The sun is relentless and the heat unforgiving; the unmoving air is thick with the hum of crickets. In the Turkana region of northern Kenya, life is fraught with challenges and survival is a daily battle. Yet amongst the dust and thorns of the desert, hope is blossoming as God’s word is spreading and the church is growing.
MAF has flown here in partnership with Go Ye Africa (GYA), who have gathered a team to visit the remote town of Lokichar, 600km north of the capital Nairobi, for a day of fellowship and encouragement with their faithful church planters and children’s workers who are ministering here.
Passengers for this flight have assembled from all corners of the globe. Bob Beasley, who takes the front seat next to Dutch pilot Christiaan Haak, heads up the International Ministry of Bible League Canada (BLC), one of GYA’s partner organisations. A regular traveller in the region, he has already spent a week in Ethiopia before coming to Kenya for this trip. He is joined by his friend and colleague, BLC’s International Missions Director, who was born in Ethiopia, born again as a Christian in Kenya having been forced to flee his home, and now lives in Canada.
Other seats are occupied by various GYA staff members and some guests, who have been invited to join the trip to see for themselves how God is at work in Turkana. It is hoped that Lucy and Mercy, who represent Christ Is the Answer Ministries and Around The Globe Ministry, will be inspired to initiate their own partnerships with the churches in Turkana, and help them with resources as they struggle to minister with very little to a very needy people.
After landing at Lokichar, a short car journey takes us to small church building, where a number of the local and regional church planters and believers have gathered, to greet the visitors and give an update on their work. We are invited to join a time of joyful praise and fervent prayer, and then we have a chance to introduce ourselves.
Many of those gathered have made long and arduous journeys to be there, by foot, by boda-boda (motorbike taxi) and even by camel; they are especially keen to hear from Eric Musee, GYA founder and the driving force behind the church planting initiative.
Eric recalls how it used to be considered something of a punishment by Kenyan officials and professionals if they were sent to work in the Turkana region; this sense of isolation is felt even today as we are welcomed as ‘the visitors from Kenya’, as if we truly have come from another country. But Eric reminds them, ‘God has remembered the Turkana people.’
He explains how the work that started with only 10 church planters, has now seen a further 60 trained and working, along with over 100 children’s workers. GYA is strongly committed to developing indigenous churches, and he encourages the believers with the exhortation that ‘The best people to reach the Turkana with the Gospel of Jesus Christ are you.’
And then the highlight of the day: the chance to visit some of these new congregations. We are driven out of town on dusty roads and across dry river beds, eventually turning off into the bush and then parking near a small, thorny structure. To my unfamiliar eyes, it initially looks like a hut where a family might live, fashioned in a circular shape from branches roughly woven together. But as we draw closer, I hear voices raised in song and the clapping of hands.
As the singing fades, the voices drop to murmurs of prayer, and I begin catch glimpses of the bright beads and fabric favoured by Turkana women. Under a tree and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, this is a church, and a service is in progress. In this apparent desolation, God is clearly at work, thanks to the sacrifice and obedience of those committed to seeing lives changed by the Gospel.
As is customary in Kenya, the visitors bring greetings, share Scripture, and pray for the assembled believers. Then we return to our vehicles to visit two further congregations, both equally small in number but encouraged to have been remembered by those far away. All too soon it is time for us to return to the airstrip and make our flight back to Nairobi.
As the land beneath us turns from arid and sandy to green and fertile, and the small homesteads of pastoralists give way to the crowded tower blocks of city-dwellers, Turkana really does seem a world away; yet the gift of air travel has allowed Eric and his colleagues to shorten the distance and narrow the gap between God’s people.
This is truly a partnership through which MAF is privileged to see isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Jesus' name.