We went to the Kibera slums yesterday. After a three hour conversation/ devotional last night we still came up confused on the question of what we could do. Yes, some great ideas were thrown out, strategies from other Christian advocates for the poor and other books we have read, but the question still lingered. It wasn't until I got back to my room though that I realized we can do nothing with our own strength and mind power. The only hope is God working through us, despite us, or waiting so that His glory may be even more in the future.
I know this sounds without hope, but it is really where all the hope lies, and not until we understand this can anything, or has anything been done.
I definitely know God used our group yesterday. We took a four hour tour of the slums yesterday, a place not much bigger than Central Park in New York City but with a population of 800,000 to 1 million people. We toured with a native run community development organization called KISCODEP (Kibera Slums Community Development Program), a program providing internet literacy courses (on two very old commuters) as well as gives micro-loans of around $30-80 to families in Kibera to start small businesses. Some of the businesses we visited included a jewelry making business (making necklasses and bracelets out of cow bones), a laundry business, a pharmacy, and two schools. These were scattered all over the Kibera area. These business men and women make up a 100 person community working together to improve their lives and their kids lives for the future. It was their pressence with us in this place (about 10 of them came with us all through the community) that allowed us to have the experience we did. Because we were with these people everyone befriended us - including the children who would all say "How are you?" over and over and then proceed to run up to us and shake our hands. The many pictures we got cannot come close to describing the experience we had. These people, people living on less than $1 a day for the whole family (that is if they had a family - some were orphans) exibited more joy, more love, and more devotion to God than I may have ever seen in my life.
As has become a daily endevor so far, I'd like to share the stories of two people I met in Kibera. The first was a lady named Teresa. Teresa is 28 years old and has grown up in Kibera her whole life. She has a husband and a 5 year old daughter named Anne. Teresa works at a pharmacy in the slums that has been financed from the micro-loans. She has an amazing spirit and her generosity led her to buy both me and Lori (another lady on our trip) a necklass from the shop financed by the community development program. Also, after asking to keep the pictures of my parents and siblings, she gave both Lori and I some pictures of her and her family. Again, such great generosity and love. On the back of one of the pictures it said some of her hobbies included Bible study, singing in the choir (our friendship started after I complimented her on a solo she sang during one of two songs the ladies sung us on arriving), netball, listening to gospel music, and helping in the community. I hope our friendship can continue.
Another individual that I spent less time with but was touched just as much by was an eight year old child named Ester. She was one of the twelve children form the first school we visited that met in a room not much bigger than my room back home at my parents house. The walls were paper over mud and the floor mud with only a small tarp over it where the kids sat and a few benches where we all sat. After introducing ourselves, Dan and Rick got their guitars out and we began asking if the children knew any songs. With the ABC's written on the chalk board, Kate aked if they knew the ABC song. Responding different from what we expected, the teacher sent one child, we would find out later named Esther, to the board to recite her ABC's - and she did it flawlessly. The remainder of our time there (singing other songs and looking at jewelry the class has made), Esther went back and forth to the chalkboard (when sitting on the floor next to Kate - or on my knee later) and wrote down each letter in upper and lower case followed by a word starting with that letter. As Lori, a kindergarten teacher from our group, said, this little girl was like a sponge and had a passion for learning. Before leaving (this coming after the kids received their daily porage) we were able to pray for the school and the teacher (by this time the area pastor, Pastor Ken, came in and prayed with us - he would later commend and encourage me after I told him I was training to be a pastor) and I got to hold Esther's hand. While holding her hand I looked into her beautiful face and saw her smile over and over - a face I took to be Jesus' smiling down over us as we prayed in that "poor" yet very "rich" area.
The last thought I'd like to note about our experience yesterday was part of the prayer the Pastor prayed prior to leaving the slums. His prayer was one of forgiveness for the theifs and evil people in the slums that so often give it it's image and cause fear from outsiders, protection over us from these people while we were in Nairobi and on our trip, and awareness that there are people in that community that are striving for a better Kibera and that love the Lord and visitors with their heart, mind, and souls. I know after visiting that their suffering only brings them closer to the crucified Christ and their hope a real hope that will be fullfilled in Christ's second coming, but is also fulfilled now in their joy and relationship with Him and with each other. May our prayer for America be the same as theirs for Kibera, and our love for God and others the same and as real as well. Come Lord Jesus Come!