in the violence that tore this community apart? We were very encouraged by the wisdom of one particular pastor in a large church here in town. He told his congregation, "Today there will be no sermon. Instead we will be asking God for forgiveness for what has happened and for what we have done to our brothers and sisters." He then proceeded to say that he personally knew of a number of people in the church who had informed on their (a tribe) neighbours and friends. He then asked people to come to the front and ask for forgiveness. Over a hundred people went to the front and repented for what they had done. The pastor then called one of the church leaders to the front. He said he wanted the man to explain why he had been running around with a machete, what his intentions were. So from the small to the great, people were asked to address their failures and to think about what they had done. Maybe this one of the first steps on the road which will bring healing to this community.

I know that we have been writing to you about many of our (a tribe) friends and colleagues who are leaving town, but we are expecting to see them back again. All of them feel that ********* is not safe for them but many would like to return again which is an encouraging sign. One mother took me aside, very concerned, and wanted to know whether we would take her two sons back to continue the training that they were doing with us. I assured her that we were not seeing this as a goodbye; indeed, we EXPECTED them back. Their departure is such a loss for us too!

In the meantime, the departure of the (a tribe) community does not mean that the "trouble" is gone (contrary to what some in the community think). We still have thousands of 'internally displaced people' here in ******** (I'm just getting used to all this humanitarian speak) with more arriving every day from the troubled areas in the West. One huge camp sits empty on the outside of town, ready for the displaced people once things settle down a bit. The (a tribe) community had refused to move there because it is not secure – too dangerous for them when their lives are constantly threatened. Before this latest blow up last week, I had helped one poor man (with food, blankets, etc) who had a dozen relatives arrive from Eldoret. At the moment we're focusing on the (a tribe), most of whom are trying to leave town. We visit the police station and prison each day and are closely connected with a man at ******. He is a pastor in his spare time and a ******** for his day job. ….We hope to be able to work with him to widen the circle of people we can help. Our ministry has taken on a somewhat different focus at the moment but there are a lot of marginalised people here and a key part of the vision of (our ministry) is to help marginalised people. In a future email we hope to share a bit more with you about how this crisis has led us to re-examine our role in this community and our future.
On our trip to ***** this morning we met an older man who has been particularly hard hit by the violence that shattered this community last week. He lost ten members of his family when the house they were in was burned to the ground. I was shocked to discover that he is the neighbour …….. They were not at home at the time as they'd already moved to ****** a week earlier for protection after they had received some threats on their life. We want to go back tomorrow morning to see him again and also see if we can find another man we were told about who had lost some members of his family in similar circumstances.
Well, it's late so I think we will close for today.
Thank you again for all your support!

Dear Friends and Family,
Someone once said, if you think you have it bad, reach out to others and you'll soon discover that your situation is actually not as bad as you thought. When you compare what you're going through with other people's struggles, it puts everything into perspective!
I went through something similar today.
His name is ********. He was both a husband and a father. His two wives had each given him four children each. But now he is a widower with nobody left in his family except his 80 year old mother. Now the only thing he can think about is how he can get his family back to his home country where he can bury them as custom dictates. He has nothing left. His house was burned, taking his family and all his possessions. Today he had the grisly task of going to the morgue to see about the final legal rights needed to be able to then claim back the remains of his family. The smell of death around the mortuary is enough to make you sick. Yet you wonder if he even noticed that.

We met ****** again today along with one of the three mothers who lost her children in the same fire. There were 19 people in the house when it was set alight by the mob of youth: Two mothers with their eight children, and nine other children, all from three mothers. They too have lost everything.

These are some of the people we are reaching out to help. Sometimes it's hard to find those who have a genuine need. All of the displaced have a need, but some more than others. Yet for these four, the father and the three mothers, the whole community looks at them in both pity and anger. Feelings of revenge are running high. Yesterday 200 young men wanted to leave ******** to go through the town. Fortunately common sense prevailed. After much discussion they saw that any actions on their part in the town would not help their situation.

