Sunday, August 19, 2012

Day One: This is the Day the Lord Has Made


On Sundays at Glide, I love it when we open the windows, knowing that all of the neighborhood can be part of the music we all sing together.  It was no different in the small chapel in the heart of a slum in Nairobi today. Except that the windows today were crowded with smiling faces of local children peering in. The music was just as heartfelt and touching as anything we sing at Glide. What a gift today  has been.

Music from the Huruma Tent of Prayer UMC


When I was born my mother gave me an African name.  So from my earliest experiences, Africa has been, both consciously and unconsciously, a part of my life.

It has been a long time dream of mine to be on a trip such as this, working with a team such as this one.  From the time that this mission became known to me and I applied, to the point when I was so graciously chosen to be a part of the Ray of Hope team, I’d been so excited by the thought of what’s to come, my feet hasn't touched the ground.  Through the months of preparation and the outcry of support and well wishing, to the moment the time came to embark on this journey, my feet never touched the ground.  Taking the longest……………flight of my life, arriving to Nairobi, Kenya and today traveling through the city to visit a shantytown to congregate with a group of Kenyan and Zimbabweans, my feet have yet to touch the ground.

I am so grateful to be a part of this good group, on this trip to spread good to the deserving. I know that when my feet finally touch the ground, I will be a better man. Welcome to my journey.   


Today we traveled through Nairobi (by bus and matatu) to worship with the Huruma Tent of Prayer United Methodist Church. I've noticed that various slums in Nairobi have a few things in common: dirt roads, few cars, and streets lined with stalls selling things from cooked corn on the cob to used clothes. They are full of activity, full of people.

Today's sermon was partly about Psalm 30, "You turn my mourning into dancing." This was a hopeful message in the midst of so much that seemed so hopeless: I saw lives turned into dancing, people smiling, full of joy, praising.


Today, Sunday, the Ray of Hope team got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime church experience. We were awoken with singing. They welcomed us with love and grace. I knew they were happy to have us with them in their presence and I was truly honored to be a part of their worship.  You could see God through their eyes, their handshakes, their hugs and kisses. 

One woman said to me, "Welcome home, my sister. So glad you are here." I felt that connection that I was present and finally at home. During part of the worship, a little girl came and sat on my lap. She held my hand and laid on my chest. We definitely had a connection, as did all the kids I played high-five with after church. What a beautiful day to worship and enjoy each other!


After a full night's rest, (after 20-22 hours of traveling) I was ready to experience Nairobi. Today is Sunday, so off to church we go. The District Superintendent, his wife (who is also a pastor) and the Youth pastor came to the Methodist Guest House to escort us to the church. The church was located in a slum (their term) in the city of Nairobi.

It was challenging to get a bus or a matatoo (small van-privately owned) to accommodate 10 adults, so we waited on the side of the road, enjoying the Indy 500 driving skills.

The sermon was given in both English and Swahili.
The Huruma pastor translated for Rev. Lloyd Nyarota (right)
We needed to take two buses and walk a distance to get to the church.

The church was a tin roofed structure, with plastic seats. When we arrived (late) the service had begun, with beautiful songs of praise. Members immediately got up to give us their seats. The service was spirit-filled, and a sermon of encouragement was given to this small congregation to remain faithful to God, because he will turn their sorrow into dancing.
The sermon was given by Rev. Lloyd Nyarota from the General Board of Church and Society, who was in Nairobi for the Annual Conference of the East African Central Conferences. Communion was also served, because the DS was present, with two other visiting DSs from Zimbabwe and a visiting District Lay Leader.

We were then blessed with their hospitality, as they served us a meal. The members did not eat, only the guests, the pastor and his wife.  I was overwhelmed by the generous hospitality of the meal. It is obvious that the members are not rich in material things, but rich in hospitality, love of God, and showing their love in tangible ways.

 It was out of their lack that they gave generously, when we often, with our wealth and abundance, find excuses not to give. 


Today we attended the Huruma United Methodist Church, in what our hosts described as a "middle-class slum".  The streets were jammed with buses and matatus, and the noise of honking horns, loud engines, and blaring music greeted us as we stepped out of our bus at the edge of the slum. We then turned into a small alley and suddenly, there was silence. It was such a stark contrast to the hubbub just a few feet away.

