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They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3
There were the heavens - on the leeward side of the sun - overwhelming, vast, with stars crowding the deepening firmament, undimmed by the presence of a moon, or by the glare of any terrestrial fires. There was only the one red glow on the port wing of the transoceanic liner which now bore us 14,000 feet closer to this host of glory. Watched from a small round window in an upper berth of the airliner, those stars were an oratorio, the score unwritten, and like eternity, unfinished, shining "forever and ever." Inaudibly singing, they were "a multitude which no man can number" of worlds, of bodies filled with light. The infinite depths of blackness in which these stars have their being serve only to display better their glory - in universes, in blazing symphonies of pure light!
At midnight, July 20, 1952, with four propellers thundering, our airship had lifted from the runways of Honolulu and had left the twinkling city diminishing below - beautiful in its sequined evening wrap and secure within its cordon of volcanic mountains. Lying only eight hours from the mainland, Hawaii was to us a precious piece of the United States of America which we would not see again for - how many years?
It has already been more than three years since that night in 1952. Each year has had its own story. Yet perhaps it is all one story too - a story that seeks somehow to express a few strains of what the stars are singing; of the doings of the One who planted them, and who is also sowing the world's deepening darkness with stars - immortal lights, souls filled with that which darkness cannot obliterate, but only glorifies.
In Kenya and throughout East Africa today we have met just such stars as these. Prominent in the world news of the past three years and more, Kenya Colony is a most startling study of light and darkness - the most terrifying darkness ever imagined by man or Devil, the hideous cult of Mau Mau. Against this night the lights of first magnitude, who like the Gideons, Zipporahs, Jeremiahs, Johns, and Elijahs that we meet in Kikuyuland today, speak of our Brother Stephen as though he, the first Christian martyr, lived only yesterday.
We met Zipporah at Meru - a land of luxuriant valleys and fertile ridges looking southwestward to the slopes of Mount Kenya, where at times the hood of cloud covering the mountaintop falls away to reveal the perpetual snows on its jagged peaks. The mountain is Kerinzagga as the people call it, "The home of God." In a land so beautiful it was hard to imagine that the thickly forested shoulders of Mount Kenya sheltered the followers of men like Jomo Kenyatta, General China, Dedan Kamathi, General Burma, Field Marshal Kaleba - whose pangas drank the blood of their own people just as eagerly as the sharp blades chopped to pieces Europeans.
Zipporah was one of the dozen or so who participated in the making of a set of Gospel records prepared in the Meru dialect of Kikuyu. Though she was of the generation preceding the present crop of fluent readers at the Methodist Mission School who were present to help us, we wanted her to speak in the dialogue, "What Is a Christian?" because Zipporah's voice would be effective.
She spoke with poise, completely hiding the timidity she must have felt in front of the microphone for the first time. Her voice was clear and sincere, and in her face was that radiance we were to witness many times in Africa - it was joy and strength well blended - not a shallow thing at all. Tribal scarifications on her face marked her as a trophy of grace; yet there was something indigenous about her Christianity. We could see that it could stand alone.
The test of her faith had come suddenly one afternoon in a setting something like this: Likely it happened at the hour of day when the well-trimmed grass tops of the African round houses were streaked with gold in the waning sun. A cluster of mud-and-wattle huts, often whitewashed under their blond roofs, or else brick-red like the earth in Kikuyu country, constitutes not a village, but the homestead of only one family. This little handful of mushrooms planted inside a rustic boma (fence) may be set on the top of a ridge where green rolling pastureland separates it from others like it scattered over the countryside. Or perhaps the nearest neighbor's homestead is just beyond an intervening coffee grove, or a copse, or forest where eucalyptus and evergreens are darkening under cumbersome cloud puffs, narrowing the horizon to a strip of black green beneath ballooning thunderheads.
Zipporah's home was near the forest and in Meru country, which borders the northern reaches of the Kikuyu tribe. Let us imagine her seated outside her own round house. She sat facing the cookhouse beside which was stacked enough firewood for the family. A step beyond it was a tiny round house on stilts, also grass-roofed. This was the grain store. Husks of corn were heaped beside it. Inside the kitchen a large smoky teakettle steamed on the three-stone hearth, and bamboos filled with a hot mash of potatoes, corn, beans, and spinach leaned against the mud walls. The larger round hut of her husband, the thingira, never entered by a woman, was silent and empty. An hour or so later its walls would hear the talk of the men; her husband and young brothers who had these days much matter to discuss in low secretive tones - much that could never be guessed by the outward scene of tranquility.
We can imagine Zipporah sitting outside her own house where the last warm rays poured across her shoulders from the shaft of light which fell in a path across the five yards or so between the open gate and her own doorway.
The young African woman in her gaily colored kitambaa or head scarf , her print European-style dress stitched by the tailor at the native shops; her shawl cloth to be used as a cloak, or a sling for the baby's cradle on her back, or a wrapper for any bundle she might carry on her head - this is a portrait natural to the Africa beneath her bare brown feet. Its quiet full-blown beauty is uncurbed by smoke stacks and smog of continents otherwhere; its simplicity breathes contentment.
Zipporah was such a picture - sitting in the little spic and span courtyard of her own place, a chicken or two pecking contentedly about the clean-swept yard, her own graceful fingers busily crocheting in bright native-dyed sisal, a basket or a mat for her home.
She was a picture of peace and security,. The world around her chattered with the alert happy noises of homewarding time - the swoops and flutterings that swayed the tall trees twittering with birds alighting on their nests; the strident call of the anvil bird answering his mate; the cadence of insects striking their crescendo for the day; the sudden honking of a lorry from the road far below, loaded with men returning to home centers after a day's work in the little nearby towns; the occasional singing of the women with their kalabashes filled from the stream, or a kikapu (basket) of vegetables from their own gardens, balanced on their heads as they filed down the trails toward home. Others stooped low as they trudged beneath heavy loads of firewood on their backs and strapped with eland bands around their foreheads. Now and then the melodious whistling of youngsters herding goats from their pastures would thrill the whole talkative hour.
