Retreat Days

 

After the excitement of Sunday, the team took Monday and Tuesday as Retreat Days. Each member was given a topic for which they produced a short reflection which was followed by a quiet time. The themes we considered on Monday were:
Water
Acceptance
Togetherness
Evangelism
Respect
The day then was drawn to a close with Compline.

On Tuesday the following themes were followed:
Life
Incarnation
Faith
Equality

Of course those are reading this closely will notice that the first letter of each theme set side by side makes up

WATER LIFE

And that was no accident. Because water and life together are pretty much what we’re about on this trip.

Our retreat was brought to a close by  Naftale who celebrated Holy Communion for us in the main house. This, like much else on this visit, took a different turn when we realised that we had neither bread nor wine. So we just made do. Trusting that God would understand and look upon our intentions rather the physical elements presented for his blessing in the sacrament, we used biscuits and  cola.
And do you know what, it made no difference whatever to the sense of reverence, worship and fellowship in the name of the risen Lord.

As we headed for the bed, we all wondered what the next day would bring. Because the next day, Wednesday, was the day when the whole community would come together to celebrate Bishop Patrick and Bishop Naftale blessing the water scheme.

 

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SUNDAY
Sundays here are….different. Very different indeed!
To begin with, it kicked off at 9.30pm on Saturday evening. I was wrapped up in bed softly searching sleep when what sounded like a disco struck up. Deep bass thumps overlaid with melodic keyboard and harmonic voices. The rythm varied from country to near rock and roll to pure American pop. And it was loud. Extremely loud. Bowel shaking loud. I toyed with the idea getting dressed and joining the party but in the end decided to remain coy and hope it didn’t last into the wee small hours. As it turned out, all went quiet at around 11 o’clock and I drifted into the land of nod.
Not for long though.
At 5am the whole thing started again. Thrump thrump thrump! Yeeho yeeho yeeho! Over breakfast I quizzed our host about this nocturnal rumpus to be told that it was the choir practising for Sunday worship. In a bemused state of curious bewilderment I dander ed down to the simple church to see from whence issued this noise.
Oh my!
Talk about jerry built music systems. The was a keyboard and a small mixing desk and two mobile phones and an iPlayer all rigged together with a cats cradle of wiring and powered by a small generator. Unbelievable. But very effective. I was so grateful that I wasn’t worshipping or preaching here.
Our team broke into two parts. Bishop Patrick and Stephen McWhirter stayed in Oltiasika and the small church. The rest of us climbed into the landrover and headed down the hill a half hour drive to the plain. We pulled off the track at a small village surrounded by a thorn hedge and drove across the dusty ground to a tree. Yup. A big acacia tree encircled by a high thorny enclosure. No walls no roof no floor but the dusty earth. Just a tree and a hedge. Called Obilee ( oh-bill-eee ). This was to be our church for the morning.

As we approached Obilee we saw our congregation. Virtual all were women and children, about 25 of them, with maybe half a dozen men. The women and children were singing and dancing in the Maasai manner that made their neck rings bounce. That’s not a sight that greets us in our parish churches every Sunday. We were welcomed by the local Evangelist who was wearing traditional Maasai dress. He spoke a little about himself telling us he has two wives both of whom were there and 11 children all whom were also there.

He introduced the lad ( one of his sons ) who would translate my sermon as we went along. Doris and I robed in alb and stole and in we all trooped to start morning prayer. Or the version of it that is the Sunday worship at Obilee. Don’t think ‘Book of Common Prayer’ here.
Truth to tell there was no liturgical structure to the worship at all. Psalm. …nope. Canticles. …you must be joking. Creed…..what’s that? To start, the evangelist introduced himself to us along with his two wives and eleven children, some of whom were in church. Then there was a song and a dance, accompanied by a single drum Maasai style. Then came Alistair ‘s sermon.
This would be good fun, I thought to myself. I’ve never preached with a translator before. It was a very strange experience. I said one sentence then the lad translated it into Swahili. Then another sentence followed by the translation. As so it went on. Weird. But after a while we found our rythm and everything seemed to go okay. Seemed, I say, because I have no clue if he was translating what I actually said. But it was well received and only lasted 40 minutes. Doris read the Parable of the Good Samaritan in English then the local Evangelist read the same passage in Maasai as part of the sermon which took the theme Love Your Neighbour.
All in all it started out as a sureal experience but quickly turned into the most natural thing in the world given the setting.
As with everywhere we travelled in Maasai land it was the people who made it come to life. I have lost count of the times I have heard how we welcome we are and took make ourselves entirely at home. These are remarkably warm folk.
After the service every single person greeted each other with a handshake. As the children passes by us in line each bowed his or head for a blessing as we laid a hand on the head. This is turely a community at peace with itself and with God and church at its heart.

