Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kuria Christmas

“Roho Mtakatifu!?! Labda, una roho mtakatifu.” (The Holy Spirit!?! Maybe you are the Holy Spirit)
-          Said to Wambura (Joseph) by his father after his father found out Joseph’s fiancĂ© was having a baby. 

Conga wearing Angel visits Wambura
This has to be my favorite line from the Kuria Christmas Story. Some of the teenagers at Gamasara United Methodist acted out the story of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, but they rewrote it to reflect their own culture and how it would be received for an unwed woman to have a baby conceived with the Holy Spirit within the Kuria tribe. They did it complete with Bhoke (Mary), Wambura (Joseph), and Emmaunel (Jesus). It had the whole church laughing as Bhoke’s parents tried to figure out who had impregnated their daughter, not taking the Holy Spirit for an acceptable answer. There were also some very openly painful parts as Bhoke and Wambura both had to endure the jeering of a community that could not let this juicy piece of gossip pass without comment as women went to fetch water from the well. The conga wearing angel and card playing herders just made it that much more complete. 

No room at the guest house
The real goal though was completed with style. This well-read Bible story was made very understandable to a group of people very unfamiliar with the Bible.  Maybe for the first time the church saw how God uses ordinary people to do even the most extraordinary of things.  That has become the Christmas story for Gamasara United Methodist Church this year. God uses ordinary people, all we have to do is say yes. Wambura had dreams of his own, a good business plan, and a good reputation in his village. However, in the span of a few months he had lost his good reputation and had to give up on his good business plan as he accepted God’s call on his life. This ordinary man wanted all the same things all of us want, a good job, a family, and a way to provide for them. This is the type of peaceful, secure life that I think most people truly desire. Wambura was willing to put all of that aside though, was willing to give all of that up, in order to follow God’s call on his life. I think that lesson stuck well with the church as a story came to life in front of them. Maybe it will stick with you as well.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Visiting Without Directions

Two weeks ago I was invited to a church to talk with some of their people who wanted to be baptized. It is out in a village and is led by a lay pastor. I had met the pastor before, but had never been to the church itself. I agreed to come, secured transportation and a translator, set a schedule, and kinda got directions. I understood that it was just past Gamsara Village, a place I am very familiar with.  The morning of I picked up the motorcycle I had rented for the trip, picked up my translator, and we headed out. I called before I left and we were told that we should just head passed Gamsara and we would see someone on the road. Not the most promising directions as far as I am concerned, but I have learned to roll with it. We passed Gamasara and kept going. I wasn’t overly concerned about the distance because I have been told that it is a short distance before only to find out that their definition of short and mine are more than a little different.  The problem came when we eventually hit another main (dirt) road that I am familiar with and I realized we have probably gone too far. So we called that pastor again and sure enough we had passed the correct turn off…by about an hour. We turned around, headed back, and had to call four more times before we finally met that guy on the road that we were supposed to pass the first time. I then had a new adventure. The man that came out to meet us and lead us to the church was on a bicycle. I was on a motorcycle. I got to follow the man on the bike back to the church on my motorcycle. We went very, very slow. It is a toss-up as to whether it was the motorcycle following the bicycle or crossing a river on a 125 pikipiki (swhaili for motorcycle) that made me wish I had brought my camera more.  I will ruin the end of the story and say that it took two hours to get to the church and only thirty minutes to get back home. Visiting without directions is hard. 

However, leading a church in a place where you cannot even give directions to may be more difficult. We arrived at Masalula (don’t try to pronounce it yourself) to find a church made out of sticks, mud, and a grass roof. A church that I later found out had been built by several widows in the church. They were continually apologizing about the state of the church, the small space, and the way I had to double over to duck into the door. The spirit that filled the church though was what really caught my attention. The strength with which they prayed, the way the pastor knew the lives of those around him, and the obvious relationship that has grown from time together in prayer and study of the Bible. During testimony time the pastor, with barely concealed, water filled eyes talked about the death of his son only a month earlier and now his daughter was in the hospital. However, the testimony ended with praise that God was still with him and still loved him. 

I had come to give them instructions on the upcoming baptism that they wanted to do for several members of the church. I started to ask questions and received answers back that came straight from the Bible and their hearts…they meant what they were saying. I had come to give directions to the church and the pastor that was there. And while it may have been difficult to get directions to the location of this church, the actions and faith of the Christians there gave me great direction in my own life and in anticipating future visits to these hard to find places.