Beginnings and Background
A hail of mud, a secret society and a frustrated
tribe really mark the beginning of this story --
but first a few brief lessons.
Politically, Karapokot has long been an ugly
duckling between Kenya and Uganda -- always
present and nearly always unwanted.
Geographically, it is a barren range of hills stretching
from the Chereganis in the South to the
Chemorongits in the North. Nothing grows in
them and no one in their senses would live
there either - the rainfall is low, so that no-one
can grow anything, the vegetation consists almost
entirely of thorn trees, candelabra trees
and a bit of sparse grass. The ground is stony
and the river beds dry for 90% of the year.
Economy-wise, there is a little copper and one
or two more esoteric minerals - none of which
are workable, except for a little gold in the
great gash through the hills made by the Turkwell
River. With these Karapokot Hills we must
include Upe County of Karamoja District - a
real, genuine part of Uganda. This is as flat as
the hills are rugged, the vegetation being in fact
much the same, though it is potentially a good
grassland. Carefully planned and tended gardens
could be made to yield a little in the way
of maize and millet (even as a few isolated
pockets in the hills can be cultivated). However, by and large the whole area is pastorally rather than agriculturally orientated.
There are few roads - one going north and south from Kenya (civilised) to Kenya (wild) through Karapokot and Upe Districts. And one going east and west and finally joining the tarmac road leading to Kampala and the big wide world of Uganda. In between there are what are technically known as 'Land-Roverable Tracks'. Much of this district can only be reached by a determined man on foot.
Statistics, Population 23,000, Rainfall 25" (May - April); Altitude 4000 on the plain and upto 6000 in the hills; Towns, one: modern conveniences, nil
Rebels and Outlaws
From all this what could be more natural than to down tools, shut books and prepare for the next lesson - History! Fortunately for us all the historical trail fades into obscurity with commendable rapidity! The list of Kings of Pokot is non-existent in both books and memories of the people and in 1066 no one knew nor cared about Amudat. Such history as there is however starts with a rather doubtful conglomeration of tribes on the top of Mt Elgon at the turn of the century or just before - Here the Pok group broke away from the Nandi group and went off in the direction of Samburu. With great skill they cursed all the Samburu cattle and after sundry battles with the Turkana's other neighbours they moved off in good order with their ranks swollen by other Turkana, Samburu, Elgeyo, Nandi et al to the present position of the main home of the tribe in the west Pokot district of Kenya. From here, however, part of the tribe pushed up to the north along the Karapokot hills and spread by force of arms on to the south east part of the Karamojong plain. This move, of course, was not over-popular with the Karamajong who lived there - but according to the old men, bitter hostility did not really break out
until the last 30 or 40 years.
Around the time of Mau Mau there grew up in
Western Kenya a mystical subversive element
called the Dini ya Msambwa, which swept
through the tribe with a brand of cut-rate witch
doctory, mysticism, singing and praying to
shrines. As it was anti-law and order, anti-European and anti-most other things too, it became
dangerous and had to be suppressed.
Needless to say, it spread to the Karapokot and
caused alarm and despondency in Uganda as
well as Kenya, where it really belonged.
Thus to the Uganda administration this incursive
and troublesome tribe piled Pelion upon
Ossa and had the audacity to indulge in a subversive
movement on top of all their other sins!
A special field officer was recruited - a man of
considerable underground and secret police experience
and put in Amudat round about 1955
(he was the first European Resident).
Enter the Law
He then proceeded to put down the Dini ya
Msambwa (DYM) by means of a painstakingly
built-up network of informers ranging through
loyal chiefs to disgruntled genuine witch-doctors,
and gradually arrested most of the leaders
involved in the movement. (Some of his stories
are almost too good to miss out!)
Thus you will understand that to the average
Pokot, leading an average existence, stealing the
average number of cows, and only wanting to
be left alone, the limited contact with the rather
shadowy and incomplete idea of 'The Government'
was (to say the least) unsettling. The
only people he saw were policemen, trackers
and this new "Musonjon" (white man) who descended
on the "manyattas" (homes) at the
dead of night to make arrests! On top of this
they took money off him for taxes!
So - the mud.
For when the Governor appeared, instead of a
respectful (or even fairly respectful) crowd, he was greeted with a hail of missiles! "Say it with
mud" was the cry.
