Monday, June 01, 2009


I know I’ve talked about it before, and my posts about the rain may give a different impression, but the drought here in northern Kenya is really, really bad. The short rains in November and December of last year never materialized. It’s now June, and while God can send rain at any time, the long rainy season (April and May) has come and go with next to nothing. It’s a long way to November again.

Animals are already dying – goats, sheep, donkeys, cattle, even camels. No water means not only nothing to drink, but no grazing. People are taking their animals farther and farther to find grazing, but still nothing. And it’s not just the animals that are dying. We’ve heard that at least five men - herders out with the animals – who have died of starvation, and who knows how many more that we haven’t heard about. There is simply no water, no money, no food.

Relief food that is so desperately needed is coming, but is so restricted in who it is given to that it’s next to useless. There’s a one time emergency bit that’s coming from AIM, which might last a few weeks, but what of after that?

You know, because I don’t speak the language, I don’t hear people’s stories. I am working with the kids at the school who get a solid meal once a day (once!), and teachers who at least have a little bit of salary to live on. I don’t really feel the effects of the people’s cries for help or see the desperation that Nick and Lynne see every single day. But I know it’s out there. I hear the stories. I hear about the people in Marsabit who, even if they have a little bit of money for rice or maize meal, aren’t bothering to buy it because there’s no water to cook with. Mothers who are so starving themselves, yet walk for kilometers and kilometers to Nick and Lynne’s house to plead for a little bit of money to buy something for their children. People who make up all manner of stories for why they need money – a dying uncle, acceptance at a prestigious school, anything – in desperate hopes to get a few shillings to buy food. People who are so worried about their children that they just snap and go mental – literally crazy under the strain of worry and starvation – and wander off into the desert or just completely shut down and sit in a trance-like state. People who simply give up and commit suicide to escape the fear and the worry and the pain of slowly starving to death.

I hear the stories, but on Friday, I saw it for myself.

We drove out to Namarey, about 30km from Korr, to take a woman back to her goob who either has cerebral malaria or is one who has snapped from the strain of the drought. She had two young children with her – a baby and a toddler – and another of her sons is a pupil at my school. I sat in the back of the truck with her, and the whole time, she just stared off into space, occasionally rolling her head back and forth and looking around with empty eyes and and a half open mouth. When she got sick, she took the two young children from Namarey and just started walking out into the desert. Thankfully someone found her and took her to town for help. We were taking her back to her home where a family member would look after her and help dole out the medicine that she received from the dispensary.

When we got out of the car at the lady’s goob, many of the children came to see, and I began playing with them, as I always do. Often they’re shy and quite nervous about this strange white skinned creature coming up to them to shake their hand (sorry, to give them an “elbow high five”). There are the brave ones who come right up, those who take some coaxing, and those who stay hidden behind a brother or sister for safety and don’t ever venture out. But this time, there was another group. These were the ones on whom malnutrition and starvation had begun to take their toll.

I went to one little girl, maybe two or three years old, who was standing beside her mother and greeted her. “Aa nebey aa?” I asked her, holding out my hand. She didn’t respond, and at first I just thought she was one of the shy ones. But after I greeted her a second time, I saw that there was no recognition in her eyes. It was like she was looking at me, but didn’t see me. Her belly was distended, her genitals swollen. She didn’t shake my hand, and I can’t be sure, but I think probably because there was no strength in her skinny little arms to even lift them.

You know, it’s one thing to see the pictures on TV and in child sponsorship magazines of ‘starving children in Africa.’ It’s another thing entirely to take the tiny little hand of a child who is in the process of starving to death in yours and feebly tell them, “Yeesoo weyti aki ‘dona” – Jesus loves you very much.

I look around, and the need is soooo huge, and I am so small. I feel so helpless. There is nothing I can do. I can’t make it rain. I can’t raise huge amounts of money. I can’t feed these people. I, on my own, am powerless. But what I can do is pray – which is mightier than one might think. Will you join me? Though it seems hopeless, God is still in control. God sees the suffering of his people. Though we cry out and don’t understand, still God is good.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my saviour.
~ Habakuk 3:17-18
As I’ve been writing tonight, a song we used to sing at camp has come into my head.

My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.
My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.
The mountains are His, the rivers are His, the stars are His handiwork, too.
My God is so BIG! So strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do.

Can I add a verse?

The Rendille are His, the desert is His, the rains and the drought are His, too.
Oh, God, you are BIG! You’re strong and so mighty, there’s nothing that You cannot do.

And that includes bringing relief to the Rendille here in Northern Kenya.


nachtwache said...

Oh Hillary,
yes I'll join you in praying, as well I pray for you and the others who have to watch helpless, that you'll feel God's comfort and that He will sustain you all.

anne said...

I can't imagine the life these people must live or the frustration it must cause you to see them like that. Even having seen a few videos of this kind of situation, being so far removed, I am still (here in my safe, happy little american home) brought to grief and tears.

It is so much more apparent how good God is when faced with harsh realities like this. How much more He truly is to be depended upon.

Jean said...

as anne said, this is so hard to wrap my brain around sitting here with my stomach growling and able to get up and go to the fridge to find something to eat. how useless i feel with tears streaming down my face for these kids, these families, these people. but prayer IS powerful and God IS mighty and that is what I can do for a people I feel far removed from. Pray for them to see a mighty God who loves them.