Others are getting tired of some of the help they are getting. They are all waiting for transport home, away to where they can once again feel safe. But many come offering them food, water, and medicines, all things they say are not helping them move on. The government wants people to act as though all is normal. The District Officer came into the prison yesterday to advise people to go back to their homes in *********. Why not? Nothing would happen to them! After what turned out to be a short appeal he had to flee. People were close to stoning him. They clearly disagreed with his assessment of the situation. Maybe their experiences had something to do with that?

The District Commissioner has never even dared to set foot into ******. Yet government officials are trying to do what they can to portray the image that things are all okay. We were surprised when a Kenyan worker for Doctors without Borders said that he hears nothing in Nairobi of the conditions in *******. There he only heard that things are quiet and back to normal.

And yet still you hear the rumblings as the cleansing continues. Monday was the deadline for (a tribe) to leave Eldama Ravine, a community north of ****. Late last week the (a tribe) fled communities in the hills above *******. Today fliers were distributed on the other side of town telling the (a tribe) community that they must go. And all along the displaced people are being told all is fine, they don't have to flee. And for most of them, nobody will ever hear of their plight. Their towns are just too small to be significant for the newspapers to cover their stories.

As I was leaving ******* this evening just before dusk yet another woman was giving birth to a child, this time in the canteen hall. Some went to look for the Red Cross for assistance but they returned, not all together surprised that the Red Cross were nowhere to be found.

Meanwhile at the ******* more people were leaving. Unlike the ********, a number of buses and lorries arrived to take the displaced on to their tribal homelands. There are not many people left in the prison grounds, less than 1000. Many of them are too poor to find the money for the transport costs. But it is good to see that people are able to get away. Once they leave from this place the healing can start.

Just like the (a tribe) refugees who have come to ******* from Western Kenya. They are safe here, don't have to worry about people looking to kill them. But now they have to start working on rebuilding their lives. ****** interviewed one of them, a teacher from Molo where a lot of people had been killed due to their ethnicity. The woman was clearly traumatised by what she had seen and experienced. Another teacher who came looking for a teaching job was from *******. She too had distressing stories to tell. Her husband had been forced to join the Mungiki when the rampaged through the town. Now he has to live with the guilt of what he had done. The irony is that, not only is he a pastor, but he also runs a school which has had to close because many of the teachers and students came from the wrong tribe. Now that they have cleansed the community he is unable to keep the school open.

Through the last week we have experienced the terrible things that happened here in ******** from many different perspectives: those who lost all their possessions, those who had family members killed, those who were from the "right tribe" but still had to fear for their lives, those who were involved in the atrocious actions themselves, and those who came into the community for the purpose of cleansing it.

We are grateful that the town is now quiet and that the incidents of violence now are rare. We pray that the healing process can now begin.

Thank you!

Dear Friends and Family,

Today let us just give you a quick update. I wrote to you about ***** in our last year, the man who lost ten members of his family. Here is a link to how the press reported his story:

We saw ***** again yesterday and **** asked him if she could give him a coat. She had a thick winter coat, much too warm for Kenya really. But he took it gladly and immediately put it on. We couldn't believe it! It was so hot, yet there he stood with his big winter coat on. I asked him where he thought God was through all the things he'd just experienced. I expected him to say something about God deserting him, yet he told me it was God that was getting him through it. Now that is faith!

****** was in town yesterday and witnessed a most unusual sight. A pickup went driving past filled with armed soldiers and a woman speaking into a microphone. She was informing the women in town that they are once again allowed to wear trousers! Yes, a most unusual announcement – could you imagine it happening anywhere else? But for us it was a positive sign. It meant that the Mungiki were no longer in town.

The paper has confirmed what the town's people have been telling us: the Mungiki had been bankrolled by local businessmen. Apparently they received 3 – 6 million shillings for their services. The paper also confirmed what people suspected, that these events had been planned. People wondered why one rich man in town had parked his fleet of buses by the police station on the Sunday before everything blew up. Was it that he knew something was about to happen? Or what about one of our Luo friends who had a Kikuyu girl helping her in the house? Why had her parents sent the girl away the day before the violence happened? There are numerous clues which do indeed suggest what the paper is now saying, that the ethnic cleansing we saw here was not spontaneous. That seems so shocking!

