Marian Baker

From board member Marian Baker: Kenya

On the 12th, I travelled via piki and bus from Agneta’s in Khalanda towards Eldoret. Agneta’s son Abnar was waiting for me at the Lumakanda Junction and he drove me to the airport where we met Beth Collea. On the way back to Agneta’s we stopped at Lumakanda where his wife had prepared a delicious lunch for us. Beth was honored to hold the new baby, Dufraine, while I greeted Knapp (their 5 year old son who is named after me).

The construction and several detours between Kabrengu and Butali were a challenge to navigate. We enjoyed seeing troops of baboons and later several colobus monkeys that had all come to the edge of the Malava forest during this dry season to find sticks of sugarcane to eat that had fallen off of the numerous sugarcane tractors traveling on that road. We reached Agneta’s just before dark and the bright moon and clear stars, including Orion emerged.

We enjoyed a day of rest and then in the afternoon took a walk to a rock that covers 5 acres, on top of which we enjoyed the view as we had unprogrammed worship with Agneta.

Monday the 14th, we walked and then rode a matatu from Agneta’s to Elizabeth’s in Kakamega. We were greeted with fresh papaya from her garden. We rested some, washed clothes, and repacked. Meanwhile Melinda Wenner Bradley flew in from Philadelphia to Kisumu where Katrina McConoughey from FUM met her and hosted her overnight.

Tuesday I travelled into Kakamega town to do errands while Beth enjoyed relaxing in the quiet home of Elizabeth. Agnes, one of Elizabeth’s sisters moved in to the apartment next door so she could help with the care of Stella, their younger sister who has Alzheimers disease.

Wednesday, we went by car to Kaimosi through multiple police checks (due to the recent attack in Nairobi). What joy was felt as the most active Sunday School teachers we had found in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania gathered together for the first Quaker Religious Education Collaboration in Africa. As we prayed in thanksgiving to God for safe travels, Agneta reminded us that this was one of the first times for some Friends from all over East Africa to gather together since 1979 when East Africa Yearly Meeting began to splitting apart. Throughout the week, they often burst out in spontaneous choirs of singers sharing one hymnbook or dancing. Most were younger, middle aged Friends who unlike the leaders of most Friends churches here, had never had a chance to see Kaimosi where Quakerism in East Africa started.

Melinda Bradley and Beth Collea began sharing the Godly Play method and the Faith and Play stories. It was so different from the usual adult preaching/teaching to the children, that all were willing to sit on the floor like children to listen and to wonder in awe at the teachings. They loved sharing with each other, learning from each other as fellow teachers.

Beth told some stories of early Friends (all English and American ones) and I shared one about Priscilla Makhino, a Kenyan who had travelled widely in ministry. As they discussed which East African Friends they might write stories about, they realized the lack of written materials. We got into powerful times of sharing about the things that hinder their ministry with children. Many shared that at their meetings, they did not receive any encouragement or support from the leaders and children were sometimes not welcomed into worship services.

On Friday morning, the FTC staff and students joined us for morning worship and Melinda shared the story of Jesus welcoming the children. In the follow up sharing, the importance of ministry with the children became clear. Several FTC students listened in on some of our sessions the rest of the week. The conference then decided to write a message to Friends in the world, (not the usual one that reports details of where they met, naming the theme and speakers/preachers), but one that briefly shared their concerns. The epistle was written by a representative group and edited by the whole body. I will attach it, if I can get a copy of it before I send out this message.

That afternoon, while some worked on how to make materials for teaching, I went with our EAYM Kaimosi participant who offered to give a tour of Kaimosi (since for many this was their first time to visit Kaimosi). I had expected him to show us some of the many Friends schools, colleges, and historic buildings. Instead he took us to the Hill of Vision on top of which the first three young male missionaries had decided to start their mission. How sad that the indigenous rainforest had been cut and sold, much of the mountain removed for gravel, a cell tower erected and several dumps for glass waste allowed, all due to recent and present leaders for their personal benefit. Several on the tour remarked that Friends could have built up many more churches, paid their pastors/ministers well, as well as started a Friends University long ago with the large amount of land they had had.

They also formed a small steering committee of Judith Nandikove,(Nairobi) Dancan Sabwa,(North) Agneta Injairu, (Malava) and Eric Sifuna (Uganda). The last day, I had invited Elizabeth Makhokha, the chair of the Kenyan National SS Teachers, and Eileen Malova and Katrina McConaughey from my support committee, to see what we had been doing at the conference. To our surprise, the Sunday School teachers presented Masai blankets to Melinda, Beth, and I with exuberant traditional dance and song, followed by a presentation of African dresses by my support committee. One by one, each participant was commissioned to go forth and continue to minister with the children of their home areas. A refreshing, learning, connecting conference for us all.

I am so grateful for Melinda and Beth coming and for the prayers and support of all who made this historic gathering possible. You are all helping us build up the Friends in East Africa.