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:
Let’s unite in prayer for peace among the tribes of our district (Marsabit). There are many conflicts happening recently, including between family members of the Gabbra and Borana people. Houses have been burned, people killed by shotguns and others seriously injured.
In our region it’s been peaceful, but the fact that it is happening to family members of the tribes we work with consequently affects our community and people are concerned. Pray for peace, protection and for God’s manifestation among these tribes.
Praise the Lord! Yesterday some tricky issues of power at the Christian radio station were fixed, and now we should have a much clearer transmission of the good news far and wide over the Gabbra. Another huge praise, this Sunday morning at the church in Dukana 60 people came forward desiring to take the next step of public baptism! Please pray for these Gabbra people who are coming out of Islam desiring to become followers of Christ.