Monday, February 09, 2009

a Turkana grandmother shops in the refugee camps (the Turkana in Kenya are the same people group as the Karamajong in Uganda)

We arose the next morning filled with excitement, in hopes of visiting the Somali Bantu refugee camp. There are five refugee camps at Kakuma, Kenya, and we had been told to visit camp three. The refugees Larry works with back in San Antonio have family there.

We had been asking the Lord for favor in being able to enter the camp. We had no idea what the procedure would be to enter, but were anxious to find out.

At breakfast we learned the police had been looking for us. As soon as we finished eating, we walked down the main road and asked where to find the station.

The village was bustling with activity. As usual, we were the only light skinned people to be seen. This brought us much attention from friendly people.

We arrived at the police station, praying all the way there, for favor and God's man of peace to be visible.

The chief was very friendly, and informed us we needed to speak to the camp manager to have permission to enter. He told us it would be difficult to arrange. He also said that since it had rained so much, we would struggle to find transport out there (the camp was several kilometers away) because the roads were very wet and muddy and only passable by four wheel drive vehicles. Under normal circumstances, it would have been possible to find a taxi.

We left the police station. As we did, we passed by a small enclosure, about half the size of a railway car. It was filled with men. It was Kakuma's jail. Each of them called out to us. Some taunted, some wanted something...we kept walking.

We found a church nearby and spoke to a man on the grounds, asking for directions to the camp manager. He suggested we try the UN facility across the street.

We headed down the dirt lane to the guard house. When we arrived, there was a guard and two men standing there. We told them we needed to see the camp manager for permission to enter camp three.

One of the young men, I discovered through conversation, was the brother of one of the refugees in San Antonio! I quickly told Larry who began to share with Hamud about how his sister and the children were doing. We soon found out that his wife was also in the US, but he had not yet been granted access.

Hamud was our 'man of peace.' He took us on a long walk the other direction to the camp manager's office. We got acquainted on the hike.

Upon arrival to the manager's offices, we were escorted to the deputy manager. He emptied his office of the people he had been meeting with and invited us in. We felt bad that we had interrupted, but this was apparently, business as usual.

We sat and told the deputy of our journey, our connection, and desire to enter camp three. He informed us the manager was away at other meetings, but picked up his phone and called him. He was told the manager was nearby and coming to see us.

We stepped out of his office as a white four wheel drive truck pulled up. Waiting around the offices were many refugees who needed the attention of this same man. He pushed past them to us and quickly invited us into his office.

Again, we felt we were being given unfair attention compared to their needs, but were trusting the Lord for his provision for the purposes of our trip.

He asked why we were there. Larry began to tell him our story. He was moved at all we had encountered and the long journey we had made. He began rearranging his schedule. In fact, he diverted to the office when en route to another meeting, just to meet with us. We were clearly experiencing God's favor!

He told us he could not accompany us, but would send us with his deputy in his own vehicle!

We piled into the truck. Fortunately it was a four door truck, and all five of us squeezed in. Hamud jumped in the back, and off we went.

It quickly became evident that our deputy did not spend much time actually at the camps. On the way, we learned that camp four was where we needed to go to meet the head of the Somali Bantu people, that Larry needed to connect with.

Our deputy got stuck multiple times in the miry mud. I don't think he had ever driven one of these vehicles in these conditions before. The three of us offered advice, and finally, unable to move from a position, he yielded the wheel to Larry to get us out!


We were back on the road, er muddy trail. Our deputy kept asking another young man who came along for directions. Clearly, he had not been out here much.

We finally arrived and began to walk the narrow lanes of the camp. We were greeted by many children and families. Larry pulled out pictures of the Somalis in Texas and we made fast in roads with these people!

We were invited into a home for a drink and a time to share. We removed our shoes and stepped onto the floor mat. The dirt floor was swept neatly. We sat on the mattresses they would sleep on. The home was approximately 10 x 12. This was their entire living space. The house was made of mud or adobe. Outside the front door, was a small yard with other stick built out buildings. One for using the restroom, and others for storage of various types.

They were anxious to receive word and see pictures. They were also ready to have their own taken, so we could let their families in San Antonio see them.

We met many people. We asked for the main man, and were led down the lane. We were told they thought he was at a meeting in town, and we would not see him. This was disappointing news. This was our primary connection.

Another UN vehicle passed by us. Hamud got very excited and started yelling! He told us the man we were seeking was in that truck. We chased it down with much hollering and hand waving!

We ran over to it, and Larry stepped up to the window. The man quickly unloaded from the truck and began looking at photos and having his picture taken with Larry. This moment was priceless! Any sooner or later, and we would have completely missed this opportunity!

God had us walk by that truck at just the right time for Hamud to make the i.d. and connect us! We were certainly experiencing the favor of our Savior, amid a Muslim people group. He was opening doors, and we were most thankful!

After meeting him, we negotiated our way through the village. We met many grateful people, and took many pictures. Michael and I had our cameras out the entire time, so the we became like "pied pipers" to the children. They loved this interaction! They had never seen their faces in digital before, and we extremely excited.

The crush of children became overwhelming at times. Their need was significant. Their loving way, humbling.

Once, a very small toddler came up to me at the prompting of the other children to have her picture made. In an instant, the other children pushed forward. She was knocked to the ground and being crushed under foot before anyone even realized. Her screaming was drowned out by the joyful laughter of the others.

I quickly cleared the others from on top of her, and scooped into my arms! Her wails became audible, once she got out from under the others! My heart broke for her.

As with most children, once out from the danger, she was fine, and rejoined her family.

We had been fortunate that an overcast sky had welcomed us to the camps. When the sun broke through, the heat was unbelievable. I quickly realized I was dehydrated, and tried to get away from the crush of people to gather a drink. My water was heated by the day, but still felt good draining down my parched throat.

Our time was running out. We expected the deputy back to pick us up, but he was not there. We began to call, and learned he was "on his way." We waited. He did not show.

We saw another UN vehicle coming. We flagged it down. The willing driver gladly transported us back to Kakuma! We called the deputy back, who assured us he was leaving, and let him know not to come.

We arrived back in time to get a cold bottle of water and have a rest. We had purchased our return bus tickets in the morning, in hopes of not having to sit near the back. We insisted on seats near the front, with a somewhat amused ticket clerk.

My time in Kakuma was coming to an end. My bus would be leaving soon. I sat and counted the cost of the long, hard journey, the joy filled day we had with the refugees, the favor we had received from the Lord at every turn, and still wondered what the specific reason(s) might be for why God had called me to Kenya.

I tried not to dwell on this thought. I did not want to be so caught up in the why, that I missed the moments of opportunity.

I would not have to wait long. The Lord was about to move. I was about to have clear understanding of at least part of the reason I was here.

What an amazing God we serve!



At 1:44 PM, Blogger Matthew Pritchett said...

What an amazing God indeed!

At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

whats next? whats next?

hugs to you..

At 6:13 PM, Blogger christy said...

we love all your stories... and feel like we are there!

At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow.... wow


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