Wednesday, April 1, 2020

KISII ORPHANAGE - IN KISII TOWN

This series of Kisii Orphanage posts is a recollection of entries from my journal when I visited the Log Church and Orphanage of Kenya for the first time.
To retain the continuity of the journal, please scroll down to the entry entitled How it All Began, and work your way up, reading each post that begins with Kisii Orphanage.
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Journal Entry – November 19, 2017 (morning)
 

This morning I awoke in Kisii town. After we left the church last night, the same group of men who had brought me from Nairobi accompanied me to the hotel that they had arranged for me.
 
One of these men of course is the pastor Joel. Another is also a pastor of the church. His name is Vincent, but it took me some time before I actually figured out what his name was, since the “n” sound is very different in Swahili. He pronounces his name something like Vinecent.
 
 
The third man was the driver Amos. He owned the car and was a taxi driver. It would be Amos who was to pick me up every day and bring me to the church.
 
The front of  my hotel
The hotel where I am staying is in Kisii town proper. We had actually passed through this town on the way to the church, but the church is a half an hour or more beyond it on a dirt road that leads up into the hills.


No one in the church has a car or even a motorbike, so every day Amos is to pick me up, bring me to the church, and then back in the evening. There are no buses that run in the remote area of the church.
 
View from my hotel window
Kisii is not a small town. I saw online before I left that it has a population of 400,000. The hotel is a nice one. It is quite newly built and has tile everywhere. The floor is tile and the walls are tile and the ceiling is tile. It seems there is a maid constantly cleaning it. My bed is also very comfortable. It is huge—king size.
 
In fact, it is so large that it barely fits into the room. I actually have no idea how they got the mattress through the door.
 
I also have my own bathroom, but to get to it I have to squeeze between the back wall and the foot of my bed. I feel like Oliver Wendell Douglas of Green Acres in his bedroom in Hooterville, who had to suck in his gut to enter the door that would only open part way. I took a photo of the bed, but to do so I had to stand out in the hallway so that I could get back far enough to snap the picture.
 
The bed also has a canopy with a mosquito net mounted over the top that comes down over the sides when it is closed. Malaria is prevalent in this area and is actually one of the reasons some children at the orphanage are without parents. Their parents had died from the mosquito-borne disease.
 
But I had come to Kisii when the weather was dry and mosquitoes not so prevalent. I will put the net down over my bed each night, and I suppose there was a mosquito that I heard at times last night, but I actually was not bothered. 
 
When I go into the huge bed and put the net down, I feel like a little boy in a blanket fort. It’s kind of fun, but actually also a bit of a strange feeling. With the net pulled down around me, there is something about being in that enclosed space that makes me feel safe. The rest of the world is outside my fort, and it seems chaotic, but my canopied bed is my own tiny world that I can control. The thought even came to me that it’s a little like crawling back into the womb.
 
In some ways here in Kisii, I feel a like a young child. I am unsure of myself in this place, and do not actually know what God expects of me. But I am here. I have arrived. I am in Kisii, Kenya. I still am not certain of all of the reasons that God wanted me to come. I only know I needed to come. There was no other way that I could continue with my life.  
 
As tired as I was, I did not sleep all that soundly on my first night in Kisii. I am sure that I am still adjusting to the eight hour time change, but it also was because I was thinking about the week ahead.
 
But well rested or not, today is Sunday, November 19. Amos will soon be here to pick me up to bring me to the church. I will be preaching. 
 
Journal Entry – November 19, 2017 (evening)

Back in April, when I went to see Levi in Ethiopia and when I was first looking at the possibility of going to Kenya, the pastor wrote to ask me if I wanted to stay in a hotel or in his home. I replied that whatever was most comfortable for them. It did not matter to me. But that was because I had planned on staying only one night.
 
This time I am here for about ten days. I am very glad that I have gotten this hotel. Despite the difficulty and the expense of getting to the church from here, I cannot even see how it would be possible to stay in the house of the pastor. I will explain why later on. But another reason that I am glad for the hotel is that I know the days that I have here will be very full.
 
The church has planned a week-long conference…no, it is more than a week. It is about a ten day conference. Each day I am to speak and to have Bible studies. I believe I have already prepared all that I will do. I prepared so because I had a suspicion that this would happen. Now I am glad I did. I should not need much preparation time while I am here.
 
But the fact is, the days will be very full and I will simply need some time to be alone. I will be glad to be back in the hotel each evening.
 
The sermon that I gave today was actually an introduction to the conference. I spoke on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and what we can expect to learn as we take a portion of it every day.
 
There are a lot of people who will be staying all week up near the church for the conference. I have no idea where they all will stay or how they will eat. But Joel and the church have been planning this conference for some time.
 
This afternoon Joel took me out to the back of our house and
showed me two goats tied to trees.

“The Lord provided these goat to us for the conference,” he told me.

