It was Sunday and our final day in Kisii. It was to be a special day. Everyone from the church were expected to the church service, as well as many from the local area. Also expected to be there would be several who would make the 4½ hour walk from the Nyakembene church, the church where we had been on the previous Sunday.
Amos came to the hotel to pick up Vivian and I and Larry at about 10:00, although the service had already been underway before that time. But Pastor Joel told me on the day before that it was to be a short service, since we would all have a meal afterwards.
On the evening before, Pastor Vincent had arrived at the hotel with a package for us. The church in Matagaro had wanted to give us a gift. On one day earlier in the week, a man had arrived at the orphanage with a cloth tape measure in hand—the kind that tailors and seamstresses use. He took the measurements for Larry, for Vivian, and for myself. Neck size, chest, waist, hips, arm length, wrist size, pant inseam—I think there were also a couple more measurements. We were being fitted for a special and traditional Kisii suit of clothes.
After Vincent left. we tried our new suits on. Of course they fit perfectly. Emblazoned diagonally across the front of my shirt were the words, “Kenya loves you Dad.” Vivian’s was “Kenya loves you Mum Vivian. Larry had a similar shirt. He told me that on the day before, he had been asked how his name was spelled. They asked him a few times because they have trouble pronouncing the sound for the letter “R.” At the time, he did not know why they were so inquisitive, but when he saw the shirt, he knew.
We all three put them on, and if you saw us walking into the church dressed in our suits, you would have thought we were a singing group from the 60’s, there to perform some R&B, except of course, we were the wrong color.
Before we left Wisconsin, Vivian had prepared 116 cards with verses written on them, all of different colors and each one laminated so they will stay nice. At that time before we left for Kenya, Joel told that there were 107 children in the church. Vivian made so many cards so that all the children could each to receive one. At one point in the service, they made a long line to receive one each. But on that day, there were many more children present, many from the village and surrounding area had also come. Unfortunately, some of the visiting children did not receive one her verse cards.
We also brought a couple of banners that were hanging in our Log Church in Wisconsin. Vivian presented them to the church for them to hang on their walls. We had done the same on the previous week at Nyakembene.
The service itself featured much music. Again we were treated by watching those with what they call “the gift of dance.” It is their way of praising God, they tell me. It truly is an amazing gift to watch, and I have to say, it is done with such joy that one cannot but help but share in that joy.
There was a lot of singing and dancing and much joy expressed by the congregation. I enjoyed hearing the special sound that the ladies make in those lands, the ululation. This is a special sort of trill. If you have not heard it you may want to look up a youtube video on it.
Also, as the week before, I was to bring the message. Pastor Vincent was to translate. Before I began, we both stood on the stage, he at my side, perhaps a few feet away. I was waiting for him to make some sort of introduction. He did not. He just stood and kept silent.
Not knowing why he was doing this, I also kept silent. I actually thought that he was going to at least say some words in the local language, Ekegusii. He did not. He just stood there looking at the congregation.
But I stood still, waiting for Vincent.
I waited. Five minutes. Ten minutes. I actually do not know how long Vincent and I stood in silence, but I later asked Vivian and Larry. They said it must have been between 15 and 20 minutes. Vincent and I just stood in silence, but I could tell that the Holy Spirit was not silent. Later, several people shared with me what they had experienced at that time.
After that long period of stillness, I stepped over to Vincent and whispered, “I’m just going to begin.”
Before I gave my planned message, I commented on the silence. I had thought about what I was going to say as I was standing and waiting. I told the people that one of my customs at home was to rise early in the morning, usually before the sun has risen. I just sit in silence. It is a time when there are no distractions. I sit in the darkness, so there are even no distractions coming to my vision. No sound.
It is a time that I simply sit in silence and allow God to speak. Slowly the light of the sun begins to illuminate the sky. The first birds begin to sing. My day has begun.
Although this time of extended silence in the church was unplanned, I think that I can see the Lord’s hand in it. The worship services in Kenya are very vocal and very visual. They are loud. There is constant activity and performance.
To my amazement, of the more than 116 children present, during the entire 15-20 minutes, there was no crying, no wiggling, and no talking. All sat quietly. Later, Joel told me in all there were about 720 people present (I am not sure how he came up with that number). After the initial giggling and whispers, all sat silently except for some soft singing.
“In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
After the service we had a meal for all present—all 720 people. It was a major endeavor that seemed to turn out well. The pastors of the church and the leaders did a good job in giving instructions, and all received a filling meal of ugali (a white corn mash, with a consistency of hard mashed potatoes), beans, and either chicken or goat meat.
When the meal was over, Vincent and I were standing alone in the front of the church, just in front of the stage. We had both of us been just walking around and talking to people. We simply happened to meet at that point in front of the church. We stopped to talk for a moment, and I asked him what was the purpose of the long time of silence before the message.
He said, “I was just waiting for you to begin.”
“You were waiting for me?” I asked, then added, “I was waiting for you!”
“No, no,” her replied. “I am only the translator. I do what you do, and speak only when you speak.”
They had come so that we could pray for them.
The first was a young lady. She spoke to Vincent in Ekegusii, who then translated for me. “She has evil visions coming to her at night. She asks you to pray for her.”
Next a mother asked for prayer for her four sons. “Kindly pray that they will have money to attend school.”
Another girl asked for prayer so that she could concentrate in school. “My mind cannot stay focused on what the teacher is saying,” she told us.
One young man wanted prayer for deliverance from alcoholism.
Another young lady asked for prayer about her stomach pains and worries.
There were others as well. I prayed for each one, laying my hand either on their head or on their shoulder. Vincent translated my prayers.
It was our last day in Kisii. It was a day I will not forget. It was a day full of unexpected blessings. More than any of me other visits, this visit was the most personal. More than before, we were able to make strong personal connections with the people. It was a visit blessed and directed by the Lord.
“Praise the Living God!”
“Praise the Living God again!”