Services in the Mukuru Slum

Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2010

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Home of Harrison and Esther Kabage

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Travel Blog, Friday, July 9, and Saturday, July 10

Today we follow Harrison Kabage (who with his wife Esther will host me for two nights!) down to the Mukuru Slum, where a number of members from the PCEA Bahati Martyrs Church have heard the call to build a church, the PCEA Mukuru Redeemer Church. Harrison is the Elder in charge, supported by our sister Jane Gitubia with education and social work ministry.  Harrison is nearly retired, still owning a second –hand shop which his wife operates during the day most days, so that Harrison can minister in Mukuru, a slum with maybe between 40 – 50,000 residents.  Harrison and Esther's two children, both married, one with two children, live in the Dallas, TX area and are a part of the International Community Church which meets in Highland Park Presbyterian Church there.  The ICC church is pastured by our brother Cyprian Guchienda, in whose home in Kibwezi the first Newton-Nairobi Partnership Agreement was signed.  Cyprian I met at both the 2009 Kenya Mission Network meetings, in California and Cincinnati.

Ann stays in the van with Michael, but is also reading Kenya (Red Strangers, a book recommended by a good friend of ours – about the Kikuyu tribe prior to and following the impact of the British colonization.  The "Red Strangers," are the white people, who sunburned easily and turned red!)  We took a vote actually, and because the “paths” through Mukuru are so uneven, not to say slippery with the trash and other things running down the middle of them, Ann won, and didn’t have to watch her steps there!  The space which the small congregation rents (currently several hundred members and friends, and many children – more when special treats and surprises are announced!)

We get a picture of the ministry of the small congregation on Friday morning, a continuing child care program, with a “mama” who looks after the little ones while their mothers are away looking for work, training or working.  They are fed (as are the children who come to church school on Saturday morning!!) with an especially nutritious soy food which is cooked up by some of the congregation’s women.  The food comes from an organization “Stop Hunger,” which the Presbyterian Church in Hilton Head, SC (cf. Mary Stuart, e-mail  )though it costs a great deal to get the container over from the states!  At first the community ran into difficulty with Kenyan Customs (other have had similar horror stories to share), but apparently some meeting with the folks in Mombasa got that cleared up, and the food is coming more smoothly now!   We had some of it with the children on Saturday morning, and I hope to have a picture or two to share from that.

We experienced a number of “answers” to the needs of Mukuru Slum:  a youth organization is working on issues such as toilets (pay, as you can!), clean water provision, some rentals, a small micro-credit operation, sports and a resource room, where youth can read and study.  Most of the “homes” in Mukuru are 10x10 ft., and may house 5-7 family members.  The people have come from the rural areas, hoping to find work in the city, and in fact many of the residents here do work as day laborers in some of the many nearby factories and other industries, paint warehouses, etc.  Another organization, multi-purpose and multi-service, has a facility which is generating bio-gas for cooking from human waste!  The operation is not yet complete, with a part of the installation still to come from Dublin (yes Ireland!)  They also offer a community meeting space, medical services and counseling (VCT’s are fairly widespread throughout Nairobi – Voluntary Counseling and Treatment centers, TB, AIDs, etc.)

One of the Elders of the congregation works with women, and has had her own small health clinic for 11 years.  Another of the Elders takes responsibility for youth, and operates a “Satellite” theater, with auditorium, and small admission to see sporting events (World Cup, for example) and good movies – an alternative to the ubiquitous sports bars, which proliferate even in Mukuru – or perhaps especially in Mukuru, as serious competition for the hearts and minds and small amounts of money of the residents.  I couldn’t pass up a couple of the “shops,” one with a Bulls No. 23 Jersey (knock off, maybe from China?) and a small clinic which boasted the sign USA Health Center (some meds, family planning, AIDS and pregnancy testing, etc.)  Another of the Elders of the congregation runs a small shop with his wife, selling kerosene, pumping it from his tank into small containers for cooking and lighting.

The congregation has a space where they will be erecting a temporary space (love to get a whole lot of help from my/our friends on this one, too!) for worship and community meetings.  Temporary, because the title question is not fully determined, but the plan is to go ahead – here temporary means a cement floor and concrete blocks, as the congregation is able to build, maybe a small step at a time!  But cement and concrete because of the fire damage possibility/probability!  The current meeting space is what would otherwise be two dwellings, at a nominal rent, because they have electricity!  And a cooking space and space for the child care.  You have to see the location with me to believe it!  You really do!  And Jane says that already for the building, most of which will be done by members of the community, though they are willing to let some of us work alongside them, and might even accept one of our trained folks who has worked with Habitat.  Different climate and needs, but some building techniques would be similar!

I could not bring myself to take pictures of the “paths” with the sleeping dogs and children, small shops of every kind, hair salons, tailors, butcher shops, general hardware shops (not exactly like my Restoration Hardware, as you might guess!), bars, night clubs, -- you name it, and it’s sure to be there somewhere!  I did buy a pair of flip-flops to wear in our hosts’ homes, where everyone takes off their shoes on entering.  Given the way the outside is most places, it seems like a necessity and not only a nice thing to do!

Moving on, we are shown a fantastic new school building, about to open, a gift from the German government in cooperation with the Kenyan government.  We have not seen a better school building in all of our time in Berlin!  Really top of the line, state of the art!  At the edge of Mukuru slum!  But the children will still have to pay for uniforms and books, unless funds are forthcoming from somewhere!  And just across the wall from the school is the site which will probably become a permanent site for the Mukuru Church, with health facilities, and a safer location for maternity care and other services.  First, though, the present residents must be adequately relocated, lest the church make enemies of the people living there right now, and fail in their mission and ministry.

That’s enough for now.  I’ll pick up some more of Friday and Saturday in the next entry.  Peace be with you!  And also with you and you and you!
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