|United Methodist team fulfills commitment in Kenya|
A United Nations map highlights areas of Kenya that have
erupted in violence following the country's disputed presidential
election on December 27. A UMNS illustration courtesy of the U.N. Office
of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Feb. 14, 2008
A United Methodist Volunteers-in-Mission team arrived in Nakuru, Kenya, just as violence broke out in that Rift Valley city.
C.M. "Kip" Robinson Jr., associate VIM director for the denomination’s
Southeastern Jurisdiction, said the team was never directly threatened
during its Jan. 26-Feb. 7 work trip and was happy to bring "a message of
hope" to Kenyans there.
Although four people dropped out when violence erupted in Kenya after
the Dec. 27 presidential election, eight team members from across the
Southeastern Jurisdiction arrived to start construction on a school. One
team member returned home early, he said.
Robinson, who was making his fourth trip to Kenya and 14th visit to
Africa, said he had relied upon advice from his host, the Rev. Josam
Kariuki, pastor of the United Methodist congregation in Nakuru, about
whether to proceed. "He said they had not experienced any trouble in
Nakuru and that the road between Nairobi and Nakuru was safe," Robinson
“We were never threatened and we were never inconvenienced, although we could see all around us that things were happening.”
–C.M. "Kip" Robinson Jr.
A family issue arose soon after the team’s arrival in Kenya. On the
morning of Jan. 27, after spending the night in Nairobi, Robinson’s wife
received word that her father had died.
The Rev. Nancy Robinson is pastor at the North Decatur (Ga.) United
Methodist Church. Her father, Hunter Griffin, had served many years in
Zimbabwe as a missionary through the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries. With the encouragement of her mother and three sisters, she
decided to continue with the mission trip as a way to live out and honor
her father's legacy.
The team arrived at the hotel in Nakuru that night––the same night, they
learned from the next day’s newspaper, that 47 people had been killed
"in fresh Nakuru violence," Robinson said. The next day, another 32
people were reported killed.
"We didn’t know what to do with this information, except that we knew that we were safe," he said.
Trip planned last June
Robinson, who has a background in civil engineering, had begun
organizing the work trip last June when Kariuki invited him to
participate in the beginning of his church’s major construction project.
The plan involves a boarding school, with both primary and secondary
grades, that eventually will include a number of buildings.
"The objective of the boarding school was to have a place where children
affected by AIDS … would have a safe place to go and a way to get an
education," Robinson explained.
Working around the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew imposed on the city, the team
was able to assist at the construction site. Although they could not
visit with church members as they had planned, the team was able to
attend a couple of worship services. "We were never threatened and we
were never inconvenienced, although we could see all around us that
things were happening," he said.
It was obvious, he added, that many people and property were on the
move, coming mostly from the west. Members of the Kikuyu ethnic group
from Elderot, for example, came to Nakuru because of its large Kikuyu
According to its Web site, the Nakuru United Methodist Church is sending
mobile health units to the Rift Valley areas affected by violence,
focusing on the needs of women and children. The church also is helping
to provide health care to the more than 4,000 displaced persons at
Food shortages in other parts of Kenya were not evident in Nakuru.
Robinson pointed out that the boarding school project is providing
employment for local people, "even some of the displaced persons."
The diverse workforce at the construction site was about one-third
Christian, one-third Muslim and one-third with no particular religion,
according to Robinson. "Every morning, we had devotions with the workers
at the work site. Our message was: 'We are a connectional church, and
we do this in the name of a risen Christ.'"
At least three more Southeastern Jurisdiction teams plan to assist at
the project between now and July, as long as Kariuki confirms that it is
safe. "They, too will bring the same message of hope," Robinson said.
For more information on Volunteer-in-Mission projects, visit http://www.umvim.org/home.htm.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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