Living Faithfully: A Humble Humanitarian’s Life-Changing Season of Serving
Hear how prayer and humble service helped Rose Ogolla build relationships and change lives in the remote region of Samburu, Kenya.
Check out photos, videos, and behind-the-scenes stories from our guests on the podcast. You won’t want to miss these exclusive extras!
Imagine showing up for a new job and finding your living accommodations consisted of a simple room, a single toilet shared by 15 households and a weekly trek for water that was barely enough to last a few days. Humble humanitarian, Rose Ogolla, faced not only difficult living conditions, but spiritual opposition and cultural challenges during a life-changing season serving in Samburu, Kenya. Hear how spending her nights in deep prayer helped her and her team impact lives for eternity in this place.
Living Faithfully: A Humble Humanitarian’s Life-Changing Season of Serving
Cathy: Welcome to The End of the Road podcast. My name is Cathy and I'm your host and tour guide as we journey together to some of the most remote, challenging places on the planet. I'm so excited to have you along for the ride so buckle up, we're going to the end of the road. Our guest today is Rose Ogolla. Rose is what I consider a humble humanitarian, probably one of the most humble servants I have ever met in my life. I had the privilege of meeting Rose when I traveled to Samburu, Kenya, in 2019, and I just can't wait for her to share with you today some of her experiences and what God did in and through her in her time in Samburu. Welcome Rose, thank you for joining us today on the podcast.
Rose Ogolla: Thank you so much Cathy. It's such an honor to be part of this recording, and I would love to share my experience with the world so that they can in turn also honor God with their time and with their life.
Cathy: Rose I like to start off my interviews with a question about, kind of the same question I ask each person, which is, when you were a little girl, what did you envision that you would be when you grew up? Or what did you want to do with your life when you grew up?
Rose Ogolla: Interesting. As a young girl, I envisioned myself maybe just doing any job that will help me interact with people. And for me, that was something to do with like any other girl's dreams, be a doctor, or maybe be a, not being a nurse, but maybe just do anything that would help me interact with people. But I never at any point thought of myself doing ministry work. I never saw myself doing that. I just wanted to make money and interact with people, that's all.
Cathy: Interesting. Well God obviously had other plans for you. How did you end up working in ministry, in humanitarian work and doing the kind of work that you've done in recent years?
Rose Ogolla: I got a job with World Concern to go and work in Sudan, and I think that was the beginning of humanitarian work from development. In development I was working in the informal settlements. Some people refer to them as slums. But for humanitarian world, I got to know to experience that through World Concern when I went to work in South Sudan for four months on consultancy. So later after finishing that, they called me back to go and work in Samburu. So I think that has been my brief time in the humanitarian field.
Rose Ogolla: I joined World Concern officially in 2018, 11th June, 2018, that's when I started working for World Concern and I went, I traveled to Samburu, that was my place of assignment. So it's been brief, but there's a lot to share.
Cathy: Yes, yes. So Samburu is where Rose and I met. I took a trip in April of 2019 to visit Samburu and see the work that World Concern is doing there. And that trip absolutely changed my life, changed my perspective on the world, on how God works in different places. And it was a really, a challenging, difficult place, I spent just a few days there and so I'm really interested in hearing more from you Rose about what life was like in Samburu. Now Samburu is in the north central part of Kenya, it's about an eight hour draw drive from Nairobi.
Cathy: And I've been on this drive and it truly goes from paved highways to very bumpy, dirt roads, and eventually, honestly, off the road and out into the bush to get to the villages where you were serving and where I visited. And so when we say the end of the road, we really mean it. This is a place where the road literally comes to an end, and our vehicle has to leave the road and drive out into the bush. So it's a challenging place for a lot of different reasons. But why don't you start off and just sort of describe for our listeners today what Samburu is like. The climate, the topography, the physical place, give us a visual description of what it's like there.
Rose Ogolla: Samburu is basically a dry area. It's in the Northeastern region of Kenya. Just to give you a picture of it. Samburu is a place that is marked with dirty roads, you will not find a tarmacked road in the place where I was working, but in other sub-counties, that is other small states within Samburu, you may find a tarmacked road and that is just one of it. The population is scarce because we have few people living there, and then they're living in a way that is scattered.
