We have been here in the North Rift for almost three years now and we have made some good friends amongst our Kenyan colleagues.
Interestingly, despite the cultural differences something we learnt back in the UK also holds true here- you just think you’ve got to know someone well and then you find out about things you could never have dreamt had happened to them; things locked deeply inside their hearts and memories, both traumas and treasures.
In the last couple of months two of our friends have told us stories from the awful time in 2008 when this area of Kenya was one of those most affected by the post-election violence.
One woman sheltered a neighbouring family safely inside her house. With no-one else to support her she stood up to the mob outside, people from her own clan who wanted her to hand the family over to them. They threatened to burn the house down and to kill her too. It was scary stuff. Thank God for mobile phones as she was able to reach some neighbours who came and chased the mob away.
Another friend, a member of the clergy, told us of a day when he came out of a restaurant having had a cup of tea to discover a crowd beating a young man, intent upon his death. It was a scene reminiscent of the Gospel story where the people are all set to stone a woman to death and Jesus is there- a watchful, waiting and wise presence. Our friend stood bravely before his own crowd and quietly told them that he would remain beside the young man and that when they had finished him off they could then start on him too. One by one they abandoned their weapons and left.
Sobering and humbling stories, yet also inspiring and a timely reminder to us that what we see in other people is not always the whole story of their lives.