Reflections on Kajiado: Steve Brickenden.

Where can I start! I never thought I would be writing this at 11582 metres above sea level, flying over Khartoum and landing in Paris in 5 hours and 34 minutes. This trip all started with a vision of Mission to help a small community in the Chyulu Hills, South East of Nairobi in Kenya and to help a secondary school near Kajiado which is 75kms south of Nairobi. Over the past 3 years TKA Dioceses have raised funds through copper collections, sponsored cycles/walks and parish collections to help these communities achieve a better standard of living. It is quite a gap between the doing/collecting in the West of Ireland and seeing the projects and meeting/walking with the Masai people in Kenya.
Our hosts Ronnie and Mags who work with CMS Ireland, have spent the last 30 years working on these projects and speak Swahili so we were in good hands for the next 2 weeks.

They picked us up at the airport in a Land Rover and Land Cruiser with our own personal suitcase and a suitcase that each of us brought out with knitted clothes, football gear, colouring pens donated from parishioners throughout the dioceses. All had to be tied down on top of the roof of the jeeps. We landed in Kajiado after 22 hours travelling from Dublin at 1am in the morning. Here we were at the Headquarters of the Anglican Church of Kenya ACK, Kajiado diocese. From TKA to ACK!!! I had my Dioralyte, Deet Tropical Repel, Malarone and injections for Yellow Fever, Rabies, Polio, Hep A, Men A, Diphtheria, Tetanus and Typhoid, I was good to go. We woke at 7am as we were to visit the Oloosuyian girls secondary school with Joyce who is the principal. The roads are a sight to behold, really dirt tracks with some huge ruts and potholes and near the town lots of rubbish thrown all over the place. On our way there we passed an area with small mounds all together, Joyce explained that animals were buried under each one of them. The landscape has trees and bush but little vegetation but in areas where water has been brought and the ground tilled there are vegetables, maize, and other crops growing. There are 141 pupils in the school and 10 teachers, the school term was over and summer holidays were about to start from November to January. We were shown the dorms and class rooms and the new septic tank that we had helped raise funds for. The class rooms were bare walls with blackboard, and dorms had a metal bunkbed and box for clothes, all very basic but when we spoke to the girls they had high ambitions to be doctors, lawyers and teachers!! The kitchen for the school was 2 open fires with a large pot of spuds on one and a pot of cabbage in the other, sounds familiar!! Food was served out in the open on rocks and tree stumps for chairs.

Next morning I was woken by the Adhan which is the Muslim call for prayer at 5am!!! Our next adventure was to take my breath away as 2 jeeps set off to see the water project in Oltiasika and spend 2 days on retreat. Being so remote we had to stock up with food supplies in a busy little town with lots of small holdings trading in mangoes, passion fruit, potatoes, coriander, peppers, red onions, water melons, cabbage and tomatoes. And you could get your knives sharpened by a guy who had turned a bike upside down and managed to turn it into a small trade for himself. Tyres were being made into sandals and you always had to have good eye to eye contact to haggle over the price. We were the only white people (Mzungu means white man in Swahili) in the town, it felt a little strange getting out of the jeeps and walking through the market. With jeep stuffed with all of the above, we set off across the most wonderful countryside. Necks stretched to catch all of the amazing scenes unfolding before us, we started to pass scenes from Out of Africa, giraffes, Grant’s gazelles, Secretary Bird, Zebra, Ostrich, Bustard, Wildebeest and after a few hours pulled up under an Acacia Tree for a picnic, what can I say, I was in the movies!! It had rained only 2 weeks ago so the area was starting to green up. When we arrived in Oltiasika we were met by Nchukut a Maasai man dressed in his traditional red Shuka, a large shawl wrapped around his body. He was carrying a stick to beat the bushes back when herding his goats during the day. Nchukut was here to show us the ropes during our stay here. The Maasai live within a small area encircled with thorny bushes to keep animals out, they are called Manyattas or Bomas and depending on how many people live there, you will find small mud huts built within these enclosures and if there is a spear outside one of the huts it means the man of the house is there.
I forgot to mention a very special man, Naftaly translator, friend, listener and guide who travelled with us throughout our trip and helped us to understand the Maasai people during our 2 week stay in Kenya. Naftaly had spent 9 years working as an evangelist in this area, travelling on his motor bike setting up churches throughout Oltiasika. The Maasai people are very connected to the idea of a god, they have worshipped Enkai for many years and believe that God made them to be herders of goats and cows. Every Maasai man will have a herd of goats, and if the household is in need of anything, the purchase of a goat maybe the main priority for the man!!


To walk down to the water project and see everyone working on the concrete slab (like a silage slab) with a slope to run the rain water into 3 large tanks, was exciting and uplifting. To see the monies that have been raised put to great use. The slab measured 60 by 35 metres and each tank could hold 220,000 litres of water. Everyone when you meet them wants to shake hands and greet you with Hijambo which means Hello, share a story and then Goodbye is Kwaheri. I walked with Nchukut up to a tropical forest, yes a tropical forest on top of the hill, and on the way we met a lad bringing tomato seed to the next village a few hours away and then another group of lads who were keen to speak English and share a few stories on the way back. I had binoculars with me and we sat under a tree and Nchukut could not believe what they could do!! We had a thought for the day in the evening, we shared and prayed for the people we met and the places we had been to. Highly recommended this sharing and praying together. The views of Kibo and Mawenzi which make up Kilimanjaro at 19,340 feet will take your breath away. On our retreat days each of the crew had a topic to open up, discuss, pray about. I spoke on Evangelism which had me on my toes (for weeks!!!), but thanks to gentle ears and gentle hearts, went ok!! I certainly am grateful for this time together. If you ever drive out into the plains and stop by a tree with a large crown and listen to the Maasai women and men dance and sing and a fine Clergyman with translator give the sermon, you know times they are a changin’
We all mucked in to set up a church in the bush close to the water project. That day people came from all around to celebrate the water tanks and Bishop Gaddiel spoke at the service out in the sunshine with everyone sitting in the shade under the trees. Watched 3 goats being killed for the celebrations afterwards. That evening we sat around an open fire and eat roasted goat which was a bit chewy. Our time here was near and goodbyes hard to do, Nchukut , David and the girls who had cooked, sang a song and we thanked them for looking after us all so well.
Today we are off to Amboseli National Park which is in area 152 sq. miles. Along the way neck still stretched to catch a glimpse of water buffalo, Hippos, Elephants, Giraffe’s, yes, it’s Out of Africa again!!! But this time we stop in one of the tourist oasis, I say oasis because of the difference between where we had just been, to here, the food was delicious and real coffee!! I may have forgotten to mention that there was no electricity and no flushing loos for a week in Oltiasika, the loos have the grand title of the Long Drop!!

