“Milango Tatu”

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Awaiting missionary, Grant Swanepoel, captures photo of Dan preparing to land with the moon in the background.

Walking down from the mission house toward the airstrip, thoughts of the livestock raid two nights ago fill my mind. In the report from one of the locals he had said, “Milango Tatu” which in Swahili means, three doors or gates. In the village, each gated pen contains about a 100 animals. In the early morning hours, as I and much of the town had slept, raiders from another tribe came and stole 300 goats from the outskirts of the village, driving them up into the mountains.

As I walked though the village to reach the airstrip, I thought about how long this struggle has been going on between these pastoralist tribes. A week prior, a shepherd boy had been killed during another nearby raid. The disputing tribes feel justified in their actions seeking retribution and compensation for the cyclical violence that has no foreseeable end. Peacemakers from outside agencies have tried to bring peace, but it remains as elusive as the wind’s direction. Only Christ will bring lasting peace.

As my boots tread over sand, I look at the palm trees nearby. This place, near Lake Turkana, is so very different from much of Kenya. It reminds me of the places I have served in, like Oman and Bahrain. Arid and rocky landscapes where water is scarce, but sand and scraggly palms are in abundance. Yes, this place looks more like the Middle East to me than Kenya.

Walking on, little children wave and say, “Haaalo”. They have learned this is what you say to an “Mzungu” (white person.) I say hello back to them and they laugh from outside their little huts. Some, who have a moment, come and shake hands with me. God’s children are so precious.

I continue to walk as the airplane now comes into view.  A girl passes me by with a large container full of water balanced carefully on her head. I am impressed. There is no way I could balance something that heavy. She had filled it from the well that missionaries dug some time back. The water is warm, as it flows from the underground hot springs.

I approach the airplane and still see it tied down smartly to the cement pad, as the strong wind blows from the mountain down to the nearby lake. He has been waiting patiently for me these last two days. He enjoyed a rest from flying, but no doubt, this workhorse is now ready to start transporting missionaries once again.

While completing my preflight, a young woman approaches and greets me.  We had met briefly at the missionaries’ house. She is excited and I am excited for her. She will be getting baptized this Sunday. Attending the little mission church for years, she has decided to profess her faith publicly. It is a huge step…she is leaving the group of ‘interested in Christ’, to join the group of ‘committed to Christ’. She asks for my prayers, which I am thankful to do.

The missionaries that I am going to pick up next are just 20 minutes flying time away, but they must first arrive to the airstrip and let me know if it is useable. Heavy rains flooded it two days ago. It would take them three or four hours to drive to me here, but no one is excited about that prospect, with the dangers of saturated roads and threats of raiders lurking in the area.

Children flock around the aircraft as I wait. I speak to them in Swahili, but only superficially. My Swahili is so limited; I can’t yet speak on real issues of faith and God’s amazing redemptive work through His Son Jesus Christ.   I am disappointed, I have time to share the Good News with these children, but feel stymied by the language barrier.

As I continue to wait for the runway report, God provides a solution. As the children continue to press around the aircraft, a ninth grade boy joins them. I talk with him and quickly surmise that his English is excellent. He tells me that he wants to be a doctor. I encourage him and tell him that is wonderful. Maybe he could come back and help his people some day?

Asking him about church, he tells me that he attends the Catholic Church in the village. With that, I share my story. I share about how I had always grown up in the church. I was very faithful to go to church and be active in my church, but with all of my church activity, I was not following the teachings of Jesus. I was living my church life on Sunday, but other than that I was not living the life of a Christian. I was not following the commands of Jesus. It was not until I decided to pick up my cross and follow after Jesus, obeying his teachings, that I really became a Christian. I continued on to let the young man know, that it wasn’t the church that you attend that matters, but yet the question is, “Are you following the teachings of Christ?”

He thanked me politely for my words, seemingly very attentive to what I had said. I wondered what he was thinking and what God would do with our brief conversation.

My call from the missionaries finally came. They had inspected the airstrip and it was now dry. Wishing the children farewell, I cranked up the airplane and taxied away. Rolling down the runway, I quickly lifted off, giving one last wave to the children below. As I rose into the air, the village became smaller and smaller. It was now out of sight, but certainly not out of mind. I had learned a lot in my two brief days there. God is readily seen at work there, bringing people into His Kingdom, from the little village by the Lake. Our God is an awesome God!

~Dan