Rose Ogolla: So you will find homesteads, large homesteads with small huts made of cow dung and the roofing made with polythene, that is what you'll find common. And you'll also see herds of goats and cut will being graced in different areas, and you'll also see water points in different places. Seasonal rivers, cutting across the region and you can walk through them because it's seasonal so there is no water unless it rains. The kind of vegetation that you have in Samburu is scarce and you'll see more of thorny bushes and a few trees in specific places. That is what you'll find there. And the kind of trees that are common there are Acacia trees.
Rose Ogolla: One thing that makes that place beautiful is the people. The way they're colorful in they're dressing. So don't be surprised to find people in very colorful fabrics, red, blue, yellow/ they love putting on beads so most women have very large necklaces, large beaded necklaces on their neck. And it's also very common to find men walking bare chest in public, even going on a journey like that. And it's very, very hot there, you'll find a lot of dust, so that is one thing that you'll find.
Rose Ogolla: And one thing that I also learnt to just keep out of my mind is the luxury of streetlight, you won't find that in Samburu. So where, when it's dark, it's dark. When there is light, there is light. When there is moonlight, you enjoy the moonlight. And then it's a home of many wild animals and that is what makes it beautiful because it's an epitome of nature. Coming across elephants and other wild animals is a normal thing. It's so common. So that's basically just a picture of Samburu.
Cathy: Oh yes thank you for that, it's bringing back so many memories for me. I remember it being very, very dark at night and being able to see more stars than I've ever seen in my life in the night sky, because there's no city lights anywhere around there. And also remember just driving through the bush and coming across a herd of elephants, just out in their natural habitat, and just being so shocked and so surprised to see the beautiful place, and also the Acacia trees, which of course we've all read about in the Bible, but many have never seen that type of tree in real life.
Cathy: And so you've done a great job of describing it. And I want to hear more about the people of Samburu, you started to give us a visual description, wearing very colorful clothes, the women wear very thick beads around their neck that holds their head up and just beautiful people. And so much color in their lives and in their wardrobes. But tell us a little bit more about the Samburu culture. And it seems to me almost like a culture that's trapped in a time warp. Like a very primitive lifestyle, isn't it?
Rose Ogolla: Thank you Cathy, you're very right. The Samburu culture is a male dominated culture where the woman literally, in many cases, has no voice. I don't like using that word has no voice, but I think I have to use it here because it's so real. When you go to Samburu, the kind of culture that you have there is the kind that allows only the man to make decisions. So much that in meetings, the women have to wait, and even the sitting arrangement is such that the women cannot sit near the men. And here is a case, the culture has been established by the elders.
Rose Ogolla: So they're the ones who rule the villages. So in case there is any issue in the community, the elders are the ones who make the final decision. So in Samburu, it's very common to you see early child marriages. There is this culture, part of the culture that you call beading for the lady. Beading is whereby a young girl of around nine years is allowed to be a concubine, but the man should be someone within the extended relation. And sadly the lady, the young girl is not allowed to get pregnant.
Rose Ogolla: In case that happens the young child is, okay, this is a strong word and I apologize in advance. The young child is kind of killed, is killed. I don't like using that word, but the young child is not allowed to live. Because the child is seen as an abomination. Yet at the same time, the young young girl is not using any protection. And this is not something that I've heard, we had to rescue a young lady when such a thing happened and the baby. So by the time I was leaving there, they had been taken to a rescue center.
Rose Ogolla: Another thing that you'll see in Samburu is Moranism. You'll see the young men, the other strong voice comes from the young men who are the upcoming elders. And a Moran is simply a village warrior, their age group are arranges from around 15 years to 35 fear, and they're considered as second to God because the male factor. And mostly these are people who stay in the bush. Samburu people have other neighbors and that is the Turkanas and the Rendille, and it's very common to find issues of cattle rustling and raids going on.
