The Rendille of Kenya
Location and Background: The Rendille live in the Kaisut Desert east of Lake Turkana, as semi-nomadic pastoralists. There are two distinctive groups: the northern Rendille, who herd camels, and the southern Rendille who herd cattle as well, and are related to the Samburu with whom they intermarry—Ariaal Rendille live closer to main roads and have more contact with the outside world.
History: The Rendille are Eastern Cushitic peoples who migrated from the Suez Canal and Ethiopia, moving south to escape rivalry and conflicts over grazing land and water for livestock. Their oral history claims they are of Jewish descent and their Passover-type ceremony called Sorio (“sacrifice to God”) includes the slaughtering of a sheep by the first-born son and putting the blood on their doorposts.
Culture: The camel is their essential animal, and the development of boreholes has allowed them a less nomadic lifestyle. They live in “manyattas” or homesteads of 70-100 houses, and they dress in bright colors and wear beads. The men undergo various rites of passage to bring them into adulthood; young girls are often spoken for at an early age and marry very young. There is a place in every village called “nahapo”. This is a place of watching and prayer with a fire burning that is never to go out. Every night the men of the village meet there at 8:00pm and one man is designated to lead them in prayer.
Religion: The Rendille live between the Muslims to the north and Christians to the south. They rejected Islam since Rendille believe prayer should be made with their faces toward the heavens, not on the ground. They practice a traditional, animistic religion which includes prayer to the moon (which is considered a god), animal sacrifices and worship of ancestral spirits. They also have traditional religious practices that resemble those of Judaism. The name of their god is Wakh. The moon plays an important part in their religion. On the night of the new moon the first-born son of each family blows a horn with an accompanying prayer ritual.
Latest Prayer Updates:
Please pray for two of my Muslim former students who met with me yesterday. Abdullahi and Elias. I’m in touch with them both off and on. Yesterday I asked them why they refused to become Christians. They said they didn’t know. One asked me why they should become Christians – in an honest and polite way. We had a good conversation. They have been in Christian schools and know God’s word. Another said that he didn’t see any difference between the Koran and the Bible. We had some good talks. Pray that God will work in their hearts. I believe they are open – but maybe not too serious about what part God plays in their lives.
Islam is targeting the Rendille for conversion, trying to turn them from their tradition of spiritism. But many Rendille are Christians, and are sharing the gospel with their friends and neighbours. Pray that the power of the gospel will win the victory in the hearts and minds of the Rendille.