I hope my Kenyan brothers and sisters are REALLY watching

As we celebrate the victory of “your son,” (Kenya Declares a National Holiday) I hope you pay close attention to the details.

  • People voted across ethnic lines (at least in many places).
  • Ballots were quickly and ACCURATELY counted, and the results released immediately.
  • The loser graciously conceded, and both candidates put the campaign rhetoric aside and praised their opponents.
  • There was no violence.

I know the circumstances here last year were difficult and different; we had our disputed election this decade too.

In 2012 your American son will be up for re-election, and both of our nations will be voting. For that election to be successful here, attitudes and systems need to begin changing now in preparation- “change you can believe in; the change we need” (I’m referring especially to ethnicity as a political tool and systems of accountability.)

So savor the moment, and let’s work towards making 2012 a celebration for all of us.

The Daily Nation editorial perhaps says it best: Lessons for Africa from US elections.

Kenyan help for Obama election (cartoon)

Today’s Standard Cartoon [sorry, by the time you click this link there will be a new cartoon]

UPDATE: I have taken down this cartoon. It’s one thing for those of us who live in Kenya to share an inside joke going into the election (it was from the local paper), but as the hits on this post  began to rise over the last couple of days–long after the election, I began to suspect that it might be feeding racist stereotypes.

Don’t mess with Obama in Kenya or you’ll be deported (Corsi)

Everyone is welcome to visit Kenya’s gameparks; just don’t try to slander Obama while you are here. I didn’t see the TV news last night (don’t own a TV), but today The Standard writes Drama as anti-Obama author is deported:

. . . An attempt by anti-Obama crusaders to launch a smear campaign ended in a dramatic anti-climax when an American author was bundled out of Nairobi, moments before he could launch his book, The Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and The Cult of Personality. Dr Jerome Corsi, a Republican, was declared persona non grata and deported last night after earlier being detained by Immigration officials. The charge… engaging in illegal activities in Kenya. . . “They violated terms of the visitor’s pass by engaging in a business and marketing of his book. They required a special permit to do business,” a top Immigration source said.

Read all about it in the Standard’s article or the Daily Nation’s version (it gets better) and now even the NY Times and the Washington Post.

Here is The Standard‘s cartoon for today – 8 October:

Immigration officer leads Corsi away

Thanks for the heads up, Simon. I would have missed it.

Two American couples blitz Nairobi (interesting new blogs)

Two new American couples have just moved to Nairobi and have great blogs about their experiences. The Mertes Family Blog (Luke, Liesel, and Ada June ) and Mzungu learning in Africa (Tiffany, Jake, and Asante Malloy). Jake is studying translation at NEGST.

Tiffany posts the first few days in Africa and pictures of their apartment which is more or less like ours: pictures of our new home, and more pictures.

Here’s are a few examples from the Merte’s first few exciting days in Nairobi.

Shoes and Stones: . . . “So there I was, driving down the street, and they were firing tear gas…they even pulled down the power lines! Sparks were everywhere and I thought to myself, ‘I have to get out of here.’ They were throwing stones and there were shoes and clothes and fruit all in the streets. Me, I was even prepared to leave my car. There were people running everywhere. I came this close to hitting a man,” [Welcome to Nairobi ;-)] –

OR: The matatus of Nairobi reflect the panache and flair of individual drivers. The exteriors are often splashed in bright colors, bearing slogans like “Heaven-bound”, which is ironic considering that I daily read stories from the Standard about individuals killed as a result of matatu crashes. Yesterday, Luke and I walked by a matatu that had “To God be the Glory” written in letters that were dripping with blood.

Yesterday, we saw a most improbable sight as we prepared to cross Ngong road on our way back to the Kitololos. As we stood in the median, awaiting an opportune time to cross, a matatu cruised by blaring ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. We looked after the passing vehicle and saw a man in rollerblades bent at the waist, holding onto the bumper. . . . [Read the rest of Matatus and Microfinance.]

“Messiah Complex: For decades, well-intentioned men and women from around the world have come here thinking that they will save the Kenyans. Save them from spiritual darkness…save them from poverty…save them from HIV and AIDS. NGOs, mission agencies and aid organizations seem to especially flourish here in Nairobi. Truly, there is no shortage of saviors here. . .[BUT not all of them actually “look” like Jesus (Read more of the “Messiah Complex”). It’s not got a nice twist;-)]

Both are bringing back a lot of memories.