Rose Ogolla: So the warriors are raised up to be a source of protection for the entire village. You find them always staying away from the community and they're given so much respect. So much that a Samburu warrior, that is a Moran, cannot eat within the same place with a woman. Be it the mother or his sister or anyone else. The cooking pot that is used to cook for the ladies is not the same pot that is used to cook for the Samburu warrior. It is their culture.
Rose Ogolla: And then we have the aspect of male circumcision that also follows up with the female circumcision. Though the female circumcision ...okay the male circumcision is used as a right of passage for the man, from being a boy to now being a man. But for the girl, the female circumcision, okay is used also as a right of passage from being a girl to now turning into a full grown woman, regardless of the age, whether you are seven years or nine years. So when you are circumcised know that the next thing is marriage. And most of them are circumcised the morning of their wedding day. So that is how, how the culture is.
Rose Ogolla: So the highly esteem, the female circumcision because your father is only allowed to bless you after going through that right of female circumcision. And then finding early child, marriage is common. You will find an elderly man marrying a girl as a fourth wife, as a fifth wife or fourth wife. For some families they see that as a way of running away from poverty, because it's a, you understand, it's a harsh place. It's a place that has many difficulties so you may find a family that has less cattle and that is seen as poverty.
Rose Ogolla: So for them to get more livestock than they give their daughter away in marriage, regardless of the age. And then something else that I can say about the culture is that it is the women who build their homes, who build the houses, construct the houses, the men don't construct houses there. So the woman will be tasked with looking for the construction material, doing the actual construction, as many times as they move from one place to another, it is the woman. So apart from that, looking for water, searching for water and also taking care of the children, looking for food in the house.
Rose Ogolla: So, most of the burden falls on the shoulder of the woman. The man is usually set aside for those meetings in the council of elders.
Cathy: And so I want to just summarize what you've just shared and then I want to hear a little bit about spiritually, how the Samburu people think about spiritual things about God and that sort of thing, and also about you as a young woman arriving to serve, and do ministry, and work in this area, the kinds of things that you're up against are just incredible, both just culturally and spiritually. And so I want to come back to that and hear a little bit more about how you got through that and faced that. But just to kind of summarize. So the culture is one of male dominance, the elders and the young men, the Morans, the warriors that protect the village are highly respected.
Cathy: Girls and women are not respected and often don't have much freedom. It's interesting that you mentioned the building of the homes, because I do remember meeting some young wives, mothers, several of them were teenagers, teenage girls who were at home in this little hut that was made of sticks and pieces of fabric, or plastic tarps that were laying around that they had created this home out of. And even though it was so simple and so rustic, she was really proud of her home and wanted to invite us in through the little ... we'd had to crouch down and go in through this little doorway, into this hut that offered a little bit of shade from the hot sun, and a little bit of shelter for them.
Cathy: The young girls really live a very difficult life, very much alone, caring for the children and have no choice in who they marry often, as you mentioned, married as children to older men. And so there's some really, just really hard to wrap our minds around cultural practices there in Samburu. The Morans in particular, I remember just really trying to understand that group of young men starting maybe 15 years old, something like that. They go out and live by themselves out in the bush and come into to the Manyattas, the little homes that are gathered together to eat once in a while, but as you mentioned, can't eat with other people for cultural reasons.
Cathy: I want to go back to a story that you shared with me one time, that I think really exemplifies how you approach this culture with your spiritual life, relying on God to help you. But the Morans are initiated into this way of life through a circumcision ceremony where all of the young boys are circumcised with no form of painkillers or anything. It's actually a very, I've seen videos of it, and it's a very spiritually dark ceremony. And so it happens not very often, every so many years, I think, and I remember you saying that the night before the scheduled Moran circumcision ceremony, that you and the rest of the World Concerned team, I believe maybe some friends, maybe some church members, I'm not sure, but you spent all night praying before this ceremony.
Cathy: So, what prompted that kind of intense prayer and what did you pray for that night?
Rose Ogolla: I request to maybe give a quick, brief on this spirituality there, and then now it'll be easy to understand. Samburu people are very religious, and they believe in the God of the mountain called Nkai. Among other practices that I may not know about because people won't tell you the entire culture, I only stayed there for two and a half years.
