John Rupert Barnes Mutiso wa Kali

Rupert (small).jpg

The blessed life of Mutiso John Rupert has come to that special place of discontinuity.

The memory of his gentleness and excitedness is what we are left with.

A week ago he wrote these words -

In spite of the shortness of time, Llife is wonderfully good. I feel continual gratitude for all the love and care I get, and not just from other people. This is the hymn of thankgiving I recite many times a day:
Thanks for all your love and care and for the beauty of your face in flowers and forests, fields and forms of humankind and beasts. Thanks for families fellowship and friends.

Thanks for the fullness of your grace and for each step and every breath that lead me to a blessed death
May you all be blessed abundantly as I have been blessed. Mutiso Kalai (John-Rupert Barnes)

He was dearly loved.

A notice of his memorial will be sent out in the upcoming days.

Any of your thoughts and expressions will be welcome. Please send me any recent or favorite photos that you may have.

Grace and Peace

Daudi Malcolm Xavier Barnes 2nd son of John Rupert Barnes Mutiso wa Kali

** 10 April 2008

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Rupert’s passing was both expected and unexpected in that he was suffering from irreversible pulmonary fibrosis (probably all those dusty roads in Kenya where he hitch-hiked from one place to another). In any event, while his physical suffering was increasing, I guess his heart just said “enough” and he died quite suddenly in the home of Pensie Alexander, an old friend and farming neighbor from his early Kenya days.

It was his wish to die in Kenya and when he returned there from the USA and UK in March this year everyone knew that it would probably be his last of many returns to his chosen home. His wish was to be buried at Kamweleni, one of the Kenya projects started by the Institute of Cultural Affairs during the 1980’s. When Rupert finally “settled” from his mendicant life-style, it was to Kamweleni where he continued to engage in the community and in his passionate dedication to local farmers and schools.

Rupert was a frequent visitor to the US and to Portland, San Francisco and here in Durango where Abednego, Daudi and Jonathan live along with five grandchildren who all enjoyed his company during his annual sojourns through the US. As many of you know he made the most of his visits and kept in touch with colleagues from the east coast to the west coast.

While in Durango he was active in St. Marks Episcopal church where he became a member. St. Marks became a supporter of the schools in Kamweleni.

In May there will be a memorial service for Rupert in Kamweleni. Details will be posted on the website referenced below. There have been many colleagues who have memorialized the “wild man” as he was affectionately referred to in our community (the Ecumenical Institute/ICA/Order Ecumenical).

Those of you who might wish to contribute to the Kamweleni schools there is a fund overseen by St. Marks Church in Durango, CO and checks could be made to “The Kamweleni High School Fund” and sent to St. Marks Church, 910 East 3rd Avenue, Durango, CO 81301.

As the person who married Rupert Barnes in 1967 on the same day we arrived at the doorstep of the Ecumenical Institute/Order Ecumenical, I think I can say for both of us that we would have had it no other way even though our “ways” separated. His spirit was wide and deep, centered and tortured, clear and convoluted; indeed one of God’s wild ones!

“This ultimate stage of our spiritual existence is called Silence… Every person, after completing his service in all labors, reaches finally the highest summit of endeavor, beyond every labor, where he no longer struggles or shouts, where he ripens fully in silence, indestructibly, eternally, with the entire Universe.” Nikos Kazantzakis The Saviors of God

Linda Rolfing Barnes ***

Oh my, may John Rupert rest in peace. Bob and I celebrate his life, his exuberance for discovery and care. His life lived outside the box.

Sandra True ***

We wanted you and your network to have this message we sent to John-Rupert on April 3rd.:

Dear John-Rupert,

Your news on March 29th came as a shock to us, because we had enjoyed so much talking with you via Skype during our house church Kamweleni slide show. We had no idea at the time that your health condition had deteriorated so much since you first shared your diagnosis with us at the Denver conference in 2000.

We are very saddened by these developments but, at the same time, inspired by joy over your missional chastity. Choosing to make your last stand in Kamweleni is commendable when, instead, you would have been welcomed to spend the little time you have left in the comfort of family and friends here (including us). At this time of crisis in Kenya, your steadfast witness is a ray of hope for the future of the innocent suffering of Africa.

