Eldoret has a deceptively calm facade that conceals a town where more than the others we’ve visited, people still live in tension. The large IDP camp at the showground holds 24,000 people. Yes, that’s right. The one in Nakuru was huge, but it only held 15,000. There was terrible violence in Eldoret. Speak with the townspeople for a little while and you will soon begin to sense the depth of trauma that they have experienced.
We had a full wasafiri meeting for the first time in a while and had a very encouraging time sharing about some of the awesome things God has been doing in the different things we’ve been involved in. Then we divided into two teams. Pastors met with local pastors at the International Vision Church while the rest of the wasafiri spent time with some displaced families at a nearby church.
The time with the pastors was the most intense yet. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Unlike the other places, there was little time for niceties. The large group of local pastors who showed up had been through too much for that. We immediately dived into very open confession by the chair of the pastor’s fellowship about what happened in Eldoret. The speaker of the day then spoke with great conviction from Romans 14:17. Without righteousness, there can be no peace. Without peace, there can be no true joy. Without these three things, all our work is in vain, as it has nothing to do with God’s purposes.
Got to say, at some point I wasn’t sure if any of this would connect. But like in every other place we’ve been, the God-moment came. Some remarkable stuff happened. As usual, I wish I was a poet so my words could help you feel with me. Holy memories include a bishop from one warring community literally washing the feet of a pastor from the other, following Christ’s example… And pastors from different tribes hugging one another… Or how about the man whose wife and children were brutally killed and yet who publicly forgave those who did it? My, my, may my mind never write over these memories!
In the afternoon, we had a chance to visit the church in Kiambaa; the famous one that was burnt down with women and children in it. No wheelchair or bicycles – the same youth had subsequently returned for all the scrap metal in the vicinity, including mabati roof and wire fencing. We met a woman there who had been in the church when it happened, one of the few who escaped. Jane held us all spellbound with the detailed story of how the attack happened. Rather gory – maybe one day I’ll put up the little video I took on this blog – with a parental advisory. We realized she needed to tell it though – and we let her. Another holy moment… she then shared that because of her faith in Jesus, she had chosen to forgive her neighbors who had done this deed. This from a woman still living in an IDP camp. We were both humbled and overwhelmed.
Wasafiri got to visit the IDP camps. The large camp in LD is very different from the rest we’ve seen. The people in it seem more angry and less ready to hear about forgiveness. Maybe it’s because they still live within striking distance of danger. One person shared with me how one of the people he spoke with has been in camps four times; each time there were ‘clashes’ in ’91, ’92, ’97 and currently. His question, ‘you want me to forgive them again?’
This morning I had to remind the wasafiri… don’t try to play God. Let people tell their story. Empathize. Show concern and care. Only talk if and when they allow you to. Pray for them. And trust God to be the one who heals.
A good note to end on… One of the pastors just received a call from a Nakuru pastor who’d been at our meeting there. This pastor says something has changed in her life since we were there… there’s new energy; a sense of a new beginning; new opportunities.