Mau Forest is the largest montane forest in all of East Africa. During the 1980's - 1990's large parts of this "protected" land were dolled out in the form of political favors resulting in the destruction of large swaths of the virgin woodlands. During the 2000's, political pressure began to build as Kenya experienced significant droughts attributed by many to the loss of the forest. In fact, when we arrived to Kenya in the fall of 2009, I was pretty sure I had landed in the Southwest USA because the place was a dust bowl. Serious evictions began to be carried out by the government shortly after our arrival.
Tenwek sits just a few kilometers from the edge of this forest. Internally displaced people (IDP) camps have popped up along the edge of the forest, and I've heard estimates that as many as 100,000 people will be displaced by the evictions. This December, on request of the government, Tenwek sent a convoy deep into the forest to an IDP camp with ~4,000 people in the area. We took 5 Toyota Land Cruisers with 30 medical personal and supplies on some seriously wild two tracks. After converging all of the pieces of the puzzle at 5 am at Tenwek, we arrived at the below IDP camp around noon time.
We made the make-shift "school" our medical facility for the day, and a big crowd quickly gathered for medical care. Dr. Spriegel and the head Tenwek chaplain gave encouragement from God's Word and instructions for the day to the crowd.
We were all impressed with how the IDPs handled themselves. These situations can sometimes be tricky as people fight to make sure they and their loved ones get the care they desperately need. But none of that happened. Instead, we heard stories of tremendous faith as mothers with nothing to their name trusted God for their family's daily bread in the most literal of ways. Most of the children wore tattered clothes and had signs of malnutrition. The African Gospel Church has worked extensively in this area with nearly 150 churches estimated in the Mau region. It was obvious these people had a joy and a peace that could not be explained by their earthly state, but came from their trust in Christ.
The eye team, ("macho" in Swahili, "konda" in Kipsigis), were assigned station five. After a little artistic touch, we were ready for business.
Eye sight was checked,
eye pressures were measured,
and exams were performed.
From 1 - 5:30 pm, nearly 600 patients were seen by the medical team (~100 of those had eye problems). We then packed up as fast as we could to get over the worst of the roads before nightfall. We took a longer route home in order to use paved roads at night instead of taking the "short-cut" through the middle of the forest. We arrived home at 9:30 pm exhausted, but deeply grateful for the chance to bear just a small part of our brothers' and sisters' burdens. Please pray for these IDPs as well as the Kenyan church and government as the try to minister to their needs and find a permanent re-settlement site.