What Kenyan Christians can teach Americans about voting

Given Kenya’s disastrous election less than a year ago, it may seem odd to say that Kenyans have anything to say to Americans about elections, but sometimes the best lessons are learned the hard way. Paul Heidebrecht writes:

When I was in Kenya in May, I had many lively conversations with Kenyan Christians about their election—NEGST students, professors, local pastors, ordinary folks—they all spoke passionately about what had happened in their nation. . .

. . . They believed Kenyan Christians had swung from one extreme to the other. For many years Christians had avoided politics because it was seen as corrupt and compromising. The only thing that mattered was “getting saved” and “getting ready for heaven.” But eventually Christians realized that government can’t be left to people without integrity. They had to be engaged. The past few elections saw many more Christians running for office and voting. But church leaders identified themselves too closely with particular parties and their political tactics. This left them without a credible voice when the crisis struck. In some areas of the country, the church was part of the problem, not the solution. . . .

. . . Christians need to be careful with politics. They need to find the right balance. They need to hold firm to higher principles of justice and righteousness. They must ask, What is good for the nation? and not, What is good for me? Nor can they pin their hopes on one party but rather they need to be independent enough to speak respectfully and credibly to all parties.

Pastors especially have to be careful. In most cases, they should avoid endorsing candidates and parties, especially if their congregation has divided loyalties. They should challenge their members to vote and participate in public affairs. They should preach and teach what the Bible says about citizenship in heaven and on earth. . .

. . . Don’t expect too much from government was another lesson learned. Don’t be naïve about politicians. Many are corrupt or susceptible to corruption. The pressure to take care of their supporters and family members is tremendous. Those who have absolute integrity are easily marginalized. Christians must keep calling upon their government leaders to act justly and for the good of all even when it seems hopeless.

. . . churches must tackle the social problems that government leaders won’t face. This means empowering those who live in slums, assisting refugees from other nations, resolving conflicts between antagonistic groups of people, establishing schools, clinics and small business enterprises. . .

Read the whole article: Can Kenyans teach us how to vote

For amazing story of Kenyan pastors leading a prayer march for spiritual cleansing, visit http://www.listeningtoafricanchurchleaders.blogspot.com/  


Judge pays woman’s fine

Growing up, I often heard the analogy of God as the judge who after passing the sentence, takes off his robes and takes the punishment on our behalf. Regardless of what you think of that analogy theologically, I thought you could appreciate this real-life story from today’s Standard – Woman’s fine paid by magistrate by Maureen Mudi

There was a light moment yesterday at the Mombasa Law Courts when the Chief Magistrate Catherine Mwangi, organised an impromptu fundraiser inside the court for a needy woman she had sentenced to four months in jail or a fine of Sh4,000. . .

. . . “Why didn’t you tell me you had children with you and there was nobody to take care of them? I cannot reverse my judgement now,” she said, to the amazement of those in courtroom. Just as the woman walked out of court into the basement cells, Mwangi called her back and demanded to know why she had not explained her predicament in mitigation.

Mwangi sent the court into prolonged laughter, as she engaged lawyers, the prosecutor and audience in trying to raise the fine. (Who is going to pay your bail? Do you have a relative present? Why did you assault your neighbour and forget you had children to take care of?)

. . . The magistrate paid Sh2,000 while a Mombasa lawyer Yusuf Abubakar paid the remaining Sh2,000.

A stolen election

(No not Mugabe/Tsvangirai or Kibaki/Odinga or even Bush/Gore)

american-presidents.jpgAs I’ve mentioned before, Christi cannot read a good book in moderation; it’s pretty much an all or nothing affair. Since she still likes to read before bed but doesn’t want to get caught up in a page turner, she’s started reading Whitney’s The American Presidents before bed. (She skipped US history in high school.) Each president gets a fifteen-page chapter, which tries to be fairly objective. A couple of her thoughts:

  • Too bad some of African national fathers didn’t feel the same way as the American founding fathers. “Two terms is plenty. Time for me to move on.” They could have been remembered as heroes rather than dictators.
  • Some real strange men were elected US president. Frequently their most outstanding (popular) characteristic was how many Indians they killed (e.g. Andrew Jackson) or how likely they were to preserve slavery or the systems that oppressed blacks.

