Sunday, January 13, 2008

In the Midst of Chaos and Suffering...

(Kenya ethnic map is from the BBC)
I thought it would be good to give a bit (OK, this is longer than a bit) of an update on the situation in Kenya. Since I pointed some folks to my blog last week, I figure they might come back to see what else is happening. (DISCLAIMER: Except for quotes and references to articles, the following comments represent my personal thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of anyone else, including my employer.)

The news coming out of Kenya is not real encouraging. Last week, Kibaki selected his Vice President and most of his cabinet prior to mediation attempts. It appeared to be a move calculated to firmly entrench himself in power and to effectively cut out the opposition (those who claim the election was stolen from them) from any meaningful part in the current government. That, alone, could cause tensions to go back up again. Then, neither side seems to be willing to budge from hard-line positions and the two leaders still haven't talked face-to-face. The opposition has called for rallies on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week. Not good.

The man who was chosen as VP, Kalonzo Musyoka, was a minor third-party candidate for President who received only 9% of the vote and didn't even carry his home province. I was privileged to meet and have lunch with him about 3 years ago as part of a trip to his district to see some water catchment work that had been done by Baptists in Kenya. He seemed to be a sincere, clear thinking politician. His agreement to be the Vice President in these troubled times and in partnership with one who had been accused of fraudulent election practices has puzzled me. I'm not alone in that as the following editorial makes clear:

Irony of Kalonzo-Kibaki Relation

One of Kenya's leading daily papers pointed out the complexity of this crisis, giving credence to my own thoughts:

Kenyans are fighting inequality, not ethnicity

NPR has a good selection of stories on the political issues and the crisis that has resulted -- NPR stories on Kenya.

But, I'd like to focus on a different aspect of all of this. In the midst of this crisis, many believers have refused to be drawn into the conflicts and the tribalism and are demonstrating their faith in practical, loving ways. This is one of the things that differentiates the Kenya situation from the incredible violence in Rwanda in 1992 -- believers are showing that when Christ truly rules in one's heart, that person is changed, she is different, he does not respond based on prejudice or the normal expectations of culture. The following news articles and snippets from various e-mails demonstrate those responses by both Kenyan nationals and expatriate missionaries:

Kenyan needs trigger Baptist ministry

Kenya refugees sheltered at Baptist school

9 January 2008 -- Mark Hatfield, Africa Director, Baptist Global Response

I have used an additional about $5,000 (Baptist Global Response had already used $25,000 for relief work) for the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons, I think) center here at the Tigoni Police station and the KRC (Kenya Red Cross) center in Limuru. Most of that has gone for blankets and non-food items. I may have to have the pit latrines pumped tomorrow :) They are overflowing

There are about 800 in Tigoni that we are feeding daily. For the first three days I hauled about 1500 liters of water to them daily but we were able to get the Tigoni water to turn on the police tap so the water hauling has slowed down.

I have been pleased with the KRC's ability to manage something this size and even more amazed at the generosity of the community around here. Many donations come in daily. We have not had to buy fresh Veggies yet. The Limuru center is better off in all areas than those at the police station.

The Barton's (Baptist family) have been super and Kathy fixes something daily to bring to the police station. Ian helped me haul food from town and has been very involved.

We had 50 KG (about 110 pounds) of beans soaking in the bath tub last night that were served today. Tomorrow is Ugali day.

We have enough food depending on what all is donated locally for about another 5 days. What we are doing is not large but I think significant.

12 January 2008 -- Bert Yates, Prayer Coordinator for Kenya

We will not take an oath or join the homeguards. We will stand in the centre. As we awaited the delivery of relief food last week, Arthur Kinyanjui [Baptist pastor and past moderator of the Baptist Convention of Kenya] repeated these words to us. He and others at a Bible School in the Rift Valley first made these statements over 50 years ago. As God’s servants, this was their answer when they were asked to join either the Mau Mau soldiers or the homeguards, the soldiers with the colonial British government. Later as we visited the camp for the displaced at the Nakuru Showgrounds, Arthur and an elderly friend shared that they had seen many difficult situations during their lives, but what was happening today could only be compared to what they had seen during the Mau Mau Uprising in the 1950’s. Both men had tears in their eyes as they shared. Arthur, who has started churches in Kenya and Uganda during the last half century among many, many different tribes, finds it impossible to accept that once again as an ambassador for his Saviour, he must stand in the centre in his own country.

Jack and I continue to praise God for how our Kenyan friends are looking beyond economic or tribal boundaries to meet the needs of those around them. During the relief efforts when tribal clashes erupted in the Rift Valley in the late 1980’s, most of Jack’s calls from pastors and church leaders began with the list of their needs and requests for outside help. Yes, much of our job at that time and today is to encourage those hurting and give them the opportunity to share, but this time is different. Even as the needs are shared, the emphasis is on what they can do to meet their needs and praises for what God is doing already!

