First hand account of Kenyan Missionaries to UK

Considerations of religious issues in general

First hand account of Kenyan Missionaries to UK

Postby Lindsey » 09 Jun 2014, 19:57

I found this article in a newspaper in Kenya in one of my (very rare) trips abroad. I found it so interesting to read about the UK from the perspective of another, supposedly poorer culture that I kept the article. Hats off to Patrick and Helen for coming to the UK and teaching council estate children how read!
I was both born and live among the working class and underclass, I don't seem to be able to escape, but I have never shared the same mindset, and the article from kenya confirmed my suspicions about the UK long before I began reading books on the subject. Anyway, I took about an hour to type this out by hand, so I do hope somebody reads it despite its length!


For Patrick and Helen mukholi the decision to serve god full time was a resolved issue. Long before the opportunity to go the united kingdom as missionaries came,they had already resigned from their full time mission at the Ministry of Agriculture and were involved with their church ministry in various capacities. While Helen was a tutor at Bishop Harrington on Theology and development institute and helped with the development projects especially concerning women, Patrick was a chaplain and in charge of the youth and missions back at the ACK Mombasa Diocese. “it was a big decision for us but we gave our full commitment back in 1993”says Patrick. The Mukholis had felt the need to settle down in one church as opposed to church hopping which Patrick had been involved in. “I had sensed God directing me to work with the Anglican church.”
When the East African regional manager of the church mission society (CMS) visted their church in Mombasa and announced a need for a young couple to go to Blackbird Leys, Oxford and work with young people in a socially deprived estate, the Mukholis were easily recommended. “It was a touch decision for us because we were already involved in a satisfying youth ministry in Mombasa” Says Patrick. They were nethertheless prevailed upon by the Brethren, friends and the Bishop. They went for the ten day interview and selection conference in London, oxford and Birmingham in 2001. Shortly, thereafter, the CMS selection committee and the Oxford Youth Works wrote notifying them of their selection. The moment Patrick and Helen knew they would be moving to Britain.
“Patrick this is an opportunity for you and your family to go and share your lives with the young people in England. The church Mission Society East Africa Area Manager thinks you’re the sort of people Oxford Youth works would need. Pray about this and see if God gives you peace about it and get back to me as soon as possible”
This was Bishop Julius Kalu of Mombasa Diocese Kenya, reading the riot act to his Diocesan Youth Director, Rev Patrick Mukholi. “But Baba Askofu (lord Bishop)” Patrick protested “what about the work we have started here?” “the lord will take care of that if it is Him taking you to England.
It isn’t that we don’t need you here, but your experiences and links will enrich you and also the church of Christ. Trust his guidance!”
It was not until mid July that the Mukholis arrived at Birmingham to start their training at the CMS Crowther Hall Training school armed with nothing but the desire to serve God. “It was a challenge for us, because their training was oriented towards missionaries going out rather than coming in to serve the UK” says Helen.
At the beginning of 2003 they landed in Blackbird Leys Estate and embarked on the Youth First project of Oxford Youth Works.
Working among the Lowly socially deprived and disempowered in a foreign culture at Oxford has been a difficult experience for the Mukholis and their son fifteen year old jonathan. “Our notion of poverty is something like Kibera or Mathare”says Patrick with a laugh. But Blackbird Leys where they were to be based was a council estate but better in physical terms. Its something like our BuruBuru” offers Helen. There is a completely different culture and attitude here. They had to put away a lot of their Kenyan Missionary approach. Of the mixed population of about 15000 only 20 – 30% are unemployed. In the British Class society the “Working Class” forms the lowest rung of the society ladder after the middle class. This part of the Oxford Society was notorious with drug problems,teenage delinquency , rebellion and the rate of crime quite high. “Police sirens and raids were quite common “ explains Helen. “the greatest cultural sin on the estate is called “grassing” which means telling on someone to the police.
This society had its own unique problems. “Unlike the missionaries or visitors who come to Kenya, those around Blackbird Leys have numeracy and literacy problems” says Patrick. Despite being provided with a library . a community centre with free IT services and a leasure centre, most are least bothered. “being a single parent is the norm rather than the exception” says Helen. “many children and young people are confused because they have brothers and sisters with whom they only share a mother” adds Patrick. This contributes to the childrens overly rude,aggressive and apathetic outlook on life. They tend to be passively hostile and suspicious. The two institutions that are “not cool” are school and church. The older generation bluntly puts it like this “ we don’t do church” Young people wait for the magic age of sixteen when they don’t have to go to school.
Though they could not share openly about the Christian faith, the Mukholis patiently wormed their way into the hearts of these people. “we offered ourselves as volunteers to different organisations working among the community” says Helen. They began with a small club that meets every Tuesday equipped with video games, computers and sports facilities like table tennis, basket ball ect. “The aim was to develop relationak care as a platform to share our lives and faith with these young people at an informal level.”Patrick explains. Helen offered herself to help children in local schools with their reading through NGO (charity) called Volunteer Reading Help. “we help them with books, read with them and play educational games with the children” shes says. Both Patrick and Helen joined the home visitation program known as Home Start that targets young mothers and children below five years. “Since most of them are single mothers we try to befriend them, talk and shop together” she says. With time the Mukholis confidence has grown as have the opportunities. Patrick now does several class assemblies at a troubled local secondary school. “though Im given only five minutes to openly share the Bible” he says. They also have opened their homes to the young people, especially many of Jonathans friends. Since many of them lack visable father figures, they have found the Mukholis a welcoming host. Many discussions on life and beliefs take place but their have been no open decisions yet. The adventure camps have been a lot more promising with some defiantly saying “ I don’t believe in God” while other children say “I would like to know more”
Yet this has not been without a cost. “we feel that we have compromised our sons education for the calling,” says Helen. In a society where the maxim is ‘school is not cool’ one cannot afford to be seen as intelligent because it will result in bullying. The overriding belief is that they are so low that they cannot change their life through education or otherwise. To them, a school is a place of fun where they just make life difficult for the teachers. “we just encourage our son to try to survive the situation and to find out what he is good at and do it.” Offers Helen. Though the young people would regularly attend the Tuesday club meetings come Sunday they will not be seen. “sometimes Jonathan finds he is the only young person in church surrounded by old people” says the mother sympathically.
Despite this, the Mukholis are soldiering on determined to see their mission through. Their message to other Christians is that there is need everywhere “The west needs to be reminded of how much they need god. I don’t think its time to shake the dust off our feet yet” says Patrick. “god did not put all the resources in one place, there are things we can get from the west but there are also things with can give them “ says Helen.
Lindsey
 
