Life among the Gabbra of northern Kenya

Life among the Gabbra of northern Kenya

Eddie and Rachel Andersen and their six children work amongst the Gabbra tribe in Northern Kenya, a people group spread over a vast geographical area.

Based in the remote village of Dukana since 2014, Eddie and Rachel's work involves church planting and discipleship through any and every means possible from gardening to automotive repair, from Bible study to basic medical care. 

Story by Katie Machell, Photos by Eddie and Rachel Andersen

Rachel describes their home area: ‘The terrain varies from rocky, scrubland to flat, desert, salt pan. An occasional acacia tree dots the horizon and a few mountains rise in the distance. We count the distance in hours to travel, not kilometers, due to the fact that the poor condition of the road slows us down to 50 kph and at times, a crawl.’

'We feel a sense of urgency to get the message of Jesus Christ to the Gabbra, knowing that they live on the edge of disaster and death.’  Rachel Andersen

Intrepid travellers

In September two volunteers came from America to spend time with the Andersens and support them in their work; having travelled by road from Nairobi to Loglogo, where MAF has a base, they were very grateful to make the remainder of the journey by air, in 5Y-PTL.

‘They came on the night bus from Nairobi and arrived in LogLogo at 3:30am, so they slept for three hours and then we headed out,’ explains Melvin Peters, MAF’s LogLogo-based pilot.

‘One of the volunteers said he was always sick on small planes, and I had just fed them a big breakfast of eggs and sausages which I was not interested in seeing again, so I distracted him by chatting about God’s leading in his life! They were so happy to cut off the last six hours of their trip, which they would have made on the top of a freight truck.’

As the flight was at the weekend, Melvin was able to stay in Dukana overnight and see more of the work first-hand. ‘It was very special to me to spend time with Eddie Anderson,’ he shares, ‘since his grandfather started the LogLogo mission station back in the 1960s.’

Read how MAF flew Dr Dick Anderson 50 years ago in a story from our archive...  

Nomadic ministry 

Strategically located on the border with Ethiopia, Dukana is the newest outreach centre for evangelical work among the Gabbra. Approximately 20,000 live in the area and herdsmen constantly come and go. Mainly nomadic pastoralists, the Gabbra keep camels, goats, sheep, and some cattle. They build small houses, called “min daase”, which can be moved around with the help of three camels; and according to tradition, they move at least once a year. Since the 1990's they have begun settling in town centres in order to provide education for their children as well as seeking medical care and famine relief.

 ‘Work among the Gabbra is hard and demanding. As missionaries in a remote area, we have found ourselves pushed to the limit.' Rachel Anderson

The work of establishing the gospel amongst the Gabbra is a long-term commitment. At Dukana, a few faithful members of the community attend daily Bible study, and church on Sundays.  As part of their outreach, the Andersens make use of a small solar powered audio device loaded with scripture recordings, known as the Treasure.

Designed to withstand hostile environments, including the heat of the desert, and capable of holding up to 800 hours of material, the Treasure has proved a very effective means of bringing the good news of Jesus to the Gabbra. ‘The Treasure has opened up doors in various communities and led to a growing number of Gabbra seeking Christ and how to follow Him,’ says Rachel. ‘We hear of audio Scriptures traveling up to 200 miles. Everyday people come to our door asking for Treasures.’

Faith and perseverance  

Living, working and raising a family in such an isolated and challenging environment as Dukana requires great faith and perseverance. ‘Work among the Gabbra is hard and demanding,’ expresses Rachel. ‘As missionaries living in a remote area, we have found ourselves pushed to the limit. Our children have had various illnesses, with little or no medical care available to us. Our car is often shaken to pieces by the roads, but we have no access to auto parts or towing service. And as we become a part of our community, we often watch helplessly as our friends suffer from cycles of drought and famine. We feel a sense of urgency to get the message of Jesus Christ to the Gabbra, knowing that they live on the edge of disaster and possibly death.’

It is a privilege for MAF Kenya to be able to fly in support of families like the Andersens; it is because of work such as this that the base in Loglogo has been established, as alongside our partners we seek to fulfil our vision to see isolated people physically and spiritually transformed in Christ's name.

‘It was very special to me to spend time with Eddie Anderson, since his grandfather started the LogLogo mission station back in the 1960s.’ Melvin Peters

MAF supported the medical ministry of Eddie Anderson's grandfather, Dr Dick Anderson, with frequent flights. 

Read about 'A night at Nakurio' in 1971.