The Governor then perceived that all was not
well, and the Field Officer - who was also, best
beloved, a man of infinite resource and sagacity
- said, "I have done nothing except put
them in prison. The Government is not doing
anything for them. I have destroyed their religion
and they dare not go to the District hospital
at Moroto for fear of an abrupt and painful
decease at the hand of Karamojong dressers
- why not put in a mission hospital?" - or
words to that effect.
Action in High Places
When Governors utter, things are done; and as
this Governor did utter, in no time at all BCMS (Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society)
were asked if by any chance they would care to
open a medical work among the Karapokot, as
they already worked among the Pokot in Kenya
and the Karamojong in Uganda. BCMS in even
less time said that they would care and what
about it? Thus the letters rolled and as they
had a spare doctor on the books, he was taken
off the books and sent to Africa (in spite of the
fact that he had arranged to work in India and
climb the Himalayas on his local leaves). This is
where I came in and we leave 'History' and
come onto 'Current Affairs'.
Enter the Doctor
So it occurred that a very raw hand was precipitated
for good or ill onto the unsuspecting
Karapokot. They had no knowledge of European
medicine or doctors and the doctor had no
knowledge of the Karapokot - which made
them about equal!
In the preliminary phases it became clear that a
plan of some sort was needed as the problems
were many and serious.
1st The people were restive and suspicious and
did not trust Europeans or the Government.
2nd The area was large and the people did not
live in set places, near the roads or even in
3rd Roads were - to say the least - sketchy.
4th Education was in its earliest possible phase
and there was no one of any scholastic merit in
the tribe to provide staff for any projects.
5th Assuming mass education, mass doctoring,
mass civilisation - what would happen? How
would they live? Would they continue to herd
cows and live on blood and milk - or would
they want to settle? If they did settle, how
could they survive?
6th The Christian Gospel could not possibly
be more opposite to their normal way of life.
Clearly there were difficulties and a false approach
or early mistake could prejudice the
whole work for the future, so let me try and
break the work down into phases and take you
with me through the years. Let us start with
November 1957 - 1959
Builders - Me
When I arrived in Karamoja I was taken on a
tour of the whole district by the (Christian)
District Medical Officer. This enabled me to
see a great deal and visit all BCMS work in
Karamoja District, and also to discuss with him
all my hopes and ideas for the future.
In January 1958 I pitched a tent under a tree
and moved in! I was closely followed by Frank
Haslam in a lorry bringing a heap of miscellaneous
wood, iron, cement, screws, nails, wire and
a duplicated sheet of instructions. To my untutored
eye it all looked encouragingly simple
(like a cake recipe).
1 (it said) Clear and level site.
2 Fix small angled posts in their positions.
3 Bolt on uprights.
4 Fix roof - here was a diagram of a gentleman
nonchalantly handing a segment of roof to
5 Wire the mesh to the uprights and cover with
You will admit that even the dullest intelligence
could follow this and (as one does) I worked
out how long it would take - surely not longer
than a month even if we work every other day
and have time off for sit-down strikes and
Then Peter Cartwright, builder and engineer of
several years' experience, came to help me put
"Clear and level site," we said. Three weeks
later, "Clear and level site," we said.
We had to employ labourers, cart several tons
of boulders and when we finally got the upright
posts in position they literally flapped in the
breeze! We had discovered by now that our
friend on the illustration was either a superman
or demonstrating with a cardboard model of a
segment of roof! The whole thing would weigh
about a ton! Between each section of roof, we
sat and sang songs about the inventor and the
home committees, and sweated. We bathed a la
Suk under the pump to cool off! Well, the uprights
did hold it - and even seemed to take a
sense of responsibility and stop flapping, and in
three months I moved in. At the same time we
were building onto the existing dispensary - a
strange half-building put up by the far-seeing
Cartwright a year before. This we completed.
On the 7th Day
I remember well the first Sunday Peter Cartwright
and I spent in Amudat, sitting alone in
the little school. The reading was Isaiah 28.
"Whom shall He teach knowledge? and whom
shall He make understand the message?...."
"Precept must be upon precept, precept upon
precept; line upon line, line upon line, here a
little, and there a little, for with stammering lips and a strange tongue will He speak to His
Yes, that is just how it would have to be! Like
the building - growing slowly, little by little -
and certainly the tongue was strange (and if I
knew anything about my lips, they would
equally certainly stammer!)
