After our Sunday of worship, fellowship and hanging out at the Jesse Hotel, we left Kigumba, at 7:15 am on Monday February 29th, for our ninety minute drive back to the airstrip at the Kinyara Sugar Plantation. Brian’s timing was perfect, as we saw the welcomed sight of our Pilot Jay and our AIM Cessna 206 making his final approach.
Jay flew us to Entebbe, where we caught a commercial flight to Nairobi to meet our friend Mac MacGruder and one of Mac’s young student interns, Paul Strong. We loaded into Mac’s Range Rover Defender for the three hour drive into southern Kenya, past Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance and squarely into Maasai country.
The Maasai are a proud tribe of warrior-herders. For centuries they have wandered this region, grazing and taking care of their herds of cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys. Even today, they recognize no borders and the countries of Kenya and Tanzania allow them to cross borders and graze freely. The men wear a colorful, one-piece garment cloth called a ‘kanga’ and they protect their herds with their lives. They travel light and their discipline, intense pride and toughness demand respect and admiration.
Simon chose to relocate and minister here, in part, because he was impressed that those attributes would be powerful tools in God’s hands. He was right.
Our destination was Namanga, a small village on the border of Tanzania. We arrived at the Namanga River Motel and met our host Simon and his wife, Agnes.
After a brief visit to Simon’s home and the site of the raised planting beds, we settled in for dinner at the motel and a decent night’s sleep. Until a couple monkeys started running on the roof!
There is a story behind the demonstration garden. The beds, the irrigation posts and mulch were prepared by several day laborers, hired by Simon. These men were well-known drunkards and drug users. After completing the work, one of these men told Simon that he wanted to turn his life around and start coming to church. However, he had several tattoos. In this culture, tattoos are associated with a shameful lifestyle. The man told Simon that he is ashamed of his tattoos and he does not want to embarrass the church. Simon assured him that he would be accepted and gave him a dress shirt and a tie that we brought with us. He completed both days of training and will be in church on Sunday. Please pray for his salvation. You never know what little things (a shirt) God may use to bring someone into the Kingdom.
On Tuesday morning, at 10:00 am “Africa Time” more than 30 Mobile Messengers showed up eager to learn. These pastors have been trained and equipped by Simon and With Open Eyes (WOE). Many had walked and ridden their WOE supplied motorcycles for hours to attend this training: many from deep inside Tanzania. Several wives attended as well.
Travel logistics forced Jim to condense two days of training into a day and a half. We started in the classroom setting at Simon’s church on Tuesday morning and moved to the field by noon. After Jim led the students in the first installation of a drip irrigation system and planted the bed in okra, the men installed a system and planted beets. Then, not to be outdone, the ladies installed a drip system and planted a bed of Mississippi Silver Hull Crowder peas.
After a late lunch, we concluded training at the church. We were honored to share the evening meal with Simon and his beautiful family at their hillside home, before turning in for the night at our motel.
On Wednesday morning, we started training at 10:00 am and virtually every pastor was present, again! These men are hungry to learn and their grateful spirits blessed us. Jim completed the training, reviewed the basics and then entertained questions about problems unique to their circumstances. After tea and a group photo, we departed for Nairobi where we shared dinner with Mac and his family in their home, before departing for the Hilton and our last night in east Africa.