A Country of Contrasts

By Nancy Unks

Nairobi, Kenya is a modern metropolis—fast-paced, full of youth on cell phones, multiple languages, new construction, Ubers, and traffic—lots of traffic. Thanks to British colonial influence, cars drive on the left side of the road, major intersections are roundabouts (traffic circles).   Yet amid the hustle, Kenyans pause for tea at 10:00 and 4:00, served British style with hot milk.

Not far outside the city, some main roads have yet to be paved. Despite deep erosion gullies from the rainy season, our team bus flew over the rocks and ruts at a brain-jarring pace. There are no speed limits, just frequent speed bumps—sometimes even on the dirt roads!

Roadside vendors abound on every corner, selling everything from bottled water and snacks to clothing and furniture.  In the country, every building of any material—cement block, brick, or sticks and scrap metal—seems to have a store in front and a dwelling behind. Water is a precious commodity. Donkeys laden with multiple yellow plastic jugs trek to water tanks in the villages.  In both city and country, every school and business, and the homes of the rich, are surrounded by high walls topped with razor wire. Guards at the gates screen visitors.

In our two weeks of mission, what did we accomplish for Jesus that will last? For the men’s team, the answer seems tangible. They put a roof on a school dormitory, installed windows and doors, and did a little evangelism in nearby villages. For the women’s team visiting several established ministries, results weren’t so apparent.

We were welcomed enthusiastically, fed, serenaded, and given gifts. Prior faith was obvious; we can’t take credit for that. At one Kianga Kids group, when we announced we would tell the children a Bible story, the adults present cheered. The children listened patiently and politely. We wondered, are these kids real? During art activities, curiosity, exuberance and smiles emerged. Yes, they are real, after all. Add a few silly balloon hats, and chaos broke out. But would they remember the point of the lesson: that God knows YOUR name and loves YOU? For that matter, would they even remember the strange wazungu (white people) who once visited?

I came away with the distinct feeling that we didn’t finish the job. We left coloring pages, mosquito nets, and toothbrushes, but we could not begin to convey Jesus’ love for them. Going forward, all I can do is pray. The difference is I’m not just praying for a far-away mission anymore, but for real faces and names with specific needs.

Two that stand out for me are patients in a spinal injuries hospital: Shadrach, a 16-year-old quadriplegic going through his own fiery furnace, and Anthony, a thirtyish intellectual who accepts his injury as his fate, but rejects faith. So I pray, Holy Spirit, you are the only one who can get inside their heads and show them God’s love. Please do that.

I’ll pray for the Overcomers by Grace ministry in Sabia’s garage, a day program for 8-10 children with diverse physical and mental challenges. They may be neglected or abused in their homes, but here they are loved and learning. I pray for Sabia to know Jesus’ love more and to receive needed support for the ministry.

I’ll pray for the young women at the safe house, fleeing abuse, and for needy children attending school in the Mukuru slum. I’ll pray for Cecelia who oversees and travels to the five Kianga Kids ministries.

I praise God for the wonders of his creation we were blessed to see, and for all who had a part in our trip through prayer and support. Will you join me in praying for people in this country of contrasts?