Yet in these days things were not so joyous as they might appear. Sometimes a distant herdboy's whistle would change suddenly to a weird scream of alarm, the kugambu. When danger comes, this tribal distress call is given - piercing, carrying far and wide, and relayed by all who hear it. This was used much in the old days of intertribal warfare and sudden attack. Then for a half century it was almost forgotten; until now, and since 1952, it is heard frequently and with terrible reason in Kenya.
Usually a person's presence is announced before he reaches the threshold by a courteous call of "Hodi," to which returns the answer of welcome and the usual greeting, "Are you well?" with its reply, "Yes, I am very well." The Meru people say Muga in contrast to the Kikuyu Wimwega.
Today as Zipporah heard the familiar approach of her husband, she quickly sensed a difference in the tense voice - there were others with him. Before she could jump to her feet and turn to greet them, the chill of their presence, eclipsing the warm light, struck her, and with it a fear - a terror, really, as cold as the sharp winds blowing from the glaciers of Mount Kenya. She wheeled around in time to see four strangers with her own relatives who trembled in their company.
"Wimwega," growled the strangers, their faces dark, their eyes impenetrable and bold, their wide-bladed pangas evident. Zipporah's understanding confirmed her apprehension now, although she calmly answered them with the Kikuyu, "Dimwega muno."
Why had they come? She knew, as all the people in this subtribe of the Kikuyu knew. These visitors had come to administer secretly the oath of Mau Mau to each member of her home. In Meru country this always happened by surprise, and in the Meru tribe practically none refused the oath. Some had - many in Kikuyu country - but they had been slaughtered without mercy, hanged, or beheaded, or hacked to death in the forest to supply the stuff that oath-eating is made of. Eyewitnesses to the gory rites of the forest had spread abroad reports which terrorized the people. They realized that hamstrung cattle, maimed goats, dogs disemboweled and up-ended on a fence pole, strangled cats suspended on a limb of a tree were not empty symbols but threats which promised such a death to any who refused the oath.
"It is a good oath," the administrators would reason; "it makes all the Kikuyu blood-brothers, rather than members of separate clans." Kenyatta's oath administrators had been instructed to impress upon the people that the Mau Mau oath, to insure a total unity, created a blood-kinship, a new nation outside the old structure of the tribal tradition; a close-knit brotherhood. Therefore, within the oathing ceremonies themselves, people committed acts which made them outlaws from their own tribe, and which bound them as individuals to act as one man within the new bonds of the oath. "We must be outcast," they were told, "and the only way to become outcast is to endure a strong violation of the old rules." Therefore, the "Night of Knives" could not come until the majority of a million and a quarter people had safely been initiated into the Mau Mau ranks.
The dark words of the oath broke into the chilling silence as the night winds grew mad, impatient. "Pass the creeper vine through the seven holes of this sacred githathi stone, and each time repeat:
If I am told to bring in the head of a European, I will do so, or this oath will kill me and all my family.
If I am called by my brotherhood in the middle of the night and am naked, I will go forth naked, or this oath will kill me and all my family; and if I betray my brotherhood, this oath will kill me and all my family.
If I see anyone stealing anything from a European, I will say nothing, or this oath will kill me and all my family.
If I send my children to government schools, this oath will kill me and all my family.
If I send my children to mission schools, this oath will kill me and all my family.
At all times, I will say that all land belongs only to the Kikuyu, or this oath will kill me and all my family.
If I am called on to rescue Jomo Kenyatta, I will do so or this oath will kill me."
Sealed by the bloody rites intricately performed with the slow tortured dying of a goat, the words seared the soul of the man, woman, or child who ate of the brains of the sacrifice and so doing became a part of that "one solid force against the European." So it was that if a person shrank from a cruel commission, the dread thahu steeled his heart and stayed his hand of mercy; if he thought to betray a brother, he was paralyzed before the words: "If I . . . this oath will kill me"!
This first and mildest oath was soon followed by a stronger oath of unity, testing a man's strength and loyalty to Mau Mau by binding him to any order of the High Command operating in the caves of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares.
If I am ordered to bring my brother's head, and I refuse, this oath will kill me.
If I arise against Mau Mau authority, this oath will kill me.
Four other statements like these were made. The rites of ceremony were strengthened also - not the tortured goat this time, but the sacrifice of a man and his son - their brains mixed together became the substance eaten by the oath-taker whose name was written in the books of Mau Mau.
When suddenly a shamba (garden) was visited by these apostles of the new cult, rather than to die cruelly under their sharpened simis, the people succumbed, family after family across the silent ridges of the highlands. They ate the strange new oath of blood which bound them to rise up as one man to oust the European from their land. To break this oath, or any phase of it, brought them under the instant black-winged vengeance of supernatural powers - the curse of sudden death delivered by the spirits of their ancestors and the souls of unborn posterity.
But on this chilly evening the initiation of the Mau Mau Oath No. 1 was a sinister prelude to the waves of evil yet to come. Zipporah could not bear to look at the Kikuyu intruders. Their faces bore the inhuman masked look of criminals. They wore their hair shaved in the style of their chief, "sixty-plus" Jomo Kenyatta, with a receding hairline above the forehead, long sideburns and a beard.
With the coming of these oathing priests, the night had begun to close in. That one shaft of light never returned. And its absence left the silent little group chilled to the bone. There was no time to think. No time to weigh out a decision. Oath-taking would begin immediately. Nor was there any escape - except by death, or a veiled fate in the forest.
But for Zipporah the decision had already been made long ago on her knees in the presence of One whose love she was not doubting even now, and whose countenance in this hour had not turned away from her. She held her head high, and with a firm voice she spoke her solemn vow. It was the vow of one who wills to fight, to die, rather than yield to the sowing of darkness, the casting of a blight upon her soul. She said simply, "Asha [I will not take the oath]." Remonstrances, reasonings, threats, force, the terror of the sword - none of these things availed to move her from that solid place on which she stood. "I am refusing the oath."
Time was slipping away for the terrorists. They would not be patient. "You will go to the forest, then, with us." Zipporah, with her heart uplifted to her Mathani Yesu (Lord Jesus) did not capitulate even when she became their prisoner. Before the helplessness of her own family, the four men started with her to the forest. Then suddenly they stopped - a few steps short of the open gate. All at once they had remembered loot! Food and supplies for Mau Mau in the hiding places!
