Death of a Professor & a Mentor
A True Story
on May 20, 2020
I bought my first touch-screen phone in December 2014. Besides transferring contacts, the other activity I remember doing on that day I bought the touch-screen phone was joining Whatsapp. And wa! As soon as I joined Whatsapp, people started adding to groups. Within a year, I had been added to about eight groups by my siblings, relatives, workmates, church colleagues and high school friends.
Some time in 2016, it dawned on me that being in many Whatsapp groups was taxing my phone resources because of the images and videos I had to keep downloading. So I boldly left all the groups. Some friends were mad at me for leaving their groups. Like when I left a Whatsapp group for my high school class, my friend Theophilus Kamwaro was hot on my heels; he kept adding me to the group while telling me it is unwise to isolate myself from people. But I stuck to my guns and stayed away from all Whatsapp groups - something I don't regret because with less Whatsapp notifications, I now have more time for my favourite pastime: reading books!
There is however one Whatsapp group I left in 2016 but later rejoined - and that is of my siblings. We call ourselves "The Great Maina Brothers". I rejoined the group for I thought it wise to stay in touch with the siblings I grew up with here in Kiserian. And the good thing about them is that they are very encouraging and supportive.
Yesterday at night, just before I was about to retire to bed, I saw on my touch-screen phone a notification that indicated I had nine new messages on Whatsapp. Since 2016 when I left virtually all the Whatsapp groups I had been added to, I have rarely had more than five new messages on Whatsapp. So when I saw I had nine of them to read yesternight, I sensed something was up. And my instincts were right because when I got into Whatsapp, I learnt from my siblings that a mentor of ours named Fr. Charles Nyamiti had passed on.
Fr. Nyamiti was an erudite professor of theology who also had a keen passion for classical music. When I first got to know him in the late '90s, he was a lecturer at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) in Nairobi. My siblings and I used to regularly visit him at his magnificent residence in CUEA. And what I find remarkable about Fr. Nyamiti was the way he showed interest in our lives, young though we were.
The purpose of us visiting Fr. Nyamiti was to gain an appreciation of classical music. We listened at his residence to the music of such great composers as Bach, Handel and Mozart. And during the visits, I noted Fr. Nyamiti had a portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven in his study. That tells how passionate he was about classical music.
On one such visit, I vividly remember my immediate elder brother Paddy becoming so moved by the music we were listening that he remarked the trees in a nearby field were swaying rhythmically with the music. By the way, among my siblings, Paddy was considered the most promising musician by the seminarian who introduced us to Fr. Nyamiti.
Although we visited Fr. Nyamiti purposely to gain an appreciation of classical music, for me, the best parts of the visits were the sumptuous dishes we feasted at his residence. We would have ten o'clock tea, lunch and four o'clock refreshments. Imagine I would go for several helpings during those feasting sessions till I had had a bellyful of food. I was such a gluttonous little devil!
Apart from having us eat and listen to classical music, Fr. Nyamiti also regaled us with stories about how he grew up in rural Tanzania and how he mesmerized audiences in Europe with his piano-playing skills. He had a bit of advice for us too. I particularly recall one evening when he advised us to stay away from drugs.
Sometime in 2004 when I was a Form 3 student at Starehe Boys' Centre, I approached Fr. Nyamiti and requested him to tutor me in music. He agreed. On several Saturday afternoons, I would leave Starehe to be with Fr. Nyamiti. What I recall learning from him at that time was how to recognize and avoid parallel fifths and octaves in music harmony. If you don't know what parallel fifths and octaves are, don't worry - your ignorance won't cause you a respiratory disease!
One Sunday morning in 2016, I visited Fr. Nyamiti at the Apostles of Jesus Major Seminary in Nairobi where he was stationed. We had tea together that morning and he appeared pleased to see me. As we had tea, he inquired how my siblings were doing. I informed him that they were all well and that three of them were married. And when he commented that my siblings and I are brilliant guys, all I said was a simple "thank you" and kept quiet.
To sum the story up, Fr. Nyamiti was a great professor who inspired my siblings and I to be better people. I will strive to emulate his passion for music as well as his willingness to reach out to youngsters and mentor them. Fare thee well, Fr. Charles Nyamiti!
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story on the death of a professor and a mentor, you might also enjoy another one I wrote two years ago on "The Day I Visited My Mentors". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
Sharing is CaringLike this story? Then share it on:
Donating = LovingIt takes so much time to research, write and edit the stories and videos in this blog. If you do find any joy in going through them, please consider supporting the author with a donation of any amount - anything from buying him a cuppa to treating him to a good dinner. Thanks to everyone who is contributing; you rock!
My Favourite Hymns
A True Story
on May 17, 2020
As I have written before on this blog, I have always loved hymns ever since my days at Starehe Boys' Centre where I had my high school as well as college education. There were nights during my time in Starehe when I would become so moved by a hymn that I would enter into my dormitory while singing it aloud without fearing what others would say.
