Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I want to write to you this month about a light in the darkness and a darkness in the light. Explanation of this cryptic sentence follows.
I had an opportunity this month to visit the Pokot region of Kenya where the Pokot people live. These people live north of Kitale. About a 40 minute drive north of Kitale, you drive down a long escarpment, go off the map, and enter a completely different world. You leave the cooler, green of Kitale for the hot and dust-filled land of the Pokot. You leave the “comfortable” and the “familiar” for the unknown, the desert. In a word, you leave “civilization” (some of you might not even consider Kitale to be civilization) for the world of National Geographic. You enter a land of small mud huts, goats and camels, no water or food, strange clothes, unknown language, sickness and blindness, thorns, mountains, dried up riverbeds, naked children, and even witch doctors. Our destination was a seven hour drive north to the Pokot villages of Konyau, Leyo, Alale, Nakali and other villages too small for a name. Our goal was to teach and preach the gospel and the salvation found in Jesus Christ. Of the many things I could write about concerning this trip, I basically want to summarize it by contrasting two of the small villages we visited, neither of which was big enough to have a name.
Village #1: A Light in the Darkness
We arrived in this village around 5:30pm, set up our tents outside the village, and got a fire burning so we could heat up some tea. We ate our evening meal of tea and peanut butter sandwiches without jam. We had plans of heading down to the village after dark for a time of worship with the villagers. At 9:00 we headed down to the village. It was already pitch dark. We arrived at the village where the only light came from a small campfire that was already burning. No one besides us missionaries had arrived at the worship site yet (the worship site being a cleared out area around the fire). While we waited for people to arrive we tried to call home and check in with our families, but we could not receive any cell coverage (surprisingly, you can get cell coverage just about everywhere in Kenya, even in the bush). We wandered away from the fire 200 to 300 yards looking for a place where we would find coverage. It was very dark. All I could see were the stars and the dark silhouettes of the nearby mountains. While I was out wandering around looking for a signal, drums from the village began to sound, signaling to the people to come to the fire for worship. If you’ve seen enough movies like I have, you may be able to figure out what I was thinking. Put yourself in my place. You’re in the middle of the African bush. It’s completely dark. You hear drums start to sound in the distance. If you’re anything like me you begin to think that those drums are an ominous sign that the cannibals are about to come and get you. A little far-fetched, I know, but you might think the same thing if you had been in my position. It was menacing. It was threatening. It was gloomy. It was intimidating, hostile, sinister and foreboding. Anyway, as we began to walk back towards the village, the sound of the drums increased, becoming even more daunting. But soon the light from the fire appeared as well as the sound of singing villagers. We arrived back in the village to the sounds of the drums, the people singing and dancing around the fire as the whole village had come out to worship and praise God together. They sang and praised God for over an hour in the Pokot language. They also sang some in Swahili so I was able to hear that they were indeed singing about Jesus, the cross, his grace, salvation and how much they loved him. The singing was followed by a time of teaching and preaching by the missionaries about the gospel, which was well received by all these people. As I sat there participating in all this I could not help but think that while the darkness of night had set in, and although the drums sounded menacing from a distance, this particular village was filled with the light of Christ and the gospel.
Village #2: A Darkness in the Light
The scenario surrounding the other village I will tell you about was completely different. This village we wanted to visit contained the witch doctor for the whole vicinity. Using divination he would tell people when and where to attack for cows, would tell the people what they needed to do for the rain to come, and performed other acts of “seeing”. His powers, albeit from the devil, are very real. We wanted to go see him and share the gospel with him and his village. We got up in the morning, ate our breakfast, and took off for his village. We left on foot at about 10:00 in the morning, carrying water and food for our long hike into the mountains where his village was located (any resemblance of a road ended at the place where we had pitched out tents for the night). The sun was shining bright and hot. I covered my head with a hat and my neck with a scarf. I drank a lot of water as we hiked up and down hills, the bright sun illumining our path while pounding us with radiation, light, and heat. We finally arrived in the small village. Some of the older women sat in shady areas with the small naked children. Most of these women looked blind, their eyes white and milky. We asked to see the old witch doctor. They refused to tell us where he was. They told us we were not welcome there and to go away. We told them we had words from God that he wanted them to hear. They would not look us in the eyes, they told us the words we had were not for them, that they did not want to hear them. We told we had walked far to see the old man and again asked if we could see him. Some of the teenage boys who were standing afar off tending the goats began to yell at us and threaten us. There was hostility in their voices and in their eyes. The resistance was great, not only to our message but also to our very presence. After about an hour, we had no choice but to leave the village. The old witch doctor never came out of his hut, and we never had a chance to see him. As we began our long walk back to our campsite, the sun continued to pound us with light and heat. I couldn’t help thinking that the whole time we visited that village the sun brightly lit up the entire area, but the poor people of that village lived in complete and perpetual spiritual darkness. Later, back at the campsite, we worshipped with some Christian Pokot people. I encouraged them to be thinking and praying about how they themselves could be missionaries to their own people by taking the gospel back to the witch doctors’ village in the hills.
I relate these contrasting stories to you so that you can see that while the gospel has made many inroads into far off places and is shining the light of the truth of Jesus in Satan’s dark strongholds, there are still many places and people that are blinded to the light of Christ and need his love, grace and mercy in their lives. Please pray for the conversion of the Pokot people of north-west Kenya.
Until next month, beloved.
May God’s peace and joy be with you.
For the glory of God in East Africa,
Roger & Julie Tate (and Emily, Amy, & Josiah)
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