All The Things I Want You To Know
Jan 31st, 2008 by Sonja

Or at least some of them.

Did you know that camels don’t really store water in their humps? It’s really fat. They store water in their bloodstream and can drink up to 50 gallons of water at once. They can go as many as 7 days between stops at a water hole. Here’s the real kicker: “The famous line … “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” is possibly a mistranslation, where the original Aramaic word gamta ‘sturdy rope,’ was confused with gamla, ‘camel.'” (from p. 93 of The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd & John Mitchinson) … now that makes more sense. As a quilter I know that putting a sturdy rope through the eye of needle is just about as impossible as a camel, but at least the analogy makes more sense. Or maybe Jesus was just being sarcastic.

I had my hair done today. It was long past due and I didn’t realize it was making me sort of insane. I love it again … it’s all stripey. My hairdresser called it tiramisu. I love my hairdresser. She’s fabulous. She’s also from Ghana. We get along like long lost best friends. We chatter away when I’m there. No one else talks. We talk about big things and little things. She regales me with tales of growing up the youngest of 19 children in Ghana. I love the stories. I tell her about growing up the oldest of 3 in Vermont. She loves those stories. Today we traded tales of uncomfortable clothing … I hated itchy wool and had to wear it all the time. She had over-protective older brothers who pegged rotten fruit at unwanted suitors. The suitors were unwanted by the brothers not by her.

We talked about the unrest (to put it mildly) in Kenya for a while. She called it a fire that will not go out for a long time to come. I think she said, “It’s been lit now and it will not go out.” She’s worried about her home country and whether or not this will spill over the borders to harm her people. She was mostly concerned about the influx of refugees. I asked why she wasn’t concerned about the government. Her response? All the politicians are supported by women. Apparently, in Ghana the money is held by women. I have to track that idea down. Next time I see her I also have to take her some tiramisu … she didn’t know it was a real dessert.

I found a way to give so it will help real Kenyans who are in need. This assistance will to go help feed, clothe and assist refugees directly displaced by the current unrest/coup d’etat. I’ve participated. If you feel called to participate, please also help. This will go directly to help out women and children and men who have lost everything to the politics of power:

Displaced KenyanIf you would like to help financially you can by sending a check payable to Soul Sanctuary and mail it to:
Soul Sanctuary
187 Henlow Bay
Winnipeg, Manitoba
R3Y 1G4
****Mark on the check KENYA
Or you can use PayPal off our website

If you use PayPal, please email me ( ) with the amount so that our accountant will add the gift to “aid in Kenya.” ALL DONATIONS OVER $5 will be issued a tax reciept.

(ht: Bill Kinnon)

From the post at SoulPastor:

Again, thank you so much for your prayers. This country needs God’s help. As do we. Thank you!

Today ******* was quiet. We heard very few shots fired. There was one incident at night, but that was when the power suddenly went off at the police station and the refugees there thought the Kikuyu were coming to get them and everyone started screaming. The police shot into the air at that point but all then went quiet when they got the generator running.
The first time ******** ventured into town we were struck by the bizarre situation. The town appeared to be mostly back to normal. People were in the streets, the taxis were running again, the market was open, many shops were doing brisk business as people came into town to refresh their dwindling stock of supplies. Along the streets were some shops which had been broken open and all the personal effects burned outside: tables, chairs, even bicycles and refrigerator coolers. (They even burnt one …. woman’s expensive Toyota Landcruiser!) How would the displaced people feel – those whose lives have been threatened, who have lost everything, may even have had loved ones hacked to death – if they would see the other tribe members just getting on with their lives as though nothing had happened?

In one of the poorer areas of town we came across an unusual sight. Amongst the narrow trails between the houses there were many piles of burnt personal effects outside poor people’s houses. The paths had been cleared of the boulders but these were still strewn along the road side as though in preparation for the next wave of violence. But as we drove behind one house we saw on one pile of ash all kinds of furniture and other personal effects. You couldn’t help wondering why the things had not been burned. Did the youths run out of petrol? Or had they expended their hatred? Or did they maybe break into the wrong house?
We didn’t see the smoke clouds billowing up from the town neighbourhoods like yesterday. Only one huge plume of smoke was evident. But even that makes you wonder if something is about to blow up again. Everybody is very much on edge so the smallest thing is enough to make you wonder if the violence is about to start up all over again.

On another note … is it just me, or is anyone else sick and tired of Viola and Barna’s Pagan Christianity yet? It’s not even out and it’s been reviewed and discussed more than the proverbial dead horse. From what I can tell (no, I have not read it and with all the hoopla, I’m not likely to either), they’re not saying anything new here folks, so what’s the big deal? It’s just me, but I tend to run fast and far from books that get so popular.

