It is Sunday in Nairobi and I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t make it to Church this morning because I scheduled myself to meet with a youth group in the Lunga Lunga Slum of Nairobi. About 40 youth organizing a trash pick up and putting the pieces together for a waste management business. I often go to slums and work in urban environments that are horrific in poverty, disease and crime. But this morning was different. I walked the narrow walkways between corrugated huts interviewing the youth leaders. The smells were so bad that three times I had to fight the gag reflex and I found myself not wanting to breath the toxic odors.
In these situations I become both angry and empathic. I go there to feel what they feel and try to understand their experience but I often leave like Amos outside the city gates of Jerusalem shouting at the oppressors. Huge multinationals surround this slum but they contribute little to its development. People I know and people I have become close with live in these huts. In my meetings they share their experience and each time I find they speak with a voice of hope and redemption. They are not defeated nor do they grow angry at their predicament. Rather, they work hard and struggle to make their place clean, safe and industrious. They don’t ask for handouts, they ask that we come along side and help them think through solutions and create opportunity.
I found Christ this morning and it wasn’t in a mega structure with all the trappings – I found him in the gentle smile of a child walking along the polluted Nairobi river trying to make sense out of his life and knowing that no amount of poverty or despair can remove his hope.
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