British Empire Article

Beginnings and Background
The Amudat Story
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.
The Amudat Story

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.
The Amudat Story
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!)

The Amudat Story
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 large conglomerations.

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 Phase I.

Reconnaissance and Foundations
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 his friend.

5 Wire the mesh to the uprights and cover with plaster.

The Amudat Story
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 work-to-rule!

Then Peter Cartwright, builder and engineer of several years' experience, came to help me put it up.

"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 people."

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 nothing.

The Amudat Story
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 Really Necessary

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, he said.

The Amudat Story
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 to act.

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 (and three)

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.
The Amudat Story
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!

The Amudat Story
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.

The Amudat Story
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 and Nasokol.

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!"

The Amudat Story
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 more deeply.

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 what happened.

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 medicine."

The 2,000-Year Jump

The Amudat Story
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 the same.

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 of sin.

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 here."

'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 in.

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 emergency.

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 wounded.

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.
The Amudat Story


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.
The Amudat Story
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 place.

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 longer isolated.

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.

The Amudat Story
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 - except Pokot!

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 wife.

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.
The Amudat Story
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 of trial.

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 pressure.

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 repute.

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 language."

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.

The Amudat Story
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.

The Amudat Story
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 Amudat Story
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 Amudat Story
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!

British Empire Book
Colonial Map
Map with Kenya/Uganda Border
Colony Profiles
Originally Published
1967 by Bible Churchmen's Missionary Society


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