Rose Ogolla: Another thing that I noticed is that when we first went to Samburu, the first few months we had opposition from the elders. They saw us as enemies because they saw us as people who wanted to preach Christ because our stand was very clear that when we come here, we also come with Christ along. We don't leave Christ in the office and then come as workers. Yeah so that never went well with them, and at some point the team was almost ... actually the team was chased from the field in front of the villages, which ended up being our best village in terms of friendship.
Rose Ogolla: There was also an issue with the pastoral team, there was no unity. And for me, I saw that, as an attack, because how then do you use this wonderful servants of God to spread the gospel when even there's no agreement amongst themselves? so there were just small bits of issues that were not adding up. And I couldn't understand why. So that was the first trigger to go into prayer first, to understand why I was there and how God wanted to reach His people. Yet at the same time in the meetings, whenever you mentioned about Christ, you would realize that people were hungry for this same Jesus.
Rose Ogolla: So the opposition and the spiritual hunger to know God, that wasn't tallying. So that for me told me that there was an intruder. The first thing that God did was to align the pastoral team. And we got to a point where there was agreement and unity. They would plan evangelism together because as an organization at that time, which I still believe is the norm, is that we use the existing structures to reach out. So we basically were empowering the pastoral team and any other fellowship that was there to spread the gospel.
Rose Ogolla: And also on using the same, same circumcision platform to disciple Moran into Christ. And this idea didn't come from me, it came from the pastoral team. They sat down and came to the office and said, "Rose, now we are an opportunity where we can use this platform to still preach Christ. Talk to a few Morans who are yet to be circumcised, encourage them to go for the same, same circumcision in the hospital without going for the rituals, and then now we bring them into Christ and start teaching them about Jesus and the will of God concerning their lives. Then after a week or two, we can have a small ceremony like graduation.”
Rose Ogolla: Samburus they love, they love celebrations. So that is one thing, when there's a celebration, they mark that as an important thing. So those were some of the few triggers that led to much intense prayers, not only just for the Morans, but to break that barrier that was there for the spreading of the gospel and for church planting.
Rose Ogolla: (silence)
Cathy: It's interesting to me because actually your voice was cutting out a little bit during the recording while you were talking, and maybe that's for the best, because what you were describing in the circumcision ceremony for the Morans is pretty brutal, and so maybe that's best left out. But the point is that, it was not just a physically horrific experience for these young boys, but also spiritually. As you mentioned, you saw many of them convulsing on the ground, all kinds of very scary things happening. And so. I love what you shared about how the local pastors really came to you and to the World Concern team and said, "We have an idea about how to combat this, this cultural practice, and how to maybe begin to turn this towards something positive."
Cathy: And so their desire to begin to disciple these young Morans and offer them a way to go through this ceremony of becoming a man in a safer way and, both physically and spiritually safer way, and then use it as a platform to share the gospel with them, that's just incredible. And so it was a combination of battling the darkness, at the same time, praying for the light of Christ that kept you up all night, that night before the circumcision ceremony praying.
Cathy: I want to just pause for a moment and thank our listeners for joining us today. If you're just hearing about World Concern for the first time, and you're curious to learn a little bit more about who we are and what sets us apart from other organizations you might be familiar with, please visit worldconcern.org/podcast, and learn a little bit more about what we do. And now let's get back to our conversation.
Cathy: I've just recently learned that this all night prayer time has become a habit for you. And so, did that start in Samburu? And tell us a little bit about your habit of praying through the night now.
Rose Ogolla: I always loved prayer. I started praying when I was still in college. When I just gave my life to Christ, I attended one of the prayer meetings and I loved it. But still at that time I didn't to know how to pray, the only thing I would say is thank you, Jesus. I didn't know what to say before. But the more I went for those prayer meetings, the more I learnt that there is more to God, and then now getting to learn much from His word I think I just learned prayer. And for the night prayer, it began even before I went to Samburu so it was part of me.