Out to Work
From this base, complete with my belongings
and books and a cement floor (which really
makes all the difference), I set out to reconnoitre.
This is what I found.
A small weak little school, with no teacher;
medically, a thriving little government dispensary
with an excellent African dresser and a fair
degree of confidence already made; Christianwise
Looking further afield and lifting my eyes up to
the hills in the approved style like the Psalmist,
I saw help (or perhaps potential aid would be a
better term). For in Nasokol the Rev. and Mrs.
Totty (Laurie and Annette to friends) had a
work of evangelism and education which had
been going on for more than twenty-five years.
Here then was the place for staff, surely they
had a schoolboy or Christian who would come
and help. They had - and down came Psoru,
my first houseboy. We shook down quite well
and after a few basic egg-boiling lessons, and
graphic descriptions of how a single minute's
waste of "Afrigas" constituted several shillings
thrown away, he was able to "do" for me. We
also had Pokot lessons and many a talk over
custom, politics and our various experiences.
Then came Matthew to help Mister Choda and
me in the dispensary and we set off to visit
every nook and cranny of the district.
At this stage the ADC and I worked very closely
and his local knowledge and the hospitality
that he and his wife gave me made life for a
lone bachelor very much easier.
Patients began to come in and the attendance graph rose steadily. More and more it became
obvious that we were just touching the fringe:
out-posts must be established, beds were needed
and a proper hospital staff. All this was in
the original, rather grandiose Government
scheme, which like all schemes rapidly became
unworkable - for the simple fact was that there
was not enough money in the kitty.
One day the Provincial Commissioner arrived
with the DC from Moroto. "What would I do
if the money for a hospital was not forthcoming?"
"Was a hospital really necessary?"
I answered that I certainly thought a hospital
was necessary and as to what I'd do - that depended
on what they suggested!
Is Your Hospital
Then the Chief Medical Officer of Uganda came
down and said, "Why not send your patients to
Moroto - there is a perfectly good hospital
there?" My answer was outside. It was cattle
sale day, and the forecourt of the dispensary
was as crowded as Brighton beach on a hot
August Bank Holiday. One patient with TB
was coughing blood under a tree and a woman
was having tetanic spasms at the back of the
building. "Why not ask them to go to Moroto?"
I said. Both refused. "I see your point,
A limited scheme was formulated; instead of a
clean sweep and new buildings, new site and all
mod cons, it was agreed to put up a twenty bed
ward block and put in a few dressers' houses
and a water pump.
So we pressed on. I was seeing new things all
the time; anthrax, Kala-Azar, huge spleens,
spear wounds. I saw men pick up scorpions unhurt
and a tribesman throw himself into fits
when he thought his friend was bewitched. I
saw the body of an old man speared to death
when I went with the ADC to visit the scene of
a battle. He was quite peaceful - "Not such a
bad death" , he said.
I saw a boy with his hands burnt and deformed
- for he had stolen a goat. "Two hundred
years ago we should have hung him in England,"
said the ADC. I saw a woman driving off
evil spirits - "Go away sickness! Go away evil
spirits! Wind take them away!" she cried before
picking up the sick child. (No-one else
would go near at all.) We saw people die; we
saw some recover; but we saw others taken
from our care before the medicine had a chance
We tried to preach - far into the hills, in the
little village centres and under the trees on our
future church site.
The school struggled, teachers came and went,
teachers often of poor calibre, often a bad example,
yet nominally Christian.
Two can live as cheaply
At the end of 1958 a new recruit came to
Amudat - and I had to marry her before she
came! The ADC was our best man, and folk
from Karamoja and other stations in Kenya
came to the wedding. We visited Kabale, the
wonderful island home of Dr. L. H. S. Sharp,
pioneer of the Ruanda Mission, for our honeymoon.
So came Seretow ('the married woman
with no child') as Elizabeth was called, according
to Pokot custom. Soon however, the name
was changed to 'Kama Stephen' - the mother
of Stephen (in a rather charming little informal
ceremony when everyone came to spit at the
new baby for luck) and an old man pronounced
the new name with great dignity. (My name is
just 'Coggis' by the way.) The ADC was called
'Kisyausyau' - the one who cuts his words
quickly. (Very apt, too!)