Everybody on board? Riding a matatu is definitely and "experience"
We walked the rest of the way to the church and as we journeyed into the heart of the slum the streets came alive with people walking and talking, merchants selling their wares at the side of the road, and voices singing heartfelt music from the tiny churches we passed. 

We were warmly welcomed to church. We were immediately led to seats and within no time were swept up in the singing and praying and preaching. Since the East Africa Annual Conference of The United Methodist just finished meeting in Nairobi, there were several other guests present. When it was time to serve communion, six of us were there to assist. 

As I served communion, the bread they used was not very porous, so when  I dipped it into the cup to then offer it to worshipers, the juice ran down my fingers and hand. By the end of communion, my hand was a sticky mess. As I tried to wash it off, I was too late. The juice had stained my hand (and continues to, nine hours later). One look at my hand and you could tell I've given communion that morning.

I have been pondering this stain ever since. We get stained and marked all the time. Sometimes by others. Often by what we do to ourselves. Looking around the church, I could see the marks of hunger, sickness, violence. I could also see the marks of love, compassion, and faithfulness. What I was reminded of today  is that the ones who bear the scars of difficult and trying times are often the ones who shine the brightest light of love and generosity.  

Funny. Isn't this what communion is all about, ultimately.

So I will wear this stain as long as it lasts. May it remind me of that there is nothing that can stop love's power from shining through us.

Standing at the front of the Huruma United Methodist Church with our new friends

Imagine a lengthy and narrow rectangle shaped structure - 1,200 square feet large would be an over-generous guesstimation of its footprint... No wider than six stackable plastic chairs wide - with raw earth ground and stone under your feet - with the exception of a small patch of linoleum the size of a coffee table area rug underneath the preacher... Wooden branch beams no thicker than five inches in circumference with flat riveted sheet metal up above serving as a roof to keep the rain out - sheet metal walls covered with purple tapestry from floor to roof - and smack in the center of one Kawangware's 12 'middle-class' slums  - - bursting (BURSTING!) with smiling faces, greeting us with the most arms-open welcoming imaginable.

A beautiful reflection was realizing that it doesn't matter if you're in the St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, GLIDE on Taylor and Ellis in San Francisco, Notre Dame in Paris or the UMC Hurmura Tent of Prayers where the Ray of Hope Team visited today - every. single. sanctuary - whether it's a structure, or, if your own personal sanctuary is not a physical place, but within your own heart - each and every place of worship is beautiful, special and sacred in its own unique way.


This year’s Glide team is full of leaders, with every member stepping up to drive a key part of our preparation and trip: fund-raising, treasury, collecting and purchasing supplies (800 lbs!), curriculum development for the week, and obtaining visas, insurance and background checks.   What a great team!
We’re all excited about our first day at Ray of Hope tomorrow, contemplating how we can make a positive and lasting difference.   This is a topic we have discussed and prayed about quite a bit.   The long term relationships we are building are important and noticeable.    Many organizations and groups come to Africa once and don’t return.   I think the Glide team pleasantly surprised many here when we returned the first time.  And here we are again.   Friendships and trust have grown, as has a spirit of collaboration.   We see evidence of our past work, including a computer lab we set up in December, 2010 that is still thriving..
What we do in our time here is very important, but telling the Ray of Hope story now and when we return home is just as key.   Little by little awareness grows, more people ask questions and want to be involved, and new sponsors for the children step forward.   Each sponsorship means one more child gets to go to school and become part of an incredible family; sponsorships also provides medical care and two meals a day, and an education that translates into better opportunity for success in adulthood.



  2. I am so moved and inspired by your mission in Kenya. God Bless you all. Ill be following your blogs as you share and learn in your journey. You carry all of our hopes and prayers with you.

    1. I shall keep this short and say thank each of you for doing the work that God has sent you there for. I know it has to be love for you, to give of yourselves thank you. God Bless and I shall pray for you all each and every day.

  3. I am so glad to say, "these folks are a part of my church family!" It brings a smile that I can't contain when I look at the picture and see all of the smiling faces but it gives me even more joy when I look at the little girl that Classy is holding. It's just something about Classy that the kids love.....and it wasn't until I saw this picture that it hit me. "It's the God in Classy!"......

    I love you safe and keep being that BLESSING!!!