By far, one of the best memories we have of Kenya is our time in the village of Raganga, a Kisii tribal area almost six hours east of Nairobi. We were planning to leave for the village right after church on Sunday, but those plans changed when we heard there would be a baptism and men’s fellowship after church. Over and over again we were told to not be on the roads at dark; and without actually experiencing those roads, we Americans would never think twice about traveling at night. But after being on the roads, we would agree night time driving is NOT a good idea at all. Leaving after the baptism would put the second half of our trip after sunset so we postponed leaving for the village until sun up on Monday morning. We left at 6 a.m., drove all the way across the beautiful Rift Valley, and arrived by 12:30 p.m. We had one stop at the halfway point for bathrooms. Thankfully, we brought our own TP and needed it at every stop, including our stay in the “restaurant” (what we would call a hotel, they call a restaurant).
After checking into our restaurant (which, by the way, had beautiful grounds to enjoy), we headed to Pastor Charles’ hut for lunch. It was about a ten minute drive, but eventually, our vehicle couldn’t go any further so we walked the rest of the way. We passed several shambas, which is the Swahili word for a family’s farming land that they then divide generation after generation. They are not large pieces of land…each family unit gets about a half acre to farm and live off of. We saw a lot of tea plants and coffee beans!
We arrived at the pastor’s home, and we were greeted by a couple cows, a few chickens, two dogs, and one cat. When asked what the dog and cat names were, they just laughed at us. Later we found out that Kenyans don’t really consider animals as pets so they don’t name them either. They did inform us that one of the dog’s names is Simba, but most of the time their answer is “nothing.” Mama Melvin greeted us with great African hospitality and an authentic Kenyan meal…ugali, stew, and kale. We enjoyed getting to know the pastor and some of his church family better (two or three members were there for lunch, too).
By 2:30 p.m. we left the hut and headed for the church grounds to set up for Bible camp. Although some church members would be present to help with refreshments and translating, we would be running the games, coloring time, and Bible teaching. Most of the children knew Kisii more so than Swahili or English so we were definitely depending on translating help. Word spread quickly that “wazungu” were in the village, and before long, children began coming from every direction. We expected 100 children by the end of the week, at least that was close to their count last year. By the end of our first day, we had nearly 80 children. The second day we reached over 130. The last day of Bible camp we maxed out at 180 children. The church building was a one-room brick building that couldn’t have been more than 15’x25′. Thankfully, Africans don’t have “bubbles” so they just piled in and had a great time. Girls on the left side. Boys on the right. (The games were also played separately.) Devon, Clayton, and Courtney taught a Bible story each day, and we had Buddy the puppet do the translating (well, Pastor Charles sat behind the podium and did the talking, but you get the idea).
After Bible camp, we would pack up our things and walk to the the market area of the village. Once there, we would set up for the evening’s Open Air Evangelism Crusade. The church family would sing hymns and choruses. As the sun went down, we would begin to play a Christian movie (spoken in Kisii) to draw in a crowd and then they would pause the movie so Steve could preach with Pastor Charles interpreting for the Kisii speaking audience. The two seemed to work well together. After the preaching, they would start the movie again and play it until a little after 8 p.m. We would then pack up and head to our African restaurant to eat a few snacks.
At the end of our days at the village, we were quite tired. Unfortunately, we didn’t head back to any water for any kind of easy clean up. The first night we were too tired to care. The second night we got a bucket for clean up and amazingly we had a small drizzle come out of the shower head, too. WooHoo! The third night was more of the same, but we were leaving early the next morning so we knew we could hold off until we got back to the city, if necessary. None of us really wanted to leave the village when it was time to go, but we also knew more opportunities awaited us back in Nairobi so off we went.
Each day during Bible camp we talked about the gospel bracelets and shared with the children what each color stood for in the gospel story. We reviewed again and again so when we gave them out at the end of our time there, the children knew what they were all about and could share them with family members. A big thanks to all of you who helped us in making the gospel bracelets. All four churches used the bracelets, and we came home having given them all away. How and when God will use them is still to be learned, but we trust Him to finish what He started.
We will miss our new friends in Raganga. Mama Melvin served us four meals in all from her hut, and she can bake some really, really good chapati. It was the best we had yet and would have during our stay in Africa. We also visited the one and only soap stone quarry that exists (at least that is what we were told) and watched some talented young men artfully make soap stone beautiful. For two of our breakfasts, we ate at an African “hotel” (what we would call a restaurant, they would call a hotel). It was more of a tent with some tables and benches. No electricity. But their tea was so yummy!
Remembering Raganga will bring us a special joy and will cause us to pray for these men and women who are working to reach their Jerusalem with the gospel. We know of at least 47 children who responded to a salvation invitation. God has begun a work. He will finish it.