Liza soon began to help and organise the
school, - which in those days was under mission
management, when every penny had to be
squeezed dry - and then put through the
mangle! It was uphill and discouraging. Boys
came and left. There was no food and everyone
went to the Catholic School; equipment was scanty and teachers unqualified and therefore
underpaid and therefore unhappy.
This is a picture of the early days. Now comes
Phase II which I suppose could be called...
The First Step Forward
We had been poised like a chameleon on two
legs swaying back and forth for two years, and
now was the time to swivel our eyes forward
and put down the other two!
First we started the first two out-stations -
Kauriong and Kasei. These were not popular
moves by a long chalk! In fact the first baraza
(meeting) at Kauriong where we promised to
provide a school and dispensary was greeted by
vigorous objections and the ululations of cavorting
women. We retired with our County
Chief discomfited and went on to Kasei.
Here the old man (County Chief Amiri) played
his cards with more cunning and before the
people knew if it was the last Sunday after
Trinity or Shrove Tuesday, they had agreed to
build a school! A plane roared over and the
ADC said, "If they go to school, your children
may fly one of these!" We had a return match
at Kauriong and Amiri said "Right! You are
going to have a school, any objections, good,
carried unanimously!" , or words to that effect.
We were able to reassure the women that their
boys would not disappear or be spirited away
if they came to school, for they themselves
would come to the teacher for medicine.
Matthew we left at Kauriong and Psoru went to
Kasei - teacher/dispensers - the only ones in
the district (or for that matter Uganda). As a
matter of fact I bought Kauriong camp for 20 pounds
off a miner who had been prospecting for copper
- Bwana Masaruba (Mister Moustache).
Real Wards and a Sister
Then in 1960 the builders came and started on
the hospital and a new house. By now the ADC
had built a decent Government house and vacated
the 'black box', where he first lived. My
old house was to be the Sister's (when she
came) and we built a bedroom block next to
the unoccupied black box for ourselves.
After a minor triumph where I spotted a
shoddy piece of building which the County Engineer
made them replace, I was thereafter
appealed to as an authority and at the end of
1960 the building was completed. We opened
the wards in January 1961 and Lilian Singleton
moved down after preparation at both Lotome
The day arrived and the first patients were admitted
and shown to their beds but by nightfall
the hospital was empty - everyone had gone
home for the night! "Why", they said, "we
could easily be speared over the wall".
After a few months when one or two stayed in,
a meningitis epidemic broke out and we were
full up with patients who couldn't go home
even if they wanted! Fortunately hardly a
whistling spear broke the peace (I wouldn't say
silence!) of the night, casualties were nil and a
precedent established. I vividly remember one
of these early cases - a man with some peculiar
form of dysentry. He was very ill but slowly
recovering from his illness. One day his relatives
appeared and they all went out under a tree
to talk. At midday I was called because he had
suddenly got much worse. He lay there uttering
despairing cries. "Heiwei! Heiwei! Heiwei!"
There was nothing to find. Dysentry O.K. Pulse
O.K. Blood Pressure O.K. - yet he looked completely
prostrated! I was sure there was something
odd about this and sent the dresser to enquire
Sure enough, they had come specially to tell
him that a neighbour had put a curse on him!
They were unknowingly carrying his death with
them! I put him under a heavy sedative - but by morning he had been taken out by his relatives
to sacrifice a bull. I never found out
Perhaps you have bad dreams? Well one surefire
cure is to bathe the patient in sheep's
blood!! How often we get two parallel sets of
treatment going on together - our own and the
old fashioned one! How often do we find a
baby from our hospital out under a tree
wrapped about with bits of goat gut!
"You have been defeated" , they will say if we
have made no observable difference in the condition.
"Now we shall go and try our own
The 2,000-Year Jump
I believe that we often under-estimate the mental
leap necessary for the acceptance of our
standards and methods by a folk steeped in
their own law and customs which have served
them for the last thousand years. Only a demonstration
of our medicine will win them
over - and of course on the church level it is
However, Christians are far less predictable than
drugs and so far our church has little to commend
it in the eyes of a practical-minded Pokot.
"I speak as a fool" said Paul - and so do we! Is
it any wonder that people turn away - or at
best just pass by?