Securing the gate, and leaving one man to guard Zipporah, the other three disappeared into the several huts to snatch what they could find. Presently the prisoner's custodian was seized with anger to think that his comrades were getting all the stuff! And in an instant he ran away to struggle for his share.
The second her guard vanished, Zipporah sprang to her feet and ran for her life - leaping over the closed gate, climbing hedges that blocked her way, down terraced hillsides, across tangled streams and over open fields she fairly flew until at last the still black shelter of giant cedars and sandalwoods standing close together, received and protected her from any pursuers. She carefully made her way deep into the wild refuge.
Now what should she do? The African forest was also full of danger - the distant whine of a hyena like the sloping wail of demon winds; the rush of fitful gusts agitating the whispering foliage that startled her with its ever-changing shadows; and most disconcerting of all was the loudness of her own heart, pounding like a mad woodpecker. Quickly she climbed a tree, and finding a forked branch where she could sit with some support against the wind, she remained there all night long. Cautiously, the next morning she made her way back home.
So it was that Zipporah had been one, from among the hundreds in her tribe, who had refused to take the first oath of Mau Mau. How?
To meet Zipporah was to see something of that how. We shall never forget the New Testament joy defined in her presence at the time we saw her at Meru, against the background of native guard-post turrets, spiked ditches, homesteads uprooted and replaced by huge villages of houses row upon row fenced around with barbed wire. This was for protection from forest gangs or from those who play Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the towns and villages where, for many Africans, treachery lurks everywhere, and may suddenly intrude into any peaceful circumstance. A Kikuyu child playing happily in his mother's shamba may in the next instant have his eyes gouged out. While he screams, the demon who took away his sight escapes into his hide-out to deliver this, another requisite, for yet another forest oath. Despite the shocking atrocities committed against the white citizens of Kenya, the Kikuyu and the Africans themselves have suffered the most in this strange war.
Kenya's singing Christians, Kikuyu and others, know, with martyrs who lived in other days, a resistance "unto blood" in the strife against evil, and with this courage they show the joyousness of those who "endure as seeing him who is invisible." For their:
Joy is not like happiness
It needs no warmth, or peace, or light;
Through struggle, work, defeat, it sings,
Joy belongs to those who fight.
And the weapons of their warfare were not carnal - but "mighty through God to the throwing down of strongholds." Said one Kikuyu when offered the blood oath, "I am a Christian. I have taken the blood of Christ at the Communion Table in remembrance of His death, and I will not take your oath." What weapon against the making of darkness could be more effective than light itself? - Not the weak extinguishable lemon glow of a borrowed religion, acquired with the donning of Western shoes, schoolbooks, a writing tablet! Lights of this sort vanished into the ranks of Mau Mau by the ten thousands, and some Christian names appear among its leaders. But the light that blazes, even if its lamp be shattered, is the light that describes the stars in Kenya's sky. A Christian Kikuyu while he is being hacked to death, with his last breath told his murderers, "You can kill this body, but I will soon be with my Lord." Lights like these, whose white spheres of shining never felt the black long-fingered clutches of darkness - this was the "light that shineth in the darkness" and the darkness could not grasp, nor put it out.
Canon Elijah was a Rural Dean in one of the strongholds of the Kenya terror. We first met him in December, 1954, at the Church Missionary Society station near Embu. The storm that had pursued us over the slick curving roads to the mission did not actually break before our safe arrival to Kigari, but we had seen it roll up from the hill crests on our left and umbrella the sky above our heads. We also watched its swift conquest of the bright blue expanse on our right. The downpour which had eventually emptied the skies had left lawns and blossoming hedges, the bowers of bougainvillia, the profusion of color in the rose gardens all cleansed and sparkling after the rain. We could look up to see, standing very close, the massive slopes and unveiled peaks of Mount Kenya. The air was cool and pure.
Bwana Elijah, in his white topee, black suit, and clerical collar, always smiled as he talked, and often laughed outright, to spill over his heartful of sheer gladness. Why was he happy? Many of his friends had wondered too, because Elijah was no exception to the Kikuyu Christian and his sufferings. He told us that many others had inquired of him the secret of his joy. "How is it," they had asked, "that you can always be so happy? We would like to know this life too." For them, Elijah had one answer. "The Happy is waiting for you to take it! It is at the cross. You must go theah and receive it. But if you go theah, you will be broken and empty. And you will see the Lord Jesus - He is the Everything. In Him is the Happy you are looking for."
It was at this time that Elijah first told us of the martyrdom of his own young sister who had been brought up in his own home until the day of her wedding. Then for two brief years she and her husband had lived in their own homestead several miles away. The Mau Mau oathing had swept through that place, and she and her husband resisted it, along with others, all of whom were hanged. Elijah told us of the testimony at that funeral when the Christians matched in triumph to the burial of these young people; and the whole crowd of them, their faces reflecting the Reality in Heaven, were singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers" at they marched to those graves.
But at this time when we talked to him, Elijah did not know any more of the details concerning his younger sister's death. However, seven months later we talked with him again, his face still shining beneath a white topee and the winter sunshine of Nairobi. Elijah had been lent to the Emergency to witness in Mau Mau detention camps.*
*The splendid government rehabilitation program provides for an all out effort of teamwork among the mission societies to carry on extensive evangelism among the Mau Mau detainees in custody in the camps and prisons, as well as among the people of the "new villages." Much of this program is co-ordinated under the direction of the Christian Council of Kenya with the facilities of evangelists provided by the various missions, along with missionary aids such as The Bible Society, Scripture Gift Mission, Pocket Testament League, and Gospel Recordings Incorporated.
"How are things going in the camps, Elijah? And the good news bubbled over.
"The Lord is really working! Some even of the very hard-core Mau Mau are being converted. And one of these is a man who was of that gang who murdered my own sister. He has testified in my presence. I asked him to tell me about it, as I have often wished I could know her own words at that time. He told me of how my sister's husband was hanged first, before her eyes. Then slowly they accosted her with the threat, 'Eat the oath, or you will die like that.' Her reply was:
"'I am ready to go to Heaven. I will not take the oath to save myself.' Those were her last words before she was hanged beside her husband."
