Vol. 17, #4
Two swarms of bees have taken up residence in the walls of our shower. We usually don’t bother chasing them away. We get stung once in a while but they have not caused a serious problem and come every year. Feeling that the visitors I’m expecting in May will not
have the same live and let live attitude toward our boarders, prompted me to take action. Last night I made holes in the wall board and poured in the gas pellets that I use to kill the bugs every three months in our school container of corn and beans. Both swarms
died during the night. Then, in the morning, a huge swarm arrived from the forest and tried to take up residence in one of the homes of the now dead swarms that I terminated last night. They covered the outside wall of the kitchen. After about two hours, the smell and
killing power of the residue of the gas pellets discouraged them from moving in and they went off to find more hospitable lodgings.
Naisharua, one of our Maasai girls, starting secondary school this year has been found to have diabetes. For the last month, I’ve been working with Dr. Allen in Arusha and Dr. Helen in Boston. Naisharua’s numbers are beginning to come down a bit. In addition to
corresponding with Helen frequently by e-mail to keep her informed of Naisharua’s numbers etc., Helen has sent me information and alternatives to get her diet together. At this point we are slowly increasing her insulin dosages to bring the numbers within reason. This has been quite a challenge for both Naisharua and I. I think we are finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone here on the mission, in different ways, is helping me. She
has learned to ride the bicycle that I bought for her and since one week, except for a day now and then when there is a lot of rain, she is able to ride her bike the three miles to school and home here again in the afternoon. I am still following her in the car morning and evening, but she’ll soon have enough confidence to go off on her own.
The celebration of Baptism took place last week in a Maasai village. These were the first baptisms among the Maasai of that area. For two years we’ve been going each week to discuss the gospel with the people of the village, and since last September we’ve been meeting under a central tree each Sunday for a service of readings, songs and
Our ceremonies of Baptism employ Maasai symbols and rituals. Early in the morning, while it was still dark, each family went into their houses. They poured milk and honey beer on the hearth stones, calling on the ancestors of their family and clan to be with them and
to intercede for them as they entered upon this new phase of their Maasai family life.
Next the new fire was lit in the centre of the village. All the hearth fires had been extinguished upon going to bed the night before, signing the beginning of a new era in the life of the village. In the centre of the cattle crawl, a warrior twirled a foot long dowel like stick between his palms in a depression on a flat chunk of wood. The friction produced a spark that ignited some shavings. With additions of kindling and then larger pieces of firewood, there was soon a brusquely burning fire. The ceremony of the “lighting of the new fire” is performed whenever a new cattle camp is built or when the members of an age group come together to build a “manyata” for their age group rites of passage. The people gathered round the now leaping fire, and with a chalky like substance, I drew thick crosses on the foreheads of those to be baptized, “branding them” with the sign of Christ. Using this white paste infuses the giving of the cross of Jesus an added traditional Maasai meaning that is also an integral part of the regular Baptism ceremony, an exorcism. The Maasai smear this “chalk” on themselves during their own rituals and it symbolizes God’s protection of his people against curses, witchcraft, and other evils. Hence it is an exorcism.
The new fire is then heaped with green branches and gives off great clouds of smoke. In my black robe sewn with cowry shells and wearing
a sheepskin stole, sewn with these same sacred cowry shells, I stood at the fire with three elders. Black is the colour of rain clouds, the joyful colour of God’s love and care for his people. Cowry shells are a sign of the sacred. Gourds for milking always have
cowry shell sewn on them and Maasai prophets and holy women and men have cowry shells sewn on their clothing. The elders dressed in skin cloaks, cloaks usually worn by the women and considered holy, because among other reasons, the women give birth on them. We walked around the fire a few times blessing in the traditional Maasai way of sprinkling it with milk and honey beer from gourds. The mouths of the gourds are stuffed with green grass. These gourds with their stoppers of rich green grass are symbols of plenty and of blessing.
From the fire we walked through and around the entire village sprinkling the cattle, the people, and the houses with milk and honey beer from these gourds, signing that the entire village, its’ people and domestic animals are blessed by God. Finally the women took
brands from the new fire together with bits of the green branches to their houses where they lit the hearth fires, signing that these new followers of Jesus need to take the light of good news of the Gospel to their whole families, extended families, village and beyond.
Next we all walked together around the outside of the entire village singing Maasai songs of praise for God and of asking for the various things they need, food, children, cattle etc. etc. We ended up in the very centre of the cattle enclosure that is in the centre of the
village. There the Baptism itself took place. Sitting on a ritually acceptable cow skin and facing the Rising Sun, each person was baptized. We pour water from a gourd since there are no rivers or streams around to get immersed in. Finally we anointed with oil,
lots of oil, smearing it all over the persons head, face and chest as is done to the celebrants during important ceremonies like weddings, circumcisions, age group ceremonies etc. In the afternoon, there were goats killed and a cow was ritually slaughtered, roasted and
shared by all.
It was a wonderful celebration. Great numbers of Maasai came together, the Christians and their friends, the women in their beaded skin skirts and brightly coloured clothes and the men in their graceful toga like blankets. Under the great wide arms of the shade tree, which we had been meeting for prayer services for over a year, we had the “Endaa Sinyati” (The Sacred Food) as we call the Lord’s supper in Maasai. The liturgical celebration over, the eating and dancing continued well into the evening.
Till next month…