The reason I have spent most of this section on
the hospital work is that in the church nothing
visible was happening! True the services went
on, on Sundays, in the hospital, in the gaol and
in the district - sowing the seed and trusting
in the phrase, "My word will not return to me
void". At this stage there is just very little to
write about - humanly speaking our hope of
real result was from the schoolboys for they
alone had real prolonged teaching and had any
idea of what Christianity meant. Even these
had a pretty poor quality of Christian to observe.
The village folk were neither for nor
against - merely vaguely interested!
Getting them 'With it'
'How do you get your message across?', I hear
you say. Well, partly by establishing a common
ground, partly by Pokot-orientated parable and
partly by trying to link the teaching to everyday
life and local people.
Just slough off your civilisation for a moment,
and project yourself into a nomadic frame -
you would be amazed at the difference! First
you would shed all knowledge of the world at
large, world affairs and twentieth-century travel.
Second, things we take for granted like cars,
houses, knives, forks, plates, chairs, tables, food
and clothes would all take on a vastly different
character. Food would be a vital concern, the
rest unobtainable, unknowable and unutterably
alien. Perhaps the nearest conception would be
of a new private soldier of limited ability gazing
at the silver on the table of an officer's mess, or
a new child at school gazing at the Masters'
Common Room. Third, your immediate horizon
and memories would be of a continual movement
across dry savannah in which certain trees
and individual cows would be the fixed points
as opposed to the security of a comfortable
home; fear; fear of authority, fear of spirits,
fear of curses and an imminence of sudden
death from the Karamojong, would be uppermost.
Fourth, your concept of 'family' would
be utterly different - several 'mothers', uncles
equalling fathers, tribal custom paramount, and
a sketchy idea of 'fate'. Like your real self,
you would have a haunted chamber of memories
and undesirable things to be kept hidden;
your new ones would be more 'black and white'
and less 'grey' perhaps, but basically you would
have a vestigial (or do I mean 'embryo'?) sense
There is One God
The one common point that I often use is the
concept of one God. 'Your old men teach
about Tororut', I say. 'Who made the world,
trees, etc.?' 'Who made the sun, moon and
stars?' 'Is He good or bad?' 'Well now, who's
seen God? No one! Come, perhaps you've heard Him? No? ... Felt, touched...? How
can we know what He wants us to do? Surely
it is important to please Him if He made us and
the world? He must be very strong.'
So I go on to say that all this is in my book -
"We agree with your old men - see it is written
'Did you know God had a Son? No? Oh; well
here it tells us this - you see God knew we
couldn't see Him so He said, "If I come down
as a man, I can talk to them and tell them what
I want, they can see me and hear me and write
my words down".' 'So He sent His Son - and
He was born as a baby and His mother called
Him "Jesus" ' ... and so on.
I usually try and bring in the point of life after
death, the resurrection, and also an analogy for
the forgiveness of sin - often using the old
court room story (wrapped up in Pokot clothes)
of the prisoner's friend who paid his fine for
him. It is a good story, easily told, easily understood
and well within their experience.
So day in, day out, week in, week out, it's precept
upon precept, line upon line, here a little,
there a little. We look forward to the day when
this early labour will show its results.
Church and People
On a material plane numbers at Church have by
this time grown - staff has increased and even
plans for a church are in consideration. John
Lemu, Charles Ndege and John Tait have come
onto the hospital staff. Daudi Chebtwey, the
senior chiefs driver, a fine shy Christian, is
slowly coming to the fore. Anthony Tangue,
our first Evangelist, has come and our first tour
is at an end - we hand over to Dr Green and
Lilian, and our first furlough starts.
While we were away the graphs went on rising -
attendances at hospital, schools (slowly), and
even church members. The Church building
progressed from a few poles leaning at rather inebriated
angles in their loose sockets to the neat
little frame-work I found on my return.
In 1962 the Pokot and Karamojong had a really
major set-to and Dr Green from being a mere
missionary suddenly became M.O. in charge of
a casualty clearing station. Men, women, and
children - babies speared on their mothers'
backs but the parent escaping, the mother
speared and the baby escaping - all came pouring
It was the wettest year for ages and all transport
was at a standstill for almost a month -
and when we returned Dr Green was only too
glad to hand over his troublesome locum and
Lihan was more than ready for her furlough.
Let us now go to the next step.