Then Elijah went on to tell us how this Mau Mau convert had confessed, "'Those words followed me to the forest, never ceasing to talk to my heart. I could not forget them. They persisted until they finally brought me to repentance.'" Elijah continued with the comment: "Many from the forest are being converted today. And they tell us that others in the hide-outs are tormented night and day by the testimonies of those whom they have tortured and slain" - by the memory of that forefinger that still points the warning, "God will touch you!"; or of lips repeating the name of Jesus as they ceased to speak. These wounds of the Spirit's sword have proved incurable.
"God's power is great," Elijah reiterated as he spoke of how some of these hard-core Mau Mau were being "so transformed that now they shine more brightly than we do!"
From Ken Phillips -- an Africa Inland Mission missionary of 16 years' service in Africa -- working in two of the large detention camps fifty miles west of Mombasa, reports come that have in them a quality of miracle that places a Kenya chapter into the unfinished Book of Acts. We quote a few headlines:
"How is God reaching the Mau Mau? . . . In the words of a detainee who had now found Christ as his Saviour: 'We are well treated, and well fed. But you cannot expect these things to change hearts. It is the Word of God brought to us that has done that'. . . And another remarked, 'Before the Word of God was preached in this camp, everyone was talking about Mau Mau. Now everyone is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. He has taken the place of Mau Mau in this camp'. . . And another, classified as 'black' [or very hard-core] who was sent by the missionary on an errand, remarked about the fact that he had to go with a police escort, saying, 'I don't mind having an escort, for as we are walking along together, I can talk to him about the Lord Jesus. . . . I feel so free because Jesus is in my heart!'
"Another convert made this frank statement, 'We are ready for war when we go back inside. [That is, when they return to the Kikuyu villages where in many cases persecution and intrigue are still rampant against Christian Africans.] But we do not mind. We are ready to suffer, for we want to be Christ's completely. If we had died before renouncing Mau Mau, it would have been eternal loss. Now, if we die, we shall go to be with Jesus.' . . . In the midst of a prayer meeting in which many had responded in 'utter confession, true believing and receiving of the Saviour, and complete abandonment' another ex-Mau Mau prayed: 'As a fish is in the sea and cannot be hurt by the sun's heat, so I want to be so deep in Thee that I shall be unaffected by the fierceness of temptation.' . . . Another, with notable Kikuyu originality prayed: "I want to be your motorcar. I will go wherever you take me. I will be yielded in your hands."
And so we think of the sowing of light, the planting of suns in the firmament; of the One who "maketh darkness light before him"; even while another whose end is determined, sows the tares and darkness, and reaps his harvest where the dark places of the earth are being filled with "the habitations of violence." Because all revolutionary movements breed themselves on minor grievances, the makers of darkness may find fertile soil for sowing almost any spot on earth, and the White Highlands of Kenya had been no exception.
Certainly this unique depravity of masses of African humanity could not be explained as naively as it was to us aboard the S. S. State of Bombay when we talked to a young African graduate of a university in India, on his way back home to Northern Rhodesia. Until that day, the words Mau Mau had meant to us only the world-news headlines of massacre and incidents of murder by terrorist gangs in Kenya. We remembered Malaya with its communist guerilla warfare; Indo-China, Cyprus, and troubles in North Africa. Mau Mau seemed an explosion of the same sort of thing, the world's one anguish. The young Rhodesian used the word frustration in explaining the "mad-man called Mau Mau." We thought of his college magazine with its articles entitled, "The Golden Age of the Kikuyu" (permission days) and his own essay, in the typical verbiage of "international English," which was called, "One World, One People."
Shying from the shibboleths of political ideologies, we had asked the young lad no more questions about Mau Mau, but let him talk to us on his own subjects. One item he chose to tell us was that now in these days of modern enlightenment, the Christian faith was becoming obsolete. A friend had told him that even in England there were very few Christians. The inference was that we in Africa can also outgrow Christianity. This seemed to him a sign of development and superiority. We happened to have at that moment a current Time magazine with a magnificent article about the Billy Graham campaigns in London. This we gave him. Later he returned to thank us profusely for letting him see that article. There was a new light in his white-toothed smile, a new assurance in his long-legged stride, as he walked the length of the starboard deck and descended the stairs to the dining saloon.
Just three weeks before our arrival in Nairobi, November 10, 1954, Kenya and the world at large had been startled by the news of the Mau Mau raid upon the farm of Mr. and Mrs. Leakey, an elderly couple well known as friends of the Kikuyu. Beguiled out of their house one late afternoon by their own trusted servants, they met the gleaming pangas as had some dozens of others on the solitary farms in the highlands. His wife's body, hacked to pieces, was left in the back yard, and Mr. Leakey was led away to the forest. Months later his remains were found with the evidence that he had been buried alive - as many suspected - to afford a special sacrifice to strengthen the spiritual forces which must eventually make Mau Mau victorious.
We had not been long in the Colony until we came to realize certain distinctly different elements in this terrorism that set it apart, certainly in its close-up analysis, from any other explosions throughout the world. Its primary source of instigation may be much the same, its motives the same, but its sadism and witchcraft are unique - with the resultant shocking depravity of masses of human souls, a spreading of gross darkness upon the Kikuyu people whom it at first claimed to benefit.
At first, for the majority of the people, the real depths of the pit being dug for them could never have been envisioned. Basic nationalism and anti-Europeanism were about all the masses really understood until the "hyena" called Mau Mau sprang full-grown upon them with the smell of death on its breath, and a curse too threatening to resist. (The hyena is called the most repulsive of all animals, and feeds on carrion.) Old chiefs and elders who stood against the perversions of the tribal traditions were quickly dispatched with the result that, without effective protest, the thousands were swiftly oathed into a united force to act as one man according to the dictates of the High Command at Kiambu.
The story of Kenya went something like this in the summer of 1952.
Tension had increased with the strange occurrences of mutilated cattle belonging to the settler farms, and with the murder of loyal African chiefs like Waruhiu known as the "Churchill of the Kikuyu." Yet despite these mystifying preludes, the real terror struck with the shock of complete surprise in the first isolated chopping to bits of a European family in their farm home. This began an epidemic of horrors which swiftly overspread the Kenya highlands.
