Some of you have read my blogs about Musa, the little boy of three years that we are raising here on the mission. Two and a half years ago one of my students visiting us on vacation from secondary school went to a Maasai village some few minutes walk from our place. At the gate of the village, he came upon a small child laying on the ground and crying. All his ribs were sticking out and it was clear that the small boy was not being cared for. In the house next to the gate the student, Lenkangu, found a group of women sitting around passing the time. He asked them about the emaciated child. They told him that the little boys mother had died some six weeks before and that her co-wives all had small children. They said that since the family had only a few cattle, the children of the co-wives were getting most of the milk and there was little left for Musa, the child laying at the gate. Each of the women of the family blamed Musa’s condition on the others, saying that the responsibility to take care of Musa rested with the others. It was clear to Lenkangu that Musa was slowly starving to death.
He came back to the mission and told us about Musa and how it was clear that the child would not survive the ill treatment and deprivation much longer. We talked it over and the woman, Naponu, who watches the house when I make my daily trips to the villages, said that she would undertake to care for Musa if I would buy milk for him each day. We immediately climbed into the car and went looking for the father of Musa, finding him at the shops in the village. He told us that he had asked his wives to care for Musa, but little was being done because they claimed that there was not enough food for Musa and their own small children. In fact he said there was little he could do. He told us that perhaps Musa was not meant to live. On being asked if he would agree that we care for Musa, he agreed saying that he did not expect Musa to survive. We went with him to the village and brought Musa here to the mission. That was two and a half years ago.
It was touch and go for a while but Musa did survive and after a few weeks began to put on weight. He has thrived and is now a sturdy little boy of three running around and getting into everything. He took his first steps months after other children of his age were walking and now is beginning to speak a few words. He has become the child of everyone here at Olbalbal. Since all the local Maasai
draw water at the tap in front of our house, all the Maasai women of the area check on Musa each day and many take a few minutes to play with him. Even the co-wives of his dead mother have come to enjoy greeting Musa and spending a little time with him.
Some time after we began to care for Musa and he revived and began to grow, there began to be a lot of sicknesses in the village of Musa. Most of the time there has been one or other of the people of that village seriously ill, much more so that the people of the surrounding villages. In fact, one began to hear talk of a curse on the village because of the way they treated Musa. Not long ago, the grass roof blew off the house of the oldest co-wife of Musa’s dead mother. Then some weeks ago, her baby of the same age that Musa was when Lenkangu found him took sick and began to waste away. The family took the child to various hospitals, even to the big new Lutheran hospital in Arusha. He received medicine everywhere but has not improved; he continues to get weaker and thinner. They say that he gets plenty of milk and is fed butter as are all Maasai children, but the milk does him no good and the butter sits in his stomach like a stone.
Last week the people of the village sent a delegation to an old woman, a diviner, at Nainoknoka in the mountains above us here at Olbalbal. The old woman has the reputation of being able to discern the “why” when bad things happen. She thought long and hard (a couple of days I was told) about the problem and then gave the delegation from Musa’s village her verdict. She told them that all these bad things were taking place because of the way that they had treated Musa.
The old woman said that they must have Musa bless their village. The blessing would consist of taking Musa to their village and giving him the things that he was deprived of as an infant. Musa’s father came to us with this story and asked us to take Musa “home” to bless the village. We agreed and a couple of days ago took Musa to his village. The family gave him milk to drink and a gourd of milk to take with him. They fed him a little butter and rubbed butter on his stomach. These were the two things, milk and butter, that he lacked as an infant, the food that a normal Maasai child is given in abundance. During all of these very solemn and vital proceedings, Musa was much more interested in the baby chickens that a woman of the village was raising to sell to the shopkeepers at Olbalbal village. He kept running after the chicks and had to be brought back to continue with the blessings. That was it. It took about a half hour and Musa had blessed the village by his presence and the symbolic milk and butter that he was given. We brought him back here to the mission and now everyone is waiting to see if the very sick child will get better and if the general health of the people of that village improves.
I thought afterwards that the least they could have done would have been to give Musa a baby chicken for his efforts.