Advance and Consolidation
I had not been idle at home, and in a most extraordinary
way the Lord led Janet Fenwick to
come out for a year to relieve Lihan. I met her
at a St Thomas' C.U. houseparty, and mentioned
the need. She being an ex-Kenyan and just
at a turning point in her training said, "Perhaps
the Lord wants me". He did.
Her introduction to missionary life was rather
like being taught to swim by having a 10 lb
weight put on each foot and being thrown in at
the deep end (off the top board!) Everything
happened when she was there, and every time I
went out, there was always some ghastly medical
I took her to a village to collect (as is usual) a
non-existent patient and on our return there
was seething chaos and a small band of bewildered
frightened dressers huddled under a tree.
A drunken crowd of tribespeople and a drunken
crowd of police had clashed - net result
about ten to fifteen gunshot wounds, and a
chief with his leg almost blown off. I (who had
no idea of the cause of it all) said, "Call the
police, let's get order!" "Whatever you do don't do that," they said. So with a few sober
people to hold the doors we literally dragged
the wounded in and put the Chief in the
theatre. The mob - without, in a drunken
daze - wanted to come in and be with the
I amputated the limb to a merry tinkle of
broken glass, as windows were pushed in to
allow faces to see. Janet stitched up the other
wounded in turn and the dressers hurled them
forth into the crowd!
Next day - for the first time - the people refused
to come to prayers. We prayed that the
Chief might be blessed; and from a cold, hard
semi-hostility, and after being sent to Kampala
and later Nairobi for re-operation and a false
leg, he is now definitely friendly to us, supporting
services in his area and lending his voice if
not his life to the Church.
Next we crashed Janet (and ourselves) in an
aeroplane - a daring manouevre in which the
Lord honoured the precautions of the pilot
(and surely that is how God does work?) and
we sat suspended in our safety belts upside
down and undamaged!
Finally we all got the Bilharzia!
Janet continued in the BCMS for many years, having completed her training
and having married Dr Graham Fraser, who (we
are glad to say) met her at Amudat.
Just here we must turn our eyes farther afield
and infringe on the Marsabit story. Graham
Fraser had come to take over the medical care
of the entire Northern Frontier District of
Kenya and came to get his eye in at Amudat.
We hope to be linked far more closely in the
future - but more of this anon.
New Star on the Horizon
The other major advance was the ascension
of a new star on the horizon: The African
Medical and Research Foundation, conceived
and brought into being by a plastic surgeon in Nairobi. He had the idea of linking all bush
hospitals by air for visits by a surgeon (himself
or a colleague) and the provision of wireless
transmitters to all mission hospitals. We got
one soon after I got back off leave in 1962 and
by now were really appreciating it. We were
able to talk to Nairobi at any time in 'office
hours': for instance I could order spare parts,
get medical advice 'by return' and send messages
to other folk. Also we could talk to other
missionaries of all denominations all over East
Africa. Every Wednesday and Friday a triangular
conversation between the late Dr John
Sharp of Kabale in the Ruanda Mission and
Drs Ted and Peter Williams of A.I.M. took
Every Saturday we tuned in to Joe Taylor ministering
to his flock in Tanzania. Somehow it
was as if a great window had been opened.
Medical 'shop', general conversation and discussions
opened our horizons. We were no
The Williams brothers and Janet coped with a
meningitis epidemic while I was away once.
(They work 200 miles away!) Then the Nairobi
surgeon flies up and operates (on a cut and
run' basis as he calls it) and latterly I have occasionally
accompanied him on his rounds.
These I believe were seeds of the future.
By now the Church was being really developed
(we had a young evangelist Andrew Kandegor),
and the church was 'half-walled', floored and
seated. Then in 1964 the greatest step forward
was taken - we had our first pastor. On the
widest level the old Diocese of Mombasa which
embraced all Kenya, was made into a province
and broken up into Dioceses. Bishop Beecher
became Archbishop and Neville Langford-Smith
became Bishop of Nakuru, and in fact 'our
Bishop'. Arthur Hurd was Archdeacon and we
at once felt much more 'at home'. While all
this was going on, Uganda and then Kenya were
getting 'Uhuru' (independence). 'Africanisation',
'Harambee' (pull together), 'Inter-Church Aid', 'New Roles for the Missionary'; all were
every-day topics. The whole of East Africa
boiled and bubbled like a pot of porridge -
Here life went on as usual - 'Uhuru' celebrations
came and went. Two years afterwards an
old man said to me, "Have we got African
people in charge of us now?" On the day when
the whole of Uganda was given up to the holiday
and rejoicing, the Pokot continued to herd
their cattle! In fact one woman thought 'the
Uhuru' was a fierce person and asked if it was
now safe to go into the shops!
