Sunday, January 01, 2017

Opening Sabbath

Sabbath began with a sense of frustration and need.

Courtney and Carole had driven all the way to the St Joseph’s in Kilgoris, waited for more than three hours in a typical Kenyan queue, only to be told there was no X-ray machine at this hospital and they would need to go to different one tomorrow as closing time had passed. Little Vivian was untreated, her ankle still immobile and in pain.

As they were sitting in the hospital, the skies opened up and the stony, rut strewn road became a mudslide. Courtney did her best not to careen off the road and managed to get all the way back to just a few Kilometres from home when she noticed something wasn’t right with the vehicle’s handling. They stopped and explored. One of the rear tyres was flat.

After a bit of phone tag with Leon and I, pictures were exchanged and Leon decided it was too flat to drive on. He called a motorcycle taxi and waited. When the taxi arrived more than 30 minutes later, Leon chased it to the top of the hill as it wasn’t powerful enough to take two people up steep hills. At the top of the hill, Leon hopped on and was at the Prado and fixed the tyre quickly.

Soon (Kenyan time), everyone was home. Vivian was back resting in her bed, Courtney and Carole were happy to be back and able to get out of the car! The time, now about 7.30pm, was nearing for opening Sabbath.

A quick meal of potato and pumpkin mash and beans on toast was eaten as the children filled the room for opened Sabbath worship. The topic was prayer as the day had been filled with prayer! We sang, laughed, prayed and worshipped together.

All the children headed to their beds and so did the adults. It had been a tiring day!

Sabbath morning, I arose about 6am and, after a trip down the hill the the toilet and back up the hill to my room, I grabbed my towel and toiletries and headed back down the hill. As I headed down, I saw a fire going. This is where they heat the water for the Maasai shower. I went to the fire with my towel over my shoulder and say against a tree to enjoy the flames.

Soon, Mercy came over with a large pot of water and put it on the flames. I was amazed to watch as she moved the burning logs with her bare hands. I greeter her and she offered me a chair - The Maasai are wonderfully polite people. I said the ground was closer to the fire. She said, “Yes, but maybe it is wet.” I smiled and gesturing at the fire I said, “Joseph told me that when a Maasai get’s wet they build a fire.” Mercy laughed and said, “True!”

Later, Joseph came over and I asked him about touching the burning fire. “Doesn’t it hurt?”

He laughed and said, “No, these black hands do not absorb so much heat.” Then he took the pot off crackling logs, reached into the fire and started moving things around. I was in pain just watching. Finally, he said, “Now that is better for the pot.” He replaced the pot on the more even arrangement of fuel and showed me his hands. They were fine.

Mercy returned to join us at the fire and tested the water, pouring some into her palm. “Your shower is ready,” she said. She then picked the pot up by the rim, poured the water into a large plastic bowl and carried it to the other room next to the toilet.

A Massai shower is the fine art of throwing water at yourself from a bowl, soaping up, and then throwing more water at yourself. Washing your hair is done last above the bowl so there is some water remaining, you rinse into the bowl and the water in the bowl get’s more soapy as your hair gets less soapy. That’s the theory anyway!

As I reached into the bowl of water, it was so hot I could barely touch it. I dipped my hands in quickly and rubbed them together. Doing this a number of times, I was soon able to handle the heat. Then I began the throwing, soaping and rinsing process. It is remarkably pleasureable.

After returning to the house, dressing in my Sabbath finest and having a breakfast of porridge, Joseph and Mercy came in for a visit. They had gifts. “Please accept these poor gifts as our thanks,”  Joseph said. He then proceeded to hand out the most amazingly beautiful Maasai clothing to us. Leon and I recieved handmade shirts. Courtney received a young woman’s outfit of a skirt, top and shawl. Carole was given a adult woman’s dress. All of the items were truly remarkable in craftsmanship and design.

They waited for us to put them on. Leon and Carole’s gifts were a perfect fit. Courtney’s had some extra room in it. Joseph said, “You must eat more ugali, there is room for you to become a woman!” Courtney laughed. We are all noticing small differences in cultural niceties. Body shape and size is just another topic for discussion like the rain and the cows.

My shirt was too snug to get over my impressive  girth. Joseph said, “Let me help. I put the beautiful shirt over my shoulders and he began to tug at the waistline of the shirt. “No problem,” he said, “We will have the maker of the shirt add some.” I removed the shirt from my head and returned to my room to grab one of my collection of pullover Indian-style shirts that my mother-in-law makes for me. They are my absolutely favourite shirts! I had noticed the cut and design of the Maasai shirt was the same as my other ones. I gave a shirt to Joseph and said, “They can use this as a sizing pattern. It fits perfectly.”