And no phone signal, bliss. These roads are bumpy and I mean bumpy, we have to drive over them at speed as the bumps are like corrugated iron, if we don’t get up speed we might end up losing some teeth!! We exit Amboseli near the Tanzanian border having to stop to fix a battery lead that had popped up when we hit a big bump. We head back to Kajiado where we have a meeting to discuss our role in the leadership conference that is been held in the Cathedral tomorrow. Bishop Patrick spoke on different styles of leadership, an example of leading from the bottom with consultation throughout the process. Jen spoke on self care, Paul on sustainability, Alistair on leadership and I spoke on the role of CIYD in our Dioceses. Later we went into Kajiado to buy Bishop Gaddiel and his wife a present to bring to the celebrations that are to be held in 2 days time. Ronnie and Mags bring us to see their home at the MRTC, (Maasai Rural Training Centre). There are plans to develop part of the land into a shopping centre, this is in the early stages and looks like a very exciting project.

November 26th what a day. Bishop Gaddiel is celebrating 6 years as a Bishop and also his graduating with a degree, at his home village, which just happens to be 2 hours journey into the countryside. 10 of us in the Land Cruiser bumped and jostled along the track until we all had to get out to help a van that had got stuck in a rut near a river. Out of bushes there appeared what looked like tents from a medieval jousting scene. Passing buses, cars and vans abandoned in the mud, we pulled up to a gathering of over 2000 Maasai people. As we were the guests we got to sit up on the podium. To explain the wonder of a meeting like this, way out in the countryside, with men sitting on one side and the women on the other, with the heat of the sun beating down and everyone nestling for the shade, for the choirs, dancers, speakers, chiefs, clergy, Bishop’s, for the 40 goat and 4 cattle killed, who wouldn’t sit for 5 hours and take it all in. We finally sat to eat at 4.30 having last eaten at 7.30am!! I sat with some Masai men who had a large piece of goat and as is tradition took a foot long knife out and proceeded to cut a piece off for each of us around the table. As we were leaving, muggins here bought 2 blank CD’s from 2 girls who promised they had made a recording. Maggie sorted me out!! It took us 4 hours to get home, Ronnie knew the drill, we had a jeep, so those travelling in cars and vans got stuck near the river and Ronnie helped to pull each of them out, about 8 in total, we all clambered out to look up at the stars and share a few more stories. When we got back on track, the journey was shortened by a sing song all the way home. Wilson our driver had to go back that same night.

With only a day left and plans to go into Nairobi thwarted by the Inauguration of the President the next day, it was decided the safest thing to do was to go to Karen on the outskirts of Nairobi, made famous by Karen Blixen who is known for her novels Out of Africa and Babette’s Feast. We see our first white people here, which feels again strange, I want to go up and ask them what they are doing here. On our last day we planted some trees around the secondary school with Joyce and had a meeting with Gillian, Ronnie and Maggie, this was a chance to speak about the ups and downs while we were in Kenya.
What a trip. Thank you for the support both financial and personal. Many thanks to Ronnie and Mags for making a dream come through, for bringing me to a place I would not go and for their care throughout the trip.
Thanks to the crew. Thanks to Jen for having an amazing iron, kept things smooth!!
Amazing.

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Reflections on  Kajiado: Jen, Stephen and Kizzy McWhirter

This was the fourth visit to Kenya for Stephen and I, and Kizzy’s second time to be there. We feel very much when we go now that we are going to visit family and friends and the sights and sounds of life in Kajiado diocese are familiar in some sense. One of the highlights, therefore, was to experience Kenya again for the first time through the excitement and wonder of others on the team. Leading the team there and accompanying others as they took their first walk through Kajiado town, or saw Kilimanjaro from the deck at Oltiasika was special. As we were leaving Oltiasika after a week to go back to Kajiado and were saying our goodbyes to the people who work at the retreat centre there one of the team said, ‘I know now why you come back here.’ That made it all worthwhile. That someone else in our diocese now sees how special that place is for us.

One of the things that affected us both was the great benefit a trip like this offers in the opportunity to see our own life’s context and situation with fresh eyes upon our return home. We returned home from Kajiado to the full blown Christmas hype that seems to take over society at that time of year. It was a stark contrast to the Maasai culture and society we had left the previous day. It also offered the opportunity to see the blessings we have and are in the Church of Ireland. Tiny as we are in TKA we were able to appreciate again while in Kajiado the great work we as a diocese have achieved over the last number of years. This work has, at the most fundamental level, secured the basics of life for a whole community. I think we previously underestimated the impact it will have on the life of the community there. We say we are providing clean water, and shrug it off because of our experience of the abundance of water here in the West of Ireland. But the magnitude of the heartfelt thanks of the whole community – church, local government and the number of people who attended the dedication service at Oltiasika for the water tanks – shows the depth of gratitude there. As parents we now value more than ever the ability to provide clean drinking water for our children and knowing that the mamas in Oltiasika can do the same thing through the efforts of our diocese is a humbling thing.

It was a privilege to be part of Bishop Gaddiel’s celebration and to be treated as honoured guests. As we exchanged gifts at the end of the celebration it came to mind that very often we feel that we have been blessed more by being there than we have been a blessing to others. The exchange of gifts, however, reflected the feeling of partnership and how we are a support to each other in our different dioceses.

The experience of church while there is very different and yet very familiar. Different words but the same pattern of worship. Different music yet the same praise of God. In this it is easy to feel part of the worldwide Anglican Communion there, a feeling which is easily lost in our small corner of Ireland. And that Anglicanism unites us and makes us family.

Kizzy was very excited to go back to Kenya. Before we left we asked her what she was looking forward to and she replied, ‘to see the animals – elephants and giraffes and zebras, but no pandas!’ When asked if there was anything else she was looking forward to she said, ‘to see Ronnie and Maggie’ (who are her godparents). When asked once home what she enjoyed the most the animals were there in her replies, but also, ‘playing with Blessing (Bishop Gaddiel’s youngest daughter). Blessing is my best friend.’ She received her first wee doll’s house as a present from her grandparents for Christmas and it came with two wee dolls, one white and one black. When asked what their names were she said they were called Kizzy and Blessing. Kizzy was wonderful to watch there because she experienced everything without the preconceived ideas we can have, for her it was all just entirely normal. Everywhere she went she found children to play with, and their differences weren’t even registered by her. She would gravitate towards kids everywhere we went, and during church would wander off with them to play. She speaks no Swahili and they spoke no English but it didn’t matter one bit. The games and laughter of children really are universal. While there she was called by her Maasai name, Naserian, by quite a few people and she just accepted it without saying ‘that’s not my name.’ If you ask her now what her name is, she will reply, ‘Kizzy,’ and if there asked what her other name is she will say, ‘Naserian.’

This picture says it all!

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Reflections on Kajiado: Ted Sherwood.

