#6 Sunday in Naivasha (Father’s Day) June 17, 2012
A bit of background. Fr Kiriti has handed over the parish temporarily to his young assistant Fr Faustus. But Saturday was the 1st anniversary of Fr. Faustus’s mother’s death. In this culture, the first anniversary is very important, so of course he must go to his home area, somewhat far away, to attend this ceremony. No one was left in the parish to celebrate Sunday mass.
However, as I walked to the market across the road yesterday I encountered a man walking through the gate wearing a priestly collar. Thinking he was possibly a priest I have met in past years, I stopped to greet him. It turns out I didn’t know him, but he told me he had come to serve the parish on Sunday. Furthermore, he is a teacher at the junior seminary in Nakuru, from which our oldest Mji Wa Neema resident recently graduated. Small world. He told me that Cyrus had been a very good student there and wondered where he was now. I was happy to tell him Cyrus is in Nairobi at the university, which he was very happy to know.
Sunday morning Judy and I arrive at the church, sitting (as always) in the pew I ordered so long ago, dedicated to my late husband. The mass begins and here is that priest, coming down the aisle, accompanied by 5 or 6 alter boys/girls and maybe a dozen dancing small children. We had seen them practicing yesterday on the lawn of the old church. They are so earnest and so cute—the little girls in skirts with ruffles that waffle when they shake their behinds in the African way of dancing. Having girls as well as boys serve mass was but one of the many innovations introduced by Fr. Kiriti and which I hope will be continued by whomever is sent.
It was a lovely mass, with a very positive sermon about forgiveness, not giving up hope, counting our blessings and sharing whatever we have. It’s not anything I hadn’t heard many, many times over my 76 years, but I was nonetheless moved. The choir sang beautifully, the kids danced and at the end, all the fathers in the congregation were asked to come to the altar for a blessing. I’m always amazed at how many men attend church here.
—not as many as women, but a lot. This is a very church-going country.
It’s always fun to come out of mass, seeing a huge number of people waiting to attend the 2nd (Shahili) mass. It’s a far bigger crowd than the earlier English mass. Sometimes it’s SRO.
Above is a picture from 2009, before the large field was paved as a car park. It was before a wedding, so you don’t see the big crowd, but you see the view from the steps as you come out the front of the church.
Here is the church now—actually taken last year.
Early in my visit it’s always a time to greet old friends I haven’t seen since last August and sometimes to wonder what is his/her name—always a problem for me. Everyone is dressed in his/her Sunday best, shined and polished to a fare-the-well. The children are subdued and I am amazed at how well-behaved they are in church. One little girl of about 2 sat almost next to me and as I was concentrating on understanding the accented English, I was momentarily distrcted by movement—the little girl was settling into her mother’s lap for a nice nap. But just as I glanced at her she opened her eyes, stared at this old mzungu lady and gave me the biggest smile! Nap time was over, much to mom’s chagrin. She wanted to flirt with me, peeking, grinning, hiding in mom’s armpit, peeking out to see whether I was looking. Needless to say, I have no idea what was coming from the pulpit for those few minutes. At the exchange of peace time she solemnly shook my hand. So cute!
Mithlet is a girl whom I met the first year I came and when I did the tutoring class, my first, the following year, Mithlet was in it. At first she seemed remote, almost angry, but she was very good, probably the best and as I praised her, she seemed to relax and even gave me a beautiful smile. Eventually she told me she had had a hard time understanding my accent (oft-told tale), which was why she frowned a lot.
She is now a very good university in Nairobi, working very hard, but struggling, despite the fact that she is there on scholarship. She has taken responsibility for her niece, Beverlyn, whose mother, Mithlet’s sister, as essentially abandoned her. Beverlyn is a form 2 student at SFG.
So when Mithlet called me on Saturday we agreed she would come to my house for tea and sympathy after mass. She stopped briefly to talk to friends while I walked up to my “house” to heat up the water. There, standing waiting to see me were Emma, another KH sponsored girl at a Nairobi university, and her cousin, Anita, who wanted to meet Margo. Oh, dear, what to do? I knew Mithlet wanted to tell me her travails, but I couldn’t just tell Emma and Anita to go away. Kenyans have a way of dropping in unannounced and staying for a very long time. They sit at my table, chatting, reading my paper, occasionally glancing at the phone or even taking a call. ACH! We had tea and chatted, but finally I had to excuse Mithlet and myself to go into my messy room to talk. It’s always the same story, expenses are high, and at her school many homework assignments must be done on-line, which gets to be very expensive.
Every year I get these stories, all too true, and all coming to me for help. And in the past I have reached into my cash stash. But now Fr Kiriti has exacted a promise that I won’t do that again.
The Empower the World (ETW) is in place and the money must come from there, so they can evaluate the need. He did that partly to protect me from people who exploit my ignorance, but it was very hard to tell Mithlet she must go through channels. I kept my promise, but the temptation was great to slip her some shillings and I know she was hoping I would. However, I want this new process to succeed, so I’m playing by the rules.
Eventually the 3 girls left and I had time to clean up before Catherine, her son Lewis and her newly adopted son, Michael of Mji Wa Neema arrived for tea and peanut butter bread (ACH! I’m getting old and forgot to toast it). They are much too polite to remind me. The 2 boys are good friends, so the transition to Catherine’s family has been relatively painless, although Michael misses his brothers and sisters at the children’s home and loves to come back to visit. After they had their fill of tea peanut butter they ran out to play so Catherine and I could talk. About that time Catherine’s new housemate, Lillian arrived. Catherine invited her to live with them to challenge the boys and motivate them to work hard in school. She is a 4th-year university student from Nairobi on attachment in Naivasha (like an internship). She works in the child rescue center in Naivasha and loves it. She’s very good with the boys and Catherine is most pleased with their progress. After getting her fill of tea and peanut butter, she went out to be with the boys and Catherine and I finally got our time to talk. We always have very serious conversations regularly punctuated with jokes and laughter.
She told me she is now wearing yet another hat. In addition to executive director of Life Bloom, she has been re-elected as chairperson of the Archbishop Ndingi school board (whew! So glad she is still in that role) and just because she hadn’t filled every single nook of her time, she applied to be a member of the water board of the Nakuru area, which includes Naivasha. This board is seen as very corrupt and she wanted to help clear that out. First she was one of 9 interviewed in Naivasha and was selected #1. Next in Nakuru she vied with (don’t remember how many) persons by a board of 9 persons. She received 7 or the 9 votes cast and has taken on the chair of that board. I’m exhausted just writing about it! Immediately some issues came up which she was able to handle so well, thanks to her counseling training . Those folks working for the water board are about to find out it’s no longer business as usual.
If you are still reading this long missive I thank you and you are now dismissed until I sit down for #7.
Love to all,