Our Africa Program Director Frank Tweheyo recently had an amazing visit with the Maasai tribe in Kenya this month. As a result of his teaching, the truth really did set people free!
The Maasai tribe of Kenya has been called Kenya’s most authentic ethnic tribe.
The iconic image we have to the tall, thin African leaning on a staff is of the Maasai. They are known for their colorful clothing, elaborate beaded jewelry, nomadic way of life and strong traditions—many of which are steeped in patriarchy and view women not just as lower in status but as cursed by God. For years, they have resisted change that the encroaching civilization brings. However, the traditional way of life is slowly changing.
Frank was in an area close to Maasai Mara game reserve, in a place called Kilgoris in Narok County, close to Tanzania border. He taught the New Man, New Woman, New Life seminar to both pastors and lay people in a church-chapel that is in a school compound of the Kilgoris Project. This project is funded by Americans in partnership with the community to educate children. They fund several schools.
The people who attended the seminar are Christians. However, their theology is deeply influenced by their native patriarchal culture. That is why the message of Empower has potential to truly change lives of the Maasai, especially the women.
Here is what Frank reported to us about his visit:
I had a most gratifying time serving among the Maasai in areas around Maasai Mara in Kilgoris. We started with few people on Tuesday but by Wednesday we had over 40 people. Women were inviting their husbands, pastors were inviting other pastors, etc.
In our discussions with Maasai pastors and leaders as we went through the seminar, this is what the Maasai told me of their culture and their beliefs about women:
- A woman is the embodiment of curse because God cursed her from the beginning. Maasai (including pastors) believe that since man was not in the garden when the serpent was tempting Eve, God cursed the woman alone. She is the originator of all that is evil.
- The curse of (or from) a woman is stronger than that of a man because she is a curse her self, so better go slow with her because her curse will have adverse effects on you.
- Women are taken to be at the same level with children. A leading pastor shocked me when he said that he calls his mother a child…they are least considered in the family setting and community, especially when it comes to decision-making.
- All cows belong to the man but woman has got to look after them, milk them and build houses …but she will never get reward for any of this.
- A woman can only eat intestines and the neck parts of a cow, nothing more. (The Maasai traditional diet is mostly meat, milk and blood, with very few vegetables).
- Masai men don’t always trust their women. A man will climb a tall tree to see whom his wife is taking with, which can culminate in divorce.
- A woman will travel very long distances to fetch water and firewood, but a man will never bring any piece of wood home even when he is out in the woods.
- The man owns the wealth of the family and the woman has absolutely no share in it.
This is just the beginning—there were many other cultural norms that shocked and surprised us.
As we progressed through the Word of God discussing through the Creation Ideal, the Fall and Redemption, I saw how the Word can transform someone for the first time:
For the Masai women and men to read (in their own Bibles) that both the man and woman were together in the garden, that both of them are culpable on the fall and its consequences, and to know that God never placed a curse on man and woman but only on the ground and the serpent—these were revolutionary. When the women heard this, they began shouting the hugest hallelujahs and clapping thunderous claps…believing for the first time that they are not cursed!!!
Meanwhile, the men were shocked as it dawned on them that they have always believed a lie. At first, the men strongly denied that these things are in the Bible. But when we all read together word by word, you could see the shock and surprise on their faces.
One pastor said to me, “Really? Is it in the Bible that women are not cursed?”
Oh thanks be to God!!! Words cannot express what we all experienced, the revelation of God’s love.
The people of Kilgoris want us back. They promised to mobilize so many to come and listen to the message of redemption.