BIKIDZAYA – REPORT 4September 16, 2023
BIKIDZAYA & MAORO – REPORT 6September 21, 2023
Habari za jioni, sahibu and familia, (Good evening, friends, and family,)
Today was a somber beginning to the day. We were informed that our driver Sawale (52 year old father of three) died from a massive heart attack last night around 10:30 here at the Kamoti residence. This hit the entire team hard---Sawale was a welcoming soul, with a sense of peacefulness he spread to everyone around him. One of my personal experiences was at the Sean Michels school. I walked back to the van to grab a water and we began to chat. He shared his appreciation for our efforts in helping his community. Some of Sawale’s last word to me were “once you die you leave everything here, you can’t take it with you.” The time with Sawale will remain in our memories, and his peaceful touch will leave its imprint in our hearts forever. We took some time to absorb the loss before loading into the van to go to church in the Bikidzaya village.
We were privileged to have six of the young Kamoti girls, Leah, and her daughter Bella for the return journey to Bikidzaya today. Once we arrived, we were met by the parents and children of Bikidzaya with song as we departed the van. They took our hands and sang as we took the path to the local church approximately 1/2 mile up the hill from the school yard to the small church. Later we joked that we have finally found the place where the saying “up-hill both ways” came from. We were guided into the church with singing and cheering. Then the pastor gave a sermon on Luke 19, focusing on how Zacchaeus was eagerly searching out Jesus. He also let us know that our visit to his village was an answer to his prayers. The situation is Bikidzaya had gotten so dire that without the recent improvement brought by Koins for Kenya and Grant Victor Cares they were going to lose teachers, which would have continued the downward cycle for the village, and the children.
After the church service the travel team and the village walked up hill both ways back to the school yard for a surprise Leah, and the villagers, had arranged for the team. We enjoyed some songs and dances from the children as they requested Cory, Rhet and Lauren to accompany a village elder to a classroom behind us. The village had been informed that Cory, and Lauren will be married on September 29th after we return to the states. The villagers had arranged to re-enact a traditional Kenyan wedding using Cory and Lauren as the groom and bridegroom. We were asked to join the village in the classroom behind us. As we entered, we noticed three veiled women sitting in the corner of the room. They explained that one of the customs is for the groom to come to the home village of the bride-to-be and pick his wife out of several women who are veiled. The village elders then invited Cory and Rhet (Rhet was playing the part of the groom’s man) from the classroom next to us, to join us. Cory was then asked to pick his wife-to-be from the three veiled women sitting in the corner. Cory played along acting like he was not quite sure which was Lauren, then chose Lauren by unveiling Lauren. At this point the crowd erupted in cheers and applause. They then proceeded to explain to us the rest of the steps involved in being officially married in Kenya. The next step was the deliberation to determine the bridal dowery. It was determined that Lauren was worth 15 cows and 1 goat. At this point Lauren and Cory were looking into each other’s eyes and smiling like a newlywed couple. This was such a wonderful thing for the village to arrange for us to witness.
After the mock wedding we gathered the solar lights we brought for the villagers, broke into teams then began the hike through the area to hand deliver the 120 solar lanterns. We gifted a few to the church since it was obvious that they didn’t have electricity. This year’s selection was quite special, besides having the solar function these also had a hand crank, you could use to power them up in poor weather, a flashlight function, and a USB port that could be used to charge a phone. One of the things I noticed during our intimate opportunity of entering the villagers’ homes, was the cleanliness, the care and respect each of the villager’s had for their home and their belongings. The inner regal spirit of the Kenyan people radiated outward through their gracious invitation to enter their homes and sharing their time with us. During our walk to the first house in a moment of private conversation Judah turned to me and said “Dad, you know what I think?” “What son?” “I think it is an amazing thing that happened about Sawale.” “Why is that son?” “Because it showed me how fragile life is, how precious it is, and how grateful we should be that we have it.” “You are so right son!” I walked in silence for a while silently giving thanks to the Lord, thanks for my son, as well as thanks for my life.
Once we returned to the school after handing out the remaining solar lanterns, we met with the village elders and school administrators for our farewell. The children escorted us to the van in a song of thanks. As we pulled away I gathered a small piece of Bikidzaya to replace the piece of my heart that will remain in this village, this is such a wonderful and special place. Thank you Bikidzaya, for your love, your hospitality, your generosity, and for making us part of your community.
Here are some notes from the others on the travel team:
Chelsey – Today we woke up to the unfortunate news of our driver’s passing. Part of this journey is sharing moments and getting to know each other. You quickly go from acquaintances to friends to family in such a short time. That’s who Sawale was. He was our family. Just the night before , he made a bouquet of flowers in a water bottle and placed them on the table in front of us. After a week I felt like he was part of us. Mr. DJ Scratcher, the one with the funny BMW ringtone. He will never be forgotten. “Will the driver of the black BMW please rest in peace”!
Rhet /Ellerie – Today was filled with lots of emotions. When we woke up we found out our driver had passed away. He was such a great guy. He had a young family and was way too young to pass. We then headed to the village and had a wonderful church service. My highlight of the day was the surprise wedding the village threw for Cory & Lauren. I (Rhet) was lucky enough to be the Best Man. Keep it all in the family, right? We miss you all. Peace & Love!!
Cory / Lauren – After the sudden and tragic passing of Sawale this morning, our spirits were low and feeling sorrowful. However, the beautiful community of Bikidzaya welcomed us to their church service and I felt so much love. After the joyous service fill of prayer, and singing, we moved to the school courtyard for mine and Cory’s traditional Kenyan wedding ceremony. We were both very surprised and grateful to take part in the villages traditions and it was very special once we passed around the solar lights to the village members. We began the long bus ride home waiting for us was one of the last surprises when Miriam, the best cook ever, welcomed us with a wedding cake. It was delicious and as we shared the cake with the Kamoti family we danced and laughed. What a day filled with life lasting memories.
Michaela – My dear friend Brooklyn at home challenged me to write down as many names of the people I have met here in Kenya. The first name on my list is Sawale. His spirit, laugh, and positive attitude is unprecedented. That news was hard today. The highlight today was being able to attend a church service in the village of Bikidzaya. Their love for God is great. And it was so fun the girls from Mama Kamoti’s came with us. They loved seeing what we’ve been doing and could tell they were proud to be part of the team.
Tomorrow morning we leave early for the Safari and will not be sending emails for a few days. We will resume on Wednesday. Asante Sana!!
Authored by Christopher Rawson