Tuesday, December 21, 2010
While shepherds watched their flocks by night… (or “A REAL technological miracle”)
We had our annual all-Kenya conference with Africa Inland Mission a few weeks ago. It’s timing is a bit unfortunate as we RVA people are just ending a brutal first term of school and are pretty wiped out when it starts. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to be with other missionaries, and hear their frontline stories of God’s work in Africa, which is, after all, why we’re here in the first place!
When I heard one particular story, I was reminded of my last blog, touting a miracle out of being able to watch a trivial football game. I thought I ought to give you a better definition of a technological miracle.
Cell phones are everywhere in Africa. Western businesses saw a way to make money off of even poverty-stricken people: get cheap cell phones in their hands and then sell them pay-as-you-go minutes to use. For just a few shillings, people could be up and talking. Driving around the countryside, it’s always a marvel to see a shepherd in rags with a scrawny flock—the only signs of life for miles and miles—talking on his cell phone like a Wall Street trader.
My story for today, though, is set in a far more remote place than anywhere near where I live. Far north in Kenya, a missionary lives among the Pokot people. He told of a tribal dispute between villages where one group (A) stole some goat from another (B). When the rival group (B) went to reclaim their possessions, there was melee and a man from group A died. Group A was obviously furious. The young men worked themselves up into full-on plan for revenge. They raced ahead of group B (who was returning to their village slowly with their flocks) and set up an ambush, intending to slaughter the dozens of shepherds who had killed their friend. As group B neared the attack point, they realized what was in store for them and that they were trapped. A shepherd from group B grabbed his cell phone and called his chief. Chief B then called Chief A (speed dial perhaps?) and told him what some of his villagers were planning. Chief A knew that a massacre would not be in the best interest of his people and wanted to call off this ill-advised act of revenge. Chief A picked up his cell and told them to put down their machetes and bows-and-arrows. He told them that the chiefs would negotiate a peace afterward but that they were not permitted to massacre these shepherds. The plotters from group A listened and group B passed by unharmed on their way back to their village.
When you think of the pain and the suffering that could have happened on that day but was averted due to technology, it’s hard not to believe in miracles. Even miracles that involve cell phones.