Pilot Daniel Loewen-Rudgers queues on the taxiway behind safari aircraft bound for the Maasai Mara. His journey today takes him to an area few Kenyans, let alone tourists venture.

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

In the air, tidy streets give way patchwork fields then a rolling expanse of dusty yellow. An hour and a half later, the distinctive round dwellings and circular bomas (homesteads) come into view as we approach the remote northern town.

Homes are punctuated by acacia trees that give shade and thorn bushes that provide protection for 2,064 households.

Amongst the tin roofs of more permanent structure is church where a service is in progress. They eagerly await the single item of cargo we’ve brought. A celebration cake!

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

‘One of things you notice about our Kenyan society is that we have wonderful culture. We have very beautiful culture, wonderful traditions, great ideas. This is a culture we should not leave!’Senior Pastor Dr David Oginde

Christ is the answer

CITAM, (short for Christ Is The Answer Ministries), a big Nairobi Pentecostal church, has captured a vision to reach out to the arid north. They have missionaries based right across the dusty north. The event, marks the final stop on a week-long tour by members of the Nairobi church.

Pius Cokumu shares how the Kargi church started. ‘This is our eleventh year,’ he explains, ‘but when we came there was a lot of opposition from the community.

‘We had to build two churches because the clans were not agreeing,’ Pius continues. ‘There was clan conflict. They have some boundary across the community,’ he says, drawing an invisible line with his arm. ‘They were saying, this is the boundary, they worship here. We worship the other side.’

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

The church grew as Rendille from both sides of the divide responded to the Gospel. Still they refused to set foot on one another’s land, even for church.

‘We had to teach them, slowly by slowly, the Gospel of peace and unity so that they could come, then later on we united them and now we’re ready to come to worship together. We are happy at what God is doing.’

Jesus culture

The new church building is airy with cream walls and orderly rows of plastic chairs. At the front where leaders offer prayers and testimonies, simple decorations pick up the colours of the Kenyan flag.

‘One of things you notice about our Kenyan society is that we have wonderful culture,’ shares Senior Pastor Dr David Oginde, looking around. ‘We have very beautiful culture, wonderful traditions, great ideas. This is a culture we should not leave!’

‘But I want to tell you also, that some of our culture is very bad,’ he says, talking of the challenges here, in Nairobi, and in the secular world. ‘Some of our practises are contrary to God’s Word. We came away from those bad things
so that we come into Jesus.’

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

‘When they sing, in their own language it is an expression of who they are. If they praise in their own way, they will get more of the Holy Spirit!’ Philemon

New wineskins

Age and honour are written in the intricate lines of stunning beadwork worn by older women Rendille women. Younger women with babes in arms, are likewise adorned. Grey haired elders wearing colourful shukas (cloth wraps) and carry ceremonial staffs listen patiently to the message in Translation.

Later, many brightly painted staffs, gifted to honour the CITAM leaders will be loaded onto the MAF plane. It is a reminder that this mission is a partnership of Kenyans in the Body of Christ.

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

The CITAM cake flown in by MAF is presented at the front, then cut and shared around like a communion loaf. There has been worship throughout but in the final minutes the ladies find their voices and their feet.

‘When they sing, in their own language it is an expression of who they are,’ explains Philemon another CITAM church member. ‘If they praise in their own way, they will get more of the Holy Spirit,’ he says.

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

Now we’re ready to come to worship together. We are happy at what God is doing! Pius Cokumu

Reaching further

Some of the younger CITAM members will make the return journey by road arriving late tomorrow evening with an overnight stop. Two MAF planes are ready to fly the rest of the CITAM visitors back home, after a busy week, in just an hour and a half.

I share with one passenger, Paul Kamanbugwa, how the pilots love flying for mission. ‘They do?’ he replies, ‘Well of course, that’s your mandate, to fly to remote places and help people, especially Christians. You people are doing a good job. We are very happy with the services of MAF!’

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

‘You people are doing a good job. We are very happy with the services of MAF!’ Paul Kamanbugwa

MAF Kenya staff have been paying tribute to a highly respected and much loved partner as Naphtaly Mattah, Director and Founder of Gethsemane Garden Christian Centre (GGCC), was flown home to Mfangano Island on Friday 24 July.

