Monday, June 1, 2009

May 31


Today, we met Pastor John, the senior pastor of Riruta United Methodist Church. We took the Citi Hoppa (Kenya city bus) to his church. As we drove through the streets, I could see it was a very busy day. Lots of Kenyans on the streets and full of traffic. When we arrived into Kawangware, we were immediately stuck in a traffic jam. It is amazing to see the craziness of a traffic jam here. Several of the people on the streets began directing our bus and other cars and buses out of the jam. The sounds of horns kept beeping and loud Swahili filled the air. I could feel my bladder aching because I had to pee. Yes, I had to pee BAD. As the bus drove down the street over bump after bump, the bouncing created and overwhelming ache of the fluid in my bladder. I tapped Pastor Karen on the shoulder and told her I must go soon. It was an emergency. She told Pastor John I was in trouble and he negotiated with the bus driver to pull over at the nearest gas station. Well the busy stopped at the gas station and I ran out the bus with Pastor John to the toilet. The rest is history, if you know what I mean. In SF, a MUNI bus driver would never pull over to let someone use the toilet and wait for them. Forget it. This is Kenya. The love and hospitality is something indescribable.

We arrived at the Riruta church and were greeted by 3 beautiful women in great African garb. Their hugs and warm smiles of joy filled my spirit. Prior to entering the sanctuary, we received smiles and waves from the children there at the orphanage. The service was filled with singing and praising God in Swahili. I could feel the presence of God. I could see the face of God in the church. I felt at home.

Pastor Karen delivered the word for the day, translated by Pastor John in Swahili. I was deeply moved by the sermon and very proud of our Pastor Karen. The children’s choir sang and received verses from the bible. I was touched by their smiling faces and messages from God. The service ended with more music and photos of our new family in Kenya. Pastor John is pro-glbt, which is a huge component of Glide. We all received closing hugs, handshakes, and words of welcome from each member of the congregation.

We went to a few homes in the community. Many of the children followed us, holding my hands tight and refusing to let go. I cannot describe the deep feelings of peace and joy while feeling the hands of these children. Pastor John, Anne (his wife), Winnie, Jane and a couple of other of God’s angels walked us to our busy stop. Jane escorted us to the Ya-Ya shopping center, which was so nice. The hospitality in Kenya is above and beyond anything I can describe in words. All of our team except Travis (who was sick in bed) went to lunch and did some shopping. Upon return to the Methodist Guest House, Josh found Travis sitting in a wheelchair which was quite surprising. He had fallen ill while we were gone. He needed to go to see a doctor to be on the safe side. Pastor Karen led prayer for Travis and all of our team put our hands on him for healing. He returned in good spirits before dinner was over. All I can say now is prayer is powerful and God is great. We de-briefed, hugged and went off to our rooms. My heart is full. Amen…hallelujah!


Today we went to Riruta United Methodist Church. Pastor John Makokha met us at the guest house and accompanied us to the church so that we would be sure to make all the bus and matatu connections correctly. Pastor John and his wife Anne Baraza have an incredible ministry together. In fact, in many ways they remind me of Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani. They see the needs of their community and boldly step out to create ways to respond to the needs. They are also passionate about justice. Pastor John is one of the few outspoken pro glbt pastors in Africa! He and Anne work hard on behalf of glbt people and their families, speaking out, leading seminars, and working to change the culture and the church to become more accepting of glbt persons.

But their work doesn’t stop there. They have organized an orphanage in their community and they and their church care for more than 250 children. The children live with members of the congregation, and all share in the care and feeding of the children. The church also has an HIV/AIDS outreach worker as well as a very strong women’s group that is a CBO (community based organization), of which Anne is the director.

After church (John kindly gave me a heads-up about preaching—he asked me several days ago!), which included lively singing by the children, youth, and women’s groups, and heartfelt prayers, as well as the dedication of the church’s new website, John and Anne and members of the congregation gave us a brief tour of their community, with stops at several congregational members homes, where we shared prayers of blessings.

It was a very powerful day, but we also send a word of concern home: please pray for Travis Woodard. He has not been feeling well this week, and stayed home this morning because he felt flu-ish. When we returned home, we found him in a wheelchair. He had passed out and a security guard helped him. Craig and Robin have taken him to a hospital for tests. Please keep him in your prayers!