And as for the photovoltaic system that keeps both you and the computers alive in Kamweleni, what a wonderful symbol of the legacy of your life in Kenya, including the overtones of eternality implicit in a life poured out for many.

We hope this message reaches you in time for you to know our gratitude and esteem for Mutiso Kalai.

Grace and peace,

Nancy and Bill Grow ***

Dear All, I had the privilege of working with John Rupert in Kenya when we were about building a village leaders movement across the country. John Rupert was our point man in doing set-up for new villages. He was fearless and had an amazing discipline to his life. I am in the midst of reading the book Gandhi written by Gandhi's grandson. John Rupert comes to mind when I think of Gandhi. The same trusting of local people, their energy and insightfulness. A great man! Dick

Richard H.T. Alton International Consultants and Associates 'building global bridges' 166 N. Humphrey Ave, Apt, 1N Oak Park, IL 60302 T:1.773.344.7172 Don't let the fear of striking out hold you back Babe Ruth

*** We will all miss Rupert. He gave his life completely. In the last several years, Rupert would drop by somehow were ever we were, wash his clothes and set up late catching us up on his Vision. We learned a lot about his research into the shortening of the Monsoon season with heavier rains when we working in the Philippines; he had tracked that through some Russian agriculturists and brought awareness to us of climate change before it was a popular notion. He was coming back later this year, he called last winter to tell us he wouldn't be able to make it then, but he knew then his life was shortening.

George Holcombe


Dear colleagues

Oh, what stories we can tell about this unique human being. He spent some time with us in Kapini, the Human Development Project just north of Lusaka in Zambia. He had a passion for Zimbabwe so would hitch a ride from Lusaka to Harare where he used to stay in a small 'English' style Private Hotel and from there go out to a village project we were working with. I remember having tea with him in this hotel when I travelled to Zimbabwe with him. He must have been in deep despair over what has been happenning in that country recently.

When he first arrived in Kapini he wanted to know where the vacuum cleaner was so that he could vacuum the room he was to share with Tommy. I produced a broom and said 'This is it'. (We depended on a generator for power and only ran it for lights from dusk till 10:00pm)

We celebrate his completed life and the wonderful passion he brought to everything he did.

Grace and peace John & Elaine


And he had such an amazing ability to relate to people, out of such a deep reservoir of experience, even in the midst of a development call. I remember accompanying him in visiting a woman who was an executive with the Anchorage World Affairs Council (a prize target that John Ruppert had identified). Over tea it came out that the woman practiced pottery on the side, and as John Ruppert examined one of the tea cups she had made, he gently shifted into a reflection on the Japanese aesthetic, in which perfection is intensified by the presence of a tiny defect--just like the cup he was holding in his hand. The woman just glowed--he had won a friend for life! And of course, later he introduced me to the pleasures (and proper etiquette) of sushi, which apparently was one his favorite culinary delights.

Ken Gillgren


On Apr 15, 2008, at 9:15 AM, William Salmon wrote:

Repert Barnes! What a blith spirit of a man. With his clipped accent and star-studded eyes behind coke-bottle eye glasses he did not cut a handsome figure, but it was his physical and spiritual energy that transformed everything. Rupert and I became good friends and colleagues when we both were first assigned to the Development Office. We met as a team for 10 days getting ready for our fund-raising drive, but Rupert was uncertain about his place in this universe. After the plan was a consensus and the assignments made, then everyone got ready to "get out the door." Everyone, except Rupert! Wouldn't you know, he and I were assigned to each other for accountability purposes. I couldn't get out the door until he was ready to go. My instructions were, "Stay here until Barnes is ready to go." It was another five days of praticing the pitch before Barnes was convinced he might be able to do this; Lord only knows that the pitch and I now were one. It was a reluctant two-by-two that left 4750 No. Sheridan the next morning. As I recall, as we got into the taxi to the airport, Rupert was still rehearsing his pitch and still asking me for reassurance. Then the miracle happened -- if indeed it was a miracle, but Rupert Barnes became the wild man of development. Part of the accountability structure was for each team of two to call each other every day. Rupert stopped calling the second day were out. Finally, I had a local colleague in his community flag him down long enough to call me. "Rupert, what the hell are you doing?" "Oh, Pastor Bill, I was making evening calls." "That's wonderful. How's it going?" "Extraordinarily well. My last appointment for the night was at midnight!" From then on it was all down hill to success. I don't know how donors put up with his eccentricities. However, he inspired in me a desire to make a few midnight calls of my own. It's amazing how dedication transforms us. I was privileged to have a small hand in "getting him out the door." The rest was history. For being a part of his flights of fancy, I'll forever be inspired. Pastor Bill


