October was rough, but November was much better. To read more (and for pictures), here’s our November newsletter (pdf).
October was rough, but November was much better. To read more (and for pictures), here’s our November newsletter (pdf).
Mara Rianta CCC (Community Christian Church), part of the Mara North cluster of CCC congregations along with Endoinyo Erinka CCC (we lived in Endoinyo Erinka in 2007-2008), is hosting a women’s conference. Mara Rianta is on the Mara River, on the road between Aitong and Kawai in TransMara.
(Photo credit: Wilson ole Karkar)
Have you ever had one of those days? When it seems as though a creative malevolence has been coming up with new things to go wrong, one after the other?
We just had one of those months.
If you pray for us and our ministry and missed the email we sent out yesterday (31 October), here’s a PDF version.
Happy All Saint’s Day!
I have just learned that we have lost another giant. The great John S. Mbiti of Kenya, professor and theologian and philosopher and mentor, passed from this life a couple of weeks ago, 6 October 2019, a bit before what would have been his 88th birthday.
If you are interested in —
. • African culture or religion or philosophy,
. • Christian theology,
. • hermeneutics, or
. • African Christianity —
then you should read his works. His monographs African Religions and Philosophy (1969) and Concepts of God in Africa (1970) were seminal and remain classics.
I can’t claim to have known him personally, but I was honored to meet him a few times, to have heard him lecture a couple of times, and to have had one delightful one-on-one conversation with him. He was a gentleman and a scholar … and a true Christian.
This picture was taken at a Centre for World Christianity event in Nairobi in March 2018. Those pictured include Professors Mark Shaw, Jesse N. K. Mugambi, John S. Mbiti, Andrew F. Walls, with Dr Ingrid Reneau Walls & Dr Kyama Mugambi.
Professor John S. Mbiti, may your memory be eternal until you rise again to meet our Lord.
Lenana was a well-known Laibon (oloiboni, “ritual expert”) of the Maasai, b. sometime between 1860 and 1870 (he was circumcised in 1882, perhaps at the age of nineteen? … traditionally, Maasai did not keep track of their birthdates, but only of when they were circumcized) and dying in 1911. The name Lenana means “of the gentleness.” An important Maasai leader during the colonialization of East Africa by Great Britain, he is better known among the Maasai themselves by the other form of his name, Olonana (“he of gentleness”).
Lenana is a fairly common Maasai boy’s name. I’ve not heard (though I don’t know everything) of anyone else named Ololana, though.
The term, as an adjective, is a term of endearment —
• Li alashe lai lenana is “O my brother of tenderness”
• Lo ltau lai lelana is “O my heart of tenderness,” the dynamic equivalent of “Sweetheart” in English. I (Joshua) often address Ruth with the short form, lo ltau lai (O my heart!).
I probably hear the adjective more often than the name. For “sweetheart” more literally, you could say oltau lemelok (or lo ltau lemelok in the vocative).
The feminine equivalent of lenana (pronounced, by the way, like LAY-NAH-NAH, for English-speakers) is nanana. I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard it, though. Namelok ([feminine thing or person] which-is-sweet) is more common as an adjective for females.
It is said that upon his death, Olonana’s corpse was secretly moved from his homestead (enkang) in Kiserian to this site, where his body was accorded the rare privilege of burial, marked by planting an oreteti sapling. (Historically, corpses were laid out on the ground and hyenas come to eat the body at night. Burial is a rare salutatory honor in traditional Maa culture.) The oreteti is a sacred tree of ceremonial significance in Maasai culture. Oreteti trees are places of sanctuary and holiness.
Oreteti refers to fig trees: ficus natalensis, ficus sycomorus, ficus gnaphalocarpa, ficus mucosa. It is one of four types of trees considered sacred or holy by the Maasai. Note the smooth green leaves (even in the dry season), and also that there are no thorns.
(click pictures for a larger images)
This oreteti tree is now nearly 110 years old, and is an important landmark — geographically and culturally. The Oreteti AIC (Africa Inland Church) congregation has its building a short walk down the mountain from here, taking its name from this tree.