Some things appear innocuous, even beautiful. But they are dangerous and deadly. We need to avoid those activities when made aware of them.

There’s a fairly amazing discussion going on over at Grace’s. It’s been happening for well over a week. It began in a fairly raucous manner, but the keel has been righted and redemption has reared it’s beautiful head. It’ll take some doing to wade through all of the comments. It all started when Grace pointed out a blog with some stringent commenting guidelines. You need to read her post and some of the following comments, then read this amazingly gracious and humble comment from the blogger she originally pointed to and read the continuing conversation from there.


Last, there’s a discussion going on in various places that I’m aware of in the blogosphere concerning standards for modesty. I had some things to say on the issue but they were edited out of recognition in one place because of the mores of the blogger. I won’t comment on that except to say that it’s a shame because that editing controlled the direction of the conversation. Here’s my take on modesty … unedited except by me … Standards of modesty are almost purely cultural. There have been times when a woman’s ankles were considered provocative. Other times when it was her forearms. During the Napoleonic era and AnteBellum era the breast was not nearly as sexually charged as it is now, so it was considered quite fashionable (and not a sexual statement) to wear very lowcut dresses, while the legs were completely covered up. This is why it was so provocative for dance hall girls to kick their legs and reveal them for brief moments of time. See? What is perceived as provocative and/or modest changes according to custom and culture across time. My point is that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit and we each are responsible to Her in how we present that temple to the world. We are not sex objects. We are not evangelism toys. We are temples. We are children of God. We are creations beautifully and wonderfully made. And I’m well and thoroughly fed up with being told I must dress to please anyone but Him. In the words of Beatrix Potter, “Please sir (or madam), I am no longer in the habit of being lectured to and thankfully I no longer require your approval or anyone else’s.” (ht Bobbie)

Let Them Eat Cake
Jan 11th, 2008 by Sonja

Homeless Kenyan Man

I ended yesterday’s post wondering if it really matters and I quoted “Crumbs From Your Table” – a song by U2. If you click that link there, you can listen along as you read the lyrics below:

From the brightest star
Comes the blackest hole
You had so much to offer
Why did you offer your soul?
I was there for you baby
When you needed my help
Would you deny for others
What you demand for yourself?

Cool down mama, cool off
Cool down mama, cool off

You speak of signs and wonders
I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

You were pretty as a picture
It was all there to see
Then your face caught up with your psychology
With a mouth full of teeth
You ate all your friends
And you broke every heart thinking every heart mends

You speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die
Three to a bed
Sister Ann, she said
Dignity passes by

And you speak of signs and wonders
But I need something other
I would believe if I was able
I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table

So why should any of us care what happens in Kenya, or any of the African nations? Or the Middle East? Or Asia? Or anywhere but our little neighborhood for that matter? What does it matter to us? I can think of a million different answers to those questions. I think they’re different for different people. But I’m interested in answering them from the perspective of a Jesus follower. Why do I care? Why is it important for someone who follows Jesus to care what happens in the lives of people half-way around the world?

There are still numerous answers to that question. There is, of course, the idea of bringing aid to orphans and widows. Then there is the idea that we must succor the least of these brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus for in so doing we are aiding Him. Those are valid and indeed wonderful reasons for caring about people in the name of Jesus.

I think though, there is a larger reason we need to care. Jesus talked about bringing His Kingdom to pass. He talked about it being here all around us and being not yet. He said when it came to be the deaf would hear, the blind would see, prisoners would be free and the lame would leap for joy. He also said it was here … right now. He said that if we have faith that is the size of a mustard seed we could move a mountain into the sea. We could also bring sight to the blind and sound to the deaf and freedom to the captives … that in our presence the lame would leap for joy! Indeed, this is his Good News that we call the Gospel.

We also call it hope. It is hope for a better world, a better place and a better time. It is hope that my children and their children will play together and that the content of their character will count for more than the color of their skin (MLK, Jr.). It is hope that where you live will not determine the time of your death (Bono). Because in the now, those things are true and yet not true. In the not yet of God’s Kingdom towards which we strive, they will not be true at all … and that is the hope which we extend and push forward.

In caring we become ambassadors of hope. In hope there is reconciliation. Where there is not hope, there cannot be peace. When hope has died, neighbors war with neighbors and burn houses to the ground. When the truth of Love has been extinguished, fighting and war breaks out. No one can love their neighbor when hope has left the building.

