A Missionary Journey in Kenya

Receiving more than I give

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2013 Seminar for Men – Part 1


• Faith does not mean passivity. It means the courage to act and never to be deterred. The future will happen, but it is we – inspired, empowered, given strength by the promise—who must bring it about.

• It is not so much that we have faith in God but that God has faith in us.

God is glorified when men are fully alive! St Irenaeus

In January, 2011, I was appointed Chaplain for the C.M.A. (Catholic Men’s Association) in Kionyo Parish, Kenya. When I met with them we discussed what they wanted and needed. There is a CMA group at each of our 11 Prayer Houses, with all the CMA Chairpersons forming the Parish CMA Executive to coordinate at the Parish and Diocesan level.

One of the things we discussed was Seminars to give input for the men. I asked them to come up with some dates and topics, but nothing happened. Then, life became busy for me settling into the parish, grappling with the YCS (Catholic Student groups in our 9 Secondary Schools), Parish Computer College, 30 Small Christian Communities (out of 90), etc., etc. I kept saying, “we must have a seminar!”

In January, 2013 (yes, 2 years later), I met with the men’s executive to de-brief the “2012 Rite of Passage” event that the CMA organised and managed for our Primary School leavers (for boys – a girls “Alternative Rite of Passage” was also organised, but that is another story!). At that meeting I raised the issue of a parish seminar for men – they enthusiastically said “YES”, and we decided to make a date, otherwise it would never happen!

The Parish Chairman and all the CMA executive promoted it, but (in true “no rush” Kenya) by Tuesday 12th, we only received 96 registrations. We chose the 16th February, 2013. As the first weekend in Lent… it would also double as an encouragement for their faith journey through Lent, and prepare for Easter. Due to a busy schedule in January with visitors, I ended up needing a few days off in early February, which meant I had 4 days to prepare, and on the first of those days I learned that the main speaker was not available.

As the Diocesan CMA chairperson, he promised a replacement the next day. Our Parish CMA chairman was to follow it up… but only gave me the info on Friday morning… after he was unavailable on the Thursday. Needless to say, I was getting a bit “worried”! The men were not sure why I was worried, as he would be coming on Saturday. But, I explained, “we need to make sure we are all on the same page so our talks are complementing and supportive.”

I took the motorbike and visited the new speaker, Mr Inoti Genaro Murugu, a teacher past the retirement age of 55 (as he told me), working in a primary school 600 metres below Kionyo and about 27km by road… the last 9kms of which was a bone jarring dusty ride… thank God (and my friends) that I had a tough Honda XL200! [I suppose I could have slowed down, but then where’s all the fun? :-) ].

2013-02-22 - Gerry on Honda pikipiki at kionyo
On the Honda Motorbike

When I arrived at the school (badly in need of money and resources), it was hot and dusty, but a swarm of happy children quickly gathered around the bike. A few teachers came out the front… warmly welcomed me and offered me “uji”, a kind of nutritious porridge that they drink. They kindly allowed our speaker, to talk with me for an hour as I went through the program and asked him for his guidance… all I had was something vague, struggling to know how to approach men’s issues in a different culture (the topics requested by the executive were: leadership, faith, responsibility, HIV/AIDS, drunkenness & alcoholism).  We agreed to focus on the first three, knowing that the last three are consequences of not living the first three well.

I first of all apologised for the short notice, which he quickly brushed away saying, that’s normal! He was very affirming of the slides I had prepared, and we agreed that I would give facts and knowledge about men, while he would talk about the information in the local language and using local examples and cultural adjustments. I was very touched by his dedication at the school, which he told me has a disabilities class with 15 students. It was quite a treat for the children to see an ugly white man like me, and they crowded around the door to our meeting room like a swarm of bees. Mr Inoti said, “Father, you better greet them and then they will be happy and run away to have their ‘uji’.” One little girl started giggling uncontrollably (she has a slight mental disability), and the teacher calmly held on to her and, at the end, asked other students to gently take her away.

After we finished our preparation chat, I had to greet his Class 2 students and apologise for stealing their teacher! As my Swahili is still poor, I started demonstrating a kangaroo, which sent them into fits of laughter, as I barely kept my balance – lucky I’m such a great athlete!

Take care & God Bless, Gerard

Parts 2 & 3 to follow…


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