While most of the team were at Obilee bishop Patrick and archdeacon Stephen stayed Oltiasika. Stephen writes:
Bishop and I went to worship in St Barnabas Oltiasika. There was a large congregation as another church, St Patrick, joined us because of the visitors. Bishop Patrick and I joined in preaching. Bishop Patrick spoke of transformation using 3 visual aids focusing on Doing-Learning-Being. I followed up with the story of Zacchaeus and how he was transformed by meeting with Jesus. The service was filled with the usual Maasai colour dance and singing. We hardly noticed the time passing in a service that lasted almost 3 hours.
After lunch some of the local ladies ( Mamas) came to the compound with various hand made goods to sell to us. And we did not hold back for cash is a welcome supliment to their meagre income from herding. For instance I paid 400 Kenyan Shillings ( about E3.20 ) for one bracelet. That equates to days pay here. Little enough for us but a small fortune for them. I gave 1000 Shillings ( about E8.50 ) to a lady for a carved stick that I will use as a fishing priest. You’d have thought all her Christmases had come at once.
Evening prayers ended the day. We shared our personal insights and reflections of what we had experienced on this remarkable Sunday. Gratitude and warmth and a story of true and deep worship headed everyone’s list

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SATURDAY
In this place time is like water. Sometimes it rushes by like a raging torrent. At other times it drips like a leaky faucet. Most through it flows languidly like a slow deep pool on the river Moy.
Today was supposed to be a rest day. A doddle and sit day in which to catch the breath, relax after a welter of travelling and attempt to assimilate all the strange and wondrous experiences which had crowded our senses since we arrived in Kenya.
And it started soft enough with a low – toned conversation over a lazy breakfast of coffee and cornflakes and hard boiled eggs.
Then the pace quickened just a little and we set off down a simple bush track. Our first port of call was the livestock corral where Ronnie told us of plans to breed a pedegree herd of goats. From there we dander ed onward to have a look at these water tanks, famous the length and breadth of TKA as a project to which we had contributed over several years.
Under present construction is the water catchment apron. A carpet of reinforced concrete some 100 mtrs wide and 300 mtrs long. All the work is being done by hand by a gang of locals labouring with bucket and shovel. I quipped to Ronnie ‘ No cement mixers here.’ To which he replied ‘Yes there are. Dozens of them.’ Each of the tanks will eventually hold ……. thousands off litres. The rain will fall on the concrete apron and run down into the tanks. From there it will be piped a short way downhill to a distribution point. But all of this depends on the tanks being capped. Without the caps the tanks are near to pointless. Because the caps keep the water clean. We have seen what water in these currently uncapped tanks looks like. In the central tank it is black as the ace of spades. Some folk are none the less using this water to wash clothes. In a second tank the water is a puddle of scummy green. Along the fringes of this pool are the desiccated bodies of dead frogs. While the water itself is home to myriad live ones. And at a single glance we could appreciate the vital necessity of the caps for the tanks. We in TKA have already paid for one of the three caps. And it will be in place in short order as soon as materials are delivered by wholesalers who are long on promises but short on application. But even then that will only be a partial solution. For the system to be optimally effective, all three caps need to be in place. Each cap costs E8000. Peanuts. There is a vague promise which may or may not bear fruit of E8000 for one of the caps. That leaves the third in order to complete the project. Just E8000 away from a conclusion that would utterly transform the lives of 2000 people. For what we in TKA have done, given, already the Maasai are profoundly grateful. Profoundly. It is all the talk everywhere we go. The sincerity of the gratitude is unquestionable. And the impact,psychologically at any rate, that this project has made on their lives already is unmistakable. For us it is pictures and words. That’s all it can be because it’s happening so far away from our homes and hearths. But for the Maasai it is literally life and death. There are no taps here that deliver water on demand. There are no corner shops that a person can drop into for a bottle of Ballygowan. Unlike us at home, no one here walks around with the latest designer bottle of low fat H2o as a fashion statement. Here water is literally a matter of staying upright and suckling air. It is quite frankly the most precious commodity around these parts. E8000 seems such a piddling amount to ensure its availability.
After the tanks we were taken to have a look at small plot planted with tomatoes. The plot was about a dozen metres square and surrounded by a thorn hedge. This and others like it dotted around the settlement represents the local cash crop. No growbags and cane stakes here. These tomatoes grown on low bushes and are harvested twice yearly by hand, mostly by women because they have a gentle harvest touch which the men do not possess. All through the growing season when the fruit appears on the plant someone is in constant attendance, particularly in the night hours, to keep the wildlife at bay.

The afternoon of the day was given over to relaxation. Most of us sat in the thatched gazebo and chatted or read or just gazed over the open plains below us with Kilimanjaro in the distance. Some adventurous souls, three in number, went on safari and climbed the high steep hill behind the compound. They arrived back tired but in one piece.
Darkness came swiftly as it does in these latitudes and after supper and evening prayers bed was a welcome refuge to us all.
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23rd November Update:It’s the scale of this place that takes my breath away.

