The Kenya Chronicles: Kibera

I saw more social injustice in the first two days of my stay than I have in my entire life. At Kibera…I saw enough to last a lifetime.

Kibera is one of the largest slums this world possesses. Home to more than a quarter of Nairobi’s population, the slums of Kibera house over a million people in approximately 2 kilometers squared (1.6 kilometers = 1 mile). The average home of Kibera is about 3 meters by 3 meters (1 meter = approx. 1 yard), occupying an average of 5 people per dwelling. Living conditions are atrocious to say the very least. To be honest, when I looked out over the Kibera landscape…I had a difficult time mentally and emotionally processing what my eyes were capturing. It was like something you only see in a movie. The sight, and smell, and sounds were devastating to preconceived ideas of reality. I was far beyond being speechless…I was thoughtless. I wish I could boast of having a brilliant thought or idea, maybe a poem or inspired quote, or a passage of scripture to go alongside the socially detestable images…but I could only stare. It cannot be described, only experienced.

Despite living in squalor, the children were beautiful. Thier eyes were weary from existence and their feet were calloused from dirt packed harder than cement, but their faces glowed. It is difficult to see God in a place like Kibera. I managed to locate Him…in the faces of the children. They wave at you. They wave like everything is okay. To them, it is. That is all they know…and all they will every know. They don’t yet comprehend that there is another world full of health, potential, success, futures, and luxury. It’s better that they don’t realize it…I think. Seeing a mzungu (white man) is a rare and exciting experience. Burned in my mind are the voices of the children of Kenya chanting “mzungu, mzungu, mzungu…how are you, how are you, how are you.” As they chant for a simple acknowledgment, they wave. I waved back and smiled as if everything is okay. I know better…but, thank God, they don’t.

The day I saw Kibera would have been emotionally bearable if I did not see the children…if I did not hear them ask, “How are you”…if I didn’t see them chase after the car and try to jump on…if they didn’t beg me to take pictures of them…if they didn’t reach out and grab my hand just to walk a few steps with a white man…if I didn’t see them barefoot…if I didn’t see them hungry…If I didn’t see them. But they were there…exactly where God had placed them.

The sights did not cause me to resent America or my reality (more on that in a later post). But they did cause me to ponder God’s sovereignty. It caused me to intensely wonder why God’s sovereignty placed me in Kentucky and not Kibera. I am completely deserving of that life, but I did not receive it. Why will my child (July 23) have the life he is given. Is Africa a scapegoat? Is there a solution to the poverty? Why me? Why them? Why America? Why Africa? I will attempt to unpack these questions in future posts with things that God has taught me in the past month.

Why Kibera?

It cannot be described…only experienced.
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9 Responses

  1. Wow….reading that got me thinking a little, lol. It just really surprises me how the world is so much like that….

    – DOT

  2. Smitty,
    If the world existed without the less fortunate, how would we display love, compassion, kindness, grace, hope, etc? We will never fully understand such tragic conditions in the world, but these conditions bring about interactions that may never take place otherwise. These conditions present us the opportunity to be a blessing. That is a blessing in itself! Without the blind man, we never get to witness the miracle of restored sight!

  3. Why am I not the blind man…or you?

  4. We were. We are. Somehow we think we have it better because we have air conditioning, wheels, new kicks and a giant tv. We really are blinded by our successes. Maybe we are the ones really missing out. It is amazing that we hear God at all through all of the noise. If the christian life is really about glorifying our Savior, then this can be done with or without the outward junk. We don’t learn to fully fall into the arms of God because we accomplish so much “on our own.” We were born on third and thought we hit a triple. We ARE blind to so many things. Isn’t it amazing how the “rich” impoverished can minister to the “poor” American with everything.

  5. Smitty, hey man this may sound weird but i hope you lose sleep over what you saw, i hope your re-telling of what you saw provokes others to lose sleep. I’m with you. There’s no good reason why i ate breakfast this morning and over half the world didn’t, but did I neglect my hunger? My God forgive my greed, soften my heart and calluse my hands.

  6. Personally, missions opens my eyes to two points:
    1. How “good” I have it.
    2. How “poor” I am.
    Ultimately, I am lavishly impoverished.
    May we never lose our heart for others!

  7. Sleet & T-Bone: I really appreciate the comments…they are very thought provoking.

    I agree whole-heartedly with what you have said, Chad…in fact, you kind of stole my thunder because I was going to eventually get around to that in a later post (the point about how we might actually be the ones who are blinded). Its okay though…I probably wouldn’t have been able to articulate it was well as you. My struggle with it all is that under God’s sovereign umbrella…you got me, who regardless of whether or not I made the hit, I am standing on third with a brand new uniform, new nike cleats, and ice in my ears. At the same time my darker teammate is naked, standing in the dugout with no real shot at getting in the game. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t hit the ball…what matters is that the commissioner of the league put me on third, and for some reason decided not to let me teammates play…much less be on third like me. The analogy is stupid…but you get my point. I’m okay with the design of the game…I just don’t understand his motivation. But…then again, the commish’s ways are higher that mine.

  8. Smitty,
    Just score the run.

  9. true

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