As one who has been a follower of Christ for over forty years, I never cease to be amazed at how God is able to further reveal His many different characteristics to not only myself but to the world around me. From His power, to His mercy, to His creation, to His love, God is always manifesting His attributes to His people (and the larger world for that matter too) for His glory and for the good of His people. Whether it is a glorious red sunset displaying His creative power or the kind act of an older brother comforting a hurting younger sister, we can see God moving all around us if only we look and realize that He is behind it all.
I recently returned from spending eight days in Nairobi, Kenya as part of a team who had been teaching pastors what the big unifying story and theme of the Bible is. As part of that trip, I was afforded the opportunity to preach on our last Sunday in country. The team of pastors we ministered to there are all a part of a local church cooperative called Christian Missionary Fellowship. I was assigned to preach at the church of Pastor Peter in the province of Kajiado. This area is located south of Nairobi in part of the Kenya Rift Valley and is home to one of the most well-known of the 42 tribes in Kenya…the Masai.
After an hour and a half drive from Nairobi, I arrived in Kajiado along with Pastor Jeremiah who drove me out there. We were now in Masai country. The Masai are nomadic herders of sheep and cows. In addition, of all the tribes in Kenya, they have been the one to best preserve their cultural heritage, the use of their traditional clothing, and their way of life.
When Pastor Peter, who ministers in Kajiado to the Masai asked me if I would like to drive a few minutes further down the muddy dirt road from his church to visit some Masai in their local village, I jumped at the opportunity! Ten minutes later we arrived at a small collection of thatched huts made out of sticks with dung and mud used to seal off the hut from the elements. These huts were each about seven feet wide and about twelve feet long and approximately four and a half feet in height. An entire family would live inside of one hut all sharing the same bed.
Upon our arrival a middle aged Masai woman, whose Western name is Emily, came out to greet and welcome us. She worships at Pastor Peter’s church in Kajiado. Emily immediately asked us to come into her hut so she, myself, and the four non-Masai Kenyans who were with me all hunched over and went inside. Inside we saw the one bench they had, the one small table they had, the one bed they had, the dry firewood they had, and the ever-burning fire in the middle on the ground. Apart from this, there was virtually nothing else inside.
So, as I stood there some 8,200 miles away from my home, in the lightly drizzling rain in a small village outside of Kajiado, Kenya, God revealed a little more of Himself to me through the Masai.
As we sat down, Emily began to speak to us in Masai through our interpreter and shared that she was honored and grateful to be entertaining so many guests. She told me that she was a woman of prayer…that she was an intercessor…who prayed to God all the time. She asked me for my name and the name of our church so she could begin to pray for us.
As we continued to chat, she insisted that she make some tea for us. As a former British colony, Kenyans are huge fans of taking tea twice a day! During that conversation, she shared with us that God had given her a dream that a foreign man would be in her home. As a foreign man, sitting there in the tiny thatched hut that belonged to her in this very small village in Kajiado, Kenya I was struck at how our God controls all things that happen…even apparently ‘random’ visits to people’s homes and I praised Him. As we waited for the tea (deliciously made with half water and half freshly squeezed cow’s milk) to boil, we decided it would a good time to head back out into the slow drizzle of the morning to take some pictures together. It was there that God was about to move in my life.
Standing outside her hut, Emily put a beautiful Masai blanket/shawl around my shoulders which I thought was just for the pictures. She was to my left and my Nairobi friends were to my right. At this point, one of the other women from the village came up to me and said that she had a gift for me at which time she proceeded to put a beautiful Masai necklace around my neck. She then told me she had another, smaller one, for my wife. The generosity of the Masai was simply overwhelming! At this point, a quite old Masai woman came up and joined our group. Her western name was Sheila and she was the female elder of the village.
Masai elders are identified by their staffs which are only given to elders. An elder is not one who is simply elderly, but one who serves as an elder/ruler in their villages and communities. Shiela’s staff was large, vibrantly colored, and very beautiful.
Once Shiela joined our group, which now consisted of four Masai women and the four Kenyans from Nairobi, things got very interesting. Along with their bead work and distinctive dress, the Masai are also known for their singing and the dancing which accompanies their singing and I was about to experience both of them!
All at once, Emily began to sing. As she sang a line, the rest of the Masai women would respond in unison. As they sang, they began to bob up and down with a little bit of a shimmy mixed in as they bent at both the hips and the knees creating a smooth undulating motion with their bodies. As they continued to sing, they sang louder and they danced more vigorously such that the necklaces and jewelry they had around their necks and on their heads began to make noise as if they were musical accompaniment to their song.
During all of this, as one of the young Masai boys who had my phone and was filming it all, I began to tear up as Rev 5:9 came to my mind. In some small way, in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I was able to experience the reality that Jesus died to ‘ransom a people for God from every tribe and language and nation.’ Jesus and His atonement isn’t only for Westerners nor is it only for the Masai. His life, death, and resurrection are for all who will turn and put their faith and trust in Him and I praise Him for allowing me to feel that in such a tangible way!
As their song ended, I was given the greatest gift of this morning which had already been filled with gracious acts of kindness from the Masai. For no reason other than their kindness and grace, they gave to me a handmade elder’s staff – in essence making me an elder in their village! After the necklaces, the blanket, the tea, and their kind conversations, I was simply overwhelmed when they handed me the elders staff.
I had done nothing to earn these gifts. I certainly didn’t pay for them nor did I deserve them. I was a guest in their village and all they seemed to want to do was honor me and bless me with gifts. And it was at that moment that I became overwhelmed at the grace of our God. Just as the Masai lavished me with gracious acts of kindness and gifts, so too God has done so through His glorious Son, Jesus. Paul tells us as much in Ephesians, when he wrote ‘In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us…’ (Eph 1:7-8)
So, as I stood there some 8,200 miles away from my home, in the lightly drizzling rain in a small village outside of Kajiado, Kenya, God revealed a little more of Himself to me through the Masai. I have now tangibly and physically seen, and felt, and touched lavish graciousness in a way I never had before. I did not deserve their kindness and grace and because of them I better understand God’s lavish graciousness. I praise God for the Masai and their display of this majestic attribute of our beautiful God and, obviously, I praise God for displaying that attribute of His without which we would all be lost. The Masai pointed me to Jesus that morning and I thank God for that!