In the third of his series of five Thought for the Day slots on BBC Radio Ulster, the Bishop of Connor, the Rt Rev Alan Abernethy, reflects on his visit to Kenya last December.
This Thought was broadcast live on Friday September 21. You can tune in to hear Bishop Alan’s last two Thoughts on September 8 and October 5.
The full text of the Bishop’s reflection on September 21 is as follows:
I can still smell the scorched earth and see the hungry and yet grateful eyes staring at us. The journey had been over dirt tracks through land that had not seen rain for a very long time. The sun was scorching and there was very little shade.
This was in a community of Massai people in an area very close to the Kenyan and Tanzanian border. There had been no rain yet again and the ensuing famine had left people facing death and starvation.
It was last December and I had the privilege of visiting the Anglican Church in Kenya, and the diocese of Kajiado. It was uncomfortable to be so close to human need in such a raw and tangible form. Yet it was also humbling to see the way these people carried themselves in the midst of such difficult conditions.
It was the way that this help was given to these beautiful people that left me profoundly challenged. The local church leaders had met with the local tribal chiefs and some government officials. The local people had decided which families needed help most and we arrived as part of the distribution of food and water.
The names of those families were called by the government official, the people came forward and received the supplies and went on their way.
There was such dignity and respect for the people and they were treated in a way that did not have them scrambling and fighting for help. The local church was genuinely engaging with the needs of the local people and really making a difference. There was no need for words because actions spoke so loudly.
I was part of a group from Ireland and we represented different local churches. As we got back into the Land Rovers to return to where we were staying it was difficult to speak, words did not come easy.
We live in a culture and community that finds words very easy. I as someone involved in church leadership find myself in a religious world that is very fond of words. In fact religious people have been known to debate in great depth the meaning of words.
From my experience there is a lot of religious jargon that can be confusing and bewildering to those who are not part of that religious world.
My visit to Kenya reminded me of something I believe, that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. I think it is time that those of us who talk about faith use less words and concentrate on putting them into action.