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Kibera

January.1.2010

This has been a very difficult post for me to write. Truthfully, I have sat here for quite a while just watching the blinking curser mocking me. I began several times, only to delete the words in frustration. Everything that I write seems woefully insufficient. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. They are right in so many ways. Yesterday the pictures that are in my mind cry out for words, words and more words. I fear that in all of my attempts, I could not capture adequately the images, faces, and experiences of the day.

We knew that our day at the Kibera Slum would be difficult. We were warned of the extreme poverty and the dilapidated living situations. We were cautioned about the crime, and the sanitation, but these warnings could not adequately prepare us for what was ahead.

As we pulled up to Kibera, I felt like I was living in a scene from “District 9”. There were tin roves as far miles and mud walls on little box houses everywhere. There was sewage in the streets and smells that caused us to gag and look the other way, and the flies were so large you could put a leash on them and call them pets.

Through a narrow door in a large metal fence was a school in the middle of Kibera. The school taught the children the word of God and worked with a church to provide for the needs of the people and point the to Christ. Though surrounded by such poverty, there was hope & joy. The children were obviously malnourished and wore tattered clothes, yet their smiles lit up the room. Their classroom was a large open room with small wooded desks all throughout. They sang for us, danced for us, and showed us tremendous honor. We told the Christmas Story, sang songs, and did a few skits for them.

We met some wonderfully committed people while in Kibera. Some of them were street kids, displaced from their homes and being raised on the streets and had been let to Christ by Pastor (Bishop) Timothy. He has been ministering in Kibera for thirty years. He has been given many opportunities to move, but feels called to Kibera and the people who live there. He is a church planter, evangelist, and disciple maker. There were several of these “street kids” who are not elders in the church and even church planters. We were introduced to Pastor Kennedy. He is the pastor of the church that meets in the school and has been married for three weeks. He is somewhat of a local hero and role model due to his recent marriage and the fact that they remained sexually pure throughout their relationship. (a total anomaly in the Kenya culture)

The Kenyan culture, like many others, is very promiscuous. The men are encouraged to experiment and enjoy the pleasures of sex before they settle down to get married. Of course they are discouraged from marrying a woman that has been with a man, promoting a grouse double standard. This behavior is the primary cause for the spread of HIV and Aids in Kenya.

The language barrier made communication difficult. Swahili is an Arabic based language that is very difficult to understand, yet beautiful when spoken. Though we could not share words, the universal language of love was easily understood. The children would come and crawl in our laps, want hugs, and enjoyed a shared smile. They would hang onto our legs and grab our hands as we were walking. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of these kids had ever been held, loved, or cared for. For Jen, it was a little piece of heaven. Within thirty seconds of our arrival she was dancing with a beautiful little African girl.  Her heart of compassion and disarming smile made her a hit at Kibera. She laughed, played, and was a breath of fresh air to all.

Overall the day went relatively smoothly. We were able to provide a meal for the children and some of the helpers in the school as well as share the gospel with them throughout the day. The difficulty came at an unexpected time. During our trip preparation we had gathered trinkets and toys to be distributed to the children of Kivera. We had cazoos, teddy bear trinkets, even Chik-Fil-A cows donated for the kids to enjoy. When it was time to give the gifts to the children we lined them up in their perspective classes and began to distribute the toys. In that moment, it all changed. These children, who waited in line for over an hour for their meal quietly and respectfully, began to loose control. Their sense of contentment was lost. They began to covet the toy that was given to their friend or sibling. Greed caused them to try to grab two or three of the toys at one time. They began to push in line and shove each other out of the way for these little trinkets. Those cute little children were hijacked by the sinful nature of greed, covetousness, and pride.

As we debriefed the time in Kibera, we were definitely glad that we came, but learned a ton in the process. These kids were content before we introduced this “stuff” into their lives. It was seeing what they didn’t have, or what they now wanted, that caused the meltdown. We wondered how much of the discontentment in our culture is caused by the same issue. Maybe the root of discontentment is the same in the US as it is in Kenya. We are fine with what we have until we see something that we don’t have. Want rises in us and we begin to compare. In our comparison we then covet. In our covetousness we then sin. All of this made us wonder if we ought to focus on our portion, our provision, our state in life. Maybe God has given us more, maybe He has given us less, but He has given us what He wants us to have at this point.

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