There was an old man at Kiwawa whose life was changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. His name was Loitaluk. He was a headman of the village and one of the first to welcome us to Pokot territory. He was the first to bring is children to the school and later to bring his wives and children to church. Loitaluk put off many years of becoming a Christian. He liked the beer parties that are so much a part of the Pokot men's gatherings. He had been a warrior in his younger days and he sat on the council that planned the cattle raids and laid the battle plans. Even though he was chairman of the school committee and attended church regularly, he resisted surrendering his life to the Lord. But one Sunday, the Lord moved Loitaluk to stand up and the end of the church service and say that he wanted to become a Christian. Everyone cheered when Loitaluk came up out of the waters of baptism. He was somewhere in his sixties and had lost all but two of his sons in tribal warfare. (One of them was killed by Karamajong raiders the day that I had to flee to the hills with the school children.) Loitaluk had, at one time, 10 wives; 4 of his own and 6 he inherited from brothers who were killed. He had outlived most of his wives. His had been a hard life but had had the wisdom of those hard years.
One Sunday, at the end of the communion service, Loitaluk stood up and asked the question:
“Which is stronger, the blood of Christ or the blood of the Sapana?”
It was a question for which he needed an answer because he had seen something he could not understand. In his background, he understood the blood of the Sapana cow. In their culture, it was powerful and it worked. And this is the way that it worked:
When boys become of age to join the ranks of the warriors and become men, they go through a ceremony called Sapana. The group of the young men go through this ritual to become “blood” brothers. Through their whole lives they are a mutual support group, sharing their belongings, helping each other to obtain wives and supporting each other in all things. They go into battle together as a unit and are responsible for each other. They watch each other's backs. If one falls in battle, his age mates carry him on their backs. No one would abandon a Sapana brother in battle. They will literally give thire lives for each other. And what binds them together is the oath taken when they drink the blood of the cows that are killed at the Sapana rituals.
Loitaluk had been a Sapana brother and warrior. He had gone into battle and protected his brothers as they protected him. He knew what it meant. He knew that if two Sapana brothers had a quarrel, the elders would call them together, a cow would be sacrificed, they would drink the blood together and the matter would be settled It would never be spoken of again. They could not mention it or even remember it against each other. The survival of the group, and even the tribe, depended on the unity of the warriors. No division could be allowed among them. The drinking of the blood of the sacrificial cow bound them together. It worked for the community and the tribe for the unity needed to survive.
Loitaluk's question about the blood of Christ had arisen because he assumed that the blood of Christ would bind Christian brothers together in the same way that the blood of the Sapana cow bound together the age mates. However, in the church he saw division and quarreling and gossiping against each other. His words to the congregation that morning were:
“Those of us who take communion together are bound together like the Sapana group who eat the feast together. Why are there divisions and quarrels in the church that go unforgiven?”
We guiltily GOT what Loitaluk was saying. Does the blood of Christ bind us together strongly enough to look out for our brother and to put our differences aside? When we see a Christian brother fallen, do we pick him up and carry him until he is strong enough to stand again? Or do we run off and leave him alone in the midst of the battle? Or do we jump on him and get in a few blows ourselves with our gossip and our condemnation? A beautiful African Christian lady once told me that only Christians shoot their own wounded. When a Christian brother has fallen wounded by Satan, other Christians in their self-righteousness will often deliver additional blows to their brother. Where is our brotherhood in Christ? Do we recognize who the enemy really is, or are we quick to decide that the enemy is our brother? Oh, what we could learn as Christians about who the enemy really is and how necessary our unity is to the battle we are involved in. Satan has divided and conquered us for so long. The blood of that perfect sacrifice was shed so that we could be ONE.
Is the blood of Christ stronger than the blood of the Sapana cow? Can our differences be forgotten at the cross, the site of the letting of blood? Can we go out from the sacrifice as brothers, never to remember our hurt feelings or cross words again? It works for the Pokot because they believe it works. There is no power in the cow's blood except in their belief that it works. We as Christians, have the real power in the shed blood of that perfect sacrifice, Jesus.
The scripture says when we come to the communion table if we have anything against a brother, go and make it right. The scripture says that the blood of Jesus washes sin completely away. But do we let it be forgiven and forgotten or do we carry it around? How strong is the blood of the communion? We know that it is the blood of God's very own son. Powerful indeed! Power over all our weakness, failure and sin. Power to make us new. To make us clean. To make us forgiven. To make us united. To make us strong. To make us God's chosen. Yes, there is power in the blood. Yes, there is healing and restoration and wholeness provided by Jesus' blood. As we have just come through the Easter season and celebrated what Christ has done for us, let us embrace the love and forgiveness and oneness that he purchased for us on the cross.
Written by Jane Hamilton
East Africa Christian Mission
PO Box 1612
Medford, OR 97501-0123