Words to the people of Keren, Eritrea and surrounding villages.
From Marty and Deacon Hugh Downey.
Times change. Generations pass. Lives become lost. People live for today and hope for tomorrow. But some things never change and some times are never forgotten. Such is the case with our lives.
We lived the most meaningful and important part of our lives with you in the Keren area. We can never forget that, and will carry the memories of those days to our graves – whether they were good or bad. Yes, during those years (1962 onward) we were young and enthusiastic and believed that “we could make a difference”. But regardless of what we accomplished we learned something from you good people which influenced our entire lives. You taught us about the things in life that are ‘truly valuable’.
You accepted us into your culture, into you society, into your lives . . . not only as people, but as your friends and co-workers. We came to know village life as no other foreigner had been able to. We came to be known as “Kerenites” (people from Keren). Your villages became ‘our’ villages. Your culture became ‘our’ culture. Your families became ‘our’ families. We do not have words of gratitude to express that adequately.
Now, 50 years later, much has changed. But think about it . . . nothing has changed. We still carry the love and affection for you that we shared with you back then. No, we are not physically present with you these days due to unfortunate circumstances, but you remain in our hearts and in our minds as if we have never been separated. That sounds a lot like family – doesn’t it? Because it is !
You good people have influenced our entire lives – lives which have been committed to the people of Keren and indeed, to much of Africa. Fifty years later, we wish to express our gratitude to you – and to your parents and grand-parents. We truly speak of ourselves as “people of Keren” (woodie Keren).
The purpose of this letter is to reaffirm what we found in your homeland 50 years ago. In some special way which we are unable to adequately express, we are still a part of you and you are a part of us. Time has not changed that.
Lastly: many of our Eritrean friends and family (our first-born child died in Keren) have passed away to another life where we believe that our God takes good care of us and where there is no suffering. To those people we express a love and understanding which many foreigners cannot grasp. But we can, and we do! They have made us who we are today. And to those who will read this letter, please know that you are always in our minds and hearts. Yes, we are Kerenites. If our good God allows, we will one day live with you again. That doesn’t seem likely, so please know our love and fellowship is with you today. May our God bless you with peace and love.