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 You may remember that when ***** first came to us she was quite withdrawn, so it has been great to see her open up and just be a child again.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!

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