Message 1: October 13th, 2020
I returned to the US before the Covid 19 outbreak and have stayed at home or within our part of New Hampshire since March. I’m grateful that our state is one of the states which has very Covid 19 cases. Originally I’d planned to return to Kenya to attend the USFWI (United Society of Friends Women) International Triennial that was scheduled for July 2020).But due to Covid 19 it has been postponed.
At this point, I plan to leave for Kenya on the 22nd of October for a short visit. This time, to avoid the risk of Covid, I plan to only visit Kenya and not travel into Uganda or Tanzania (where Covid reports are questionable and the borders are closed). The area in Kenya where most Quakers are is in the rural western province where the fewest cases of Covid have been found. I am in regular contact with other Americans living there as well as Kenyans to keep up to date on pandemic issues.
I will fly from Boston via Amsterdam to Nairobi and will have to be tested to show that I am not carrying Covid from the States before I leave. I will stay at Judith Nandikove’s home right near the Nairobi airport the first week, to make sure I haven’t picked up any diseases in the airlines enroute. Then will go to western Kenya to Agneta’s for another week before doing any other travelling. I am looking into renting a vehicle for the little bit of travelling I will be doing in Kenya, as travelling by public means may be less available and less safe. I also have purchased special travel/medical insurance in case I get Covid or get delayed enroute, e.g. in Amsterdam. On 11th of December I will journey back to USA, arriving home a fortnight before Christmas.
This time, the emphasis in ministry is to:
- Visit a number of women pastors and other old friends in Kenya and giving encouragement to the women who have had many challenges during the pandemic. We lost pastor Eileen Malova, one of the major pastors I travelled with most. She was sick and couldn’t get surgery needed due to Covid restrictions at hospital. With this loss of a key player, all the others are asking for a special time of encouragement.
- Help some of the QREC (Quaker Religious Education Collaborative) teachers who want to record interviews with older Friends to get the stories of early Friends in Kenya whose stories ought to be told to the next generation, and to collect the material for the new Quaker Archives. This time will be spent testing out the equipment and methods that seem to work best before interviewing others or training others .
- Do a lot of phoning and planning out future ministry in East Africa while there. Once I get back in December, I’ll have a better idea of what kind of ministry is most needed when I return to East Africa next.
I will send the usual messages from East Africa as I travel to keep you in touch with what is happening among our Friends there. Thanks for your support and prayers.
Meanwhile, have a safe and healthy fall season.
Message 2: October 22-24th, 2020
Greetings from warm Nairobi,
I had a challenge before coming, as I did not receive the results from my Covid 19 test until 8PM the night before flying. Thanks to my local support committee and their prayers, at last I received the negative results and was cleared to fly.
My neighbor, Wade, took me to the bus station and I rode on a bus direct to the Boston Airport. On the bus I found the man across the aisle from me refused to wear his mask other than when boarding and when exiting, so I put on my extra armor right away, a plastic face shield over my mask . Then when having to drink or eat, I could remove my mask, but still have some covering from Covid. It is a challenge to learn how to eat food with a spoon or fork and find a way not to hit the clear plastic shield!
On the flight over the Atlantic Ocean, I had a whole row of 4 seats to myself, so I was able to stretch out and sleep well. The last time through Amsterdam they had us go through multiple screenings. This time there was only the health checkup and far less stress. On the flight to Nairobi, it had more passengers, but I still had two seats to enjoy. Watched the movie Harriet (Harriet Tubman, and got caught up on some reading and doing Suduko puzzles en route. One of the major changes, is less food offered. On the 8-hour flight from Europe to Nairobi, they offered a hot meal the first hour, and only water or tea/coffee/soda the rest of the journey.
Judith and her husband met me at the airport and warmly welcomed me to their home, fed me some ugali, goat meat, and greens and hot tea. I slept soundly and awoke to a beautiful sunny day. Now my cell phone is rapidly filling with messages from Friends in Kenya who want to see me.
Saturday was a day of rest and getting my phones working and doing some unpacking.
Sunday, Judith went off to Dunholm Friends Church. I stayed home and rested as they were meeting in person, two services with 500 Friends attending each. Her sister Carol, plus Edna Bondi who had hosted me last year came to visit in afternoon. The niece is taking care of Judith’s elderly mother who is now part of the household. Had my first juicy mango today. Yum.
Thanks for holding me in your prayers during my travels to Kenya. I will keep you informed at least weekly.
Message 3: October 26-1 November, 2020
Good news: I have not seemed to carry any Covid to Kenya.
I am sitting here in Agneta’s house surrounded by her grandchildren watching me use the computer. My first week in Kenya has finished. In Nairobi, I was able to call a number of friends and Edigar, the youngest son of Agneta came over to see me at Judith’s one day. Midweek, the mother-in-law of Judith came who is from Namirama and we spent the evening laughing, as we shared stories about Friends in Namirama. During this Covid pandemic, laughter is a big relief to us all.
Judith and I worked hard for the new QREC office in Nairobi that is part of her compound on second floor. In the photo you can see the computer and printer set up in the new office. We also got the new smartphones up and working ready to take voice recordings of people that the Sunday School teachers here want to interview and then create the stories about Quakers whom we should be sharing with the next generation of Kenyans, and hopefully then get them transcribed, translated if need be. Then copies will be sent to the Africa Quaker Archives in Kaimosi at FTC. We also, with the help of a local technician figure out how best to load the interview we had made of last year onto the new computer and set up a system for keeping track of each interview completed.