But, the needs are there and they will need outside help. We are certain that some of our churches have been burned and destroyed, but we are awaiting confirmation before we share the facts with you. I asked Jack today if he had received word yet on the churches in Burnt Forest, an area between Nakuru and Eldoret which has especially felt the fury of the election madness. Jack answered, Not yet, but I have delayed calling my contact there. I don’t think I want to hear his answer. I helped build almost all of those church buildings. I know where each Baptist Church is located. I know their people. As you pray for the thousands displaced and hurting in our country, please also pray for the Kenyans and others like Jack who are ministering to them. Pray for strength and compassion as they listen and encourage. Pray for wisdom as the IMB and many other groups seek to find the best ways to help meet the incredible needs around us. Pray that new attacks and threats will not continue. And pray especially for those who are in national leadership positions. Pray that they will look beyond any political, tribal or personal desires or rivalries and truly seek true and lasting peace for all Kenyans.

13 January 2008 -- Bert Yates, Prayer Coordinator for Kenya

Regardless of what is happening in our country, THE LORD IS KING! These are the words our worship leader, Carol, spoke this morning before leading us in singing We Crown You Now. She also reminded those of us at Parklands Baptist that in spite of what we see in the news and all around us our Lord is Good. We then sang, Lord you are good and your mercies endureth forever. As I sat among my Kenyan friends this morning, I was awed once again by their desire to praise God and totally depend upon him in times of suffering and sorrow. Many arrived this morning with guests – after the service I learned from a friend, that as I expected, these were displaced family members now sharing their homes, yet they all joined fervently in the praise songs.

Later, as we sang our usual welcome song, we were challenged to sing it to our neighbours this week. Pastor Simon Mwangi shared, For peace to be generated, it is not just the job of politicians. All of us must get involved. Can you imagine what would happen in our city and country or even in our world if everyone honestly sang, God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it should be to their neighbours in the coming days?

Pastor Simon added that Kenyans need to focus on God totally, not politicians, newspapers, or even international help. He said Kenya must look to God and only to God for help and for peace. In the morning prayer, Deacon John Rono stated, The best mediator is Lord God Almighty. Later, Pastor Ambrose Nyangao repeated this by asking us to not focus on current circumstances, but to join him in singing, Turn your eyes upon Jesus…and the things of earth will grow dim in the light of his glory and grace.

I’m afraid that all these positive comments might make you think that those at our church are imitating the ostriches that we see in our game parks and on open plains. Yet, in all I heard this morning, no one was hiding their head in the sand and denying the current problems of Kenya. Pastor Simon shared how his family had visited the many displaced camps in our area yesterday. As his children joined in playing with the displaced children, he realized that there was a great need for comfort, not just food for the many who have been through such trauma. When Pastor Ambrose stated that the devil is working hard to get our focus away from our Saviour, there were many, many nods and sounds of agreement. There was also great understanding when Ambrose asked if we remembered how Jesus calmed the sea and the storm and added, For there to be a great calm, there must be a great storm.

I am proud of my church and my Kenyan friends, but I am not sharing these things to brag. I want you to see the other side of what is happening in our country – the side that gives me hope among all the turmoil and pain of recent days. I am certain the message and challenges Jack and I heard this morning are being heard in churches throughout Kenya today. Please continue praying with us for not just a time of peace in our country, but a lasting peace that is a result of an end to the tribal, political and economic problems that have fed the discontent and anger that has caused current clashes/attacks as well as destruction and death in the past. Join us in praying Deacon Rono’s plea this morning for the leaders of Kenya – Pray that they will prefer peace for all above all personal and political ambitions and desires.

13 January 2008 -- David and Robin Stow, Volunteer Coordinator, Baptist Mission of Kenya

As I write to you, we have just returned from another wonderful worship service at our church where the focus was prayer for the nation of Kenya. Three groups went to three different areas in the town to see first hand the situation. In all three areas, the groups consisted mostly of women with small children and the elderly. After returning, they reported the most urgent needs in these specific areas are underwear, diapers and wipes for the babies, sanitary napkins for the ladies, water and a means of cleaning their bodies. Today we collected money specifically for these items. There has been an outpouring here with people donating clothing and food and while there is still a HUGE need for all of these things, the items they identified are items not being donated as readily and are critical to the needs of these displaced people.

There are refugee camps all over Kenya trying to meet the needs of those displaced. Many have found refuge with other family members as time has gone by, but there are many who do not have anywhere to go. Many have had to leave the only home they have ever known just because their tribe was not of that area. Many marriages are suffering because of the intermarriage that has taken place. Many camps are for an individual tribe so families are split. One of the groups from our church learned that in one camp they visited there had been violence within the camp because it was a mixed group.

What can you do? Most importantly, you can pray as requested in the e-mails that I've copied above. The International Mission Board, SBC maintains a fund for Human Needs Ministries from which it draws in situations like this. Help is given regardless of religion or tribe and 100% of the contributions go to providing help because the programs overseas are administered by missionaries and Baptist relief workers. Read about that here -- IMB Human Needs Ministries. If you want to give, you could designate your gift for Kenya disaster relief.

Run (life) well, y'all,
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