Joy, Struggle, and Tasty Quakers
We are here safely in Kanamai, and the Africa chapter of the WGYF is now under way. Kanamai is 25 km north of Mombasa, the largest city on the east coast of Kenya. For our conference, 81 Friends are gathered here from 28 yearly meetings and two monthly meetings, 15 countries, and 5 continents.
I believe some Friends wrote from Nairobi, so I will pick up from there. We traveled from Nairobi to Kanamai in three groups--one in a car, one in a bus, and one in a train. The car and the bus left at the crack of dawn on Wednesday; the train left later that day.
In the car were Robin Dunn, a Friend from Australia who is living in Nairobi; John Fitzgerald; Eden Grace, a Friend from New England who is working for FUM in Kisumu; Moses Musonga, who is a Friend from Kenya who works for FWCC, and Bainito Wamalwa, a Friend from Kenya who was the African Coordinator for the WGYF and did much of the work to put this conference together. I think they planned a lot in the car. They arrived in Kanamai in about 10 hours. The bus folk, which included Ben Guaraldi, Emily Ross, Rachel Stacy, and many folks who were not able to attend the WGYF in Lancaster--took about the same amount of time, but left a little later. So all of these folks were in Mombasa at about 4pm and at Kanamai just before sunset.
The train folks had a bit of an adventure trying to catch their train. They arrived at the train station seven minutes late, caught a cab, and *raced* the train, and caught it at the next stop! I'll let one of them tell you that story soon--sounds like a crazy adventure! Holly Baldwin, Ru Barry, Christine Dunn, Grace, Raul Perez Chacon, T. Phori, and Jason Tres Reyes were all in that group. Their train left Wednesday at 7pm (without them, of course), and arrived in Mombasa Thursday at about 9am, and they all got to Kanamai before noon.
Pretty much everyone else arrived Thursday evening around sunset. All of the Friends from Africa who were able to get visas arrived that night.
We have noticed that there is a great joy in reconvening with other folks from the WGYF in Lancaster. In spite of our different traditions, and--more surprising--in spite of not necessarily knowing each other in Lancaster, a deep connection can be felt between us. This gives us confidence about creating deep friendships between us and our Yearly Meetings. We hope that we'll have the same sense of connection with the friends that we meet here.
And how nice it is to meet these Friends! The absence we felt in Lancaster--here it is! There is a sense of deep movement of the Spirit among all of us here--it is joyful to finally be able to share in the presence of these brothers and sisters.
I had been wondering before attending why we had chosen Kanamai for our conference. It is almost as far from the 144,000 Kenyan Quakers as it is possible to be and still be in Kenya. The idea was to give all Friends the opportunity to travel and the sense in being in a place removed from their day-to-day lives. Just in case anyone was wondering, as I was, why Kanamai?
There is a sense of sadness here from Friends who were not permitted to go to Lancaster. But there is also a sense of joy and gladness that the WGYF has come here to Kanamai.
Oh, and I should talk a little about what it's like here in Kanamai. How beautiful it is! We are steps away from the Indian Ocean, and inside a coral reef. The ocean moves a mile with each tide, out to the coral reef and back twice a day. Above our heads, we can often here the clicking sound of rain, but it is actually the leaves of palm trees rustling in the wind. Coconuts are along the ground, crabs are on the beach and in the grass near our bungalows. At night, we fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.
The weather is hot and a bit humid during the day and warm at night. Sunset and sunrise are at 6:30 sharp, and happen very quickly--the transition between bright day and dark night happens in perhaps half an hour.
We live two to a room, six to a bungalow. Mosquito nets hang over our beds. Our showers have no bathtub or curtain and fills the sink-side of the bathroom with water--what a relief not to have to fiddle around with a curtain!
We've had many activities since arriving. Yesterday we had orientations and a programmed meeting for worship. Today we had unprogrammed worship; a plenary session by Dr. Esther Mambo, who is the speaker for the African chapter of the WGYF; the first meeting of base groups; workshops; *all* of the Regional and Yearly Meeting presentations; and another programmed meeting for worship.
Let me talk a bit about the programmed and unprogrammed worship and then sign off for the night.
The unprogrammed worship was organized by Emily Ross. It opened with silence. Afterwards was a description of unprogrammed worship and a reading from Britain Yearly Meeting Faith and Practice about unprogrammed worship. Then we settled into a deep worship in which vocal ministry was given welcoming us to this gathering. We closed the unprogrammed worship with a question and answer session.
In this Q&A, we entered into a lively discussion about how unprogrammed Friends can speak about their faith--how they can help each other towards Jesus Christ, and how that is not applicable to all of their faith experiences. This seemed to be the first point at this WGYF that Friends had truly begun to wrestle with each other's faith.
The programmed worship is similar to the programmed worship that our Kenyan friends led in Lancaster, but here with many others who have similar conviction and passion, it attains an even greater level of spiritual power. We have heard readings, heard impromptu sermons on these readings, shouted out to God, danced, sung, waved our hands, asked our neighbors if they were tasty (because to be the fruit of God, mustn't we be tasty?) at these programmed worships. As the leader of one of the worships said--"You may be tired, but if you call out to God, the tiredness will fall away." How true!
We miss our Friends from Lancaster deeply and wish that you could be here with us to rejoice in the fellowship and faith of these Friends. We feel your presence in our hearts and hold you in our prayers, and ask you to hold us in yours.
Thanks to the Friends who agreed to post this entry in the blog!
We will be in touch again soon.
Ben (to whom the "I"s refer), Holly, Ru, and Robin