We lived in the house that JRB built in Kamweleni. He had purchased some land down the hill from the training center and built a round house with concrete and local mud. It had a window, door, and metal roof. He built a water tank and had gutters all around the house. There was always a snake up in the gutters. First, we covered the floors with a powder and sprayed something that killed what seemed like hundreds of scorpions and other bugs. We got a 3/4 bed made and there was a shelf fwith our altar. It was our home and we felt safe and at home there. There was never enough rain to even somewhat fill the water tank, but the house and tank were sturdy and long lasting. I had heard some time ago that he was returning to Kenya to live his last days and have imaged him in that home of his. His neighbors, those from which he bought the land, adored him, like family. I hope he is in a peaceful place where he is respected for the greatness that he has been. My deep sympathy to the family and especially to the 3 sons from my 3 sons.

"Where Soul Can Create Dance, Healing Begins."

Judi White


I feel very very sad that the world is losing such a brightly shining whacko spirit. I'm honored to have known him and grateful that I never had to live with him. Wherever his soul is going to land will feel the impact. Helen Haug


John Rupert Barnes was a man who walked his talk. He believed that you could go down to the river bed and walk from Kamweleni to Machakos and hold little town meetings with the mamas that would be there washing clothes, and talking together. He would talk about maize and the types that were being grown and how effective the new brands were against the old ones. He would look up at the sky and tell you if it was going to rain or not, and then of course since in Machakos it seemed only to rain two weeks every year or so, a story would be told of the rainy seasons. Such an amazing man with such a trusting spirit for the common person's wisdom.Such a soul will be missed by many and the stories of him will go on and on.


Evelyn Kurihara Philbrook,


Mutiso John Rupert Barnes IS a Man of the Universe and a Child of God. He moved across this globe as if on wheels and yet could stop and share ideas and conversations with anyone he met. His life changed ours!

During the Kawangware HDP he was very present to “all is possible” and went about his daily life to illustrate that it was true.

There was the time he decided to get some grade cows for the Kawangware Urban Farm. Someone up-country offered us two pregnant cows if we would come to get them. Of course, this did not stop John Rupert! He and Christopher Foya (a vet tech) left on their trip (likely by hitch-hiking) and made plans to come back by train with the cows.

Fred happened to be giving the witness at House Church that evening and told the story of the escapade with mention of many other events that featured John Rupert. We all knew of his wildness and creativity but were never sure if the event would actually happen. By the time Fred completed his witness, 1/2 of the group around the table was ready to meet the train at midnight to complete the journey of the two cows and walk the several miles back to Kawangware with the animals in tow.

The train was coming down the track and all were excited! It arrived on the “other” side of the tracks that meant that the cows (one very pregnant) and a new-born calf would have to come across many tracks, stepping over the switching cables that were a foot off the ground. And, if that were not enough of a challenge, ANOTHER TRAIN WAS COMING DOWN THE TRACK!

They all got across safely, requiring some aggressive pushing of the cows from the rear, and began the journey back to the Farm. The calf was carried across the tracks and put in the back of the Morris Minor where he licked the driver’s neck in obvious gratitude for not being required to walk with the others. Great stories were told of the journey as they walked along in the dark in such wild excitement. And to this day, those stories are still very much alive for those involved.

Mutiso John Rupert Barnes created events wherever he went. He is a Man of the Universe and Child of God!

“Mutiso, we’ll miss your presence but your energy and spirit live on in us! Thank you for being in our lives”!