Our new Bishop, faced with the largest, primitivest
and wildest diocese in the province, with
the least chance of getting any income, ordained
six or eight men, Christians of standing in
their churches. The Rev. Timothy Oluoch was
one of these men, and he brought Mary, his
Note how God's miracles are often questions
of timing: Liza had been trying to run women's
work with scant success since 1959, and in
1963 Gwen Kerr came to us to live with Lilian
and bring all her experience to help us. She
built up on these foundations a flourishing concern
and as she left through illness, Mary Oluoch
took over on the crest of the wave! And
with amazing effect - she was able to establish
the old and lead on to new heights.
Two days before Timothy came, we had no
house for him, when someone came to Gwen
and said, "Do you want to buy a house?" No
one had ever said this before - and no one has
said it since. It was 50 pounds and next door to the
church site! That was a seal to us and the
Lord's hand has been abundantly shown since,
in Timothy's life and work.
When I left for England in September 1965 we
had a church hall (with mud walls, concrete
floor, and a couple of ping-pong tables) as well
as the church, pastor's house and evangelist's house. Quite a number of children had been
baptised and the first five confirmed during
this year. Now the Rev. Daniel Tumkou, the
first ordained Pokot, is our Vicar and the Rev.
Manasses Kuria our archdeacon.
However, in spite of all this the standard of our
normal church member is deplorably low.
Drinking and immorality are the most obvious
sins, and I sometimes wonder if any but two or
three would stand firm in a real pinch or time
Unite! or else...
The schools are now no longer ours and we and
the Catholics have been united! No ecumenical
council, no high level talks - just 'unite your
schools - or else!' This is a very logical move;
why have two schools (both Government supported)
in one small township? We and the
Verona Fathers had to come to an agreement
between ourselves as we faced the common
Readers will be pleased to hear that relations
since the Vatican council have been superficially
much easier and I find that in Father Raphael
(our new Amudat inhabitant) I have a pleasant,
humorous Italian, with a good command of
English. We can talk openly to one another
and I believe that we are both able to coexist
and even remain on good terms. What an appalling
business these differences are - yet as we
see their beliefs and methods, one wonders if
there will ever be unity.
They have a team of three Fathers - an Italian,
a Mexican and an Austrian. Father Raphael is
the leader. Father Flores an evangelist and the
old Austrian Father a linguist of international
By Faith Alone
How can we make clear the difference to these
Pokot? - "We pray to Jesus alone" . "We follow
the word of God." "We pray in our own
What do these things matter to a man who
can't read and never prays at all without a sacrifice
and in cases of dire illness? "They will
give posho if you come to church." "They will
feed you as you prepare for baptism." There
are not nearly such strict views on drinking
(though Father Raphael preaches strongly against
drunkenness). You will get a little medallion
to hang round your neck. What do you
go for? Look at the two churches - what do
you see - most members are drinkers, most
are 'civilised' and therefore equally out of your
strata. Frankly little difference.
Yet we cannot (as well as must not) descend to
these levels; we will not bribe people into the
Kingdom with food; yet charity is good, the
people are hungry, the Romanists gain people
daily. Our schoolboys say, "Oh we know why
you don't give posho (maize meal) but it makes
it very hard for us to ask our friends to
church!" And so it does.
The needs are for a thorough spiritual awakening
of all church members and adherents from
the missionaries down to the youngest schoolboy;
a sense of urgency and responsibility for
our fellows and a unity of life, purpose and
thought among the members.
As we left for leave there were three adults
from the tribe preparing for baptism: two women
(both wives of happy, polygamous homes)
and one man. He was ex-DYM, mystical (called
to church by a dream) giving a fearless testimony
to the Lord - but now back in DYM
again. We thought he was genuine yet his own
people would have nothing to do with him.
How right they seem to be! Yet the arm of the
Lord is long.