My first thoughts relate to the fact that a group of 8 can undertake a trip of this nature and never once did I hear a word spoken in anger or a disagreement concerning any of the tasks individuals involved.
Secondly my stand out memory is of the colour, vibrancy, good nature and willingness to please of the Masaai people. Despite what seems to us to be an onerous existence they appear to carry on with their lives in a most positive and engaging manner.
With the Dean (of two Cathedrals) arrival at Hurley House we set upon the task of transferring all the gift bags to the College Minibus.We set off for the airport aware we had to babysit them until the arrival of the rest of the travelling group.
The ACK compound in Kajiado was quite an eye opener. Basic but functional, and also interesting by way of the fact an income was generated by renting units to various organizations. Our welcome from the Bishop and his Staff was both warm and genuine.All our meals were wholesome and tasty and the conversations around the mealtable allowed us to get to know one another before embarking on the main purpose of our mission.
The visit to the Girls school made me realise what a privileged position I had enjoyed over 38 years teaching. The Dorms, Classrooms and most of all the Kitchen facilities were extremely basic and yet the exam pupils we met were all smilling, happy and appeared content with their lot. When the opportunity arises I will endeavour to fundraise in order to complete the plastering and painting of the girls toilets and showers.

The journey to Oltiasika begins with packing the Land Rover before heading across the plains where we enjoy our first viewing of the African animals in the wild. Ostrich, Wildebeest, Hartebeast, Zebra, Giraffe, Gazelle,Secretary birds,Bustard. For those on their first African visit this was an exciting journey, hot and bumpy over murren tracks and yet we all shared a feeling of expectation and purpose. Our lunch stop under the tree on the plains gave us our first view of the Chyulu hills.

With a background of Mt. Kilmanjaro our compound was primitive but perfectly adequate for our needs, wooden huts, long drop toilets,solar heated showers, and unfortunately broken fridges which meant that we had no meat for the duration of our stay.
Our first visit to the cisterns was initially very disappointing as we realised that a great deal of work had still to be carried out before completion. Even the cathchment area of 60 by 30 metres was only half complete. A great deal of work needed to be undertaken before the arrival of the Bishop for the dedication.
Sunday service under the tree down on the plains was an unusual experience highlited by the Deans sermon and the dancing and singing of the Massai women. That evening I enjoyed a working model conversation with Paul that concluded with the awareness of 300mms. of rain would fill the cisterns and this would provide around 2000 Massai, 7 litres of water for 48 days. In reality a wonderful benefit to the local community.
The days settled into a sort of routine with a nightly reflection but I suppose for me to address our group on the subject of Equality was a first. It was obvious that all participants had given a great deal of thought and research in order to make us think about the nature of their talks.The Bishop (Patrick) served Holy Communion using Coke and oatmeal biscuits as Host and wine and when questioned his reply was it was”the real thing”.
My interest in Land Rovers was accentuated by a most interesting interview with Ronnie where he explained all the modifications he had undertaken in order to make it fit for purpose in Africa. I will send photographs and script to LRO in due course.
Certainly one of my highlights was travelling around the hills in the Land Cruiser collecting plastic chairs and benches for the dedication ceremony.

Unfortunately the cisterns remained uncovered but at least the catchment was covered in concrete.

Setting up the chairs in the clearing was done in the traditional fashion for us not realising that the men would all sit on one side, the women on the opposite and a space left in the middle for the choirs to sing and dance. I felt it a shame that the tribal elders used the opportunity to lobby the Bishop on matters concerning the area. Although shaded by trees 2.5 hours of this in the heat was a bit much. We all looked forward to some meat but the stew was overtaken by some wonderful hot chappaties.
Ronnie and Maggie really coordinated everything so well over the course of our time but our 3 pieces of bar b q goat that evening had to be followed by brown bread and peanut butter sandwiches in order to placate our rumbling tummys.
With celebrations over we were fortunate to travel back to Kajiado by way of Amboseli Game ParK. In a way this was back to civilization as we had real coffee in Oltikia lodge and a super lunch in Serena while viewing a serious number of animals on our game drive. Elephants were a highlight for me as they appeared in such numbers, a downside was the number of dead zebra and antelope that has suffered from the prolonged drought conditions.
The Clergy convocation in Emmanuel Cathedral was blighted by his Grace The Archbishop of Kenyas 2.5 hour speech. I certainly did not look forward to speaking about Leadership following that. The most exciting part of the day was enjoying a coffee in Sizzlers Hotel with Bishop Patrick and the others before delivering my reflection on Blessings and Blessed.
It was interesting to visit Ronnie and Maggies home in Isanya and yet disappointing to see the level of dilapidation and closure of the many buildings and farm implements that had been donated to the Rural Massai project. There is great hope for the future that includes the building of a shopping center. This could sustain the community into the future and perhaps direct agricultural projects that would enhance the life of the Massai.
The journey to Ilmaru and the Bishops homeplace will never be forgotten. On route through the bush we found a number of vehicles unable to cross the river. Ronnie and Land Rover to the rescue as we pulled ad hoisted all of them across.

What a colourful experience as 2500 people gathered for the celebration. The tented village was inspiring as was the singing and dancing by numerous choirs in full regalia. To sit on the dais was a real experience and we all felt so proud as Bishop Patrick gave his speech. It was amazing to think that everyone who attended was fed and watered adequately. Our return journey was a repeat of the morning crossing of the river except this time we were forced to deliver a good deal more cars across. The sing song in the back of the Toyota on the way home lifted everyones spirits.The journey back to Nairobi was marked by a visit to the Galleria center and lunch in the new Hub before Evanson picked me up and whisked me off to the Windy Ridge in Karen and the start of the next two weeks in Kenya.

For all the work and fundraising on behalf of CMSI and the knitting in schools. The organization and itinerary set by Ronnie and Maggie and the fellowship we all enjoyed together will always hold a special place in my heart and I will always remember the manner in which our Bishop rolled up his sleeves, got stuck in and set an example by way of leadership and commitment that ensured we all enjoyed a successful and enriching experience both spiritually and physically.

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Reflections on Kajiado: Canon Doris.
Where does one begin to describe 2 weeks in this country of opposites, surprises, colours and smiling faces? The journey to Dublin airport was full of anticipation and excitement, as I sat beside 3-year-old Kizzy in the back seat of the McWhirter car. Not quite the same as we queued in the airport at 4am!!!
As it was very late and dark when we got out of Nairobi airport I had no idea what the country was like. But from the next morning until we departed, there was so much to take in, to see, to understand. Our first day was spent visiting the Diocesan Offices, meeting staff and the Bishop. Then a trip to see the girls’ school at Oloosyian, the one we helped to fund. We met the final year students who were finishing their examinations. Their dormitory was very basic. Coláiste Moibhí, where I spent 4 years in the 1960’s, was a 5-star hotel in comparison, although I didn’t think so at the time!!! Yet those girls were so happy, chatting like any teenager, as they hoped for good results and perhaps a third – level education. I was very upset to see the shower/toilet blocks that we had funded. One had no ceiling, just the corrugated iron roof, bare concrete walls and floors, toilets with no doors or shower curtains. Outside, the kitchen area left much to be desired, with some logs and rocks, as seating for the students. Yet the Headmistress said that her priority was to build a house for more teachers. I realised that these girls probably had come from mud huts with no sanitation facilities, or water –so their surroundings now and the chance of a future was sheer luxury to them!


