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A letter from Brenda Harcourt in Kenya

September 29, 2009

Editor’s note: This was Brenda’s message to Blackhawk Presbytery at the September 8, 2009, meeting.

Greetings to you from Meru, Kenya.

Imenti

I am currently assigned to work in the Imenti Presbyteries of Presbyterian Church of East Africa. These are partner presbyteries with Blackhawk, and I’ll be working with them until early 2010 when I will begin working in other presbyteries.

It has been an incredible experience. Most people in the churches in Imenti know me from my years of coming here to do training on your behalf. They ask me how Blackhawk is and always want me to send greetings to all of you. Blackhawk has a real reputation in Kenya. I have run into folks from other presbyteries who want to know when they can have the same type training you have done in Imenti. It gives me the perfect opportunity to tell them that that is why I am here in Kenya for the PC(USA).

“We are family” has become a theme that I use regularly as I go about my daily life and coordinating, planning, and carrying out my work here in Kenya. As we struggle to understand each other (I am still trying to learn Swahili), we need to set aside our cultural differences and find common ground from which to do ministry. The message of Jesus Christ is what holds us together and forms the basis with which we plan and carry out our work. When we think about our families, we are reminded that we share all of life’s experiences together. We laugh together, we cry together, we celebrate together, and we mourn together. In every case we find that praying together brings us even closer. Pray with us as we continue to do the work of the church here in Kenya.

One family here in Kenya extended their home and love to me for the first month I was here as I settled into a house and bought all the necessary things I needed to make it a home. They went beyond being just a family from the PCEA community to become my extended family here. They continue to be very close to me and continue to support me in everything I do. Pray for the Gathuru family as they all serve Christ in many ways every day.

Young Adult Volunteers in Kenya

Photo of about 60 young people standing in rows to have their  picture taken under a bright sun. They're all wearing white tee shirts.

The youth rally for Kenyan youth in Mera and Young Adult Volunteers in Kenya was very successful.

As you are gathering today I am preparing to have the Young Adult Volunteers in Kenya in my home for two days. They will be participating in a youth event that I am helping to coordinate in Meru with about 300 youth from Imenti. The YAVs are participating as a part of their orientation as we play, worship and share in conversations. I am the unofficial mom for the youth of Imenti, and it is a large family to look after. We have planned several events and training experiences, but the highlight for them is this youth rally. They look forward to meeting their seven sisters and brothers from the United States. Deanna Drake from one of Blackhawk’s churches will be one of the YAVs. She will be permanently assigned to Meru after her orientation is complete. She will be working with a school 10 minutes walking distance from my home. Please pray for this event — that our youth from Imenti and the PC(USA) can build lasting friendships and share their common experiences with each other. And pray for Deanna, who will be working in Meru for the next year.

Women’s retreat

Recently I hosted a 24-hour women’s retreat at my home. Women from different age groups gathered to talk about being a woman in Kenya. Two of the women were under 20, and so it gave me an experience to talk about the value of women. We shared about women not being offered the same opportunities as men. Gathering around a fire in the fireplace, we talked about respecting our bodies and not allowing others to devalue us. We talked about women becoming anything they set their minds to. We talked about supporting each other in their struggle for equality. We talked about recent reports that over 30 percent of women are still undergoing female genital mutilation even though it has been against the law for a number of years. They shared their stories of struggling as young girls to help with the farm animals and home chores. They said school was an option that some only experienced for a year.

As we ate together and sipped tea we decided that we need more of these kinds of experiences. When noon arrived on the second day we all wanted our time together to last longer. One woman shared that she had never had an experience where she could just relax and enjoy the company of other women. She told about being taken from school by her father and beaten so that she would help at home and get the silly idea of school out of her head. She was also beaten by the man she married, who apparently thought her job was taking care of the house and having babies and he had the right to stay in the house while she and the children would huddle outside to sleep for the night after each beating. We have bonded together as sisters and aunts and grandmothers and know that our lives and paths will cross often. Pray for my sisters and aunts and grandmothers as they try to be women who want to be whatever Christ calls them to be.

Pastors’ and spouses’ retreat

The pastors’ and spouses’ retreat that Blackhawk is planning for February of 2010 will be a time to share what it means to be called as a pastor while being a responsible spouse, parent and friend. The pastors in Imenti are looking forward to this time together. Many of the pastors are close to me. They have truly embraced me as a sister in Christ as well as a fellow clergyperson. Pastors here may serve anywhere from four to 16 churches in their parishes. Some have gone from six months to a year without salaries, but have continued to serve.

So you see we really are family. I know that I am building a family here that will always be a part of my life even when I no longer work in Kenya. I invite you to be a part of the family as well. Members of the family of Christ may not look like you, but they share all of the experiences that you share, and they reach out to embrace you as one of them.

If you want to know more about my experiences or the experiences of other Presbyterian mission workers, check out the Mission Connections website.

If you would like to support me in my ministry, please contact the presbytery office. They can help you send money to my ECO account. Churches can contribute through my DMS (Directed Mission Support) account. You are a vital link in this ministry that I am doing here. It is your prayers and support that allow me to continue to do what Christ calls me to here in Kenya.

May God richly bless each and every one of you and may you find it in your heart to help touch the lives of the people of Kenya.

Your sister in Christ,

Brenda Harcourt

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