Missionary work – without the glamour
In his final report Cliff Barton shares more of the down-to-earth challenges of pastoral work among the Pokot of Kenya.
Korokou is a hilly area, yet characterised by much agriculture. We were able to drive up a rough road cut out to aid development. It takes at least one and a half hours to cover the eight miles.
This is where brother Domoo has his first home. He is a polygamist and is very sad now about it. Two of his wives live here and the other down the hill in Kasei. He was one of the first to be converted from among this traditional people.
He was a feared cattle raider who led sorties against neighbouring tribes. Many of his companions were killed on one such raid, and this made him consider the things of God. Though illiterate, he is now a respected councillor for the area (an elected position). Missionary colleague Keith Underhill encouraged him in his witness for Christ.
Other ‘churches’ in this area bring spiritual confusion by their easy-believism and by poaching those already in the churches. Sometimes they bring some physical benefit, like drilling a water borehole, and use this as an inducement to follow them. One group suggested that they could help pay school fees for two of Domoo’s 16 children if …
He told me it had been a great temptation. But they prayed about it as a family and he concluded that it would be like selling the soul of his children. So he concluded it would be better if they were left uneducated. What a magnificent response! Encouragingly, he told Keith that he remembered what Keith had said to him before – to trust in the Lord and not men.
One basic change the gospel must bring here is in family relationships. Even among Christians, women fetch the water from the borehole; women cook; and women generally wait upon the men hand and foot. Women are left to bring up the children too.
However, consider where such men have come from! Traditionally, a man leaves home without telling either his wife or children where he is going or how long he will be away. When married men have carried out a successful raid they say there is still one ‘enemy’ to be dealt with – the wife at home! One woman said that they are treated as if they were slaves.
Korokou has the smallest church, with just a handful of women members. There are no male members. So later in the afternoon we went out to speak to some men. One young married man said he had never been to church. On a raid he received a bullet wound and vowed never to go again. Another said he stopped attending church when he started looking for a wife. As we sat there on the rock, we were able to speak the gospel to them.
The nearby valley settlement of Kasei is a government centre but still a very small place, five to six hours walk from very basic public transport. It consists of a few semi-permanent shops, a borehole and primary school. The school’s head teacher is a church member.
Joshua Sitet is the church leader. He is assisted by Micah who, it is hoped, will start the theological training programme soon. There are now 16 members.
There were late evening meetings in Joshua’s home, with studies on Luke 6:46-49 and Titus 2:1-10, during which Keith emphasised that we must be examples by the way we live.
On the final afternoon of this year’s visit, there was a church members’ meeting on the subject of eldership, based on 1 Timothy 3:1-7. None of the leaders has yet been set aside officially by their congregations. This is being worked on so that soon, if possible, there can be a plurality of elders in place.
There were interesting questions about elders who are engaged in their own businesses and about having a wife who is rebellious.
Requests such as the following were heard in every place we visited. ‘Thank you for starting the nursery school for our children and for giving food when the famine was so bad, but now we need a primary school; we need a better water supply; we need adult education; we need proper benches for the church; we need money to employ people to dig a toilet for the church’.
The only missionaries they have known in the past just gave and gave. Yet these people have some resources in their livestock; and they do have able bodies. Oh for the gospel to take root and give them a greater sense of responsibility!
Will you please pray for the spread of the gospel among them; for the building up of their churches; and for their physical needs to be met.