Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Kenya Days Blog 7

The ICUU Leadership Conference ended last night with a great deal of hope and joy, with mutual gratitude, with hugs and singing...and with a trip to the open air bar just up the road. The faculty decided that everyone needed a treat. It was a wonderful party with more singing, lots of conversation, back slapping, handshaking and an enormous amount of good will. The Tusker beer, Pilsner and Guinness didn’t hurt either. Speaking of cultural differences I saw a new one...Guinness and Coke. Hmmmm.

The final day of work was given over to planning in local groups, a session on the structure and history of the ICUU, a discussion of ordination practices around the world which was of great interest. We also reviewed the Covenant Groups model.

Each day we met in the same small groups for a time of speaking and listening...not conversation, but speaking and listening respectfully. It is a structured practice used in many parts of the UU world. There is a chalice lighting, a brief time to check-in on how each person is doing, a shared reading on a topic of the day, a time of silence and then an opportunity for each participant to speak in turn on their views and feelings about the topic. This week the topics all had to do with that particular day’s work. After all have had a chance to speak, there are a few moments for final comments and then a closing reading.

I happened to be part of an all male group, something I am not used to in a church setting. That may be why we gelled so quickly...or perhaps it was because Adeyinka Matimojou of Nigeria was part of our group. He is a happy, loving and passionate man who has been in such groups before and is always willing to start if needed and to share deeply. The other faculty told me their groups took longer to get going. None of us are sure why that was, but I will count myself fortunate. The time I spent with these six men was the richest part of my conference experience. From them I learned what life in Africa is like. Of everyone here, only Adeyinka is a full-time minister. The rest have to farm or work in the city. There are social workers, tradesmen, students, many farmers, journalists and business people. Some are working, some aren’t. In return for their stories they now have learned a lot more about Canadian winter then they would ever wish to know! I don’t think any is willing to try Edmonton at -40C.

We spoke of life and love, of farming and family, of hopes and dreams. We cried a little and laughed so much that one of the other groups asked us to quiet down. It is a memory that will not soon fade.

Late in the afternoon the groups reported back about their plans for the next five years. These people may have few resources, but they have amazing vision. While some national groups hope for regular meetings and a stable congregation, others are dreaming of small hospitals, schools, orphanages. As I was writing this, Sister Alice Magara showed me some photos of the Sarah’s Orphans project in Kisi. They live in the region next to the areas with the most violence and have been swamped with displaced persons. Looking at the photo, there must be 50 orphans in their village right now needing food, clothes and medical supplies. She showed me photos of the women’s group making clothes for sale on some shared sewing machines, making soap from avocados and a host of other projects.

I guess my point is that they may have big dreams, and they will need help to realize them, but that’s not stopping anyone from moving forward in city or country.

Today I am scheduled to visit with the Nairobi group and to see some of their projects. Tomorrow I start for home, so I expect this blog will have one more instalment.

Thanks for reading.


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