Patrick Nyaga (Kavungura) died on February 15th at the Kenyatta Hospital, Nairobi. He died following an operation to correct a blocked vein, a burst vein and a non functioning valve. He had already had a minor surgery on a hole in the heart that week. The cost of the operations came to half a million Kenya shillings (about £45,000); it was a huge sum for the family to collect during those last few days. They took loans and gathered gifts from well-wishers and family members.
The day before, he talked to his son, Eric, to say he had already been a good soldier with God’s help; he raised his arms wide to Heaven and praised God for being with him throughout his life. But the shock for Harriet was immense when he did not recover from the operation. She kept telling him to wake up even after she had signed the papers for the mortuary. She had been advised that it was a simple procedure. But it was God’s plan to call him that day. When somebody dies, the local community gathers each day to have evening prayers at the home of the deceased and to start a collection for funeral expenses; everybody feels part of the family’s grieving. Early on Friday 21st February, my pickup, carrying the camera man headed the cortege of cars, the Hospital hearse and those who had travelled up from Nairobi. We had tied red ribbons on our vehicles; then made our way slowly through the town and up to our village. As we approached our site, the hearse was playing triumphal hymns and sounding its horn. There was already a great crowd streaming though the gateway. The coffin was placed in the centre of the prayer House on a long bench as it is customary for the body to be viewed. The queue stretched back up the drive but there was a sound of glorious singing from the many pastors and church leaders there that stood as one great choir around the edge of the prayer house, surrounding the coffin. I followed in line, being now used to this ordeal of looking through the small glass window which reveals the dear face of the deceased. Many ladies were overcome and carried out, weeping. I found the singing very uplifting, confirming the passing of one who had gone to live with his Lord and Savior.
The coffin was then carried to the field and was laid on a bier shaded by a marquee for a while. There were three large tents shading the mourners but hundreds sat under the scarce tree and banana palm shade. It was estimated that there were over 1200 people there to give their respects. Next comes the interminable photo- session. Harriet stood bravely as group upon group joined her for the official photos. This took over one hour in the scorching sunlight. After this came the valedictory speeches from colleagues, church and family members, the eulogy, which mentioned how much he had loved and served Peacemakers…and then the preaching of the Word by Moses, preceded by a speech from Bishop Salesio.
Salesio spoke of his shock to lose his dear friend and how many people might say this or that about him but that the results of the faithful man were obvious and he had been a loyal and faithful soldier to the last. Moses preached about how God has an assignment for each of us on earth and that when it is completed, we are called. So, to take heart that Patrick had completed the work assigned to him to do and that it was his time to go. He urged us to know God’s plan for us, what work we had to do, to serve Him until the day we are called. There were some African songs and dances from family members and church groups, then a grand collection into the African baskets. Then after a time of prayer, the coffin passed through our shamba to the adjoining land, belonging to Kavungura’s.
Mourners were fewer by this time as the space at the home was congested. Again, there was a long sermon and many hymns at the grave, which had been dug that morning near to the house. The same youth who had dug the grave traditionally replace the soil on top of the coffin and the family laid their wreaths there. It had now taken 7 hours to this time. Those who remained were then fed with rice and stew, before leaving for their homes. It was quite an emotional day, as the whole community and Peacemakers have lost a teacher, a preacher, a seeker of the lost, a helper of the addicted, an advocate and intermediary, a dear husband, father friend and brother in the Lord.