Today we visited Sanctuary. It’s one of the slums alongside of Lake Navaisha. The people who live there come from all over Kenya in hopes of securing a job at one of the flower farms that supply cut flowers to England. Work on the flower farms does not require a lot of skill. But it is difficult and dangerous. And for almost everyone who works there, truly non-sustainable in terms of income. But for those who are desperate for work, it is better than nothing.
This particular slum is a maze of mud and rock dwellings and rutted dirt roads. There is no vegetation – no grass and literally one or two trees. Dust cakes everything. And trash blows everywhere. Donkeys, sheep, cows, chickens and dogs wander wherever they want. Because folks come from all over, many languages are spoken there. A local pastor in Sanctuary told me that ten different languages are spoken in his church! And because there are 42 different tribes in Kenya, politics are a big deal in Sanctuary. In fact, it was one of the epi-centers of the violence and destruction that accompanied the 2007 elections here.
We went to there to meet with 60 of our Panua youth. The site of our gathering was Sanctuary United Methodist Church. By “church” I mean a one room corrugated tin building with a dirt floor. Sitting in plastic chairs around the perimeter of the room we introduced ourselves one by one. And then we spent the rest of the morning getting to know one another. We listened to their stories. Learned about their living situations. Celebrated their dreams. And took messages for their sponsors. There was singing and dancing and even a Kenyan version of a conga line! And there were lots and lots of pictures. It was an incredible morning!
Three things made the morning memorable for me. First, the Kenyan youth were so gracious! In this particular community, very few have talked with someone who is skin pigment challenged. And yet, they were willing to overcome any awkwardness and embrace us as family. They wanted to know all about us and all about their sponsors. They expressed much gratitude for our willingness to come and be with them. And they begged us to come and see them again soon.
Second, they were in desperate need. They live in crippling poverty. Many of them are orphans. A good number of them live alone. A few are already parents. They have been identified as the most at risk and most in need. They are selected to participate in Panua because they have very little hope. This was brought home several times this week as a youth would ask us to please take their baby with us. Or if they could come home with us.
And yet, they are praying for you! While the number one message I heard was “thank you”, the second thing I heard most often is that they are praying for us! This blew me away! That even in their struggle they would intentionally think of us! In James 5:16 it says that we are to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another, that we may be healed. I must admit I was challenged. While I frequently promise to pray for others, most of prayers center on me or on my loved ones. And yet James seems to be saying that my spiritual wholeness and health depends on praying for others.
I ask you – are you praying for others? Beyond family and friends? Are you praying for those in our church family? Are you praying for those in our community? Are you praying for those all the way around the world in Kenya? They are praying for us! So I am going to pray for them! That we may be healed! How about you? How about you?