All Souls in Kenya | Trip Update
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Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

Dear Friends,

There is a stone wall that surrounds the haven of Kinyago Dandora School.  After our joyous visits to the classrooms, we were invited to exit through the gate and visit the homes and neighborhood of some of the children.  There is no way we could have been prepared for what we would see.

Our host Catherine, the school social worker, and armed guards, led us over the uneven terrain of dirt, bits of trash, unidentified pools of fluids, and bits of glass and tin. While we walked carefully in closed-toed shoes, curious children of all ages began to spot the "wazungu" (white people) and dart up as close as they dared, some not wearing any shoes at all. 

There are 30,000–50,000 people who live in the 500 meter radius that is the cut-off boundary for acceptance into the school. Each year 3,000 students want to join. However, KDS can only facilitate 500 students. That's 50 new students each year.  These neighborhood children, some bold enough to call out to us, some hiding behind dilapidated doors, represent the many who do not attend any of the available schools.

We passed through narrow alleyways, careful to dodge sharp edges of the bent and rusted tin sheets that make up the siding of most of the tiny homes. Two of the students' families had agreed to let us visit their homes.

Thin, kind, and quiet Alice gestured us inside her gate. The "courtyard" was the size of All Souls' narthex and was completely filled with six-foot piles of collected garbage in trash bags and beat up boxes. A small dirt path led to the door of her home, a walled-in one room shelter even smaller than the yard. Her toddling daughter stayed close and gazed at us with fear and wonder. Another younger child burst out crying at the sight of us.

We learned that Alice stays home with the children (there are 4) and that her husband is a garbage collector. The meaning is different here: he spends his days at the dump site in Dandora, picking through trash to find anything his family might be able to sell or eat. There were no lights, beds or kitchen in their one room home, just a couch, small table, and more stacks of collected items. Yet we were welcomed with quiet kindness and gratitude for our connection to the school that provides a haven of hope to one of their children.

Next on our neighborhood tour, we were taken deeper into the maze of shelters and rocky ground. Two women appeared and led our group to the next home. Both were young and one seemed to be gently holding the other up by her elbow. Chickens and goats criss-crossed as we came to her door.

Florence sat on a sinking couch in her one room home and the women who had been guiding her disappeared into the alley. Only a few of us could fit in the room, and we stood tightly packed inside, blinking into the shadows. 

Meeting Florence and hearing her story, we began to see even more clearly the destitution that so many families in the slums face. Her round, sorrowful eyes were moist with holding back tears and she was clearly weak and in pain. We learned from Catherine that Florence had lost her husband last year when he was killed by a car walking home from work. Normally this would put her in the position to have to begin scavenging or looking for other means of providing for her family of four children. But shortly after his death, she discovered she was HIV positive.

I wanted to offer her hope, offer some kindness, but what could we do in those fifteen minutes? Her eyes seemed to say that she knew life would be short, like so many of the other adults in Dandora, where the average life span is 50 years. Her children would soon be orphans.

The staff of KDS are using funds to assist Florence’s family as they can, but the outlook is grim. Broken hearts beat softly in our chests. A Kenyan broken heart and a roomful of others from across the ocean. Where is God in this suffering?

I’ve learned since that day that the Kenyan Christians view of death as a step of joyful faith into true glory. There will be celebrating and no more sorrow, pain or toil. Florence had one very small wall and on it this poster:

Miraculous Jesus

Yes, there is a hope in her hurting heart–a hope in the one who promises to be near to the suffering, who prepares a place in his heavenly home. And meanwhile, on this earth, His faithful people bring the best they can to those He loves so much.

Anise Foster
for the Kenya Team

Copyright © 2017 All Souls Kenya Trip 2017, All rights reserved.

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