What’s next? – This question was thrown at me a couple of years ago by Agnes, one of our young co-workers, as we were welding layers nests for our chicken house in Loki. I was utterly surprised and enthused. In a lethargic society like Turkana, this is not exactly what you expect to hear….
Birgitta and I had a similar question in our hearts and minds in 2008 when we were on a three months MAF assignment in Kenya and based in Loki. During many long hours of flying over South Sudan there was plenty of time to pray and ponder. What’s next? Our children had grown up and moved on from home. And Birgitta was in the same mode of prayer and questions as she spent time alone in the house in Loki or visiting villages with evangelist Francis.
Here is where we could build a school – if only we had the money!
A number of you have already heard the story of how we ended up in Loki. Meeting the children under the tree, the eagerness of the villagers to have their own school, the Hanna-School in Örebro responding quickly to this need and getting on with the first round of fundraising, MAF asking us to return to Loki, long-term, in order to manage the support base for flights into South Sudan, my visit to Colombia with the Anchor Foundation learning a new cost effective technique used by them to build schools, friends and churches coming along with financial and prayer support and much, much more…
To which we would say: This is history now! But what a story! We’ve had to pinch ourselves more than once as we’ve been reflecting over the wonderful things we’ve been seeing and having been part of over these years.
It’s not difficult to enumerate all the visible and measurable contributions in money, volunteers and alls sorts of gifts in kind. But everything else which can’t be measured and weighed, every prayer, every good thought and all the love flowing in all kinds of ways, it’s been overwhelming! Just take the continued prayers for the children under the tree by our Turkana friend Sara, as she observed them from her place of work for quite some time and was deeply touched by their situation. She asked God to send someone to help the children and then Birgitta came onto the scene and met with the children one day….
So what’s next then?
A very pertinent question of course, not the least from a wider perspective. The climate change, the pandemic, ongoing and endless armed conflicts in so many countries, crimes and gang shootings not the least here in Sweden, galloping energy prices, political turmoil and uncertainties etc. There’s a sense of concurrence and acceleration of events worldwide, shaking both individuals and nations.
The Bible expresses it this way: On earth whole countries will be in despair afraid of the roar of the sea and the ranging tides. Where can anyone be safe and secure?
Birgitta and I have time after time experienced how wonderful it is to trust in the all mighty God and His son Jesus Christ reminded and comforted by the words from Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me…!
And What About Loki?
In January of 2018, we told the Children’s Mission in Sweden that by Januari 2020 we hoped to be able to step down from the overall leadership of the Loki projects. A process was initiated in order to find successors and in October of 2019, Thorkild and Charlotte from Denmark joined us, assigned to lead the work from 2020 and also to identify and train locals for long-term leadership.
However their assignment came to an end as they resigned prematurely and left Loki in December of 2020. By that time Birgitta and I had responded to a call from Children’s Mission to return to Loki in January for 3 months in order lead the work and to introduce competent people from the Kenyan organisation I Choose Life (ICL) to take on the leadership for a while.
Children’s Mission has for a number of years worked with ICL in Kenya, supporting their projects and seen their competence and capacity. But unfortunately, ICL haven’t allocated all the personnel and resources necessary in order to both lead and enhance the competence of our local leaders in Loki. It’s mostly been a matter of trying to manage the most urgent matters in the projects, like finances etc. Collins, who has been their team leader and assigned to lead LEDO, has had another 5 ICL projects on his hands!
Nevertheless, we, CM and their Nairobi office Children’s Mission Africa (CMA) are confident that there will be a solution. The contract with ICL will not be renewed as it expires early next year, but rather will CM/CMA hire a competent leader and additional competencies in order to ensure that the work is carried out in the best way possible. For instance, story telling and reports to sponsors is of outmost importance in order to secure interest and support for the work.
Reunion and Farewell
Early October and it was time again to pack our bags for a months visit in Kenya and Loki. Our task was follow-up and reports on the progress of the work and the performance of ICL in their management role. And a much delayed farewell party was also on the agenda.
After a couple of nights in Nairobi and then it was again time to board the MAF-Shuttle to Loki, a 2 hour and 40 minutes flight. We never cease admiring the landscape under us during these flights, beginning with high mountain ranges, green fields, endless rows of flower farms producing tonnes and tonnes of roses and other flowers shipped every night to Europe. And then all of a sudden the transition to a vast semi-arid landscape where yet there are signs of habitants, living in small settlements and huts. How they survive in such hostile environments is still a mystery!
And then Loki comes into view. So familiar. To the right from our approach track, our school. How many times have we landed here? The hot air blasts us as we exit the aircraft. It’s like having a hair blower right in ones face – as Rachel expressed it some weeks later.
