We are now back in Embu, and a lot has happened since we left our first hotel last week.
Marsabit Diocese is something I have heard a lot about. The Bishop’s Lent Appeal this year raised money for a water bowser for areas of drought. All through this year’s long hot rain-free weeks my thoughts were drawn to those who were not so assured as we British were that sooner or later we would have rain again. Travelling north from Embu we could see the change in terrain – from lush green tea bushes and banana trees, to scrub, acacia, and dust.
Based in Isiolo for three nights the first thing was a visit to the ADS-run school for the deaf. This was a hard visit. The school is falling down: built on soft ground, one large classroom had been condemned as unsafe. This means the children are being taught in smaller spaces which don’t allow them to have proper sight of the teacher and each other.
The school sometimes has to ask for food – but has never missed a ration. The teachers sometimes have to take pupils home because their parents don’t collect them at the end of term. The Chalet School this isn’t.
The next day our established bus groups were re-ordered and we dispersed in smaller groups to visit rural parishes. Rural as in, we turn off the highway and offroad for half an hour before we get to the first village. Not just five minutes off the A120 which has been my rural experience to date!
The day began at Archers Point, with Kenyan tea and a snack. We visited three communities of Turkana people. At times this felt a bit like being in a cliché – children who had never seen a white face before – and I was reminded of the Goodness Gracious Me sketch about young Indian backpackers in London. But, cliché aside it was true that remote pastoral communities wouldn’t have seen many white people, and our selfies were a source of amusement for us all.
Women from Daaba village welcomed us with song and dance which we joined in where we could. We then heard from the leader of the women what the challenges were that they faced. One – which is familiar at home – was the lack of men in church. But others – polygamy, child marriage, FGM – are less routine in Coggeshall. There is a primary school – children walk 8km to get to it. It is a tough life in a beautiful but unforgiving place. I noted that the leader had a very traditional dress on, but with a mobile phone neatly tucked inside. This began a thread of questions for me about what progress, flourishing and sustainability look like for a pastoralist tribe.
It felt a bit odd to be praying and discussing church life whilst English was translated into Swahili, and Swahili into Turkana, and back again. This is the sharpest reminder of what it looks like to be part of the same family I will probably encounter!