Africa UnderYour Skin!

It has been said that a visit to Africa is ‘dangerous’ because Africa gets ‘under your skin’, and once you have been there you can never forget the people and the sights, sounds and smells of Africa, and you always have a hankering to return. That’s certainly been true for us. And this year we have been particularly reminded over and over again of the five years when we lived and worked there, and about the many visits we have made since.

Early in the year we had a phone call from one of my fellow elders at Nairobi Baptist Church, Mutua Mahaini to say he was coming to Glasgow with his wife. We had not met for 25 years, so what a great evening we had together!

More recently a friend  sent us a copy of an old prayer card we had issued when we worked as Tearfund’s East Africa Manager(s) out of Nairobi. A neighbour had brought it to her asking ‘do you know this couple’?  Well that brought many memories flooding back!

This summer in Church we enjoyed the company of our young friend Richard from Moshi in Tanzania. He lives in view of the famous Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. He had been studying and training at Tilsley College in Motherwell, but is now back home in Moshi, helping Lucy-Luu in the management of the children’s centre. This is where my son Allan and his wife Jacqui lived and worked for many years. We sponsor a young teenager there and it was good to read her school report telling how well she is doing in her new school. It’s a real blessing to be able to help in this small way. If you would like to sponsor a child at the centre let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction, it’s hugely worthwhile.  Our grandson Jonathan and his wife and family were working at the centre for the month of July, (Johnny’s a joiner and Lynsey his wife a teacher) and they did a power of work and brought back news of many folks we have known over the years.

We’ve also heard recently from friends and ex Tearfund colleagues in Kenya and Sudan telling us of their continued work in a variety of fields. One of them was a woman captured by rebels in Sudan back in the eighties, and marched for days and miles through the bush, before being released across the Ugandan border. We well remember welcoming her to the Tearfund guesthouse in Nairobi, to live with us before returning home, and eventually back to Sudan with her husband. Africa under your skin, indeed!

One great item of news from Africa this week is regarding the nomadic Rendille tribe who live with their camels, and other livestock in Kenya’s northern desert. At that time they were completely illiterate. Just last weekend they celebrated receiving the New Testament in their own language, thanks to the sacrificial work of a few dedicated Christians and their support team. I remember being at a men’s literacy class where the men all had feathers in their hair and were being taught in the use of a pencil. Rendille now have their own schools and some have already graduated from University whilst others are studying there. What an amazing transformation! As Tearfund’s representative in East Africa I worked with this people group, and was there just after Tearfund re stocked their camels following one of their frequent droughts. Tearfund also drilled wells, provided water tanks and provided emergency food on more than one occasion.

Visiting the Rendille was always an adventure, as getting there was a two / three days drive from Nairobi, part of which was through bandit country. The alternative was to fly with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) in one of their small Cessna aircraft, and that was always what we did. Flying north from Nairobi, it was interesting to watch the change in landscape – from maize growing to lush fruit farms, and then skipping around the slopes of snow capped Mount Kenya onto the brown plains as you approached the Matthew Range of mountains and then over the mountains to the desert. Now you can see here and there the Rendille settlements scattered across the landscape, before dropping down to a dusty and bumpy airstrip at Korr, but not before making a low pass  over the airstrip to chase animals off before landing.

What would the Mission Community and Relief and Development workers do without MAF? I do not know! They are a literal lifeline to so many of those working in the world’s remotest and dangerous places. Working with hundreds of different NGO’s and flying those in need from all religions and none.

And that brings me to the last bit of news for now – MAF is coming to our church on Saturday 1 September! (see advert above) And yes! They are bringing a full size Cessna and their new flight simulator so you can try landing on a jungle airstrip or sit in the cockpit, and you can watch some of their amazing flying videos, whilst enjoying a cup of tea /coffee in the café. You are most welcome, admission is free, so come and support this amazing Christian Airline, I am sure you will be amazed and blessed.

You may even get Africa under your skin!


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I'm am a married man, a father, grandfather and great grandfather who has been married to Muriel for 62 years. I have worked as an Engineer in the Sugar Business, and as a Manager in the Relief and Development sector. Firstly however, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ and this fact has shaped my life and work.

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