Last weekend I was able to participate in a food distribution and famine relief trip in the northeastern province of Kenya. A friend and fellow teacher here at Rosslyn, Jamie Dunning, has already written some great stuff about this trip on his blog, so let me allow him to give you some background information on this trip:
"The drought in East Africa, affecting Northern Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, is the worst in 60 years and has led to the worst food crisis in the world. 13 million people across the region have been affected and thousands have already lost their lives. Dadaab, a refugee camp in North Eastern Kenya, is now occupied with over 400,000 refugees seeking food and water, with 1,200 more people arriving every day...
This past weekend [we] joined a group of volunteers from International Christian Fellowship and Convoy of Hope to travel to a small village of Sombo, just south of Garissa, to deliver much needed food aid. The village of Sombo is made up of a combination of Somali and Watu people that have migrated from Somalia over the years. This area is desert and has not received rain in over 2 years. The results have been devastating. A common sight in the area is to see people digging in a dried river bed in search of water. People are dying every day. Even the camels have sagging humps and are thin. Our mission was to deliver food to between 300-400 people, enough to last each family a week or so. When we arrived in Sombo we were welcomed by the people with traditional songs and dances. They were overjoyed at the prospect of receiving food."
Jamie and a group of others had traveled to Sombo on Friday, then a group of us were able to take a Mission Aviation Fellowship plane up to join them on Saturday morning. They met us at the airstrip in Garissa, then we took a fun, off-road trip down a camel trail to reach Sombo. As Jamie wrote, the villagers were excited to greet us. Being a predominantly Muslim region, it was interesting to see how the groups of men and women were separate for most of the time we were there. We took some time to greet them and play with the children before we began to distribute the food.
As I looked around this dry desert region, it was just hard for me to imagine that anyone lived, or even survived, in this area at all. Not a drop of water to be seen (the closest source is the crocodile-infested Tana River). It was SO hot, and there was NOTHING around except some small huts, dried branches, and people. I don't even understand how they get clothes! WHERE do they get them, first of all, and how on earth do they earn any income at all in order to purchase the clothes, or the cloth to make them? I simply cannot fathom a lifetime that consists of that day in and day out without any real hope for anything to change.
There ARE small changes, though, that are making a difference. Kenyan pastor David Maina is working in Sombo. He has helped start a Christian school where Muslim children are attending every day and learning of the truth of Jesus Christ. A solar-powered water pump and tower have just been installed to help provide fresh water to the community. Bryan Burr, who is actually the father of one of my students, is a missionary with Convoy of Hope (yes, I borrowed their name for the title of this post), and he travels around to places like this in Kenya all of the time. Bryan and others like him ARE helping to offer hope in places where it seems like there isn't any. For a video update on what Bran and Convoy of Hope are doing in East Africa, check out this video:
As I think about the land that I saw last weekend, one verse in particular comes to mind, Psalm 63:1 :
If you would like to contribute to famine relief through Convoy of Hope, visit https://donate.convoyofhope.org/sslpage.aspx