After today’s visit to the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, it is clear why I saw the flowering Jacaranda tree and the beauty of creation yesterday. The contrast between these two images will be forever asked in my mind and in my heart. The Kibera slum houses over 400,000 people in an area the size these people live in makeshift housing constructed mostly of mud corrugated metal. The average size of a dwelling is 10 ft x 10ft. The dirt streets and alleyways that connect The housing units are littered with garbage and and the smell of open sewer drains permeates the air. This city within a city includes small businesses of all sorts, churches of many denominations, and a number of mosques.
We had the chance to visit three different families that live in Kibera. Passing through narrow alleyways filled with people and children playing in mud, we entered the doors of these homes. The inside of these tiny one room huts consisted of four walls covered with material and maybe a small table in the middle of the room. There was no other furniture. The small room housing up to eight family members and is lit by one lightbulb hanging from a wire in the ceiling. In the homes we visited, there was no bed, kitchen or toilet facilities. There are a few public toilets for common use in the city.
There were nine of us who entered these households sometimes having to close and open the door so that each one could enter. Packed in with the families in a small, hot, and dark room we listened to their stories. The mother of each household asked us for specific prayers for their family members. We prayed for employment, healing of illnesses, release from prison’s, and for marriage is struggling because of the deplorable living conditions faced each day.
Despite conditions which seem to make life simply unbearable, the people we met we are filled with faith, vibrant and living faith, that gave them a reason to live and a reason to hope. These people understood better than me or my companions what the gospel message of good news really means especially to the poor and disenfranchised of this world.
It is late and this day has drained me but also given me a great gift. I have never seen such poverty, such deplorable living conditions, such reason for hopelessness in any slum in America or in other places I have traveled. I have also never seen the power of faith, the power of Christian community, and the power of prayer lift the hearts and minds of so many people to give them a reason to hope. I will write more about this day in future posts but for now, I end my day with this prayer:
Jesus, you became human and Took on flesh to fully experience our brokenness and the suffering of every human being. The brokenness of each of us and brokenness of our world is evident in the cross carried by these innocent and good people in this slum and in all the slums of the world. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to make the cross a little lighter for our brothers and sisters who suffer in this world. In doing so,like Simon of Cyrene, we are blessed to help you carry your cross.