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  • Jenny Smyth

Standing Firm

The music has just started up for church, so the service may begin within the next hour.

The lectionary readings are from Jeremiah and Philippians: Jeremiah pays the price for speaking truth to power and ends up in a deep cistern in the mud; Paul writes from prison convinced that all his sufferings are worth it for the privilege of knowing Jesus and making Him known.

I am preaching today in St Barnabas, Oltiasika. The neighbouring congregation, St Patrick's, is coming along too, walking the 11kms through the hills. Reading through the passages, it's very revealing to try to see them through Maasai eyes, eyes of a people whose culture and context is so very different.

Jeremiah in his water cistern in danger of starving to death… Well, people are only too familiar with hunger and there are three huge new ground water tanks not 500 metres away - the danger of falling in and being trapped is easy to imagine. Paul facing fierce opposition as he bucks the cultural and religious trend... Christianity has challenged some cultural norms here.

God’s living Word resonates with people’s daily experience here too. Obedience to God’s Word can be hard and costly, but God is always faithful to His people. Through Ebed-melech, he rescued Jeremiah and Christians sent help to Paul in prison. God appointing His people to help each other in times of need, God setting the right people in the right place at just the right time.

Ronnie and Maggie Briggs, our mission partners here, are so clearly God’s people in the right place, working alongside folk here to encourage, build up and strengthen the Church as it expresses God’s care in very practical ways. They have built up strong relationships with the local community and under the direction of Ven Naftaly, they are planning a range of projects.

The water catchment tanks are almost complete and will provide year round accessible water for 2000 people. The shamba is productive and brings in an income, the goat herd provides quality stock for the local market, the guest house is a retreat and training centre and Maggie is in discussion with the women about literacy classes and income generation.

As I arrived here in Oltiasika, in the Chyulu foothills, the rains came. It has rained steadily through each night, bringing much rejoicing after two failed harvests due to drought. Rain has bought problems too. With the river too full to cross, the tomato traders cannot collect the harvest from the MRTC shamba. The roads have been washed away and returning to Nairobi for my flight home will be challenging. However folk here know how to support one another and with the Church as a focal point real transformation is possible.

Many folk here cannot read the Bible for themselves, so I ended my sermon with a memory verse: Philippians 1:27,

Stand firm in one spirit with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel and don’t be frightened.

CMSI is privileged to stand firm in one spirit and strive side by side with folk here as the life bringing good news of Jesus is demonstrated through word and deed.

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