Idag är det exakt 20 år sedan jag blev katolik. Passar på att ge en liten hyllning till den präst som undervisade och förberedde mig för denna stora dag i Kehancha i sydvästra Kenya. Detta är ett utdrag från den kenyanska tidningen the Seed, december 2000.
"And there is hope. The story of a parish such as Kehancha, at the far corner to the north of the diocese, carries such hope. Bordering the Maasai Mara Game Reserve on Kenya's border with Tanzania, Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, Kehancha Mission, is a beautiful sight to behold. This is one of the very few self-supporting and, admittedly, best pastorally organised, churches of Western Kenya. Kehancha Mission is blessed with a unique pastor. His name is Fr. Angelo Insam, a Mill Hill missionary of Italian origin. But his Kuria people know him only as Fr. Kifaru. Paul Mumasi, Chairman of the Parsih Pastoral Council, readily explains the pet name. "Ukijua kifaru, utajua kwa nini tumempatia huyu Padre wetu jina hilo..." (If you know the rhino, you will know why we called our priest by that name.) When a rhino setsout on a charge, he doesn't care if a fire or a hundred-year old tree trunk is standing in his way. He charges, full speed, never for a second looking sideways or back. And it seldom retreats. That's our priest. When he puts his mind to a task, be it a development activity or a pastoral initiative, nothing shakes his resolve.
That name explains the genesis of the Mission among the Kuria. Angelo was parish priest of Isebania stretched out into the forest area toward the Maasai Mara, covering present-day Kehancha and Ntimaru.Yearning to reach out to the Kuria who felt left out in a diocece dominated by the Luo and the Gusii (Homabay was then still part of the wider Kisii diocece), Fr. Angelo set out on a lone and risky pastoral project. He started an outstation in Kehancha, with only seven Christians, and celebrated the first Mass in a butchery! They celebrated Mass in that butchery for six years.
In 1988 the late Bishop Charles Mugendi visited Ntimaru, an outstation nearest Kehancha, where he didn't have to celebrate apontifical Mass in a butchery! Catching the ear of the bishop, the area parish priest, Fr Angelo, whispered that he wished to start a parish at Kehancha. Bishop Mugendi almost burst out into laughter, telling his priest to simply forget it.The area was to wild, he explained. Ther were hardly enough Christians to warrant a parish and it sidn't look like the Kuria were in a hurry to embrace Christianity. Added with extremely limited resources and bleak future for personnel, this would remain an impossible dream for a long time. But Fr. Kifaru, insisted. And the old bishop gave a reluctant blessing.
Maria Muhiri, an old widow who wasn't even then a Christian, offered land, seven hectares in all - free of charge! And the now slightly growing number of Christians put down their first church, admidst fierce opposition from locals, who feared that their land would be systematically grabbed by the Muzungu colonialist. The modest Christian community had to employ two drunks to guard the mission and their priest. For a while every one thought that this band of adherents to a "Western religion" were crazy. But they kept at it. Today, thirteen years later, the once wild terrain boasts a government district headquarter. Out of a population of 45,000 people, 6,000 are Roman Catholics of Kehancha Parish.
The Mission founded in a butchery is now a full fledged international village with Italian Pastor, Philippine and Indonesian Sisters and a newly assigned Fr. Charles Ochuoonyo from far North in Mawego Parish. They boast a convent, complete with a Formation House for Sisters, a nursery, primary school, girls' secondary school, polytechnic and rehabilitation centre for disabled stand on the grounds. And Sr. Melly Frondarina, with her Franciscan Sisters of Immaculate Conception, runs a dispensary and maternity unit. All have been the initiative of the Kuria people of Kehancha. With the help of a few benefactors and well wishers, the locals contribute funds, provide labour and personnael, and proudly display the work of their hands. A monument with the names of the pioneer Christians and heroes of Kehancha stands proudly at the centre of the mission.
It is the Primary School children who spell out the silent motto of this Mission in the jungle, translating it into song:
Tunaapa kulinda miseni yetu;
Miseni yetu tuliyopewa na Mungu
Hatutarudi nyuma; hatutachoka
/We vow to keep guard over our Mission;
Our Mission given to us by God;
No retreat, no surrender./
THAT is a song fit for a Diocesan anthem.
(Written by Kodi Barth, assistant editor of the Seed)