When I left Starehe in April 2007, I joined a welcoming and wonderful choir of All Saints' Cathedral in Nairobi. I got to learn numerous hymns while serving in the church where I interacted with choristers who were even more passionate about singing hymns than I was. Being part of the choir deepened my love for hymns. And I am sure my love for hymns has contributed to the moulding of the honest and moral person that I am today.
Today, I have compiled a list of my favourite hymns - the ones I enjoy listening to again and again because of their beautiful melodies and inspiring lyrics. For me, a hymn becomes a favourite of mine if after hearing it for the first time, I want to search it on Youtube and download it for listening in my leisure time. Sometimes, I can love a hymn so much that I find myself singing it aloud while walking, showering or doing some chores in the house.
Without further ado, here's a list of my favourite hymns so far:
- Father Hear the Prayers We Offer: I first learnt this hymn at All Saints' Cathedral during a choir practice on a lovely Saturday afternoon in 2007. So much did I come to like the hymn that I sang it to my family during a get-together on 2012 Christmas Day. The hymn beseeches God to bestow us with strength so that we may lead our lives courageously; to be our strength in times of weakness; to be our guide in our wanderings; and to always be with us in our endeavours. This is surely a great hymn, simple though it is.
- The Star-spangled Banner: This is the national anthem of the United States. (And yes, it is a hymn for it mentions God and has rhyming lines.) I once played the anthem on my piano keyboard to my younger brother Symo who teased me that I was such an unpatriotic citizen for me to love the anthem of another country. Not only do I love the anthem because of its tuneful melody but also because of its lyrics that inspire me to trust in God and to be courageous. And courage is an honourable virtue to possess in this world that is full of sin, lies, bullying and exploitation.
- And Can It Be?: I cannot recall exactly when I first heard this marvellous hymn. All I remember is that I came to like it so much that I sang it to a fellow lady-chorister at All Saints' Cathedral some time in 2012 or 2013. The chorister corrected me that I was getting the hymn's first line all wrong - something I later confirmed was true. To tell it all, the hymn has helped me gain an interest in my Saviour Jesus Christ.
- 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus: I first heard this simple but lovely hymn in my home church here in Kiserian. This hymn inspires me to trust in Jesus and all He says in the Bible, especially His parables and His Sermon on the Mount. One Sunday morning in 2015, we happened to sing the hymn in a service of my home church. Because I was in buoyant moods that morning, I sang the hymn so loudly and enthusiastically that the preacher of the service recognized my voice. During her sermon, the preacher cajoled me to join the choir.
- Forty Years On: This is one of the two school songs of Starehe Boys' Centre, my Alma Mater. I had the privilege of accompanying it on the piano during the school's 2006 Founders' Day, so I know it very well. Over the years, I came to like it so much that I memorized its lyrics which enlighten us that "God gives us duty for us to discharge it,/ Problems to face, struggle with and overcome,/ Service to render and glory to cover,/ Twenty and thirty and forty years on."
- My Faith Looks Up to Thee: This is another hymn I first heard in my home church here in Kiserian. When my mother heard me play it on my piano keyboard sometime in 2014 or 2015, she sang its first verse from memory. That surprised me because my mother isn't that much educated and it has been many years since she left the school where she learnt the hymn. It seems I inherited my sharp memory and my love for hymns from Mum. Anyway, I like the hymn because of the way it asks God to free us from the guilt that plagues us as we journey through this crazy adventure called life.
- Who is on the Lord's Side?: I cannot recollect when I first heard this phenomenal hymn. But I do recall that when I heard it being sung by my home church choir sometime in 2013, it sounded very familiar to my ears. Later on, I was pleased to find it in a hymnal that my friend Michael Njeru lent me. It's now one of my favourites. I especially like the way it exhorts us to be "right, loyal, noble, true and bold".
- Have You Been to Jesus?: I first heard this wonderful hymn in August 2007 at All Saints' Cathedral during the church's mission month. Its melody is sublime; its lyrics, moving. The hymn has attracted me to the gospel of Jesus Christ and it probably explains why I am constantly evaluating my life to get rid of the sins and poor judgements I have exhibited in the past.
- I Want to Walk With Jesus: I first learnt this hymn sometime in 2010 at All Saints' Cathedral during a choir practice that was being led by my friend Ruth Wangire. Imagine Ruth asked me to accompany the hymn on the piano during that choir practice without me having ever heard it before. I was totally clueless as I tried to guide the choir on how the hymn should be sang. But after that choir session, the hymn became one of my favourites. I have long since learnt how to play it on the piano. And I came to love it so much that I sang it to my home church congregation sometime in 2015. The hymn encourages me to walk with Jesus in my day-to-day living.
NEW! NEW! NEW! For those of you who missed my social media update two days ago, let me take this opportunity to inform you that I have produced a new hymn that is available in the videos' section of this blog. Just click on the "videos" link on the menu at the top of this blog to listen to the song.