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Riots and Treachery


It was now May, 2007, seven months after our mock trial in Long Beach, and a full year after the attack on Reinhard.  I was living in Kenya, having left the US at the end of January that same year.

"I think it's a trap," I said.

We were discussing what to make of an email that had just come in from my mother.  She had written, asking if I could come to LA to celebrate Jared's birthday party with them, and to "honor" him for Father's Day.  Though his birthday had already passed, she said that they would celebrate it late, so that I could be there.

I had not been back home since the attack, and Dave thought that it was worth considering a visit.  They had shown no remorse (nor had they received any punishment from the authorities) for what they had done to Reinhard, and so there was a serious risk that they would do the same thing again if given a chance.  I personally was not keen on the idea of another face to face confrontation.

We decided to pray about it.  Alf, who I had met in England on my way to Kenya four months earlier, had offered to go with me for the visit, to offer support; but in some ways that would have been riskier than ever, as I knew that they were more likely to attack another Jesus Christian than to harm me.

We needed some divine wisdom for this one.

After some discussion and prayer we felt God was leading us not to go.  I wrote back to Sheila, telling her that we had seriously considered her invitation, yet, in the end, we had decided against it.  But that was not going to deter her.

She wrote, saying that she would pay for me to fly to LA, if I could be there for Father's Day.  Reinhard had more than $30,000 worth of hospital bills which, to our knowledge, they had not put one cent towards, so it was hardly a gift to me or to the community if she did pay for me to come for a visit.  But still, it could be a sign that she was softening.  We thought about it, and decided to take the risk, in order to encourage Sheila, if nothing else.  To make it easier for her, we agreed to pay for half the cost of the ticket.

There was very little time for Sheila to purchase the ticket on her end, and a ticket originating in Kenya when purchased in the U.S. would be much more expensive than if we purchased it locally.  So we offered to buy a ticket ourselves if she would just put half of the cost of the ticket into our bank account in California.  We would pay the other half.  Sheila agreed to do that.

Fran had already made a short video of my time in the village where we were staying, as he thought it would be a nice thing to show to my family if I ever went back to meet them.  It included pictures of the basketball court that I had built with Karl, a native Kenyan member of the group.  We packed the video along with some of the Easy English books which we had produced and used in the local schools to teach English.  Maybe if they could see some of the good that was being accomplished there, my family would be less angry about my decision.  That proved to be a false hope.

I arrived in LA, and checked to see if Sheila had deposited the remaining money into our account, as she had promised.  She had not.  I wrote to her, explaining that I would be leaving LA for the East Coast in only a matter of days, and asked why the money had not been paid.  She said that she would only give me the money after she had seen me face to face.  More of Sheila's tricks.  If she could not be trusted in this, it would be dangerous to trust her in other matters as well.  We definitely did not want more violence.

I wrote again, saying that I didn't have time to play games, and I was not going to delay my departure to Atlanta.  She continued to haggle, and I eventually left for the East Coast without seeing any of them.  

Simon, Jayme and I spent three months on the East Coast of the US, getting out books to people on the streets.  It was a great time, and with my family so far away on the other side of the country, I had few worries about them sneaking up and snatching me.  When the three months had ended, I headed back to the West Coast, where I caught a flight out of LA, back to Kenya. 

Just before I boarded the flight, I decided to call Sheila again.  Although I had written numerous emails, it had been more than six months since I had made my last phone call to them.  That had been during the trial, when she called me Judas, implying that I was a traitor.

I punched the numbers through, let the phone ring, and waited for an answer.  There was none, as they were not home.  I left a message, and then hopped on the plane.

*     *     *

"What's that noise?" Fran asked.  It was now the end of December, 2007.  More than three months had passed since I had flown out of Los Angeles International Airport, and I had been in the community for a total of nineteen months by this stage.  I was back in Shinyalu with the team there, and we were in the middle of the Christmas-New Year holiday.  What was all that noise coming from outside?

"It's a riot," Rob answered.  "Lock the gates, shut the doors, and let's all get together in the hall."  Rob was at his best in tense situations, where most other people would be afraid, or so emotionally riled up as to be unable to make good decisions.

We came together inside the hall, and turned on the radio.  It was a riot, indeed, but one that was much bigger than any of us had first imagined.  It had to do with the presidential elections, the results of which had just been announced.  Similar riots were happening all over the country.

Mwai Kibaki, the incumbent president, had, so the official reports said, been re-elected in place of Raila Odinga, his rival.  The problem was that Odinga had really won -- results from local polling booths had indicated that; but when the results were tallied in the capital, figures had mysteriously changed and Kibaki had been declared the winner.  The entire country was now on the verge of a civil war, as leaders on both sides started inciting their supporters to violence.

Kibaki was a member of the Kikuyu tribe, arguably the most powerful tribe in the country.  Odinga, on the other hand, was a Luo, from the same tribe that U.S. President Barrack Obama's father came from.

What we were hearing outside was only the start of worse things to come.  In a short time, every tribe in Kenya was involved.  That included Luhyas, the main tribe in the area of Kenya where we were based.  The Luhyas tended to side with the nearby Luos.  Karl, who was a Luo from Sieya, had gone home with his relatives for the Christmas holidays, and so he was not around for the local riots.  But GD, a Kikuyu from Nyeri near Nairobi, was still with us.  And so was I.

I had often been mistaken for a Kikuyu because of my prominent forehead.  GD and I needed to go into hiding.  

During construction of the compound we were staying in, a big septic tank had been dug, but then never connected up.  Its location was a secret to locals, and a trap door under our outdoor barbecue led to it.  GD and I climbed down into the dank, dark hole to wait the riot out.  I could not handle the conditions and so I left the tank after only a few hours, but GD (who probably had a greater appreciation for the seriousness of the situation) stayed there for the next week.  Nevertheless, I did stay out of sight and joined with the others in sneaking food and water to GD in the middle of the night.  When we had not been seen for a few days, the local village assumed that we had left the area.

