Our big God adventure: Episode 10 –Election violence, cookies and a poem

Flashback to violence following the 2007 elections in Kenya: neighbours of missionaries Lydia and Wilco Venter on the site where their house was burned down in the unrest

Lydia recalls God’s grace during a troubled time in Kenya

Up until 2007 life for us pretty much revolved around running Yasha Mission Academy as well as our ongoing work in remote areas. By then we had planted several churches and, because God never called us to pastor a church, we worked alongside local leaders who had a heart to see their villages being transformed by the power of God’s Spirit.  

By December 2007 it was time for the Kenyan General Election. Things turned bad when the two leaders, Kibaki and Raila, both claimed victory. When Mwai Kibaki was sworn in on December 30 civil unrest broke out and eventually resulted in the deaths of several hundred people and the displacement of up to 600 000. 

Setting our for Garissa. With the Venters is Maureen, left and Bee, from the Red Cross, right, who saw them off

Our home in Njoro happened to be on the border of the two tribes, the Kalenjin and Kikuyus. Morning after morning we’d get up and see the smoke of yet another home that was burned down. In late January it became so bad, that Wilco decided that the children and I should go to Garissa near the border with Somalia, where our friends, Jaco and Heleen Lourens, lived with their family. My brave husband would then stay behind to gauge the situation. 

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On January 27 we set off for Nairobi where we were to meet the Lourens’. I bought a few snacks for the five-and-a-half-hour-long journey to Garissa, and when I got out of our vehicle, I didn’t notice that a packet of cookies had fallen out onto the front seat. I love how God can make the blind eyes to see and the open eyes to be blind, as this was the very thing that saved my husband’s life later that day as he was travelling back to Nakuru.

When passing through Naivasha, he came to a place where the Kikuyus had closed off the road with stones so that cars couldn’t pass. They started harassing Wilco and refused to let him proceed with his journey. After what felt like a life time, he saw the dropped biscuits on the seat next to him. He told one of the guys: “Why don’t you divide this among you. You guys must be hungry and exhausted.”  Wow! This softened the man’s heart and, after taking the cookies, he removed some of the stones and let Wilco through.

People displaced by the post-election violence sitting on the roadside with nowhere to go

When Wilco finally arrived home, he switched on the news on TV. There was a live recording at the exact place where he had been stopped — 20 people were burnt inside a house shortly after he had left.

“Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, but it will not come near you.”– Psalm 91:7 (New Living Translation) 

I want to share with you a poem that I wrote later that year. (I write under the name “Andika” which is Swahili for “to write”.)

FROM CLASHES TO GLORY

Kenya, oh Kenya – you mighty land
It is marvelous how you were able to withstand
The enemy’s attacks that were aimed at you
But at the end, God took us through

Elections came with excitement and fear
The end of the year was rushing near
After voting was done, we all were stunned
As tribes were threatened and people were gunned

Neighbour against neighbour and man against man
Each one for himself – each one for his clan
Houses were burnt ‘til ashes and dust
People looked for revenge with eyes full of lust

Families got scattered and lost all their things
It came with all the terror and sadness a war brings
Kids lost their mummy, their siblings, their dad …
With only one revelation – Elections are bad

Mothers lost their babies – some still on the breast
Some were stolen, like a bird from the nest
Businesses were burnt and shops were locked
Politicians were quiet and democracy was mocked

It went like this for weeks and for days
And all through the church prays and prays
For a breakthrough to come – an intervention from God
“Let Your peace reign on us” , was all that we thought

Slowly it ceased until one day it stopped
Peace appeared like a smoke bomb was dropped
People were scared, bowed down like bended trees
‘Cause wherever you looked, you found IDPs

Respect was scattered … trust an unknown word
Lives were broken … silent cries were heard
Thousands of children were removed from their mothers
Some were cared for … but what about the others?

Time has since passed – slowly hope appears
In the hearts of people where all they had was fear
The light is breaking – a new day has arrived
We need businesses to grow and the economy to thrive

Come on fellow citizens – let’s lift our heads up high
Let forgiveness be our banner – Unity our cry!
Look at your fellow brother and see him through God’s eyes
And know that it’s in Him alone where our victory lies

Life in the Kingdom has different rules, my friend
We can live with one another – It’s not so hard to blend
As hard work and integrity become the backbone of it all
United we can stand … divided we will fall

Our prayer for this country Kenya, is for God’s purposes to be done
“Let Your will be established … Let Your Kingdom come
Let our government be righteous as they truly seek Your face
Release in us Your wisdom – Release in us Your grace

We pray for Reformation and a church so pure and true
As we journey on this pathway of truly knowing You”
Let’s rise and shine oh people, let’s all embrace the Son
As we grow into His image, as we work until He comes

(Written by Andika – 16 October 2008)

After staying in Garissa for some time, things became calmer and the kids and I returned to Njoro.

In the next episode I’ll share about another incident that happened to us on the 13th of March that same year, and how the Lord even used that for His glory and honour.

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