Scripture and Food
The world watched in shock and horror the media images on the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years. The hunger situation in Turkana was among the rifest. It is with this background in mind that Bible Society of Kenya with support of the German and American Bible Societies decided to take action as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In heed to God’s command in 1 John 3:18 not to love with words or tongue but with action and in truth, the debut trip to offer both spiritual and material support began on Monday 19th September 2011.
The villagers gathered in time and waited to receive their food potions
And a long trip it proved to be to get to the people in the villages of Loroo and Lomil about 70Kms North West of Lodwar in Turkana Central.
The team for this pilot project consisted of the General Secretary, Mrs. Elizabeth Muriuki, Head of Operations, Mr. Thomas Tharao, Mr. Kennedy Miheso a volunteer in the Youth Unit, Mrs. Jane Ndung’u Administrative/Church Relations Assistant, Mr. Victor Ochakala, a photo journalist with Theovision, and Mr. Peter Njoroge who was the designated driver.
The two-day journey was an unforgettable experience. The first day travel went without hitches and Kitale was the stop-over to camp for the night. On the second day however, the real drama began to unfold. From a cool 20 degrees to 38 degrees Celsius, the sweltering heat was a discomfort. Coupled with the bumpy ride caused by potholes the size of craters and the dust, this was an extremely rough journey for the traveling team.
Furthermore, the route is infamous for fatal banditry attacks. As a matter of precaution, the BSK team stopped at Kapenguria for security reinforcements. They were advised to travel in the company of two Administration Police officers up to Lodwar. The only saving grace during the ride was the change of scenery once in a while. One thing that is very distinct about Turkana land is that unlike Pokot land which is hilly, the landscape is flat, the soil is sandy and vegetation is scarce.
Then to top it all, the team experienced culture shock as they began to near their destination. The scenes only thought to depict the pre-colonial era flashed before them: children running stark naked and playing with dirty water, women wearing goat skin undergarments and elaborate beaded jewellery and walking barefoot, small fires in the ‘wilderness’ (open grounds) of people who had retired to rest at ‘home’. They were later to learn that Turkana people build small enclosed huts for resting during the day, and open ones to sleep at night.
It was comforting to know that although at several points the team felt lost in the wilderness, their hosts Rev Cyrus & Mrs Jane Manje together with their partners on the ground were keeping them in prayer. Mr Isaiah Emanikor, a former translator of the Turkana Bible with the Bible Society of Kenya and Bishop Nakain of the Africa Inland Church were the team on the ground.
The following day, food distribution began in earnest. Over 500 people turned up for the exercise. While addressing the crowd, Mrs. Muriuki discovered that only 15 of those present could read. She pleaded passionately with the people to educate their children saying it is the way the world is going and in this time and age, it is very hard to progress without education.
She read the turkana Bible during the food and Scripture distribution
She proceeded to give out Turkana Bibles for those who could read. Bishop Nakain went on to deliver a relevant homily based on Colossians 3:1 after which the chief gave an elaborate speech on the need and thanked BSK for coming to their aid.
The food was then distributed with family representatives lining up to receive the following food items: 8kg maize, 4kg beans, 2kg ndengu (green grams), 1kg unimix, 4kg rice, 1kg salt and 3 liters cooking oil. The BSK team was impressed with orderliness and patience of the people as they patiently waited in turn for the food in sweltering heat. It was such a fulfilling experience to see families go home smiling assured of a meal in the next one month.
The BSK team then proceeded to visit two homesteads to learn more about the Turkana lifestyle. It was surprising to find out that one of the homesteads had no food other than some milk, thus the BSK team was encouraged to know that they had indeed reached people who were in desperate need. Later on, the BSK team drove along the Tukwell River where they visited some gardens where people were growing some crops for subsistence but due to poor farming methods and lack of tools the output is low. It was very interesting to see sorghum, maize and beans growing in the heart of Turkana- a complete contrast to the picture seen during food distribution.
Convinced that the perennial food shortages could be resolved with more investment and training of the farmers living along the river, the team left Lodwar on Friday 23rd September with the burden to pray and support the efforts that would boost food production to at least give dignity to the Turkana people. Mr. Ken Miheso was left behind to follow up with the churches and schools and also lay the ground for the distribution of more food and scriptures.
To God be the glory for a successful intervention pilot project. After all is said and done, the church can only be effective when it is also meeting not just the spiritual but also the other needs of God’s people.