DSC03975For the last couple of years my friend Dr. Zach and I have dreamed about a time when we could make a trip to northern Kenya where the Pokot tribe lives. Dr. Zach is from the Pokot tribe and God has placed a burden in his heart to return to his people, provide medical care to them and share with them the good news of the Gospel. He wanted to introduce me to his family and we wanted to explore areas where we could come with short-term missions teams. This weekend that dream became a reality as Dr. Zach and I loaded up our gear in his four wheel drive Land Rover and set off from Tenwek mission hospital to explore the territory seven hours north.
Our route took us through Kericho, Ahero, past the Nandi hills to Kapsabet and then Kitale. In Kitale we had a brief lunch and then were off to Eldoret, Soy, Kipsain and then Kapenguria. Kapenguria a small town on the southern edge of the country of the Pokot tribe. We visited the government hospital in Kapenguria where many of the Pokot people come for medical care. We then traveled north where the terrain changed from the lush highlands similar to the area around Tenwek hospital to a dry, hot desert climate. This area has had very little rainfall this year, the crops are failing and severe shortages of food are expected later this year. What struck me though, was the fact that there were virtually no vehicles on this remote road heading north. We stopped at the Ortum Catholic Mission hospital—a 100 bed hospital served by one dedicated medical officer and only an occasional visiting surgeon. The area served by this hospital includes the northern border of the Pokot tribe, extending into Uganda. Dr. Samuel was so excited about the possibility of surgical teams coming to Ortum to help care for the people. We then left the tarmac and headed west up the Cherangany hills 30 rough kilometers to the area of Dr. Zach’s home, the village of Sina. It was dark when we arrived, there was no electricity but I noted in the headlights several older men beckoning us to a small room dimly lit by a kerosene lantern. As I stepped in, I realized I was being greeted by the elders and chiefs of this area. We exchanged introductions, they kindly welcomed me to their village and we drank chai (milk and tea) together. In the dark, we traveled another kilometer to Dr. Zach’s home. Dr. Zach’s father welcomed me to his home, they brought water for me to wash my feet and hands and we shared a delicious meal of chicken soup, ugali (corn made into a paste), milk and chai. His father presented me with a beautiful hand carved chair as a gift. When I gave him a new pair of dress shoes as a gift, he put them on and literally jumped up and down with gratitude. I got bundled into my sleeping bag, blew out the kerosene lamp and slept like a baby until almost daybreak.
When I woke up and went outside, there was the most beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding hills and mountains. There were baby twin lambs bleating for their mother, chickens with their broods and a cow with her calf grazing just outside my door. The women were already up and working getting the children ready for school and you could smell the fires warming the water and milk for breakfast. I met Dr. Zach’s mother and sister and had breakfast of boiled eggs and Nescafe (mine!) for breakfast. The rest of the morning was spent with the village elders and chiefs thanking me for my visit and expressing their sincere desire to have a small clinic for mothers to deliver their babies. We then visited several dispensaries where nurses and doctors occasionally visit to provide health care for the area. In the entire area there are no doctors, only an occasional nurse that visits, everyone must travel many miles over difficult roads to receive medical care. The one thing that so impressed me was the fact that wherever we visited, everyone knew Dr. Zach, loved Dr. Zach and so wanted him to come back and help them. One elder said it well when he said, “This is our son, he will come and help us.” At another dispensary 500 children were sitting on the grass under the shade awaiting a measles vaccination. [Apparently there is a measles outbreak in this area and they are strongly advising all the little ones to be vaccinated.]
We said our good-byes to Dr. Zach’s family and as I left they presented me with gifts: a hand-carved sugar bowl, a laying hen, a sack of potatoes, 6 eggs and a pint of honey with the comb. After prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for “journey mercies” I felt I was leaving my own family as the Land Rover pulled out of their village.
We headed southwest for 100 kilometers arriving at Kapsowar mission hospital at 5 p.m. I spent almost a month at Kapsowar last year, so I was well acquainted with the facility and the staff. We were warmly greeted by our friends Dominique, Wilson, Jonathan, James and Michel. That evening over a meal we met several new missionary doctors serving at Kapsowar. We rested well after our long journey and the next morning toured the hospital, saw several patients and began our seven hour journey home.
As the red dust of Africa spilled through the windows of the Land Rover we talked about all the ways that perhaps we could come back and help the Pokot people. God has placed that burden in the heart of Dr. Zach and God has placed that burden in my heart as well.
Journey mercies,