Electricity and Water Problems and Lots and Lots of Meetings
The first two weeks were spent with long days meeting with co-workers, visiting the school interspersed with fixing of electricity and water problems in the house. Both of us felt the heat more intense this time with temperatures soaring around 40°C and was quite uncomfortable when we were out of electricity for 3 days in a row.
They were finally here, our visitors from our church in Sweden, ever so longed for: Angeline our pastor, Mattias and his two youngest daughters Lydia 15 and Rachel 12. Their trip was planned for March 2020, but the pandemic forced them to cancel the trip some few hours before departure.
The Turkana language has no word for thanks. But giving a goat or carrying somebody are indeed expressions of thanks. Birgitta and I have been exposed to the latter a number of times, often when women gather around, singing and dancing and all of a sudden you’re up in the air carried on their strong arms.
This mode of thanks is also what our friends got to experience 4-5 times during their brief visit in Loki, even the first afternoon at the school, when they were all carried by our students to Birgitta Hall and the welcoming ceremony with dance performances, speeches and recitation.
Visiting classes, meeting with teachers and staff, handing over of presents. Lyda and Rachel spent as much time as possible with our students, interacting in various ways.
Village meeting in Nipundi. Dancing and singing and strong women’s hands lifting our guests and Birgitta on our way across the dry river bed to the settlement. Angeline got to share the Word of God and the meeting ended as usual with a cup of tea and a piece of bread from the ANA Women’s bakery.
We now have a flash light to show us the way!
This is how Mary expressed it, one of the women in the bakery, when Birgitta, Angeline and Mattias visited on Wednesday. ”We’ve been given God’s Word. Now we know how to light our path and we will definitely not return to brewing booze as we did before in order to survive. We will make it. We will trust in God to show us the way.” All the other women agreed and shared similar words of thanks and encouragement. And yet the future of their businesses is uncertain. Birgitta cannot sell enough in Sweden to ensure sustainability, although she’s doing all she can from this end. It was a very emotional, but also comforting moment to hear how they are now ready to trust the Lord for their needs and their future.
A Wonderful and Joyful Farewell Party
It was supposed to take place in March of 2020 but history took an unexpected turn. Now finally the day had come, Thursday evening, the day before our departure. Children’s Mission had sent some extra funds and goats, sheep and plenty of other food stuff was purchased. And more than 400 people were fed that night in and around Birgitta Hall. Birgitta and I were offered the choice pieces of course, goat liver!, (however not really at the top of the list of our favourite foods…!)
Poems, dancing, speeches by students, teachers, village elders and LEDO staff. Deeply warming words of thanks and appreciation which we could lift to God in awe of all we’ve been able to be a part of and to see the evidences right before our eyes there and then. Birgitta’s powerpoint presentation recalling times and situations from our 12-13 years in Loki was highly appreciated. For all of those who had been with us in thick and thin during these years, to be able to see and recall, yes, it was one of the highlights of the evening. As was also the final dancing with our students. They just didn’t want to let us go, and we had also great difficulty let go as well. Tears of joy and thankfulness streaming down our cheeks…
How will we ever be able to thank all of you who have been with us over these years in so many different ways? Please be assured that your prayers and support have really made a difference.
But the journey will of course not end here. Loki, our friends, the school, the various projects, are still very much on our hearts, even though we’re no longer the ones carrying the burden of overall responsibilities. We have tight bonds and sometimes daily contacts with our co-workers in various ways.
Will You be Going Out Again?
A recurring question. Well, if not before, we hope to visit in January of 2023 with people who are interested in seeing the work they have supported and known for years. Maybe you’d be one of them. In such case, please let us know.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year
Yours / KeA & Birgitta
Eyapan one of our cooks – Birgitta with Losike who was once a shy, half naked and very sad little boy – Little girl Kea with the slightly bigger boy KeA
Fruit time – Blackboard describing number of students, girls and boys – Always cheerful students
AWESIT. She would certainly have been married off today – even with a really old man. Her eyes radiated intelligence. When I met Awesit’s mother one day some years ago and asked why the girls wasn’t in school, she flung her arms open and said in Turkana: Mum ngarupeai – I have no money!.
But if I pay her school fees (local school fee is 15 USD /year) will you send her to school then?
– Indeed she said, smilingly. And already the next day Awesit was at the school. By then she was behind by several years of schooling, due to her age. But she has caught up and and is now in 8th and final grade, leading one of the dance groups and has a totally different chance in life than some 6 years ago.
We’re so thankful for every young person who gets a chance for a better life.