Out of their Depth

By Rachel Greco

The members of the Suba translation team on Kenya’s Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria—Jael, Boniface, and Samwel—recently faced their fears of deep water. 

A group of students from Gethsemane Gardens Christian Centre (GGCC), having been taught water safety by the JAARS Maritime team, passed on their knowledge and skills to the Suba Bible translation team. 

Because the translation team travels to other islands and the mainland to test their Scripture portions with other Suba speakers and preach the gospel at churches, it’s imperative that the team possesses water safety knowledge and skills. About two weeks before their training, several members from a local church died in the lake while traveling for a mission trip. “It was so painful and sad,” Samwel said. “Most of them didn’t have life jackets; even if they had, they did not wear them at the right time.” 

The Suba Translation team about to head out on the boat.

One thing that the GGCC students taught the team was the importance of wearing life jackets all the time when on a boat, not just when they feel threatened or see police, as is often the case. 

Before venturing into the water, the students taught the Suba team how to use the items in the survival bags that JAARS provided, including strobe lights, mirrors to gain someone’s attention, and throwable cushions. “We love [these] things that really enhance our work and our movements on the waters,” Samwel said. 

Students from GGCC provide orientation to the water safety training equipment.

To teach the Suba translation team, the GGCC students used the knowledge and skills they’d gained from the JAARS Maritime team and a handbook that Olivia, who at the time was the JAARS Maritime Services Fellow, had written. 

The team members, all adults, were surprised at first that high schoolers were going to teach them. “When the students came in uniforms with life jackets hanging on their shoulders, I thought, ‘So we are going to be taught by these young people,’” Samwel recalled. 

But the professionalism of the students astonished the adults: “We were [very] surprised [at] how good they were and how much content they had grasped,” Samwel explained. “They passed it to us in a very easy, smooth, seamless manner.” 

After the team mastered the practical portion of the water safety course, next came the terrifying portion: practicing in the deep water, along with some GGCC students who were taking the course with them. 

GCCC students and the Suba translation team in the boat and about to practice in deep water.

Samwel recalled that when he realized they would be practicing their skills out of the boat and far into the lake, he said, “Oh, my goodness. This is the first time [I’ll be] doing this.” 

Jael, too, had experienced fear while traveling over deep water in the past: “The moment you get [over] much water, you get scared because you might capsize and land in the waters. So that fear was with us often when we traveled.” 

She and the others wondered whether their life jackets would hold them above the surface. But in the water, when they saw that they were still buoyant and the rope kept them close together, they were encouraged. “We sang songs, praising God in the deep waters,” Samwel shared. “The fear went away because we had so many colleagues around, and we said, ‘We can do it. We’re not alone in this.’”

Practicing with the mirror.

Jael recognized the power of this training: “The moment that our people get the knowledge, then we are able to [be] safe, even when we are traveling into much water.” 

Thank you for enabling JAARS to provide this vital training and water safety equipment to our brothers and sisters in Kenya! Consider giving to Maritime Solutions to provide more training and equipment in the future.