She just read about old “Rutherfraud” – Rutherford B. Hayes and his election, which appears to fit the latter category. (Read here – the stolen election – for details of good ole American corruption.)I think “proud” Americans (those who tend to look down their noses at other countries) need to remind themselves that this happened after 100 years of democratic “maturation.” We have a pretty mixed history and need to be balanced and honest about BOTH the good AND the bad. That applies to the present too.

Why does our rhetoric always tend towards the extremes of demonization or over glorification? Why can’t we be satisfied with the raw, messy truth?

New US Travel Advisory for Kenya

The US State Dept. has just issued it’s updated travel advisory for Kenya. What they are really trying to say is, “Kenya is pretty much back to normal with the potential for a slight increase in crime.” But you know how it is when you are the “land of the free and the home of the fearful” . . .

Current Situation
The power-sharing agreement signed on February 28 has been widely accepted throughout Kenya; parliament ratified it on March 18. Implementation of the agreement is expected to proceed. The threat of widespread civil unrest has receded, although there remains potential for spontaneous demonstrations in areas of the country previously impacted should implementation not proceed as expected

. . . Violent and sometimes fatal criminal attacks, including armed carjackings and home invasions/burglaries, can occur at any time and in any location, particularly in Nairobi. [I did post a real-life example, yesterday.]

Oh yeah . . . don’t forget the terrorists; they are everywhere ;-).

Not your average day in the pastorate; the pastor of the burned church speaks

This past Sunday, Stephen Mburu, the 43 year old pastor of the church that was burned down – with 35 people inside – told his story in our church.

[What I am posting here is mostly taken from the March 1 article in the Nation newspaper– (sorry, I can’t find the link, but it was reposted on allafrica.com). I’ve rearranged it a bit and mixed in a couple of quotes from FaithSpot.com’s 29 Feb article.]

– – – –

“Violence broke out on the evening of December 30, just after the presidential result was announced,” he recalled. “On that evening, Kimuri, a neighbouring village, was attacked, forcing the residents to flee to Kiambaa.”

The fleeing Kimuri villagers were offered refuge at the church where Pastor Mburu ministered before the violence broke out. “We thought the church was the safest place for them to be. Normally, a church or any other religious building is a place of sanctuary. “We did not imagine that somebody would attack people who had sought refuge in a place of worship since such a thing had never happened before in our country.”

Fearing that violence would break out, the Kiambaa elders advised women and children to pack their belongings and congregate at the church alongside Kimuri villagers.

Despite the anxiety and tension, Pastor Mburu attended an overnight service at a neighbouring church to welcome the New Year. “Everyone was worried about the unfolding situation,” he said. “I knew there was going to be trouble, but I did not imagine it would be so catastrophic. Since there was little I could do about it, I went to pray for peace and the unity of our nation.”

[When he heard a huge mob was menacing the refugees at his church, he raced back to help them.]

. . . “Just as they started attacking, Continue reading

Kalonzo Musyoka Interview (Christianity Today)

Interview by S. Mairori | posted 3/14/2008 09:05AM

The vice president of Kenya since January, Musyoka ran for the presidency unsuccessfully in 2007.

Click this link for the full interview. (It’s short – only two more questions than I’ve posted here.)

How has the church in Kenya influenced national affairs?

The church is divided. Amazingly, the church is running the risk of losing its core mandate—standing for the truth in the spirit of Jesus Christ. But bishops have begun to preach healing and reconciliation.

. . .

What sacrifices need to be made now?

I have no doubt in my mind God loves Kenya. But we will need to have leaders commit themselves to national peace and cohesion, and that can only happen in a new political dispensation, reflected in a new constitution.

African values and violence

On the Msfara blog, Pastor Oscar Muriu (Leadership; Urbaba speech) of Nairobi Chapel describes the inspiring healing services in Eldoret. Please read the whole post (here). For the moment, I want to draw attention to one particular paragraph for my fellow Westerners.

Bishop Tuimising, a Kalenjin Pastor with high credibility, followed and named the sins of his people. The Kalenjin had certain rules that governed how they shed blood. It was taboo to kill children and women. It was taboo to kill someone if they took shelter in a house, climbed a tree or lay down clinging onto the grass (sigh of total submission), but in these skirmishes they killed indiscriminately – innocent women and children, and torched houses with people still inside. He said that even under their own laws they stood cursed, and in need of repentance.

