REPORTS
Gay and Christian in
KENYA, UGANDA,
TANZANIA, RWANDA
AND BURUNDI
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STEVE AND JOSE REPORT ON THEIR MINISTRY IN KENYA, JULY 8, - August 4, 2007

    Third Week Report, Sunday, July 22 - Saturday, July 28, 2007
From: steve parelli [mailto:steve@othersheep.org]
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2007 12:12 PM
To: Undisclosed Recipients
Subject: Other Sheep Third Week in Kenya Report

Dear Friends of Other Sheep:

Other Sheep Third Week in Kenya Report
Sunday, July 22 – Saturday, July 28, 2007

What Was Accomplished

    Group Meetings

  • Four discussion groups around the topic of one’s faith and being gay (Tuesday AM and
    PM; Wed. AM and PM) (Wed. AM group was only two but was fantastic – they stayed until
    2PM, made lunch in apartment – conversation was very, very profitable!!! remarkable
    experience)
  • Second informal committee meeting on the formation of Other Sheep East Africa (Thur.
    PM)

    Photo Copying for Next Week’s PFLAG meeting (What an adventure!)

    Placed an order (and page checked order) of 25 photo copies of The Blue Book – What We
    Wish We Had Known (90 pages in length) for Kenya’s first PFLAG meeting to be held following
    week.  Cost was forbidding at a regular “Kingcos” here (though by another name, located in the
    modern mall close to our apartment): $14 per book!!!  Our journalist friend (who is fantastic and
    we met on a chance meeting, who wanted a copy of the Blue Book) arranged for us to have
    copies made on the east end of town where copies could be made (cover and binding included)
    for less then $3.00 a copy (90 pages in length).  Of course after page checking, only 8 copies
    had miner problems (pages out of sequence, but numbered).  We checked each book and made
    a listing of the pages that were missing, not readable, put in upside down, incorrectly hole
    punched but used anyways, etc. per book.  And we did all of this in a very small eatery on the
    second floor of a building with very tight rooms and narrow hallways, adjacent to the copy
    business that had no counters or tables for assembling (just everything on top of everything).  
    (And I thought NYC had tight shops along Roosevelt in Jackson Heights!).  This all looked like
    something right out of an espionage movie (only we were trying to get copies made – ha! – but it
    was an adventure!). (Monday AM and Monday late afternoon)

    Individual Meetings

  • After Tuesday AM’s discussion group, invited to lunch a young gay man (early twenties)
    who had heard us on the radio, is a preacher’s son, who contacted us and for the first time
    was now meeting other gays.  He was extremely happy to be meeting other gays for the
    first time.  (Tues.)
  • Emmanuel Kamau’s mother (second visit) with a friend who addressed the legal needs of
    Commercial Sex Workers, in our apartment (Tuesday AM before discussion group)
  • David Ohingo of TOMIK (member of GALCK – Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya) (Fri.
    AM)
  • In the home of Deo, an Ishtar member, for tea and chapati (which is great with butter and
    sugar when the chapatti is hot – but that is my personal Americanization of it, not Kenyan
    approved); met family members and visited (Sun. afternoon)
  • Journalist deliveries corrected copies of The Blue Book (Tue. late afternoon) and meets
    several gays and 1 lesbian (who were coming to our 6PM discussion group meeting) at the
    pool side in our apartment complex.  Sitting around a table, LGBTs pulled up chairs to talk
    with the journalist!!!  This became an impromptu small group meeting of gays with a
    Nairobi journalist.  
  • Steve Chege and Mary (founder and director of St. Francis Orphanage, recently closed by
    the gov. because of failure to meet codes) to our pool side for a small lunch of chicken
    and fries.  (This contact was because of Beanie Babies – two large bags – that we agreed
    to deliver from a church back in the states)
  • Two gays drop in on us Thur. morning (breakfast together in our apartment) (Thur AM)
  • A spontaneous invite to LGBTs (using text message – everyone text messages, very little
    verbal phoning) to use our pool.  Three showed up.  One LGBT dictated his story for the
    new Other Sheep East Africa website; see story at http://www.othersheep.
    org/OSEF_PS_02.html .   Another gay-curious/seeking stayed late into the evening talking
    politics (not our forte, but we managed, even though our diplomacy was tested – ha!) (Sat.
    afternoon, evening)

