Kenya (MNN) – People in northern Kenya’s Turkana county have endured a severe drought for about two decades. In 2019, they’re encountering some of the worst conditions to date.
Animals are dying in herds. It’s affecting people, particularly the young and elderly, even more than it has in the past. “Every day, we’re hearing reports of people dying because of the drought,” World Mission’s Greg Kelley says.
“As people’s access to water is limited, it affects their entire health. Their immune system comes down and they’re just more susceptible to things like worms and other diseases.”
Kelley says because people are so physically vulnerable, the Turkana area is seeing its highest death rates in decades. Women who lose their husbands are forced to remarry to survive. Other people are trying to get married, but are unable to.
“Everything is hinged upon the animals,” Kelley explains.
“There’s a dowry system in northern Kenya, so you can’t get married to someone. I know a number of men who would like to get married, but their entire livestock, all of their goats, all of their camel[s] are dying or they’re in really poor health.They don’t even have a dowry to give to the family so they can’t get married.”
There are twelve major people groups in northern Kenya who have been based in the area for generations.
Kelley says because there is a long history of living in this same area, the people groups won’t move even though they’ve been affected by the drought. In the past, when people have traveled with their animals into different people groups’ territories for water, there has been conflict.
“As they would pass from one people group to the next, they would fight each other and there would be disputes over whose water it is,” Kelley says.
“It’s mainly the water source that they’re going to, and that used to be with sticks and stones and bow and arrows. Well, now they all have AK-47s and so there’s a lot of bloodshed and there’s a lot of cattle wrestling. It’s like the wild, wild west where they will steal one another’s herd of cattle.”
Kelly says the last time he was in the Turkana area, a people group had stolen one thousand camels from another group.
“A thousand camels would be the equivalent of a big corporation’s bank being raided and all of the 401ks of all the employees just dissipating overnight. It’s a massive deal because that is their sole source of income. When a thousand camels get taken from one people group, it’s devastating and there’s retaliation.”
Stealing, conflicts, attacks, and bloodshed continue occurring in the Turkana area, and they point back to the drought and the devastating needs it is creating among the people.
A Vision for Prosperity and Peace
World Mission is working to bring aid and has a vision to see peace among the people groups.
They’re helping to mobilize their national partners to distribute rice, beans, and oil for people who are highly at risk and may be a day away from death. They’ve also drilled over 200 wells that are deep enough that they will not dry up.
In the midst of the aid distributions, national partners are also delivering World Mission’s solar-powered audio Bible, the Treasure, in native languages to show people that Jesus loves them and cares about their situation, and World Mission does too.
“What we find is that the Gospel brings transformation and it starts spiritually, but it turns into a physical transformation, and that’s our belief in what will happen in northern Kenya,” Kelley says.
World Mission wants to see the Gospel find deep roots in the area so that it transforms people and their relationships.
“What we’re trying to mobilize our vision is to see the hearts of the people turn so hard and so completely devoted to Jesus that not only are they wanting to reach their own people, but they’re wanting to go across intentionally into their neighboring tribes… with the Treasure and with the good news of Jesus.”
Right now, there are about one million Turkana people and only 10 percent are Christian. Typically, these groups share Animistic beliefs. However, Kelley says Islam is starting to make its way from South Sudan and Somalia and impacting the people’s beliefs.
With this push of Islam, it’s making it harder to be a Christian in northern Kenya, even for World Mission’s national partners.
“When someone comes to know Jesus, we hear all the time people vanishing, disappearing. We just had a guy about a month ago who was beaten almost literally to death. Fortunately, he survived, but it’s incredibly difficult in that part of Kenya.”
Kelley says that Kenya is the most evangelical country in the world, yet it’s also home to some of the harshest persecution in the world because of radical Islam people groups.
Come alongside World Mission by praying for their efforts, national partners, and the people they are distributing aid to and sharing the Gospel with. Pray for the Lord’s protection and healing and for the people’s openness in hearing the truth.
Help provide food, water, and solar-powered audio Bibles. With just $50, you can give a Treasure in a native language and feed a family for a week. Get started here.
Header photo by Kasey McCoy on Unsplash