Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hymn 593 (ACK Songbook)

"Let us rejoice and be glad..." we sang at St. Philip's Chapel this morning, not long after the dawn of a new day in Kenya and, indeed, around the world. But we first sang, "Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling." Too soon and too sadly, I learned the reason.

We have no television or radio here at Rotary House; the internet was overloaded with traffic and inaccessible all night. As a result, I awakened happily to the sound of two cows lowing outside my window, rather than to the blaring blue light and cacophony of TV newscasts. The coffee was on before 6 AM since Emmah knows my Wednesday morning routine.

"Morning has broken," I hummed to myself as I walked down the long red road to St. Philip's. Maseno mamas were out early, gathering sticks for firewood; the men were lounging by their boda-boda's (bicycles), disappointed that I chose to walk the distance; and a few fortunate children were setting off for school in their distinctively-colored uniforms. Periodic outbursts of applause erupted from some of the houses along the road, hinting at the excitement in Luo-land as the US votes were being tallied. Today is a very special day, indeed, and even Kenya's Kikuyu president has astutely declared tomorrow a national holiday.

But for many people here, the days are much the same. They are days of serious struggle. Western Province is the second-poorest province in the country, and life is hard -- not just for our hospital patients. In the past nine months, since the post-election violence in Kenya, corn has doubled in price, rice has tripled, and the current crops won't be harvested until December. The cost of petrol/gasoline has skyrocketed, we are in the midst of yet another inexplicable water shortage (a municipal financial issue, definitely not a water table problem), and power outages are increasing.

Today was especially hard for Florence, a 25-year-old HIV-positive woman whose suckling third child was born eight months ago. Afterward, she went to the Maternal Child Health Center for family planning assistance, but she was eight weeks too late. Florence learned today that she is 24 weeks pregnant. She spent the morning in tears, anxious about how she'll be able to provide for her young family. Her husband is too sick to work.

Today was harder still for Christopher Ruto. A theological school student at St. Philip's, he is the father of twin toddlers and three older children. His beloved wife Rhoda died last night in a Nairobi hospital. She had been in a coma there for several weeks, after suffering a brain aneurysm. The whole school is in mourning, and so are we. Please pray for Rhoda's family.

The bishop's entourage arrived at a Mothers' Union meeting this afternoon. Bp. Simon Oketch came to congratulate the ladies on their participation in a new micro-lending program being provided by the Jubilee ministry of the Diocese of Massachusetts. "Let us rejoice and be glad," we sang again, between spontaneous "Obama" chants and Nan's "You go, Girls!" refrain.

After the meeting, a crowd of happily shrieking children drew my attention. They were hunkered down in the dirt together; I thought they might be playing marbles. Instead, I found them trapping termites beneath a plastic-bag anchored by rocks over a small patch of earth. When the bag was lifted, dozens of hands dove wildly into the pile of termites that had collected. The live afternoon snacks, wiggly wings and all, immediately disappeared into hungry mouths. (The wings were quickly spat out.)

Padre Richard's homily this morning was from I Peter 2:21. "Life is difficult," he said. "But Christ suffered, too, and He suffered for us. The cross of Christ shapes and sharpens us. It draws us closer to Him and to one another. Yes, 'softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling, calling for you and for me.'" For Rhoda and Florence and the kids eating crunchy live protein. For the new American president and his family, for the United States, for Kenya and for the world. Let us all draw closer together. "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad."

1 comment:

N+E said...

Alleluia amen! Jubilation, relief, hope are all whirling around, even while we still hold our breath because the way ahead continues murky; at least one of the looming demons is gone. Meanwhile, by comparison we are SO golden and fortunate, and your world is filled with people who would define "fortunate" in such simpler terms. Probably they are actually more fortunate, because they see life in its basic form, without all the trappings we've come to require. Hmmm. Food for thought as I head for lala land (how wonderful to suddenly discover the derivation of that one!)

Enjoy your new national holiday tomorrow (today for you) and know we continue to rejoice and mourn in the highs and lows of your world, keeping you in our hearts and prayers.

L&H&B, n