On lower Kabete Road, on the outskirts of Nairobi, a man and his wife were killed. Commander Jack Meiklejohn was "hacked to shreds" in his home at Thompson Falls, his wife slashed brutally and left for dead. Senior Chief Nderi, of Nyeri, was sliced to bits with pangas. Two men named Ferguson and Bengley were murdered at a place called Olkalon. The Ruck family, of Kinangop, were wiped out - father, mother, and six-year-old son. A police station at Ngare Ngare was overrun and all its force put to the knife. Another massive raid overwhelmed Naivasha police station. At Lari, a Kikuyu settlement within earshot of the Africa Inland Mission station at Kijabe, a wholesale massacre took place - men, women, and children suffered the mutilations depicted in tortured cattle, and cats and dogs were beheaded and torn apart.
When atrocity after atrocity proved the onslaught of a real war, on October 21, 1952, a state of Emergency was declared in Kenya. This summoned the immediate aid of the Lancashire Fusiliers from Suez, the 4th and 6th King's African Rifles from Uganda and Tanganyika, the 26th regiment of K.A.R. from Mauritus. The Kikuyu Independent Schools were shut down. Kenyatta and five other ring leaders were arrested. The battle was engaged.
But those who had anticipated a swift restoration to normalcy gradually saw the futility of such a hope - with city, towns, and countryside filled with incognito Mau Mau and the thousand square miles of dense forest effectively swallowing up the ten thousands of terrorists organized in gangs, continually informed, fed, and reinforced by the silent-tongued oathed populace in their shambas scattered throughout the White Highlands and the Kikuyu Reserves.
Soon the lazily lolling ridges of Kenya bristled with fortifications and bamboo lookout towers. Highways were cluttered with tanks, jeeps, lorries, loaded with pink-cheeked soldiers from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. English women wore pistols as a part of their costume. Shoppers in the groceries were armed in the towns of Fort Hall, Nyeri, Nanyuki. Uniformed Africans from many noninfected tribes abounded, as well as turbaned Sikhs from the India armed forces. Soldiers in kilts, shorts, camouflage jackets - all sorts of rank and regalia - filled the streets of downtown Nairobi.
Tourists, driving along the escarpment road overlooking the great Rift Valley where its misty width is fifty miles, would come across a large new signboard at the lookout ledge. It read: "Beware terrorist gangs. No picnicking in this area." When one looked up into the thickly foliaged bluff, towering sixty feet above the road, it was easy to recall last night's Nairobi news. - "Three cars shot at while traveling the North Kinangop Road." A friend who pointed out the signboard to us remarked, "They threw stones at my car one afternoon in broad daylight as I drove along here on my way back to Kijabe mission."
At six o'clock every evening, still daylight, supper was finished, and servants were sent to their homes or locked inside their quarters. All doors were locked and bolted; windows were barred. We heard the awkward rush of the wind as it crashed down the steep gorges in the Aberdares backwalling Kijabe, "The place of the winds," and we likened the noise of it to an army on hobnailed boots striking across the tin roof. But its great noise was reassuring, because gangs were known to come in softly on bare feet and usually in the full moonlight that clothed the wide valley with a lustrous silvery light wherein the crouching lioness, Mount Margaret, seemed sleeping; and Longonot, to the right of it, rose up softly shrouded in midnight blue, its deep wrinkled conical slopes smoothed by the flattering low-turned lamp of the night. Who could have guessed that a terrorist force three hundred strong (Christmas, 1954) hid somewhere in the cup of Longonot, or that even the smooth-backed lioness sheltered many. On New Year's morning a sweep was scheduled to rout the gangs on Mount Margaret. Every day echoed the boom-booming of bombs dropping behind Kijabe in the Aberdares. And out front where the Rift Valley spreads below the mission station terraced in the eastern escarpment, the steady thunder we heard came from the bombers swarming above the crater-rim of Longonot.
Our first safari in Kenya, in the fall of 1954, took us right through the most badly infected Mau Mau areas, from Fort Hall to Embu, and Sagana station to Nanyuki. As the tiny train slowly climbed the gradient winding through long hill shoulders and beautiful garden country where terra-cotta coffee soil was fertile also for corn, bananas, sisal, and other crops, we now and then passed large grass-roofed "new" villages circled by deep bamboo-spiked ditches and barbed wire. People passed in and out over a drawbridge. We waved to some who stood just a few yards from the train windows. They broke our hearts. An old woman screamed at the sight of our white faces as if she had seen ghosts. Little baby boys stuck out their tongues, and their chubby arms gestured, "Go away!" Others spat at us and bolder women shook their pangas savagely. All scowled - that devastating look of total hatred. It was not one large village only, but one after another and another, through the tragedy of Kenya.
"What has happened to your people?" The Kikuyu youth, having been "cleansed" from his oath in one of the prison camps, opened his mouth to reply, "A spirit from Cetani like a disease of the soul has taken hold of them. It is a spiritual plague to destroy our tribe."
Missionaries were among the first Europeans to realize the import of Kenya's growing darkness in the pre-Emergency days, because from the beginning the movement had a strongly anti-Christian bias. Teachers in the Independent Schools were rebels against the church doctrines regarding polygamy and barbarous practices such as female circumcision. Independent churches, led by "prophets" and "men of God," upheld the practice of polygamy and were full of the "sound and fury" of the new nationalism which kindled the thoughts of all the people. Black-sheep teachers dismissed for good reasons from both mission and government schools sounded the same trumpet to their popular classrooms. In one of these near Fort Hall, Jomo Kenyatta taught his pupils: "Jesus Christ is a European. Europeans teach you to bow your heads and close your eyes to pray. Then, while your eyes are closed, they steal your land!"
Mission and government clinics and hospitals had in thirty years restored a dwindling tribe, depopulated by scourges of smallpox and the infant mortalities prevalent in lands where the muga-mungu, his charms and rituals, are their only means of coping with the curse of accident or illness. Now Kikuyuland had become well and healthily peopled, and some, despite the large acreage in their own reserves, had found it easy to feel "crowded out" by the hard-won and dearly developed rolling lands of the white settlers.
