A blessing

A blessing in disguise

Today has not exactly gone to plan. I missed the unprogrammed morning worship because I got up too late. Then we had a full group gathering, with Oliver Kisaka preaching to us on the Young Quakers Christian Association Africa Triennial conference theme, 1 Samuel 16:7 ‘divine perception’ and Oliver Kisaka was both challenging and inspiring. Later I joined the group going to the nearby waterfalls and I enjoyed that ā€“ not least time spent with Ruth in quiet contemplation overlooking the falls as the rest of our group marched and sauntered over rocks and up and down hills to see the river higher up.

On our return from our outing we found that our singing sessions (2h30 worth) had been cancelled as a wedding reception had also been booked into the hall in our conference venue.

As I write, almost five hours since our return from the waterfalls, I’m conscious of the blessings that have come my way just now. Today is a day of blessings.

Oliver set up the train of thoughts about blessings with his preaching. He described a process of a prayer that I remember well from my community church days. Prayer can be divided into adoration, petition, repentance, thanksgiving and praise, or so the description goes. It is thanksgiving that concerns me here. Look for things to be thankful for, said Oliver. Remember Job, who started with nothing and ended with nothing, but was still grateful to God, for example. Oliver also told some personal anecdotes, the main one of which included his thanking the Lord for providing him with a car with an oil leak, while he stood exasperated in a petrol station.

Then I read a letter in the ‘Saturday Nation’, a Kenyan newspaper. Entitled ‘Stop complaining and thank God’, the correspondent points out that Kenyans are great at complaining and not so good at being grateful. She uses the fact that getting a new passport now takes a matter of days and not the many months that it used to. She concludes: ‘Kenyans should thank God more than complain. Can you imagine how much more blessings we would enjoy if we thanked God more? I have learned that the more I give thanks the more blessings I get.’

Part of the crucial message in this letter is ‘blessings we would enjoy’. When I was copying the letter out, I wrote ‘receive’ first, but then checked back and saw ‘enjoy’. A positive frame of mind can do wonders for the soul.

And so it came to bear for me, with a wonderful afternoon, with a lesson in Kenyan Quakers from Wycliffe up first, which grew out of a conversation with Mac and Hetty and Wycliffe too.

Later I had tea and a wonderful conversation with Benedict about God’s grace and how prayer can work in our lives. Benedict made several references to the US, which turned out to have been for my benefit as he thought that that was where I am from! With the misunderstanding cleared up, we got into talking about the role of the pastor in the Friends Church, how the responsibilities to God and the community are shared among the members of the Meetings in Britain and the role of young people within the Quaker faith.

From Oliver’s ministry this morning: ‘I may not have had the voice talking to me that Samuel had, nor a burning bush [as Moses had] but I’ve had a sense of purposefulness, the word from God ā€“ divine perception’.

With worship and fellowship with Quakers from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Lesotho, Uganda, the US, the Netherlands and the UK we are very much not all speaking the same language from our lips, but we definitely have a strong connection from the language of our hearts.
But I have been challenged in the past few days to think more about whether I could make more efforts to bridge the gap of the language from our lips and consider improving my French and learning more Swahili. The world conference of Friends takes place in Kenya in 2012 and it would be really useful to be able to speak more than just English then, whether I get to go or not. And languages aren’t just spoken abroad ā€“ we have many French and Swahili speaking Friends and others in London too.

Matters of the heart are no less important though and I’m dwelling in the spirit now as I write and generally among the presence of my brothers and sisters here in western Kenya.

Tomorrow we’re wrapping up the YQCA Africa Triennial and heading off in different directions. I’ll be heading to Kitale first, then spending a couple of days traveling among Friends in western Kenya. From Wednesday onwards I’ll be taking part in various young Friends conferences from the different Yearly Meetings. Then on Sunday I’ll be staying in Kisumu for one night with the indefatigable (praise be to God!) Eden Grace (from Friends United Meeting) and her family before flying back on Monday 21 December to London.

You can also follow Sarah Hoggatt on her Kenya travels at http://walkingthesea.blogspot.com/. R

Bonus paragraph while I wait for the internet connection to start up again:
And then, having had the internet working just fine for the last 45 minutes as I write, it starts raining as I go to upload my post and now I can’t get the internet connection working! This is the way the internet seems to be for me in Kenya. I haven’t managed to get The Friend’s website up once while I’ve been here, which rather smashes my case for Friends subscribing online with us. A couple of Friends in Kenya have asked here if it would be possible to get some kind of subsidised Friend out to them as the cost is prohibitive to them on their incomes, so that’s something else to ponder too.

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