Africa has a way of stealing your heart. Perhaps the more so because I was born there and grew up under African skies. The visit this summer to Kenya and Uganda has involved a great deal of journeys. Hundreds and hundreds of miles, across both countries, on pot-holed, bumpy roads and dusty dirt tracks. Tiny villages, humble mud huts, wide open savannahs and rolling hills. A wealth of wildlife, up close and personal. The extraordinary privilege of observing lions, cheetahs, giraffes and elephants and many more, in their natural environment, often only a few feet away. July and August are the months of the Great Migration when the wildebeest and zebra migrate from Tanzania to Kenya’s Maasai Mara – the largest mass movement of land animals on the planet. It is a wildlife spectacle that has to be seen to be believed – the sheer numbers are amazing, as is the way they travel in lines – stretching out miles in both directions, drawn on by a never-ending quest for fresh pastures. This smorgasbord of ‘ready meals’ is a huge draw to the predators who travel with the ready abundance.
This has been a trip of emotional journeys too. Forging real links with people and places that had been simply names on a map, and email contacts. The warmth of their welcome and hospitality, even in the most humble of circumstances. The experience of living in almost total minority – there simply are no other white faces in Bungoma, and most of the children we met in the schools, had never seen one ‘in the flesh’. Odd to be an ‘oddity’, a source of fascination and wonder, and our ‘semi- celebrity’ status, even harder to deal with.
Steep learning curves. Speaking with almost no preparation, at a moment’s notice. The need to contextualise, making the Gospel relevant, and ridding it of ‘church speak’ and Westernisation. The need to connect with very different groups of people and speak from the heart. Learning to worship in another language and much more vibrant style. Praying with, and for, our brothers and sisters, and witnessing that sometimes language is irrelevant. Love and faith transmit, regardless, and language has never been a barrier to the Spirit.
Kenya’s red dust gets everywhere, and into everything. It is hard to shake off. It travels with you. Jet travel transports you within hours from one ‘universe’ to another, but Africa is not that easy to leave. It steals your heart and keeps a bit.