A Nigerian-American journalist in Kenya

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Israel and New Breed in Kenya August 18, 2010

Filed under: cultural observations,the journey — Admin @ 6:39 am
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At the end of the nearly 2 1/5 hour ministration, Israel Houghton said it was his first time in Kenya. The crowd clapped to welcome and thank him.

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This past Sunday, I was in my room looking up recipes (yeah, I like to read food recipes!) and resting after a lively service at Mavuno Church. Outside, I heard a guy, who I could tell was a young, white American, talking to a crowd of people. He was talking about the love of God and what it really means to be Christian. All day, several religious presentations had been going at Central Park, which was a 5 second walk outside of my building. Then I heard the guy say that he wants to welcome a friend. “Israel. And New Breed!” Suddenly, Israel Houghton’s powerful voice rang through the air.

My heart jumped. Gosh! This is one of my favorite gospel artist!

I leaped up, threw on my sandals and ran outside.  At Central Park, a crowd of hundreds (I can’t give a more accurate estimate because I’m just not good at the sort of thing) stood before Israel and New Breed. After stopping at a security guard who traced my body with a metal detector, I made my way to the very front and danced away with my camera bouncing around my neck and thumping on my chest.

It seemed like half of the crowd knew the songs and the other half didn’t. The sun was blazing, but it was a comfortable heat with a gentle breeze blowing from time to time.

I knew Israel had ministered yesterday at a huge concert because someone has mentioned it at Mavuno on Sunday. She said she had attended and had a fantastic time. Two Sundays ago, two people had received free tickets to the concert as a reward for bringing first time visitors to Mavuno. A guy announced that we could by tickets at the table in the front. But, I couldn’t find the table and just forgot about the whole thing. I’m glad I did, because I had saved my money. The Saturday concert costed quite a bit, according to the lady from Mavuno. But on Sunday, I was jamming for free.

“God, do your will in Kenya. Do your will in Africa!” Israel said.

I have to say, Israel and New Breed in Kenya was better than when I had seen them live at my church in Conyers, Georgia. I think it was…the people, the sun, the trees, the squawking birds, and everything else that God created.

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Umeniweza Baba July 8, 2010

Last Sunday, I stood in a huge white tent with hundreds of Kenyans.

Listening to an angelic chorus of, “Umeniweza Baba,” (Swahili-You have overwhelmed me Father), I was once again stricken with the power of religion. Back in April, I wrote a story on the high religiosity in Africa. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life had just released a study that showed sub-Saharan Africa is the most religious place on earth, according to the researchers.  Read the full story:  http://pewforum.org/Press-Room/Pew-Forum-in-the-News/Survey-finds-Africa-is-most-religious-part-of-world.aspx

I wrote that story in the United States, drawing upon what I had seen while attending churches of predominantly African congregations and interviewing pastors and other religious Africans.

But, I wrote that story in the United States.

Seeing the religiosity with my own eyes on the continent of Africa was another experience entirely. The study only confirmed what many already know, that Africans tend to be strongly affiliated with religion, be it Muslim, Christian or what have you. The Baha’i religion teaches that Africans are the “light of the world,” simply because they are in touch with the spiritual realm. Indeed, the way an African Christian prays is very much different from the way an American prays. One doesn’t need to be an expert to notice. The violent shaking, the clenched fists, the stomping of the feet, these behavioral spiritual rituals are the norm and you will see it when you walk into a church full of African Christians. In Kenya, I knew I wanted to see how religion is practiced.

I stayed at the Mavuno Church for 3 hours as an observant participant, as it is referred to in anthropology. It was a moving experience- to be surrounded by young people who were clearly so passionate about an unseen divinity. To see a woman intently focused on the sermon as a tear slides down her perfect skin. To see grown men on their knees, arms raised in surrender. To hear Africanized renditions of traditional hymns. To feel the force of hundreds of pairs of hands clapping in unison. This is what African Christianity is all about.

Wafahamu siri za moyo, wangu Yesu

(You understand the secrets of my heart, Lord)

Umeiweza roho yangu

Yesu umeniweza

(You have capured my spirit, Lord you have overwhelmed me)