Vol. 26, #2
During a Maasai service at the outstation of Mokilal, nestled in the hill country just West of Ngorongoro crater, I was distracted. Years ago, in the middle seventies, when the first Maasai priests began to be ordained, they got together and decided on a common policy. Their decision was that once baptized no Maasai might continue to go to the Laibon, the Maasai doctor for the bewitched. This has been a very difficult rule to follow since many problems just do not respond to the ministrations of the modern hospital or traditional Maasai healers. One example would be infertility and another might be a run of bad luck that goes on and on and on. The problem is that People are left hanging out there with no place to go for help. Healers and hospitals are ineffectual and their faith in Jesus is not yet strong enough to replace the Laibon.
In response to this situation, we started having a blessing of the sick and of troubled people at each of our services. The blessing takes the form of the laying on of hands, anointing with oil and blessing with water mixed with milk from a traditional gourd of blessing stoppered with green grass. This practice has gone some way to fill the space left by the admonition not to go to the Laibon.
Now I come to the reason for my distraction last week. Among those coming for the special blessing at Mokilal were a number of older women. When anointing their foreheads and palms with oil, I began to notice their hands. More deformed and calloused hands would be hard to find. Fingernails broken and missing, fingers swollen and arthritic; those hands were something. I began to think of all children cared for by those hands, the firewood those hands had cut and gathered, all the heavy kerosene tins of water those hands had brought home from springs and streams, the countless meals prepared, the many houses of sticks and cow dung built, cows milked, calves and goats care for, loads of corn meal carried miles to home from the shops, and all kinds of other stuff that I have not thought of. The hands of an African woman and the hands of the Maasai African women of Mokilal speak of the kind of dedication to family and village that is truly astounding. How do they do it and keep doing it year after year?
Women off to pray,
In recent weeks large numbers of local Maasai women have been going from village to village and to the shopkeepers at the Endulen trading center to collect money. They were preparing themselves to make the three-day trip to the Sonjo valley. The Sonjo people live in a single long valley North of us near the Kenya border. One fascinating aspect of the Sonjo religious experience is the unseen but very vocal spirit oracle that answers questions and solves problems. The Sonjo themselves and many outsiders like the Maasai travel great distances to consult this the oracle spirit that resides in a sacred house and makes a great noise and answers the questions of suppliants especially about the future. The Maasai are under threat from every side these days. In many places their dry season grazing land has been appropriated for huge agricultural projects. Many of their springs have been taken by the agriculturalists to the extent that in some places the Maasai are no longer permitted to water their herds, and disease has wiped out many Maasai herds. It is true that there are some rich Maasai but also true that large numbers of people have few or no cattle at all and live on the edge, experiencing hunger for significant periods each year. These and other issues, the Maasai took to oracle of Sonjo during this past week. It is unlikely, of course, that they will get any clear answers to their problems, but desperate situations call for unusual and desperate measures.
The President and our road
The president came to visit and prompted a major overhaul of the road from Ngorongoro crater to Endulen. For many months now it has been deeply rutted with lots of spring popping holes. The president came to open the new facilities for tourists at Laitole. Ancient footprints of ancestors and various ancient animals were found there years ago and because the artifacts were of a delicate nature, they were covered with a layer of cement to preserve them. Those things last many thousands of years, maybe millions of years when the local animal and human population was tramping back and forth in the area gathering honey and herding cows. The same area, now at the mercy of tourists will not last any time at all. Anyway the President presided over the uncovering of the footprints and the establishment of a safe environment for them. And, most importantly, at least to us, we have there is a new red clay, but super road out of Endulen.
Till next month,