My experience in Kenya

It’s hard to picture any country you’ve never been to before, much less a country in Africa when you live in relative affluence in a California suburb. What would Kenya look like? All I knew was what you see in National Geographic. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be sleeping among lions and cheetahs — but, then again, you never know.

This was the first time I had done anything like this before. I was well traveled inside California — for one reason or another, mostly sports and school, I have been to just about every major city in the state — but outside it was an entirely different matter. I had left the state three times before this: to Green Bay, Wisconsin, to watch my beloved Packers (the result of the game is better left unsaid); to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, a stone’s throw from Golden State ground; and Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, where I could stand with one foot firmly implanted on Canadian soil, and the other bolted to good ol’ U.S. dirt. So it’s not exactly like I had anything to compare it to. I had tried to Google Earth the cities I would be staying in — Nairobi, Kitale, and Mt. Elgon — but that can only get you so far. Looking at Grecian ruins and famous buildings on Google Earth? Cool. Trees, grass, dirt, and rows of buildings in Kenya? Not as cool.

Though we were tourists, we did not visit the Tourist Information Center.

This is what was running through my head as I was landing in Nairobi after 20 hours of travel spread out over two days. It was a miracle that I was even going on this trip: about a week before I was scheduled to leave, I still needed to raise $2,000 to go, and when my group arrived at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport, the airline did not even have our tickets. Our pastor’s sense that we would encounter the demonic seemed to be coming to pass even before we’d set foot in the country.

I was going to Kenya, along with 30 others from my church, Mountain View Community Church, a Mennonite Brethren church on the northeast side of Fresno, on a mission for 20 days. We would be leading a prayer training class for local pastors, a kid’s ministry training class for youth leaders, and a few what we, for lack of a better term, called crusades, where many would be led to Christ. This wasn’t the first time the church had led a team to this part of Kenya — in fact, groups from the church, ranging from 60-plus people to less than 10, have gone five times since 2005 — but it was my first time joining them. Telling people of my summertime voyage elicited several reactions, ranging from puzzled questions about why I was going and fear that I would be eaten by a lion, to joy that I would experience such adventure and expectations that my entire worldview would be changed. Perhaps the best, at least the most memorable, observation was from a family friend, who offered that it would be a great place to propose to my girlfriend.

Potential for romance aside, as we landed I had no idea what awaited me in Kenya. I would soon find out.

I went with a group of nine others that left a few days earlier than the rest of the group, which meant a few things: we got to rest a little before the grind of the missions trip began (invaluable advice I was given: as a missionary, there are two rules, the first of which being if you see a bathroom, use it, the second being if there is food in front of you, eat it), and we were able to experience a few things that we normally would not have time to do, including visiting two slums in the heart of Nairobi, Kenya. Slums are places of abject poverty. Here, houses were made from hardened mud and tin, each connected to the one next to it. The streets were dirt roads of very poor quality. (I likened the drive to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.) There was no sewage system, and a stream of feces, urine and garbage trickled along the side of the street, with children playing right in the middle of it. This was a particularly sad sight — no wonder disease is rampant there. The children were all in good cheer, however — every child we passed waved ecstatically at us, with grins showing all of their straight, white teeth that all African children seem to have, before they are ruined by consuming copious amounts of Coca-Cola as adults. (Which they have to do; water is unsafe to drink in Africa.) And the Coca-Cola signs were ubiquitous. It was sold everywhere, and places that did not sell it, painted their tin houses red and white for good measure. Everything was in English. It felt weird to be in a foreign country, much less a foreign country in Africa, and be able to understand everything.

People were everywhere. One of the slums we visited was Kibera, the second largest slum in Africa, and the third largest in the world. People lined the streets — they were selling everything from second-hand clothes, jewelry, beautiful handcrafted furniture, and fruits and vegetables. But they were mostly milling around, standing or sitting with a few people, no one saying anything. Some were walking with purpose, perhaps to or from work, or maybe just to keep from not having anything to do. They were, for the most part, dressed impeccably; those who worked donned their only suit, making themselves, in the workplace, indistinguishable from those who avoid the slums.