(Photos taken on 1 October 2019. I was meeting with Benson ole Kurraru, the pastor of Oreteti AIC. He also oversees AIC church planting and ministerial training in the Olalaiser area of Kajiado county.)
The Maa word for locust is olmaati (ɔlmáatî for linguists); the plural is ilmaat (ɨlmáāt). I don’t know whether these are the same species of locusts and plagued the ancient Egyptians (and others), but they are African locusts and can thus swarm.
Today I saw more of these ILMAAT than I’ve ever seen before in one place — not quite EMUS OOLMAAT (a swarm of locusts), which is probably a good thing. These were around the famous Oreteti Tree of Lenana, near the lower peak of the Ngong Hills toward Kona Baridi, Olepolos, and Kiserian.
Enjoy the 27 second video clip:
(click on the photos to see larger images)
OLMAATI / ILMAAT can refer to a number of different species of grasshoppers/locusts, some of which are consumed by some African communities (though not by the Maasai). Don’t try to mimic John the Baptist and dip these in honey, though! — these pictures are of Green Milkweed Locusts (aka African Bush Grasshopper or phymateus viridipes for our latinophone or entomologist friends). They like to eat milkweed and various members of the nightshade family, and so are decidedly NOT good to eat.
Edit: (5 November 2019)
What’s the difference between a grasshopper and a locust?
The difference between a locust and a grasshopper is that they’re locusts when they’re swarming, and otherwise just grasshoppers. (That’s a bit simplified, but close enough.) Except in some parts of America, cicadas are called “locusts”.
Maa (the language of the Maasai people) is delightfully reflexive. For any of our friends who are language nerds, here’s a grammatical excursus.
Where English has simply “of“, Maa has six different prepositions.
So “o” indicates that what follows is grammatically masculine, “e” indicates that what follows is grammatically feminine, “oo” indicates that what follows is plural (without reference to grammatical gender), the prefix “L–” indicates that what precedes is grammatically masculine, and the absence of the prefix “L–” indicates that what precedes is grammatically feminine.
Are you confused yet?
Here are a few examples.
entito (daughter, girl) and enkitok (women, wives) are, naturally, grammatically feminine. (The plural forms are, respectively, intoyie and inkituaak.) Note that the initial vowels will be dropped when following one of the prepositions for “of.” Thus
— entito e nkitok (the daughter of the woman)
— intoyie e nkitok (the daughters of the woman)
— entito oo nkituaak (the girl of the women)
— intoyie oo nkituaak (the daughters of the women).
olayioni (boy, son) and olpayian (man, elder, husband) are, of course, grammatically masculine. (The plural forms are, respectively, ilayiok and ilpayiani.) Thus
— olayioni lo lpayian (the son of the man)
— ilayiok lo lpayian (the sons of the man)
— olayioni loo lpayiani (the boy of the men)
— ilayiok loo lpayiani (the sons of the men)
— entito o lpayian (the daughter of the man)
— intoyie o lpayian (the daughters of the man)
— intoyie oo lpayiani (the girls of the men)
— olayioni le nkitok (the son of the woman)
— ilayiok le nkitok (the sons of the woman)
— olayioni loo nkituaak (the boy of the women)
— ilayiok loo nkituaak (the sons of the women)
It’s actually quite logical and therefore simpler than you may think.
But here’s something that threw me for a loop back in 2007 when we were just learning.
“Followers of Jesus” is ilasujak le Yesu. “Followers of the Lord” is ilasujak lo Laitoriani. Again, the “le” and “lo” are equivalent to the English preposition “of.”
“LO” and “LE” —
• the -L- indicates that what precedes (in this case ilasujak / followers) is grammatically masculine (the absence of this consonant indicates that what precedes is grammatically feminine — thus “inkasujak e Yesu” is “the [female] followers of Jesus“);
• the -O- indicates that what follows (in this case Olaitoriani / the Lord; the initial -o- of the noun drops off for linguistic reasons) is grammatically masculine; and
• the -E- indicates that what follows (in this case Yesu / Jesus) is grammatically feminine.