Eventually,  Rob lined up a flight with the Missionary Aviation Fellowship from a nearby airstrip, to Kisumu, about two hours' drive away.  We had to duck down in the back seat of the Landrover on the way to the airstrip and run to the plane when we got there, to avoid further problems.  Casey came with us, in the hope that his white skin might be some protection if trouble broke out.

GD's uncle met us in Kisumu, and drove us about five hours away to their home town of Nyeri.  Nyeri was a Kikuyu town, so we could relax and feel safe there.

Hundreds of people were killed and many thousands more injured in the fighting that took place over those few days, while diplomats like Kofi Annan, from Ghana, were flying to Kenya to encourage peace talks in an attempt to avoid a full-on war.  A compromise plan was to let Kibaki stay on as President, but to create another position (Prime Minister) for Odinga.  It wasn't ideal for those who had voted for Odinga, but it was better than nothing.  Kibaki was clearly not going to step down peaceably.

After a few days in Nyeri (by which time the riots had settled down considerably), Casey, GD, and I took a matatu to Nairobi, and then caught a bus to Tanzania.  Though tensions had eased, there was still a chance that things would erupt if the talks did not reach a satisfactory conclusion for everyone.  We felt it was best to take advantage of the lull and get out of the country while we could.

I had a booking to London, which was due to leave from Nairobi in a week's time.  But violence was worst in the country's capital than anywhere else, and so we had no desire to hang around Nairobi for that week.

We passed the week visiting Dar es Salaam, Arusha, and Moshi in Tanzania, where we saw Mt. Kilimanjaro.  It was quite a sight to see.

Meanwhile, back at the compound, Rob, Chris, Fran, and Kim had taken off northwest, for Uganda by road, about the same time that GD, Casey and I had flown out on our way southeast to Nairobi.  When things eased, the guys in Uganda decided to take a chance on returning to the compound.

As soon as the violence had started, Dave had contacted my family and let them know that I was safe, and that he and others were watching the situation closely.  Sheila had thanked him for that, but not before she shared the information with others who post on hate sites in America.  So, while the Jesus Christians were trying to keep Sheila informed, she was passing everything on to our worst enemies, who were publishing their snippets of information and misinformation on the Internet for all the world to read.  But that was nothing by comparison to what else my mother was doing behind our backs.

By some miraculous coincidence, Sheila accidentally sent us a copy of an email which she had earlier sent to a private investigator, whom she had employed to kidnap me.

"He should be easy to spot, as he is the only Black guy in the group," she had instructed the Kenyan spy, whose name was Edward.  

About a year earlier, we had learned that she had impersonated an IRS official, in an effort to find out where I was when in the U.S..  She had come to our book storage unit in Los Angeles, and asked the head worker there to call her anytime that he saw me, or heard from me.  Though sympathetic with her being a mother, the guy told her that he would not cooperate with her plan.  Also, he told her it was clear that she was not really with the IRS, as they always send people out two by two, never alone.

When the Uganda group returned to the compound, they learned that a group of thugs had come to the village while they were away, claiming to be from the US Embassy.  They specifically demanded to see me.  We knew the Embassy cover was a lie, because there were two other registered American citizens staying there at the time.  If the US embassy was trying to evacuate citizens, or wanting to check on how they were, they would have done it for ALL of the Americans that were staying there, not just for me.  Something fishy was clearly going on.

It did not take a rocket scientist to work out that these thugs were, in fact, related to the spy named Edward that Sheila had hired.  It is a mini-miracle that I had left the area when I did, as no one can say what they may have done to me had they found me.  In Kenya, especially at that time when so many unsolved murders took place, virtually anything could have happened, and it could have all been put down to the riots, with Sheila blaming the Jesus Christians for letting it happen.

It was about this same time that a decision was made by the entire community to cut down communication with Sheila, as she could not be trusted even in a situation where there were life and death issues involving myself.  It was the first time in the history of the community that a decision had been made not to inform parents even if a member was in serious danger.  But Sheila had forced us into such a situation through her treachery.

After a week in Tanzania, I returned to Nairobi and flew to London without incident; but I still had an intuition that someday I would be coming back.

That happened a year later, when the community organised a ‘reunion’ in Kenya, where we produced a music DVD (More Than Just a Band) as well as all participating in the other projects that we had going there at the time.  The reunion itself lasted for three months, followed (for most of us) by three months of outreach in the United Kingdom, before returning to the U.S.

*     *     *

"Hola, como estas?" It was Luz, Jesse's mother.  We on the U.S. team had just arrived back, after more than six months overseas.  It was now June, 2009.

Luz had picked us up upon arriving at LAX, and she drove us to their house just outside of LA.  We stayed there for several days, readjusting to American culture, and getting ourselves settled in. 

We were keen to get back out on the streets, and reach the people of LA with our new book, "Destroyers", which told the story of a young Kenyan youth during the final years before the return of Jesus. 

But there was one other item of business to be dealt with.  Reinhard had decided to take legal action against my family, to recover money for his medical expenses, and other damages.  (We later learned that a deal had been worked out with the police where my parents haggled the hospital down to a lower figure and paid that, in return for the police more or less dropping the charges against them.  Because Reinhard was out of the country, they felt that they could get away with doing this, and my parents added insult to injury by not even informing us that the hospital bill had been settled.)

Depositions were scheduled to start for Reinhard's case just days after we arrived back in the U.S., and so we needed to turn our attention to that.

Click here to read Part 8 of Joe's Story
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