Bad Camel Day

Camels enjoying a drink at the river

My eye caught what I didn’t want to see, as we sped down the rock and murrum runway. Ten knots prior to pulling back on the yoke in an attempt to find the sky, a camel decided that she must cross the runway, and cross it now. Never mind that she and the airplane would be a mangled mess if we both continued on our current trajectory, she was determined in her need to see the other side. I quickly jammed the power lever into reverse while jumping on the brakes. Dust and sand flew in front of the aircraft, as the propeller blade angle changed throwing thrust in the opposite direction. Hearing a racket and seeing the blue and white airplane hurdling toward her, she quickly retreated, her somber slow walk now turning to an awkward camel hump bounding trot. We came safely to a stop and my passengers and I all took a deep breath.

It had been a wonderful couple of days in Orus, Kenya working with the Pokot people. The day prior we had traveled down the escarpment, being jostled about in our host’s SUV as we ventured into the valley below. About 30,000 Pokot people live in this valley, each depending on livestock for their livelihood. The wide-open valley has huts scattered about, with tin roof structures situated near the river where goods are exchanged as traders brave the rugged dirt roads in their Lorries to bring staple goods into the area. The valley, located in northern Kenya, has had little to no rain in the last year, so the dried up river bed provides muddy water only if one digs in the river bank. Because of the drought, the nearby school has been closed as children cannot walk the long distance to class if there is no water for them when they get there.

Pokot men sitting on their stools. The men carry these little stools around with them as they watch their flocks and work, ready to sit on anywhere, anytime.

With the geologist’s survey complete, supplies are gathered at the possible future well site

Pokot men watch as the visitors prepare for drilling the well

The geologist chose two possible well sites. After drilling 524 feet here, no water was found, just air pockets that the geologist may have mistaken for water. In this photo, an air pocket was being hit, bringing up dust. The drilling crew had to move to the alternate site after we left. Bringing water to the people is not easy or guaranteed.

Plagued with cattle raiding, the valley is filled with warriors (unmarried men ranging in age from 15-29) who defend their tribes’ cattle, goats, and camels against warriors of other nearby tribes that might want to increase their heard through cattle-rustling. Very few believers in Christ live in this valley. A recent evangelistic effort brought 100 or so new Pokot into the faith, but without pastors to lead them, how will they grow and be discipled? In an effort to meet that need, four Kenyan church denominations are working together to build several small churches throughout the valley. Last week the first church service was being held by Pastor Francis, who was traveling down into the valley to conduct the service at the newly constructed Africa Inland Church. Pokot people travel a long way from their bomas (huts), spread far and wide in the valley, to attend church, but water is needed for such long journeys. World Mission is helping to provide a new well located near the church and the school. This life-giving water will also help sustain the community and livestock that struggle to find water.

Pastor Francis began his first church service yesterday at this newly constructed Africa Inland Church

The church continues to be constructed while being used for church services

World Mission focuses on equipping national pastors and, in part, they use solar powered audio Bibles to assist the churches in hearing the Word of God. Recorded in either the local tribal language or Swahili, the ‘Audio Treasures’ are distributed to the pastors who then strategically give them to those they are discipling. The response to these audio Bibles has been overwhelming as God uses it to bring the story of redemption through Christ to people in need of transformation. For the shepherds who watch their flocks day and night, they can listen to the Bible for hours at a time. With literacy limited to the privileged few in this valley, being able to listen to the Bible opens a whole new opportunity to hear directly from God’s Word. In some other regions of Kenya and around the world, family, friends and extended family gather in the evenings to listen to one audio Bible that someone is blessed to have. We hope and pray that this response happens in this valley of Pokot people.

Bags filled with solar powered audio Bibles ready to be distributed to the Rendille Tribe, the next stop on our journey.  The New Testament was recently translated to the Rendille with the Bible dedication occurring last year.

In addition to new churches being planted in the valley, a coordinated discipleship effort is also in the works with churches in Nyeri, Kenya sending young adult believers (aged 18-25) to mentor and disciple the Pokot youth in this area. Specifically, this group of 30 Kenyan Christians with Generation Impact will focus on disciplining young teens, in hopes to mentor them not only for the month of May, but to then maintain a relationship with them over their teen years and beyond. This is super exciting as God is mobilizing the young adults to reach out to a tribe that is different from their own. Your prayers for these young adults serving with Generation Impact would be greatly appreciated.

When we arrived, they built a fire on the runway by taking down limbs from the tree for roasting a goat.  A very traditional way to honor visitors.

The goat that will be roasted

The slaughter complete, they prepare the goat for roasting. This tribe roasts goat differently than most tribes. They initially throw the whole goat on the fire for a while before quartering it and roasting it in pieces later.

When we entered the valley for the day, it was dusty and dry, parched from nearly a year without rain. Even amongst the bone dry conditions we were so encouraged to see the commitment of the pastors serving nearby to reach out to the valley community with the love of Christ. We were helping to equip them with the well, discipleship materials and training, but this was their work for our Lord and we were only coming alongside them. As we prepared to leave, something amazing happened, a little miracle in and of itself. The rain began to fall, or I should say, the rain began to pour. Now it had probably been close to a year since heavy rain fell here, so our mouths were hanging wide open, overwhelmed by what we were seeing.  Rain has been a continual prayer request on so many minds as much of Kenya is experiencing severe drought. Amidst the hard rain we quickly made our way in the vehicle, slipping in the mud as we crossed the valley floor, to reach the climb up the escarpment. The before and after photos (below) were shocking as the morning photo of the valley was dry and desolate and then, that evening, a photo of the same area shows the valley filled with standing water. Praise God for answered prayers!

Upon arrival in the dry valley that has had no rain for almost a year

That evening, after the heavy rains, you can see the standing water in the valley

But now, what about that wayward Camel? The one that decided it needed to cross the runway. I couldn’t much blame her. An aircraft only comes to this dirt airstrip once or twice a year. She was used to having free range of the place most of the time. We had enjoyed camel milk in our chai the day before, making a delicious treat, so I do appreciate the slow, lumbering creatures. I really do. But as we taxied back to try and takeoff again, I saw her standing defiantly near the runway with her two aloof colleagues at hoof, as if to say, “I’ll be back.”  I heeded her warning and slowly taxied by her, staring right back at her. I added extra fuel to rev the engine at just the right time in order to wipe that smirk off her camel lips. She and her and sidekicks bolted away from the runway, doing their funky camel trot. And my passengers and I returned for a camel-free takeoff as we departed heading further north for another day of seeing God at work.