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Re: First hand account of Kenyan Missionaries to UK

Postby Elliott » 09 Jun 2014, 20:32

Thanks for this, Lindsey. It's interesting, indeed, that Africans feel the need to bring Christianity back to the country they got it from! And it's clear that the people the Mukholis are working with can gain a lot from the community solidarity that Christianity brings.
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Re: First hand account of Kenyan Missionaries to UK

Postby Lindsey » 09 Jun 2014, 20:41

Yes, I think they must see quite clearly that the problems in the UK are spiritual/social in nature, ( regardless of whether god exists or not.),
The communities have every material luxury available but show no interest. Imagine if the leasure centre, free IT services and library were shipped to the poorest part of Kenya , the locals would be queuing to use them! Not that they appeared to need them, I found most Kenyans spoke at least three languages , several five, and were always polite, well educated and courteous , even if they were extremely poor.
Lindsey
 
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Re: First hand account of Kenyan Missionaries to UK

Postby Yessica » 14 Jun 2014, 07:08

Lindsey wrote:Not that they appeared to need them, I found most Kenyans spoke at least three languages , several five, and were always polite, well educated and courteous , even if they were extremely poor.


I do not know many Kenians, just one family. The parents are well-educated and polite and religious people, may be a bit like that missionaries. The son is a wanna-be-gangster, who dropped out school and got two women pregnant without marrying them (by the way something I noticed in many Africans in Germany, the parent generation is very well-adapted, the childrens generation not at all).