Nancy Lanphear




11.00 AM, MONDAY 21 APRIL 2008


Introductory remarks

Circumstances relating to his sickness and death

Short Eulogy


1. Psalm 23 read by Donald Thomas at request of his sister Jessica Summerton and nephew Rupert Summerton

2. Psalm 4 read by Florence Njeri Mulati

3. Romans Chapter 8: verses 16, 17 & 35-39 read by Dr Njoroge

4. Poem of thanksgiving written recently by John-Rupert and read by Pensie Alexander

Open time for sharing

The Lord’s prayer and the Grace

Closing remarks

Signing of Book of Condolence



John-Rupert Barnes was born in Sussex, England on 2 January 1930 and died in Nairobi, Kenya on 9 April 2008 aged 78.

On his birth certificate and passport, his name is given as Rupert John Barnes but at some stage in his life he changed the order of names and is known to many people in Kenya as John-Rupert Barnes. Others have known him simply as Rupert which is the name he was known by as a student in Cambridge in the early fifties.

He studied Moral Sciences at Cambridge, UK, and came to Kenya in August 1955 via S. Africa and Zimbabwe (formerly S. Rhodesia). He worked for some time at the Friends Mission in Kaimosi where he took on the responsibility for the garden that was growing vegetables for the hospital. Later he sought an opportunity to get practical experience of farming and was accepted on the farm of Gerry and Pensie Alexander at Molo for a year or so before going on to study agriculture at Egerton College. He returned to the Alexanders after his studies and subsequently purchased a small farm at Maji Mazuri. Here he concentrated on growing pyrethrum and strawberries and rearing sheep. He also found fellowship with members of the Revival movement.

In 1961 he took a break from farming for six months and went to teach at Katanti Hill School in Kampala. He became acquainted with Ngugi wa Thiongo at that time.

In 1962 he was back at Maji Mazuri when he was badly injured in a violent robbery. After he recovered, and the culprits had been arrested and gaoled, he made a point of visiting them in prison and arranging correspondence courses so they could study and improve their chances of finding employment on their release. One, at least, did have a change of heart.

In due course it became clear to him that he should sell the farm and he went into teaching at Nyahururu. He applied for Kenya Citizenship and was registered as a citizen on 5 September 1964.

On January 30, 1967, he married Linda Rolfing in Chicago. They came to Kenya and taught at Kenyatta University. Subsequently they joined the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) that had grown out of the Ecumenical Institute in Chicago. During a period when they worked with the ICA in Chicago, Rupert took the opportunity to study for a Masters degree in Theology and wrote a thesis on Malcolm X.

John-Rupert and Linda took a pioneering role with a mixed team of expatriates and Kenyans in establishing ICA for the purpose of grass roots, human resource development, from a base in Kawangware, Nairobi. The work spread to other places including Kamweleni, Machakos, that became the focus of much of Rupert’s interests and activities.

During their fifteen years together in Kenya, John-Rupert and Linda had three sons, now all grown with families of their own. The oldest, Abednego, is in Portland, Oregon, the second son, Daudi, is in Durango, Colorado and the youngest, Jonathan, is in San Francisco, California. Rupert and Linda subsequently divorced but maintained contact.

John-Rupert had an abiding interest in agriculture and the environment. He maintained close contact with the Kenya Institute of Organic Farming and the World Agroforestry Centre (formerly ICRAF). He spend time in Zimbabwe researching the possible connection between land use, particularly forests, and rainfall. More recently he worked on a proposal for more research along these lines in Kenya.

John-Rupert was also deeply interested in ways of maintaining soil fertility without the use of inorganic fertilizers. He maintained contacts with scientists in Kenya, USA, Russia and Zimbabwe. He found evidence that use of inorganic fertilizers on soils that were low in organic matter could cause an imbalance in micro-organisms and a depletion of soil productivity.

