“…and bring me safely home again, you will be my God.” Genesis 28:21
I’ve not seen the 2017 movie “Home Again,” so cannot comment on it. But I’m familiar with the title, and this week it came to mind in a most meaningful way.
The hospitality of Kenyans is legendary. I can see why. As previous TPC Kenya travelers have conveyed to us, it is truly extraordinary! Now we travelers, too, feel its warm welcoming kindness, sincerity, and unceasing generosity.
In traveling to several parts of the world, I have been the blessed recipient of welcoming and consideration in many places; Kenya exceeds them all. These people of God live their faith in a genuine manner, conveying hospitality and love to the stranger, as Jesus taught us to do.
About midway through our time here, it hit me: we are not strangers, rather brothers and sisters to our Kenyan partners, totally comfortable and accepted, surrounded by love—I am home again!
On Thursday afternoon we went to meet the Rev Timothy Njoya at the Karinyo Rock Garden he has created over the last 18 years. The Rev Njoya is an internationally known theologian, activist and a friend to Rod Frohman since their days at Princeton Seminary together.
The Rev Njoya had built the buildings and the rock garden with his own hands and they demonstrate his eclectic personality.
Next to the buildings is the rock garden built to demonstrate the Law of Love, with a section displaying the path of life, a stone crucification and many other sculptures.
Rev Njoya explained that the wind chime sculptures created with discarded items hanging outside his office which gives the items the opportunity to play the music for god when the wind blows.
There is also a Jacob’s ladder to remind us of the angels ascending and descending.
Rev Njoya has been an activist since his days as a student at Princeton demonstrating against the Vietnam War, being defrocked as a priest by PCEA three time and then being reinstated, arrested and beaten by the Kenyan police and being left for dead when protesting corruption. He has felt a strong call from God to be an advocate for human rights despite the personal cost.
His current focus of activism is women’s rights and equality, in particularly campaigning against female circumcision.
Rev Njoya has written several books including his auto biography, his latest book which has just been published is “The Divinity of the Clitoris” about female circumcision.
‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” [Leviticus 19: 33-34]
This is what all of us travelers have received from our Kihumu Parish hosts and everyone else we have met. Every evening, we are hosted for dinner at one of the Elder’s houses and gather with about 20 people in total. It is a wonderful time to learn more about each of our new friends and how they live out their faith in their daily lives.
Before our meal our hosts go around the room with a pitcher of hot water, soap, and a bowl. Then they pour out the water so that we can wash our hands prior to eating. It is a very personal experience and reminds us of Jesus washing the feet of his Disciples.
Then, at the end of our evening visits, one person is chosen at random to offer a formal word of thanks to the hosts and another Is chosen to offer a closing prayer.
Radical Hospitality….we have been surrounded in it this week.
““Teach these words to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Today our group of travelers visited the Kihumo School, where we met the teachers and students, and had the absolute joy of watching a presentation they had prepared for us. They sang, danced, twirled hula-hoops, and even put on a fashion show!
Then we watched as Rev. Kibaara talked with them about the Bible and what the verses in today’s lesson about the burning bush meant to them. The children eagerly raised their hands and told us that God wants them to obey their parents and to be kind to one another.
After lunch they celebrated the birthday of a classmate and served us cake. When it was time to leave they showered us with hugs and high fives, and asked us to give their greetings to our families and friends.
How marvelous to see these pre-schoolers being raised according to God’s Word, and being taught to love one another just as God loves them. These children are our future, and the future of the Church. The world needs the unconditional love they showed us – the love that will create the Kingdom of God right here on earth.
“What a fellowship, what a joy divine…” The exuberant choir at Baraka church sang this on Sunday and Rev Kibarra preached on covenant. Our days are full of examples of covenant and fellowship from the people of Kihumo parish, not only of the covenant God has made with them, and they with God, but also the strong covenant they have made to care for and proclaim God’s love to each other. Members support each other and know each other well in these congregations, and have welcomed us with such warmth and friendship.
Worship at Baraka is so joyful! We may have been singing some familiar hymns, but we had trouble keeping up with the dancing! When friends greet one another, they will exclaim “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” or “I love God!” Their faith is always evident and prayer is an important part of fellowship, family and even their work lives. We have also learned the fist bumps, hand claps, shoulder bumps and hugs which make each greeting joyful!
What would our lives look like if every new encounter begin with a statement of faith? Would we treat each other with caring and respect if we prayed together and greeted each other as children of God? Could we make our world a better place if our faith journey was the most important part of ourselves?
On Saturday our Kenya Group began our official itinerary by meeting with the Session of the Kihumo Church. We spent a little time introducing ourselves, but the majority of the morning was spent getting to know our Kenyan partners.
Our meeting started with tea. Pastor Kibaara explained that there is a deeper meaning to the act of having tea together. In Kenya, sharing a cup of tea is an act of community. If someone invites you to have a cup of tea with them, it doesn’t mean they’re thirsty. They want to spend time talking with you. As Pastor Kibaara put it, having tea is “community in communion.”
The concept of community is also very deep in Kenya. Your community defines you, and is very broad. Your community is not just your immediate family. It includes aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and their families. Life events involve the whole community. Weddings, birthdays, funerals and such include the whole community. Everyone helps each other when there is a need, everyone grieves when there is sorrow, and everyone rejoices together when they are blessed.
The philosophy is, “I am because we are, and we are because I am.” What a wonderful way to think about how we are all children of God, and we are all one in Christ!
The purpose of this blog is…
· to tell the stories of lives touched
· to provoke thoughtful conversation
among people passionate about
outreach ministries in general
and Third Presbyterian Church
outreach programs in particular.