God With Us

Posted Jun 20, 2011 by 13 Comments

My first day in Nairobi, I followed a matatu into Korogocho Slum, the words “God With Us” painted on its rear window.  God with us?  A look around suggested otherwise.

Korogocho houses nearly 200,000 men, women, and children in a single square mile of makeshift houses, fetid open sewers, and piles of filth, with no plumbing system and little to no access to safe drinking water or electricity. Susceptible to starvation, disease, crime, and gang violence, these are the poorest of the poor.

A narrow side street of Nairobi’s Mathare slum.

This is harsh reality for an estimated 2 million people, over half of Nairobi’s population, who are trapped in the cycle of abject poverty in the slums and informal settlements of Kenya’s capital. They struggle to meet their own basic needs, and their vulnerability and lack of resources are compounded by corrupt politics and power structures.

I wasn’t in Korogocho a minute before reality set in.  My own walls, so carefully constructed, collapsed, leaving my heart exposed and breaking. It is a vulnerable place that few people see, yet there I was, standing conspicuously in an overcrowded, unfamiliar street, tears flowing readily.  Looking around, I saw a toddler teetering barefoot beside a river of waste-water and excrement.  Dogs, goats, and chickens roamed freely, scavenging for food. Flies swarmed over mountains of trash and tables of raw fish for sale.

The stench knocked me back on my heels, burning my eyes.  My definitions of poverty and wealth, and my understanding of what it means to be human were suddenly too simple and utterly naïve.  The message on the window of the matatu echoed in my head.  Is God really here?  It seemed almost impossible.

But God is here. I saw Him.

Hide and seek in Mathare.

He is in Korogocho’s Tumaini Medical Clinic, where Dr. Joe Radkovic and his modest staff sing praises each morning before delivering babies in a slum battered by HIV/AIDS.

God is in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, where Amos Ireri and Joseph Karanja of ZanaAfrica make their way through the giant maze of sheet-metal shelters to deliver sanitary pads to schoolgirls who would otherwise re-use, go without, or prostitute themselves to buy them.

God is in Karura, an affluent neighborhood of gated estates and the home of Karura Community Chapel, whose vision of social justice allows orphans such as 14-year-old Stephen Odhiambo the opportunity to get out of the slums and get the education they otherwise couldn’t afford.

These ministries among so many others have answered the call to be the hands and feet of Christ on earth rather than look around hopelessly, saying the job is too big or that things will never change.  They are making an impact on the poor and marginalized in their communities, trusting in God’s provision as they strive to meet physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the least of these.

A little girl plays in the slum.

For them, social justice has nothing to do with political leanings, economic status, or fashionable trends.  It comes down to three of the most powerful words ever spoken:  love one another.

From a million miles away, well fed and blissfully distracted, it’s hard to believe places like these really exist, let alone take the initiative to get involved.  It’s easy to purchase a pair of TOMS, a Product(RED) shirt, and shade-grown coffee beans and stop there, believing I’ve done my part.  But more needs to be done, in Kenya and in our own backyards, and the workers are few.

The matatu driver was right – God is with us.  He does not abandon, and He is at work in Kenya, whether it be the slums or the suburbs.  Lives are being changed, my own included, and over the next two months I will have the privilege of sharing these stories of transformation, and ways you can make a difference for His Kingdom.

Stay tuned…

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Next Steps
    • Visit www.karuracc.or.ke to read more about Karura’s incredible ministry.
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    • Pray for those who read our articles this summer, that their eyes would be opened and their hearts broken for the broken and lost of our world!
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About the Author: Bridgette was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2011. She graduated from Indiana University in 2004 with degrees in Journalism and Italian. She loves live music, good books, daylight savings time, and eating local wherever she is.

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Comments

  1. Nickson Kirongo said... 

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    June 20th, 2011 at 4:26 am  

    Will be waiting to hear more stories of transformation, and more importantly how others can help. God with us indeed

  2. Josie Tilyou said... 

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    June 20th, 2011 at 7:29 am  

    Great testimony on how God is working there through you & others willing to follow His Calling. Great writing! Looking forward to reading more of your work in progress.

  3. Chuck Easton said... 

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    June 20th, 2011 at 9:34 am  

    Thanks Bridgette for being our eyes and heart in Korogocho. I will stay tuned. Look forward to seeing God through your words there in Kenya.

  4. Jan Eyster said... 

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    June 20th, 2011 at 9:47 am  

    Bridgette,

    Wow..thank you for your heartfelt words, and the insight into what you are experiencing there. I know words cannot express…but you are gifted with words, and moving our hearts and minds. God bless, and I look forward to following your team there..

    Love in Christ,
    Jan

  5. Gary Paultre said... 

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    June 20th, 2011 at 5:32 pm  

    It’s overwhelming. But God. That’s the key. But through God all things are possible. Great article Bridge! I hope a lot of people will be touched be reading this as I was. I’ll be praying for you. Look forward to hearing more.

    gp

  6. Brenda Paultre said... 

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    June 20th, 2011 at 11:55 pm  

    Bridget,
    Your article was so heart-wrenching and compassionate. It was amazingly told in such a way I felt like I could see the people you saw and smell the smells you smelled. You are a truly gifted writer and how awesome that God is using you now to be a voice for hurting and suffering men, women and children on the other side of the world! God bless and may He sustain and protect you, as He continues to reveal Himself to you. Prayers are with you!
    Your sister in Christ–Brenda

  7. Michelle Sidari said... 

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    June 21st, 2011 at 10:03 pm  

    Wow- how eye opening. We are praying that everyone’s eyes will be opened through your wonderful words of wisdom! Miss you and love you!

  8. Dave Rod said... 

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    June 22nd, 2011 at 1:57 pm  

    Bridgette, thank you for showing us two vulnerable places. Korogocho and your heart. We will be staying tuned all summer!

  9. Amy Sorrells said... 

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    June 23rd, 2011 at 1:06 pm  

    “For them, social justice has nothing to do with political leanings, economic status, or fashionable trends. It comes down to three of the most powerful words ever spoken: love one another.”

    Indeed, the best, truest and purest justice around! Thanks for such an important reminder, and for telling it in such a poignant way!

  10. Jeff Unruh said... 

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    June 23rd, 2011 at 3:31 pm  

    Bridgette,
    Somehow you were able to capture the essence of Korogocho in your post. Having been there myself, it brought back may images. For those who have never been, you have given them a taste of life in the slums–and much to ponder, pray, and practice. Praying for you, Jeff

  11. Jo Nading said... 

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    June 23rd, 2011 at 7:01 pm  

    I’m waiting eagerly for your next post. I understand being overwhelmed by it all. I’ve never been to Korogocho – it sounds just awful. Praying for your heart. Jo

  12. Katie Aschliman said... 

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    June 25th, 2011 at 1:27 pm  

    B… I’m so proud of your writing, vulnerability, and heart. I am thankful to hear your words and what you’re learning in Kenya. Thank you for being our eyes and ears over there. Love you girl.

  13. Rebecca said... 

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    June 26th, 2011 at 7:34 pm  

    Bridgette, sending you much strength and love from West Texas. When your heart is heavy, remember there are many of us thinking and praying for you and sending you strength.

    They are lucky to have you and you are lucky to have this amazing experience. Sometimes through witnessing great pain our hearts grow larger, more compassionate, and we are so much better for it. : )

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