We also know that, although the Mungiki may be gone, their impact remains. This is a community divided. And although the Mungiki who came from out of town may be gone, some of their members are still charging businesses and some homes here protection money. 200/ to 1000/ a month, that when the average monthly salary is around 3000/.

******* has been so hot and dusty. We desperately need rain. But we also knew that the rain would be so bad for the displaced in the police station and the prison. Their situation would have been so much worse had this all happened during the rainy season when it can be quite cold. But last night the rain came. We prayed that the people in ***** would be okay, that the rain wouldn't cause too much damage to the few things that some were able to save, and that people would be able to find shelter. It really did rain a lot!

Today we decided to take some time off. We have been feeling exhausted. We'd actually wanted to get away for a night, but it has just not been possible. So instead we took some food and went to join our friends from the church who live out in the bush a ways from town. It was so good to just be able to switch off, to do other things and have some nice fellowship, though I don't think ****** and ******* got their head around the game Pictionary which we played together.

Some of our friends were able to finally get away today. We were so glad to hear about that. Tomorrow we'll then return to the prison and find out how things are going there.

We are grateful that the politicians are making some progress in the mediation talks. In town there is talk that the Mungiki will come back to clear the area of two other tribes if the talks fail. Then the Luya and the Kisii will have to flee! We really do pray it doesn't come to that!

Anyway, for today I will close. Thank you for your ongoing thoughts and prayers.

PS. As I sign this letter off, we just had some more gun shots not very far away. Despite the appearance of calm, things are not yet back to normal!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Check it Out

Hey All!
If you live in the Peg or the surrounding area I would encourage you to take some time and visit the Dusty Cover. It is a used book store in the West End, established by a friend of mine. I had the opportunity to go yesterday and found that they have a lot of great titles. So, if you like to read...and you want cheap books...check out the Dusty Cover.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

UPR Part 5 C

Dear Friends and Family

Our bit of excitement for today was that a German TV crew contacted us (via a friend) they wanted to speak to ***** and later interviewed ***** at length. I think that ******* enjoyed giving them a clearer picture of what has been going on here! They met them down at ******* where another large group of 'displaced people' have taken refuge. I think that ****** mentioned yesterday that these people as well as those in ***** have been told to move on. ****** saw a number of trucks and buses starting to arrive and take people back to their home towns, mostly in Western Kenya.

One of the things that worried me when all of this started just after the election was some of the emotive language that the media and politicians used – words like 'genocide', 'ethnic cleansing'. It worried me because I thought that if they spoke those words it might really happen. Now I find that I am going to use this emotive language because it has become a reality here. We've heard that in ********, the (a tribe) and other tribes pushed out the (a tribe). Only a handful of (a tribe) remain, camped out at the police station, and they were the ones that were too poor find the bus fare to leave. Now they are effectively trapped, as the police no longer provide armed escorts. Without it would be just too dangerous for the (a tribe) to leave. To they are stuck with nowhere to go.

Now, ******* is also being ethnically cleansed – here it is the reverse, this time the (a tribe) are being pushed out and the (a tribe) are taking over the town. I never really understood what ethnic cleansing meant and now I wish that I didn't know what it meant. It is truly horrific, one group of people deciding they don't want another around and using fear and violence as weapons to make sure they don't hang around. The pain and anguish that is caused as a result is completely terrible.

We went into town today. Now the main language spoken is ******. In the market, it was the (a tribe) who were the only ones selling things there. I must admit that I felt physically sick at the thought that here was this group of people, seemingly continuing to thrive while not half a mile away in ******** their Kenyan brothers and sisters were struggling to find food to eat. What will now become of this country? How will people ever trust each other again?
Good night and God bless.

