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Thoughts on “The Good Shepherd”

Folks back home always called it the "Easter Cold Snap."  Church was cool this morning.  About 63 degrees F.
Folks back home always called it the “Easter Cold Snap.” Church was cool this morning. About 63 degrees F.

Listen to short clip from Tigoni Baptist Church Kenya Easter 2013

(Above) Don’t miss Dada Stella’s famous Shrill Swahili Spiritual Squeal. It’s one of my favorite parts of African worship!

The clip below is an acapella Easter song from the Tigoni Adult Choir.  Enjoy and Worship:

TigoniEaster2

On the clip above, listen to each choir member humming their part.  Also, choir director Lucas uses claps and snaps to keep the time.  Simply wonderful!

It’s Pasaka.

Easter in Kenya.

A day I’ll always remember.

This is a long uncut audio from today’s Easter Service at Tigoni, Kenya2013

A Mchungaji named Petero

 

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11

 

Mchungaji Petero
Mchungaji Petero

 

It’s a sound my tongue may never get right.   The mmm sound that many Swahili words begin with.  You say it in the back of your throat with your mouth closed.

 

As in Mchungaji.

 

It’s become one of my favorite words in this new language.   Mchungajii.

 

It’s used interchangeably for two English words.   Shepherd.  Pastor

Pastor-Shepherd.

 

M-chun-ga-ji.

 

It’s what I call my teacher Petero.

Mchungaji Petero.

Mchungai (Pastor) Petero with his wife Ruth and family at their church
Mchungai (Pastor) Petero with his wife Ruth and family at their church

He is a pastor/shepherd as well as one of our Swahili teachers.

From the Turkana tribe of NW Kenya.

We could call him Peter, but all Swahiii names end in an vowel, so he’s Petero.

Petero.  The Rock.

Recently we visited Petero’s church.

Had a wonderful service.

He is a strong preacher.

Strong in the Word and strong in the Lord.

You would like him.  You’d like for him to be your mchungajii.

You’d agree that any sheep in his care would be safe.

A strong Kenyan with a shy smile.

 

 

Every morning as we dodge the potholes on the 3 km drive to school, we pass another mchungaji.

He’s a real shepherd named Joshua.

He’s young and only speaks Swahili.

He faithfully stands over his roadside flock of sheep and goats.

He leans on a shepherd’s stick and waves through the dust.

Mchungaji (Shepherd)  Joshua with his roadside flock.
Mchungaji (Shepherd) Joshua with his roadside flock.

He’ll be there in the afternoon as we pass again.

Caked in the red dust of Kenya

Keeping his flock safe.

They’re not exactly a pretty flock and are grazing in a patch with more weeds than grass.

 

But they’re safe because of Mchungaji named Joshua.

 

Two Kenyan shepherds.

Each faithfully watching over their flocks.

God has always had a soft spot for shepherds.

  • A ruddy-faced shepherd boy who could sling a rock or a tune.  We’re still putting our music to his songs.  His most famous song begins,  “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

His name was David.

  • A group of Galilean shepherds, probably a lot like our roadside mchungaji, who got the first call about the birth of the Son of God.
  • That same Son of God, Yesu, who referred to himself as “The Good Shepherd.”
  • Even in later times, a kidnapped enslaved shepherd boy whom God later used to convert an entire island from paganism.

You’ve probably heard him called Patrick.

Patrick of Ireland.

Saint Patrick.

Almighty God (Mwenyezi-Mungu) is still using shepherds.

He needs Mchungaji-Shepherds to care for his sheep.  To find and recover lost sheep

 

An African painting show the original Petero bowing to The Good Shepherd, Yesu Kristo.  From the Catholic Guest House in Goma, Dem. Congo
An African painting show the original Petero bowing to The Good Shepherd, Yesu Kristo. From the Catholic Guest House in Goma, Dem. Congo

I grew up in the tail end of the sheep-herding culture of western Louisiana.  Our area was open range for thousands of sheep, cattle, and pigs that roamed the woods and swamps.

 

My great great great grandfather, Dempsey Iles, was one of the first large-scale sheep men of this area.  I’ve never owned a sheep or goat, but always been fascinated with them.

 

The Good Shepherd
The Good Shepherd

My dad never had sheep but loved singing about a flock of them.

One of his most-requested* songs was “The Ninety and Nine.”

It was a narrative-hymn about the good shepherd leaving the 99 safe sheep to hunt and return the one lost sheep.

Verse 2

“Lord, Thou hast here Thy ninety and nine;
Are they not enough for Thee?”
But the Shepherd made answer: “This of Mine
Has wandered away from Me.
And although the road be rough and steep,
I go to the desert to find My sheep.”

As Daddy’d sing each climaxing verse, my childhood imagination could see the shepherd scampering over the “rocks and rills” to rescue the lone sheep.

Verse 3

But none of the ransomed ever knew
How deep were the waters crossed;
Nor how dark was the night the Lord passed through
Ere He found His sheep that was lost.
Out in the desert He heard its cry;
’Twas sick and helpless and ready to die.

 

I waited for that triumphant final verse.

On the piano, Nell Christopher or my Aunt Margie, would go up an octave as Daddy sang the last stanza.

And all through the mountains, thunder-riv’n,
And up from the rocky steep,
There arose a glad cry to the gate of heav’n,
“Rejoice! I have found My sheep!”
And the angels echoed around the throne,
“Rejoice, for the Lord brings back His own!”

 

 

I still can see it in my mind.

And I still love the song.

 

*Lucille Mosley always requested this song.  Daddy sang it at her funeral.

 

“The Ninety and Nine.”

It’s a powerful song about a powerful story.

A story still loved by folks the world over.

 

I guess the shepherd analogy explains a little about what we’re to be about.

Hunting for lost sheep.

 

I guess that sums up the reason we’re in Africa.  There’s a large chunk of the continent northwest of where we’re at now.

It’s called South Sudan.

Chad.

Democratic Congo.

Central African Republic.

Our Shepherd's Country of East Africa
Our Shepherd’s Country of East Africa

 

It’s tough country for sheep and livestock.

Tough country for shepherds.

 

I’ve been told there’s lots of lost sheep up there.

They’ve never heard The Story that drives my life.

 

The story of Yesu who called himself “The Good Shepherd.”

 

 

About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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2 comments

  1. Enjoyed reading this and shared in your memories of your Dad and folks at Dry Creek. God is so good.
    Have a wonderful first Easter in Africa.

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