A letter from Brenda Harcourt in Kenya
It was a glorious Easter morning in Kenya. We are in the midst of the rains, but Easter morning I woke at 5 am to the sound of a sunrise service PA system at a nearby church. I prepared myself for church and headed down the road to Easter services at Chogoria Central Parish. The sun was nice and warm and I realized that all around my home these beautiful resurrection lilies that pop up everywhere, in the grass, in gardens, were in full bloom. I thought how appropriate for Easter. Even here in Kenya, where spring is not the season in April, God had brought rain, and the flowers and vegetation were growing everywhere.
The elders and the parish pastor and I gathered in the vestry to pray and go over the worship for the day before we began worship. I realized quickly this was going to be a long service. Not only were we celebrating Easter, but we were also having baptisms, confirmation, communion, and a thanksgiving fund-raiser for the church they are building.
We began about 15 minutes late, which is very normal for African church services. The joy was about to begin. We confirmed 17 adults into the church membership and as each confirmed their faith I could feel the joy building in the church as they accepted these new family members into their family of faith. BUT that wasn’t the peak of my joy.
Next we started to baptize individuals. The pastor had informed me that he was going to conduct the baptisms in the vernacular and I quickly found out why. As the parents and individuals came forward the pastor called a young person up and talked with the people about her and gave her the opportunity to speak as well. One particular girl was in standard 5, which is similar to U.S. grade 5. An interpreter told me that she was saying she wanted to be baptized and then he told me her story. She had started to come to the school by the church and became involved in the worship services that the church-sponsored school offers. My interpreter was the chairperson of the school complex, and he said the girl comes from a non-Christian home. Her mother sells the local alcohol and her father is a conductor on a matatu (a local van-type public transport). She felt so much a part of the family at the church that she wanted to be a part of it. As I held the baptismal bowl of water, standing next to the pastor, my eyes filled with tears as I saw her take her turn to be baptized and with her head held high, with her elder sponsor next to her, she smiled as the waters of baptism flowed from her head over her face. God surely will use this child to touch others.
When the confirmations and baptisms were over the pastor turned to me and said I should lead in Holy Communion. What a gift. I knew I was going to deliver the message, but he was sharing even more the joy of leading worship by offering me the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist with his parish.
Easter touches me every year. As a parish minister, as a worshipper, or as a co-worker in a country I call home, Easter is just one of those mountaintop experiences in our journeys of faith that touch me deep in my soul. And this Easter was one that will stay with me forever. My faith is made stronger with each experience that God places in my journey of life and faithfulness.
The service continued with the sermon and hymns and all the other elements of worship and ended with a thanksgiving fund-raiser four and a half hours later. Harambees are a way for folks to bring from their homes and gardens items that are then sold to raise money for mission or, in this case, the new church building. We auctioned off eggs, fruit, greens, coffee seedlings, grains, a chicken and a goat. It was announced that they were able to raise about $3,000, which is a large amount of money for a parish. They are hoping to be able to worship in their new church building by the end of the year. Their present building was built in 1911 when the hospital compound was first established.
My prayer is that your Easter was as moving as mine. That Christ was made new in your life and that together with brothers and sisters of faith all over the world we might grow His church.
Please pray for my ministry here in Kenya. Remember the young girl who chose from a non-Christian home to step forward and proudly be baptized a Christian. I ask for continued prayers for the people in the drought areas of Africa who are still struggling to find food. Lift up the people who are displaced and find day-to-day living next to impossible. Kenya is preparing for an election and we are all praying that it be a peaceful election without the post-election violence they have experienced in the past. May God hear our prayers and grant his peace.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 99