One of my fellow BGU students, Jack, is staying with us for a few days. Jack lives in Nairobi and works in Kibera Slum, where there are 1.2 million people in a 2.5 acre space. Jack has lived in Kibera for 22 years. He is now just outside of Kibera Slum in another home. He oversees a group of 650 pastors in east Africa, all Pentecostal churches. It’s a transforming cultural experience to spend time hearing Jack’s story. A few of the more arresting things:
Most families in Nairobi’s slums live in 10′x10′ spaces, with a single space containing a husband and wife, and 2-10 children.
In Kibera slum, none of the homes have toilets (indoor OR outdoor). In one corner of the room is a curtain and some plastic bags; when you need to relieve yourself you use the bag. There are no garbage bins, so often people just throw the full bags down the road or onto a neighbor’s roof.
Jack normally eats a piece of bread and tea for breakfast, a cracker for lunch. Many of his fellow pastors who are in Kibera slum go days without eating anything.
Jack’s current home is literally “across the tracks” from Kibera slum. It’s a substantial upgrade from the slum, as there are wider walkways between buildings, and outdoor pit toilets that 5-10 families share.
One of Jack’s dreams for the moment is to plant 1,000 toilets into Kibera slum. Aside from the health benefits, Jack says that the great benefit of this would be to give dignity to young girls. Boys 13-16 get used to the squalor; girls that age aren’t able to compartmentalize this part of their life, and the idea of defacating in their family room is traumatic. He strongly believes that giving them access to pit toilets would give them dignity and personhood.
We had some (Costco chicken and apple) sausages for dinner tonight, with salad, baked beans, corn on the cob, cherries, grapes and peaches. Jack especially liked the corn, which they have in Kenya as well. When Shannon asked him what they usually have with it, he said they sometimes will have tea with no milk, but usually would be their meal for the day. An ear of corn and perhaps some tea.
We spent a couple of hours in front of a computer looking at Nairobi’s slums on Google Maps, and Jack was able to show us his house, his organization’s training center for pastors in the slums, the hospitals, the golf course and the national park which border the slum, and other markers. It was amazing to see satellite images of where Jack’s family is and to put some pictures to his stories.
My kids adore Jack – he’s entertaining Brogan playing catch, and reading with Kaileigh. We’re all praying for each other.
Through it all, Jack is amazingly hopeful and resilient. He tells miraculous stories of God’s intervention, help and perfect timing. He also has massive plans for how to organize the people in order to lift them out of poverty and give them personhood and dignity. Given what I know of Jack in the past two weeks, I have no doubt whatsoever that Nairobi will be impacted.
It is an honor to provide hospitality to such a a man of God.