Dear Friends and Family

I'm going to do the first part of this email and maybe ****** can finish it. He has gone out again with ******** to the prison and police station to help some people arrange transport away from ******** so no doubt he'll have some things to say when he gets back.

We had our little church group this morning. We had no idea how many people would turn up but we ended up with quite a large group. Our guests joined us and our ****** friends brought along a couple of their (a tribe) workers. These (a tribe) were from a family that had left their homes in Western Kenya to the relative safety of *******. As I looked around the group, I thought that we had formed a sort of symbol what the church should be, different tribes and races meeting and worshipping together. I'm quite certain that we were the only church in ******** where ***** were still worshipping with ******. Here as you know, it is all the ******* who have taken refuge in the ***** and ****** and are now desperately trying to leave town. At the end of the service I felt strongly that we should all stand, hold hands and say the grace together as a symbol of unity. It was very moving.

Some white friends in town shared with us some worrying experiences they had yesterday. A couple ….. were in the market (where you now hear little other than Kikuyu being spoken) when a man came up to the woman and reprimanded her for wearing trousers. We have noticed for a few days now as we drive around town that all the women are now wearing skirts and many of them headscarves. This I'm afraid is the influence of the Mungiki and another confirmation (as if we needed any) that they are in town. But we never thought that the white community would be expected to live by these rules. There are a few women in town who did dare to wear trousers at the beginning. The outcome? They were grabbed and stripped naked. Now that is better than wearing trousers? Another example of the contorted logic is that the Mungiki believe it is wrong to steal. That's why they remove all the property from the (a tribe) houses and burn it. So they're okay. They didn't steal.

While this couple was at the market, someone came up to them and said, "We don't want you British here. Go!" These things are for me a sinister turn of events – after the tyranny follows the oppression. If this kind of malignant influence is not stopped soon, who knows where it might lead.

I'm struggling quite a bit today. Perhaps it is the aftermath of the adrenaline rush we've had over the past week. I'm feeling very low and have no motivation to do anything. I hope it passes soon. I thank God though for my kids who provide moments of humour that make me smile. I was putting ****** to bed for a nap and he didn't want to sleep. He kept thumping around in his room. So I went in and told him firmly to go to sleep. 'Why do you always hear me Mummy? He said. 'You hear everything like Jesus hears everything.' He was clearly irritated by my apparent superhuman powers of figuring out when he is misbehaving! It was very funny.

Once all our guests have gone I think we will need to take a break from the daily trips to ******* and ******** and just spend some time away for a day just to recharge our batteries. We are feeling exhausted! But we're also grateful that we no longer hear the sound of gunshots. That, at least, is one blessing.

Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers.


Monday, February 04, 2008

UPR Part 5 B

Here is a link to a website which may interest you. It is the story of a doctor. .... I heard today that the Mungiki have threatened they will come and burn his house down. I pray it doesn't happen!

UPR Part 5

This is the first post of a few to come shortly...

Dear Friends and Family,

I have some things to share with you about our day which are quite difficult for me. I know some of you will see some of the decisions I made as utterly stupid whereas others will understand. So I lay myself open for judgement with this email and will try and be open and honest with you regardless. I also ask the question, what would you have done?

First of all about ****** and the kids. They were able to head out of town today to have a well deserved break away from the stresses of life in **********. We have some friends who ….. live just around 20 minutes outside of town, it's like an oasis out there. You can't hear any of the gun shots so can almost the terrible things happening in the country. ***** commented on how it took her a long time to relax. She didn't even realise how tense she was. With every noise you're always assessing it to see whether it is gun fire. You don't even notice how you're constantly listening out for things. No wonder you feel so tense and get so little sleep! It was good for them to get away, also for the kids. It has been the first time that they left the centre since this whole thing started and they seemed to revel in the freedom – and the wild animals we saw along the way.

