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A letter from Brenda Harcourt in Kenya

July 17, 2009

Friends,

Six months have come and gone and it seems like such a short time. I am currently working in the Imenti North, Central and South Presbyteries, helping coordinate training events, coordinating partnerships that are in place and nurturing a partnership that is starting.

Imenti North, Central and South Presbyteries are a three- or four-hour drive just around the equator and north of Nairobi. It is a beautiful part of Kenya. It is just at the base of Mount Kenya so the water from the mountains keeps most of the area very well watered. Lush greens are always present. We are not experiencing the drought that most of Kenya is going through now. Nairobi is rationing water, but here in Meru the water is plentiful.

My home is in the midst of these three presbyteries in a city named Meru. Meru is like any other larger city in Africa. It offers me almost everything I need, which is so different from when I was in mission service 20 years ago. I have a mobile phone that keeps me in touch with not only people in Kenya but people around the world. I have access to the Internet, which keeps me up to date on news and correspondence with folks. Electricity is available almost 100 percent of the time. A small hospital that can do surgery, prescribe medicines and treat and test just about everything is just a five-minute walk from my home. A doctor is on duty or call there 24 hours a day. A large department store that carries everything, including imported items, is about a 15-minute walk from my home. So you can see that I am not isolated or out of reach.

Photo of a woman standing in a kitchen. She wears an apron and holds a spatula and is smiling. Behind her, the walls are covered with square, white tile.

Ann works in my house and is a real companion to me. She has raised five children and three grandchildren.

Ann, my house-help, is a real companion to me. She and I sit sometimes and talk about our faith and the struggles of life. She is small woman, about five feet tall, but she has the strength and stamina of a much larger person. Ann has raised five children of her own, mostly as a single mom. Her husband died while the children were young, and she had to work in people’s homes to raise money to educate them and help them get on their own. One of her daughters left her three children with Ann to raise, so now Ann is raising her grandchildren as well. She dreams of the time when the last of her own children — a daughter currently taking catering courses — will be on her own. She has only one grandchild yet at home who is in her last years of primary school and is doing well so hopes to go on to secondary school next year.

Ann lives in a small two-room timber home with no electricity or running water. She walks about five miles to come to my home every day. Each evening she hurries to leave my home before 5:00 so she doesn’t have to walk in the dark to get to her home. She has educated all of her children and grandchildren and so wants me to write her a certificate when she is finished working for me that shows she has learned many new things. Pray for Ann and her family as they continue to live each day with the challenges of rising costs and meeting the needs of her family.

The people of Meru are a mix of most of the different groups of people from Kenya. Ann is Kukuyu, one of the tribes of Kenya. Many Kukuyu are born and raised here in Meru, but as in most cities there are folks from all over. There are many from Italy, Germany, India, Pakistan, the United States, England and an assortment of other countries.

For years prior to coming here I have been traveling for Blackhawk Presbytery (in Illinois) to help coordinate training here in Kenya, so the people are like family to me. I have spent many hours with most of the church leaders. I guess I have been luckier than most of the other co-workers commissioned with me last January who were going to places they had never been.

We are organizing a youth rally to take place in September that will bring together about 300 to 500 youth from one of the presbyteries. We have invited the young adult volunteers from the United States that will be in Kenya for the year to join us for this event. The youth of Kenya are excited to meet and talk with youth from the United States. In fact, we have included several hours in the afternoon of one day just for conversations. They are calling the time “Heart to Heart Conversations.” They have planned a joint worship service on the Sunday of the event to celebrate together our common commitment to Jesus Christ.

Please pray for the people of Kenya as they face water rationing and drought and as they struggle with corruption and continue to find ways to reincorporate those who were displaced by the postelection violence of last year. Also pray for my ministries, the events that I am helping to coordinate and that God may use me in ways that will benefit His kingdom here in Kenya.

Brenda

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