Monday, May 13, 2013


Guest Hekima blogger, Louise Umutoni

With knowledge comes responsibility, for how then can you explain the very popular saying “Ignorance is bliss”. I have since come to realize the full extent of this saying and in a twisted sort of way looked at my days of ignorance with a certain sense of longing. Ignorance is bliss because knowledge imposes on you a sense of responsibility. Nietzsche once alluded to this, albeit on a different issue, and his had to do with a world that chose to deny the existence of God, a world in which man became God, the “Ubermensch” or super man, as he referred to this godlike man. Nietzsche believed that with this disregard for God, comes responsibility to fill the very big shoes that God had previously filled. Man had to define notions such as morality on his own terms, notions that were bound to be contested by all involved. Unlike many existentialists and atheists he bore no disillusionment of the prefect godless world. Of course one should not attempt to associate Nietzsche’s view on this with his take on faith or religion, Nietzsche did not believe in God. However what I admire about him was that he was wise enough to point out the inherent problems that were bound to plague the godless world, the responsibility that came with this decision. His was a life spent trying to fill that void left by the denouncing of God.

Like Nietzsche, I have come to learn that knowledge does not always have that liberating effect that people constantly associate it with. Yes, knowledge opens one’s eyes to things previously unseen, their ears to ideas unheard before, and this is great. Knowledge allows us to finally see things as they are and is associated with a veil coming off one’s eyes. The liberating effect inherent in it has been described as the unshackling of one’s mind, a powerful statement and one I would say is very true. I understand the importance of knowledge, especially as African woman who saw the results of a world deprived of knowledge. Also, I have seen how liberating knowledge is for those that had been forced to live in the darkness of ignorance, having their own stories told to them and with that depriving them of the right to define their own identity. I have seen how with the realization of this (a result of knowledge), they have taken back the reigns to decide their own identity and fought back against oppression. Believe me, I am not blind to the importance of knowledge.

And yet, I have come to the realization that for me, knowledge of things places yet another weight on my shoulders. No longer can I wrap ignorance around myself, as though a shield against the stark reality of the things out there. Things I would much rather not know and yet curiosity begs that I find out. It always shocks me how willingly people throw knowledge around as though not bearing any weight or repercussions. You see, for me knowledge has repercussions, it has forced to me question long held ideas, objective truths, as I considered them. I am unable to take anything at face value without fully rationalizing it, and here I join Nietzsche in blaming Socrates and Plato for steering the world towards rationalism. For how can one have faith if they must rationalize everything they encounter. Isn’t faith starkly opposed to this? Herein lies the dilemma of a young African Christian in this post enlightenment period. The knowledge of things forces us to question what we have been taught and what we long held as the inherent and unobjectionable truth.

Friday, May 10, 2013


What is a Harambee?

A Harambee is an East African tradition of a community pulling together in a party with a purpose to turn what some would consider a crisis into an opportunity.   Harambees are probably most frequently held in Kenya though they represent the deep sense of community that characterizes African culture. 

What is the history of Harambee?

The Harambee tradition largely goes back to the early days of Kenya’s independence.   Prior to independence from the United Kingdom Kenya was experiencing the violent Mau Mau crisis.   Fear reigned.   Mzee (wise elder statesman) Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned, but released shortly before independence. 

Kenya's founding President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
In 1963 as Kenya gained independence Mzee Jomo Kenyatta brought immediate calm from the Mau Mau crisis, healed wounds, and gathered the humble to build. His message was Harambee (,9171,875094,00.html.). We must organize together. Kenyatta was aware of his own failings, but confident in the strength of his united people. He said, "There is no society of angels, black, brown or white. We are human beings and as such we are bound to make mistakes. If I have done a mistake to you, it is for you to forgive me. If you have done a mistake to me, it is for me to forgive you.

As a community faced a challenge that required capital he made a donation and asked for others to join in sharing their resources. With Kenyatta’s Harambee culture schools, hospitals, and infrastructure were developed. Among the humble Harambee economics provided realistic hope.

What typically happens at a Harambee?

A shared good meal, speeches, song, dance, and financial and practical contributions.

I’ve heard about corruption and Harambees.  What happened?