I just had time for a quick cup of ice tea and some yummy biscuits before I had to head back to town. That was the only break I got in the day until I later went to collect ******** just before dusk when I was able to have a bite to eat again and enjoy the silence out in the bush.
I have just received word that they have given all the people in ******* until tomorrow to vacate the premises. ***** tells me that they have not organised an alternative camp for them to go to or busses with police protection to take them to ********* were the other members of their tribe call home. I cannot believe this information. Surely not! The people in ****** are terrified of leaving the place! They hear all these stories of the Mungiki just waiting for them on the other side of the perimeter fence. (The Mungiki are a violent Kikuyu cult which strives to return the Kikuyu away from modernism and back to their old traditions.) But to be cast out like that, it will create a very dangerous situation for them. There is a lot of dangerous ground for them to cover before they reach relative safety in ********. Tomorrow morning we will visit ******** to find out what is going on.

In some ways this information does not surprise me. The government is making certain decisions whose sole purpose is to present the air that everything is fine; business as usual. Ignore the violence and maybe it will go away. There is also another reason why they are probably not offering busses with an armed escort for the people to get to *****. This will facilitate the ethnic cleansing which is taking place in Kenya now. Apparently the city of ******* can now be considered ethnically cleansed. The 200,000 (tribe) who used to live there have all been chased away. If this happens in other places, especially closer to the capital Nairobi, then it is an indication that the government has no control of the situation. And that makes it harder to continue with business as normal.

I came across another example of this earlier today myself.
****** received a phone call this morning from his …. (a tribe) landlord to ask him to contact his (a tribe) neighbour. The landlord had waited long enough. Now the situation had become too dangerous for him so he was going to move all the (a tribe) property out of the place. He gave the assurance that it wouldn't be burned. But if he wanted to collect his belongings, he'd better come get them!

I then spent the greater part of the morning trying to locate the (a tribe) tenant. I finally found him in ********. It was an old man with white hair. Up to this point his primary concern was to find his wife whom he hadn't seen since the crisis began last Sunday (he did find her later at the **********). Surely he'd seen enough suffering in his life! Now he was about to lose everything he owned if we couldn't sort something out for him quickly.

I contacted our friend who works in ****** about the situation and he assured us the solution was straight forward. But when he called his superior, and later the head of ******, to ask for a vehicle and security, he was informed that it would be impossible. The reason? The policy had changed. Things were no longer being burned. There was therefore no reason to send security. Everything was okay. So no car and no security escort.

We tried to argue with them to no avail. Although the things were not being burned, they had been thrown out. They would all be destroyed or stolen! We even called the landlord who said the tenant must come quickly if he wanted his stuff. He then apologised for what he had done, assuring us that he wasn't a bad man. He had just received threats and was very afraid for his life.

So there we were. Life was back to normal in *******. Yet beside me stood an old man who was about to lose everything.

Our next option was to take him out of ******* and try whether someone at the police station would help. I spoke to the commander at the police and he assured me that he could get an armed escort. All we needed was to provide a vehicle. Finally some hope!

I felt it was unwise for me to go with the man, for me to use our car as the rescue vehicle. Doing so could make us a target. I therefore went into town to try and find a pick-up. I found a number, yes, but all of the drivers refused to allow their vehicle to be used to transport something for a member of the (a) tribe. It was just too dangerous they said. Meanwhile time was running out. I wondered if the old man had already lost everything or if we still had time to look for help elsewhere.

That's when I made the decision to take a look at the situation. The landlord had implied that he had thrown the effects "close to the building's courtyard". If that was the case it would buy us time. If not…. I decided that, if the surroundings there looked safe, I would verify the landlord's statement.

Town was quiet. We hadn't had any shootings all day. Shops were open. And people were going about their business like every other day. I drove into the estate along a road which gave me a good vantage point. There were few people about, a car passed me, and some children were playing. So I continued along until I got to the road where I had to turn to see the house.

As I turned, I saw a sight which truly dismayed me: out in the open ground beside the dusty road and the cacti plants which separated the road from the cemetery was a big pile of someone's personal effects. There was a cupboard, some sofa chairs, clothes, and many other things. And sifting through all of this were some children and a couple of women. Some already had a few bags of the owner's possessions in their hands.

