Church was PACKED this morning because the national secondary school leaving exams are being marked by teachers from all over the nation AT KIJABE BOYS SCHOOL. I wonder if Kijabe's reputation as an enclave of holiness led to the hope that this would lessen chances of corruption. In Kenya you sometimes see signs that say "corruption free zone," which just goes to show you that the absence of such is noteworthy. I do believe in the spiritual nature of place; over time the presence of prayer makes some spots of ground more peace-inducing than others. But the fact that a hundred or so teachers would choose to come to church at 8:30 on Sunday morning probably bodes better for the hopes of transparency than the choice of venue.
Meanwhile, in Northern Kenya (Garissa) and in Nairobi (Eastleigh) explosions have led to deaths, terrorist acts designed to punish Kenya for involvement in Somalia. One was an IED in a bus, cowardly and cruel. Just now I got a US Embassy text warning that University of Nairobi students were rioting right down town . . "smoke in the air and rocks being thrown at cars " . . . However, lest we think of Kenya as inherently dangerous, we remember with sadness the one-year anniversary of school shootings in Newtown (near Luke at Yale) and the tragedy of the high school student who fired a gun in a school in Denver (near Caleb, but sadly also the school of one of our old friends and supporter's kids, who were present and shaken).
Also in church this morning, there were two announcements. First, we are instructed to bring our dogs tomorrow for rabies vaccination, because a rabid dog was reported in the area. Second, we were warned that the polio immunization campaign (Kenya is in alert mode due to cases imported from Somalia) is on hold due to the strike of the health workers. Rabies and polio, on our doorstep.
And speaking of strikes, in spite of the courts' declaration that the doctor/nurse strike is illegal, the health system remains crippled. Though I am thankfully off this weekend after a doozy last weekend, I've been in touch here and there. We're up to 34 babies in the nursery (designed for 18, and typically holding up to the low 20's), and we're being asked to make hard triage decisions. A 9 year old girl arrived with a femur fracture, still un-set a week later, because she had been in a hospital where no one was working. Every bed is filled, and every resource stretched.
And even the Kenyans are commenting on the weather, which is unseasonably wet and cold. We have had about ten minutes of sunshine ALL WEEK, I am not making this up, most of our clothes are on the porch trying to get dry in a fog. A recent New England Journal of Medicine paper noted that the number of weather-related aberrations and public health disasters had tripled since the 1980's. When the downpours here send rivers down the road, people begin to get nervous, remembering the landslides.
Corruption, bombs, riots, diseases, strikes, injustice, storms.
Just the right setting for Christmas, literally. Jesus was born into a time of political upheaval and danger, where the prevailing atmosphere made the longing for a Messiah more palpable. It is the people walking in darkness who see the light. At Kijabe on a Sunday afternoon in mid December, there is no veneer of tinsel and santa that obscures the raw reality of Christmas: the moment of change in the tide of the evil onslaught, the moment where God comes down into the fray. The tiny beginning of all things made new, of honesty, fairness, health, justice, compassion, peace for all people. Good news, which we must listen quietly to hear.