Monday, March 1, 2010

Puzzling over hymns

It seems that the rainy season is starting early this year in central Kenya. They say the rains usually start around the first of April, but it started raining a few days ago, and seems to be gradually gaining intensity. First there was rain overnight. Then sprinkles through the day. And today are downpours. I can only imagine what a mess this red clay earth becomes when it is soaked.

Dr. Quill arrived last night, and this morning he and I flew from Nairobi to Kisumu, and then drove to Matongo Lutheran Theological College. Kisumu is on Lake Victoria and is northwest of Nairobi. Last year when I made this trip everything was so new that it was hard to take in many details. This time I was more aware of mountains in the distance as we drove to Matongo, and more aware of how much of the drive was uphill. The vegetation is lush and gorgeous.

I was able to do a little searching in Nairobi, and bought a current Kenyan Roman Catholic hymnal - not the pew edition but the edition with music in it. We're still puzzled by the lack of Kenyan hymns, and are wondering if the RC church might have some, since it is a large, well-established denomination. Now I need one of the Kenyans to look at this hymnal with me. The music style is definitely Kenyan, but it looks to me like music written in the last few years. Although I can't read the words, I can see lots of repetition and very short verses with refrains. We're hoping for some solid hymns that have been around for awhile and are known at least somewhat among the Lutherans.

The answer most of the pastors here give, when asked about the hymns people sing, is that they use the hymns missionaries have brought. There certainly is indigenous music, like what I heard a Maasai tribe sing, but I'm told we wouldn't be interested in it (theologically) for a Lutheran hymnbook.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pastors' Conference

Today was spent mostly in preparations for next week's pastors' conference.

My first trip to Kenya was last year at this time. Two LC/MS congregations were funding a pastors' conference at the seminary here. The pastors from those congregations (Pastors Douthwaite and Froh) were coming to teach at the conference; Dr. Tim Quill (professor at the sem in Fort Wayne) was coordinating it and teaching also. This hymnal project was born, and I joined the group to observe the worship services, be a part of the official start of the Kenyan Hymnal Commission, and participate in the first planning meetings of the commission.

We were enthusiastically received. The Lutheran community here is gracious and generous, and the pastors and seminary students are very eager to learn. As a result, it was decided to hold a second conference: 1-5 March 2010. Pr. Froh is teaching again, as well as Dr. Quill, and myself. The topic this year is this new hymnal - introducing some parts of it, teaching about liturgy, and about music.

Among the various songbooks/hymnals currently being used in churches, none have music in them. This new hymnal, Ibada Takatifu (Divine Service), will. Very few people can read music, but perhaps the hymnal will be one small step among many in giving the people some music literacy. Along with talking about the importance of liturgy, I plan to teach the basics of reading music, and how to sing this setting.

I'm the only person at the Guest House today, other than the staff, and the solitude has been great for getting prepared and also for relaxing.

I'm not sure how many workers there are here. I'm aware of three young ladies doing household tasks, a couple of young men working in the yard, and a driver. My impression is that this is full time work for all of them and they their pay is mostly room and board. Molly, the head cook, just turned 27 yesterday. I've talked with her more. She considers this her career, although she also hopes to be married someday.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Traveling to Kenya

Once again I’ve made it safely across the ocean, over Europe, and south to Nairobi, Kenya. This being my third trip, there’s a sense in which it feels like a normal thing to do. For instance, I realized yesterday I have a routine for Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. Double check the connecting flight and gate number and actually walk there. The lounge area on the second floor is quietest and the lighting is dim. Go there for a nap. If the layover is too short for a nap, go to the art gallery and gallery gift shop. Then walk, walk, walk, because the next flight is just as long as the last one, and if your legs are tired you’ll look forward to a long sit.

The layovers were just right this time – about three hours in Detroit and three in Amsterdam. No rush even if the plane arrives late (everything was on time), but not a long wait either.

First thing upon arrival at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi, all visitors must apply for Single Journey Visas. The lines are slow and long and in a part of the airport that has low ceilings, no ventilation, no windows, and somewhat poor lighting, making for a shocking introduction to the warm climate. The pilot had told us that the temperature was 75 outside, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the airport and breathe the night air.

Once through the visa line, which includes a $25 fee and getting my picture taken, I was free to get my luggage. One more inspection, and free to go. I was asked questions, but as far as I know, my suitcases were never opened.

Pr. Isaiah Obare and James, the driver, were waiting to greet me, and I spent the first night at the Obare’s home, because the Luther Guest House was fully booked.