THE LOSS OF A DEAR FRIEND, COLLEAGUE AND SON!
JOHNFRED AJWANG LEFT THIS EARTH FOR A FAR, FAR BETTER PLACE ON FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 2017
We are broken-hearted. It is a terrible blow. This man was like a son to us - John loved him dearly. We loved him and he loved us.
He was the backbone of Widows' Farm Enterprises. He managed the farm, was president of the Credit Union, and was pastor of the church he pioneered in Kisumu - DOVE Kisumu. He was of invaluable assistance to Hesbone and Violet Odindo,who are overseers of DOVE Kenya, with leadership of Restoration Community Church in the village of Kadawa.
He was a quiet and gentle man. He received a degree from Bible College while working for us. He was happy to learn new things about administration, computers, Quick Books, banking, farming, riding a motor cycle, eating American food (even food that was strange to him) and using an American fishing rod and bait.
He was a faithful husband and father and has left behind his wife, Lydia and four children - Shem, Enoch, and twins Japheth and Ruth.
Apparently Johnfred wasn't well in February, went for treatment, and was told he had an ulcer, for which he received medication. When he was in the United States in March, he appeared well. He had one of the greatest adventures of his life while in the United States, enjoying every minute of it, except perhaps for the extreme cold while in Pennsylvania, but soon forgetting that while in Florida. It is hard to believe in looking back that in four months he would be gone from this earth.
When Marty, was in Kenya in May she noticed he had lost some weight, but he looked fine. He got a serious case of what he said was malaria while she was there, and had a very short spell of down time. As we look back over the past year or two, he seemed to be getting sick with "malaria" and "typhoid" fairly regularly, but happens a lot in Kenya. However, for the past couple of weeks in June he hadn't been responding to John's e-mails, which was uncharacteristic, and John was a bit concerned.
Then on Friday, June 30 we received a text from his brother, telling us that Johnfred had been admitted Tuesday with a severe stomach ache and tests indicated a liver problem. On that Friday Hesbone and Violet Odindo, overseers of Dove Kenya, visited him and decided he wasn't getting the proper care and transported him to a better hospital. She contacted us to say that he went straight into the ICU. The Widows' Farm has a hospital fund, and John authorised her to withdraw some funds for his care. Then late Friday night she notified us he had passed.
As he was going into the ICU he said to Violet "Mama, my faith is stronger now than ever".
It was determined that He had cirrhosis of the liver, and kidney failure. The doctors said he had Hepatitis B. It takes a long time for the liver to get that bad, so the cirrhosis had been developing for quite some time.
Johnfred leaves a widow, Lydia, and four children, Shem, Enoch, Japheth and Ruth. The oldest starts high school in January; the other three are in elementary school.
Please pray for this young family, for finances to cover any remaining hospital and funeral costs, and for funds to pay for the children's education. Lydia is a school teacher in the village. However, teachers' salaries are not high in that school system, and with Johnfred gone there will be no other source of income. She will be able to feed and clothe herself and the children.
CELEBRATING JOHNFRED'S LIFE
We want to share the culture here with you. Death is a great, well-done celebration.
Friday was a difficult day - and long! We went to the mortuary to pick up Johnfred's body. Short service there - singing. Then loaded the body on a massive hearse that held 51 passengers (voted on by pastors and funeral committee) and took it to the church in the village. Had a service there. Then a container was set on top of the coffin, which was in the front, the sliding door on top was pulled back to view Johnfred through a pane of glass and the whole church lined up and passed by and around the coffin, dropping money into the container. Music and worship was continuous.After that the coffin was transported in the big hearse to Johnfred's house, and placed under a canopy out doors.
There was joyful singing from the hearse all the way. And a long line of people were running along either side all the way. Horns were honking and beeping and people were shouting and crying. All the people pressed in toward the coffin and began to wail and cry loudly. A short distance away there was the beating of drums a songs of mourning.
Then people sat in groups and chatted while a traditional meal of nyoyo (maize and beans with some onions and tomatoes in it) along with some mandazis (fried dough) was being served. Folks went home, to return again at 9 PM to 3 AM for an all night wake, consisting of singing, dancing, preaching and mourning. (We didn't do that because we don't travel after dark).
JOHNFRED’S BURIAL DAY
The funeral was held at Johnfred and Lydia’s home, in an uncultivated field, in front of his house. It lasted over 8 hour, beginning around 10 A.M. Much worship with a dance/singing team, and many, many testimonies about Johnfred. So many people had many good things to say about him. He was loved and well respected. There were dignitaries from many churches and organizations. John, Jeremy and I were seated with the honored guests. (We were easy to notice.) We ourselves were honored to be asked to speak - John did that for the three of us as we stood before the group. There were 1700 chairs under approx. 14 tents, all filled at one point, with standing room in back of them. There were 300 people standing. (We received this report from the chair of the funeral committee.) Also several tents for eating. All who attend are fed - in shifts - during the ceremony. The casket was carried into the center of the area and placed under the canopy. That field became a holy sanctuary. As testimonies and worship continued people would go out and view Johnfred.
Toward the end of the service many more people lined up, passed by the coffin and then came to Lydia and the children, an shook their hands or hugged her. Many placed money in a nearby receptacle as an offering for the family.
The last person to speak at a funeral is the widow (widows in instances of polygamist marriages, with the first wife speaking first). At about 5 PM Lydia, Johnfred's widow, spoke. She had the 4 children with her at first - introducing them and telling a bit about each. Then she spoke alone. She was very transparent and so elegant and inspiring. She left all of us encouraged and amazed by her poise and grace.The coffin was then carried to the grave at the back of the house. The service continued there as he was interred. We had to leave for that part of the service - it was getting dark and our car was acting up.
We went by to visit Lydia on Monday and Tuesday; the house was full of people. It is customary for people to come and sit with the widow.
BLESSINGS AND MUCH LOVE,
JOHN AND MARTY