The point has been made elsewhere, but it bears repeating here. The post-election violence that occurred in Kenya was a breakdown of traditional African values, even in cultures that used to prize warfare. Gangs took over.

Note also how the church leaders engage the African cultural traditions. These leaders are true African elders.

Hope gets harder as the tour moves west

Today Pastor M on the Msfara tour of hope writes:

Nakuru was quite something. Initially the pastor’s fellowship didn’t want Msafara in their town because the church was so divided ethnically and politically. They didn’t think it would be possible to meet together. It was only by God’s grace that they finally agreed to host us. . .The pastor’s meeting was intense. Against all expectations, a large group of local pastors attended, many of whom I came to learn hadn’t spoken to each other for a long time.

. . . I keep reminding myself we’re not here to ‘fix’ these towns, only to hold out hope. If the church can work together, to care for the hurting and to build and maintain peace, then nothing will be impossible. We’re only a catalyst. The true test of Msafara will be what happens in these places after Msafara is gone. But this is where faith comes in. I have faith that God is using our small contribution as a seed, one that He will water after we’re gone; one that will grow into a beautiful tree that will hold our nation together in peace and justice…

. . . Pastor Ken told me of a young man he met at one of the camps we visited in Nakuru. His wife had been killed by militia the night before (contrary to popular belief, the Anan accord hasn’t ended the tension and killing in all parts of the country). The young man was gathering 100 of his friends from the camp to go on a revenge mission. Ken asked what he thought would happen next. Of course they would also come back and revenge, and the vicious cycle would continue. Someone had to break the cycle of violence. Young man promised to think about it.

[Next Day on the way to Eldoret]

Passing through Eldama Ravine, Timboroa, Burnt Forest… many of these places had IDP camps. People living in tents not far from where they once owned homes and property… We saw many homesteads that had been razed to the ground. You could still see the smoke curling lazily out of some of the ruins. A poignant moment was when one of the pastors sitting near me pointed out the home where her family had lived a little while back, just after we passed the camp where many of her family members, including her sisters, still reside. . .

Pictures are here.

Tribalism (Kenya & America)

Tribalism in America & Kenya. (Cohen, NYTimes) I don’t need to post what he has to say about Kenya for the moment, but here is what he says about America. . .

. . . America’s peaceful tribes are also out in force. As Obama and Hillary Clinton engage in the long war for the Democratic nomination, we have the black vote, and the Latino vote, and the women-over-50 vote, and the Volvo-driving liberal-intellectual vote, and the white blue-collar vote, and the urban vote, and the rural vote, and the under-30s vote — sub-groups with shared social, cultural, linguistic or other traits and interests.

That’s democracy at work. Sure. But the United States is divided, within itself and from the world, in growing ways.

It is divided by war, by income chasms, by foreclosures, by political polarization and by culture wars. Increasingly it is looked upon from outside with dismay or alarm. Healing, within and without, will be a central task of the next president.

. . . If I was to sum up this presidential race, I’d say: “It’s the generations, stupid.”

An American generation under 45 has glimpsed an interconnected world beyond race and tribe. They know its attainment will be elusive but, after a bleak season, they feel summoned by what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

Looking out from Kenya, where he mediated an end to the tribal violence, Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general, told me: “I think an Obama presidency would be inspirational, an incredible development in the world.”

[Read the full op-ed here]

Healing tour (Mombassa), cell phone Bible, etc.

The Bible on cell phone
– This is a series of posts in lingalinga early March

For those of you who followed the tragedy of the Ebola virus in Western Uganda. A happy moment a very happy moment – baby Jonah Muhindo.

This quote from the cover of Lancet (British Medical journal):

Africa carries 25% of the world’s disease burden
yet has only 3% of the world’s health workers
and 1% of the world’s economic resources
to meet that challenge.

Follow the the “Wheels of Hope” – Kenya healing tour.

On Day 1, Pastor Oscar Muriu writes: We have just gone through about the most amazing prayer day ever. The air was sizzling as over 200 pastors prayed together and confessed the sins of the city of Mombasa. I stood briefly in a corner, watching, and could feel the hair on the back of my neck rise with excitement! The passion, the excitement, the tears, the cries of prayer. It was overwhelming.

. . . if Mombasa stands judged before God it would be for the 3 sins of idolatry, witchcraft and promiscuity. Mombasa is known in Kenya for being the most active center of witchcraft in the country. It is also known for it’s sex trade, now mainly sex tourism.