Our long journey to Oltisiaka, where we stayed 6 nights was more contrasts.
From the noise and bustle, goats and cows, filth and smells of the small towns and villages to the vast expanses of arid land, quietness, giraffes and zebras, gazelles and wildebeasts, and carcases! A land of contrasts! We visited the Church farm and retreat at Salama, en route. The cattle had been walked a long way from another farm in order to get some grass. They were just skin and bones. Some couldn’t stand! The guest house here was an oasis of peace and tranquillity, tea and coffee overlooking the swimming pool! Then it was on to the next town, Imali, where we stopped for Maggie to buy fruit and veg for us. I didn’t venture out of the jeep but sat in the middle of the crowds, the filth, the noise of shoppers and the smells.
Oltisiaka Church Retreat compound, where the water project is, was a welcome end to that long tiring day.
Ronnie and Maggie had prepared well for us. Ronnie continual filled us in on the history, the culture and traditions of the place, how they were trying to make it self-sufficient. The Maasai ‘live for today’, living in the present, not worrying about the future, hence sustainability is a huge problem in the Diocese of Kajiado. Maggie and her team of 5/6 women looked after all our needs.
I was fortunate in that I had a bedroom inside the main house, and shared 2 showers with the McWhirters and Bishop Patrick! The toilets were the’longdrop’ type about 20 metres from the house. Better than I had anticipated but the midday heat left much to be desired!!! I loved the decking area where we had our meetings, discussions, and retreat days. Like a thatched bandstand, we looked up at the Chyulu Hills to one side and Mt Kilimanjaro to the other. A haven of peace and tranquillity, birdsong and the bleating of goats and sheep.
Once we had settled in here, we soon realised how welcoming everyone was. They were so pleased to have us there, always smiling. The blessing of the water project, although not completed, was a day filled with singing and dancing, joy and no doubt relief for the hundreds of villagers who came. That night Ronnie and some of the Maasai men, built a great fire and roasted some sides of goat! I enjoyed the camaderie around the fire and the crackling of the sticks but I decided it was leftover jam sandwiches for me and not the goat!
Church was nothing like I had experienced before! The only Anglican aspect was the readings and sermons that we provided. On our first Sunday, I went to the church at Ombilli – under a tree, in a vast area of nothing! Dean Alistair was preaching and I read the lesson for him, so we robed.

Worship was already well under way, with dancing and singing, mostly women and children, colourfully dressed as men were off up the hills herding their cows, sheep and goats. The Reader introduced us to his 2 wives and a number of his children, one of whom translated for us. The sermon was enthusiastically received with lots of Amens, Hallelujahs and clapping, not what the Dean is used to, I’m sure, in Tuam Cathedral! The church building in Oltisiaka was very bare, with broken windows, but it was a huge step up from the ‘tree church’! Such a difference here, we spend so much energy, time and money on our buildings, making them comfortable and nice but the Maasai put their energy into joyful worship.
One day, I went for a walk outside the compound and found the Health Centre. The Health Care worker was very helpful and informative, well educated, but with very basic facilities. Then down some paths to the Primary school. There was plenty of space for a play area but the classrooms, like the church, were dirty, with bare walls, broken windows and I certainly could never see myself teaching there! Yet, this place provided a good basic education, allowing some of the boys to go further, and end up with excellent jobs. The Health Care worker was one and I met a teacher who was teaching in Mombasa but was now with his herds, on summer holidays!
We were all sorry to leave Olitsiaka but the 5 hour trip back to Kajiado, was through Amboseli Safari Park. It was a shame that there were so many carcasses scattered around as the drought has been severe in that part of Africa. We had coffee in one Safari Lodge and lunch in another. Here the wealth of those visiting was obvious, again such a contrast to what we had left behind in Oltisiaka. Herds of elephants crossed the road in front of us, hippopotamae wallowed in muddy puddles beside the road, warthogs and gazelles everywhere – unbelievable! But no big cats!
Next day, it was down to work again as we joined in the Diocesan Clergy Conference which took place in the Cathedral, from 8.30am. Leadership in the Church was the theme for the day. Some of these clergy had been travelling from 5am that morning. Dedication? With an 8.30am start, the singing, led by a 4 young clergy, was well under way before Archbishop Jackson and Bishop Gaddiel appeared. The former was an excellent speaker, and had no problem talking for almost 2 hours.


We had been informed 5 days beforehand that we were responsible for the 2/3 hours after the break! Each of us used our experiences to speak about various kinds of leadership, good and bad! This was a day when I was so glad that we had only to walk across the compound to our rooms and not have a 5-hr drive across deep-rutted tracks, as did many of those present.
However, we had an unbelievable journey on our 2nd Sunday, to Bishop Gaddiel’s celebrations. Over 3000 drove or walked to be there, from all over the Diocese, for this huge celebration of the Bishop’s 6 years as a Bishop, celebrating achieving his degree in theology and starting building his retirement home!!! We were very late arriving -11am, because we had stopped to pull other vehicles out of the huge deep ruts and help them across the flooded river! We had had a few heavy rain showers that morning!! We robed immediately on arrival and set off to join the massive crowd, already in full swing, dancing and singing! To me, the only semblance to an Anglican service was when Rev Jen and Dean Alistair read the lessons and Bishop Patrick preached! The Archbishop spoke at length, as did Bishop Gaddiel and various Government officials. We were welcomed and each of us was presented with some lovely beadwork. After such a long trek to get there, these people don’t mind a 5 hr service! Everyone was fed at various ‘feeding stations’ and apparently 6o goats and 4 cows were slaughtered for the occasion! I stuck to mashed potato, pasta and chipatis!!! We set off at 6pm for the long journey back. Once again we had an hour and a half helping others out of the river, including the Archbishop, whose car was blocked by other stuck vehicles!


Two days later we departed for the airport. I was exhausted before the long flight. I had had a fantastic 2 weeks of experiences. I was very glad that I went on the trip despite being very ill after I came home and had 8 days in hospital! It was good to see how our money was spent, how it was helping the people there but also to realise how so little can make those people happy and satisfied. It made me look very differently on the mad shopping that goes on here in the pre-Christmas days!
Doris Clements

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Reflections on Kajiado: Bishop Patrick

Glimpsing the kingdom

“You will hear but not understand, and see yet not perceive. For this people’s heart has grown complacent, their ears hard of hearing, and their eyes closed; they see nothing, hear nothing and understand nothing that might make them turn to me so that I might heal them.’ (Matthew 13:14 & 15)

Much of what we see depends on what we are looking for. In other words, we often miss something that is staring us in the face, either because we are closed to the possibility of seeing it or because we are preoccupied with something else. Sadly this can all too often be a reflection of life as it is for so many of us who live in the Western world. So different from how it is in Kajiado Diocese where our Diocesan representatives visited as guests of the Bishop, Bishop Gladdiel Lenini.

