Thursday, October 3, 2013
‘If they cut off my head, I’ll be whimpering...’
Having just returned from Kenya, I was riveted by the attack by Somali Islamic terrorists at an upscale shopping center in Nairobi.
At first, I thought it was the same mall at which our church mission group had lunch one pleasant sunny day. How many upscale malls can there be in Nairobi?
Apparently, quite a few. We were at The Junction Mall, a couple miles away from Nairobi’s Westgate Mall where the attack took place.
One week and two miles doesn’t seem like such a great distance to dodge a bullet that big. We were having lunch at the entrance to the mall. Our skin color would have marked us as sitting ducks.
We had to go through a security checkpoint to enter the shopping mall. The guard was armed, but he just eyeballed us and waved us through. No doubt such a guard was simply shot and pushed out of the way to start the Westgate raid.
The raiders asked their victims if they were Muslims. If they answered yes, they were released. If not, they were shot.
Being on a mission trip, answering that question would have been a classic test of faith, which I would have failed miserably. Al Akbar Emmerich at your service, praise be to Allah! Not that it would have mattered, given my skin color.
Before I departed for Kenya I would joke with friends about the potential of such horrors. “If they cut my head off, you have to promise not to watch the video, because I will be whimpering the whole way through.”
There was truth in jest. Somali, on Kenya’s northern border, has been the site of a resurgent Al-Qaeda. Several years ago, 200 people were killed when terrorists blew up the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
The week before we departed for Nairobi, a fire of unknown origin destroyed half the airport.
Missionary Stu Ross has seen it firsthand. He lives in Nairobi half the year and has planted churches on the coast near Mombasa where 85 percent of the population is Muslim. One church there was recently blown up by Muslims, killing 20. They simply rebuilt.
“You can’t show them that you are scared,” Ross told me as we navigated his car through the crowded streets of Nairobi.
Islam can be a violent religion. It was founded by the sword, not by turning the other cheek. In this respect, it is the polar opposite of Christianity.
There is another crucial difference: Islam seeks to implement a theocracy and punish non-believers. The goal is takeover of the entire government. As a result, Islam is incompatible with our form of government - a democratic republic with individual freedoms. In contrast, Christ said render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s. Big difference.
In Malawi, to the south of Kenya, a group I’m involved with is drilling water wells. We do it as a gift to the destitute villagers. In contrast, the Muslims will only drill a well if the entire village agrees to convert.
East Africa is a battleground between the two competing faiths, but Christianity is winning by a long shot. Perhaps this sense of defeat is propelling the Muslim fanatics to desperation.
Around Nairobi, 90 percent of the people are Christians. The Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) is amazingly strong. In many respects, Kenya is more fervently Christian than the United States. Sunday church lasts four hours. People pray hard because they need God more than we cozy, affluent Americans.
Unlike Malawi, I never saw a malnourished Kenyan. In fact, most of them could lose a few pounds. Food is plentiful: corn, mangoes, bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava, kale, tomatoes, avocados, carrots, beets, goat, lamb, chicken and beef.
To eat, you must work. There is no welfare. No free medical care. If you become sick or disabled, you better have family to take care of you. Otherwise, you die.
In Kenya, few people get treated for cancer. Instead, “they just say goodbye” as one local explained to me. Life expectancy is 57 years.
Nairobi is a huge city with vast affluent areas of big houses and nice cars. The middle class is booming. Cell phones are everywhere.
United Nations stats reveal that Kenyan per capita income is $1,800 a year - 1/30th of America’s. There are vast areas of urban slums with trash everywhere.
But the gap doesn’t seem that big to me. Little is wasted. Americans seem five times more affluent, not 30.
Half the country is under 20 and schools are everywhere, many founded by the PCEA. Huge numbers of youth are in boarding schools.
It seems everyone I asked had a father with three wives and 15 brothers and sisters. This caused explosive population growth. Things are now changing. The new generation is monogamous and having only a few children. Education is everything and education is very expensive. Quality is taking precedence over quantity.
Many economists are predicting rapid growth for Africa over the next decade, as Chinese labor costs rise. The Chinese themselves see opportunity and have made huge investments in Africa. From my car window, I could see Chinese engineers supervising Kenyans as they worked on massive highway projects.
Ethnic rivalries are still a problem. There are about 10 major ethnicities and they all have their own language, although intermarriage is a non-event. Most of the fights are over land and access to water.
As I write, the president and vice president of Kenya are standing trial at The Hague’s International Criminal Court for encouraging genocidal ethnic violence during the 2007 election. One thousand people were killed and 600,000 people were displaced.
The president and vice president vehemently declare their innocence, arguing the violence was spontaneous. The Hague prosecutor claims the violence was meticulously planned during numerous logistical meetings in which weapons were delivered.
The trial, up until the terrorist attack, has been dominating headlines.
Most African people are very gentle and trusting. Unfortunately, this innocence is easily manipulated by corrupt leaders. Graft is rampant.
Nairobi has the best weather in the world. It’s on the equator but at 5,500 feet.
Every day the high is about 77 and the low at night is 55. All year round. Paradise. Everywhere you see people walking by the road.
The Maasai Mara is the northern part of the Serengeti Plain. There we met Maasai villagers who eat nothing but cow milk, cow blood and cow meat. No vegetables. No fruit. They don’t kill the cow for blood, they simply nick a small vein and drain a cup.
The Maasai Mara was full of animals. We saw four of the five “big five” on our way from the airport to our campsite. The poachers have been run off. The demise of all the African animals, like global warming, may be a bit exaggerated to keep the funds flowing.
These great animals are worth far more dead than alive. The Maasai Mara is one of the great tourist attractions of the world, bringing in billions of hard currency to Kenya. The Maasai villagers have learned to supplement their income selling their handicrafts to tourists.
I saw 30 animals in two days: cape buffalo, elands, wildebeests, zebra, cerval cat, cheetah, dik dik, lion, giraffe, tommies, topis, rhino, elephant, guinea fowl, black bellied busters, warthogs, jackals, impalas, ostrich, leopard, hyena, baboons, mongoose, ground hornbill, Egyptian geese, eagles, hippos, crocodiles, vultures and gazelles.
It was like driving through a huge open zoo.
News: (662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: (662) 252-3388
Questions, comments, corrections: email@example.com
The South Reporter
P.O. Box 278
Holly Springs, MS 38635
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page