Monday, January 12, 2009

Hope in Mitumba

As I write this, my feet are still caked in dust and splashed in mud from my trip to Mitumba, one of the slum areas here in Nairobi. I went this afternoon to visit an informal school that runs there. I will be helping there for the next few days in between my Swahili lessons and orientation, before I head to Korr on the 20th. While at Mitumba today, I learned so much, and came away with even more to think about. Allow me to share the story of what is happening in this small corner of Nairobi…

Mitumba was a place of poverty and hopelessness when Shadrach and his wife first got there in 2002. There was no food, no water, and people lived in unimaginable poverty. He referred to this place he found as Sodom and Gomorrah. Mitumba is right between Wilson airport and a development of middle to upper-middle class housing complexes. Even the scavenging from the garbage heaps that happen in other slums was not possible in Mitumba, as all the housing complexes are surrounded by high walls and guarded gates. People had not even a dump from which to scrounge some scraps. As a result, children, starving and looking for something to eat, were reduced to eating dirt and sucking on used condoms.

Let that sink in a little bit. Children. Eating dirt. Drinking from condoms. I even wonder if I should write such things. But such was the life – if you can call it that – of these precious little children. Ignoring it, hiding it – that doesn’t make it go away. Poverty. Disease. Hopelessness. But also, a pastor and his wife. A calling. A message of love that doesn’t just make warm fuzzies, it brings hope and the incredible power to make a change…

In the six years since Pastor Shadrach arrived in Mitumba, what a change God has made in this place. There is still poverty, yes. But there is also hope.

There is now a primary school with over three hundred children who are fed breakfast and lunch each day. There are teachers who are not only skilled, but feel God’s clear call to love these kids and to teach them about the love of Jesus. And children are doing well - eleven students this year have not only passed their primary school completion exams, but have been sponsored for secondary education, including full room and board. The school has recently been upgraded, and they are nearing construction of a two-story building – rare in a slum area like this – that will house a dining hall on the first floor and a medical clinic on the top floor. Every child who is admitted to the school is checked and treated for malaria, worms, and various other diseases and wounds. There is education for the families on how to treat water and avoid disease and HIV counseling available for those who want it.

Just in the last few weeks, there has been an orphanage dedicated and opened, where, as Pastor Shadrach put it, “God will be a father to the fatherless.” Beds have been donated and workers are finishing off the construction. No longer will orphaned children sleep in the garbage and filth-ridden alleyways, but they will have beds, showers, toilets, and a drawer of their own in which to store their things. One amazing story that has come out of this orphanage project is that, while digging in preparation for a septic tank, they found a natural spring, and there is water! Oh, there is water, abundant and far cleaner than the water the city promises to pipe in but never does! They now have a well and plenty of water.

As is that wasn’t enough, there are a number of income-generating projects that have been started in this developing community. A group of men have been trained and have a growing business making briquettes for stoves, and there is a ladies group who weaves purses out of a local plant. They have just gotten an order for 200 bags, and are overjoyed that this business is taking off. The next project that will begin as soon as there is space to do it is a mattress and pillow-making business. People have been allowed now to open bank accounts so that, if their hut burns, their money is safe. They see that there can be, that there IS, a way out.

In talking with Pastor Shadrach and seeing each of these projects today, I was absolutely awestruck at the hope that Jesus brings to such a place. Shadrach is an amazing man of faith, which comes from seeing the amazing changes in Mitumba. Children are bringing the hope of Christ to their families, and the little Mitumba church is growing. First the children, then the women, and now even the men are beginning to come and are holding Bible studies. With the biggest smile and shining eyes, Shadrach declared over and over, “Jesus is here!”

And indeed He is. While they may not be out of Mitumba, their minds are coming out of Mitumba – they are for the first time seeing another way that life can be. There is hope growing in that place. People are excited to see that the life they never even dreamed of is slowly coming true.

While there is much to be done – so many needs still to be met, so many challenges, not enough money, not enough people – there is much to stand in awe of. Pastor Shadrach said this of Mitumba:

We are developing life! We are letting Jesus transform the lives of these people, and in turn they are transforming the community. Jesus’ light is shining bright in this very place!
Please, pray for the people of Mitumba. Pray for the businesses that are developing, for the school, for the church that is growing . And please pray for Pastor Shadrach and his wife Violet, who are working so hard. Even despite having all his donated medical equipment stolen recently, he remains faithful: “Still I have no complaint. I know that when God is moving, the enemy will do whatever he can to stop it. Losing my things is an encouragement that God will do ever greater things here in this place.”

And surely He will. We know that he who begins a good work will carry it through to completion. I can’t wait to see - one day - what God will complete in Mitumba!

5 comments:

Kris said...

Incredible story. Pastor Shadrach and Violet sound like amazing examples of God's love. And already an answer to many unspoken prayers.

nachtwache said...

Wow, what a rollercoaster of emotions I'm on from reading your post! May God greatly bless Pastor Shadrach, his wife Violet and the people they serve! Such poverty is unimaginable for us. Also I pray for you to be blessed, strengthened and protected!

CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Thank you for sharing this story, Hillary. We who are comfortable have no idea what poverty really looks like. You have painted a powerful picture, a picture that ends with hope!

Julia Trotter said...

Hey Hillary, this is Julia from the AIM Canada office. I've read all the posts from Jan. 22 down to this one about Mitumba. I visited Mitumba last September and so I know how inspiring and incredible it is to see what God is doing there. You have done an amazing job of capturing it in words! Thank you. I might just print up this post at some point to send to some of the donors who support Mitumba.

Julia Trotter said...

Hey Hillary, this is Julia from the AIM Canada office. I've read all the posts from Jan. 22 down to this one about Mitumba. I visited Mitumba last September and so I know how inspiring and incredible it is to see what God is doing there. You have done an amazing job of capturing it in words! Thank you. I might just print up this post at some point to send to some of the donors who support Mitumba.