Eight of us, (seven adults and three-year old Kizzy McWhirter) had met up at an ungodly hour in Dublin Airport on the morning of Wednesday 15th November. We were flying to Amsterdam to catch an onward flight to Nairobi. The remaining member of our Diocesan Team, Paul Johnston, met us there having flown up from Botswana where his wife is the UN Representative. We were also met by Ronnie and Maggie Briggs, our CMS:Ireland Partners in Kajiado Diocese and by Archdeacon Napthali, one of six archdeacons in the Diocese. From the airport we travelled on in two jeeps to Kajiado – a one-and-a-half-hour journey directly south.

A fortnight lay ahead of us, almost all of it in warm conditions and with lots of sunshine. The first three nights and the last five were spent at the Diocesan Guesthouse in Kajiado. Dean Alistair, in his informative and at times amusing blog, for which we are most grateful, has logged our activities and movement through each day and across what was often very challenging terrain. Those experiences were indeed memorable and enjoyable and we had the Briggs and the Archdeacon with us throughout to keep us right and to answer our many questions. For me too, it was good to return for a second time and see some of the details I had missed first time round.

What each one of us was struck by was the simplicity of the lives of most of the people we met – and here I distinguish between simplicity and simple. Their lives are far from simple. After three days in Kajiado, we travelled to a place called Oltiasika where we spent six nights. It is on the southern border of the Diocese which takes one into Tanzania. In Oltiasika, all the people are Maasai while further north in the Diocese the majority are Maasai but by no means all. The Maasai are noted for their traditional ways and for the colour of their clothing – particularly their shukas and their beads. They are traditionally farmers and their wealth is determined by the size of their herd. Most, however, have very little else. Their homes are tiny and basic and usually made of mud or of corrugated iron. They live in Bomas (family communities) over which the senior male presides.

The men and boys spend much of their lives herding the cattle and goats; the women work in the fields, planting and weeding. They also fetch the water and tend to the domestic chores. Compared to our lives, it is tough; there are none of our mod-cons and very little comfort. Yet, the people are deeply spiritual, faithful and full of joy. There is a contentedness about them and their love and friendliness and welcome are obvious for all to see. They have eyes and ears and hearts for the important things of life. They appreciate what they have in the moment; the present matters far more than either the past or the future. So, there isn’t a lot of nostalgia or planning ahead; hence sustainability can be an issue. But they do have time for people; in fact, time is a flexible thing and a church service due to begin at 9.30am is more likely to start an hour or more later! God and people are their priorities, with, when it does begin, worship and praise central to their lives.

So we were challenged during our time among them, to see with a new perspective. Of course, as we return home to our own part of the world, where actions rather than people are the priority, we’ll be quickly drawn back into familiar routines, running this way and that, prisoners to the clock and our diary commitments. We will again walk past people in our haste, failing to hear their concerns and perhaps remaining oblivious to God and what he requires of us…seeing nothing, hearing nothing and understanding nothing that might make us turn to God so that he might heal us.

All in all, we had a wonderful time. We saw that our support for the Oloosuyian Secondary School in Kajiado is transforming the young lives of so many teenage girls. The water tank system and catchment apron refurbishment we’ve been funding in Oltiasika were duly dedicated and blessed. The Bishop’s celebrations went off well and our participation and presence at it and at each of the events we attended played a small part in adding to those occasions. We made many new personal friendships as well as winning friends for our Diocese and we hope the Bishop and others will pay us a return visit next Autumn.

Most importantly, our group gelled together and were thoroughly well fed. There were no disasters and everyone returned home in good health. But it is the joy, the love and the bright colours of the lives of the Maasai people and what they say for our lives, that will live with me. Sadly, with all our many blessings we don’t always get it right – a reminder that wealth, possessions and even position don’t guarantee happiness. Sometimes, quite the opposite in fact, as the more we have the more we require to bring us the happiness we crave. God alone provides real wealth and lasting happiness. The Maasai people have not yet been deflected and stick to their traditional customs and values. God remains central to their lives and his offer, made some two thousand years ago, is available to each one of us, if only we have eyes to see, ears to listen and hearts that are open to him and his kingdom.

I conclude with some statistics from Kajiado Diocese. Statistics never tell the full story but these indicate clearly a diocese that, over the past six years, has witnessed significant growth. How encouraging they are for those of us who live in what can best be described as a ‘post Christian society’ where secularism threatens to mask and obstruct the healing presence of God.

Ministry 2012 2017

Archdeaconries 3 6
Deaneries 6 14
Parishes 29 49
Congregations 100 160
Clergy 48 77
Lay Readers 107 130
Evangelists 10 20

+Patrick

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The Journey Home

Belfast 1972. That’s what it reminded me of.  And a good solid dose of this might encourage some of ‘my lot’ ‘up home’ to get their acts together and sort out their differences lest they return to Belfast 1972. Because that’s what the security surrounding Nairobi felt like today, the day of our departure from Kenya and also the day of the Presidential Inauguration in the same city. We were searched on the approach road to the airport. We were searched again at the entrance to the airport terminal. And we were searched one more time at the entrance to the departure lounge. I had almost forgotten( blissfully! ) what this level of security examination felt like. Almost! But now it came back to me.

The discomfort.

The feeling of unease lest a nervous officer imagines he sees something on the scanner that isn’t actually there but which might, in his mind, pose a threat.

The disruption to life’s smooth rhythm as jagged edges of interruption jar and jangle the grate.

Perhaps I make too much of it. And for those who have never experienced this level of security intrusion on a daily basis over a period of years ( albeit necessary ) it might even lend a certain frisson of edgy excitement to a transitory trip. But this is not Hollywood. This is not some movie where dead men get up off the ground when the director shouts ‘Cut!’ All it takes is a jumpy police officer and that dead man stays dead. All it takes for the innocent to share that fate is that she is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Do ‘my lot’ ‘up home’ really want a return to that all too familiar and not far in the past circumstance of life? That’s what went through my head as we sat drinking proper coffee in the departure lounge at Nairobi airport.

We had arrived at the airport early precisely because of the heightened security. Early in this case meant some 9 hours before the big bird was due to set off.  Now I can handle ( and quite enjoy ) a few hours in an airport, wandering around duty free and the other shops and just people watching. But 9 solid hours was, I must admit, a bit of a drag. And there’s not much I can write about it. We had some red meat for dinner ( No Goat Here! ) and drank coffee and tea and Coke and Fanta. Some played whist. Others chatted. Kizzy slept: lucky girl. Paul was on a different flight, flying home via Addis Abiba ( long story ) so we said our goodbyes to him now.  Then it was time to board. Kenyan Airways 787 Dreamliner. Lovely plane. Lots of leg room. But seats that felt like you were sitting concrete blocks!

