Sue, Richard & Toby – Home again!
Ten days after arriving back home I’ve finally got a few minutes to complete our Autumn 2016 Kenya blog. We’ve been enjoying little luxuries like drinking water from the tap and having hot showers, but have also been busy reporting back on our visit to Pamoja Trustees, checking and passing on the annual reports and letters from children and beginning to sort out and share all the photos and videos. We’ve also gone back to work – except for Toby, who needs a job. Please pray that he finds something that suits him as well as spending six weeks in Kenya: he was a great help on our trip, and it was wonderful to see the relationships he built with the children at the Care Centre in particular.
Our last week in Kenya was spent around Nairobi. We would not recommend driving in Nairobi as a good way of relaxing: the combination of traffic fumes, traffic jams and crazy drivers had us longing for the M25! Heavy rain and a strike by matatu drivers who were blocking the road meant that a seven mile journey across town took three hours one afternoon!
During our last week, we saw another house build taking place. James and Jeff are two young men who have been sponsored by Pamoja for a number of years. James is about to start an electrical engineering course and Jeff has just completed Standard Eight. They are
both lovely boys. Pamoja became aware that their housing situation was difficult, with many family members sharing space in their grandma’s small house. There was just enough room on her plot to squeeze a basic two bedroom dwelling in, so the money was provided by Pamoja and building began, a day late because of rain, on Tuesday. Kioko, who has worked for Pamoja for many years, helped, along with a professional fundi, and other family members pitched in. We were only able to see two days’ work, but by the end of Wednesday walls, windows and roof were completed, and the plan was to finish by concreting the floor by the end of the week. Additional gifts from people in UK meant that we had money to buy them each a bed and mattress, and a table. We suggested that the
boys should name their house: they came up with ‘Answered Prayer’. The new house will not only benefit them, but the wider family, as they will all have more space.
On the previous Sunday, we went with Alan, Sue’s older brother, to a small Church near the industrial area of Nairobi. Sue’s parents had been instrumental in building this Church in the 1980s: photos of it then show it in a field. It is now surrounded by tall buildings, and by the mess and dirt that is ubiquitous in Nairobi. This little Church has recently found a new area of service. One Sunday a man from South Sudan, Paul, came to the Church. In conversation afterwards it emerged that he was trying to care for a large number of South Sudanese children who are refugees from the ongoing war. Since then, 60 or 70 of these children have been coming regularly to the Church, enjoying singing and Bible teaching, followed by a basic hot meal. (Alan goes to a market to buy large quantities of food at his own expense.) Seeing all these children reminded us that what we hear in the news is by necessity selective: how many of us remember that a war is continuing in South Sudan? But it is, and people’s lives continue to be shattered by it. Alan will soon be going back to Florida with his family, and it is not clear who in this small Church will be able to keep the teaching and feeding programme going. This is not a Pamoja ministry, but I wanted to mention it in this blog so you are aware, and can pray about the future. I asked Paul whether he foresaw a time when they could go home, and he said “Not any time soon. It is too dangerous.”
The day before we left Kenya we met Pastor Shigonde, who has for many years worked among street boys. He is a remarkable, lovely, dedicated man who constantly follows Jesus’ example in giving himself to the service of those who are regarded as the dregs of society. Pamoja helped towards providing a home for some ex street boys in Nairobi and still takes an interest in this work, though overall responsibility has now been completely transferred to Maridhiano Ministries, an American-based charity that grew out of working with Pamoja. You can read the whole story at http://www.maridhiano.com. As you can imagine, there are many challenges in working with these boys: some break free from their former life, but others are drawn back. It is also not easy to find reliable people who are prepared to work with them. But after many years of planning, they are about to move the boys to a new home out in the country over an hour outside Nairobi, where the boys will find it easier to make a new way of life away from their old influences.
As we left, we asked Shigonde what he had planned for the rest of the day. “I’m going to where our Thursday club boys sleep” he said. (As well as the boys who have moved to the home, Shigonde works with over 100 others who come to his Church for a Thursday night club.) “After the heavy rain last night, I want to make sure they’re all OK. It sometimes happens that boys get swept away in a flood and die”. No one in authority cares what happens to these boys: they are an inconvenience to be got rid of when the government wants to make the place look tidy – Shigonde told us that many are missing, following President Obama’s visit, who, of course, would not be aware of what was going on behind the scenes.
Please pray for Shigonde and others like him who do care, and who believe that every person matters to God. Jesus never turned anyone away: He spent his time on earth not with the respectable and religious, but with the poor and outcast. Shigonde, like many of the people who are connected with Pamoja in Kenya challenge us in the way that they selflessly follow their Lord’s example.
Back home, we inevitably ask ourselves: did we do any good in Kenya? Who knows! We only do what we believe God is leading us to do. In a sense, all the practical things that happened during our visit – building toilets and drains, installing solar panels, decorating dorms and providing storage units, building play equipment, killing bedbugs and buying new mattresses – could all have happened without us. Maybe our presence was a catalyst, though. We loved the times we could share with the children in singing, sharing God’s Word and playing silly games: we hope they enjoyed it as much as we did! Perhaps one of the most important things is simply to be there for a few weeks alongside our Kenyan friends, to let them know that they are not forgotten and to encourage them to ‘run with perseverance that race marked out for us…fixing our eyes on Jesus’. Maybe there is also a role for us both through this blog, and personally, to share with as many people as we can what a difference Pamoja is making in the lives of people in Kenya. Pamoja, a three-way partnership (Kenya, UK and God), really does change the world for some people.
We have no firm plans for our next visit, but will pray about it and see where the Lord leads. We don’t intend to go around August 2017, though: election time is not a sensible time to go! But we did tell our Kenyan friends that, God willing and health permitting, we would be back. We would be very sad if we thought we would not be able to go again. We feel very privileged to have been able to do what we have done in these past three visits.
Sheena, with two friends from her Church, is planning to spend about 5 weeks in Kenya from the end of January. Please pray for her as she plans and prepares for this trip. We have left some jobs that still need to be done!
Thank you again for your interest, support and prayers during our trip. It is hugely appreciated. And thank you to all of you who support Pamoja in any way. Please spread the word: the more people who are actively involved, the more people we can help in Kenya. And finally, we express our thanks to our God, who has guided and kept us throughout our time in Kenya.