The request that reached James May, Nairobi-based Director of Lutherans in Africa, was hard for any committed servant of Christ to turn down. Those behind the call were in need of pastoral and education support, subject matters which James is very experienced at providing. Responding to the request, however, involved James and his colleague travelling to Kakuma Refugee Camp.
Located in the Turkana district of northwest Kenya, Kakuma is second largest refugee camp in the country, the largest being the Dadaab refugee ‘complex’ in eastern Kenya. Opened in 1992, Kakuma currently serves 180,000 displaced people who have fled wars and violence in neighbouring countries.
The majority of refugees are from South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia, but many other nations are also represented amongst the inhabitants. Today, over 30 different aid, development and mission organisations work at Kakuma, offering services which range from education and sustainable livelihoods to child protection, water and sanitation provision and healthcare.
James continues the story. 'I was contacted by Anyuak Refugees (originally from South Sudan) in Kakuma, who had been relocated from Dadaab,' he begins. 'They are members of the Lutheran Church and had not had a visit from an ordained pastor since 2006. I had tried several times to visit them in Dadaab but it was not easy to get a permit and there were many security issues. Some of them had visited me in Nairobi and told me that they were like sheep without a shepherd. Many of their people had died throughout the years and many babies had been born to their wives.'
I am thankful that MAF has this service because how else would we be able to get to these locations?
James May, Director of Lutherans in Africa
Despite the hardships which the refugees face, James found a great desire for teaching and for spiritual growth among the people he visited.
'Their concerns were twofold,' he continues. 'They wanted someone to teach them and train their evangelists, and they also wanted me to baptise many who had waited several years without anyone to perform this act.'
'Upon arrival I was amazed by the hunger of the people to hear the Gospel. We taught about the meaning of Epiphany, the visit of the wise men and Jesus’ example of being baptised. Much more teaching is needed,' James explains, about his hope that he and his team will be able to go back in future and continue supporting these people.
'I am thankful that MAF has this service because how else would we be able to get to these locations? Thank you for all that you do!' he concludes.