"They stole your land. They stole your land. They stole your land," went the lying refrain. Dear little woolly heads, wide-eyed in a wonder-world where anything could be believed, listened, and later they found it very easy to hate the European with his motorcars, airplanes, and big houses where all manner of things abounded. Little folk like these could not know what the old men knew, in whose lifetime the new age had come and matured, and which, along with all its faults, had brought the outstanding benefits of security, peace, justice, and the expectation of a long life in a vastly enriched land. The elders in Kikuyuland have, by and large, been the renouncers of Mau Mau as a blasphemy, a work of evil witchcraft, of the poisoner whose punishment was death by burning.
Besides all the deliberate "indoctrination" going on since 1929, and the spellbinding personality of Jomo, his "educated mind," his name replacing that of Jesus in hymns parodied for Mau Mau, there was another contributing factor in the automatic "teaching" which inevitably accompanies the merging of two totally different worlds. There is the complication created by a simple, rural, primitive world in conjunction with the complex, cluttered, materially ripened century which expresses itself to Africa in the things which we Europeans have, and need, and apparently live to accumulate. We see so many little junior-age faces plastered against Nairobi's tempting show windows - such wonderful things are there! Naturally this breeds covetousness. Can we blame our brothers for that guilt without a prick of conscience?
Yet covetousness, or "the evil eye," is the very seed of darkness itself. "If thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." It is this basic "evil eye" that explains a man like Kenyatta. It is the core of Mau Mau. "For if the light that is in thee, be darkness, how great is that darkness"!
Today news comes from the hide-outs in the dark dripping Aberdares through documents found in a raided terrorist camp which read exactly as follows:
Dedan Kamathi has given orders that all oath administrators are to think up the vilest methods of giving batuni [forest] oaths. When an administrator has thought out and performed a particularly revolting method, he is to pass his methods on to his brother administrators. In this way the various oaths are produced. General Nderitu says that there are seven oaths only, but having reached number seven, you return again to one, but it will be administered again in a different way.
How great is that darkness? So great that the hierarchy in the Kenya forests are contriving stronger and stronger oathing rites which have lost all semblance to the old Kikuyu witchcraft and are but "orgies of obscenity, black masses employing the most basic revulsions." Thus it has come to pass that the "educated minds" of Kenyatta and his "generals" have become guilty of dehumanizing their own people - hundreds of them, even thousands have taken the unprintable oaths; and are herded into a pit of an inferno that would make Dante's imagination appear prim and infantile. The tragedy of Mau Mau is not the shocking butchery of some 22 white people; not the thousand or so Christian martyrs; not the political Emergency; but the ghastly depravity of thousands of human souls. The effort of the government and of Christian missions in Kenya now (1956) is not the overcoming of Mau Mau terror. That has been practically accomplished to date. But it is the spiritual rehabilitation of a deeply wounded people, and an all-out effort to check the spread of its poison throughout a vast land, ready now in its adolescence of "culture" to believe quickly and readily the lies of the destroyer. The Story of Kenya is told for the purpose of illustration. And the Miracle of Kenya is the simultaneous birth of the "everlasting stars" which have appeared in the sky of its great darkness. This is the thrilling Song of Kenya.
We had come to Kijabe station almost directly upon our arrival in Kenya. Here we could settle in for a fortnight to study the soil of Kikuyuland before preparing the Gospel records to be sown in it. The new set of records for Kikuyu must be suitable to survive the deep gashed furrows of the Kikuyu ridges plowed with the harsh instruments of pangas, guns, bombs, and barbed wire. Kikuyu soil today must have African voices, the testimony of their own people to the power and love of Mathani Yesu Kristu - not a European, but the Son of God. African Christians, like Onesimus, Harrison, Ezekiel, Timothy, and old Johanna whose skill and wisdom as a pastor serving in the detention camp at Athi River was bringing forth much fruit. There were many courageous hearts like these who had barely escaped fearful hut-burning raids and had firmly stood against Mau Mau, not flinching before persecution and the threat of death. They were also men who loved their own people and knew the old paths of their thinking and the particular pitfalls because of which they had been deceived.
Kikuyu Christians, who had discovered "the place where light dwelleth," having met Jesus Christ, had asked of Him, "Where dwellest thou?" and who had followed when He answered, "Come and see" - these must be the ones to help plan and write the new Kikuyu scripts. Pastor Harrison's "Comfort in Tribulation" spoke to the Christian home in Kikuyuland. Another, "Words of Comfort," spoken by two Kikuyu women, was planned for those who are beginning to listen as this tribe has never listened to the Gospel. Mr. Phillips states in his report of work among Mau Mau in the camps: "Never before in our 16 years of missionary service have we seen such spiritual hunger as we are seeing now . . . Day after day it is the same story. I go into a compound where there are 500 or 600 Kikuyu Mau Mau . . . There is a scramble for front places near the gramophone, but an extra loud needle enables even those in the back rows to hear. An intense interest is manifested as the records are played . . . At a recent meeting, a man said to me, "Play a record that shows us how we can be saved. Play us "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus."'"
Another record was planned, especially for children - "The Lost Sheep," with the Kikuyu shepherd's whistle introducing it, and the subsequent sounds of chui, the leopard, and fisi, the hyena, along with the bleating of the lost lamb and the baaing of the flock returned to their shelter.
After a service in which this message was played (summer of 1955) to a large new village in the Rift Valley, 14 young Kikuyu boys stood to proclaim their first allegiance to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Many other Kikuyu scripts were prepared and recorded, along with hymns, as the work was done in collaboration with the various missions working among this tribe: "The Armor of God" for the Christian warrior; "The victorious Leader"; "Christ in You"; "The New Nature"; "The True God"; "Into Your heart"; "Light on our Path"; and many others - in all, 24 messages and hymns. One record opens with a riddle, which the Kikuyu notably enjoy. It is a dialogue between two age-group brothers. The setting is the sound of a happy group cutting wattle in the forest to build a young man's thingira. Two Christians discuss the riddle, "What is sharper than a panga?" Their discussion develops the subject:
"The Word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged panga..."
Speaker 1. Come, it is time to rest. Let us sit here and read some of this Book. These are the days that we must gain knowledge in our youth, so that we may be prepared to help our people when we become men.