Now my question: what would you have done? What should I have done?

I knew that the most valuable things would disappear first. The old man and his family would be unlikely to be left with anything! I looked around and didn't see any men about, just the few children and women picking through the remains like vultures while a few other women and children looked on from their doorways.

I then made the decision that I had to try and save at least the most valuable things. So instead of driving away I drove up to the place, got out of the car and addressed the scavengers, thanking them for helping me. I explained that a friend of mine was a friend of the old man who owned all of those things. I made it clear that I did not know the owner personally, and suggested that his friend was a Kikuyu by the name of ____. As soon as they heard the Kikuyu name, they were happy. My explanation, though not 100 percent accurate, distanced me from the (a) tribe and protected others from danger.

There was one woman amongst the scavengers who I felt right away could give me trouble. So I tried to get her to help me. She immediately demanded money for her assistance. I told her I was just looking for some Christians who would assist me just to save a few things for the old man. Christians, I said, would understand what I was doing. To make my point and to try and get their consciences into gear, I then tried to ascertain which church the people came from: some were from the PCA, some from the Catholic, some Pentecostal. All kinds of churches were represented amongst the group!

I finally succeeded in getting a few to agree to help me. But they were VERY reluctant and there was a lot of arguing between the people whether or not they should do so.

All I really wanted to do was take the most valuable stuff and then get out of there! As quickly as possible. I was aware of the danger I was in. But how to know what someone else would consider the most valuable?

While I was trying my best to collect stuff I became aware of one man in the group. I was constantly on the look-out for anybody who demonstrated leadership. The man I spotted, ******, wanted to know what I was doing and what was going on. I asked him if he was a Christian and he assured me he was. ……! That made a hit with a few in the crowd though they reminded me that we were not in church (let's keep things separate now, shall we? Faith and actions!). I then asked him if he would help me and he got right to it. He suggested the most valuable thing was the furniture. Now this I wasn't expecting! How do you pack furniture in a hurry? Without waiting for a response and with the help of a few others they then managed to get a number of the larger furniture items on my roof rack. Meanwhile I worked together with the kids getting some other things into the car. One little boy too was very helpful: "Take this. These blankets are more valuable than those picture frames."

Suddenly I noticed two young men standing there. They started speaking aggressively to the people in Kikuyu and had particular choice things to say to ******* who was just tying the furniture to the roof of my car.

I went over to the men and shook their hands, asked them their names and explained I was trying to help a friend, that I was a Christian sad to see this happen to someone and wanted to help. Then there were three of them. The main guy had been drinking which got me very worried. He then told me that they were not Christian, that didn't concern them in the least. No, Mt Kenya was important to them! ….. Did I not know that they were the ones who were cleaning the area of filth and bad blood? And who was I to work against that? No, they had the say as they were Mungiki, from Molo (confirming to me what people had been saying and what the press had suggested that many of the Mungiki youth had come into ****** from outside).

They then demanded money from me – protection money? I don't know. I knew it wouldn't stop with that so acted as though I didn't understand them and suggested I just finish up and then we could talk. Would they be willing to help? No, I gathered from their demeanour they didn't really like that suggestion. I continued to talk to the one who was the most talkative, trying to give ****** time to finish. It was time for me to go, but this business with the Mungiki I knew had to be sorted first. While I talked to the one, the other two left. ****** came down from the car and advised me I pay them. He also warned me that the other two were probably going away for reinforcements. So I quickly had them called back.

While this went on I suddenly got a phone call, from our police friend. I advised him that now would be a good time to send in the cavalry. Unfortunately, he informed me, the government policy had not changed. He would try to help but didn't think he could. I was on my own.

I then stepped aside with ***** and the Mungiki leader and we discussed money. How much did they want? They made clear to me that I would pay or they would burn the car. Did I not know that they were the ones in power?

