Update from Africa

Dear friends and students,

I send you greetings and blessings from Nairobi, Kenya. I have been in Nairobi for the last five days and have been very busy with our humanitarian projects here. I am constantly reminded that I have not only come to a different country, I have come to a different word. What I hear, see and feel is often overwhelming. To be honest, I am happier here than many other places I visit because I see the results of our efforts and how people’s lives are changed everyday with so little effort.

I am so happy to share a letter with you written by a Kenyan, Mr. Mwiti Kirimi, who traveled with me on my first day here. I hope you will have a few minutes to read this and that it will inspire you as well.

With love and blessings,

Bhante Wimala

An inspiring day with Bhante Wimala; Visit to Ol’Kalou, Kenya

By Mwiti Kirimi

Today is the 28th of September 2006. Yesterday, I spent the whole day traveling with the Buddhist monk Bhante Wimala. In five days, his busy schedule in Kenya will have him traveling to many remote regions of the country. Today, the first day of his visit, we traveled by car to the Ol’Kalou district, 200 km northwest of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Ol’Kalou stands over 9000 ft above sea level and most of the inhabitants are small peasant farmers. The purpose of the visit here was to provide wheelchairs to some physically-challenged residents and to deliver some medical equipment to the local hospital. We traveled over 500 km, along many dusty and unpaved bumpy roads, visiting several villages to bring help to those who are in need.

The recipient of our first wheelchair was 28-year-old John Kasuky. John used to earn a living by working as a lumberjack. One fateful day two years ago his back was crushed by a huge log. Both of his legs were paralyzed. He was not able to go out unless somebody carried him. Jon Kasuky received his first wheelchair from Bhante Wimala that will make a big difference in his life.

Our next stop was to the town of Ol’Kalou to donate the second wheelchair to 14-year-old John Wangari. John developed a strange sickness that left both of his legs paralyzed, prompting him to drop out of school. In a small wooden booth made by his father John sells phone cards. His father brings him to the booth by bicycle every morning and takes him back home each evening. There was no other way for John to move around since becoming paralyzed two years ago. He got his first wheelchair from Bhante. Bhante was visibly moved by the courage and the determination of the young man to succeed amid difficulties.

Our next stop was Dundori, a small village near Ol’Kalou. There, two middle aged women were waiting for us at the small St. Monica Catholic Church of the village. They had come to receive our third and fourth wheelchairs of the day. Mrs. Mburu, a mother of four children, was hurrying home form the market in February 1987 when she was hit and run over by a hit-and-run driver. Both of her legs were amputated below the knees. She had been using outfits made from old car tires to crawl around her home or even to the market. It was a very joyful day for her to receive her first wheelchair.

Mrs. Kamore was the recipient of the fourth wheelchair of the day. She was brought to church in Dundori on a bicycle by a relative. In 2004, Mrs. Kamore suddenly fell ill and became paralyzed below the waist. She might have had a stroke. She had not been able to move around since her illness—until today.

During his visit, Bhante was told about a 7-year-old boy who can not pass urine. For a few years now, this boy has been living in great pain. He needs surgery and the parents are poor peasant farmers who can not afford to pay. Bhante decided to visit the boy at his home. Traveling along an unpaved dusty road off the main road we arrived at his small mud house at dusk. Bhante listened to the emotional appeal of the mother to help her son and talked to the little boy with the help of an interpreter whose pants were wet with urine. I could see how the situation really disturbed Bhante’s mind as he sought ways to help him to have a corrective surgery.

Agnes Njeru, an elderly woman, lost the use of her legs after getting sick with severe typhoid three years ago. We walked through darkness with the help of a flashlight to see her sitting on a chair in the back of the house. The family members who surrounded her to see her receiving the wheelchair were happy and so grateful. She was the last lucky one to be touched by Bhante’s compassion on this joyous day as she received the wheelchair, the fifth one of the day.

As we bid the family goodbye, it was dark and raining. Rain doesn’t normally come here at this time of the year. In the belief of most communities in Kenya such rain can be a sign of blessings after a visit of a man of compassion and peace. The rain confirmed that Bhante is one!

By the time we dropped him off at his temple it was almost midnight. It was a day we shared happiness with so many people. As I understand, the next few days are going to be even busier for him. I know he is planning similar trips into remote regions of Kenya to help many more people. I am so happy that I could share an inspiring day with Bhante Wimala.