Saturday, November 13, 2010


I confess I've been island-hopping for two days on Lake Victoria. Friend and neighbor Judy kindly invited me to Rusinga to meet her family, visit the fishing village of Leanda/Olugi, and pay my respects at Tom Mboya's grave.

We traveled to and from Mbiti via matatu, ferry, piki-piki and a hearse named "Beauty for Ashes." (Honest. Replete with casket and recorded gospel music.) Then we spent two wonderful days with two wonderful people. Veronica and Mike welcomed us into their home and their lives -- and into the lives of their extended family.

We walked their large, lush, hippo-holed shamba by day and ate delicious kuku, tilapia and Nile perch by kerosene lamp at night. We met morning preacher-birds and evening drunkard-birds, helped put the cows out and the chickens in, played with Baby Cornell and made friends with "watchdog" Elsa.

We bathed in water carried up from the lake, then heated over an open fire. We watched the twinkling lamps of the lake fishermen after dark, and we mourned with the community when ten of its members died. All had been passengers in a small, overloaded boat that capsized on a windy night last week.

We also prayed. We prayed together before meals, before bed and at Tom Mboya's mausoleum. Veronica brushed away tears as she told us a painful and unexpected story at the serene gravesite.

In 1968, at the age of 18, she became Mboya's junior secretary in Nairobi. It was her first job. One year later, on a quiet Saturday morning in July, Mboya returned from an economic development meeting in Ethiopia, opened his briefcase and presented his small secretarial staff with token gifts. A few hours later, he left the office to do an errand and never returned. Tom Mboya was murdered on Moi Avenue, a major thoroughfare in downtown Nairobi. (Note the bullet-shaped mausoleum roof.) Veronica's quiet words were triggered by the sight of bloodstains on that same briefcase in the memorial hall the site. Her grace, grief and powerful memories deeply moved us all.

It was a blessing to be on Rusinga with Judy. From the moment we were welcomed with prayer, to the moments we grieved together in prayer, to the moment we bade farewell after prayer, we felt surrounded by the love of God and the love of our host family.

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