I then asked how much they wanted. The leader told me 17,000/. I bulked. I didn't have that sort of money with me! Not even close. So I told them I would give them what I had. I didn't have a clue how much money I had in my wallet, and if they would be happy with that. It turns out I had 800/. I did have a bit more but I explained to him that I couldn't give him that as it was not mine to give. Our friends had loaned me the money to buy some cooking gas for them. Initially he seemed content with that explanation which surprised me. (I thought it was worth a try but was definitely not going to argue with him!) But then he demanded 2000 more which I dutifully gave him.

They then left and I got in the car to drive away. I made it about 10 feet when one of the sofa chairs fell off the top of the car, breaking my radio aerial in the process. ****** came running up and wanted to help me get it back onto the car. Suddenly Mungiki reinforcements arrived; three motorbike taxis with a passenger on each came zooming up (flashy ones too, not like most of the mopeds you see about town. These were people who obviously were getting a lot of money!). I knew I had to get out immediately! I then signalled to ***** to get into the car with me and we drove away, not in a state of panic (I didn't want a motorcycle escort!) but as fast as the unstable load on the car roof would allow on those terribly bumpy roads.

I was grateful that ***** jumped in the car without delay. I think he was also thankful that I offered him a ride away from there. They had clearly been threatening him. I apologised to him for what I had gotten him into. I knew he would no longer be safe in those parts for the next few days at least. But what should he now do? Although he was shaken up, he said that he was not worried. God would protect him as he had done the right thing. As Christians we are to help our brothers, even if they are from different tribes. I was amazed! I had been amazed to see how he had freely volunteered to help and then continued to help me despite all the threats the Mungiki threw his way. Now I was amazed at his faith, that despite it all he believed God would protect him. Here was the first person I had seen in all of this who practiced what he believed. No, the second. The first was his pastor.

I then decided we would go to his pastor and ask for advice. I was unable to call as in all the excitement at the end someone had stolen my mobile phone. That was a loss! Such a necessary tool for a time like this!

In the end we decided it would be safest for him to leave town for a while. Although I admired his actions so much how he had helped me, and although I was grateful for his help in getting me out, I felt so guilty at having put another person's life in danger like that! We subsequently went to ******* who was so kind to kit him out in some clothes which should help him over the next while in ******. I then dropped him off at the taxi stand so he could make his way before dark.

I don't know whether the old man whom I'd been trying to help all day was grateful or not for what we had been able to save of his possessions. I imagine he was more concerned at the time for what he had lost rather than what we had been able to save. But I'm sure over time he'll be happy that, unlike many, he was left with a few though meagre possessions. In all that I never did get to hear how he found his wife. That would have been a lovely story!

Now I'm left wondering about my actions. Was it utterly stupid? ****** thinks so. She feels it has put us on the map for some here. They now know me and know our car. But I keep wondering what I should have done? I'd expended all the efforts I could to help the old man. With a police escort myself, it may have kept them at bay at the time but I think I would have become more of a target on their map. I didn't go into the estate with the intent of acting like a hero. All I wanted, when I saw the vultures on their carcass, was to jump in, rescue just a few of the most valuable things for the old man, then get out. Circumstances just took things another way.

What I can say is that I'll think twice about going near there again anytime soon! And I'll use ****** car around town for a while rather than our own. No use attracting more attention. Besides, the radio no longer works in our car.

I found it hard to share the above account with ***** as I knew it would get her worried all over again. It has also had a strong effect on me. I've noticed my ears are much more attuned to the night sounds outside while I write this. Every sound makes me wonder if there is someone out there. (The occasional shots don't help!) But the nerves will calm. ****** and I prayed this evening believing that God is with us. Sometimes we'd love to see some physical signs of that, but at the moment we can only see it with our eyes of faith.

Finally, let me apologise for the length of this email. I know it will be too long for many, but for those of you who have read this far, writing for me is a form of therapy. I thank you for helping me work these things out. Forgive us also if we haven't responded to your emails with personal messages. We've been a tad busy but will do so as soon as we can. Do not take it to mean we don't appreciate your emails! We really do!

God bless,