Wow! What an incredible experience! In February I traveled along with several other missionaries to minister to the Pokot in Kenya. I’ve helped Harvesters International with some of their print projects over the years and, as a member of Grace Community Church, I’ve heard about and prayed for the Pokot. Ed Hirshman asked me to prayerfully consider going on this vision trip so that I could see firsthand the great need of the Pokot and also the good that was being done by God with the contributions being handled by this honest, responsible organization.
In addition to the wonderful opportunity to get to know and work alongside missionaries from my own church and other churches in the U.S., it was very special to meet and talk with pastors and evangelists of the Pokot Outreach Ministry (POM) headed by Pastor Julius Murgor.
These faithful servants with names like Abraham, Yusef, Samson, James, and Miriam were outstanding examples of servant hood to us all. We traveled through the very dry (and very hot!) Rift Valley to visit many areas in both West and East Pokot. These included the waterfall project, the drill rig, the pastor training center, the orphanages at Karioung and Kodich as well as another orphanage under construction in Chemolingot, several mission stations and villages.
We held meetings in venues ranging from newly-constructed churches to “tree churches” – the ground beneath a shady tree. We also visited the clinic in Kapenguria, which is supported by our contributions and also some land that has been purchased by Harvesters and POM in hopes of building a small hospital.
The POM Clinic, along with the annual Harvesters medical team visits at various locations throughout Pokot land, is often the only medical care this tribe receives. The only government hospital is located miles away from their villages – days away if, you are walking.
Many literally die on the way to this hospital and some have been turned away because they can’t pay or the hospital lacks supplies. We visited three remote villages in the northern section of East Pokot where many villagers had never seen “white faces”, or mzungus, before. They didn’t have any buildings in their villages other than the small circular huts in which they live that were made of mud and dung.
It was absolutely amazing to watch as entire villages stood up to accept Christ after being given the invitation to do so by Pastor Julius Murgor. Speaking in their native language, Pastor Murgor compared the hopelessness of the gods of their forefathers with the living hope offered by the true God through His Son, Christ Jesus.
We also saw a glimpse of the future when two engineers from Israel presented options for bringing more water to the Pokot. These options would also provide irrigation for crops and perhaps a small power plant that could supply electricity to the area as well. Israel’s terrain is very similar to Pokot land and their government-backed projects have been very successful at providing produce for consumption and for sale.
Of all the trip’s experiences, I will remember the Pokot children and women more than anything else. The number of children, orphaned because their parents were killed by conflicts with neighboring tribes or by malaria, living in the various orphanages is staggering.
“I will never forget the bright joyous smiles on the faces of these skinny, raggedly clothed kids. They are truly just glad to be alive and to have water, shelter and food. In many of the areas we visited, only one out of every five children will survive past the age of four. The mothers know that the chances are slim that their babies will survive and they don’t want to bond with them, so they give the babies to one of the other children to care for. It is so sad.”
The struggle of the women in this area is tremendous. The women are almost lower than the animals. They have really hard lives – cooking, taking care of the children, walking for hours to find water and then hours walking back with heavy containers on their heads. There is still ritualistic female genital mutilation being performed in the non-Christianized areas – which just breaks my heart.
I quickly started to view the women as my own special ministry – probably God’s REAL purpose for my mission trip to Kenya. I wanted so much for them to feel special and to feel God’s love for them. So instead of just shaking their hands (they all wanted to touch us), I would grab them and give them big hugs. I would laugh with them, jump up and down and make the “la, la, la, la, la” sound they make when they are happy and enjoying something.
You should see the gifts they would give us – just to show that we were welcome there. We hated to take any of their few possessions from them, but it would have been a terrible insult to refuse. They are so skinny and they had quite a fun time trying to stretch their bracelets to fit my much plumper wrists! Or tie one of their belts around my much (much) more ample waist! But they were so thrilled to be giving us something.
It is truly amazing to see people who have so little material possessions with such a giving spirit. They don’t know exactly what our lives are like in America, but they do have some concept of the fact that we have sacrificed and traveled a long way just to come see them. And they are so appreciative of that.
The work that God is doing through Harvesters International and the Pokot Outreach Ministry is really making a difference in the lives of the Pokot.
They truly feel that “God lives in their village” when they see clean water coming out of the ground through the pump. I ask for your continued prayer and financial support.
I know it sounds like a cliché to say “we have so much to be thankful for here in America”, but it really is true. I was humbled by the Pokot’s strength and faithfulness through heavy challenges and trials, their thankfulness and their joy. It was truly an experience I will never forget.