OCMC Kenya Travel Blog Day 7
We have witnessed the hand of God at work here in northwestern Kenya. These are the only words that I have to describe the time we spent among the Turkana of Lupala deep within, what the people here call, “the interior”.
Over the past few nights, we’ve been camping under the stars within the homestead of Fr. Zachariah (the Orthodox priest from Lupala who hosted us). During the day, the heat reached well over 100 degrees in the shade. Broken shards of clay and coarse sand were the only thing that filled Lupala’s nearest river. Though we provided food, many of the people (team members included) had very little to drink on the second day. The team had to pump and purify water from a borehole near the dry river simply to sustain ourselves.
We held our normal sessions while in Lupala, but Fr. Martin supplemented these teachings with a video about Jesus, which he displayed on a white sheet through a projector attached to his laptop. It was the first time many of these people had ever seen a movie.
The bonds between the team members and the people of Lupala formed quickly. We played a Turkana version of capture the flag; and learning that Stephanos and Alexandria were engaged the people performed a symbolic Turkana ceremony of betrothal. We began and ended each day with song and dance.
Today, however, we truly witnessed the Holy Spirit at work. In the morning, Fr. Zachariah asked that we join him on a journey to a nearby village. The reason for our visit: to ask the village magician (who serves like a chief) if a church could be established there. Apparently, among the Turkana you cannot gather the people of a village without permission from the local magician.
This particular village was situated on the other side of Lupala’s dry river. We were able to drive across this very river the day before; but this morning it flowed with water that came up to our knees. Water has followed the team where ever we have gone. The Turkana have seen this as a great blessing.
Carefully, we crossed the water on foot and hiked for another half hour to meet with this magician. As we approached we prayed that God would lead us and that He would open this man’s heart. Fr. Martin, Fr. Zachariah, and Fr. Vladimir spoke with him for several minutes while the team looked on. He said that he was happy that we had come; and that he knew we had been sent by God.
Fr. Zachariah warned us that this magician might want something before agreeing to the establishment of a church. The Holy Spirit, however, had preceded us and with no conditions the magician gave his permission to gather the people of his village. Fr. Zachariah will soon return to this village to begin evangelizing people, who until now, have not known Christ.
These are but a few of the things that we have seen while among the Turkana. Please continue to pray for the strength of our team as we conclude our mission.
OCMC Kenya Travel Blog Day 8
Today we stayed in Lodwar – the largest city in Turkanaland; and the city where we have been staying when not camping in the interior. We conducted our normal sessions with the adults at St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church; and Niko and Alexandria taught over 100 children who also attend school there.
In our time here we have heard many stories of how the faith has worked in the lives of individual people. Today was no exception. One man, who was in the midst of great personal struggle, did what we all do in such trying times – he began to pray. These prayers led him to the Church where he wept uncontrollably after emerging from the Baptismal waters and seeing the icon of Christ on the Crucifix. In that moment he experienced peace because he knew that he was not alone in his suffering. To this day he gets emotional when seeing the cross.
Another woman received Baptism after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. At that time in her life she was also struggling with alcoholism. In the faith she found strength to overcome both life threatening diseases. Feeling that our team was going to be speaking in Lodwar today, she traveled 60 kilometers (about 36 miles) to be with the team. A stranger even gave here 200 shillings so that she could make the journey.
These are but a few of the stories we have heard about people who have experienced real change in their lives through a relationship with God. They have found hope in the face of struggle. They have made peace with their enemies. And, they have discovered new ways to love their neighbors.
It has been an honor to have heard about these journeys of faith while experiencing our own and to have felt God’s hand guiding us along the way. Tomorrow is our last day with the Turkana and we will make our last post. Hopefully, we will all be able to share our favorite memories from this amazing trip.
OCMC Kenya Travel Blog Day 9
Today was our last day in Turkanaland. We spent it with the people of St. Mark Orthodox Church – a stick church about five miles from Lodwar. Again, the rain followed us, and again we felt the Lord’s blessing.
The things we saw and the experiences we shared could fill a book, but here are a few of our favorite moments from this mission team:
Fr. Martin Ritsi – “If I had to pick one moment from this trip that I will remember forever, I would say speaking with the magician named Silale. As I looked into his eyes and he looked into mine, I could feel the Holy Spirit at work between us. I am very happy that Fr. Zachariah will now be able to begin evangelizing the people of his village and establishing the Church there.”
Fr. Vladimir Aleandro – “Matushka Susan and I were blessed with being a part of the first OCMC team to Lodwar in 2007. Having returned to Lodwar this year while also visiting the new communities in Lokichar and Lupala gave us a real sense for where the Church has been and where the Church is going.”
Mat. Susan Aleandro – “Having had the opportunity to reunite with Fr. Vladimir and Papadia Caroline was an incredible gift. I am thankful to have returned to Lodwar and to the Turkana people.”
Stephanos Ritsi – “I really enjoyed dancing and singing with the people. It left me with a real sense of community. They freely shared their culture with us. The most memorable example of this was when the Turkana performed a traditional betrothal ceremony for me and my fiancé Alexandria.”
Alexandria Polychronopoulos – “The most awesome moment for me was when we had to take shelter from the pouring rain in someone’s hut after teaching at St. Mark’s just outside of Lodwar. As we stood there I looked around and there were people of all ages surrounding us. In everyone’s face Christ could be seen. I turned to ask the one man in the hut who spoke English if they ever get rain in their community often and he replied ‘No, never.’ In that moment I realized that in every community God had blessed our visit with rain and water.”
Nicolaos Tzetzis – “The most incredible experience for me was Trekking across the hot sand where not even goats would venture into the sun and through a fast flowing river unable see what was underfoot carrying with us neither gift nor great sum of money but the message of Christ on our backs.”
Christopher Zaferes – “Entering into the culture of the Turkana is beyond explanation. Singing with them, dancing with them, worshiping with them, and even sleeping among them in Lupala was beautiful. After such an intense experience you truly begin to see them as your family.”
Cameron Thorp – “Definitely, observing Fr. Martin’s interaction with a magician hoping to bring Christianity to a new group of Turkana and realizing that many of the stories that I read as a young Christian like “Eternity in their Hearts” by Don Richardson was playing our before me.”
Alex Goodwin – “To have had the opportunity to witness the Holy Spirit working so powerfully in the hearts of the Turkana and the team members will be something that will give me strength for the rest of my life. It was an honor to be surrounded by so many loving people and to have experienced such intense fellowship with our ever growing family in Christ.”
We would like to thank those who made this mission possible through their donations and heartfelt prayers. We would also like to thank all of those who followed this blog. All the members of the 2010 OCMC Mission Team to Kenya would like to offer special thanks to Cameron Thorp for taking and
sharing so many amazing pictures, and to OCN (Orthodox Christian Networks) for their coverage of this incredible journey of faith.
In these final moments, we would like to ask that you please continue to remember the Turkana people and the Orthodox Church in Kenya in your prayers.