Most of us grabbed a few hours shut-eye on the 8 hour flight into Paris CDG. As we came in low over the that most wonderful of all cities I felt that I was home. The lights twinkled below us as the captain announced that the temperature was 2C……not quite what we’d been used to during the past fortnight. And we were on the ground and heading for our connection for the flight to Dublin. But not before a decent breakfast. One of our number expressed a need for the ‘fry-up’ and had to be gently told that they don’t do ‘fry-ups’ for breakfast in France.  Then it onto a wee dinky plane to Ireland and before we knew it we were in Dublin.

We all huddled round the luggage carousel to claim our baggage which appeared, every single piece of it, in rapid time. And then we just stood for a instant and looked at each other. This was it. The End. Over. Each of us going our separate ways.  One to The North, one to the bus for Galway, a few to Ballina, one to the city centre. And we hugged and and clapped each other on the back and said our farewells and……well, that was it really.

There is no grand and dramatic way to bring down the curtain.

So we just….went!

I got on the bus and slept a lot of the way to Galway where I was collected by eldest daughter and driven to the Deanery where I was greeted by more daughters and a couple of excited grandchildren.

Oh. Brief Postscript: Before heading for an early bed to catch up on lost sleep I posted to Facebook that I was home safe and well. To which one of the Team replied that she felt like she had walked into a freezer and someone had closed the door behind her. I knew the feeling.

 

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To All Things There is an End.

The day following Bishop Gaddiel’s festival gathering was a day to prepare for departure. Some went off to Nairobi,  last minute shopping for presents for the folks back home. A couple of us stayed in the compound just to catch our breath and get packing organised. It was gentle day for those who stayed behind, rather more fraught for those who dared the city. The build up to the Presidential Inauguration, happening the following day, the day of our departure, was beginning to kick-in and security considerations and cordons led to delays going and coming to and from the city.

After dinner ( thankfully for this correspondent NOT goat ) we all gathered in the small gazebo for night prayers led by Stephen McWhirter. Our little huddle under the warm African sky took on a slightly melancholy air as we reflected, one with another, on our trip: what we had seen on our travels-our experiences and the lessons we had learned and the questions that now spun around in our heads. This was our last night on Kenyan soil. And we missed Ted who had left the team that morning to travel on to meet up with family and friends elsewhere in Kenya. So yes, sadness was in the air. But also anticipation for the journey’s end and the return to loved ones in Ireland.

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Bishop Gaddiels Celebrations

On Sunday it rained. Not a lot. Not a tropical downpour. But it rained. Now, this doesn’t mean much in Ireland where we’re used to heavy showers. In the main for us it probably means puddles on the lawn and at the side of the road. In extreme conditions, it might mean the odd shallow flood of standing water on the back roads. But this is Africa. And here, rain is a totally different beast.
Hold that thought.

The team, and legions of other folk from around the area, set off at about 8am for the big celebrations at Bishop Gaddiels home village deep in the bush . Seven people piled into Ronnie landrover while 13 of us crammed into a long wheel base landcruiser driven by Wilson, one of Bishop Gaddiel’s personal drivers. After a short confab, it was decided to take a cross country route that might avoid the worst of the effects of the rainfall.


Never have I experienced anything remotely like what lay ahead!

Never!

Not in my worst imaginings!

We frequently hear moaning back home about poor road conditions and long distances and pot holes and uneven surfaces. In our present context in TKA, the drive from the northern end of the diocese to Limerick city has, in the past, made some throw up their hands in horror.

Well!

A single journey like this one in Kenya would put all our Irish woes in the ha’penny place.

To begin with, track is much too generous a word to use here. Dirt surface, deep ruts, boulder outcrops, holes like chasms to negotiate, steep inclines and equally steep and crumbling verges, two rivers to ford, the jeep canted at an angle that made you think that any moment the thing would roll, and all this compounded by mud. Thick, clinging, slippery mud. Oh me! Oh my! Beam me up Scottie!
We ground along, we bumped along, we slid along in places, singing songs to pass the time. Until we came to a particularly bad spot, a spot where ‘bad’ takes on a whole new meaning. And here everything ground to a halt. One jeep was firmly grounded, bellyed out, in deep ruts, while a taxi, a sort of Toyota minivan with rear wheel drive only, slipped off the road. We could go no further. So we decamped from the vehicles while brave souls fruitlessly push and pulled the jeep like Delaney’s Donkey trying to get it moving. Luckily, Ronnie was on hand with our landrover and eventually the whole mess and tangle was towed out and we could proceed.

Two rivers and about an hour later…..and that’s not the whole story I can assure you, but for the sake of brevity it will do….we pulled up to the tented field where the celebrations were to take place. And here I almost run out of words.
There was a congregation of, give or take, 3000. All of them having traversed the tracks that we battled with. Some even on foot! Dedication or what?
The colour. The singing. The dancing. I hope my pictures give a flavour of it because my words couldn’t do it justice.  All this in the context of a service of worship.

The crowds and some local important people, including the Provincial Governor, we’re gathered to give thanksgiving for three things: the 6th Anniversary of Bishop Gaddiel’s consecration, the building of the new episcopal residence, and his graduation with a 2:1 degree in Theology. Rev Jen and Dean Alistair were invited to read the lessons and bishop Patrick preached. The archbishop of Kenya pronounced a blessing over Bishop Gaddiel and his family. And all this interspersed with Maasai style singing and dancing and praying and waving of hands and people just getting up and wandering off or sitting down and taking phone calls or reading emails. Utterly and bewilderingly and magically breathtaking.

It was then time to give and receive gifts. Bishop Gaddiel handed some out to church folk and dignitaries. Then each of our team received a personal gift. And we in turn presented gifts to the bishop and his wife.
The last thing on the agenda was the cake cutting ceremony that was done by bishop Gaddiel ably assisted by Kizzy and little local lad.

The whole procedure took, give or take, there or there abouts, approximately, five and a half hours. Yup. You read that right. 5 1/2 hours!!!!
After a quick bite ( more goat! ) we set off for home. Back to Kajiado.
Unfortunately we didn’t get far.
You remember I said rain, Africa, river to ford?
Aye.
At the river on the way back we hit a wee problem. Well, others who had gotten to the ford hit a problem. The cars and minivans and small flat bed trucks ( one with two portaloos on the back) could get into the river ford easily enough. But getting up the steep and muddy far bank was a different story. If you had four wheel drive it was ok. But the rest….not a chance. So Ronnie in the landrover crossed and, one after the other, towed cars and vans up the bank onto relatively firm ground. It was the best part of an hour later, and full dark, by the time the last taxi had been rescued and we were able to forge on, slowly, to Kajiado.

