Growing Together in the Light

A place for Friends and others to explore Quakerism. A place where, in the Light that comes from God, we may all grow and where we may hope to find a unity that underlies our diversity of language.

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Location: Arlington, Massachusetts, United States

Raised a Friend, I am currently a member of Fresh Pond Meeting in Cambridge, Mass. I am also active in Salem Quarterly Meeting and in New England Yearly Meeting.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Anticipating Africa

I will be leaving for Kenya a week from today. I am going to attend the General Board Meeting of FUM. I have been busy with the preparations for the trip, getting the shots, thinking about what I need to pack, thinking about what I should leave behind, refreshing my knowledge of Swahili. This is exciting for me, although the week that I can stay there will be too short.

This is not my first trip to Kenya. I was there for almost a year in 1970. I was a student at Friends World College then. I was 19. I mostly stayed away from the Quakers in Kenya then. Their testimony on abstinence from alcohol and general moral rectitude did not speak to my condition then. I was young and more interested in sowing wild oats.

Friends World College at that time was a firm believer of independent study. I spent several months teaching English in a primary school in a small village called Vanga on the coast right by the Tanzanian border. I chose the spot because I wanted a chance to learn Swahili. I learned a little. I hope my students learned more English than I did Swahili. Since I had no training in how to teach anything I am afraid that this was unlikely. Other than that, I spent much of my time hitchiking around or enjoying the night life in Nairobi. I came to see that a totally unstructured environment was not the best educational program for me so I quit school and came back to the US. I loved being in Kenya and I was impressed by the people there. But I came to be uncomfortable with my being there as a carefree and privileged person while the Kenyans were having to work so hard just to survive. I wanted to come back but I told myself that I would not return until I felt that I had something that I could give back. I don't know what I will be able to give back on this trip but I am still looking forward to it. I do hope that I can at least be useful in some way to the General Board. And on this trip I am looking forward to getting to know East African Friends better.

Africa has been on my mind a lot lately. Nancy Shippen from my meeting has been quite active with the Alternative to Violence Program. She had an opportunity a year ago to go to Kenya and lead AVP workshops with guards at a prison in Eldoret. Through her I have come to know the work of the African Great Lakes Initiative. I have also been reading A Silly Poor Gospel which is the blog of Peggy Senger Parsons. She is currently in Burundi working to train trauma healers. If there is ever a place where Light is shining in the midst of a great darkness, this is it. I pray that Friends in America can learn something about reconciliation from Friends in Rwanda and Burundi. I pray that our country (the USA) can overcome it's fascination with violence. I pray that we can beat our swords into plowshares and study war no more, not because we have beaten our last enemy into submission, but because we have come to see that bombing our enemies does not increase our security. I pray that we learn that we build our security by caring for our neighbors and by doing good for our enemies.