I just spent about 20 minutes cleaning off my thrift-store Keen shoes that I wore to the Mathare Slum. As I washed my shoes, I was careful not to touch the dirt and grime because I can only imagine what I stepped in. The conditions of this slum, were some of the worst…..maybe the worst I have ever seen in all my travels.
Imagine stuffing 800,000 people in a square mile and a half. Imagine no drinking water, no sewage. Imagine power outages lasting three months. Imagine a brewery where they distill corn, mix it with jet fuel to provide a strong drink for the people. Imagine the smell of raw sewage, garbage, fire, human body odor, and the smell of a brewery mixed with 800,000 people. The smell is so strong you can taste it in the back of your throat. Imagine the children, torn and tattered clothing, dirty, and of course shoeless. I think you get the picture.
Now imagine a place in the middle of the slum where kids can go and have a refuge. A place that brings hope and provides support and care. A place where kids can get a meal, learn art, sing in a choir (a great choir) and participate in drama. Imagine a place where children are loved and told about Jesus. It’s the light in the darkness. It’s Compassion.
I must admit, today was a roller coaster of a emotion for me……..
Walking through the slums made me sad and almost sick to my stomach. Hearing the choir of Compassion children singing songs of joy and hope brought me happiness to the point of tears. Listening to this comical kid named Nelson introduce a skit, made me laugh. Learning that he was an orphan living with his 18 year old brother, broke me. Yes, the ugly cry.I had to leave the area because I didn’t want the kids to think something was wrong. Then meeting Oliver, who is another orphan, and seeing his painting, was profound.
Oh and then the shoes. I had 10 pairs left to give to the project director. She was so happy to receive the shoes….but I was overwhelmed because it barely scratched the surface of what these kids need.
What amazed me today is that these kids have a spiritual depth and love for God that is way beyond this world. They see something that I don’t see. They have a trust that I don’t have. One child said, “ God is my help.” Another child said, “God is my strength and refuge.” I heard an 18 year old boy, who takes care of his two younger siblings say, “With God, all things are possible.” They have a spiritual wealth in their physical poverty. It messes with me. A lot……
Oh…..and my shoes will never be the same. I’m kind of glad.
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School shoes of Compassion…..
Photos by Keely
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