Thank you for looking us up! We are the Clarks, missionaries to the Turkana people of Kenya. We have been in Kenya since 1999 and live in the town of Lodwar, Turkana District. We are Bob, Ericka, Vance and Edward. Our work is to help the Turkana people come to know Jesus as their Savior and then train them to go and tell others what Jesus has done for them. How do we do this? We started working with four established churches in 1999, those churches expressed a desire to train young men and women to help spread the Gospel in their local areas. Along with the original pastors we started the Baptist Bible Institute of Lodwar in our home in January, 2000. Our first graduation was in 2003, with 6 young men completing three years of training at the Institute and at their home churches. Those 6 young men are now pasturing churches throughout the district. Today, there are 11 established churches that we are working with in Turkana District and one of our pastors has become a missionary to the Didinga people of Southern Sudan.
What is Turkana? The Turkana people are one of 40 odd tribes that live within the country of Kenya. The Turkana people live in Turkana District, the largest district in Kenya at 24,000 sq. mi. or half the size of the State of Arkansas. Most of Turkana District is at a lower elevation than the famous highlands of Kenya, which makes the district much hotter and drier being only two and three degrees north of the equator. On the eastern side of the District is Lake Turkana also known as The Jade Sea and formerly as Lake Rudolf. To the west is the Uganda Escarpment with some elevations near 10,000 feet where the Turkana often take their animals for grazing during drought. To the north are the countries of Sudan and Ethiopia from which enemy tribes launch raids on the Turkana who graze animals along unpatrolled borders.
The culture of Turkana is changing in many ways. First, the Turkana people along with all the neighboring tribes in our region have become very familiar with the AK-47, or any other assult rifle they can buy. The introduction of modern assult weapons into this already fierce and warlike tribe has caused untold suffering among their own people as well as on neighboring tribes. Secondly, lack of education has allowed the Turkana people to be exploited by those who have had the advantage of education; other Turkanans, other Africans and worst of all foreigners. Thirdly, desertification and consecutive years of drought have caused this pastoral community to suffer starvation and reduction of herds upon which they depend for subsistance. Fourthly, the advent of relief food programs and modern medicine has allowed the population of Turkana to grow beyond what it has ever been in the past, further outstripping the dwindling resources. Fifth, HIV/AIDS is rampant in the towns that are along the main road leading from the more developed area of Kenya to Lokichokio, base for Opperation Lifeline Sudan. We have yet to see the full effects of HIV/AIDS once it reaches the more traditional nomads. Six, because of hard lives and harsher environment the traditional culture allows very little mercy for the fatherless, widows or those who have no animals. Once a family has become poor they will never be given assistance from others outside of their family.
The Turkana people do have many potentially profitable and helpful resources at their disposal, but often lack the education, will, skills, leadership or market needed to exploit resources they have. Some of the potentials we have seen are irrigation farming, mining (gold, semi-precious stones, and limestone), selling baskets and woven matts, livestock, fishing and tourism.
What to do about these changes and challenges in Turkana? We believe that all of these problems can be solved if the Turkana learn to love Jesus with all of their heart and learn to love their neighbor as they love theirselves. Simply put, Jesus is the answer. We have seen that without a change of heart, no amount of development work, relief food or medicine will significantly change the future of Turkana.
Our future plans are, “to work ourselves out of a job.” We are trying to strengthen and build the confidence of the Churches in Turkana so that one day they will take over the complete opperation of the Baptist Bible Institute of Lodwar and continue to plant new churches. We know that they may not run things the way we would or on the budget we use, but if they are serious about teaching, making disciples, and starting churches they will continue the work we have started in one form or another.
We hope you can visit Turkana one day. Thank you for looking at our web-page.
In Christ, Bob Clark