Thursday, May 31, 2012

Making Fire in the Darkness

My son, Landon, with Masai tribe members learning to make fire with two sticks, elephant dung and brush (who knew?).

For the past week my son and I have been traveling in Kenya.  The first couple of days we were able to go to the Tsavo East Game Reserve for a photo safari.  We were able to be up close and personal with elephants, giraffes, antelope of all kinds, 3 prides of lions (with cubs), cheetah and all kinds of other animals.  It was a great experience for him to be that close to real nature and a thrill for me, as his dad, to be there alongside him as we explored this part of Kenya.  On our way back to the major city of Mombasa, we passed into a Masai village.  The Masai tribe wears very colorful clothes, is very protective of its land and animals and was very willing to share some insights into their way of life with the two of us (although it is a rather challenging conversation to talk with your 14 year old about the men marrying up to 9 women at a time!).  

On the lookout for wild life on the Tsavo Savannah.

We have seen more stars in the sky of the southern hemisphere than we could believe existed.  There was no artificial light on the Savannah.  Just moonless nights.  The calls of elephants in the distance throughout the night.  The stars that look so different from those at home in Oklahoma.  Bright, clear stars that sent a powerful impression into each of us.  Very seldom are we able to experience night without lights, without the intrusion of humans, in the way our ancestors did.  Being at Tsavo East took us back, literally, hundreds of years.  To a time when man had to rely on their own ability to bring heat and fire and light.

At the Masai village, the tribal members showed Landon how to make his own fire.  They said that the wood they used to start the fire came from more than an hour walk away.  That only three men in the family were given to making fire and they went from hut to hut bringing the fire so that each small family unit had fire during the day.

That got me to thinking.

In our world today, we think very much that we are very independent.  In many of our minds, we are the "Marlboro Man" riding the range, strong, no need for anyone else.  But if it came down to it, could we even do something as simple as make a fire without all the convenient tools we have at our disposal?
These Masai tribe members would be looked down upon in our society because they don't have anything.  Literally, they have the clothes on their back, cattle that they raise and keep in their mud huts with them to protect them from lions, and the mud huts themselves.  That's it.

Yet, every morning, they have the ability to start their day from scratch and make a way for their families because they can do basic things - start a fire, collect water, gather food - for themselves.

If it came down to it, in many ways, the Masai are more secure than you or I.  If the power goes out - we sit by and wait for someone at the power company to reconnect us and turn the lights on.  We assume we will always have fresh water piped to our homes - but what happens if the pumping station goes off line?

We are not a bit independent anymore - we are more interconnected than ever before and rely on outsiders, faceless and nameless, to assure that we can live a comfortable, peaceful life.  The Masai know they can rely on each other and see themselves as an interconnected family.  Because they are.  The chief is the father, literally.  He marries up to 9 or 10 wives.  Each new wife and subsequent children occupy a new hut in the circle of the village.  Three men are responsible to all the others to bring the fire.  The women are responsible for finding the water and preparing the food for all.  Everyone knows their role - some care for the grazing cattle, some tend the goats, others prepare to defend the village against aggressive animals for the coming night.  Everyone has something to do to make the tribe function.

It seems to me that because we have managed to make our lives in the United States so comfortable, there is often no need for many people to do anything.  Nothing at all.  No one notices if they do nothing.  No one cares if they do nothing.  What a terrible shame.  In a sense, these people have far, far less than the Masai.

They have no purpose.

I believe we have an obligation to do more.  As I have had the privilege to work with churches, church leaders and non-governmental agencies in Mombasa, Kenya, I am convinced that we are doing some things very wrong in the United States.  We have made life so simple and easy that we encourage people to do nothing and they end up with meaningless lives.  These churches fight every day to help their members survive spiritually and physically.  They are in actual battles with terrorist cells as churches and church gatherings are hit with hand grenades to kill and frighten off church members (I'll write more about that later).  It is the church, and the hope that it brings, that brightens the lives of these men, women and children.  Educating, teaching vocations, offering job assistance, teaching new agriculture techniques.  Giving them a spiritual grounding that let's them know that they have not been forgotten by God.  They do so much with so little.  In America, we see far too many people who do so little with so much.
Landon after the Masai warrior dance.

Today, will you think about the fire that you bring?

Can you make a fire that brings light to the darkness of someone around you?  To aid someone who may be at the end of their rope?  To accept the reality of the abundance of our life in the United States and do more with it!

Tonight, think about making a fire in the darkness and whether you use what you have to make a difference in this world.

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