Driving deep into the Maasai Land which surround Nairobi, Kenya, is fine until you get off the main asphalt road. When you hit the trail in your jeep all of a sudden you forget the potholes on the main road. The scenery also changes. The savannah and the frequently encountered cattle make you forget the city and its noise. The land of the Maasai, a semi-nomadic people whose culture is largely closed to the world.
Things are changing for the Maasai as I was able to witness on my recent visit to the Kisaju region in the Rift Valley, just 50 or so miles from Nairobi. Scores of them are adjusting their habits and their diet, some of the younger ones attend literacy classes and groups are involved with a variety of income-generating activities. The cows, the goat, and the sheep are still synonymous with the Maasai. So are their colorful dresses, accented with elaborate beadwork, adorning the women as they come to church. It's Sabbath, January 17, 2009. One by one, perhaps with family head at the helm, they walk to church; their at first diminutive figures, then walking tall, straight and with proud determination, with small children in their mother's arms or trekking behind.
The best of that color is on full display when a group of six women walk to the front of the church singing. Now, that your world music, Ray, I told myself! I couldn't have asked for more as the swaying movement of the singers and their high-pitched voices sing a song about their liberty in God.
As usual, words are not adequate to replace the images. Here is a selection of them from Kisaju and Inchorri - two Adventist communities in the Maasai Land, some 2,000 meters above the sea level. The women at prayer. The children pierce each visitor with their gaze. And then, the lone figure of a 70-year old grandfather and his grand child. "I am William Nanka. I live up there," he pointed his hand toward his hilltop homestead. "And this is my church. These are my children."
Tranquility of the moment. Never enough of it, though. The peaceful aura around them makes an impression on me. Another world discovered. Another moment to cherish.