They were located right outside the smog-ridden city. If there were buildings, they were very old and poorly constructed — three days before we arrived at one slum, a five-story building had collapsed with people inside of it. It looked like there was still dust coming up out of its ruins when we passed it. The whole place was simply drenched with poverty. This is a different kind of poverty than the kind we experience in America; in America, the poor have a car, two television sets, an X-Box and air conditioning. Here, what we saw told a much different story. This is something no amount of foreign aid can fix. If Bill Gates visited Kibera, felt overwhelming compassion and decided to completely renovate the slum out of his own pocket, within 10 years the slum would be back to this wretched state. The problem is an institutional one, not a financial one. The money is there — beautiful, elegant buildings are within sight of the slums. Even the willingness to help is there — the government has been attempting renovation efforts for years, to no avail. The problem is institutional. Though the country is market-based and one of the largest trade centers in Africa, the economy suffers mightily from over-reliance on agricultural production and tourism, while rampant inflation helps keep the poor in poverty. The biggest problem, however, is corruption. Due to corruption, many foreign aid organizations have left Kenya, and as long as corruption remains a key feature of the Kenyan government, the economy will continue to be volatile.

All this was the backdrop to our visit to two schools in the slums. One school catered to mostly special-needs children. Many were deaf; in fact, I learned to sign my name to them. There were many children there, all of whom kept referring to me as “mzungu,” which, I found out later, means “white person.” It was the other school, however, which left an indelible mark on me. There were no children present, it being a vacation day for them, but the campus was in a sad state of disrepair, mostly due to the sewage. The school, which also doubles as a church, had previously raised money to build flushable toilets. It finally raised enough money for construction, and had it built. However, the builder did not install the pipes correctly; they burst, spilling defecation everywhere. Right through the middle of the campus a pond of urine and feces sits, hidden only by wooden posts laid hastily over the contaminated area so children would not play in it. The stench was unbearable; our only reprieve was when the swirling winds shifted. The pastor told us that to fix the problem, he needed $3,000 — $3,000 he did not have.

Wooden posts covered a pond of excrement at a school in a Kenyan slum.

The rest of the group arrived a couple days later, and the next day, Sunday, all 31 of us went to a church in another slum. The church was called Children of the Promise Church, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The worship was what you might imagine from an African church, but to imagine it and to witness it are two completely different experiences. It was filled with so much soul — soul not in the way we use it in America, to characterize the genre of music popularized by artists like Ray Charles, but soul by expending so much raw emotion — and all of the African musical tendencies were out in full force: everything had a constant rhythm, there was a call-and-response for every verse and improvisation appeared to be the essence of the singing. People would simply rise from their seats and start dancing whenever they felt prompted by the beat of the music. The congregation repeated phrases by rote — “God is good (all the time); All the time (God is good)” — and the preacher spoke in a deep, baritone voice, with the same cadence as black preachers in America.

The pastor to our church, Pastor Fred Leonard, then gave a sermon — theme: God loves the church — and then we were given an opportunity to pray for members of the congregation who wanted prayer. I prayed for four people: one who wanted protection and a good job, one who wanted prayer for her family’s future, one who wanted healing from diabetes, and one who wanted healing from the HIV virus. I don’t know if any of these prayers were answered immediately, or even at all, but I know God blessed them through the experience and was speaking through me, because I felt the Holy Spirit come upon me. It felt so strange, yet so familiar at the same time. The hairs on my arms and the back of my neck stood up, and my body began to tingle. It felt as if someone had rested their hands on my shoulders and like another being was making my lips move and open my vocal chords. It was an awe-inspiring feeling, one I’ve only felt a few times before. By this spirit, I instinctively knew that the woman who was HIV-positive needed healing, even before she had reached me. The Lord gave me Scripture to pray out without my even needing to use the Bible in my hand. They just poured out of my mouth, one by one: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4); “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8); “You fathers — if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11-13).

It was a surreal experience, one that could not be duplicated nor reenacted. It was simply the power of the Holy Spirit descending upon that church and using us as a blessing to the lives of that congregation. After the experience, I couldn’t help thinking about those who disparage faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior. These scoffers and mockers can’t help themselves; as Jesus said mercifully on the cross, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” For they have never experienced the awesome power of the presence of the Holy Spirit. They are to be pitied, not judged.