Rose Ogolla: But then at that time it was just once in a while that I would do the night prayer, maybe once a week on a Friday because of the work schedule. But now having taken time out of employment for a time just to speak to the Lord concerning his will and His purpose, it has become my norm, it's now daily. I know it may not seem normal for someone else, but for me it's daily. I stay all night seeking God. So my daily schedule has changed. I sleep during the day, but for a few hours, because again daytime, you can't sleep much. But then my night I've given to God.
Cathy: Wow, that's amazing and such an encouragement. I think people will understand now why at the beginning, I called you a true prayer warrior, because you really do commit those long nights to praying. And I think that God has really moved in your life and through you, and I believe that your prayers for the Samburu people and for the work that you were doing there made an incredible impact. What did you see God doing in Samburu? How did you witness Him working there?
Rose Ogolla: In Samburu I saw God reaching the unreachable Morans. I saw God planting churches, not even through World Concern, just in His own way, through the pastors and other servants of God. I saw God winning souls back to Himself. I saw God reaching His people with acts of love because in Samburu there's this major issue of water. Water is a major issue. We saw God just availing water for His people. And then something else that I saw God do, which I never thought would happen, was I saw God reaching children. We had a, is it called vocational Bible study, where we targeted children during the holidays and God reached over 400 children in one meeting.
Rose Ogolla: 485 children, and among those 485 there were I think, four Muslims, around four Muslim, four or nine Muslims. I can't really get the exact data, but for us that was a good thing. And we've also seen God touching the elders. And then there's a village that is, that village is far. It was known as the root of culture. I never ever saw myself reaching there, but during one of the long periods of fasting, that I had taken, we just, I don't know, God just gave us breakthrough there. And when we went there we stayed overnight with the people in the field doing Jesus film, I loved Jesus film. That is one thing that I saw God doing.
Rose Ogolla: And as simple as it is, it really ministers to them because of the pictures that they see and people are weeping, literally cry during the Jesus film. And I had one woman, someone nearby translated, the woman was saying that, "Is this how this Jesus suffered? These people had were really bad, they really hurt Him." So there's so much that God did. So there was the Jesus film, and then there was the evangelism that will take place the door to door that was being done. So God has done much.
Cathy: Wow. Well, I can hear it and I've seen that God really, you left your mark on that place during your time there. You availed yourself and allowed yourself to be used by God and some really incredible things happened thanks to your prayer, to your love for people, to your heart and the work that you did. And it continues in Samburu, God continues to move in that place. We'll have some more stories on upcoming episodes of the podcast about what God is doing in that part of the world. And I appreciate the focus that we've had today on the, on the culture, on the people of Samburu, on what God is doing in that place.
Cathy: But I also want to just wrap up by hearing a little bit more about your experience. You went to this place, it was a difficult place to live and to work, and you went at a sacrifice and at a cost to you. I would love to hear a little bit about, I remember you telling me about when you first arrived there, and the place that you were living. And it just was a small room and it didn't have a toilet or anything. It was very hot and probably very lonely. And so you ended up living in Samburu and working there for two and a half years, which is a long time in a really hard place like that.
Cathy: So what were some of the challenges that you faced personally in Samburu, and how did your time there change you?
Rose Ogolla: Challenge number one in Samburu is water. We could only use water once a week, and you're not the only one who need that water at that time so having long lines, those queue ... we had to queue for the water, and that meant that you could only get a limited amount of water for a time. And then there was the issue of accommodation. At that time, when I went there, there were very few houses, decent housing, people were still building housing. So we had to wait. I stayed for a month in the hotel supported by the organization, but now the next month, by the end of the month I still couldn't get a house.
Rose Ogolla: So God raised a young man to give us their house. And he paid for it, God thank you so much. He paid for the rent, that was for me and my colleague who had just joined. So the issue of accommodation and then the issue of sanitation, toilets, that was another thing. God had mercy on us and gave us a house with a toilet. So the best you could get was a room. But the first house I got we were going outside and sharing the toilet with around almost 15 households. So it was later after, I think after almost eight months is when we were able to get decent housing.