We arrived back about 4 hours after we had left the celebrations. And we were tired. We were very tired indeed.
But what a day.
What a day!

 

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Visit To MRTC Headquarters

 

Saturday was a gentle day. After a leisurely breakfast Ronnie collected us in the landrover and whisked us off to his house at Isynia, about a half hour drive north.

Ronnie and Maggie live in a compound which is home to the headquarters of the Maasai Rural Training Centres project. Basically a MRTC is a support system for various communities of Maasai across Kenya. Oltiasika, which the team spent some time at during our visit, is one such MRTC. For a local project to qualify as a MRTC it must compose of 5 elements: it must have a medical facility of some sort, a school, cattle husbandry, a church or Christian outreach element and, of course, be Maasai based.

At Isynia, the planning and oversight of all the MRTC takes place. At present, the whole concept is being re – envisioned. Basically, CMSI have done such a good job in the training and educating bit of their work that they have done themselves out of business. What they helped to put in place over the years has now taken firm root and is running strongly all by itself. So now CMSI and Kajiado diocese in Isynia needs to ask itself ‘Where do we go from here? What new thing that hasn’t been done or taught before can we now introduce to the Maasai? ‘
One of the things under consideration ( and that is already bearing fruit even if on a small scale ) is milk production. It looked very odd to see several freisian cows grazing in a Kenyan field. Another ambitious project that is being looked into is the possibility, with grant aid from Holy Trinity NYC, of building a shopping mall on some of the land at Isynia. If successful, this could provide unit rental income for Kajiado diocese and go a way towards sustainability for future projects.

After lunch Ronnie took us on a walking tour of the compound. There are extensive buildings here, some of which are used for accommodation and a school and Ronnies office and the like. Other buildings are vacant and consideration is being given as to what to do with them.
There’s a nice wee church on the compound and while the Vicar doesn’t live in Isynia, he has an office there.

And so after a cup of coffee and some truly marvelous mango cake we prepared to take our leave. But one last thing needed to be done.

At arrival in Nairobi one the cases went missing. Just didn’t appear on the luggage carousel at the airport. The annoying part was that this case contained a lot of the knitted items sent from TKA to Kenya. Well, long story short, this case turned up the day before we visited Ronnie and Maggies home. And we were able to ‘officially’ hand over the knitting to them before we returned to Kajiado.

For the rest of the day most of us relaxed. Some took a dander into Kajiado town while others milled about the complex. Bishop Patrick led our night prayers and, heading to bed, we all felt relaxed and rested.
Had we known what was ahead us the following day we would have very grateful for that rest and relaxation.

 

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Clergy Fellowship

 

They take their clergy fellowship meetings seriously here. In a laid back sort of African way.

All the clergy and lay readers of the diocese were invited. That amounted to roughly 180ish people from all arts and parts. Kick off time was 8.30am…allegedly. That meant that some of the participants from the the more distant corners of Kajiadio diocese had to set off in the wee small hours. I spoke to one pastor who had left his home at 4am!
So after a cracking of dawn breakfast, our team wandered over to the cathedral to see what we could see and prepare ourselves for the part we were expected to play in the day conference. We had been allotted 3 hours to fill on the conference theme of Leadership. But as with everything here, that 3 hours was pretty elastic.

Paul set into a wrestling match with technology. He and bishop Patrick had put together a series of powerpoint slides to illustrate their offering. Yes…even here, Microsoft has managed to get a foothold and a large screen hovered above the altar in the cathedral. But would it produce the goods when called upon? We, the tooling and front that accompanied Paul, struggle to get a picture from laptop to screen suggested that,while the context may vary, the battle to make technology act in a compliant way is the same the world over. Nonetheless, battle was joined and eventually Paul ran out the winner….by a short head and not completely. The focus on the projector was woeful and nothing could be done about it.

So, an 8.30am start. Yeah. Right. This is Africa. By 9.30am the bishop of Kajiado and the Archbishop of Kenya, Archbishop Jackson, first Maasai Primate, lovely warm man, we’re still deep in conversation somewhere. So the Vicar General ( that is not a typo ) decided that, as the crowd was getting restless, we should sing a bit. Three clergy with mics and two guys on keyboards produced a wondrous sound. Really rocking the cathedral with the first song as the gathered stood and danced and clapped in the pews. This was followed by a more reflective piece. The congregation swayed and lifted their hands to heaven.

And then the bishop and archbishop arrived and it was game on.
After the preliminaries The Archbishop was invited to say a few words. His few words went on for a shade over two hours. Through them he outlined his strategy, his vision, for the Church of Kenya. And truth to tell a lot of it was very different from what we might hear back home. God’s Kingdom, it would appear, and how to advance it is pretty much the same the world over.
Then came the tea break. Vital at any Anglican meeting. Our team was whisked into a small office for our refreshments along with the local dignatories. The rest queued right round the outside of the cathedral for their tea and drank it while chatting in sunshine in the cathedral garden. The rest enjoyed the better portion!
After a suitable period, probably about an hour but who’s counting, we took our places in the cathedral and it was our turn. We each introduced ourselves and spoke briefly about an experience of leadership, either good or bad. Then bishop Patrick and Paul went to work, broke the gathered into groups and had them Co side a case study. Bringing them back into order, bishop Patrick walked them through how we might approach the same case study….with the aid of powerpoint which, thankfully, behaved itself. Then it was Jens turn to speak on self care in leadership, followed by Paul on sustainability in the leadership. Alistair brought up the rear with a short scripture study on the leadership model of Jesus.

And that was that. The conference ended and we all trooped for lunch…..at 3.30pm!

It was a long day. But an interesting day. Not everyone stayed to the end. In fact, towards early afternoon I looked out the window and saw more people outside chatting than were inside listening to the speakers. And maybe that’s as it should be. In a diocese of such huge geography and challenging travel methods it’s not that often that they come together for fellowship. And in the end fellowship trumps being lectured every time.

 

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Amboseli Wildlife Park

Amboseli was en route to Kajiado from Oltiasika. Well…more or less. Only a 20 odd kilometre detour off the tarmac. The abiding memory of the approach track is that it was like driving over corrugated iron. And the exit track was more of the same and even worse. But we haven’t arrived yet….

The gates of Amboseli are imposing and staffed by members of the Kenya Wildlife Service. These lads patrol the whole of the country ensuring as best they can, that no one but no one, not even the locals, do harm to either animals or birds. As we waited for our payment for entry to be processed we were invited to buy various items of examples of native crafts. The purveyors of these delights were most insistent and not easily dissuaded. Shillings did pass from hand to hand for a few trinkets and eventually we moved on into the reserve.