Our next stop was the city of Kitale. About eight hours driving distance northwest of Nairobi, Kitale is a mostly agricultural city that is home to the Africa Theological Seminary, an offshoot of International Christian Ministries. It is here where we stayed. The seminary was surrounded by roughly 12-foot high walls. It was more like a compound. That’s the thing about Kenya — it is like this everywhere. Every building structure was protected by high walls, and every compound was protected by multiple security guards. O! security guards; they were everywhere. You couldn’t use the bathroom without passing a security guard. (I mean that quite literally — we visited a Kenyan mall to eat, and there was a security guard standing outside the restroom.)

ICM is run by Rev. Stephen Mairori. Mairori is a very influential pastor in East Africa: he is associated with big name American pastors such as Rick Warren, of “Purpose Driven Life” fame, and Bill Hybels, who hosts the Global Leadership Summit, works with pastors all throughout East Africa and even meets with Kenyan politicians to try to persuade them to do various aid projects in the community. He is my church’s point man in Kenya — he met our pastor at seminary in America and attended our church during his stay; we’ve supported him in his ventures ever since. The ICM campus in Kitale had classrooms, a mess hall, a chapel, a large field (which included soccer goals) and the Founder’s Cottage, where I, luckily, was able to sleep.

We were there to conduct a prayer training session with local pastors. In this way, our team differed from most mission teams — most churches use their time away in another country to provide manual labor. We focused on teaching the Kenyans about prayer. (Why prayer training? Our pastor explained it to the Kenyans in this way: We Americans think all Kenyans, by the virtue that they’re from Kenya, can run really fast and win marathons. Is this true? No. People think all Christians, by the virtue that they place their faith in Jesus Christ, know how to pray. Is this true? No.)

Over a period of three days, we ran the gamut of topics on prayer: we defined prayer, explained how prayer works, showed how to listen to the Holy Spirit, repent of sins and experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any of us realized the impact we’d make in this section until we were actually experiencing it.

When we started on the first day, there were only about 20 pastors present. More would come throughout the day, and 250 people were there the last day, introducing us to the Kenyan concept of time — there isn’t one. Start something at nine o’clock, expect people to arrive closer to eleven. It was reminiscent of Orwell’s description of Spaniards in his memoir of the Spanish Civil War “Homage to Catalonia.” For the men of Spain, “whenever it is conceivably possible, the business of today is put off until mañana,” the eminent 20th-century writer wrote. Replace mañana its equivalent in Swahili, and you have the Kenyans.

“Prayer is the conversational part of the most important love relationship in our lives — our love relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” “Prayer starts when God has a desire, then tells the Holy Spirit, who lives in us, His desires. We listen to the Holy Spirit and then understand what God desires. We pray forth God’s desires in the name of Jesus Christ, then God recognizes the prayer that started in Heaven with Him and He answers it.” “We want to become a person of praise and cultivate a lifestyle of worship.” All this that we taught went over well, and the pastors were learning a lot that they could take back to their churches. God always speaks through his messengers. But there was something missing. You could not describe it to somebody; there was definitely a lack of power behind the words we were teaching. They were just words. We needed something more. When we joined the story, we got it.

Joining the story is a way of allowing God to speak to you that my church uses to help the person relate to a particular passage of Scripture. You read a passage of Scripture, let the Holy Spirit put images and words into your thoughts and surrender yourself to those thoughts. In this session, we joined the story of Jesus calming the storm in the Gospel of Mark, chapter four. In it, Jesus and his disciples are on a boat when a fierce storm comes upon them. They frantically wake a peacefully sleeping Jesus before he simply rebukes the wind and the waves. The commotion stops, and Jesus asks the disciples, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Our pastor explained that there are four ways to respond in crisis, when a “storm” hits our lives: you can panic, you can become paralyzed, you can paddle, or you can pray. With this backdrop, everyone became silent and let God work through our imaginations, asking him for a word, picture, vision: What is our storm?

After a few minutes, we stopped, and our pastor asked for a volunteer to share what Jesus revealed to them. No one responded at first, but after a bit of prodding, a tentative, middle-aged woman raised her hand. “Kenya,” she said.