    Meeting with S.I.D.; KARD; primary school

  • S.I.D. (Social Initiative for Development) is an initiative that involves young people in
    making a difference within society, learning skills and getting ahead.  Jose and I were
    invited to meet this group and to talk to them about homosexuality.  About twenty young
    people were in attendance.  They are straight young people – not an LGBT organization.  
    But the leader (straight ally) who attended one of our meetings wanted his young people
    to have this exposure.  They were very, very attentive and had excellent questions.  Sharp
    young people.  (Sun. afternoon)
  • KARD (Koinonia Advisory Research & Development Service) is an organization that works
    with the less fortunate here in Kenya – those who are in poverty and whose homes do not
    have running water, etc.  This organization teaches people in these conditions how to
    organize, learn skills, and get ahead.  Jose and I were invited to speak to the main officers
    of KARD and to share our story as gay men.  This was new exposure for these officers –
    to meet openly gay men and to discuss with them.  Was a very profitable meeting.  KARD’s
    office is housed in Shalom, a Catholic community that ministers in Nairobi area, a beautiful
    compound which excellent facilities. (Fri. afternoon)
  • A primary school (very, very poor conditions).  Because of our contact with Steve Chege
    (of the St. Francis Orphanage now defunct), we had this opportunity to go out of Nairobi
    and see how the other half lives in terms of school conditions.  The children are beautiful,
    alive and excited (just like children everywhere); they really didn’t notice Jose (they
    thought he was the Kenyan guide, I suppose) and were all over me as the white man.  
    Headmaster has emailed us and expressed interest in the nature of our work. (Thur.
    afternoon)
 
  • Steve stole away a few hours here and there to create this web site)

    Socializing

  • 8PM Friday evening in the home of a Muslim gay for diner.  Tom, Ishtar member, served
    again as escort – getting us there.  Party at this home was huge.  People kept coming and
    coming.  Jose and I handed out copies of the Nairobi Star article on us, generating interest
    from people that are not Ishtar members (Ishtar is our host here in Kenya and the source
    from which LGBTs are coming to our discussion group).
  • 10:30PM – 2AM At Olive’s, a very nice bar in Westlands (very up grade part of Nairobi).  
    GALCK was having a fund raising event.  Met Carla Sutherland of Ford Foundation.  
    Mostly seeing LGBTs that we have meet in our discussion group.  Invited Rev. Mike, the
    Anglican minister; he came and Jose and I introduced him to many of the LGBTs that we
    now know.

Observation

    Religion and faith in Kenya run very deep.  Sunday’s editorial in their leading paper (Sunday
    Nation) was all on religion with repeated references from the Bible (Moses, David, the Lord’s
    prayer) and religion in general (separation of Church and State; “freedom of worship” verses
    “genuine religion”).  If you don’t know your Bible, the editorial wouldn’t have made sense to you.  
    But Kenyans know their Bibles.

    It is very simple for me to refute Sodom and Gomorrah as a story against homosexuality here
    because they know their Bible.  The story of David and Bathsheba is no more a story against
    heterosexuality than Sodom and Gomorrah is a story against homosexuality.  S&G is about male
    rape (and male dominance over women – and the women love to hear that!!! and they applaud
    me when I say it!!!!); and D&B is about adultery.  Neither story is addressing sexual orientation.  
    They get it!!!  They get it!!!  Now to let it sink from their minds into their hearts (that takes time –
    and repeatedly retelling the story and answering the questions of doubt that pop up into their
    heads – as it does with any Bible person that has been programmed to think the Bible only; as it
    did with me.)

    Jose and I feel like we really fit here in general when it comes to faith and homosexuality.  Jose
    and I come from the same kind of Bible emphasis and Bible prominence that so many Kenyans
    have.  

    Other Sheep has hit a nerve (of which we aren’t surprised).  As Tom Hanks once said to ILGA in
    initiating ILGA’s Working Party on Religion – “What is your biggest problem with winning LGBT
    rights.”  Answer:  “Religion.”  Follow up question:  “And what are you doing about it?”  Answer:  
    “Nothing because we aren’t interested in religion.”  (See Archives in Other Sheep website.)

    In the United States, the LGBT movement has more and more embraced religion as a straggly to
    win LGBT rights.  In my own state, Pride Agenda has a whole department on Faith and has
    marshaled together those religious leaders (of all faiths) who support gay rights.

