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Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Kibera and The Mt. Kilimonbogo IDP Camp

Its been a few weeks since our last post. I wanted to take some time to let my thoughts and emotions settle on a couple of things before I blogged about them here in this forum.  

Walking through Kibera. There is so much a picture
cannot tell you. 
Known as the largest and most condensed slum in the world, it is located here in the heart of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya.  We have been there many times, and we usually make a practice of taking our guests there if they want to go and see this place.  We have done some ministry in Kibera, and we have even been able to rescue one family from this place. 
The railroad that runs through Kibera.
You smell Kibera before you see it.  There is very little access to bathrooms, and certainly not much if any running water available.  The people we helped to leave Kibera permanently shared with us that in the "neighborhood" they lived in they shared a "bathroom" with 900 other slum dwellers.  Yes, you read that correctly, one "bathroom", (actually an open pit latrine with no actual seat, it's a squatter) for 900 people.  So, when I say you smell Kibera before you see it, I am referring to the raw open running sewage and bags of human waste tossed here and there randomly, with other decaying trash etc.
The trash and homes are intermingled.
You smell Kibera before you see it.
We recently took our young guest Keanu to Kibera.  A good friend who used to live there was taking us around and giving us the lay of the land.  He told me a story I have not stopped thinking about since. He told me that every day of the nine years he lived there, at least one baby was found dead beside the filthy river that runs through Kibera or on the railway tracks that pass through.  He told me on many occasions he stumbled upon one of these little lifeless ones, usually discarded off in a plastic bag. He also told me that there are many "quack" doctors performing "abortions" in Kibera.  Usually this consists of some kind of "traditional medicine" a potion of sorts that when consumed, in his words, "forces the baby out". 
Needless to say, this information was dumbfounding to say the least.  The emotions I feel about this are strong.  Not the least of these is anger.  However, living here has given me a deeper understanding of how desperate people can be in the face of extreme need.  This sense of desperation and despair has a profound impact on how we perceive our world. The level of poverty, the sense of hopelessness, drives so many of these young ladies to prostitution, and then the unplanned pregnancies deepens the sense of helplessness.  They cannot sustain themselves, how can they care for a little one.  This is how these "abortions" come about. 

Preaching at the IDP Camp
IDP (Internally Displaced People)
When you speak of Internally displaced people, it's a reference to people who have been torn out of their homes, their land and communities, because of war, violence, natural disaster etc.
Here in Kenya, a large number of people were displaced after the 2007 federal election.  Both candidates fiercely contested the results, and extreme violence broke out.  Thousands of people were killed, as neighbor turned on neighbor, and tribe fought against tribe.  There is a whole lot more to the story, but the end result is now, almost 4 years later, thousands of people remain refugees in their own country.  The government has abandoned them, and many of the Non-Governmental Organizations have reduced or even discontinued aid as well.
This is what a typical "house" looks like at this IDP. 
Near Nairobi, about an hours drive away, is an IDP camp.  It's near the town of Ruai, in the shadow of Mt. Kilimonbogo. We have been visiting there and delivering maize meal for the people.  (Maize is white corn, when dried and ground, it is used to make the staple food of most Kenyans, called Ugali.) We spend time visiting, I am asked to share a message from God's Word, and we distribute the food we have brought them. 
The last time we were there, I was really moved by the sense of despair, hopelessness and really the sense from the people that they are in limbo, paralyzed by there situation if you will.  The government of Kenya has promised to relocate them, and help them in the mean time.  Instead, they have been abandoned.  They feel like they can't settle in where they are, and they have no home to go back to.  Their homesteads have been stolen, their homes either occupied by someone else, or burned to the ground with all of their earthly belongings.  Their crops were destroyed or stolen and their livestock was taken from them. The atrocities that occurred in their communities are still raw in their hearts and minds.  The look in their eyes when they speak of the things they saw and experienced first hand is one of grief mixed with real fear and terror.   They cannot go back to the places they fled from.

Somehow, God has called us to minister to these people.  To say I feel overwhelmed is an understatement.  What can I offer them?  What comfort can I bring them? These are the moments as a minister of the Gospel when you realize how utterly dependant you are on the Spirit Of The Living God to give you some word, some scripture or something to offer them. 
I preached the Word to them.  After my brief message we were handing out the food we had brought for them, and I felt COMPELLED to mix among the crowd, ask the names of the little ones, and pray for each child.  I was moved by the emotional response of these desperate parents.  When it comes to their children they are no different than us. They want to provide for their kids, they want the best for their children.  They are completely without resources. These precious people were so moved that we would ask the names of their children, and pray for them by name. 
Jen and I handing out the maize.  The people come with
anything they can find to carry the food they will receive.

50 kg's of Maize.  Heavier than it looks.      

My emotions were mixed.  What a privilege to minister to them but I felt some of their despair, and it was so, so heavy.  They smiled as they prayed with me in REAL FAITH for their children, and they thanked me with tears in their eyes.  I left changed, encouraged by their faith, and burdened with their need.

The line up for Maize and rice.