(Photos by Christiaan Haak and Katie Machell)

The inspirational leader passed away on Tuesday 21 July after losing his two year battle with cancer. MAF Pilot Christiaan Haak flew Naphtaly’s coffin accompanied by close family and friends from Nairobi, where he had been receiving hospital care since May, when a MAF flight brought him to the capital. He is honoured by current and former MAF Staff who shared their memories of the inspirational leader who touched many lives and often flew with MAF.

“Naphtaly’s legacy will continue for generations and so will MAF’s commitment to supporting their ministry. It is an honour to know him as a friend and a brother in Christ. The MAF family will continue to lift his family and ministry up in prayer.” Ryan Cuthel

Bookings Supervisor Pamela Yasena shares how, ‘Naphtaly would call out as he entered the Nairobi office and the place would brighten up with his hearty greetings and laughter! He would update us on the happenings at GGCC. You could clearly tell how passionate he was about serving the vulnerable. He loved God, was a man of great faith and he had the Word!’

‘We condole with his dear family and the GGCC fraternity as we take comfort in the knowledge that he is more alive and well than ever, resting in the arms of Jesus. We thank God for his life and the legacy he lives behind. We pray that the work he accomplished in his life, in the way he positively impacted the lives of orphans and the vulnerable in his community and Kenya at large will grow deeper and stronger in the days to come. Fare thee well our friend, fare thee well our relative,’ Pamela said quoting the scripture: Psalm 116:15. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.’

Speaking personally and on behalf of MAF, Programme Manager Ryan Cuthel said: ‘MAF Kenya has proudly supported GGCC for many years, flying in visiting teams from the USA who have been involved in bible teaching with the children, solar and other construction projects. My first visit to Mfangano Island and GGCC was in 2006 and I was deeply encouraged and inspired by the vision. 14 years on, much of his vision has been realised and so many lives have been transformed through the ministry of GGCC. Naphtaly’s legacy will continue for generations and so will MAF’s commitment to supporting their ministry. It is an honour to know him as a friend and a brother in Christ. The MAF family will continue to lift his family and ministry up in prayer.’

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

“We condole with his dear family and the GGCC fraternity as we take comfort in the knowledge that he is more alive and well than ever, resting in the arms of Jesus. We thank God for his life and the legacy he lives behind.” Pamela Yasena

When Operations Manager Caleb Likhanga transferred from MAF in South Sudan in November 2012, his predecessor highlighted how GGCC was instrumental in spreading the gospel and hope to settlements on the Island of Mfangano – an area devastated, in the early 2000s, by an epidemic of HIV/AIDS. ‘He considered GGCC as the hands and feet of MAF,’ Caleb shares, ‘and judging by the number of American missionaries that came through to visit the project, my feeling was that Naphtaly must be a man who passionately understood his mission, to be able to convince a foreigner from that far to sponsor and come visit!’

‘We talked often when he did bookings for his flights but it was only on 21st June 2019 that I finally met him. We asked him to share with MAF staff during the morning devotion. I can only summarise his sharing as; a man who was so confident about his relationship with the Lord God, who had a deep understanding of the Word of God. He was passionate about sharing the love of Christ with the ‘family’ at the Island.’

‘Naphtally cut an image of a man full of life,’ Caleb continues. ‘Even as I made up follow-up calls for his medevac flight, Naphtaly had a certain hope that the Lord would see him through his treatment in Nairobi and arrange for his return flight home. Unfortunately, the trip back to his temporal home here on earth has been skipped and the Lord arranged to take him on His wings to our eternal home. A great man and God’s servant has rested. I believe he ran a good race and completed successfully. He has left a big gap especially for the family and community at Mfangano.’

For Pilot Christiaan Haak, Mfangano Island was one of the first places he flew as a new pilot in Kenya after transferring from Lesotho. He was glad to be able to do the final flight for Naphtaly. Christiaan reports that there was a great reception at Rusinga airstrip on the Island where so many lives have been transformed through this ministry.

Paying his own tribute, Christiaan said, ‘He was a man with a great vision, strong belief and a heart for the ministry he was running with all the children at Mfangano Island. You could see the kids loved him.’

Christiaan remembers Naphtaly as someone who always had time for others.’When you arrived there he was always waiting for you and made sure people moved along. Even though he must have been a busy man, he was also politically involved in the area and as a senator represented the region, yet he always seemed to have time to sit down and chat.’