2. Here are words spoken by our Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He spoke them to His own disciples. Even today, we also can be His disciples.
1. It is true! What a great honor it is to be one of His own disciples. I have chosen this way because I know that Jesus Christ is true. He will not lead us to ways of destruction. But He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
2. In Luke, twelfth chapter it says, "Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. And I say unto you my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
"Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
"Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God."
1. It is true indeed that these words are sharp and discerning. But to my soul they are also as sweet as honey.
2. And like honey, too, I find in them great strength.
Our safari for Kikuyu records in December, 1954, had brought us into contact with many Christians, but no halfway ones - those had all been pruned away: many landed in detention camps to live among the hundreds now reported as becoming "new creatures in Christ Jesus." Converts such as these have been heard to pray: "Lord, we thank Thee for bringing us 400 miles to this camp. Were we back home, we would still be serving Satan. But Thou has brought us here and saved us. When we go four hundred miles back to our homes, may our families see the difference Thou has made in our lives."
But in the localities of these, their homes, where a great majority of the population had taken the first and second oaths, we had the privilege of meeting the dozens who had stood unflinchingly, and whose lives had been spared. A typical testimony from one of those stands out because of its direct antithesis of the "evil eye" and the "body full of darkness." The Kikuyu Christian told us in words like these: "Praise be to our Lord Jesus! Just yesterday I received the news that all my coffee trees have been destroyed by Mau Mau. When I heard this, I wondered at the joy and song in my heart. Why can I be so happy? Then I began to realize in a new way what a treasure I have in Jesus Christ. Thieves may steal all my possessions; they may even kill my body; but nothing - absolutely nothing - can ever separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. He is with me always, in my heart. I can rejoice that my coffee trees are destroyed. This loss makes me see His glory more clearly." Because this man's "eye" was "single," his whole body was "full of light."
This one testimony we heard dozens of times - only the details differed. Again we were breathing the air and walking with saints who had breathed and walked only day before yesterday (2,000 years ago!) in a land of trial much like this, yet they too had lived not with craven fear but bursting joy. We were in the country where James was beheaded while John, his brother, was allowed to live; where Philip preached in Samaria, and Stephen died outside Jerusalem; in the day that a church was born at Antioch to enlighten twenty centuries of time until now; a church where martyrs fell, and the very few who were left managed to spread stars across the roof of two millenniums.
The Miracle of Kenya. We thrilled to the challenge of the Church Militant. Government men in charge of rehabilitation were saying: "We want the real, not the pseudo-Christian message. Only the pure, vital type of evangelism can help these people." The whole mission front felt the sudden cry of multitudes; hundreds of places to put evangelists; thousands of people to be answered. The desk of Mr. S. A. Morrison's office of Christian Council of Kenya was piled with a snowfall of letters requesting spiritual reinforcements! With regard to the needs Mr. Morrison had said to us:
"They need to know what the Word of God teaches with respect to confession, restitution, forgiveness, and the basis for these.
"They need to hear the clear case for monogamy, and loyalty to one woman, and the how and why of a Christian home and its influence upon the community.
"They need to know the teaching of Christian victory, of inward power, of the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
"They must be challenged to witness to others. Is this Gospel for self only?"
We left Mr. Morrison's office tingling. There was the vigorous, marching church, and the doors of fifty detention camps, numerous prisons, and hundreds of new villages thrown open to its message! Yet the combined effort of the missions could not possess the gates of this new challenge! Then we could envision the miracle of troops to be added; thousands of Kikuyu voices could swell the ranks, and fill in the gaps! The message and messenger could be supplied in unlimited quantity in the form of an eight-inch gramophone record.
By the first week in January, 1955, Kikuyu, Kikamba, and Meru tapes were airmailed to Los Angeles. There the staff gave the records for Mau Mau top priority. Only two or three weeks later praying hands in the factory were sleeving the finished records.
By early February a freight consignment of 13,000 records had been shipped to Kenya.
By June these thousands of records, Kikuyu, Kikamba, and Meru, had arrived in Mombasa, and were cleared free of customs duty because of the Emergency.
In July, when we returned to Kenya after the Sudan trip, we found the Church House offices in downtown Nairobi groaning under the load of Kikuyu records. Then it was our great joy to see them begin to "go like hotcakes."
Before January, 1956 (six months later), all these records were gone, and Mr. Morrison was placing a conservative order for 4,000 more.
By January 15, 1956, upon our second return to home base in Nairobi, after a five-month safari by jeep, further orders were so overwhelming that we sent a cable to Los Angeles to double Mr. Morrison's request, ordering 8,000 more to be sent as soon as possible.
For "now is the accepted time." This is the today in Kenya - and again in this, Kenya Colony is an illustration. We see now an ever greater improvement in the overall situation here. Detainees are being shipped out of some of the camps at the rate of a thousand each month. Forest gangs are captured now in ones and twos. A dozen or so have recently been cleaned out of the swamp forest around Lake Naivasha where they were hiding in the water - only their heads visible betrayed their presence to the Security Forces. Hard-core of the "unretrievable" Mau Mau are sent to prisons in the northern frontier or to an island in Lake Victoria; a tremendous change has come over the faces of the Kikuyu people - a great expression of relief. Yet Satan is working also.
The government has just discovered a new secret society organized out of the defeat of Mau Mau.
But the brightening picture today is this: there are thousands of ears eager to listen! Thousands of ears eager to listen as yet hear too infrequently, and many not at all. The "now is the time" is - breathlessly - today.
A missionary returning from an evangelistic tour among Wakamba people told us of how they opened the public meeting by playing the Kikamba record, "The True God." As this first record finished, an old Mukamba elder stepped forward and earnestly stated his decision for Christ.
One Sunday morning we had the opportunity of playing Kikuyu and Kikamba records to a mixed audience of Wakamba and Kikuyu at a church in the heart of Nairobi's Eastleigh district. It was in the chapel on the beautiful mission compound of the Gospel Furthering Fellowship. As the Kikuyu testimonies and hymns were played, we heard reverent exclamations of wonder and joy. Afterward one after another quietly arose and expressed words of gratitude. Many of the Wakamba people who understood Kikuyu spoke of the astonishment and inspiration it brought to them to hear Kikuyu talking like this - telling of all that the Lord Jesus meant to them, since the Wakamba people (along with Masai, Meru, and others) had become infected with Mau Mau because of their close proximity to the Kikuyu - and because Mau Mau, in its basic platforms, is also an illustration!
