It's been a busy two days and I wanted to post a brief summary before I lose track of some of the events and experiences.
Wednesday morning began with a meeting at St Thomas' Cathedral, Kerugoya the church with which we are exploring a possible parish link. This visit was for 'a cup of tea' but I hadn't realised a Kenyan cup of tea includes much more, basically a second breakfast within an hour of the first! Great for Hobbits, not so good for someone hoping to decrease their waist line during the visit. However, this is just one example of the generous hospitality offered wherever we go.
We then headed for Mutira and a visit to the Mission Church which is preparing to celebrate it's centenary. Interesting to discover the present Bishop of Kirinyaga Diocese, Daniel Ngoru, was vicar there. From this small and unassuming church 108 other churches have been planted so the title 'mission' is born out in the history of the church. The church supports a hospital, small but well equipped with pharmacy and laboratory. I chatted with a couple of mums. One had a two year old daughter with suspected Malaria and she was waiting the result of tests. The other mum had brought her young son to be wormed, a regular treatment for adults and children in the area. I smiled when I saw the little boy was wearing trousers with 'England 1966' written on them. There are also two church schools, a primary and the recently opened Canon Njumbi Mutira Secondary School. These schools are linked to Great Baddow High School from our home parish and it was encouraging to see the use to which equipment provided by the link school had been put. Conditions in the classrooms were very basic and a few of the children were without shoes, yet, it was clear the children took great pride in their school, their work and that they had a hunger to lean. The set up in Mutira reflects the outreach approach of the Christians in building churches, hospitals and schools to serve the local community.
Next to the church schools is Mutira Secondary Girls boarding school and the contrast in facilities with the neighbouring schools was dramatic. There was time to look round and chat with staff and pupils and again it was impressive to see and hear the pride that all involved in the school took in education. A couple of facts stick in the mind. Teachers in the state system are paid the same whatever their position. The head is paid the same as other members of staff and the emphasis is on distinction of role and responsibility but not reflected in salary. Teachers are also deployed by the Ministry of Education and are expected to go where they are sent, including the Head. The girls start at 5am and the day goes through until lights out at 9.30pm. Along with the studies they are expected to do the cleaning and their laundry and all the other tasks required to keep the school running. In general the schools are all very results orientated and there is strong competition between schools and celebration of academic achievement. Walls are covered with internal and external tables of performance and certificates of achievement.
The afternoon was taken up with lunch back at the cathedral and informal conversations with members of the ministry team before a tour of Kerugoya. The Provost Winifred Munene is a very gracious host who has worked hard to provide us with an interesting and varied programme of visits and we will be exploring links between our churches more formally later in the visit.
Thursday was a long day. It began with a visit to the recently opened Kirinyaga Diocesan Office and then attendance at the diocesan clergy chapter held in St Paul's church next door. St.Paul's is a massive building still under construction and when completed will seat 2,500 worshippers. There is much work to be done but the walls and roof and initial internal construction of the church is complete. There are no windows or doors and the floor is still bare earth but the church was a good venue for the gathering. After a Eucharist and welcome to visiting bishops, curates and our party from St. Mary's the chapter meeting centred around a powerful Bible study on Luke 24 led by Bishop Stephen (Chelmsford). The study drew out the shared challenges facing the church in mission in both Kenya and Chelmsford. There was also some excellent exuberant singing and I worried at one point that the worship might bring the walls of the new church down.
The afternoon was split between visiting St Andrews School and the Theological College in Kabare. The girls school is where the young people from our church worked in the early summer and it was a real joy to see the impact their time there had made on the school. As soon as we mentioned the team from St Mary's the children's faces lit up and when three of our party explained they were parents of members of the team the children became very excited. Our young people had helped create the playing field facilities and provided resources for a play area. We managed to get the Head teacher sitting on the playground roundabout and the deputy head on the see-saw for some photos which the children found highly amusing. Each of us had just over half an hour in a class with the students and I spent an enjoyable time chatting with a year 8 class (13) who will be taking their key exams in a few days. We prayed for the girls as they approach this crucial time and as they prepare to leave the school in November. The girls sang to us at various times during the visit and when they shared with us the songs they had learnt from our young people it was a very moving experience.
During the visit to St Andrew's School we presented a few gifts of stationary and were taken aback by the response from the children. The gratitude for being given what most English children would take for granted in school was just one more reminder of the contrast in facilities and available equipment. The most challenging reminder, however, was the group of old small huts at the end of the sports field which turned out to be the student toilets. About eight of these long drop toilets served all the children at this residential school and the staff toilets were not much better.
It was a real privilege to visit the school which has had such an impact on the young people from our church. This is but one example of the way in which our diocesan and parish links with the churches and schools in this area of Kenya are greatly enriching our understanding of ministry and mission.
The rest of Thursday was spent at St Andrews Theological College in Kabare, however, that experience will require a separate post along with our trip to a tea plantation and visit to Utugi Children's Home today.
The only down side to the visit so far is that the television channels seem to have Man Utd's match against their noisy neighbours from last weekend running on a loop. The excellent Tusker beer is scant consolation.
Asante Sana Jesus!
- posted using Blogsy on iPad from the Isaak Walton Hotel Embu.