Marian Baker

From board member Marian Baker: News of Tanzania and Kenya

Greetings. Many Kenyans thought that January was an extra-long month this year. This was not because of extreme cold like in New England, but due to extreme heat. In addition, they had been promised by politicians that there would be free high school tuition for all. They then celebrated Christmas with gusto, but when schools opened and it turned out to be a false campaign promise, they struggled to find fees plus feed their children in January. Last week, I had just been sick. I did go to a medical clinic and made sure I did not have either malaria or typhoid. Here in Kenya you can get a lab test done on the spot and within an hour know the results of the test. At only $2 or $3 per test and $5 for a consultation with a qualified medical doctor- what a bargain it is compared to the US’s extra expensive health care system.

On the 6th, I bought the local plums in season and made simple jam. I should have removed the skins that held a slightly bitter taste, but it was much tastier and cheaper than store-bought tins of jam.

On the 7th, I travelled to FTC in Kaimosi. I was warmly welcomed by Margaret Amudavi, Dean of the College, whom many of you had met while she was on sabbatical in the States. I met with Robert Wafula and by phone with Eileen Malova that morning to plan out the Uganda Pastors Conference. Over tea break and rest or morning, I met with the Tanzanian students to plan out ministry in Tanzania. Over lunch break I met with Alfred Wasike, Gen Secretary of Uganda YM to update him on the pastors training, and then with Pastor Joseph from Kigumba (Northwestern Uganda), to plan out a journey there in April. Then spent the night at Margaret’s eating her freshly baked lemon scones as we shared about her adventures in USA.

The next morning, I attended early morning prayers at FTC chapel (an octagonal meetinghouse) for unprogrammed worship! I then returned to Kakamega and stopped at Eileen’s to get caught up with her on our plans for ministry in Uganda as we shared an omelet together.

The next day was a day of rest, washing, and mending at Agneta’s quiet country home in rural Kabras. She was busy with her work with One Acre Fund- a cooperative group of farmers who pool together to improve their crops of maize (corn) their staple crop. On Saturday, the 10th, I walked to Khalenda junction expecting to take the once daily bus to Chebuyusi. Everyone else seemed to prefer the bus to going via a piki through the dust, and it turned out the bus was absolutely jammed packed- not even space for one person to stand, so I had to use a piki. I attended the USFWK Executive Board Meeting. When I shared how World Day of Prayer was started as an ecumenical event with all different churches invited to gather for prayer, they shared that they had to go to National Council of Churches of Kenya to enable such an ecumenical event (Here in western Kenya each church has their own separate celebration of the day! I will try to arrange an ecumenical event in Ebwambwa where I know several leaders of different churches. The theme this year is on Global Warming/Climate change- which should interest many in New Hampshire. Then spent the night at Florence Waswa’s, historian for USFWK. Several women who had been named after me were excited to see me.

On Sunday I visited Namirama Friends Church, for whom I had started the Friends Girls High School years ago. They spoke only Kinyala dialect and refused to even try to use Swahili or English (the national and official languages of Kenya). No wonder the results in national exams have gone down since they broke off from Kakamega YM to form their own tribal yearly meeting. If girls never hear English or Swahili spoken, they are unlikely to do well in studies. I was surprised after the long, 4 hour service, that not even a cup of water was offered to the visiting male officer of Quaker Men from Soy or to myself. Instead I bought a soda at a member’s shop, and then stood in the local bus to return to Agneta’s to enjoy yogurt and fruitso refreshing on a hot day. Instead of a refrigerator, in areas where there is no electricity, things are kept cool in a ceramic jug full of cool water. Simple solar power lamps are used instead of polluting kerosene lanterns in the evenings as well as for recharging cell phones. On Tuesday I travelled with Eileen Malova and Elizabeth Odera all the way to Chwele (up on Mt Elgon slopes) to visit Rachel Lusweti, an elderly widow who had been very active in USFWK. She and others loved hearing stories about our ministry in Uganda and Tanzania. In turn she provided a banquet for us of many different delicious foods. We reached back at Kakamega after dark and I hurriedly packed to go to Tanzania.

Early on Wednesday, the 14th I travelled to Migori. Then travelled on a piki up a very steep 5 km. mountain (much like Uganda). There was a high school called Kilimanjaro at the top! I visited the family of Epaintus Ominde of Bware. They had gathered women to meet with me and afterwards I then walked around the large family compound of maize, vegetables, cows and oxen. Very soon after my arrival, rains started and I was credited with bringing them a real blessing. The next morning, I found many people out joyfully planting due to the rain that night. Their granddaughters enjoyed singing with me that night and didn’t want to stop. When you sing simple kids songs with motions, it doesn’t matter which language is used in singing. I helped shuck groundnuts (peanuts) as we sang which were roasted up in the morning along with tea for breakfast.

Thursday I rode back down the mountain and walked on foot across the Tanzania border. By noontime, I had travelled by a crowded station wagon to the home of Esinas Mwita in Tarime. Tanzania. We planned out the menu and what needed to be purchased to feed the Sunday School Teachers we will train next week. We held a worshipful time of sharing with all the members of Tarime church (five women, one infant, one teenage boy). Due to not getting a roof on the church (due to a court case), most had left the church. We all decided to spend some time while the teachers are here to visit each of the neighboring houses to the incomplete church building. What a blessing it would be if they could find a way to work together as a community to finish the building to be a multipurpose place rather than waste money paying lawyers in the distant city of Mwanza to be rich. Their part-time pastor came in the evening and also was eager to follow the plan of the women.

Friday the 16th, after purchasing much of the foodstuffs with Esinas, I returned back to Kakamega enjoying seeing the many white cattle egrets and other large black and white birds with powerful long curved beaks that were in muddy rice fields. The views of Lake Victoria were also stunning around Kendu Bay and there were less hyacinths in the water this year. It was so hot in Kisumu bus park that afternoon, I thought I was going to melt! By the time our matatu had climbed up the 1000 feet to Western Province, it was cooler, and I came back to normal. I found Elizabeth busy at a funeral of a neighbor’s son. Unfortunately, many in the family are drunkards. Elizabeth had been appointed as treasurer and she found it hard to find women who could help her who would not just take any money given them to fetch food for the crowd and then they would use it to drink instead.

Today, I met with a Baptist pastor and then with the Christian Union Teacher at the local Ebwamba Secondary School. It is a service written by women in Suriname- (northern coast of South America) that will provide a geography lesson to the students. We began to plan out the ecumenical World Day of Prayer service together. We will invite all the local churches (12 different denominations within a 2 mile radius) to the day of prayer. At least once a year, Christians of all types can surely gather to pray as one body for the world.

Thanks for all your messages and prayers. Prayers for safe travel are needed, especially when the only means of travel available is a station wagon into which 12-20 people are crammed like sardines.