As we prayed together the story of the coming of the gospel to Kenya was told. The first missionaries to Kenya were a small team of Catholics who set up a chapel in Malindi in the 1500’s. Though they tried they were however unable to penetrate the interior. Finally they gave up and left. The next attempt was 350 yrs later in late 1800’s. This time it was an Anglican mission. They landed in the Miji-Kenda land (Miji-Kenda (9 homes) are a tribe made up of 9 clans, who have a different dialects, but common traditions. They occupy much of the coastal strip). As the story goes (and this is folklore – happened 150 yrs ago), the Anglican missionaries met the elders of the tribe and requested permission to build a church. The Elders then met together and discussed the matter, recognizing the missionaries were about to introduce a new god to them. This they did not want.

But they also recognized they could not say no. So they slaughtered a goat as a sacrifice to their gods, and made a spiritual covenant that the territory of the new god would be limited to the size of that goat skin. They buried the skin in the ground and then gave that piece of property to the missionaries to build their church on. This is the Anglican church at Rabai. To this day the gospel has not penetrated the Miji-Kenda tribe even though it has been there for over 150 yrs, and only a handful have become Christians over that time. Most churches at the coast are full of inland people, but not Miji-Kenda.

[Read the rest of this entry.]

History of the Easter Calendar

The question of the proper date for Easter—the most important festival on the Christian calendar—is another of those fascinating and complicated odysseys in the history of Christianity.

10 reasons I don’t read your blog (Lingamish), with a response from Jim West. (Insider stuff.)

Lots of great stuff from biblioblogs that will have to wait till tomorrow.

A new era in Kenyan politics? Exerpts from the president’s speech & more

Quotes (see below)musyoka-kibaki-odinga.jpg

  1. Excerpts from President Kibaki’s speech to Parliament Yesterday (Standard). The full text of the speech can be found here.
  2. Quotes from from other stories: (Standard) (NYTimes)
  3. Generation Kenya website:

[I find it interesting that all three presidential candidates, from opposing parties, will now occupy the top three posts in the country in the same government.]

Other articles of interest:

  1. US Backs the deal with $25 Million
  2. Mungiki (Nation editorial – worth the read; very short); Standard articles – promised crackdown, recent protest & some background. “It is time the authorities recognised the Mungiki for what they are: A highly-organised, militarised outfit of mainly jobless youths who have very little to lose, and who are, therefore, a complete danger to society.”
  3. Ongoing ethnic conflict near Mt. Elgon

Excerpts from President Kibaki’s speech to Parliament Yesterday (Standard).

. . . I also appeal to you all to be Continue reading

An update from my pastor: church healing/prayer tour about to start

oscar-muriu.jpgHere is a letter from my pastor Oscar Muriu updating what the church is doing in Kenya this week. [For background information on him see the Leadership Journal interview – Spring 2007, Vol. XXVIII, No. 2, Page 96 http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2007/002/3.96.html

Transcripts, Audio and video of his landmark message on Global Christianity at Urbana 2006 are available here.

Hi all, We are just getting ready to begin the Msafara this Friday. We have done all that we can . . . and the time has come. To prepare for the Spiritual warfare, we have engaged a strategy of 4 levels of prayer Continue reading

Links and Quotes (motorcades, bell-ringers, disconnected seminarians and . . .

This is the way it works. I don’t actually have internet access at home, so when I leave the library for dinner, I open tabs for all the interesting looking links from my google reader, and read them off-line after dinner. Here are some of my picks from yesterday. (With a few links from today.)

  1. The motorcade
  2. new biblical studies list
  3. Disconnected seminarians
  4. Emerging strengths
  5. What Bach looked like
  6. so much for global warming the new Ice Age

Links here only – no commentary below

  1. Ben Witherington begins a theology of work
  2. Real photos from Mozambique (I’m into real life.)
  3. Stuff white people like (still making me laugh at myself; guilty as charged)

The Motorcade

The day after the peace agreement in Kenya was signed, I sat down with two of my Kenyan friends over tea to discuss how this would actually work out. One of my friends said that the first order of business would be to figure out how big Raila’s motorcade should be. Sure enough front-page article in the Standard yesterday: Raila assigned state security, motorcade. Raila gets taste of power.

[More details, quotes and comments below] Continue reading