NOTES FROM THE FIELD
In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.
These were the top questions posed by the students of Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran School in Phoenix, Arizona, regarding the CLC’s mission work in Kenya.
Whose face is on the money in Kenya?
Kenyan money is known as Kenya Shillings (KSH) and on each note the same face will be found. During the majority of the time I’ve spent in Kenya, nearly all of the bank notes from 50, 100, 200, and 500 denominations portrayed Kenya’s first president since its independence from Great Britain, Jomo Kenyatta. The thousand-shilling note has the image of an elephant on it. The other two presidents in Kenya’s history, Daniel Arap Moi (for whom Moi’s Bridge is named) and Mwai Kibaki, have also appeared on their currency. Prior to gaining independence, there was a common currency called the East African Currency used by Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania; these bills had the image of Queen Elizabeth II imprinted on them. There have been recent initiatives in the country to replace the images of people with the images of a buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros, lion and elephant. The current exchange rate is about one hundred Kenya Shillings to one U.S. Dollar. For a bit of context, the average per capita annual income in Kenya (expressed as U.S. dollars) is $1,246.
What kinds of technology do they have?
Depending on where you live and your level of income, nearly all of the same kinds of technology that we’d find in the U.S. are available. Out in the more rural areas where electricity hasn’t been installed yet, there may be a greater reliance on solar panels or generators. In the metropolitan areas you can experience all the up-to-date offerings like Wi-Fi, 4G networks, mobile banking, and so forth.
What may be surprising is how prevalent cell phones have become. The competition among cell phone service providers has benefited the consumer greatly by driving down the prices of both phones and service. Vouchers that enable a person to “top-up” his phone on a pre-pay basis can be purchased at the local market, from the newspaper man, or from any roadside stand. Just about everyone you meet will have a cell phone. Whether it be an iPhone or a hardy, indestructible Nokia phone, almost all, from young adults to the elderly, depend on their phones for various aspects of their life and work. The farmer who has harvested and dried his maize can now call a nearby motorbike taxi to transport the heavy parcels to the mill for grinding. The shopkeeper in the small roadside town can receive and send funds electronically, without having to travel up to two hours to get to the nearest bank and wait in line. Many pastors and leaders throughout the churches there utilize the “What’s App” chat app in order to communicate cheaply and easily with their missionary, and with other brothers and sisters in Christ overseas. Being able to communicate in this way is convenient, reducing the number of times that a person has to travel to and pay for an internet café to use a computer with an online connection. It is also cost effective, as the data charges on a phone for a chat app are minimal. Another innovation for which we are very thankful is the Kindle e-reader. The visiting missionary can load up thousands of books onto the e-reader and leave it with someone to use in his ministry, needing only to recharge it every month or so.
Michael Gurath is pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Phoenix, Arizona, and a visiting missionary to Africa.