At the urging of Paul Washer, we encouraged our Kenyan leaders, Sam Oluoch and Naphtally Ogallo, to investigate the South Sudanese refugee camp in their country, and your generous giving funded their travel. Here is Pastor Naphtally's informative and entertaining account of their second trip to Kakuma Refugee Camp:
"Sam and I recently traveled to Kakuma Refugee Camp to visit the brethren of Unity Church. The first visit we made to the South Sudanese refugee camp was in November 2015. The purpose of this visit was twofold: 1) to get to know how they are doing and how we can further encourage them; and 2) to find out about Babale Mamchoko. He is the young man we had earlier earmarked for theological training.
We took a taxi early morning to the Eldoret airport and then boarded Flight Skyward arriving in Lodwar about 10:00am. Once in Lodwar, we negotiated and took a taxi for the Kakuma leg. There was untrustworthiness on the part of the driver who, after our paying, began to load up to seven adults and children in the boot of the car, plus other luggage! The three hours on the bad road provided us with opportunity to witness to the very talkative driver. By the end of the journey, he was full of apologies and begging us for forgiveness for having gone against hiring regulations. He promised us that if we should hire him on our return leg then he will 'compensate' us or at least adhere to the rules! Upon arrival, the accommodation booked for us included malfunctioning fans. So we were robbed of sleep, not only by the heat, but also the 4:00am Islamic 'call to prayer' followed by a forceful Islamic preacher.
After prayer and breakfast, we set off hunting for different accommodation. Upon getting a reasonable alternative called 'Lokwan Guest House,' we quickly relocated. This is situated right next to Kakuma airstrip, which is used solely by the UNHCR planes.
Unity Church is made up of three independent South Sudanese churches which came together in the Camp. These three are Presbyterian Church, African Inland Church (AIC), and Reformed Church. The majority of the members of Unity Church are from the Murle ethnic group of South Sudan. Babale Mamchoko is the only Murle we know who has secondary school education. He has a Diploma from a Bible institute within Kakuma. At present he is taking a Diploma course in Computers. Occasionally he is hired by the UNHCR to do translation for fresh refugees. An admission process had begun for him to join KReST (Kenya Reformed School of Theology, hosted by Sam’s church), but this stalled for lack of communication from Unity Church. On our part, we did not want to bypass the local church and so it was important to understand what was happening and how we could help them solve it.
We heard from a church officer that the church would not recommend Babale Mamchoko due to his lack of commitment to church life and ministry. Babale admitted in our talk with him that he had occasionally attended other churches when invited by his college friends. His church leadership did not see this in a good light. They feel that Babale is more privileged and informed, and therefore should use his gifts and abilities in and for the good of his church. Hence they were not ready to recommend him for KReST studies. We agreed with both the church leaders and Babale Mamchoko that we meet the following day at the church building to try and help them with the situation.
We traveled to the church meeting place and found the pastor, other leaders, and a few members already gathered. After greetings and prayer, we taught them briefly from 1 Timothy 3:14-16, pointing out that the church is God's house and therefore must be run God's way, with the central message of the church being the Lord Jesus Christ. We then spent some moments with Pastor Stephen and two other church officers, Luka and John. Pastor Stephen was adamant that Babale's current attitude to the church did not qualify him for recommendation for studies. He instead suggested that the church would recommend Luka and John for KReST. However, these two were still finishing primary school and would only be qualified academically in four years’ time.
Pleasant turn of events
At this point we need to interject and mention that, since our return from Kakuma, we have received a phone call from Luka that the church met again with Babale Mamchako on Sunday October 23rd after the worship service and they resolved all the issues that were hindering their recommending him. Latter Babale himself also contacted us and confirmed the same. We are deeply thankful to God for this very mature and gracious move in the part of the church and humility on the part of Babale. Therefore we expect to complete the admission process and make official invitation to Babale Mamchoko to join KReST in February 2017. With this turn of events, we feel that our trip to Kakuma Refugee Camp among the Unity Church was greatly blessed of the Lord.
We left Kakuma by 8:00am in a taxi driven by a man who spoke very little to us and only answered our questions very briefly! So we were not able to witness much to him. The desperate condition of children and mothers along the Kakuma-Lodwar road was deeply disturbing and all we could do was to hand out a few bottled waters that we carried. We checked in on time for our Eldoret-bound plane, which ultimately failed to fly due to mechanical failure. So we were forced to spend the night in Lodwar. That extended time in Lodwar provided us with a unique opportunity to discuss and pray about the spiritual needs of Kakuma and Lodwar. We had left Kakuma with a conviction which was now solidified during our providential overnight stay in Lodwar. While the need to bring individual South Sudanese to KReST for studies remains, there is also an urgent need for a church plant in Lodwar.
How we see it
1) Lodwar is a 'hub town' with many different ethnic communities and many different NGOs who serve Kakuma. 2) It is a three hour drive from Lodwar to Kakuma (it is actually less than 100Kms). 3) There is no Reformed biblical church in Lodwar or beyond that we know of. 4) If we got a mature man to do a church plant in Lodwar, he could more frequently and meaningfully visit Kakuma to teach and encourage the S. Sudanese.
Though we had some health challenges, yet our joy to be found in the Lord's work far surpassed those momentary discomforts. Finally, thank you for not only facilitating the journey but also showing us such kindness by extending to us generous tokens. We returned to our homes and found our wives and churches well.
Glory be to His name.
Naphtally Ogallo & Sam Oluoch"