I heard from my friend Wilson the other day. Wilson* was a student at St Philip’s Theological College in Maseno, Kenya, when we brothers began teaching there six years ago. He was a talented student with a charismatic personality, and I’m sure he’s become a fine priest. Currently he serves several small rural churches in western Kenya. Like so many of the students who pass through St Philip’s, Wilson’s dream is to further his education by earning a Bachelor’s degree in theology. In Kenya, as in many places in the world, advanced degrees open the door to better-paying jobs and a more secure future for one’s family. (*Note: Wilson is not his real name.)
Wilson is proud man who finds it hard to admit that he and his family are suffering. He supports his wife and young children on a priest’s salary of $75.00 a month – or $2.50 a day. Even that amount is not guaranteed and depends on the ability of his congregations to raise sufficient funds each month. On such a meager salary, he has been unable to re-pay the fees for his training at St Philip’s, which he must do in order to apply for further education. His school debt is $730, an astronomical amount given his salary. In addition to time-consuming work for the church, Wilson and many of his fellow priests are part-time farmers who raise the food their families will eat. In fact, Wilson and his family are among the poorest people in their village. He told me once that some of the villagers ask how he can be poor if he serves a powerful God.
Now when Jesus heard [about John the beheading of John the Baptist], he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.