I wondered how to get up to Western, as I was carrying too many bags to go by plane. It turned out that an aunt-in-law of Judith’s up in Namirama had died the beginning of the week and she and her husband Clauder had to go to it. Thus on Saturday morning, we awoke at 4AM and with the help of a cousin , Kennedy who is a professional driver, who drove us in Judith’s car to Namirama and then to Agneta’s. I stayed in the car in Namirama as I did not know the person who had died, and I could see a crowd without masks. However a couple of my former students who I had taught at Namirama years ago, came running up, put on their masks and greeted me enthusiastically.
Since Malava has had only one death and very few cases of Covid, they seem to be unaware of its dangers. We drove by a soccer match where a large crowd of close to 1000 people were gathered without masks or distancing. Then in Kalenda, we found a wedding crowd. Agneta’s husband James met us on the road outside with joy and then fetched Agneta who was inside with the wedding cake she made. (She earns money to help her ministry by making cakes locally so that local people do not have to take a day getting to the city of Kakamega to buy one). It is a challenge when Agneta makes them without a modern oven. Since the bride and groom were late to the wedding, she was able to ride down with us, pray a welcome, feed us tea and sweet potatoes, plus ripe papaya from her garden before getting a ride back up the hill to the church.
Today, we rested and prayed together rather than going to church. Meanwhile, she had to have her enormous eucalyptus trees cut down to prepare to get electricity to reach the house. She had timbers (lumber), and firewood made of it and had employed a local fundi (carpenter) to make a set of new sofas out of some of the timber.
After church two of the older women, (my age) came and greeted me and we had tea together. Here they are admiring the new sofa that fits all around the living room. When they saw my mask they quickly put one on and I shared with them the importance of the masks especially for us older people.
We had fun cleaning out under the old sofa, finding lots of dust and treasures. My corona mask was very helpful to keep me from sneezing as I helped sweep the room, Agneta’s grown son Abner washed the floor, it dried quickly and the new sofa was installed.
Tomorrow I will be going in Abner’s car to Kakamega to go to the bank, buy some yogurt and fruit, and send off this message from an internet café that usually is not crowded.
On Wednesday, I will go to Kaimosi to deliver a suitcase of stuff, and then meet with my support committee the following morning to plan out the itinerary for this month.
Word has spread that I am here, so I get frequent calls from Friends here.
Thanks so much for all your prayers and support.
Message 4: November 2-8, 2020 from Kaimosi and Malava
Monday, Agneta and I travelled by pikis (motorcycles) on back roads to Kakamega. During this Covid 19 pandemic, riding on the back of a motorcycle, seems a good way to go shorter distances and get lots of fresh air at the same time (as long as we only use older, cautious, trusted drivers). We spent the day doing errands.
Tuesday I stayed at Agneta’s while she returned to open a bank account with her local agricultural cooperative project. An enormous bundle of black nightshade greens were brought by a neighbor and I spent much of a morning plucking the tiny leaves off this plant (locally called Lisusa), that we feasted on in the evening. Later in the afternoon, Judith Nandikove stopped by to see us and make further plans about the oral history project of QREC Kenya. She then hurried back to Nairobi, as it was expected that the government might lockdown all traffic to and from Nairobi. Instead the decision was left up to each provincial governor whether to lockdown again due to another outbreak of Corona. Supper’s ugali (cornmeal cooked like mashed potatoes) was made by Ruto, one of the smaller orphans for supper. The huge cooking stick was almost bigger than him. A lot of posho was made for the three adults, and four grandchildren, plus the cat, three dogs, goats, and chickens at Agneta’s.
Wednesday, I took a piki to Ilesi and Agneta’s son drove me to FTC (Friends Theological College) in Kaimosi. The campus was very quiet and clean (no students present, as all are doing online courses). I stayed in the Guest House and immediately two women came to welcome me to Kaimosi. I walked with one into Cheptulu to purchase a few foods for a late lunch and breakfast for the following days. Then was invited to Robert and Nancy Wafula’s home for supper, fresh salad, a rare treat here. We all watched TV until late, concerned about the US elections. Due to the solar power at the college we had power, though most of the village did not. All the staff are well, and they are careful about allowing anyone to enter the campus.
Thursday I went to the home of Elizabeth Milimi, the new representative from USFW Kenya to the USFWI Board. She had a purple gate (first I had seen in Kenya), and we spent the day getting to know each other more, as well as touring her shamba (garden).
Friday morning, I delivered a suitcase of books for the college, plus some things for the archives. Then held a meeting of my Kenyan support committee in the FTC board room. We had a good time to prayer and worship and sharing together how we were all coping with the pandemic, as well as with the loss of Eileen Malova, one of our team and other leaders and family relatives. It was the first time for several to get outside their own village and we all felt the support of each other. We shared ideas of how we can still be active as women even when the normal very large prayer meetings and other gatherings have had to be cancelled. All were encouraged to use the time to encourage younger women to help the older ones learn how to use smart phones to communicate in newer ways. We also agreed that I would spend a week in the north (kitale area) and meet with those who usually travel with me to Uganda, a week in the south (Vihiga area) and meet with those who usually travel to Tanzania with me, and a week in Kakamega and Lirhanda area before returning to Nairobi. In each area there are several to interview for the Oral archives project of QREC here. Then we feasted at FTC, hosted by the college and Robert Wafula, dean of the theological college joined us in the meal. We all travelled from there with joy in our hearts.
Today I went back to Kakamega to do some errands and got caught in a heavy rain storm in Malava. Since I still had a half hour piki ride in the rain to Agneta’s, I bought a childs blanket to wrap around me, so I arrived safely and not soaked. Thanks for all your support and prayers, especially with the travel on pikis, as well as in cars when available.