Okay. It’s not all like that.
As we pulled out of Kajiadio I was glad to leave the town behind. Kajiadio is all bustle and noise and dusty narrow streets and awful litter everywhere. A short drive up the main Nairobi road and we stopped to collect Naftaly in a similar town called Isinya. Here the old meets the new. The traditional goat tied to a stake in the ground side by side with cyber cafes and mobile phone shops. Nothing in either of these towns has an air of permanence. Everything seems to be nailed together with two-by-fours and sheets of corrugated steel sheeting. And for a white man, the atmosphere was one of edginess. We were the interloper. We didn’t belong.
Now we took the road cross country, bumping and jolting all the way, grinding along in low gear. Until we came to the town of  Emali where we provisioned with fresh fruit and vegetables at a local street market. The colour, the noise,  the chaotic traffic, the rich smells, all mingled into a smorgasbord for the senses.
The next part of the journey took us further along the Mombasa road to Ronnie and Maggie cattle farm. The drought has hit hard here. Cattle are doing poorly for lack of feed as a result of lack of grass as a result of lack of rainfall. They are skinny things, showing bare bones through their hides. Some of them won’t survive if the rains don’t come. And even then others won’t survive because with the rains comes the cold which can lead to pneumonia and death. This sword has two edges!
A diocesan guesthouse repleat with purple Jacaranda trees and a swimming pool is on the same campus as the farm. Here we drank tea and ate mandarin ( a sort of local donut ) smothered in honey. The swimming pool teased us in the heat of the African sun. But alas, onward beckoned the road.
And what a road!
A track at best. In places not even that. Just open semi arid plain with a few stunted trees and some thorn bushes. But here was also wildlife. Giraffe and zebra and wildebeest. Thompson gazelle and kudu and harte best.  A single impala. And the bird life.  Bustard and secretary bird and sand grouse. Franklolin and guinea fowl and superb starlings and iridescent blue and red. But above all now it was the sheer scale of the open vet that really made one gasp. Kenya ‘s plains are vast. Beyond imagining. Way beyond anything we Irish can experience  at home. As far as the eye can see and over the horizon. A great openess and very little besides.
We pulled off the track and parked under an acacia tree and drank coffee and munched on egg and tomato sandwiches and looked around in open mouthed wonder. And a small herd of Thompson gazelles looked back at us, flicking their tails and doubtless wondering ‘What are THEY doing here!?’
Journeys end at Oltiasika arrived none too soon for weary travellers. We were greeting by local Maasai with a warmth that made one think ‘Have I met these folk before? Am I a long lost friend to them’. Handshakes and smiles and even a few hugs were exchanged and immediately we we were made to feel like we had come home.
After supper we watched the sun set behind Kilimanjaro. Imagine that. To be able to say ‘I have watched the sun set behind Kilimanjaro.’

As we toddled off to bed the words of the 8th Psalm echoed in my mind.

8 O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:

7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

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Kajiado Walk Through…

 

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Oloosuyian School Visit

The roads around Kajiadio are rough. Dog rough. We frequently moan about Connemara roads. They have nothing on Kenyan roads. We set off from the Kajiadio compound for the half hour drive to Oloosuyian School in two 4x4s. And from gate to gate bumped, shook, vibrated and jolted over what can only be described as dirt tracks. Deep ruts in many places meant that the Land Rover I was in was frequently canted at a most alarming angle. In other places the road had been virtually washed away, crevasse where there should been driveable surface. But we made it and we’re given the grand tour of the school by Joyce the principal.

First was the dormitory block with the ablutions areas, showers, wash handbasins and toilets that TKA had so generously contributed to. They are very basic. Neither the toilet cubicles nor the showers had any doors. But they are there and they are serviceable. They lend a modicum of comfort to the girls lives even though they lack a certain dignity.
The dorms too are basic. Neither plaster nor paint on the walls and just bare concrete floors. But they do their job.

We were told that even these meagre facilities have contributed enormously to the lives of the girls who board there in order to receive an education.
At present there are 140 girls in residence. The school could take in more but for that to happen, more classroom accommodation would be required. Only the examination year was there when we visited and they were all cheerful and appeared content, even happy. The cost of running the school for a year is the equivalent of about E60,000. That’s roughly what it would cost to send just 4 or 5 of our children to one of our own secondary schools. Sobering thought!

Our day finished here with night prayers and a short reflection led by Doris who offered thanks and thoughts for the Gift of Sight.
There are good things happening in Kajiadio. And the church is at the heart of a lot of them, serving God in serving others. And TKA is part of that.
Tomorrow we embark on the great trek into the bush as we head for Oltiasika for a six hour journey on what we have been assured will be even worse roads than we experienced today. Internet coverage varies from poor to non existent in the bush so it might be a few days until the next update.
One last thing; the food here is great and there’s plenty of it!

