It's raining heavily as I write this post before getting some sleep. Thursday afternoon was taken up with a visit to St Andrew's School (see previous post) and St Andrew's Theological College in Kabare. The college serves the five dioceses that formed what was previously known as Mt Kenya East. Most ordinands from these dioceses train at the college and there are also business studies and secretarial courses. These are the dioceses that Chelmsford Diocese is formerly linked with and the five diocesan bishops along with the Bishop of Chelmsford met together at St Andrew's to renew their partnership agreement. There was a short, simple signing of papers and prayer but behind this ceremony lies a real commitment to share in partnership in mission for the sake of the gospel.
Later in the afternoon we joined the students and staff at St Andrew's for their Thursday evening Holy Communion. This turned out to be a communion like no other I have experienced, though I suspect Sunday morning in the cathedral at Kerugoya might be just as amazing. Ostensibly the liturgy is not unlike a Common Worship service but with 'value added'. In part this took the form of various groups of students presenting songs and hymns of worship, some traditional and in English, others in Kikuyu and Swahili. The Clash once rocked the Casbah but these students rocked the chapel to its foundations. Bishop Stephen preached another captivating and challenging sermon on the resurrection words of Jesus from John's Gospel and every time it seemed like the worship was coming to an end the students broke into singing and dancing again. The one downside to the worship was the accompaniment by a rather dodgy out of tune guitar, unless there is an African form of tuning I had never encountered before.
Following the communion service we headed for the refectory led by students again singing and dancing. The food was the usual fare of beef stew and rice. At the end of our time the students stood and sang an African blessing to us which included throwing God's blessing at us. I have a segment of the blessing recorded and will post it when I am back in the U.K. I cannot get over the passion and enthusiasm of the students in worship and it was wonderful to experience a community of diverse tribes and tongues committed to studying together for the ministry of the gospel.
Friday morning began with a trip to the slopes of Mt Kenya to visit tea plantations and a tea production centre. Unfortunately the factory was undergoing refurbishment so we were unable to visit inside and therefore didn't get to do the tasting we had been promised. However, we did get to spend time at a tea research facility and were given some insights into new types of specialist teas, including white tea now marketing at $70 per kg. which is not bad considering a normal variety is sold at about $4 per kg. The head of the research centre has also published on the impact of climate change on the tea growers, pest control and the environment around Mt Kenya.
After lunch back at the cathedral we headed to Utugi to see the work of one of the Christian Community Service centres. These centres around the dioceses of Kenya are self financing and seek to help the poor and marginalised in communities develop self sustainable forms of enterprise. It is an exciting initiative developed by the church as a practical expression of the gospel and the centre we visited is having a profound impact on the local community.
Finally, and much later than planned, we moved on to the Utugi Boys Children's Home on the outskirts of the town. This home, again sponsored by the church, works with street children from across Kenya and seeks to provide them with a place of safety, love and learning. The head of the home, Revd Phyllis, is a remarkably lady who has given her life to serve the boys of the home. Of all the children's places we have visited this was most noticeably different because so many of the boys came from such challenging circumstances. When we arrived we were each invited to plant a tree by the staff and boys and then we gave them some sports equipment that we had taken to Kenya. This was another place where young people from St. Mary's had worked and it was particularly good to see that the football pitch they had created a couple of years ago had been put to such good use. The home is still being developed and the hope is that it will house its own school. I would say this visit has had the biggest impact on the group so far.
Another packed couple of days, full of memorable visits and encounters that will take some time to process and reflect upon. So many things to give thanks to God for as we have seen people's lives transformed by the witness and ministry of the church in this part of Kenya.
Time to finish as we have a power cut and the mosquitos are coming out to play.
Asante Sana Jesus.
- posted with Blogsy on my iPad from the Isaak Walton Hotel in Embu.