Kenya gained her independence from Great Britain on December 12, 1963. Jomo Kenyatta, a nationalist icon and leader of the Kenyan opposition to the British crown for nearly 40 years, served as the country’s first president, from the nation’s inception in ’63 until his death in 1978. In ’78, his vice president, Daniel arap Moi, succeeded him. Both men were a part of the Kenya African National Union party, the dominant political party in Kenya at the time, but that was not nearly as important as what tribe they belonged to. The British government, when it took control of Kenya, allowed local tribes to reign in their respective areas. This system remained largely intact when the Brits left. Whereas in the West, the worry has always been over factionalism, in Kenya, the problem is tribalism. “So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities,” wrote James Madison in Federalist No. 10, “that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.” Thus, the Founding Fathers instituted a republic with checks and balances, a bicameral legislature and staggered terms in office, covering a large swath of land. The young American republic was set up with factions in mind, and intended to keep them at bay; the Kenyan government, if it didn’t encourage tribalism, did nothing to stop it.

Throughout the ‘90s, government corruption and tribal violence marked each election season, with KANU, despite frequent international efforts toward Kenya liberalization, remaining essentially the sole political voice. In 2002, however, everything was supposed to change. That year, the opposition National Rainbow Coalition, led by presidential candidate Mwai Kibaki, won the country’s elections, while Moi ushered in a peaceful transfer of power. NARC campaigned on an anticorruption platform and an overall reform of the government, and held the high hopes of many Kenyan citizens. Alas, the Kibaki regime’s reform agenda did not materialize, and by the 2007 election, NARC faced intense opposition from a new political party, which featured elements of the disbanded KANU, the Orange Democratic Movement. The nation was standing at the proverbial ledge, needing only a slight nudge to push her over. A nudge she got.

Kibaki won reelection in a contested vote, with the opposition leader Raila Odinga accusing the government of voter fraud and favoritism toward Kibaki’s native tribe. Violence swept the nation. Over the few months after the election, 1,500 people died and as many as 600,000 were displaced from their homes as tribe was pitted against tribe. Police were given orders to shoot to kill while protesters chanted, “No Raila, no peace!” Kenyan politicians were even accused of offering cash to children to kill or burn down the houses of their enemies. The violence only ended when former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan brought both sides to the negotiating table, and helped form a coalition government with Kibaki retaining the presidency and Odinga occupying the new position of prime minister.

Though the violence has ended, its effect can still be seen, mostly at the emotional and psychological level. Many simply don’t feel safe. Even in 2009, one year after the violence and three years before the next election, people were stocking up one rifles and ammunition. One man told the BBC, “We have to arm ourselves. I did not acquire this gun to commit offenses,” explaining that he was not willing to “wait until 2012 to be killed.”

So when the woman said “Kenya,” everyone else in the room nodded in agreement.

What transpired after that could only be described as a holy moment. The Kenyans all stood up and began praying. One after another they would pray, asking for God’s protection, quoting Scripture and declaring God’s power over the elections. It was an awesome sight to see and hear — hundreds of men and women praying, groaning in agreement, shouting amen. Some wept, while others simply stood with their arms out, basking in the glow of God’s presence. They shouted out the names of God: Jehovah-jireh, God as provider, Jehovah-nissi, God as the banner, Jehovah-rophe, God as healer, Jehovah-shammah, God is there, and Jehovah-shalom, God is peace. (The Kenyans love the Hebrew names of God.) A real sense of peace was finally coming over these men and women.

Many Kenyan pastors prayed to receive God’s forgiveness for sins committed during the previous presidential election.

The next day solidified that peace. We began with corporate repentance. The Kenyans got into groups of 10-15 and confessed the sins they committed during the previous election and post-election turmoil. This was something these people needed to do. For even though they were all pastors, all had some sort of sin to repent of. Some repented of a lack of faith that God was in control. Most repented of their participation in the tribalism that so dominated Kenyan society. One even confessed to committing murder. All experienced God’s loving faithfulness and forgiveness. There was a palpable sense of relief permeating the compound. The air seemed lighter, the sun shone brighter and the toothy grins of the pastors were contagious. It was as if a fog had been lifted; they were actually starting to believe that God was in control. They need not rely on their tribe or local gangs for protection — they could have faith that God had plans for them, plans for good, not for ill, plans for them to prosper. God’s presence had to have been there that day.