    HRC has created Out in Scripture.

    Gay and Lesbian National Task Force has recognized this also and has been vocal about it in
    the past few years.

    If Kenya is a microcosm of Africa, I would think at this stage of our (albeit small) experience, that
    an important part of the strategy for winning human rights for gays in Africa must include
    addressing religion.  

    Even if human rights are won in Africa apart from addressing religion, the need to help our
    brothers and sisters in Christ (and other faiths) to be able to accept themselves as gay and
    people of faith, will still be needed.  Human rights could be won (theoretically) apart from
    addressing religion, but individual Christians could still be in personal turmoil over their loss of
    church and family and their own selves as conflicted between faith and sexual orientation (while
    all the time civil rights will have been won for LGBTs). (And I applaud the human right leaders
    here; Saturday Nation had an excellent article on Ooyo – one of our discussion group attendees
    - as a landmark case being brought before the courts; this of course is the work of some great
    human right workers living here in East Africa including SMU; see Other Sheep East Africa
    website for a complete copy of the news article: http://www.othersheep.
    org/OSEF_News_Yvonne_Ooyo.html )

    So, it is my observation that Other Sheep (and like ministries like MCC) are deeply needed to get
    the message out – that in matters of faith and homosexuality, the church has failed.  Here in
    Kenya where faith is a deeply integrated part of life, LGBTs need to know, and need to have the
    resources to equip themselves so they can learn to be apologetic and to address their own
    churches, and others within their circle, that to be gay and Christian is not a contradiction either
    in the mind of God, nor in creation around us, nor in his revealed word, the Bible.

    To get this message out through the internet alone, as vital a tool as it is, will not work, I believe,
    in Africa.  Africa (as any other region of the world) needs flesh and blood people who are
    Christian and gay and who can come along side in the flesh and talk and live and breath and
    touch.  This, of course, can be LGBT Christian African themselves!  People make disciples, not
    the internet (for the most part).  I wouldn’t be without the internet; and the tool is fantastic.  But
    what I’m experiencing is life touching life; the spoken word bringing hope, and eyes becoming
    alive as spoken words enter ears and heart; arms embracing another with an embrace that says
    now, for the first time, I have hope, thank you.

    It is true that we (from afar) are not the only ones speaking out on homosexuality and faith.  Rev.
    Mike, the ordained Anglican (retired Chaplin) Kenyan has been doing it right along here in
    Nairobi and it has cost him dearly.  He speaks out.  But our presence here in Kenya has
    ennobled him and encouraged him and offered him more resources.  He never came across
    Other Sheep just by Googling.  It took two people to literally walk into his life and talk.

    If Other Sheep (the ideas of Other Sheep, whatever the organization; we are not in the business
    of empire building) can be established here in Nairobi, with the resources and with people of faith
    working and growing (pioneering), then Nairobi as an urban center in East Africa could become a
    point of departure (geographically) for duplicating the work of ministering to LGBTs of faith in
    other places in East Africa.

    If I could stay on for six months in Kenya, I would.  But I have a relationship to maintain (I am
    happily and gratefully partnered to Jose who is very supportive and a natural – as in “calling” -
    when it comes to doing the ministry of Other Sheep).  He has discussed allowing me to return to
    Kenya for the month of January (for at least three weeks).  If that is advisable and needful and
    agreeable with Ishtar, then I would like to begin thinking how time here in Jan (or Feb – around
    Jose’s winter break so he could be here for a week with me!) 2008 – would best be used.


Blessings --- Forgive the length of this.  It is yours to delete, read, skim – or store away for some other
time.  

Steve

Contact info while here in Kenya –
mobile:   0721 800 774

Contact Information
Steve Parelli, M.Div
Executive Director
Other Sheep
www.othersheep.org
sparelli2002@yahoo.com
2962 Decatur Ave. 5D, Bronx, NY 10458
718-360-0884


    STEVE AND JOSE REPORT ON THEIR MINISTRY IN KENYA & UGANDA, JULY 8 - August 24, 2007

Nairobi, Kenya, apartment complex
where Steve and Jose stayed

    VISIT Steve and Jose!
    Visit the Other Sheep web site of  the Executive
    Director, Steve Parelli (at right in photo), and his
    partner Jose Ortiz.
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Meet us
under the
acacia tree
This website was constructed in July of 2007
Visits made to this web page since August 2007
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