 

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Day 2
It was very late when we arrived at the diocesan centre in Kajiadio. Late as in 1am. Tiredness and darkness dictated that we saw very little either on the journey from the airport or of the compound itself. After night prayers and a cuppa, bed was a very blessed relief and sleep dropped quickly.
Sleep didn’t last nearly long enough for some of us though. At 5am we were woken by the call to prayer from the nearby mosque. Islam is growing in Kenya. While it doesn’t yet match Christianity in influence, none the less it is becoming more and more prevalent with each passing year.
The morning was cool and bright with passing clouds. But not nearly enough of the latter. This is the rainy season, heavily depended upon by Kenyans for their drinking water. But rainfall amounts so far have not come close to meeting the requirements. This is a constant worry.
After a filling breakfast of coffee, sausages, boiled eggs and toast, we went across the compound to the diocesan centre to be greeted by bishop Gaddiel in his office. Bishop Patrick introduced each of the team and received a heartily warm welcome from bishop Gaddiel. In fact, the warmth of welcome here has been overwhelming. Everyone meets you with a smile and an outstretched hand and the word ‘Jambo!’ Spoken as if properly meant. The folk here really do want to meet us: be friends with us. What we can do for them in a concrete sense seems much less important to them than does us simply being among them.
Our session with Ronnie and Maggie ( the CMSI presence here ) took the form of a chat in a sideless corregated gazebo. Ronnie set the context of our visit with a little bit of history and little bit of cultural background. The roof on the gazebo was welcome as the sun is beating down today and though there is a pleasant breeze, and we’re some 5000 feet above sea level ( which keeps the mozzies at bay ) it is none less quite warm.
After lunch we’re off to visit the Oloosuyian Girls Secondary School for which the diocese helped build the dorms and ablutions block.
More of that later.

 

 

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Day One
The TKA team assembled at Dublin airport in the wee small hours. Some jigging about with bags had to be done to distribute the accumulated weight evenly but check in and bag drop were negotiated without a single casualty. Security posed no threat either. And so onto the plane to complete the first leg of the trip to Schiphol, Amsterdam.
Duty free was the port of call for some while others partook of Nederland delicasies for a late breakfast.
The second and longest leg of the journey to Kajiadio now lies ahead as we wait to board our flight to Nairobi.

 

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In the wee small hours of 15th November 2017, a Team from TKA will take the Big Silver Bird to embark on the first leg of the journey to our Mission Link Diocese of Kajiado in Kenya. Here’s where we hope, with the help of God, to end up.

There are nine of us in total going to the Diocese of Kajiado    ( http://www.ackenya.org/dioceses/kajiado.html ) and here we are in all our glory:

Doris Diocesan Curate,                                                                                                           Bishop Patrick,                   Stephen, Archdeacon of Killala and Achonry

Paul, Cong Parish                                                                                      Steve, Westport Parish                                          Jennifer, Killala Parish and Team Leader

Alistair, Dean of TKA                                                                    Ted, Roundstone Parish                                                           Kizzy, Ballina Parish

The Team arrive in Nairobi on 15th November. The following day, 16th November, the Team will meet Rt. Revd.  Gadiel Katanga Lenini, Bishop pf Kajiado Diocese,  and his diocesan staff. They will also have a chance to visit an ATM and get hold of some Kenyan Shillings! On 17th November the team will join the clergy of Kajiado for a Fellowship  day in Kajiado Resource Centre.

On Saturday 18th November the TKA 9 travel to the rural, the very rural, settlement of Oltiasika.  There they will lead and participate in local worship, engage in a two day retreat, celebrate with Bishop Gadiel the commissioning of the water tanks ( to which TKA has contributed financially )  and have some personal time.

A water cistern

Friday 24th November will see the Team return to Kajiado via Amboseli Nation Park. The next day will be a rest day and then Sunday 26th The Team will join Bishop Gadiel and his clergy and people to celebrate the anniversary of the bishop’s consecration.

On Monday 27th November the Team move to Nairobi in preparation for their flight home on 28th November, arriving in Dublin on the morning of 29th November.

Dean Alistair will be sending regular updates on the Team’s progress and activities on this page. WiFi connectivity is, as one might expect, rather patchy in the rural areas of Kenya. That notwithstanding, posts to this website will made as frequently as possible. At the same time, Alistair will be posting to Cong Parish Facebook page (  you can search, like and follow ‘ St. Mary’s CoI Cong’ ) so the folk ‘back home’ can keep in touch with the team by commenting or asking questions via Facebook. We will all do our best to stay in contact with home.

 

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