To close this chapter on night, and the stars that glorify it, let us take time for one close-up view of a man whose testimony is more than the story of one man; but it is, as well, another piece of depth photography. The background, the reasons, the miracle behind the Festo who was darkness and is now light in the Lord - this also is an illustration. So many of Africa's potential "stars" of potential "makers of darkness" are asking the same questions that Festo Kirengeri asked under the fierce heat of temptation that is common to the majority of modern Africa.
"Are the things that I read about in the Bible really practical?"
"Is it possible to live them out in my personal life - in everyday life?"
"Can I have peace with God?"
Festo, now for many years a notable star in East Africa's sky, is at present a teacher of African youth in the Church Missionary Society mission school at Dodoma, Tanganyika. One day he opened his heart to us; and to the glory of God he related his personal testimony of his own transformed life. The words are so specific for the educated African that we have recorded them, exactly as written here, on two sides of a record which will be included in a set of English records being prepared especially for Africa. The record, punctuated at times with appropriate sound effects, is we believe a most vivid rehearsal of the birth of a star - of the miracle that can happen to the "educated ears" who listen to Festo when he continues to say to them:
. . . Is it possible to have sins forgiven? Having failed to get an answer for these questions, I assured myself that there was no answer. Therefore I tried just to quiet my conscience by satisfying it with other things. I sought for satisfaction in pleasure, in drink, in bad friendships. But all this time God's finger still followed me, and my conscience was ill at ease.
Then after a time I tried to forget about the question of my spiritual problems. I went all-out into a life of sin. I became a notorious drunkard, although I was still young - and there were all the other sins that go with drinking.
Then I completed my training as a teacher, and went to work in my village. I wanted to help my village people. But immediately I got there, I found that I had deceived myself with the idea that I was a free young man, and I could do what I wanted to do, and refuse what I didn't like to do. Soon I found that I wasn't free, really. My cravings were too strong for me to control. I had a long struggle which ended in despair. And this despair led me deeper and deeper into sin.
Well, in that village there were Christians who were full of life, witnessing for Jesus. I didn't like them because their testimony was all the time condemning me. I tried to use my Scripture knowledge to defeat them and to justify myself. But those Christians were not worried about my arguments. The only worry I noticed in them was their concern over my condition as a perishing sinner. I knew that they had victory over sins which were troubling me. This made me furious against them at times.
But my sins increased. They seemed all the time more powerful. I spent my nights in clubs and in enjoyments of this world.
And then one Sunday, I was on duty as a schoolmaster so I took the schoolboys into the church; and we sat there in that packed building. A wonderful Gospel message was given. At the end my own niece stood up to say a few words; and she stated that "last night I received the assurance that all our house (meaning me!) would be set free today."
When I heard this, I left the church in anger. And I spent the rest of that Sunday drinking. At about six o'clock I was returning to the mission on my bike. God is a strategist. For after cycling a mile, I met a friend of mine. He looked different to me. And he told me then that he had accepted the Lord as his personal Saviour while he was in the church . . . We cycled along together quietly until we reached the mission. And then, when we were parting, he asked me a question. He said, "Friend, where are you?" I answered, "I don't know where I am."
* * * * *
When I reached my home, I felt very unhappy. I tried to comfort myself by smoking, but it wasn't sweet this time. Then I felt I must go and pray, for I realized the time would come when I would have to face God with my sins. So I knelt down, not knowing what to pray about. There the first step was to accept the fact that I too needed salvation. This took me some time, but in the end I said, "Yes, Lord, I need salvation." It was here that the Devil came in with all his suggestions which were intended to lead me into despair. "You have been drinking all this day. This may be only drink which is making you feel religious." Again, "Can you ever break away from these sins? You are used to this way of sinning; you can't turn and have a new life. It is impossible." To this I agreed for I knew sin was so sweet for me that I could never break away from it by my own strength.
Then I decided to ask the Lord Jesus to come to my help. And I said something like this to Him: "It is true, sin is so sweet for me that I cannot break away from it; but if You have got something sweeter - something better that You can show me so that it will turn my heart from these sins, I am ready, Lord, to accept it."
It was there for the first time that my heart saw Jesus crucified! This was a moment that I can never express in words. For as it were, the veil was removed, and my heart saw that wonderful Being, Jesus Christ, on the cross for me. His beauty was such that those things that used to attract me faded away. And He alone was before my eyes. And He seemed to say to me something like this: "You have been carrying the burden of your sin all these years; but I carried it for you on Calvary. Now will you give it over to Me?" I said: "Yes, Lord, I accept You to be my Saviour." And a voice from Him said to my heart, "You are freely forgiven." The burden of my sin fell away. Freedom entered into my heart just that moment! And I was saved . . .The next moment, I wanted to go and reconcile myself with those whom I had been persecuting all the time. And they sang and rejoiced over me.
This was an end to my old life and a beginning to the new life . . . I found that it was not sufficient to break away from the old things alone without having a daily continual victory over them. This victory I found in Jesus.
Now those old things have lost their grip on me. One desire fills my heart - this is to serve the Lord Jesus, and to win men for Him.
I soon began to find Jesus sweet in all walks of life. I am married, and we have children. Both my wife and I have been learning all this time how to walk with each other in love. Again and again when sin comes in - grumbling, worry, jealousy, and other things which can hinder Christians from enjoying Jesus Christ, and from enjoying each other - we have always found the answer to these problems in this same Lord Jesus. This we haven't found anywhere else except in Jesus. His blood cleanses us from all sin, and we go on rejoicing in Him.
Many of Africa's most privileged classes are finding the answer in this same Reality, in whose presence they have learned to walk "with bowed heads." This fear of Him is true wisdom. And in His costly love they rest in the peace of sins cleansed and rendered impotent to hold them again in bondage. These are the stars shining in East Africa - the hope of the darkening skies of the new age.
They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3).