Africa, July/August 2019, Vol. 84 No. 6
God of the Deserts
You might recognize the people in this photo at least by nationality and by tribe. These were my new friends in Turkana County during my short break in Lodwar Diocese. Lotunguna is one of the outstations in Holy Family Parish, Kanamkamer, Lodwar Diocese. It is a station in the middle of the desert, roughly speaking. My two weeks in Turkana were a memorable time for me. It was my break, but can you see me working up there? Of course, there is a difference between the work you do as a duty and the work you do for leisure. This was my leisure, to be of help.
You see, the first mistake I made on arrival was to see them as people who deserve pity. I was very wrong. They are ordinary human beings who deserve love and care. Their children have the right to education, health care services and a bright future. Thanks to the missionaries and others who have helped provide these necessities over the years, I met a happy people.
It might interest you to know what I learnt from them. When I saw the nature of the place: grounds where no crops can grow, constant sunshine with high temperatures, a total absence of provision stores and so on, I was wondering, ‘how do they survive?’ First of all I had to acknowledge the fact that they have survived there for many years. Secondly, these are very hardworking people. I will tell you what I mean. Take a look at the photo again. Can you see those beautiful mats we are arranging in the car? Those are their handiwork. The materials for those mats are found at a river bank far away. But they don’t mind the distance. They walk down to get the materials and make the mats. That’s why I was very happy to help them convey the mats to the marketing point. I suppose that’s exactly what our forefather missionaries have been doing over the years.
Moreover, the people here have goats and camels. Are you wondering with me where those animals get their pasture in the desert? Well, the same God who feeds the birds of the air, also feeds the goats in the deserts. I actually found those animals very healthy. Apart from mats and animals, they also produce charcoal for sale. We had some bags of charcoal also in the car to take to market. I marvelled at their determination when I considered the distances they had to cover by foot from one area to another. Not even the heat of the sun could hinder them from walking all those kilometres. I saw the determination also in the children. It was my first time to experience children leave for a boarding school without carrying any luggage, not even a change of clothes. And they were still very happy. Which means most of the things we complain about are not worth it.
Thanks to Fr John O’Callaghan, Fr Kufre Afangaide, and Fr Livinus Onogwu for the wonderful work they are doing there, and the early missionaries long gone. Thanks too to my classmate, Raphael Nwokoro, with whom I shared those beautiful experiences. Indeed, it was a short and memorable break with the wonderful people. Personally I encountered the God of the deserts. Can you guess the biggest lesson I learnt? I learnt that determination helps us to move beyond barriers wherever we find ourselves.
Columba Akanimo is a St Patrick’s student, from Nigeria, on his First Missionary Assignment in Kitale, Kenya.
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