Lydia and I climbed into the back seat of the Martins car, right next to Janaie, ready for the first real outing of our visit. It was now Tuesday, but when we arrived on Friday, their car was still in disrepair from the rough journey up from Nairobi. After spending two full afternoons with their heads under the hood and chassis, Simon and Eddy finally had the car running smoothly again.
Today was a big day and there was excitement in the air as we drove out from the house and alongside the remote runway headed toward the village. Peering across the road at the end of the 1 mile ‘driveway’, we saw the freshly charred brush going in both directions as far as we could see. For the two previous nights, there had been wildfires we could see from the porch, but we could not discern how close they were. We had learned that some of the nomadic people living in the area had lost some of their livestock, but as far as we knew, no human lives were lost. This morning, after 48 hours of constant burning, the fires were finally out. Yet another challenge of life in this land with little rain and no extra water to extinguish such wildfires. Assessing the growth pattern of the trees around, I could see that the normal direction of the wind was away from the home, and we thanked God that during the two previous nights, the wind’s normal direction had not changed or who knew what would have become of the Martin’s home.
Driving on the road toward the villages, we saw many hills of various sizes all around, dotted with abundant, beautiful acacia trees. The area is called the Hurri Hills, and seeing the hills near and far, the name made sense. After bumping around on the narrow, unimproved road for about 20 minutes, we came upon a little gathering of small homes and round-shaped bomas and pulled in to park. Numerous children of various ages scurried up to our parked car, all excited to greet toddler Talaso, Janaie’s Gabbra name given to her lovingly by the local people, meaning ‘born on a Tuesday’. She was as delighted as they to see her friends! Even with the language barriers and totally different cultural backgrounds, kids seem to have a way of connecting!
We climbed out of the dust-covered car and were joyfully greeted by a Gabbra man named Katelo and his large family, as well as 5 to 6 other adults and numerous children. We made our round of Kenyan greetings, including handshakes all the way down to the smallest child, and were led into Katelo’s dimly-lit, cozy hut. Our eyes squinted adjusting to the dark home as sunlight was trying to light the room through the partly opened door. Looking around we took in the variety of brightly colored fabrics covering the walls and ceiling, and the single, un-lit light bulb hanging down in the center of the room. We were directed by gestures to a low bed covered with thin fabric in the back corner on the right. The bench on the left near the door quickly filled with people, as did the few plastic chairs scattered around the small room until around 15-20 people were cozily gathered. We noticed a children’s number chart, an Alphabet chart, as well as a small, framed picture of Jesus hanging on the back wall next to us. Eddy and Ange were seated on chairs across from us, with a small table in front of them, and Ange was strumming her guitar preparing to lead worship for the very first church service in this community!
Once all were settled and babies calmed, Katelo led us in singing worship songs in the Gabbra language. He had been meeting with the Silvas and Martins for a while now, and is interested in being a translator for them in the work of sharing the gospel amongst his people. He has been sensing God’s calling on his life to the work of evangelism, and is excited about the prospect of sharing God’s Word with the Gabbra and Borana. Today he would translate for Eddy for the first time in their inaugural church service. After a couple of songs, Katelo spoke in Gabbra to his 11 year-old-son, Abraham, who scurried out of the small home and came quickly back with a large yellow cooking oil container which he turned upside down and began playing enthusiastically like a drum. A large smile covered his face as he sang and played energetically, seeing how much everyone enjoyed his addition to the worship time. (If you click on the photo below, you can see a very short video clip of our worship time together, hearing worship in the Gabbra language.)
Worshiping in Gabbra, though I did not understand the language, gave me a taste of heaven when people from every tribe, tongue and nation will worship together at Jesus’ feet. What a sweet time that will be! Eddy, whose heart language is Portuguese, then began his message in English, which was then translated into Gabbra for the local listeners. Though he occasionally groped for just the right English word, he shared a simple, but profound message. He asked the people gathered what they thought God was like. He then shared with them that the God of the Bible wants to have a relationship with us, and that He knows every detail of our lives. He told them that if their ‘god’ did not want to know them personally in a relationship, or if their ‘god’ did not know the details of their lives, then their ‘god’ was too small. His point was that the God of the Bible is a BIG God! Like I said, a simple, but profound message, but a great place to start sharing the truth of the gospel with these people who don’t know Jesus.
At the conclusion of the service, we enjoyed a cup of hot chai together, while fellowshiping through our limited, broken conversation. Lydia and I were so thankful to have been a part of this community’s first church service! We praise God for His provision of Katelo and his desire to work with the Silvas and Martins in the wonderful work of sharing the Good News with the Gabbra and Borana people to plant a church there. We also praise God for the Martins and Silvas and their love for these people and desire to live among them even amidst the difficulty of life there.