Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator. With the Indian Ocean to its south-east, it is bordered by Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east. Kenya has a land area of 580,000 km2 and a population of a little over 43 million residents.The country is named after Mount Kenya, a significant landmark and second among Africa’s highest mountain peaks. Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya is famous for its safaris and diverse world-famous wildlife reserves such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, the Maasai Mara, Nakuru National Park, and Aberdares National Park. (From Wikipedia )
Gerry arranged everything. There were cars waiting to take us and our 200 pounds of luggage comprised of toys, medical supplies, gospel materials, clothing and other items to the place where we were to reside for our stay in Nairobi. Though the arrangements made by Gerry made our travels convenient, our travels were not always comfortable. We were faced with culture shock on a number of different fronts. When you go to a new country you have certain expectations, but then you are confronted with reality. That is exactly what happened with us.
First of all, we arrived in Kenya during their spring, so it was not as hot as we expected. It was only about 25 degrees Celsius. Second, our understanding was that we were entering a part of the world that was struck by poverty, misery and pain, but what we encountered were people filled with hope for a better tomorrow. It is true that Kenya is poor and that people do go through hardships even for things as fundamental as shelter and water; however, in so many ways they are a lot richer than our so called “developed” countries where people that think that material possessions will fix all their problems. At home, we are bombarded with the idea that more money brings more happiness. In Africa, we were able to see firsthand that the truth is different.
The day after we arrived was a Sunday and Gerry arranged a speaking engagement for us at one of his churches. As we were waiting for him to pick us up, I heard music and singing from a distance and together we decided to go and check it out. We crossed the street to an official government building (Ministry of Labour&Human Resource Headquarters) guarded by men outfitted with machine guns and asked if we could see who was singing. They let us in, so we followed the sound of the music to a room with about 30 people singing, dancing and playing bongos. The leader invited us to join them, but not wanting to interrupt their practice, we told them we only wished to enjoy their music. The leader then said that if we would not come to them, then they would come to us. With no hesitation all, the people and their instruments were promptly brought out into the hallway along with some chairs so we could enjoy their music in comfort. Without further discussion, they resumed playing and singing. What a shock it was for us. We were only strangers to them, and yet they were willing to go out of their way to accommodate us. Amazing! I believe this was an introduction into the true character of Kenya because these were the kind of situations that we encountered throughout our entire stay.
One hour later our host finally arrived to pick us up for our meeting. This was our introduction to what is affectionately known as “African time”. When an African tells you that he will come at ten, it usually means he will arrive about eleven or twelve and you are not to worry because there is plenty of time for everything. In Kenya, you are constantly faced with many obstacles and your expectations are so often confronted. It is important to adapt and learn that this is Africa and the sun will still rise and set so enjoy the moment!
One example of the importance of enjoying the moment came when we went to an upscale restaurant. After ordering ice cream and some beverages, it was 45 minutes before the waiter came back to say that there was no fruit for the ice cream. He was happy to deliver the news that there was still ice cream if we still wanted it. We told him that we would have ice cream without fruit and asked him to hurry because we had a meeting to attend. He replied that he would be back with the ice cream momentarily. Another 45 minutes passed before he returned regretfully with the news that there was no ice cream. By this time I was trying to hold back my laughter as I asked him why he did not know that there was no ice cream when we ordered two hours ago. His response was to tell us that all of the ice cream had just melted. He then asked if we wanted anything else. By this time, I just laughed openly. We explained that we were fine and left for our meeting. These kinds of situation are found in every corner of Africa and you only have two choices: get mad and frustrated, or take it easy and laugh. In other words, relax and enjoy the ride. We chose the second option.
In Nairobi we had the great privilege of meeting with a number of pastors from around the region. Not only were we able to pray with them, but we were able to get to know them personally as we travelled, ate and attended different meetings together. In one instance, the Archbishop organized a get together for the pastors and leaders with a special meal of chicken and lamb prepared just for us. In a place where many only eat meat only once a month, this day was a special day for everyone. We met their wives and children and we were truly humbled by their generosity and hospitality. Here are men who have very little or next to nothing, but who are willing to share what they have with great enthusiasm. It seems that they truly understand that it is more blessed to give than to receive. They proved to be great hosts and did their best to show us the countryside so that we would be able to see the real Africa and not the commercialized, fake tourist image. We preached, laid hands on the sick and had a number of opportunities to teach the children about the ill effects of different addictions such as drugs and alcohol.
For our travels to Kisumu in the north part of the country, Gerry was kind enough to organize transportation for us that included a driver named Derick, who was also a brother in the Lord. While packing our jeep, an incident happened. As I was carrying our bags from the room to the vehicle, I twisted my foot which made a loud cracking sound. Pain soon followed and I realized that I had broken my ankle. I will never forget the look on my son Nathaniel’s face. The panic and sadness about the possibility of ending our trip before it had really begun was evident on his face. I told my son not to worry because God did not send us to Kenya to tell the people that He is the God that heals, only to have me hopping around on one leg. God would do something. My brother Dawid and Nathaniel laid hands on my leg and prayed for healing. We all decided that even though I was in great pain we would continue as planned.
The roads are not like the roads that we are used to here in Canada. The biggest and most immediate dangers are the huge holes in the middle of the roads. Careful attention is needed, because at any moment you could lose your wheels or an on-coming vehicle could veer onto your side of the road trying to avoid the holes on the opposite side. With these types of conditions, it took us all day to go the 350 kilometers from Nairobi to Kisumu, but we had no regrets because we were able to see lots of things that the average white man is not able to see and experience. We were privileged to see miles of tea plantations that still remember the British Empire, all kinds of wildlife like the countless flamingoes at Lake Nakuru, and the countryside changing from flat plains to rocky areas and then to forests punctuated with the mud huts known as hats which resemble mushrooms springing from the earth.
Finally, in the late evening we arrived in Kisumu to experience which would prove to be, a powerful move of God. We had come to take part in an evangelistic crusade, where thousands would be impacted with the massage of salvation.
To Be Continued in Part 3
Meeting with pastors
Nairobi Church in the slum
Eating together after a Church service
Nairobi food market
Kibera in Nairobi
There are approx 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the Nairobi population, occupying just 6% of the land. Kibera houses almost 1 Million of these people. Kibera is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. The average size of shack in this area is 12ft x 12ft built with mud walls, screened with concrete, a corrugated tin roof, dirt or concrete floor. Only about 20% of Kibera has electricity. In most of Kibera there are no toilet facilities. One latrine (hole in the ground) is shared by up to 50 shacks. Once full, young boys are employed to empty they take the contents to the river. In Kibera there are no government clinics or hospitals. The providers are the charitable organisations: AMREF, MSF, churches plus some others. Unemployment rate is 50%.
On the way to Kisumu