A Postcard from Turkana


A young Turkana woman in everyday attire

Dear Friends,

I don’t know how they survive. But survive they do. At least 250,000 Turkana people subsist in an arid region of Northern Kenya where temperatures regularly hover above 100 degrees. It only rains two or three times a year. Then, for just a few days, Turkana’s dry river beds flow with water…only to soon dry up again.

I’ve been sweltering here in Turkana for the past four days.

Primitive and poor, the Turkana live in thatched huts with sand floors. Many walk miles each day to fetch water and firewood. Their economy is built primarily upon the goats that graze their sparse land, and from which they derive meat, milk and clothing. They also barter their livestock for other things, such as the plastic beads that adorn the elaborate necklaces worn by their women.

Although they are materially poor, many of the Turkana people have become spiritually rich because of their receptivity to the gospel. Visiting one of their church gatherings under the shade of a large tree is like attending an old Southern revival, with clapping, dancing, and enthusiastic Amens. Their a cappella hymns are sung in beautiful harmonies. It is heavenly.

Three worshippers

When it comes to offering relief or development to the Turkana Christians, Heaven’s Family would prefer to provide the latter, to help them lift themselves. Unfortunately, no one, including myself, has found a way to do that. The Turkana have very few resources and little that anyone wants. They live in a barren wasteland. They hardly have enough water to survive. So it seems all we can do, at least for now, is bring them relief in the form of food, especially during the current drought.

On my first visit to Turkana in January of this year, I promised the believers in remote villages that I visited that if they would allow me to take their photos, I would show their beautiful faces to my friends and ask them for money so I could return to Turkana with corn to distribute. They took me up on my offer, and over the past four days, with the help of Kenyan minister friends, I’ve personally overseen the distribution of almost four tons of dried corn. Each day we’ve traveled by Land Rover to remote locations where Turkana believers gather in the shade of large trees along dried up river beds. They sing and dance for joy upon our arrival.

As we’ve visited them, I’ve been making them the same offer again. I’ve told them if they would allow me to take portraits of some of the women with the most colorful necklaces, I would show those portraits to my friends and ask them to help me return again with more corn (and beans). They readily agreed, and it occurred to me that perhaps this scheme could be a tiny stab at development, as they do have something to offer that can “earn” them money. So if you are interested in this small scale attempt at some compassionate capitalism, I’ve got a deal for you.

Here it is: If you will contribute before the end of June to Heaven’s Family’s Food Fund, I’ll email you ten, full-size portraits of some beautifully-necklaced Turkana women, children, and maybe even an ostrich-feather plumed Turkana chief. In full-size (enough to fill your computer screen), they are absolutely stunning (and of National Geographic quality in my most humble opinion). Using them as screen savers might lead to interesting conversations with others….

As always, none of your contributions to the Food Fund are used for administration. 100% is sent overseas to bring food relief. Administrative costs are paid from our General Fund.

All you need to do is click here to make your credit card donation of any size to the Food Fund. Or you can send a check to the address below. When I return from Africa in the middle of this month, I’ll send your ten Turkana portraits to the same email address that we sent this email to unless you tell us otherwise.

If you click on any of these photos, a larger-size version will be displayed in your browser window. Make sure your browser window is opened as large as possible….

One last thought: I may use a small percentage of what you contribute to buy some of the Turkana men picks and shovels—tools that are almost unknown among them—and encourage them to dig some reservoirs to catch water when rain does fall on their land. That would be an effort at some real development. We’ll see what happens.

Thanks, as always, for your time and compassion,


P.S. Forwarding this to your compassionate friends could result in less hunger and more food for Turkana believers. Thanks so much.

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