When we finished in Kitale, we took the three-hour drive to Mt. Elgon. I could say that we took the backroad there; then again, every road in Kenya looked like a backroad. We drove up muddy hills, leaving the precious cement roads, and relatively smooth driving, behind. My repeated attempts to read in the van were in vain. One of our vans got stuck once; other than that, there weren’t any problems aside from a few people getting carsick. During the drive, you could not help but thinking: Finally! This is Africa! You could see lush green fields for miles, and mud huts sprinkled the countryside. Acacia trees, with their thin trunks, many branches, and lofty canopies that make them seem like they would make the best treehouses, littered the roadside. And corn! I have never seen more cornstalks in my life — the place could have rivaled the American Midwest. Once we arrived in the village, however, our amazement evaporated in favor of sympathy. Though there was food seemingly everywhere, multiple children had bloated stomachs, indicating their malnutrition. Men, women, and children, juxtaposed to the smiles and waves Kenyans in the city had for us, leered at us from afar. They had the hardened faces of a people who have been through much, and indeed they have been through much. Mt. Elgon has been one of the places in Kenya most ravaged by tribal violence.

Mt. Elgon looked more like we imagined Africa looking.

The problems started in 2006 with a government land allocation scheme gone awry — one clan accused the government of favoring another clan. (Mt. Elgon is inhabited by the Sabaot tribe, but there are many clans within that tribe that oppose one another.) The Sabaot Land Defense Force was the face of this opposition, and soon resorted to violent means to attain their often sullied ends. The SLDF used violence indiscriminately, torturing men, raping women and murdering many, according to one report sometimes one per day. The terror group burned houses and exported fear throughout the region. Few civilians testified against the SLDF for fear of retaliation; those that informed the police of the group’s actions found themselves the victims of retaliatory violence, in some cases having their ears chopped off. It has been estimated that due to violence caused by the SLDF, as many as 200,000 have been uprooted from their homes and nearly 700 have been killed. A building built by my church on a previous mission trip to Kenya was riddled with bullet holes. One victim described what happened to him this way:

I was woken up by a knocking at the door. I opened it and there were guns and torches staring at me. They rounded up my cows, beat me and stabbed me as we walked. When we reached the bush they tied me by me feet to a tree, my head hanging down. There were others hanging also. They beat me very badly and said, “Choose: either surrender all your possessions including your land or you die now.” I told them to take it. They cut off my ear as a mark, then they made me eat it. I crawled home, I could not walk.

This caused the Kenyan military to step in. In March 2008, the military launched Operation Okoa Maisha — Operation Save Lives. Though residents of Mt. Elgon were initially optimistic, the ensuing violence led many to criticize the military’s involvement. The violence peaked. The military rounded up nearly all the men of Mt. Elgon — 3,779 in all, according to government statistics — and took them to so-called “screening camps,” an Orwellian phrase meaning “torture camp.” The military forced men to strip naked and crawl through razor wire, all the while being whipped and questioned about where SLDF guns were hidden. Some were shot by the military. Numerous people disappeared and those that were killed were dumped via helicopters into neighboring forests. Several women also complained of rape by the military, and villages known to be sympathetic to SLDF causes were burned to the ground.

However, the government has claimed success, and indeed, the violence has abated. Even still, two Kenyan soldiers stood watch outside our compound each of the three nights that we were there.

Arriving in Mt. Elgon meant one thing for our team: it’s game time. This was the part of the trip we were all gearing up for. In addition to leading another prayer training, we were also going to train and equip children’s ministry leaders, and dedicate a fresh-water well that our church and another church partnered in fundraising for. But the big event was our “crusade,” scheduled for our last Sunday there. We had no idea how many to expect, but Mr. Mairori, who also accompanied us to Mt. Elgon, was expecting many people.

The plan for our three days was this: On Friday we would lead a prayer training during the day, and in the afternoon we would have a mini-crusade to advertise for the big one on Sunday; on Saturday, we would lead a prayer training and dedicate the well during the day and in the afternoon we would lead another mini-crusade; on Sunday, it was showtime. While the plan sounded great, it initially wasn’t coming together like we had hoped. The prayer trainings, while good, did not have a “holy moment” like the one we experienced in Kitale. And our first crusade was rained out. (I will never forget seeing hundreds of children streaming toward their houses at the sight of rain in the distance. There was no messing around there.) But we got a much-needed pick-me-up at the well dedication: a few hundred got saved and we were able to give out sheep and cows to some of the people there. (Sheep are seen as a sign of blessing, while owning a cow in Kenya, as one on our team explained, was akin to owning a small business in America.) We expected great things for Sunday.