Rose Ogolla: That is after someone had constructed a house. So you had to book and wait when someone is doing their foundation. Another thing that I went through in Samburu was the heat, and the dust. I had rashes on my skin, things were just bad. And then there's also the other impact of water. At some point I got very sick, I was admitted for five days with typhoid. It was just bad. And then another thing that for me was a challenge is that there are no places to visit apart from the nature.
Rose Ogolla: In other places you can go to this supermarket, you can go for the shopping sprees. For us that was too limited, the supermarket was like six hours away. So you would do with what is there. And then there was the issue of limited type and amount of food. We could only access, at that time we could access vegetables once a week, that was on Tuesday. So I learned to eat what is available. I learned to just forget the environment.
Cathy: I want to just wrap today, which just, how would you say that Samburu changed you?
Rose Ogolla: Samburu changed me a lot. At that time when I was going to Samburu, I was having personal issues. I had gone through a season of pain in my life and I was really hurting. I wanted to just take time out from the crowd at home. I also wanted space to heal. And there are times when God gives you so much at your disposal, but you don't appreciate. But at that particular time you don't realize that you're not thankful. So being in Samburu taught me to be thankful. I also learnt to always purchase things in excess. Like if I need one kilogram of sugar, I would rather purchase one and a half kilogram because someone may knock any time asking for sugar.
Rose Ogolla: So you stop thinking about you, you think about others also in your budget. For me it was a good experience. And then it was also a process for me to heal. It took time for me to realize that God was dealing with my heart. It took so much time. I know it's hard to believe this, I had anger issues which I never knew was there until I went to Samburu. So when I went Samburu I don't know where those triggers were coming from, but I would just pop, blow up from nowhere, even when I'm from the prayer closet.
Rose Ogolla: And then I started now realizing, Lord, I never knew I had anger issues. But during my time there, I think interacting with the people and learning to appreciate, and allowing God to just work it out, as I learnt to intercede for others, God just dealt with my heart.
Cathy: Yeah. I really appreciate that honesty that you've just shared, and I think that a lot of people will relate to that. Some people might listen to your life, and your ministry, and your time in Samburu and think, wow, she's amazing, I could never do something like that. And yet when you share some of your personal struggles like that, you really allow us to relate to you and know that you're just human like the rest of us and had some struggles. It's also interesting to me that God called you to a place like Samburu to use you in service and in ministry, but also during the whole time was doing a work in you.
Cathy: It's interesting how God allows us to go through seasons of challenges, of difficulty, of learning to depend on Him, learning to pray more in order to do a work within us. So I really, really just love how you've shared today how God worked in you and through you during your time in Samburu. So it's been really incredible to hear some of your stories rose. I want to thank you for powering through the technical difficulties and sticking with me through this so that we could record this conversation. And just want to pray that God will bless you in all that you do. And thank you again for being with us today.
Rose Ogolla: Wow. Thank you so much Cathy. I would just want to say that in all this I honestly, from my heart, give all the glory and honor to God, because it was all about Him. And He's the one who helped me through and held my hand. Also say thank you to everyone that I met there, my colleagues were very helpful. I remember the country director for Kenya World Concern was very ... he was very supportive. It is not every day that you find someone who would give you time out to pray and you should be in the office.
Rose Ogolla: He would give me time to pray first and that was ... I would never, ever forget that. I really appreciate the support that he accorded me. I'm thankful to God for such wonderful people. And then thank you also to God for allowing us to meet, for bringing our paths together, it was not in vain, I'm really. Thank you so much.
Cathy: I want to thank our listeners for joining us today. I hope that your mind has been opened up a little bit, your heart has been touched through some of the stories that you have heard today. As I mentioned earlier, if you're curious about learning a little bit more about World Concern, about our work beyond the end of the road, you can visit worldconcern.org/podcast to learn more. I want to thank CRISTA Ministries, World Concern's parent organization for making this podcast possible. And I also want to thank Casey Helmick and the whole team at Terra Firma for their production, and editing, and consulting expertise. For helping us bring these stories to life and bring them to you. Thanks again for joining us today, we look forward to more stories at the end of the road next time.