We see this time and again throughout history. Marie Antoinette was famously misquoted as saying to the French peasants, “Let them eat cake.” It was a royal solution to a bread shortage. The shortage was not of bread, but of wheat. The royals did not feel the pinch or lack, but the poor did. Poor Antoinette had no clue. Her cloistered, pampered life ill-prepared her for the storms that came her way. She loved her country and her people, but could not give them any hope. The Jacobins and other forces at play in the French Revolution tore at the fabric of hope in the lives of the people.

In India the reverse happened. Gandhi was determined that independence from British rule could be gained without resorting to violence. Instead of tearing hope away from the poorest of the poor, he restored it. The more real hope he gave them that they could be honestly independent, the stronger and more united the Indians became. Yes, there was violence, but the Indians were not fighting amongst themselves … until later (but that’s another story).

Kenya (and Uganda, Somalia, Sudan and the list goes on) is important because we Jesus-followers are to be ambassadors of hope. We must restore hope to the little people. It is the poor who are fighting and dying. It is the little people, the poor, who are hurting and crying. The rich all around the world continue to eat cake; while the poor have no bread. If we are ambassadors of God’s Kingdom in the here and for the not yet, we must bring hope. We must restore sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, freedom to the captives and cause the lame to leap for joy. It is hope, and that hope alone which will restore peace to the country and allow her people to live in harmony with one another; neighbor helping neighbor to overcome the odds.

Restoring Hope:

Christian Mission Aid – Kenya … learn more about Kenya overall, follow links and become an expert! – send an e-mail that encourages your foreign minister (US Secretary of State) to put pressure on all parties in the conflict to continue mediation.

Global Partners – invest in Kenya’s future: women and children

WorkNets-Help Kenyans – direct connections with Kenyans on the ground during the crisis. I can’t vouch for any of these people or this site, but it looked interesting. Apparently Kenyans can trade phone credits for food?

Amani Ya Juu – a womens cooperative dedicated to peace and hope in Nairobi (here’s where you can donate to help the women in the current crisis)

Restoring Relationship:

The Walrus Blog (ht Achievable Ends)
Mentalacrobatics (ht Waving or Drowning)
KenyaUnlimited Blogs Aggregator

Another Wrinkle or Maybe Two
Jan 9th, 2008 by Sonja

Yesterday, just as I thought I was getting my head around the mess of spaghetti that is politics in Kenya, I read this:

Kenya Leader Names New Ministers:

“Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki has named new ministers, just before Ghana’s leader arrived as part of mediation efforts following disputed elections.”

The wrinkle is that he filled all the important posts. He named Kalonzo Musyoka to the vice presidency (who got 9% of the vote). None of the posts were filled with members of the opposition party (Odinga’s party). This was done as a mediator was/is enroute to Kenya.

In the west we speak of this as a defrauded election and we go about our business. I’m not so certain though. More and more it is taking on the colors of a coup d’etat. A coup d’etat is much more serious than an illegal election.

A leader who has himself declared the winner in the face of an overwhelming parlimentary tidal change and then sets about establishing his ministry as mediation is enroute is not a leader who will be submitting to outside authority in any meaningful circumstances. Let’s just say that in our outloud voices and be done with it.

My guess (if I were to guess … okay, I will) is that he will in short order either do away with parliament altogether or gut its powers rather abruptly. This will happen in the next 12 to 15 months. I will be happily surprised if it does not. You can send me a cake. Remember this … and hopefully I will be the recipient of some cakes.

Herein though is the root (or roots) the deeper problem in Africa and, indeed, all of the developing world. The west went in with a somewhat (okay very little) altruistic nature and attempted to bring democracy to these places. We are now past the point where having a debate about whether or not this was the right thing to do is fruitful. It was probably not right, but it happened and now we must bear out the consequences of those thousands of large and small decisions. The problem is that in order for what we consider classic freedom and democracy to flourish in a state there must be an undergirding web of philosophy, education, economics, demographics and many other issues woven together to support that freedom and democracy. The soil must be nourished in order for those flowers to grow.

By that I mean this … our version of classic freedom (a very Western, Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman notion by the way) cannot be supported in an economic system where there are only two classes of people; the very poor and the very rich. Our notions of freedom and democracy (and capitalism) requires a fertile middle class to support it. Most developing nations have three classes: the rich, the poor and a military class. What tiny middle class there is, is struggling to survive, thrive and grow is not part of the picture at all. Education is also a requirement for democracy. This is why Thomas Jefferson, though an inveterate snob, was such an ardent supporter of public education in our country. He knew that classic democracy (even a republic) could not survive without an educated electorate.