Doreen Rwigamba explaining Agaciro
Until the Lord returns to this earth the best of God’s intent wrestles with human depravity.  Sadly, there have been times when the Harambee tradition has been corrupted.

At times morally bankrupt politicians have used Harambees to bribe voters in a district.

At times the poor have been excluded from elite Harambee functions.

The worst desecration of our Harambee tradition happened in Rwanda during the Genocide in 1994 when the community work of the Interhamwe (note similar grammar to Harambee) was to murder innocent men, women, and children.

Yet, God made us in His image.   We all by simply being human have Agaciro (dignity.)     Harambee is a way to display that though an individual may be at loss together we can overcome.   Our children can have hope.   
One way we display this divine dignity is to come together as a community to overcome all obstacles.

Tarbet family in 1970's Kenya
Have you ever contributed at a Harambee before?

Yes.   Many times.   In fact, as our family spent 29 years in total in Africa our parents, Gaston and Jan Tarbet were the first ones to contribute to Harambees.   

We’re thankful to have been part of building schools, churches, roads, and other community infra-structure through Harambees.   We’re thankful to have helped couples marry through Harambee.   We’re thankful to have sent young people to school through Harambee.   We’re thankful to have helped those were sick become well through Harambee.  

Have you ever hosted a Harambee before?

Only once.   When our oldest daughter, Sophia was accepted to Wheaton College in 2011 we applied for all the financial aid we could and still were about $22,000 short.   We hosted a Harambee in Rwanda.   Our Rwandan community raised $5,300.  Others in the USA made some contributions.   We barely had enough, but with Harambee Sophia got through her first semester at Wheaton.

We didn’t know what would happen her second semester, and then we got a surprise.   Sophia
Sophia's Harambee in Kigali, Rwanda
received an unexpected grant, and her college bill was paid.

Our African friends were confident that a Harambee was a step of communal proactive faith that God would honor.   They were right.   

What is the purpose of this Harambee?

Our son, Caleb has also been accepted to prestigious Wheaton College.   The anticipated total cost is $42,390 in 2013-2014.   Caleb has done well with scholarships and only lacks $5,600 to pay for his freshman year.  

The gifts the Lord abundantly gave us in Africa were friends and experiences.   Yet, we have no savings or property.  It is time for a Harambee to give Caleb a blessing and a push.

Caleb with the College of DuPage Cru
We are immensely proud of Caleb.  We returned to the USA sensing a call of God.   Yet it was extremely disruptive to Caleb.   We returned during Caleb’s senior year of high school.   He surveyed the options.  He made good choices.   He took a GED (High School General Equivalency Degree Exam.)   He enrolled at the College of DuPage (local community junior college.)   He quickly got involved in Cru (Campus Crusade.)   He joined the band.   He made friends.   He threw in with a new church planted called, “The Branch.”  He got exceptional grades.

For such effort over and beyond the call of MK (Missionary Kid) duty we believe Caleb merits our community blessing of Harambee.  

What should I wear and bring?

Dress casual.  Bring a little food.  Bring a little money.  Bring some encouragement.    If you have some musical skill we’d enjoy a song and dance.
Caleb's final concert at the College of DuPage
If you are considered an mzee (wise elder statesman) bring a short speech to bless Caleb.

We’ll provide kuku muchomo (grilled chicken,) and some drinks.

We’ll take cash in Shillings, Francs, Pounds, Pesos, Euros, and both Canadian and American Dollars.  We’ll have a money trader nearby if you need some exchange.  Also, we’ll trust your check is good (and even hold it for a season if you want to make a pledge.)

If you have something that you think would bless Caleb as a college freshman please also feel free to bring it.

What if I’m broke?

With his foster brother, Gabriel
Show up anyway.   Your presence is the greatest value.  Harambee is about Agaciro (dignity.)  You are made in God’s image.   All you need to bring is what God has given you.  God will take your presence and use it to bless our community.

Karibu sana (You are most welcome.)

What if I’m on a safari (journey) and unable to attend?

Safari salaama (Journey in peace.)   If you would like to send a contribution by mail send it to:

Caleb Jenkins
108 Kellogg Place
Wheaton, IL 60187
United States of America

Asante sana.   Webale nyo.   Murakoze cyane (Thank you very much.)