However, on Sunday at 9:00, when the service was slated to begin, those expectations seemed to be for naught: only a few had shown up. We were hopeful that this was just another experience of “Kenya time,” but you can never be too sure. But they never stopped coming. They did not come all at once, but almost one at a time. People walked for miles, likely starting the previous night to get there, and they never stopped coming. Eventually, more than 5,000 people were there. The mass of bodies extended across the entire compound. It was literally a sea of people, all sitting rapt with attention. After a couple hours of introductory remarks and local entertainment, our pastor stood up and gave his sermon. When he finished, he gave those in attendance an invitation to accept Jesus into their hearts; after a few moments of hesitation, nearly 3,000 Kenyans, men, women, and children alike, raised their hands, some shooting their hands with a look of desperation etched onto their faces. This was something they needed. While they prayed, some laid their face inside their hands, feeling completely overwhelmed; others opened up their hands and lifted their faces to Heaven, receiving the Holy Spirit with joy. It was an awesome sight.

3,000 Kenyans accepted Christ on our last Sunday.

After, we gave out a number of cows, sheep and mosquito nets before we had to leave in order to miss the rains that were on their way. As we drove down streets of clay to the bottom of the mountain, we passed hundreds of people walking back to their homes, some pulling along a sheep or a cow, all bearing huge smiles and hearty waves for us inside of our vans. Children chased us, and the overall atmosphere on Mt. Elgon that day was one of sheer happiness. Most of them were experiencing God’s love for the first time, and, much as a born-again Christian in America often wears a different glow about him, the Kenyans who were saved seemed to have an extra hop to their step, a little less amble to their gait. All told, as we left Kenya, 4,000 gave their lives to Christ, and hundreds experienced emotional healing and the presence of the Holy Spirit for the very first time.

Why write about this experience? To answer simply, I think this is a story that should be told — too many life-altering things happened to me to stay silent. But I think it goes deeper than that. Whittaker Chambers, the journalist who outed Alger Hiss as an underground Communist, once wrote about the 20th century, “Economics is not the central problem of this century. It is a relative problem which can be solved in relative ways. Faith is the central problem of this age.” That remains true. All we read in the newspapers is about our poor economy: trillions upon trillions of new debt every year; unemployment remaining above 9 percent; our AAA rating has been lowered; stocks fell once again. Don’t get me wrong — this is all dire news. But this is not the problem of this age. The problem that our economy poses is one that can be easily solved by simply cutting spending. It poses only a relative problem. Faith, or a lack of it, is the problem.

The Western world is slowly losing its faith. It has attached itself instead to worldly ideologies promising peace, fairness, and equality, while, paradoxically, leading only to the opposite. Europe, the home of Christianity for so many years, is less reached now than at any time since before Constantine. The West has given up its historical faith in God for a belief that reason is what runs the world. Theological tracts and Christian apologetics do not convince the way they used to, either because writers of the caliber of Chesterton or Lewis do not exist on our side anymore, or, more likely, our minds have been dulled to theological expositions. We in the West have heard it all before. It’s nothing new. The way to a Great Awakening is through experience. A Christian who only comes to Christ through being convinced that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, may fall away by being convinced of some other doctrine. A Christian who has felt the presence of the Holy Spirit could never be convinced that he did not have that experience.

My purpose in writing this essay was to relate my experiences of faith to an ever more faithless world. Amid all the death, destruction and despair, there is only one answer. It is not liberalism or conservatism, capitalism or communism, community or individualism or freedom or equality. The only answer is Jesus Christ.


7 thoughts on “My experience in Kenya

  1. You deserve a pat on the back for choosing to leave the comfort of your home to go to a foreign land to share God’s love, and the message of Christ.

    Unfortunately however, some of what you write here only serves to reinforce the negative stereotypes people have about Africa. Just a few examples below:

    ”…white teeth that all African children seem to have, before they are ruined by consuming copious amounts of Coca-Cola as adults. (Which they have to do; water is unsafe to drink in Africa.)…”

    ”…They were, for the most part, dressed impeccably; those who worked donned their only suit…”

    ”…owning a cow in Kenya, as one on our team explained, was akin to owning a small business in America…”

    I think you are wrong in making general conclusions about a whole continent – Africa, (or even just a country – Kenya), based on only three places you visited. Did you venture beyond the slums, to the neighboring middle class estates like Lang’ata (near Kibera), or to the more affluent estates like Karen (also not very far away from Kibera) for example? If you did, would what you say about unsafe water still be true?