So, I struggle with the lack of conversation that I’m hearing in the blogosphere on this subject. Life goes on here in the west. Poor people of color are struggling and dying against one another now, just as they have been struggling and dying against AIDS, parasites, drought, disease, etc. for decades and we have done nothing. Perhaps it would be disingenuous to begin to care now. Perhaps it is we do not know what to say, so we say nothing at all and pour our energies into discussions about books, and quitting time and ministries and the things we know and the things we don’t know, rendering unto Ceasar, etc. I’m torn between Bill’s disappointment, Maynard’s ennui and Mike’s sense of justice. I’ve given to Amani ya Juu and felt good for one day. Then felt horrible guilt that I have so much to feed my family. No, not guilt. I am overwhelmed with all I have and all I am not grateful for. After all, when I need food, I safely go to the grocery store. I am not limited to 4 tomatoes, 4 carrots, 4 bananas, 2 cabbages, and the few other things for a week as the list on Bill’s page suggests that the women in Nairobi are at this time. And then it all comes back to this:

Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die

Crumbs From Your Table – by U2

A Kenya Primer
Jan 8th, 2008 by Sonja

I wrote about Kenya the other day. I was a little passionate and perhaps obscure. I’ve had time to sort out my understanding, my knowledge and my senses. I have no direct connection with the unfolding violence and mayhem there, but I find it strangely compelling nonetheless.

I wrote this statement: “Africa is crumbling. In the West we will be held to account for this in some form or another. It is on our shoulders that this mess lies.” I asked these questions: “But … have we done the work of understanding the other? Of knowing who they are? Of truly becoming One with them as God asks us to? Or do we simply wrap our culture on top of theirs like a blanket and hope that it takes?”

In a comment, Janet wrote so succinctly:

I don’t believe the missionaries are the worst offenders… the Colonial powers drawing up national boundaries based around geographical features rather than tribal identity or ancestral lands hasn’t helped. Nor has economic systems of trade that advantage the West. Nor has political covert interference by Western nations… especially in the cold war era by Russia and the U.S. Nor has impositions of political / military systems that work in the West but haven’t perhaps been translated to work with cultural realities. Nor has the world community’s tendency to tolerate the utterly intolerable as if African nations are a special case… we seem far more willing to ignore civil war, genocide and famine there than we are if white people are involved….

I’ve been contemplating that and then there’s my long since misplaced classmate from college.

He stood out even on the first day. I think he was about 6 foot 4 or so. With a smile to match. The purple and gold beanies they made us freshmen wear looked even more ridiculous on him than they did on the rest of us mortals. But Ken wore his with style. The ever-ready grin became his fashion statement. As did the workboots he wore year round. Dunhams. He wore them with shorts or jeans. It didn’t matter. They were his shoes and I never saw him in anything else. No one could keep up with him walking because his legs were so long.

I had several classes with him as the International Relations department at our college was small. So we crossed paths often and had an easy going friendship. Ken … from Kenya. He was smart, funny and good looking. And interesting to talk to. But it was not a deep or long lasting friendship. He was returning to Kenya and I went to college BI. Before Internet. For all intents and purposes I went to college BC (before computer). I typed all of my papers on … get this … a typewriter! So I lost touch with most of my classmates almost immediately upon graduation. My class is still the least reported class in the alumni rag … except for the class just before mine. We’re terrible.

In any case, I’ve remembered Ken from Kenya. I’ve remembered his full name. It’s a name you don’t forget … though I won’t reveal it here. So, when the recent poop hit the fan I began to do some research. I wanted to find him again, if I could, and mostly reassure myself that he was likely okay. I found him alright. What I found gave me pause and made me sad.

I always knew that Ken’s father was a “minister” in the government in Nairobi. I found him alright. It wasn’t hard to do. The name, as it turned out, was fairly well known. Or infamous. Depending upon one’s perspective. As I read articles about Ken’s father I read all the sad stereotypes that come to mind about African government officials. Then I also read heroic things about him as well. It really did depend upon the perspective of the author. The author’s perspective depended upon their ethnic background. Were they Western? If not, what tribe were they from? The answers to those questions really did color the perspective of the author. Western authors tend to view ministerial activities in a very light than African authors. Africans tend to have their perspective colored by their tribal affiliation. So it’s very difficult to sort out where the lines are.

In searching for Ken I’ve had a primer on Kenyan politics for the last 40 years or so. There is a lot to learn. I think it’s important that we in the West learn our lessons quickly and well. The ghosts of Rwanda and Somalia are still too fresh. We cannot afford to let those happen again. Ultimately the responsibility does lie on us. For we did carve up a continent based not upon the people who were already there, but upon a boundary system that was guaranteed to create problems in the future for these people. We have then laid over top of the cauldron of tribal/feudalism a blanket of democracy that is supposed to repair any problems that were created during the colonial period. The blanket has created a warm dark place for the problems to fester and grow … like a rotting wound covered with an unclean bandage.

