Having been born and raised in Kenya,
I know exactly what to expect when I stay at the parish community of St Peter’s that my charity supports,
in the harsh, remote, semi-arid area in NE Kenya:
the heat, dust, grinding poverty,
virtually impassable roads, power cuts, no clean water,
a simple, but demanding subsistence existence –
I take it all as a given.
But when coming from that environment, I wondered what Fr Frankline, the parish priest, whom we brought over this summer to visit all our supporters, was going to make of us on his very first visit to England?
“At a glance, England is a very blessed country.
When we started coming down to land at Bristol airport, reaching at the heights I could view the ground, I first marveled at the organisation of the country.
Settlements, farms, forest reserves, roads network, all fabulous.”
So far so good! We packed a lot in during his 18 day visit – in and around Somerset, London, Berkshire – talking and preaching to church congregations and schools, meeting and thanking our lovely supporters, seeing all the sights – probably massive sensory overload for him!
But as we went round I began seeing things through his eyes that we all take so much for granted.
He was amazed that people cycle and walk for pleasure;
flabbergasted at the sizeable aisles given over to Pet Food in the supermarkets;
mystified at seeing the fresh roses flown from Kenya on sale;
puzzled at the effort we put in to growing flowers (which can’t be eaten);
ditto tending lawns with such loving care on which maize could be grown.
“you bathe in and flush toilets with water that is drinkable?!”
But what took his imagination most was the ‘ant holes’ of all the frantic activity of the London Underground, and he was constantly impressed by our extensive and well maintained road network – “you are able to drive right up to the front of your houses!”.
But there was no doubting that he absolutely loved and appreciated his visit:
“For the eighteen days I have stayed in England, I have enjoyed a Kingly treatment. I have met with people who have been very kind and loving to me”.
For me it was a salutary reminder of our starkly opulent life styles that we all take so much for granted, particularly at this time of our abundant harvest.
But…. running through all those eye-openers, there was that one reassuring and common theme wherever we went – we all speak and understand the same language of Christ, and worship in that universal manner of our “one holy, catholic and apostolic Church” – absolutely seeing eye to eye there!
“People of England, I love you all on behalf of the community I serve, and leave you with our local community saying, ‘Saying goodbye does not bar us from meeting again at God’s appointed time’.”
I know all who came in contact with Fr Frankline during his visit are looking forward again to that ‘appointed’ time!
David Baldwin is CTS author and Guest Blogger