Anyway I think your statement is a little xenophile. According to Wikipedia Kenya has a iliteracy rate of 15%. Iliteracy in poor countries is defined as not being able to spell your name. Do you really think there is nobody in Kenya who is in need of a library because everybody is so educated? Kenya has a population of 43,18 millionen, but it's contribution to science is pretty minor to my mind. The Kenyan rich prefer to send their children to Great Britain or the USA to study. Why would they do that if the education in Kenya is so excellent?

I cannot fully understand the tendency of Westerners to put their countries down. That actually sometimes includes TD.
Yessica
 
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Re: First hand account of Kenyan Missionaries to UK

Postby Lindsey » 14 Jun 2014, 07:17

I think you are taking my comment far to literally , what I was trying toI express is that even the poorest Kenyans (by this I mean in their own country I'm not referring to immigrants) had such a strong desire to learn they educated themselves as much as possible with little in the way of facilities which is in stark contrast to how the british 'poor' behave , many of whom refuse to learn even when favilities are built on theor doorstep. I think the flippancy is not translating! Genuine poverty is a powerful motivator , and it's this factor, not race or religion that I was highlighting.
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Re: First hand account of Kenyan Missionaries to UK

Postby Yessica » 14 Jun 2014, 07:53

Have you been to Kenya? I have not and cannot comment on the country.

It sounds logical that the genuinely poor should have a stronger motivation to learn and to work than the rich... but is that really always the case?

One of the things I have been told about Africa is that many men over there do not embrace the concept of working for a living at all. I have been told (by different people having been to different countries by the way) that if aid workers provide men with new farming technologies, the point-blank refuse to learn anything about it.
Farming is seen as degrading, womens work, men do not concern themselves with it to the point of rather starving than learning how to farm more efficiently.
I have not experienced that first hand - I have been told and I have not even been told by the persons experiencing that but by friends who have spoken to them.

Why do I believe it to be true anyway? Basically because looking at the sorry state Africa is in I assume it must be true.
Africa has fertile soil. Unlike Europe, Nother America or Nothern Africa it has no harsh winters, you must work less to earn a living. People must have had lots of energy to invest in gaining knowledge... but they did not do it.
Africas contributions to science has been very minor, many tribes did not even have a written language before they first met whites.
I can only come to the conclusion that they did not value education very much and their slow progress (as compared to Asia) to my mind is the sign that their culture still does not give much value to it.

In Europe we also do have examples of people who were genuinely poor and starving but did not value education. Medival history is a good example. Burn everybody who has the knowledge to lift you out of poverty as a witch or heretic.
Thankfully we are past that now.
The poorer regions of the Turkey are a good example. Erdogan, voted into power by the poor rural population, right now closes mathematical and technical grammar schools and replaces them with religious ones.
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Re: First hand account of Kenyan Missionaries to UK

Postby Yessica » 14 Jun 2014, 08:49

I would like to add that to my mind religious or philosophical considerations are far more important than economical when it comes to thirst for knowledge.
I have read an old but interestig book called "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism" by Max Weber and found the thesis compelling.

The book highlights how in former times most inventions were made in protestnat regions, the Protestants were also more likely than Catholics to attend grammar schools.

He poses the question why and thinks that Protentantism (or rather Calvinism) promototes thirst for knowledge.
He holds the opinion that men traditionally did not aspire riches or knowledge as much as we do. Of course there were people who were intersted in both but that was not main-stream culture which instead asked "How can I be saved?". According to Weber that was the most important question for people of that time, not "how can I have a good life on earth". Life on earth was seen as passing but life in heaven as forever. Think of the many who became monks, lived in voluntary poverty (or at least vowed to) and studied nothing but religious text.
The Calvinists however believed in predestination and the believed that being rich and knowledgeable was the outward sign of salvation.... and that was how being rich and educated became something to aspire. According to Weber that was what sparked the boom of European science and capitalism.
Later religion became less important but the "spirit of capitalism" as Weber calls it, once released, lived on without it's religious fundament from now on.
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