I thought about attempting to write that primer out here. But I am still unsure of myself. I do not understand the finer nuances of the intertribal conflicts to spell it out yet. Here are the parts I do understand (I think … and I may have missed huge chunks) and there will be a list of links at the end.

Kenya gained independence in 1964 from Great Britain. Her first president was Jomo Kenyatta. He was first prime minister under British rule and then President of an independent Kenya from 1964 to 1978. I believe that he was a member of Kikuyu tribe. This is the main taproot of the violence and unrest that we are seeing today.

The second president of Kenya was Daniel Arap Moi. I believe he was president for 24 years (1978 – 2002). He was a member of the Kalenjin tribe. While he was president the Kalenjin was ascendent, but the Kikuyu tribe maintained it’s hold on power as well.

In 2002 Kenya held it’s first contested presidential elections and Mwai Kibaki was elected president. Kibaki is a member of the Kikuyu tribe (again) This was the first presidential election in which more than one person (man) was running … for real. In late 2007 another election was held and I assume it was accordance with the Kenyan constitution. Mwai Kibaki, the incumbent, ran again. He was opposed by Raila Odinga (a member of Luo tribe) among others. The reason that the presidential results are in question is that most of the parliamentary incumbents were ousted; especially those who were of the Kikuyu tribe. When Kibaki declared himself the victor and had himself sworn in without the election being properly overseen violence ensued.

Given the pattern established by his predecessors (Kenyatta and Moi), it is not unreasonable to think that Kibaki anticipated that he would be in office (by hook or crook) for a number of years. Certainly he anticipated more than five years in power.

Map of Kenya with tribes and ethnic groups

Tribal politics and vendetta relationships are the primary driving forces creating the state in Kenya at the moment. An unspoken issue is that when this generation dies out, there is a vacuum in leadership. The men who drove Africa to independence in the 20th century and have governed her since, have not raised up leaders to replace themselves. There are very few young Africans willing and able to take the reins of government and administration when this generation passes from the scene. The middle class is paltry and small. We, in the West, have done a pitiful job at passing the flower of democracy to the cradle of civilization.

Kenya: Roots of Crisis by Gerard Prunier

Ethnic Tensions Dividing Kenya by Adam Mynott

New Broom For Graft Ridden Kenya by Jeremy Scott-Joynt

African Successes: Four Public Managers of Kenyan Rural Development by David Scott

Where Tribe Is Everything by Geoffrey Clarfield

UPDATE – Because I’m Western my perspective is questionable as well … as you may discover here, in Kenya: Causes and Solutions:

That the elections results were rigged – of that there is little doubt. The hasty inauguration, the blanket banning on the broadcast media, the dispersal of security forces to deal with expected protests – all these have given the post election period the flavour of a coup d’etat. What was not expected was the speed with which the whole thing would unravel. The declaration of the members of the Electoral Commission that the results were indeed rigged only added to the growing realisation that a coup had indeed taken place.

People across the country took to the streets to protest and were met with disproportionate use of force by the police and GSU.

Emotions ran high. And there is evidence that politicians from all sides used the occasion to instigate violent attacks against their opponents’ constituencies. There have been rapes, forced circumcision and forced female genital mutilation. The western media has been quick to describe these as ‘ethnic clashes’ – but then they appear only to be able to see tribes whenever there are conflicts in Africa. What is ignored by them is that the security forces have been responsible for the majority of killings.

How Can We Sleep?
Jan 1st, 2008 by Sonja

When our beds are burning?

I’ve been reading the reports out of Kenya with increasing agony and sense of shame. I read the latest and wept inside. People were burned inside a church. They had fled for sanctuary to a church and it was burned. There is something about the idea of being trapped inside of a burning building with dozens of other people that scares me skinny. It seems like the worst form of torment.

Africa is crumbling. In the West we will be held to account for this in some form or another. It is on our shoulders that this mess lies. And it all brought this home to me. I’ve seen it before, but BlisteringSh33p gave it to me again yesterday:


We gave them our creeds. Then we tried re-writing those creeds for them:

Masai Tree of LifeWe believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the bible, that he would save the world and all the nations and tribes.

We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

But … have we done the work of understanding the other? Of knowing who they are? Of truly becoming One with them as God asks us to? Or do we simply wrap our culture on top of theirs like a blanket and hope that it takes?

How can we sleep while our beds are burning?

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