Roots planted in Africa run deep

Editor’s Note: This article was printed recently in the Menard News as one in in a series of articles on Women of Distinction in Menard County. Ruth Yousey and husband, Buck, and daughter, Bea, lived in Brady prior to moving to Menard where he took a position as pastor of the First United Methodist Church. RUTH YOUSEY: The Journey ‘East Africa, the ‘Dark Continent,’ and its tall dark people will woo you and win you and wring tears from your heart. ‘Plant a tree,’ they said, their dark eyes flashing, ‘so your roots will be here and you’ll come back.’ In 2001, Rev. Buck and Ruth Yousey, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Menard, did just that.’There on a mission with the African Inland Mission, they immersed themselves in the culture and were adopted by the Maasai Tribe. They worked, ministered, and went to church among its people until 2004 when they returned to the United States. ‘Ruth Yousey returned to East Africa recently and sat beneath her tree’the tree she planted which is now a tall, welcome green shelter from the blistering 110 degree temperature.’She saw that the roots of her tree had prospered in the rich volcanic soil of Ole-Auna. Many of the programs that she and Rev. Buck started had prospered as well.’She was there for the dedication of the new water ‘well ‘in the village of Ole-Auna and the dedication of a new stained glass window in a tiny church in Lerujat. Ruth Yousey was happy, troubled and sad.’Would the roots hold her here’ Would her family return to Africa to minister’ Had she and Rev. Buck done their jobs well enough so other hands could take up the torch’ What had become of their projects’ Why this journey’ ” She saw the new water well, the outhouse, the vegetable gardens in the village of ‘Ole-Auna.’She heard eight of the village women read in their native language as well as English and her eyes filled with tears.’She saw the village women, her butterflies, ministering to each other and to other villages through Bible study. ‘ She sat in the tiny, tin church in ‘the village of ‘ Lerujat ‘filled ‘to overflowing with 150 dark bodies and wide smiles for the dedication of the beautiful new stained glass window, the ‘Crown of Glory,’ donated by Jack Whitworth, a renowned artist in Brady. Thirty-two magnificent jewels in the crown held the sunlight and filtered the breeze to make the 110-degree temperature bearable. ‘ Ole-Auna clings to earth in the ‘valley of the wind.’ Here, the wind ‘howls constantly like a wild animal at bay, and herdsmen lose as much as 35 percent of their herds during drouths. ‘But,’ says Ruth, ‘it is a progressive village in many ways.’ Its chieftain, 70- year-old Siologi, has five wives, the youngest of whom is a 20 year old with a six-month-old son. ‘ “Most of the men in the village do not have that many wives,” Ruth hastens to add. “Siologi’s village is a family commune consisting mostly of adults since they practice safe sex and birth control. They have no witch doctor.” ‘ Ole-Auna is situated in the foothills of a mountainous area which gets a fair amount of rain and its rich volcanic soil is conducive to farming. Its inhabitants raise cattle and goats, have incorporated farming into their lifestyle and enjoy fresh vegetables as well as chickens and eggs. ‘ Siologia has donated 15 acres of land to Rhonda Baxter, a missionary from the Dallas area. Rhonda raised $80,000 within two years and was able to drill a well, build a corner store and a mill to grind corn. The rest of the property will be used for a clinic and a school for small children.’Rhonda hopes to raise the money through donations.’Siologi is firmly guiding his tribe into the future with the help of many generous hands and hearts. The village of Lerujat, squatting 20 miles from Ole-Auna in the desert, ‘chose another path. Lerujat’s Chieftain, Samuel, although considered a wise man and a mediator, holds firm to the old ways. Young men who shed their tribal clothes are shamed. Young girls are circumcised, forced into arranged marriages early on’and often die trying to give birth to a child. “Many don’t read but can quote any scripture,” said Yousey. “They endure. All male children are sent to a separate village when they are 14 years old to prepare them for ‘warriorhood,'” Samuel’s village is comprised of 38 adults and 42 children, all under the age of 14 years.’It is a family commune of brothers and their wives along with one widowed sister.’They are goat and cow herders, will not eat chickens or eggs and raise no