By Victor Jawaseda:
Am seated somewhere in the ninth floor. The traffic from what I can see is moving. Friday is finally here with us. Most people are glad. I can see it in their faces. Many more have departed. An early weekend they call it. Good for them! Good for me too, I can do what I enjoy doing, write another note. This time, about the life in the countryside!
For those who have known me and the people who read my notes and updates, I come from this part of Kenya called Wichlum. Wichlum is a place where the sun comes to set.
Back then life was not as complex as it is today. Religion was characterized by energy and dedication. I remember at Migogwa’s Church there was this boy called Otieno. Otieno was skillful in drumming. Some guys had nicknamed him Chetu. So his complete brand was Otieno Chetu. Literally the flock adored the drum. I hope you know how an African drum looked like. The drum’s design was that it could be hung around the neck with the actual membrane positioned just at one’s belly. From that location, Chetu could drum it by both hands. Two drumming sticks one in each of the hands. The tip of the the sticks had this rubber dome to provide the bouncing and hitting effect. A perfect hit would last 30 minutes before the bible reading and or some preaching. The pastor would then scream, “Jawer okel wer!” beckoning the soloist to do what she did best. To be a soloist was almost reserved for women.
Songs praising the courage of Moses, the strength of Samson and the mysterious departure of Elijah were then performed with public participation recording ninety five percent. The passive audience was involved in coddling babies or were just young kids asleep outside in some mats.
My home church was Hera. Hera (meaning love) had just broken from the Holy Trinity Church. So I could see the old women conducting the service at Lower School compound while I regularly followed my mum to this solitary building behind the classrooms. The order of service was predictable. Apart from the day of ‘Sao’ (Communion) things remained the same. On the day of communion, the tables were neatly set. We too had our Chetu, this time round it was Achieng Nyakech. In fact we had two because Odongo Chemba was deputizing Achieng in a perfect way. The performance was convincing.
If we were to conduct an opinion poll, I think Migogwa’s could be leading from the front with bias to instrumentals. Hera was more verbal. Other churches collapsed. An example of such was Lwanda Zebra. After a few years another one called Faith had joined and was strategically placed between Hera and Migogwa’s and towards the road. I think they had done market research and soon got a good number of members.
I cannot forget to mention that ‘Roho’ was a predominant church of choice in Nyaguda residents. It had loyal ambassadors as well. The evidence would be the number of frequent visits they made to individual members’ households at Wichlum with such events as ‘Nyoluoro’ (Home fellowships) or ‘Golo nyathi’(removal of a child which took place eight days after circumcision)
Sometimes the clergy came up with this threats or let me just say claim of having “seen a coffin” Faithfuls were to really pray so hard and go for ‘tweyo’ (Fasts). No one was spared, young and old alike.
Everyone looked forward to Sunday. We adorned very nice clothes. These were set aside for special occasions. I think that is where the phrase ‘Sunday best’ originated. The offertory was not that hiked as it is today. 50 cents it was to be specific. The worship was good I believe.
It was real. It was great in its own unique way. Looking back I just wish we get the determination and energy with which ‘Mathlida dana’ and all worshipped.
Don’t you miss the good old days?
Victor is a Kenyan writer and one of Kenya’s brightest upcoming leaders. He is currently compiling his autobiography.