Former MAF Kenya Programme Manager Steve Machell and his wife Katie shared their heartfelt tribute, saying: ‘It was our great privilege to meet Naphtaly a number of times over the years we lived in Kenya, and to see first-hand his hard work and commitment to the families he served through his ministry. It was always obvious from a visit to Gethsemane Garden Christian Centre that he put all of his mind, heart and strength into pursuing the vision that God gave him; because of the legacy he leaves through his faith and his determination, we are sure that God will continue to bless and to grow this work. We send our condolences to his family, his colleagues, and all those young people whose lives he has impacted over the years, and even though it will be hard to move forward without him, we pray that we will see many more fruits of his ministry in the years to come.’

The MAF family in Kenya and the wider world sent their love and prayers to Naphtaly’s family at this sad time. Naphtaly is survived by his wife Nerea and their children Joy, Calvary, Zion, Sinai, and Harmony; as well as the wider community of GGCC students and staff.

“A great man and God’s servant has rested. I believe he ran a good race and completed successfully. He has left a big gap especially for the family and community at Mfangano.” Caleb Likhanga

Story by Katie Machell

maf_kenya-2015-02-002

A swirling sea of colour; arms covered with Rendille beads and waists hanging with Borana gourds dance around each other in joyful motion. Hands clapping a vibrant rhythm, voices raised in harmony, switching between languages but the meaning always the same: ‘God, bless your children with peace. Bless Borana, bless Rendille, cover them with your peace.’ This is a peace meeting, bringing together two tribes who have been trapped in conflict for decades. Women who once held one another in contempt now hold one another’s hands; but the journey that brought them here has not been smooth.

The village of Leyai, south east of Marsabit in northern Kenya, was once home to both Borana and Rendille. Living as neighbours, they cultivated and herded their side by side. But escalating disputes and increasingly violent cattle raiding caused such division that eventually almost all of the villagers left and segregated themselves into separate tribal enclaves. Houses crumbled into disrepair and crops turned to weeds. Over the years, various attempts have been made to re-establish peace, but with little success. However more recently, an innovative approach by development agency Sauti Moja Marsabit (‘one voice’ in Kiswahili) has sparked change and brought new hope to this fractured society.

maf_kenya-2015-02-008

With a strong focus on vulnerable and marginalised women, Sauti Moja were already running Community Livestock Banks (CLBs): a ‘loan’ of one donkey and four goats is given to an impoverished woman, and then repaid by giving away the first female offspring of these animals to another needy woman in the community. Sauti Moja had often been approached about undertaking peace work in the area, ‘but everybody was doing peace work out here and I thought, what we are possibly going to do that’s meaningful, that’s different?’ recalls Tim Wright, founder of the organisation and co-director with his wife Lyn. The idea came to use livestock loans as a catalyst for peace: instead of paying on to a widow from their own tribe, the ten Borana and ten Rendille women chosen to participate would pass on the animals to women from the other tribe. These women, traditionally enemies, who considered each other responsible for their own widowhood and destitution, would have to share their most valued and precious resources with each other; the emotional challenge was immense. If the peace CLB succeeded, it would send a powerful message of reconciliation to the warring communities, and hopefully begin paving the way towards lasting peace.

Memories of stability, friendship and life in harmony were distant and faded by the time the project began; already a whole generation of Borana and Rendille had grown up knowing only hatred and bloodshed. ‘During that time when there was no peace, people could not go to get firewood, people could not go to graze, people could not take the livestock to water,’ explains Sube, a Borana widow, ‘It was not safe.’ Against this backdrop, the team realised that while they could manage logistics, facilitate meetings and encourage interaction between the women, the true work of change was an internal process, a choice each of the women had to make, to set aside their history and actively work for peace.

maf_kenya-2015-02-001

sauti_moja-2015-kenya-005

This was not always easy for the project participants. Gumatho, a Rendille woman who lost her son in an ambush, describes how she felt when she first came face to face with those she had long considered her enemies. ‘The first time I met with them, everything came back to me,’ she remembers, ‘and I couldn’t tolerate it for a long time’. However, determined to overcome these difficulties and encouraged by others in the group, she drew upon the strong conviction that ultimately, peace is better than conflict. With the same resolution and fortitude that is evident of all of these women, she committed to leaving the past behind and working towards a better future.

maf_kenya-2015-02-026

The first peace CLB not only succeeded, but far exceeded the hopes of the Sauti Moja staff. Purposefully focussing on similarities rather than differences, the women truly embraced the project, and began to develop and enhance it with their own initiatives. They began another’s visiting each other in their homes; they welcomed one another to participate in weddings, funerals, and other significant events. They have also begun visit other communities in conflict and encourage them towards reconciliation.

