Some churches try to coexist with their community. Others try to influence it. Still others seek to change their neighborhood from the ground up. Karura Community Chapel wants to do all three…

And it’s working.

This past week I had the opportunity to spend a day with some of the staff at Karura Community Chapel. I got to witness the influence they were having in their two neighboring slum communities, as well as see the holistic change they offered.


Some children from a school in Haruma slum. The school was started by Karura.

Karura, one of the very first church plants of Nairobi Chapel, is located smack in the middle of one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Nairobi. Huge houses, surrounded by manicured lawns, artistically trimmed hedges and expensive electric fences seem to be huddled in gated communities everywhere you look.

This area is where the American Embassy was moved after the 1998 bombing in downtown Nairobi. The roads are clean, the malls are amazing, and the number of white people driving around is huge. In fact, when you’re in Karura’s neighborhood it’s sometimes easy to forget that you are in Kenya.

But all this glitz and affluence hides a darker underbelly, not seen from the main road.

When this community began to expand a couple of decades ago, the land primarily consisted of coffee plantations. The coffee pickers lived in small communities scattered throughout the many acres of farmland.

Haruma slum, one of two small slums neighboring Karura Chapel.

Haruma slum, one of two small slums neighboring Karura Chapel.

But when the rich homeowners began to develop the land, the coffee pickers were forced into smaller and smaller areas. Today, over 7000 people live in one tiny slum and 3000 live in another. Without coffee to pick, these former farmers have become impoverished, scraping by as cooks or gardeners or guards for the nearby financial elite.

And it is into these two slum communities that Karura has begun to reach.

Every Wednesday, Karura distributes food to people from the neighborhood. By providing this service, they have begun to build relationships with the “regulars,” learning their other needs and seeking to provide more holistic care.

Karura's interns and volunteers pass out food to members of the community.

Karura's interns and volunteers pass out food to members of the community.

Karura has facilitated the building of clinics and elementary schools in each of the slums. They have worked hard to connect with other organizations to provide clean water, basic sanitation, and a yearly medical camp. They have also started a sewing ministry to teach women a useful trade. Finally, they have created a football (soccer) league that provides fantastic inroads to the community.

In short, Karura is making a major difference. As they took me on a tour of the slums and allowed me to witness the weekly food distribution, I was humbled to see the kingdom of God lived out so practically (and so literally!). Karura really is acting as the hands and feet of Christ!

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Oscar Osabinyi said... 


    April 14th, 2011 at 10:58 am  

    The world next door pretty sums up the KaruraCC’s ‘transforming story’… The church as a window through which the world sees Christ Jesus:

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