 
I expect that one day soon, there will be some goat meat on our plates.
 
The church service was the first for me in any African country. It was interesting and fun for me to see the manner in which these new friends of mine worshiped the Lord.
 
Some of the many children of the church, including the twenty-some orphans that are under the care of the church, were first given the opportunity to share some things that they had learned, or to sing a song.
 
Four of five of them had memory verses that they wanted to recite. The children, whose ages ranged from about four to ten or eleven, all lined up in the front. In turn, each recited their verse.
 
Each one began in the same manner. They began by saying, “Praise the Lord!”
 
To which the congregation replied, “Amen!”
The child repeated. “Praise the Lord again!”
Congregation: “Amen!”
 
I used exclamation points in these quotes, but I actually pondered whether or not I should use them. These phrases were not shouted or even said in a loud voice, but as I came to see later, this was simply the normal way that the children or even anyone began what they were to say in front of the congregation.
 
“Better than my method,” I thought to myself. When I am about to speak, I think that I usually say something like, “Um…”
 
But the best was the singing. The children also have their own choir, and next, they were given the opportunity to present a song. One of the older girls came to the front to begin. It was in the same fashion:
 
“Praise the Lord.”
“Amen.”
“Praise the Lord again.”
“Amen.”
 
Then the choir began to sing. The girl who said "Praise the Lord" was the only one in the front. The rest the children in the choir were still far to the rear in the church building. They also were singing, but as they sang, they proceeded up the aisle, dancing as they came.
 
This was not an ecstatic dance or anything like that. The
children came two by two, and with their arms, legs and entire bodies, they were keeping rhythm with the music. They more than sang the song, they also felt the song. Their worship was with their entire body.

I had only been with this people for a half an hour, and already I had learned so much from them. So far, I had learned the most from the children.
 
There were numerous solo pieces of music, numerous choirs, including the youth choir, woman’s choir, and adult choir. Many of the songs were western songs, ones that I recognized. Some others I think must have been African in origin.
 
Most were in English, some in Swahili, at least I assumed it was Swahili. I actually did not know. The real tongue of the Kisii tribe is Ekegusii.
 
One younger lady sang the Christian country gospel song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” She sang very nice and in perfect English with even a little country “twang” in her voice. I thought that she must have learned the song listening to a Loretta Lynn album.
 
There were three sermons in all. Yet another pastor of the church, Pastor Douglas, had preached even before I arrived. I learned that the service had actually begun about 9:30, but I did not arrive until 10:30 or 11:00.
 
Pastor “Vinecent” also then gave a sermon, followed by more singing and dancing. Then it was my turn.
 
I have mentioned that there were many people there. The building was packed, plus there were many people standing outside to hear what they could. The older people present mostly did not understand English, but could speak only Ekegusii. Still others who had come from neighboring tribes could speak neither, but did understand Swahili, the actual national language of Kenya.
 
Because of the three languages present, as I spoke I had two men translating for me—one on my right hand and one on my left. One was translating what I was saying into Ekegusii, and the other into Swahili.
 
I have served as translator before for English speakers who were giving a sermon to a Spanish-speaking church. I know that it can be a difficult task. I once translated for the president of the mission organization I was working for at the time when he came down to Venezuela.
 
He liked to use a lot of descriptive adverbs and adjectives in his sentences. It wasn’t, “David put a stone into his sling and slung it at Goliath to strike him dead.”
 
It wasn’t that. It was, “The youthful shepherd boy David put a small, smooth stone into his often-used sling, twirled it about his head as he had done thousands of times before, letting go of one of the strands at the precise instant to send his projectile flying straight and true into the forehead of the giant warrior and hero of his own people—Goliath.”
 
More colorful and more interesting perhaps, but also more difficult for the translator to remember all of those phrases. It was because of my own past experiences at translating, that when I was speaking at the church today, I at first broke up my sentences into smaller phrases so the two men would not feel as I had sometimes felt as I was translating.
 
However, when I stopped speaking to allow them to catch up, they also stopped. When I resumed, they also resumed. These men obviously knew English better than I knew Spanish. They were translating on the run without the need for pauses.
 
So there I was speaking without pause, flanked by two men who were translating into two separate languages as I spoke. Three languages going simultaneously. They tended to shout a lot when they spoke, so I also did more shouting than I am accustomed to do.


It was not bad speaking, since I only concentrated on what I was saying, but I have no idea how it was for the listener, and how each was able to focus on his or her preferred language.

 
It actually was a great day. Despite the misgivings I had in waking up this morning, I thoroughly enjoyed the worship service and the entire day. Strangely, I feel at home in this place, and despite the very obvious differences between me and everyone else here, I already feel a strong kinship with them. I feel much like these are my people.
 
But now it is late, and tomorrow is another day that will be full of unknowns. Time to crawl into my huge bed, pull the mosquito netting down around me, and get some sleep.

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