The Gabbra of Kenya
The Gabbra live in the Chalbi desert in Kenya close to the border with Ethiopia. They raise camels and other livestock. They are semi-nomadic. The Gabbra believe in a benevolent God (Waaqa) who gives rain as he pleases. Animal sacrifices and ritual prayers are part of their religious practices. They believe in “merciless” justice, where grace is unknown and wrongs are righted by payment. Islam is growing in the area by building mosques in each town and promising education and finances.
Pray that the Gabbra would cry out: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalms 63:1
Workers continue to distribute Treasures (small mp3 players, with a solar panel on the back) among the Gabbra. The Treasure is an effective tool for reaching Gabbra. The herdsmen especially enjoy listening to the Bible while they watch their animals. Pray for those listening to the Bible, that they may hear and see the truth of Jesus and come to find him as their Savior.
Location and Background: The Cushitic Gabbra live in the Chalbi desert along the border of Kenya and Ethiopia, keeping livestock such as camels, sheep and goats. The camel is central to their way of life and economy, and they follow weather patterns to move their herds in search of water and pasture. Their mobile houses are made of sticks, woven mats, skins and cloth, so they can easily move it all on 2-3 camels, while the woman, children, and elderly remain in semi-permanent shelters.
History: The Gabbra escaped from Ethiopia around 1900 to avoid conscription into Menlik’s army. Traditionally they moved freely across the border, but life is now more difficult as there is less grazing land available (which is semi-arid), and there are more people and bigger herds. Drought always poses a risk.
Culture: The camel is at the center of their culture and economy, using it for meat and milk as well as transportation. They build their homes, fencing and household items out of palms, grasses, trees and other local materials which can be carried on camels. Moving camp is all considered “women’s work”. Their proverb “a poor man shames us all” explains why their mutual support for survival as nomads compels them to allow no Gabbra to go hungry, be without animals, or be refused hospitality or assistance.
Religion: The Gabbra believe in a benevolent God (Waaqa) who gives rain as he pleases. Animal sacrifices and ritual prayers are part of their religious practices. They believe in “merciless” justice, where grace is unknown and wrongs are righted by payment. Forgiveness is possible, but the penalty must be paid. Ancestors are honored, and may rituals are performed with fear of incorrect practices. “Ayana” worship—the worship of Satan and his angels—is a practice increasing among the Gabbra, with the center of worship being at Dabel. The “Yaa” is the high court in each clan, choosing leaders and overseeing all spiritual aspects of the community. Islam is increasing by building mosques in each town and promising education and finances.
Latest Prayer Updates:
All families in Gabbra land are struggling with the lack of water. It’s been a very long drought, all water reserves are empty and most of the families no longer have resources to purchase water from tankers. It’s been extremely hard to see people getting sick because of dehydration and lack of sanitation, and their livestock are getting weak.
Please pray for God’s mercy on sending us rain. Pray that people get thirstier for the Word of God and that Jesus be exalted in the midst of all despair.
Pray for the churches among Gabbra people. During drought season and after a pandemic lockdown, it’s been difficult to get people gathering again for fellowship. Pray for a revival in each believer’s soul, for strength for those who are working on the Gospel proclamation and that in this time of need people will turn their faces to the Lord and trust in His provision.