Greetings from Nairobi, which during rainy season is cloudier and less sunny than usual. Rose and I were able to travel in a bus along with 43 other Friends women from Kakamega YM directly to Shiners High School in Nakuru for the USFW K Triennial.
They had planned for 1000 delegates, but 1500 showed up, creating a sea of white headscarves. Representatives came from all yearly meetings in Kenya (22 at latest count) plus several from Uganda and Tanzania USFW’s.
As a result of the large crowd, it was chaotic the first day.
Rose and I, the FUM staff, and several special Kenyan dignitaries were housed in a guest house a distance away and which depended on three vehicles to shuttle us across town. This gave us higher class boarding arrangements and an opportunity to spend some time meeting the new FUM staff as well as other Kenyan dignitaries. It also meant we were only at the conference for late morning thru late afternoon, and thus missed the morning and evening devotions that I have usually found to be the most inspiring and important parts of the triennial.
The Nairobi YM hostesses gave us a welcoming ceremony the first night that included children and Sunday school kids giving a rap like presentation to challenge the women to let their actions match their beliefs. The women dressed in white, green, red, and black (colors of the Kenyan flag) sang in beautiful harmony and then honored Gladys Kangahi and Dorothy Selebwa, both former Presiding clerks of USFW Kenya, who had previously been members of Nairobi YM, by presenting large cakes which were then distributed so that all got a taste of the cake. They also prepared a banquet the last night that included cake again.
Esther Mumbo, Dean of St. Pauls Theological College was supposed to be main speaker, but she had to cancel and an untrained pastor, Helen Makenzi from Central (Lirhanda) YM took her place. She was full of enthusiasm (like a cheerleader for Christ) and could be heard without a microphone.
A few men attended the conference full time. One was John Muhanji. When showing the FUM staff to the women, he introduced Katrina McCaughey as the new staff person that would be the liaison with USFW. This surprise announcement was met with appreciative applause by the women.
When Robet Wafula from FTC gave a lesson on church governance, he thanked the women for being united across YM lines that had enabled them to reach half way in their project, construction of a Friends Conference Center in which to hold retreats and small conferences in Handidi (near Kakamega), a central location for most Friends in Kenya. He challenged all the men present to support the women to get this conference center completed, as it is needed. Late, when more male leaders in Kenya came to visit, John Muhanji also encouraged all the men to help the women get the building completed by the end of the year.
The women responded with joy at these endorsements of their hard labors.
Another man was a Luo Friends pastor from Bware YM near Tanzania border. (Most Friends are in the Luhya tribe, not in Luo, the same tribe as Obama’s father.) As an active pastor who has started a number of new meetings in Bware and in Tanzania, he finds the women conferences more inspirational than the ones led by men and when he wore a white suit on Sunday he blended in well with the crowd.
One day an enormous kettle of hawks (hundreds of them) flew overhead midday as the clouds of warm air lifted them up just before the afternoon rains came- much like the hawk migrations witnessed in eastern US in autumn.
The last day of the triennial, all those who came from Uganda and Tanzania or who help work there, gathered and shared their successes and challenges and began planning out the things to focus on in the future. It was the first time for the leaders of Uganda and Tanzania to share and learn how many issues they have in common and we all brainstormed ideas of ways to solve them.
The many Friends School buses then transported the women back to their homes, many singing the whole way. Rose and I travelled in a shuttle van along with women from Ngong Road Meeting in Nairobi. We were warmly welcomed by Moni and Rose Wekesa who live within walking distance of Friends International Center.
Yesterday, Rose and I travelled with James Injairu (Agneta’s husband) and their two grandchildren to the Animal orphanage to see monkeys, lions, crested cranes and other wildlife up close. The kids enjoyed it and Rose treated us to lunch in a restaurant downtown. Today we will be doing last minute errands in town and packing, getting ready to fly back to New Hampshire later tonight. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support and to all East Africans who have been hosting us during these past several months. We are sad to leave, but we both look forward to seeing Friends and relatives back in USA and raising money to see that the work continues in East Africa. The women here are starting to find ways of supporting themselves so that the ministry continues even when I am not in Africa.