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I love comfort. Comfortable clothes, comfortable bed, comfortable conversations… I love it all. But it’s hard to love comfort and love Jesus.
I think following Jesus is far from comfortable. The message of the gospel is uncomfortable. Saying no to your flesh is uncomfortable. Bearing one another’s burdens is uncomfortable. Seeing Jesus in brokenness is uncomfortable.
And yet, on one of our first days in Nairobi we embraced uncomfortable and walked through Kibera Slum… in the pouring rain. For those of you who are not familiar with Kibera, walking through in the pouring rain meant walking through muddy, slippery paths composed of dirt, rubbish, and human waste.
The conditions in Kibera struck me as tremendously poor. As we walked, I saw chickens, dogs, and pigs rummaging through the heaps of trash on the ground right next to women selling food. I watched small children walk around barefoot and unaccompanied. I saw people using the main road as a bathroom.
It all amounted to one uncomfortable sensory overload.
So we walked and I observed what I could, feeling overwhelmed with anger and sadness at the same time. In that sort of situation, I have to consciously decide to suppress any emotions I may be feeling.
I had an overwhelming urge to cry, but I turned off my emotion switch and trudged through the muddy slum, slipping at every other step. No one else was walking through the slum, just our small World Next Door team of five white people (wazungu).
When we got close to our final destination, Tumaini Church, Pastor Fred had all of the children of Hope Academy waiting to greet us. They were literally standing as a crowd watching the five wazungu attempt to walk up a muddy hill. Right as we reached the top, one of the interns slipped and fell. Laughter from the crowd.
I don’t blame them. We looked ridiculous with our raincoats over our bags giving us hunchbacks and belly bumps. At that moment my emotion switch came loose and although I appeared to be laughing along with the children, I had to fight back the tears. It was one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve faced in a long time.
We entered Fred’s small office, and talked about his ministry. He pastors Tumaini Church (Tumaini means “hope” in Swahili) and runs the Hope Academy, an elementary school. He’s inspiring. He’s dedicated his life to loving the community of Kibera and spreading the hope of Jesus. Something he said stuck with me, “The children are really happy. They have a place to play, so they are genuinely happy.”
Happy? Wait, what?
Fred’s statement confused me. While I walked through that slum feeling uncomfortable, seeing and thinking about all of the brokenness and nastiness (for lack of a better word), I had missed the hope.
Fred reminded me that Jesus is in Kibera and Jesus is changing lives in Kibera. In a place I deemed uncomfortable, Jesus was there all along. Jesus demands that we live uncomfortably, because that’s where he is.
Whatever slum I may be in, and whatever uncomfortable situation I am facing, I must realize that Jesus is there. I don’t want to miss the hope. I don’t want to miss Jesus in the slums.
About the Author: Julie is a World Next Door intern currently in Nairobi, Kenya. She will be a senior at Cedarville University pursuing a degree in Business Marketing. Julie will kick your butt in a game of Euchre, loves a good cup o’ joe, and has a ridiculously irrational fear of birds.