Greetings: Jambo; Habari; Ni na wa salimu myote Katika jina la Jesu Christu (Hello, how are you? I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ). Greetings in Kenya are a whole lot more than just saying hello; they are about establishing a connection that can lead to a relationship. As in Ireland, that connection is often based on things that we might share in common, so very early on in the conversation the Kenyan Christian will tell you about what is the most important part of her/his life: their relationship with their personal saviour, Jesus Christ. During services visitors are invited to bring and to receive greetings, so, with great pleasure, it is my honour to bring you the heartfelt greetings of the Bishop of the Diocese of Kajiado (a vast area just south of Nairobi which is approximately the size of Northern Ireland). Bishop Gaddiel Lenini has warm memories of being a guest of CMSI and Bray Parish during the 200th anniversary celebrations of that wonderful Anglican missionary organisation.
From previous visits to Kajiado and to Kampala in Uganda I have been aware of the importance of the greeting, but in truth had forgotten its significance. It was probably best summed up by Archdeacon Joseph of Loitokitok archdeaconary, who noted there were 26 parishes in his archdeaconry and that, as a result of our visit, he now considered his archdeaconry to consist of 27 parishes, Bray included.
Of course all this friendship is a step into relationship and in Kenyan culture relationship leads to true partnership by building up trust. It is a wonderfully simple yet profound truth that partnership can only emerge from the trust that builds up through relationship. Our relationship with the Diocese of Kajiado is four-way. It is a partnership between the Parish of St. Marks Dundela in Belfast and the parish of Bray in County Wicklow. Because of our Narnian links (C.S. Lewis went to St. Mark’s as a child where his grandfather was Rector) and Bray has run two large Narnia Exhibitions, this link with Aslan the Lion is a natural connection with Kenya and its stunning scenery, amazing wildlife and its wonderful people.
The team from St. Mark’s spent 10 days in the Urban Development Project run with Nairobi Cathedral, while the team from Bray spent ten days at the Maasai Rural Training Centre in Oltiasika, not far from the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro. In 10 days we fixed school desks, made window frames and built computer tables for the Diocesan Training Centre in Imbirikani (just an hour long, very bumpy jeep ride down the road). Of course our efforts at woodwork were (thankfully) so much more than developing our skills. It was about connecting and building relationships with members of the MRTC, with mothers and grandmothers who passed by carrying water home and especially with the pupils of the nearby Oltiasika primary school who came to gaze, to play football and to have a good giggle. With our involvement with the school through classes and assemblies, initial shyness swiftly turned to friendship and peals of laughter at the antics of the Mzungus (white people).
You truly have not lived until you have stood in a normal-sized classroom with over 200 students who are singing and dancing and praising God with all their might. So greetings are important; they literally open the door into relationship, trust and partnership.
I can’t wait to go back and deepen the bonds of friendship and partnership.