There is still a long way to go and much more work to be done. Inter-tribal conflict remains a daily reality for many people in northern Kenya, but the work of Sauti Moja and women of Leyai has shown that hope is not futile and the possibility of peace is very real. ‘Instead of conflict, let us unite and advocate against the war,’ the women sing together. May their voices echo through many generations to come.

sauti-moja

40981_boma-project-q3-report

Story by Katie Machell, photos by Jayson Morris

Jayson Morris, Social Entrepreneurship Portfolio Director for the Peery Foundation, was on the second stage of a series of site visits in Africa when he travelled on the MAF shuttle to Marsabit in September. Formerly an Investment Banker, he joined the Peery Foundation, a foundation started by members of the Peery family several decades ago giving grants to social entrepreneurs and organizations both locally and globally.

40980_boma-project-q3-report

Women attend the BOMA training.

In Marsabit, Kenya, BOMA Project is one of those grant recipients, and Jayson flew there to catch up with local staff, participate in some training, and to meet some of the people whose lives have been impacted by the project.

BOMA works with women who meet the description of ‘ultra-poor’, helping groups of three women start small group businesses which provide the means to buy food, pay school fees and cover medical costs for their families. Participants receive business training, including areas such as inventory, savings and re-investment; and then with a micro-grant equivalent to around US$150, they are encouraged to purchase stock and start selling.

There is also the potential to accumulate savings, which gives the women and their families long-term stability, and much more resilience to the challenges their environment presents. Based in Marsabit and Samburu Counties in northern Kenya, the project focuses on this remote, rural area as the climate makes it prone to drought, and residents struggle to survive with the highest poverty rates in the country.

Kathleen Colson, BOMA project founder, had spent time in northern Kenya at the invitation of local Member of Parliament Joseph Lekuton, who wanted her to see first-hand how the lives of pastoral communities were being devastated by climate change. As a result of her extended trips in the region, consulting with and listening to village elders, faith leaders, community development workers and local residents, she came to the conclusion that the most effective way to tackle poverty was through improving the economic potential of women. She also appreciated that any long-term solution must be embraced and led by locals in order to succeed. With these principles at the forefront, the organisation started in 2005, and since then BOMA project has already impacted the lives of more than 44,000 women and children.

40982_boma-project-q3-report

Jayson Morris on the MAF Marsabit shuttle.

On his way back through Nairobi, Jayson shared some highlights of his visit. ‘The trip was fantastic,’ he enthused. ‘After landing, we jumped in an SUV and headed three hours out into the middle of nowhere. Quite literally, aside from a couple of nomadic shepherd boys there wasn’t a site of civilization close or even on the horizon for the entire trip.’

‘Finally,’ he continued, ‘we stumbled into the semi nomadic village of Kargi, where we attended training for approximately 60 women who between them are forming 20 businesses. We spent the next two days visiting villages and seeing how the businesses were developing

40983_boma-project-q3-report

Healed woman now sending her daughter to University.

. The stories of improved livelihoods, increased confidence to the point the women now travel as far as Nairobi to buy goods, and the effects on the health of their family and community came pouring in.’

Jayson was particularly impacted by the testimony he heard from a woman in one of the saving groups that BOMA supports. For a long time, she had struggled with an undiagnosed illness that left her bed ridden and barely able to move. Then the saving group gave her a loan to visit a doctor, and after several consultations, she was healed. She went on to pay back the loan, and is now sending one of her children to university. She has also become one of the leaders in advocating for the education of women in the community.

Jayson expressed his appreciation for the flight to Marsabit. As his time for visiting the project was limited, it was crucial that his journey was as efficient as possible. ‘It’s wonderful,’ he said, ‘I couldn’t do it if I had to drive both ways.’