I was excited to come back to Burnt Forest and to see if the reports I heard throughout the year were correct. As you’ll remember from last years visit to this region this was the ground zero of the ethnic post election violence. And much of the evidence is still visible. Or should I say invisible to the eye. Where once stood row after row of houses now empty fields lie with only foundations slightly visible. The African rains and bright sunshine have made those areas a sea of green as if to erase the carnage that took place.
As we arrived (we were for the first time early for an event) and were waiting upon the people to walk in from many miles around so Jim and I took the opportunity to go the high spots and pray for today’s events. We went to a cell tower that provided a marvelous view. Mentoring happens in unusual places at times and when circumstance seem to just open up channels for frank discussion. It was one of those such moments. We both seemed to ask the question, “why are we here in Burnt Forest”? Why am I here?
Who am I that the Lord of all the Earth should call me out of warm and beautiful British Columbia Canada and bring me have way around the earth to once again preach, teach and encourage people I have met but once? I am no Bible Scholar, just a follower of Jesus who loves the Word of God almost as passionately as I love my Lord. A willing vessel that He can steer if you like. Nothing more. What can I possibly offer a people who have endured sooooooo much?
Yet here we were enjoying this wonderful vista together pondering the things of God and waiting to see how God had ministered to His people over the last year. Frankly, the fact that God had done something was undeniable, you could literally feel the difference. Last year when we arrive the mood was somber and the joy was gone. Almost nobody had a smile for us as we drove up. And who can blame them. All the young men had perished or been driven out of the community, all but one church was burnt to the ground. The sorrow was contagious last year but this year!
You could feel and see the difference. Warm smiles greeted us as we walked. People were laughing and telling stories and laughing some more.
(I’ll upload some video clips here when I have stable internet to give you a taste of the Joy we experienced.)
The children who sang a dirge last year were singing joyfully to the Lord, their bodies gyrating to the music. Their bright eyes and faces said that it was not a put on, they truly were joyful. Old women whose faces lit up the room with radiant smiles had replaced those who hearts were so heavy that they dragged their faces downward last year. It was such a blessing to see and hard to describe. Wish you all could have been here with me as the service ended and the youth began dancing to the tunes that DJ Jeff and Denno played as we awaited lunch. Even the Pastor, a man in his early fifties? got up and danced before God and his people. This joy was contagious! I even found myself caught up in that joy and swaying to the music…. Mennonites I’m told don’t dance. And it’s been years since my body was able to do those gyrations anyway…but I was right there with them in spirit thanking God for the marvelous gift of Grace He had bestowed upon them.
God is clearly up to something in Burnt Forest. Seems that He has set it aflame once again but this time with the Spirit of reconciliation and peace. I pray that it will spread like a wild fire throughout the Rift Valley and into countries that touch it to the north and south, east and west. For all around Kenya people need to experience this Joy.