Paulie Mugure Mugo

Your ears will hear a voice

Oldonyo le Nkai Prayer Ministry Founder, Anne Terta (courtesy)

In the heartland of Kenya, at a place called Kajiado County, lives a section of the legendary tribe known as the Maasai.

The community, according to recorded history, arrived in Kenya in the 1500s CE, having gradually made their way from the southern reaches of the River Nile. They then settled along Kenya’s portion of the renowned Rift Valley, staking a claim to it and the adjacent regions as their new home.

A purely nomadic people at the time of their entry, the Maasai traversed vast expanses of territory, as they sought pasture for their herds, bequeathing melodious new names to several regions as they trekked along. Nairobi, the nation’s present-day capital, for example, means “cool water” in Maa the language they speak. And because of their early arrival and subsequent dominance over large tracts of territory, the Maasai have sometimes been referred to as Kenya’s “firstborn.”

Famously fearsome warriors, the Maasai are highly acclaimed for their battle skills, including, it is said, their ability to throw devastating weapons with pinpoint accuracy from distances of up to 100 meters.

The warrior grandson of a famous Maasai chieftain, one legend goes, once vanquished a reviled enemy by throwing a spear at him with such ferocity that it tore through the man’s back and exited through his chest, leaving a gaping hole in his torso. The last image the victim beheld was the blood-soaked weapon slithering speedily along the ground and coming to a stop several meters ahead of him.

But today, a small group of evangelical Maasai are known for a vastly different type of warfare.

If you travel deep into a certain part of Maasai territory, to a place called Irkeekonyokie in Kajiado County, you might chance upon a breathtaking array of stunning caves well-known to the community. These caves have, over the centuries, been useful to them for diverse purposes, but are today valued for something else.

“We go to the caves to spend quiet time in prayer,” said Anne Terta, a Kenyan lady who hails from the community, as we began this interview. Anne runs an organization named Oldonyo le Nkai (Mountain of God) Prayer Ministry right in the heart of her home county of Kajiado, where the caves are to be found.

“The caves are very beautiful,” Anne told me. “Each is like a house, with walls and floors covered in smooth stone.”

Evangelical prayer warriors, including those from the Maasai community, visit the caves regularly, sometimes choosing to spend several days and nights quietly secluded in prayer.

“I think the caves have been specially prepared for prayer,” Anne said, reading divine providence in these surprisingly hospitable hideaways. “We simply carry whatever we need to keep warm, such as blankets, and sleep on the floor.”

It was in the course of one such prayer retreat, Anne narrated, that something highly unusual happened inside one of those caves, several years ago. Something she and her team still vividly recall to date.

Sometime in 2016, Anne narrated, an elderly Maasai woman, who didn’t know Anne at the time, visited one of the caves to spend time in solitary prayer. The lady was well advanced in age, in her early nineties at least, and was simply referred to by the community as “Nkoko”, meaning grandmother. She was a very prayerful woman.

“So this grandmother goes to a certain cave to pray, as she often does. But as she is praying, she hears a voice.”

The voice, Anne told me, uttered a single word: “Israel.”

Now, not only was Nkoko quite elderly, but she was also uneducated, and all she knew about Israel was what she had gleaned from the scriptures, orally taught by the religious leaders in her local church. Were it not for her familiarity with scripture, that word, “Israel”, would have meant nothing at all to the grandmother.

Nkoko was all alone in the cave so when she suddenly heard that voice, she shuffled out, in complete shock, as fast as her aged feet could carry her.

“She literally ran out,” Anne told me. But after standing outside, confused, for a few minutes, Nkoko ventured fearfully back inside.

And again the voice repeated that single word “Israel”. Out hurried granny once again, even more shocked and confused.

“The voice spoke to her three times,” Anne told me. But on the third time, Nkoko finally perceived that there might be something being communicated to her. Perhaps, being a prayer warrior, she may have recalled the passage of scripture that described a similar encounter by the young boy, Samuel, as he lay asleep on his bed one night. After an unknown voice called him three times by name, the boy had been instructed by Eli – his mentor and priest – to respond with the words: “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.”

A Cave Entrance at Sunset ( Licensed Media)

So Nkoko went back inside, resolving to stay put and bravely wait to hear what the voice wished to say. And as she stood quietly, in the stillness of the cave, she heard the voice speak one more time:

“Leave now,” the voice instructed, “and go to Kajiado town. There you will find a certain woman; she will teach you about Israel.”

Nothing more. But with that clear instruction and an image of the unknown woman divinely seared in her mind, Nkoko left the cave and hurried home where she picked up her bag and quickly boarded a minibus to Kajiado town, a full hour’s drive away.

Anne’s organization, Oldonyo le Nkai, has always been deeply committed to the development of the Maasai community. The organization conducts special programs, both spiritual and material, in pursuit of this objective. But, like many evangelical Christians in Africa, Anne is also very passionate in her support of the nation of Israel.

“Every April,” she told me, “we organize a conference during which we pray for the Maasai community. And as we pray for ourselves, we also pray for Israel.”

So, when the elderly lady showed up in Kajiado town on that particular day, there was Anne, leading her conference.

“I was standing at the front, teaching, when the lady arrived,” she said. “And let me tell you, the moment she entered the hall, she began crying and wailing, saying, ‘She’s the one… she’s the one … she’s the one…’ in Maa, our dialect.”

Anne had to stop teaching to find out what was happening. Eventually, Nkoko composed herself and gave her story.

“I heard a voice while I was in the cave,” the flustered grandmother said, “and I was shown your face. Then I was told to come here, and that you would teach me about Israel.”

Mind you, Israel, to Nkoko, was simply a place mentioned in the scriptures, that existed a long, long time ago, way before her ancestors lived. And she was most certainly not aware that there were a certain people, living today, who were connected to that land. And so, as instructed, she had come to learn.

The whole episode was startling, one that Anne and her team will never forget.

“It was one thing for me to have started a prayer initiative for Israel as I had already done at the time,” Anne told me, “but to receive a specific, God-given instruction like that came as a complete shock.”

“So, from that time,” she said, “we began going around Maasai-land, moving from place to place, teaching people why and how to pray for Israel.”

“You know, God really loves Israel,” Anne told me as we wound up the interview.

I was glad to have heard her story.

Today, Nkoko is over 100 years old and has sadly lost her eyesight. But she still prays faithfully, both for her community and the nation of Israel.

God bless and strengthen the Maasai and the nation of Israel, you might hear her intone in Maa.

Enkai oo Israeli, tamayiana olosho le Israel, ntagolo, nincho sii eseriani. Tamayiana olosho loo Masai.

“Something happened in that cave that we do not fully understand, even today,” Anne concluded. “But what we know is that it is in the heart of God for us, as the Maasai, to stand with the nation of Israel.”

Title adapted from the Biblical passage of Isaiah 30:21

About the Author
Paulie Mugure Mugo is a published author based in Nairobi, the capital city of the East African nation of Kenya. Paulie has authored three books, two being lightly humorous personal memoirs, while the third, “KINGS”, is a memorable look at the rulers of ancient Israel, a subject she finds endlessly captivating. Were books children, this would be Paulie’s unwittingly spoiled favorite. She recently completed a certificate course, "The History of Modern Israel", and is currently enrolled to study "The Fall and Rise of Jerusalem" at the University of Tel Aviv, through one of the institution's online platforms. She enjoys reading widely, but rarely works of fiction as, in her view, nothing can be as fascinating as the world we live in. She lives in Nairobi with her husband, four boisterous offspring, and Nala, a guard dog who clearly has no clue she is one.
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