By Andrew Graben…. As I write this, it is Tuesday night here in Mombasa, Kenya. The brave women on the recovery team finished day two of their conference, while the justice conference kicked off today. But even though both programs are in their early stages, one thing has become clear: human brokenness and the need for Jesus Christ are not determined by national boundaries or expansive oceans. Our Kenyan brothers and sisters may identify with a different culture, and many of them speak a different language, but they are more like us, and their problems are more like our problems, than I could have imagined. In short, we all share a common hunger for the redemptive and transformative power of God’s truth.
One of the most striking things about Kenya has been the friendliness and openness of the people. Kenyans love to engage in substantive, personal conversations, and they are quick to develop a relational bond, even with new acquaintances. For example, when you first meet a Kenyan and they ask, “How are you,” they expect a meaningful response and will themselves share true feelings and details of their lives in short order. It’s a refreshing change from the “form over substance” that is common in American culture. And it makes our tasks here that much easier–the dialogue flows freely.
The recovery conference, by all accounts, has been a smashing success. Monday was largely introductory, yet even then the room was filled with joyful songs and painful tears as the Kenyan participants learned of God’s love and healing power. Today, the Watermark women shared their personal stories of trauma and healing as they taught on topics like grief and shame, among other things. And, by their hard work, our recovery team has persevered through the difficulties of teaching though a translator and the cultural barriers that existed. I was fortunate to view a small portion of today’s session, and I can tell you that the Kenyan women, many of whom are Muslim, are deeply engaged in these topics, and the bond that has developed between them and our American sisters is incredible. God’s glory is evident in every moment.
The justice conference started today, but already we have been blessed by our interactions with our Kenyan friends. The 95+ participants are a mixed group, which includes lawyers, prison officials, counselors, mediators, one judge, and two bishops. And every one of them is eager to further the cause of justice–that is, God’s justice–in Kenya. We covered everything from “Bible 101” to leadership today, and we also learned a lot about the specific challenges facing Kenya. But the real highlight was Robert Falay’s closing exposition on grief, during with he shared his truly amazing story of his and his family’s escape from political oppression in Congo–just two countries away from Kenya. The participants were in awe, as was I. If you don’t know Robert or haven’t heard his story, you should. God is truly great. (Here are links to Watermark News stories on Robert and his wife Nadege…http://www.watermark.org/blog/walking-jail and http://www.watermark.org/blog/lots-tears-2 )
As we all prepare for Wednesday’s presentations, it is striking how God is moving here. I am confident that these Kenyan leaders are ready to take these lessons and entrust them to other faithful men and women in Kenya who will, in turn, lead others. (2 Tim. 2:2) So our faith is great that the impact of this conference will be multiplied beyond our humble efforts, and, soon, healing, reconciliation, and justice can be propagated throughout Kenya by Kenyans. With God, truly anything is possible.