I met him in a slum called Kibera, a small, six-mile by two-mile strip of land on the outskirts of Nairobi – a wasteland teaming with hundreds of thousands of desperate people. If you were to envision a place where Genesis 3 has sprung to life in all of its horror, a place where the ground itself is cursed, a place where the systems and structures of humanity are failed, and a place where the people themselves struggle with morality in light of their own immeasurable and unrelenting need, you might begin to conceive of a place like Kibera. But then again, if you’re anything like me, your imagination is probably not vivid enough to envision depravity on a scale such as this.
Kibera is a place where wild dogs scavenge for food amongst the garbage, even as the threat of violence hangs in the air, and the children play in the raw sewage that runs down the uneven, muddy streets. Kibera is a place where prostitution and sex trafficking are invisible, and yet oddly omnipresent in the haunted looks of the many women you pass. Kibera is a place seemingly forgotten by God, a sort of Hell on Earth that you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy.
And yet, there in Kibera, I met this dignified man, a proud, first-time father who ministers every day in the slums that once defined his childhood. Why does he do this? Because he believes in the call of incarnational ministry. He believes that the Son of God descending from His rightful station at the right hand of the Father (Phil. 2) actually means something for a church that is charged with the task of reaching out to the lost the broken. He does this because he understands that his university education doesn’t give him the right to abandon those that he once knew as neighbors.
This is why he is a better man than me. For if I were the one born amidst the fear and calamity of Kibera, if I were the one that had earned my way to an education that is still reserved only for the very best and brightest within this emerging society … I can’t say that my Christian conviction would be strong enough to live out the call. I can’t say that Kibera wouldn’t make me flee.
And that is why I cried today. I cried because because I knew that I was in the presence of an extraordinary man. I cried because even in a place where Genesis 3 seems unrestrained and cut off from the common grace of God, I saw the visible presence of an Acts 2 ministry lived out in the life of this man committed to educating the children of the slum for the sake of his Savior.
I doubt I shall ever meet such a man again.
This post was actually written in August 2013, while I was on a three week mission trip in Kenya. Today, as I was looking out my window, I saw the snow falling; and I found myself thinking back on that moment in Kibera. How much beauty do we miss that others will never see?