During the last few years of his life, John-Rupert devoted much of his energy to the establishment of the Kamweleni High School in Machakos District. His efforts were supported by the Catholic church and he received some financial assistance for the school through the St Marks Episcopal church in Durango, Colorado. He also contributed to the development of the school by teaching English. Kamweleni was his adopted home and the people in Kamweleni became part of his extended family. He also had close friends in the Nairobi area and Western Kenya who he visited periodically. At other times he stayed in a modest hotel close to the Central Business District in Nairobi.

John-Rupert loved classical music and was an accomplished recorder player. He played quite regularly with a small group of instrumentalists in Nairobi. He also spent a lot of time reading. He was a deeply religious person and struggled to bring his life into conformity with his faith. He had a very active, open mind and a wide range of interests. He had enormous energy and was passionate about many issues. He was not a conformist and was sometimes unpredictable. But he lived life to the full and will be missed by many.

John-Rupert is survived in UK by his sister, Jessica Summerton, and nephew, Rupert Summerton, and in USA by his three sons and several grandchildren.

(Drafted by Donald Thomas, 21 April 2008)

** 22 April 2008

Dear All,

Yesterday we attended the cremation service for John-Rupert Barnes at the Hindu Crematorium, Kariokor, Nairobi. Attached you will find the order of service and also some notes on his life that I shared with those present. Please forgive me for any mistakes or omissions as it was prepared at short notice.

There were 11 people there, namely:

Donald Thomas Ruth Thomas Mulati Wakachala Florence Njeri Mulati Pensie Alexander Dr Zachariah Wainaina Njoroge Francis Asiema Gretchen van Evera Carol Stocking A Kenyan woman who came with Carol but left before signing the condolence book Rashid, a friend of Mulati

We did not anticipate a large number of people as we only had a small notice in the Nation newspaper on Monday 14th and we had had difficulty getting phone numbers for some of his friends. Furthermore the Hindu Crematorium is in a less frequented part of the city. We were not unduly concerned about the numbers as we expect a substantial number to attend the memorial service at Kamweleni to be scheduled when the family is represented in Kenya, hopefully towards the end of May or early June.

Mulati and his wife Florence went directly to the Lee Funeral Home at 9.00 to ensure all arrangements were in order and followed the vehicle that brought the body to the crematorium. Ruth and I came with Pensie Alexander. Dr Njoroge arrived a little later and also Carol Stocking came with the young Kenyan woman whose name we did not get. Two members of the Quaker Meeting. Francis Asiema and Gretchen van Evera came as Rupert used to attend the meeting periodically.

During the time for sharing memories of Rupert, there were interesting comments from Mulati, Dr Njoroge, Pensie and Francis.

Mulati spoke of his relationship with Rupert as an adopted son. Mulati’s own father died before he knew him. Dr Njoroge spoke of knowing Rupert at several stages in his life. He was a young boy in Maji Mazuri when Rupert was farming there. He was a pupil in the school at Nyaharuru when Rupert was teaching there. He was a student in Kenyatta College when Rupert was teaching there and then they were in contact again during the time when Rupert was with ICA and again more recently. Pensie quoted from St Theresa of Avila “All things will be well”. Francis spoke of how impressed he was that Rupert had tried to help the people who attacked him at Maji Mazuri when they were gaoled. He felt that that story might help people to take a new approach in the current crisis. Rupert had said as much lately and wanted to contact those same people again. He was intending to put out a message on the vernacular radio and would have done so had he lived.

I added my own recollection of the time in 1954 when I consulted Rupert about the job I had been offered in agricultural research in Kenya. It was during the Mau Mau emergency. I was apprehensive and arguing for turning down the offer. Rupert told me bluntly that I was a coward. He spoke the truth so I came to Kenya!

We closed with the Lord’s prayer and the Grace.

Rupert’s body was then put on the funeral pyre, Firewood was put in place and the fire was lit by Mulati.

I took some photos and Mulati’s friend Rashid took some. These should be available to you in due course.

Lee Funeral Home took responsibility for collection of the ashes and storage in an urn until requested by the family.

It was a sad day for us all but a day to recognize and celebrate a life committed to seeking God’s way in an immensely complex and challenging world.

With our very best wishes to you all,

Donald Thomas
Topic revision: r7 - 24 Apr 2008, LindaBarnes
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