    Also, how would you know that these people donned their only suits, unless they told you?

    I don’t refute, the levels of poverty and inequality in Kenya are quite high, higher than, say, the US and UK. But Kenya, and all other African countries for that matter, have their share of wealthy and middle class people enjoying life. Even in the rural areas, life in not uniform for everyone, some are wealthy, some are filthy poor, its just the way of life in most nations of the world. The poor we will always have, the rich likewise.

    I don’t blame you though. I bet you adhered to a very strict itinerary that only allowed you to see the places that you had to. Sad to say, but I know of many NGOs (and preachers too) who make ensure that their partners only see the poverty side of the story, so that they get more funding, support, etc.

    I have never heard of Rev. Mairori, so I can’t accuse him of that. But next time you visit Kenya, take a little bit extra time to see more places in the cities and in the rural areas alike. You’ll be more objective in your writing.

    1. True, true, the wazungus generally have a very biased view of Africa. They have a mindset that Africa and Africans must always be the lowest on earth and we need them to save us! It has been drummed into their heads since childhood that nothing good comes from Africa, Africans are like little children. So when they come here as visitors they see only what they want to see, so they may report it back to their beloved countries, “the misery of Africa, and I have seen it all”. And they actually make up unsubstantiated general claims to spice up their stories.
      I think it is high time we Africans found our own ways and established our own systems. We cannot get anywhere with this “Big Brother” attitude of the West and now the East.

      1. OK, I guess I can respond to both of these comments, even though the one is quite old. 1) I saw great misery in Kenya, but I also saw great joy, which I think I make clear in my post. 2) Nothing that I wrote was made up, or “unsubstantiated.” I experienced all of it. And what I did not experience, I linked to! 3) I did not go to Africa intending to save Africans because I am the white man, the only one who can. In fact, if you had read my post, you would have seen that I said, explicitly, that it was impossible for an outsider to come in and solve any problems. I have no “Big Brother” attitude: I merely wanted to help the local church in Kenya preach the gospel to those who had not heard it.

        None of my general conclusions were, in my view, false. The water *is* unclean in much of Africa, so many actually have to drink Coca-Cola (or bottled water) in order not to get water-borne diseases. I am also fairly certain that at least most of those who lived in the wretched living conditions that were the slums had one suit. And owning a cow *is* actually very important, culturally, in Kenya.

  2. This reply comes late almost 7 yrs later but I have to clarify few aspects here: The respect we gave you ‘foreigners’ from the far west is the same respect you keep on taking away everytime u come to africa. We welcome u guys despite the fact that u litterally bully us back in the colonial days, trying to steal our resources. U recieve warm welcome in africa but unfortunately for u its a blog, a better way of gauging how superior u are. This link remains active and accessible as long as it is online, and this crap in it circulates further blind folding ur fellow black-hearted ‘netizens’. If africa was that terrible, whose plane did u board? was the airport too made of mad and tin as you describe? Were u meeting cows in the streets of Nairobi coz u claim having a cow is like having a small business? The hotels you were sleeping were it made of tins too? Did you drink cocacola this all time coz u are fuckin boring? Where were u shiting?on those open seweges u said or what? Did the fucking lion dine on u? You knw nothing abt africa, not even a single thing, what kind of preacher are u, did jesus tell u to walk the whole world proudly telling how u donated to the poor and how u found them in a terrible condition. Baised experience, show all sides not only the badly exerggerated experience, kenya is a developing country while urs is developed, u cant expect to find Newyork in kenya. When u were born ur father was tall and u were short, 21yrs later u grew taller to your fathers level or even surpassed him, think of that, no one remains dwarf forever.

    1. Mr. Williamson,

      To be frank, I don’t understand much of your comment. However, I think the people of Africa are wonderful. (In fact, the epicenter of the global church is fast becoming Africa and Asia, rather than Europe and North America.) I did not travel to Africa as a “savior” or write about it to show how inferior it is. I only described my experience.

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