vegetables.’Water is hauled by women on their backs from a well three miles away, and there is no outhouse. ‘ Samuel’s father was a famous witch doctor and the practice is still strong in his village.’Yet, progress in creeping in.’One son is now a registered nurse and a second son is studying to become a lawyer.’Both work in Nairobi, but come home to the village at night to eat by charcoal fires and sleep in manure- and-stick huts ringed with thorn fences to keep’wild animals at bay.’Samuel’s brother is a Baptist minister. ‘The winds of change are blowing. . . ‘ ‘”Kenya, a region of extraordinary contrast and home of the wildlife safari, offers landscapes of great beauty and variety,” Yousey says. “From its pristine beaches, boundless wilderness, open savannahs, tropical rainforests, beautiful lakes where thousands of pink flamingos stroll, to the depths of the Indian Ocean, it is a world of natural wonders that would fit into the state of Texas. ‘ “The Magi area where Ole-Auna’and Lerujat are located have no orphanages, no ambulances, medical clinics or police protection, or cars except ‘ for the small trucks that act as taxis. Medical clinics, when available, often have no supplies.’Malaria, sand fly disease, Broccolis (from not boiling milk), and HIV are rampant.’ “Armed bands of robbers with submachine guns frequently rob and kill citizens. Villagers cook on charcoal fires and consume a basic diet of roasted goat, Chia'(half tea, half milk), and rice or potatoes. Its unique geographical features offer a staging ground for natural cycles of life, death and regeneration as old as the planet itself. A world unchanged by the passage of time.” This is a land, according to Ruth, where women do all the work and men sit under trees and discuss all matters concerning the village, such as who will get medical treatment, who will go to school, etc. Or, they check on the herds or go into town. Females are forced into marriage early and lose their identify thereafter becoming, ‘the wife of,’ or ‘the mother of.’ ‘ Until three years ago most village children didn’t go to school. Now, free government schools are available in the area for grades one through five.’From grades six through 12, students attend a boarding school for 12 months.’The closest boarding school to the villages of Ole-Auna and Lerujat is 120 miles away. ‘A school for the handicapped is located between Kerserian and Brethie Corner.’One hundred and sixteen children, mostly day students, attend,’ she said. Most of these students are deaf, hearing impaired or Mongoloid. In addition, a retired ‘ Kenyan school teacher, Joseph, has established a school for young girls ages 10 years and older ‘who are forced into arranged marriages.’These young women are placed in boarding schools, homes and orphanages outside the area.’So the winds of change are gathering force and Kenyans are helping Kenyans. ‘I saw the programs that Buck and I began and the string was cut from my heart,’ she smiled. ‘What was supposed to survive did, and I know that God meant for me to return, but not as a long-term missionary.’ ‘ Her heart is no longer troubled. She may not return to Kenya again but others will carry her words of encouragement to the men and women in the villages she loves. Her message to them is that ‘they do have a future and it will be better. ‘The key is education.’ ‘ In October, a medical team from Menard and the surrounding area, and a musical group from the Brady Methodist Church may pick up where Ruth left off. Mitch Van Horn, Jack Whitworth, Steve McCarn and Glennon Mays, who call themselves ‘Four Gents for Jesus,’ may be singing in that tiny, tin church in the village of Lerujat where Whitworth’s stained glass window, ‘Crown of Glory,’ filters sunlight and temperature. They may even sit under Ruth’s tree. ‘ ‘I feel special that God opened my heart to go back to Kenya,’ Yousey’said. ‘He gave me a gift, a special journey.’ ‘ And, so, Ruth Yousey planted ‘a tree in Kenya and its roots are strong and its branches reach out to shelter and encourage all. But, Ruth Yousey also has roots here, and she is free to do God’s work wherever there is a need’and she will.’ Now, Ruth is destined for another journey and surely God will be in that place. *Rev. Buck Yousey has resigned as pastor of the First United Methodist Church ‘due to Ruth’s recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. The family will be moving to San Antonio.’A luncheon for Ruth is planned for May 15 at the church.

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