Another emotional day in Nairobi……..while I was thinking we were just going to church, I was in for more of what I saw at the Ray of Hope all week. Yes, we went to church, in fact a Methodist LBGT friendly church which may be the only of its kind in Kenya. My friend Peninah told me that Gay people are considered killers or murders in this county.

The church, which is deep in the heart of the same slum as the Ray of Hope, serves as a classroom for the Children of Africa Hope Center. Much smaller than the church we attended last Sunday. The church has an HIV Coordinator I met, and will talk to further tomorrow when we visit and bring the gifts for the children. The staff warmly received the Glide Miracles Through Action t-shirts we brought them. More people living in the slums with hope. After service, I went to the home of the church treasurer, who told me he has known he is HIV+ for two years. His house (read my previous entries for the definition of a house in the slums) must have been over 110 degrees inside; as were the other homes we visited briefly with the Pastor from the church.

Once again, the walks through the slum were inspirational, and the people friendly…..and today, I was not wearing my Obama t-shirt!

As I write this blog, I am worried about my friend Travis who was taken to the hospital as he fell ill today. He is in good hands with Craig and Robin (aka Girl Wonder).


Today we visited an amazing little Methodist Church in Riruta, a slum next to Kawangware. Pastor John met us at our guest house; although the church is only a few miles away, the bus ride took us almost 90 minutes as we got caught in crazy Sunday morning traffic jams on the narrow roads. We arrived almost an hour late, but as we entered the sanctuary the music was rocking and congregation clapping as if nothing had happened.

The congregation motto was visible on the alter: Open Doors, Open Hearts, Open Minds. This congregation was so much like Glide, welcoming ALL through their doors. Remarkably, a few days ago Pastor Karen and I had stumbled on the fact that my niece Miriam, who had been in Kenya on business, had coincidentally visited this same church two Sunday’s earlier- what a small world!!!

Pastor Karen preached a message about Pentacost that was received by the congregation with great energy and excitement. She talked about her prayer for each of us to have God’s voice, and she asked how God’s voice is heard through each of our voices, even as we speak different tongues.

After church we visited several of the homes of congregation members. Many are dedicated to taking care of hundreds of orphans. One home, a small tin building that was dark inside, without a light bulb and well over 110 degrees, were at least eight little children sitting against one wall. It was a wrenching site to take in.

When we arrived back at the Guest House later than afternoon, we found Travis in a wheelchair looking pretty grave. He had had a high fever, become dehydrated, and had collapsed outside. Godfrey, the Methodist Guest House General Manager demonstrated typical Kenyan hospitality. He drove Travis, Robin and I down to Nairobi Hospital and stuck with us for four hours, with gentle care and a smile on his face the entire time All of this on a Sunday evening when he had out of town guests at home. Travis improved greatly. Godfrey called back to the Guest House and had the kitchen stay open late so that when we returned a little before 9pm, dinner was waiting for us.


Today, we celebrated at Riruta United Methodist Church, located in Ngong, a neighboring slum to Kawangware. Reverend John and his wife Anne – who is also the Executive Director of the Riruta United Methodist Women Community Based Organization – are on the progressive edge, with their inspirational work championing the rights of LGBTQI people in Kenya.

LGBTQI advocacy can be a challenge to undertake anywhere, but I’ve learned that the stakes are higher in Kenya than anyplace I’ve seen, making this social justice work very dangerous. John, Anne, and their leadership team have been marginalized from other faith-based communities for the work that they do.

I was pleased to find that women’s lay ministry leadership is strong in this church. Winnie Ishmael is the first female Lay Leader in any church in Africa, and she leads this one.

During the service, the children’s choir sang “Marching in the Light of God,” and I wished the Glide Ensemble were there to see it; this is my favorite song that the “GTC” (Glide Teen Choir) sings.

Tomorrow, we will return to Riruta, to see it transformed into an unaccredited school for several children in the Ngong slum who do not have parents, or who are severely neglected by the parents they do have. It was once an orphanage, but John and Anne were unable to continue paying the rent for the boarding space. In response to this loss, various families in Ngong have taken in the children who have no place to live, often resulting in several people sharing space in those same 10' X 10' tin shacks that we found in Kawangware.

What a place, where people with many basic material needs so effortlessly reach out to help one another.

No comments:

Post a Comment