Wait. What? Jesus is feminine, a woman?!
Nope, of course not.
But the Maa word for “name” — enkarna — is grammatically feminine. Thus as a class, in Maa *all personal names* are *grammatically* feminine, even though there is no confusion in the language between male and female names. (For example: Nashipai is a female name, Enchipai is the male equivalent; Lemayian is a male name, Namayian is the female counterpart.)
Both male names and female names are *grammatically* feminine. Thus “ilasujak lo Yesu” (or for that matter, “illasujak lo Joshua“) is just grammatical nonsense. It must be “ilasujak le Yesu” (or “le Joshua“) to be correct. No Maasai thinks that Jesus is a female or feminine, just as I am male and masculine.
Thus while I am an olpayian, my children (inkera) could be referred to as either:
• inkera o lpayian (the son of the man), OR as
• inkera e Lemayian (the children of Lemayian).
(Lemayian, “the one of blessing,” is my Maasai name.)
This was a great puzzlement for me before I figured out what was going on. Because enkarna (name) happens to be grammatically feminine, all personal names are grammatically feminine, irrespective of the masculinity or femininity of the subject of the name.
30 June 2019
Karibuni! “Welcome back!”
We arrived back in Kenya at the end of April and began to get settled the beginning of May. We’ve overcome some unexpected challenges in re-acquiring our vehicle (which we’ve now paid for twice) and applying for new work permits. We’ve dived into to language learning (as we’re needing to add Swahili to our Maa and Samburu). We’ve been delighted to host guests — some of the Hausers, our good friends who serve as missionaries in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire, and the Sapps, representing our support partner Crossroads Christian Church. We’ve also hosted a number of our Maasai friends and co-workers, working together on curriculum development and planning meetings for CCBTI and DTI.
More than anything else, we’ve been struck by the warmth, or even intensity, of the homecoming welcome that has been extended to us these first two months of our fourth term. To read more (and for pictures), read our June newsletter. (Note that the pdf is optimized for viewing online; if you would like a higher resolution copy for printing, just ask!)
We also posted a small photo album from last month. If you missed it, check out our May 2019 photos.
A year ago today, our daughter Shalviah, then 3½, came to us and proclaimed, “”I wanna go to KENYa and SEE my FRIENDS.”
A year later, we can tell her, “Soon, dear daughter, soon.”
We are always continuing to learn and study the Maa language and culture of the Maasai. And so back in September, I was very happy to learn a new proverb —
Ekébikóo intókitin póoki náaramát ilóopêny
It means all things which their owners carefully tend last a long time. I was very happy to find this proverb to add to our lessons on stewardship. Whereas typical American teaching says “that stuff you think you own? Well, it is not really yours, it is only God’s, only God is the owner, and that is why you should take especial care of it,” we teach that ownership is what makes stewardship possible. (Of course, each of these approaches represent part of the Biblical teaching on stewardship — in one sense everything IS God’s and we are only his stewards, but in another sense because we are God’s children, God has given us resources that we manage as our own property — just like Maasai parents give animals even to their young children.) So when we use the proverb that says, “the cow says, don’t give me, lend me,” we can reinforce the meaning of the teaching by next reminding that the Maasai also say, “Ekébikóo intókitin póoki náaramát ilóopêny.” (To read more on how we teach Christian stewardship, read our My Father Is Alive post.)
But with this proverb I had a question about a bit of the language I didn’t quite understand. I knew that <ekébikóo> comes from the verb <ABIKÓO>, “to endure, to last a long time, to remain a long time, to last forever” (coming in turn from <ABIK>, “to remain, to abide, to stay”). But Maa verbal prefixes are tricky, and I wasn’t sure what the eké- prefix was doing. So I asked our good friend and colleague Ntinga Sam Tome, who is trilingual in Maa, kiSwahili, and English.
It makes the verb happy and brings out the meaning.
“It makes the verb happy.” Of course it does! But why? We laughed together.