Sunday, July 13, 2014

KENYA IS NOT A DEAD-BEAT, DELINQUENT STATE

DALLAS - Monday, June 14, 2014. Yesterday, a Catholic Church outside the American city of Dallas welcomed a Kenyan priest to its parish by treating him to a sugary ice cream and chocolate chip party.

The ice cream bash was appropriate because the outside temperature was hovering at a record 100 Celsius, and spewing out the kind of biting heat found only in some parts of northern and eastern Kenya.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Plano is a big Church compared to the size of the structure and number of services we are used to in Catholic Churches in Kenya. It is predominantly white but has a sprinkling of Latinos and Africans including Kenyans, and offers an amiable and felicitous Christian atmosphere for its community.

A week earlier, Father Martin Mwangi, fresh from a five year stint at a seminary in another part of Texas, had presided over his first Mass before a curious congregation, amused by his strange accent. Immediately noticing that, he said in jest: "Let this accent not distract you from our journey to Christ." They applauded.

The youthful priest moved his listeners when he recalled his birth at a small village in Central Kenya; his baptism at the age of seven; his days as a herds-boy; and how he took the family Bible along with him to the bush for company because, he said,  tending cows and goats was "sometimes boring." He described his "journey" to priesthood and the challenges he encountered on the way and asked for prayers as he sought to strengthen his faith.

I mention this episode because I teared a little as I listened to Father Mwangi. I was proud to be a Kenyan after all listening to a fellow countryman who had crossed oceans to save the souls of strangers thousands of miles away.

Father Mwangi is just one of the many uncelebrated Kenyans flying our flag overseas. Very few people back home know about them, but they are there.

Many years ago while living in America, I watched star athletes Kipchoge Keino, Ben Jipcho,Naftali Temu and others break world records. They have since been followed on that path by many others.

Now we also have Lupita Nyong'o making waves in Hollywood; Daniel Odongo pioneering in American football; dozens of elite footballers playing soccer with top teams abroad; and artists, entrepreneur and scholars; all making a name for Kenya in faraway lands.

That is why sometimes I feel we are too harsh on ourselves while in Kenya, but those in the Diaspora understand what it means to be a Kenyan away from home. They know Kenya is not a dead-beat, delinquent state weighed down in malfeasance, but a country of hope driven in all spheres by a committed and patriotic people. It is an African phoenix that only needs good governance, a safe environment and committed leaders.

And that is my say.