Yesterday we walked through Kibera Slum…in the pouring rain.
In that sort of situation, I have to consciously decide to suppress any emotions I may be feeling. So I turned off my emotion switch and trudged through the muddy slum, slipping at every other step. No one else was walking through the slum..just our small World Next Door team of five white people (mzungus). I honestly just wanted to cry the whole walk to Tumaini Church (a small church in Kibera that WND is partnered with). I wanted to cry, I felt sick, tired and overwhelmed with anger and sadness at the same time.
When we got close to Tumaini Church, Fred had all of the children of Hope Academy waiting to greet us..literally standing as a crowd watching the 5 mzungus attempt to walk up a muddy hill. Right as we reached the top, one of the interns slipped and fell. Laughter from the crowd. I don’t blame them..we looked ridiculous with our rain coats over our bags giving us hunch backs and belly bumps. At that moment, something switched in me and although I appeared to be laughing along with the children, I had to fight back the tears. We entered Fred’s small office, and talked about his ministry. He’s inspiring. Something he said stuck with me. “The children are really happy. They have a place to play, so they are genuinely happy.” While I walked through that slum seeing and thinking about all of the brokenness and nastiness (for lack of a better word), I missed the hope. Fred reminded me that Jesus is in Kibera and Jesus is changing lives in Kibera. (Stay connected with WND’s intern Joe this summer to hear more about this ministry in Kibera, as Joe will be interning with Fred and even living in Kibera for a week!)
After our visit with Fred, we had to head back to our home before it got dark. The rain had stopped so there were many more people walking through the slum. As we walked, many children would see us, smile, and looking us in the eye would say, “How are you?” in their best English. The entire time we were in Kibera, I realized that I only interacted with children (minus Fred). Even saying interacted is a stretch, as we just exchanged smiles and I answered their “How are you?” with “Mzuri,” meaning “fine.”
Reflecting back on my short experience in Kibera, I couldn’t help but think about the children. Why were they the only ones who looked the wazungu in the eye and spoke to us? Why did they so openly receive us?
Luke 18:16 says, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
This passage took on a whole new meaning after visiting Kibera. I undoubtedly felt received by the children, and rejected by many adults. What is different? Maybe it’s because the adults have experienced the pains of life. Or maybe it is because they have legitimate reasons not to trust the strangers walking through their home. Even though I know my intentions were pure in visiting Kibera, they did not. They may have seen me as a threat because it was so painfully obvious that I didn’t belong.
How often do I do that to Jesus? How often do I see him in my slum and feel threatened by his presence? Do I see him and sometimes think that he doesn’t belong? I need to receive Jesus’ presence in my life like a child receives. I need to not look away from the kingdom, but embrace it. I need to look Jesus in the eye and greet him, even if He is speaking a language I do not fully understand.