By Archdeacon Alan Synnott
Walking for water is what you are doing if you are a Maasai woman and getting hygienic water is imperative, so if you are from Oltiasiki in Southern Kenya and you are a woman you will spend a large part of everyday walking and walking and walking to collect and bring back water to your home. It is particularly galling to me that there is an incomplete water system in Oltiasiki and it must be so frustrating for the women of the community to know it is there and unusable. The completion of this water system is our current diocesan project and is most worthwhile, it lifts the threat of waterborne disease while liberating the women and girls of the community from this backbreaking drudgery.
The Kingdom of God is transformative and social change inevitably follows the faithful bringing of the Good News, this is not cultural imperialism but bringing the values of God’s Kingdom to bear on the lives of the oppressed. The oppression of women and girls is a worldwide disease that is manifested in many ways and in the culture where our Anglican brethren serve in East Africa there are many things that are challenged by faithfulness to Christ. The water issue is just one aspect and far more deadly matters are challenged by the local church there, female genital mutilation –FGM-is a vile tradition which along with child brides and polygamy is being confronted by the church in Kenya. Our school improvement project under the heading of Mbweni has helped consolidate the work of the church in not only providing education but also sanctuary for girls who face barbarity and exploitation, these are ideas shared by Christians coming to us from there and not an imposition of western values upon them.
I did not participate in the cycle rides as I don’t enjoy cycling but I felt the urge to do something to help raise our share of the diocesan commitment to this community while at the same time raising our own awareness of the issues with which the church in Kajiado is engaged. Sponsored walks are easy so to point to the purpose of our project I decided to do what comes naturally to me and strap on my bergan and hump my way from one end of the parish to the other. I set my sights on twenty litres of water but it was too ambitious a weight so with a mere sixteen litres I set off from Christ Church Dromard at 10:00am on Saturday 28th January 2017.
I was well supported on the walk, some people did either the first or second half and others did the whole thing with me. Our little band set off consisting of Barbara and Tim Birdsall and Alan Johnston from Kilmacshalgan and the Reverend Andrew Ison our new incumbent in Ballisodare. Andrew proved a great asset as he is very tall and in his Hi-Viz gear he was ideally placed at the front to ward off vehicles on the first and most dangerous stretch leaving Beltra and walking up that nasty little hill past the hall.
We got off the N59 with Andrew intact and began the route proper on the coast road where we were joined by Shirley Clarke form Skreen parish and who walked with us till we got to her home where we had a comfort break. Anne Synnott drove the support wagon and provided coffee and biscuits at our first stop and then a fine lunch at our second. We feasted on quiche and spinach and feta twists along with sweet-potato-squash-and-chilli-soup accompanied by homemade bread and followed by flapjacks and tea or coffee. We had been joined by two more Skreen parishioners, Jackie Higgins and Ann Williams as well as our neighbour the indomitable Mary Kilgallon. Mary caused much amusement as she couldn’t find her trainers and walked over six miles in stylish heeled boots, fair play to her.
Like life, the second half was slow, stiff and more painful than the first, but I remembered the girls of Oltiasika and could neither complain nor give up, after all the day was fine, the company was good and I had the right kit for the job. Eventually we caught sight of St Mary’s tower and when we rounded the corner we were greeted by Esther and Hillary Williams and Ann Shawe, Alan’s wife and children and two of Mary’s children were there as well. Ann Shawe had brewed up some tea in the McGee Hall and it was good to set down my load and get a hot drink, but not before I had touched the church gates to say we’d done it.
It’s over twelve miles or twenty kilometres from gate to gate and I’m glad to have done it. Thank you to the walkers who distracted me from discomfort and gave encouragement all the way- they also rescued a ewe! Thank you too for all the sponsorship, at time of writing there is €1,500 cash already in and more has been pledged.
There was an element of personal challenge involved but more importantly this is about helping to grow God’s Kingdom by blessing his children, I had a choice, many millions of girls and women around the world have no choice in how their lives are lived, may God’s Kingdom come, his will be done.
Our reading the next morning was:
He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8