On September 20, 2018, Mary Hoekstra and I left for a music ministry trip like no other. We had six 50-pound boxes of band instruments, three large 50-pound suitcases containing personal effects and more instruments, and no idea what to expect once we arrived in Kenya.
The first big question was: how do we manage all this stuff through customs? Our prayer was answered upon seeing Resonate Global Mission missionaries Mwaya and Munyiva wa Kitavi waving at us as we came through immigration. Amazingly, Mwaya’s sister-in-law was working in customs and assisted us in getting everything through without paying bribes or fees. It took two vehicles to load everything up, and then we were on our way to the wa Katavi’s home by midnight!
We spent the next week visiting the three schools we planned to work in—Kathiani Christian Vow Academy, Kathiani Primary School, and Nthunguni Primary School. We met the principals, arranged the schedule, met the students, and assigned instruments. Since the program was to take place only six weeks down the line, we wanted to get started as quickly as possible. Mary had 39 years as a band director under her belt, so she streamlined the process quickly. No front teeth? OK, you are a percussionist. Got a lot of wind? A trombone is perfect for you. You like the sound of the French horn? Pucker up and give it a try.
At first, the children thought the instruments were big toys! Before we knew what was happening, the French horn player had taken the instrument all apart, and he had shoved the first slide in backward which made it very stuck against the third slide. Baraka, our helper, spent half an hour trying to extricate it. After that, we kept a good eye on things.
For the next five weeks, we worked with each student on their instrument, encouraging them to learn the proper mouth and hand positions to produce some good sounds, all while trying to learn to read the notes. Often the kids would be looking either at the director or their neighbor for clues on what they were supposed to be doing. Realizing they weren’t following the notes, Mary would say, “Why are you looking at me? Am I full of notes? Do you see notes on my shirt?” Then she would say, “Look in your book!” With the cheerful help of Munyiva Kitavi and Baraka Kitavi (the Kitavi’s son), gradually, most of the kids did learn to read the notes in the book. A big achievement!
We made a daily trip snaking up through the lush green hills, around hairpin curves, past coffee farms, through the eucalyptus forest to the schools in Kathiani was a visual feast. And those sights made us so thankful for the beauty of creation and the small part we could play in it following God’s call to serve in Kenya. The rugged road up to Nthunguni village and scrambling up the rocky path to the recorder classroom was an adventure never to be forgotten!
Pointing out that all our talents come from God and music is a universal language, it was easy to see the children’s excitement learning something entirely new to them and their community. One of Resonate Global Mission’s initiatives is Educational Care, caring for all of God’s children with the goal of integrating faith and learning by promoting the gifts children have. For the last week, we concentrated solely on practice for the final program for parents, staff, and community. The children were full of joy and excitement to be performing.
One night, Mary took two trumpets with serious valve problems back to our Tea Tot Hotel. She decided one needed a bath, but our tub lacked a stopper, so I called down asking for one. Shortly after, someone knocked and said, “Housekeeping.” I showed the young man that the tub was missing a stopper. He stared incredulously at the trumpet already pulled apart lying in the tub. The stopper came shortly. Hmmm, maybe those old American ladies are a bit weird!
We practiced saxophone and trombone in our room so that we could accompany the singing of the Kenyan national anthem for our program. Not sure you could get away with that here!
Mwaya wa Kitavi had put a lot of thought into this music ministry and especially into fine-tuning the final program. Serving as emcee, he kept the pace running smoothly so that principals of the schools didn’t talk too long nor was there any lag in the program. The recorder students performed first, then the bands individually, and then some final numbers together. The five teachers who had learned to play instruments in the band also performed a number together.
Then it was announced that, in true Kenyan style, gifts were to be given to Mary and me in appreciation of our volunteer service: Maasai blankets, jewelry, purses, and other gifts were lavished on us with much clapping, laughter, and hoopla. After the program, sodas and cookies were served to everyone. We will remember it with grateful hearts and thankfulness to God for how he cared for us and allowed creativity to flourish for these children. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” And we certainly did!
In summary, we were greatly blessed and encouraged by the many Kenyans who so openly share their faith in Jesus. It was refreshing to hear them talk about what Jesus means to them and to ask us about our faith.
And a big thank-you to our church for their encouragement, prayers, and support of this mission venture. It was a WOW!
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8