To sum up, we face apathy and slackness in our
church, together with a strong Roman challenge
backed by money, men and drive. All this and
the same old primitive conservative mind. Our
assets are the hospital, the fact that we are
known, and that we have an African Pastor.
Now, if ever, is the time to re-plan, expand and
develop. The medical work in Amudat itself is
now a going concern - there is a routine of
sorts, but the whole district work is neglected,
as hospitals tend to need a doctor on the spot.
We must cover the district again or lose out to
the flocks of Roman catechists being let loose
on the countryside. Again, in hospital one barely
has time to do more than treat a patient -
and much personal contact is lost.
What of the Future?
Also there is the great problem of staffing the
work with one doctor - and also that of staffing
Marsabit. It is axiomatic that two hospitals
need at least three doctors - to allow for leave,
sickness, local holidays and the like. Also it is a
strange fact that doctors often work better in
groups - professional loneliness is a real factor.
Thus it is plain that, for BCMS to continue to
run the work in Amudat and Marsabit, another
doctor had to be be found. Perhaps he
should live at Amudat, which is slightly busier,
and perhaps take over a great deal of the responsibility
for it. This would allow the spare
man to go out into the Karapokot and also to
link up with Graham Fraser at Marsabit about
four times a year using air transport as the
means of getting there. A flight would go via
Turkana, perhaps calling at Lokori to see Dr
Dick Anderson of AIM, then on to North Horr
and one or two centres in the Northern Frontier
District before landing at Marsabit and leaving
the doctor there for a couple of weeks before
returning to Amudat.
This then was the vision in 1965.
3rd Tour and Stop Press
When we got back in 1966 much of this 'vision'
became reality. The Bishop had been greatly
burdened by the tremendous need in the northern
part of his huge diocese - much of it shut
to normal travel by the Shifta bandits; large
parts a hundred per cent Muslim; and huge
tracts of almost uninhabited land between the
roving bands of nomadic tribesmen. It quickly became apparent that the Diocese had something
to offer the government - for they were
up against a fundamental problem - no-one
would go into the NFD! Doctors, medical assistants
and dressers posted to these hospitals
lived for one thing - to get out! Surely we
Christians could meet the challenge?
The Government gave us a list of nine places to
fill - they would give grants if we would provide
doctors. Obviously this was a task requiring
the resources of more than one missionary
society; indeed we should have to approach the
problem in a completely new way. Thus the
Northern Frontier Medical Mission was born.
It would seek to help all existing Protestant
Medical work by coordinating efforts and providing
a way of helping in staff exchanges. It
would also seek to capture the energies of
Christian doctors, who did not feel called to a
lifetime's service abroad, yet would love to give
a tour of two or three years to the Lord's work
overseas. We hope the very difficulties will be
the magnet to draw such men. Dr Maurice Heyman,
who nobly filled my place in Amudat
while I was on leave, has gone to the Government
hospital in Maralal as the pioneer of this
scheme. Ruth Stranex has already helped at
the AIM Hospital in Turkana - and we hope
many such swaps will take place.
The longed-for third doctor has materialised.
Dr David Webster, son of the late Canon Webster,
the BCMS pioneer of Marsabit, has returned
to East Africa to join the team.
What of the Church?
What of the Church? When I left to go to England
Timothy Oluoch was undergoing further
training and the Church was left in the hands of
three laymen - Daudi Chabtway, John Tait and
Solomon Mworor, who is now headmaster of
part of the Amudat Government school. When
I returned the Church had gone steadily on,
and we were able to build a proper house for Timothy and Mary with gifts from friends in England.
Yet, in spiritual ways, the outlook seemed as black as ever! Our boys, on whom we had pinned our hopes in earlier years, seemed to fall away as soon as they left school. Some had seemed so full of faith - but now had lapsed into the easy-going drinking of the semi-civilised. Church was forgotten and the tribal draw seemed stronger than the new way. But in the gloom there were stars of light. A Pokot policeman was really saved, another deeply touched and the two women referred to above truly witnessing.
The competition from the Roman Catholic Church is unhappily stronger than ever and our need of revival as great as before. There is a little nucleus of senior boys whose faith is already being tried in the fire of unpopularity. The way is open, the problems vast; but whatever happens the prospect is never dull!
Step by step; here a little, there a little; but always to the end that the people who live in darkness should see the great light and that the fears of the tribe might be turned to the peace of God.
Here ends the introduction!