Chapter 7: the jesus Film
“It’s a beautiful night for a movie, Michael,” John shouted, pulling open the white projector screen. Michael noticed the cool breeze blowing, and looked up at the stars. It was a beautiful night, but he wasn’t sure what made it particularly good for watching a movie. Then he stood up to address the 200 nomads who were seated, drinking tea and chatting about life across the valley. Putting his hands in the air, he hushed the crowd to just the sound of mothers soothing their hungry babies. “Thank you for gathering tonight,”
“Everyone look here.” Michael pointed at his eyes and then at the screen. “People will appear and tell you the story of Tororot’s son. And as they speak in their language, I will tell you their words in the language we know.”
Sarah flicked on the projector and the electric hum of cinema filled the night air. A white woman wrapped in a grey bathrobe with a red-clay pot balancing on her head appeared on the screen. The crowd gasped at the sudden appearance of a woman out of the darkness. Michael pointed at her. “Mary, Kama Jesus.”
The crowd watched wide eyed as sheep grazed in the sun. Grass sprouted amid the grey boulders much like on Keu’s mountain.
“Where have you come from?” Keu shouted to Mary.
“Mary can’t hear you,” Michael said, struggling for words to explain why. “She is…very far away.” Then angels appeared to Mary, looking like the spirits of ancestors who deliver the Pokot messages from Tororot.
Michael recalled the night vividly: “The nomads became hypnotized by the film. In fact, it is so hard to imagine such a thing if you have never seen a TV. They have no framework to understand actors or images. To them, the movie was happening in real time, real life played out before them. They began walking the street of Jerusalem alongside the actors.”
The people pointed when they saw John the Baptist, shocked that his entire head was covered with hair. Michael pointed, “John the werkoyon of Tororot, and cousin of Jesus.” They clapped showing John the same honor they would a prophet from their own tribe. As John the Baptist dunked people into a small stream, Michael explained, “Baptism is a new way to worship Tororot.” The crowd whispered to one another, excited to learn a new way to worship their God.
“What if the river is dried up?” Keu shouted to John the Baptist. Michael replied. “It is only done once in a lifetime, like Sapana.”
“Sapana is the Pokot baptism,” Michael explained to me. “It’s the sacred rite of passage into manhood. A goat is speared and its intestines are smeared on a boy’s body. A nomad is covered in death and washed into a new life. He dies to childhood and is given a new name as a Pokot man.”
Then John the Baptist began to preach. “If you have two coats, give one away.”
“Oee,” they responded. This was also true in the villages.
“Whoever has food must share it.”
Michael paraphrased John’s words to the tax collectors as “Don’t steal from others.”
And the nomads responded, “Oee.”
“They so much liked the things John was saying about helping others who don’t have. That is at the heart of Pokot culture.” When Jesus walked up to John, Michael pointed, “Tororot’s son Jesus.” The nomads gasped. “Tororot’s son is one of them?” a woman shouted with surprise as she pointed at John and Sarah.
“Many people over the farthest mountain are not dark skinned,” Keu responded to her, clearly proud to show his knowledge of the wider world.
Michael added, “Tororot is the God of many people, including the people from John and Sarah’s tribe.”