Amboseli is a right old mixture, a contrast of terrain and lifestyle. On the one hand are the vast tracts of stoney dusty ground, well parched, on which lay the desiccated remains of zebra and gnu. On the other were the extensive wetlands of deep swamp with profuse herbage in which wallowed hippo and elephant. Again, on the one hand were herds of blade – thin Maasai cattle and their equally struggling herdsmen, while on the other were the two lavish lodges where we drank best Kenyan coffee and ate like kings at the well stocked Amboseli Lodge buffet. In both instances, the contrast was stark. The haves and the have not. The privileged and the under privileged.

We hadn’t seen any elephant up till now. Here they were in abundance. Magnificent abundance. A cow and calf crossed the road not 20 metres from our vehicle. All we could do was boggle and stare open mouthed.
A little further we sprang a pair of hyena from a culvert and they lopped a way off from the road, all the while looking nervously and apologetically over their shoulders like school children caught I a naughty prank. Then one of them stood and looked back at us, daring us to scold him.
Water buffalo luxuriated in their mud baths and hippos and egrets lounged about in symbiotic contentment in the swampy pools with their surface of lush green verbage.

It was hot here on these plains. And as we drew ever closer to the exit gates and further away from the wetlands, the evidence of drought which has gripped this part of Kenya became ever more obvious. Dust devils sported in brown columbs just a few hundred metres from the road and our landrover kicked up a veritable cloud of dust in our wake.

Amboseli, like all of this trip, was an experience not to missed. But I couldnt help reflecting on what it must have been like centuries ago before ‘progress’ came to town. The wildlife would undoubtedly been more abundant then. There would have been no roads ( such as they are ) crisscrossing the landscaping. Coffee would have come out of a billy can boiled over an open fire on the wide velt and not from a gurgling clanking barista machine in a pristine lounge.
We have worked hard, mankind, to make places like Amboseli the shaddow of its past which it is today. We must work even harder to maintain what is left of it. For He who made it once looked upon it and saw that it was good. I wonder what He might think now?

Journeys end came after dark as pulled into Kajiado compound some 11 hours after we had left Oltiasika. There were some tired bodies that hit the sack that evening. Never was a group more content to say ‘ I will lay me down and take my rest: for it is thought Lord only that makest me dwell in safety.’

 

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A Short Exercise in Gratitude

All through our stay at Oltiasika, we were looked after with great kindness and many smiles, and amazing generosity of time and effort and warmth. A small hand of ladies fed us and even washed our clothes.  A few lads did the heavy walking and lifting and generally keeping us safe from lions and marauding giraffe and huge bugs that dived bombed us as we sat chatting at night. They deserved a great big Thank You and received a small token from us before we left.

The following morning, Thursday, we rose with the park and loaded up the land rovers with our luggage in preparation for the trek back to Kajiado via Amboseli Wildlife Park. As we took our leave, hand shakes and few hugs were shared all round. Speeches were made and prayers said for a safe journey and a lad presented bishop Patrick with a Stick of Authority which he had made himself over a period of a full month.

And so it was with a wistfully sad feeling that we faced forward and drove down the hill from Oltiasika towards the plain and Amboseli. We all felt humbly privileged to have been able to spend a short while with these remarkable people in this excruciatingly beautiful place.

 

 

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Blessing The Water System

The excitement had been building our days passed at Oltiasika and Wednesday drew ever closer. We had been warned to expect a large gathering from the surrounding countryside with chiefs and local dignitaries and perhaps even the Member of Parliament all coming together with clergy, lay readers and Bishop Gaddiel to celebrate the official dedication of something that so many had worked so hard to bring to fruition. And then joy of it was that we were to be part of this.

We had seen the pictures from the last time a few, including bishop Patrick, had been out to check progress. Who can ever forget the picture of the bishop sitting on the edge of the tank, legs dangling over the side. We had heard them speak of the absolute necessity of the project to the sustainable water prospects of the folk of Oltiasika. But that we were ‘feet on the ground’s’, so to speak, it had all come into sharp focus. Nothing like the sight of a dead frog in the bottom of a drinking water tank to encourage the penny to drop.

But today, today it was all coming together. The catchment apron was complete. Who could have guessed that a piece of concrete, some 30 metres by 100 metres, would make such a difference to people’s lives. This concrete area on the side of slope will catch the rain and funnel it into holding tanks, each 220,000 litres in capacity, and by a system of siphon and pipe, deliver fresh sweet water to men, women and children. That really is cause for celebration and a reason to bless.

First order of business for our team was to head off to local, and not so local, churches, meeting houses and community assembly places to collect chairs and benches to bring to a clearing, the bush church, where the celebrations would take place later. Hot work. Very hot work. One of our number even got a little too much sun. Then it was back to the compound for a personal clean-up.

And so they gathered. Some in jeeps, others on foot plodding up the hill. The favoured of this part of Maasailand. Chai, a local sweet spiced tea, was drunk. Hands were shaken, greetings exchanged. We milled around chatting and smiling in the warm sunshine.

The Bishop Gaddiel arrived and it was time to begin in earnest. Bishop Patrick and the clergy of the team grabbed their robes and we all processed, either on foot or by jeep, to the tanks. Hundreds of local Maasai joined the procession as we made our way downhill on the track to the tanks. And there we gathered. All sorts and conditions of people. All dressed to the nines in their Sunday best, some in traditional Maasai dress, the clergy sweltering in their robes.

Bishop Patrick and Bishop Gaddiel each took a turn in offering prayer for the community and invoking God’s blessing on the project. Ronnie Briggs spoke of the history of the project, how it had been started twice before but on neither occasion completed. It was quite an emotional day for him, to see the system almost finished. Almost. Because the money has yet to be found to cap two of the three tanks in order to keep the likes of frogs out. But that small consideration, costing some 5 million Shillings ( about E41,000 ), wasn’t about to spoil the party.
So both bishops raised their hands in joyful benediction, they said the words, and the thing was done.But the day was far from over.Everyone decamped to a small clearing a short way away that had been specifically cleaned for this event and a service of Thanksgiving rolled along for another……well, good long time. But such was the joy that no one was counting the minutes.
The Maasai choirs sang and danced and regailed us all with their special exhuberance. Scripture was read. Speeches were made ( we lost count of how many times ‘thank you’ was said to TKA ). And Bishop Gaddiel preached a sermon: a short sermon in Maasai terms. But like the good steward at the wedding feast, he kept the best wine tongue last when he announced that just that day the Governor had promised the 5 million Shillings to cap the last two tanks, and so complete the project.

After that, the crowd dispersed. Some guests to the compound for more Chai and some jam sandwiches. Others gathered round the small church a short distance away to sing and dance…..and probably drink Chai.

When it all was over and guests gone and there just we TKA folk and the staff and Ronnie and Maggie left, Ronnie and some of the lads lit a big fire. We sat out under the stars nattering away as sides of goat roasted over the embers. Some knawed on the resulting goat spare ribs ( tough, chewy and slightly greasy ) while a few restrained themselves and stick to left over jam sandwiches.

And we all, without exception, bewailed the fact that this was our last night in this very special place.
Oltiasika.

 

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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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