“That will help, I am sure,” Joseph said. We put the two shirts in a bag which Carole and Leon took into Kalgolis when heading to the hospital. Joseph called the tailor and the bag was retreived from Carole at the hospital.

“I am very sorry,” I said, “I feel bad for not receiving your gift well.”

“Do not worry,” Joseph said, “I guessed all of your sizes and I am sorry I got yours wrong. You are bigger than you look!”

I laughed, “Yes, I put on weight very evenly everywhere so I do not have just a big belly or a big bum, it is all big together! Most people are surprised when they hear the number of Kilo’s I weigh.”

Joseph looked around, we were alone one, he leaned in and whispered, “What is that number?!?”

I laughed. The cultures are so different but it is truly amazingly disarming when you realise they are not being rude but are truly honest, open and interested in you. “125 kilos,” I said. His eyes shot wide open. “Two months ago the number was 135!” I added, “I am getting smaller but it takes time.”

“True!” Joseph said, “I will make the shirt to fit you now! You come stay in Maasai land for three months and you will be much smaller!”

“True!” I said, “There is so much walking and very healthy food. This is a very healthy place.”

“Very healthy,” Joseph repeated in his way of showing agreement.

A few minutes later, Leon and Carole headed back to Kalgolis with two girls to the district hospital. Vivian was able to put a bit of pressure on her foot and slightly wiggle her toes. The second girl, Michelle, had developed an infection on her ankle overnight. It was so bad she could hardly walk. The four of them got in the Prado and headed to Kalgolis as the rest of us prepared to walk to church.

Courtney and I joined Joseph and Mercy for a 20 minute walk to church. Down through the bottom gate, we walked. Then onto a road that was more of a walking track, past a number of houses - Joseph telling us who lived in each. We entered a valley with a stream in the middle and crossed a small bridge made from a concrete pipe. Then we walked up the hill to the church.

As we were nearing the church building, I said to Joseph, “I am going to use a word you taught me yesterday.”

Everyone stopped and looked at me, evidently this was an exciting moment. What word had Dave learned?

Now,  a bit embarrassed, I smiled and said, “I need to make a ‘short call’ before church.”

“Ah,” Joseph said.

“We will wait for you up there,” Mercy said.

Joseph led me to a small building standing on it’s own behind the local school building. “That is the good one,” he said, pointing at one of two doors.

I opened the door and faced an empty room - the floor a concrete slab with a hole in the middle. Luckily, a short call does not require squatting!

Walking out a few moments later, Joseph said, “Good?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m ready for a day at church!”

We joined the ladies and headed across the field to a group of people clustered under a tree, studying the Bible together. As we walked we went around the children, sitting on a grassy slope having their Sabbath School class.

We were seated in a position of honour in the front and joined the conversation. Visitors are given respect in Maasai culture and Mzungus are clearly visitors. So, before you even introduce yourself it is known that you are a visitor and you will be shown respect. Courtney and I were given comfortable chairs with backs on them while everyone else sat on the ground or benches.

The lesson was on Job. Hearing about his return to health and wealth - having many goats and cows - the pastor taught as the local livestock created the backdrop behind him. The sun shone and a gentle breeze blew through the trees. I turned to Courtney and said, “I could do Sabbath like this every week.” She nodded and whispered, “I was just thinking the same thing.”

After Sabbath School there was a lengthy time of singing. One person would start singing where they were sitting. Then they would stand, walk to the front and gesture to the people they wanted to join them. Soon a makeshift choir was formed and the entire assembly would join in the singing. Then they would sit and another song would start in the same way.

After a few songs, Joseph invited Courtney and I to go into the church building to plan the service. A church worship plan book was handed to him and we divided up the responsibilities. Courtney would do opening prayer. Joseph and the pastor would do the welcome and pastoral prayer. I would do the sermon (yes, I knew this already!). We then returned to the outdoor church setting and sat behind the table, facing the audience, ready for the service.

The service started with a local choir who performed a beautiful item. The service then proceeded as planned and concluded after Joseph and I finished our sermon on “A day in the life of Jesus” taught from Matthew 14. It was a joyful and beautiful experience worshipping God with such lovely people in such an amazing setting!

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