(Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya photo credit: Madeline Mohr, Baylor International Studies Major) Read her story here
One of the best things you can do to prepare for your upcoming mission trip is to do a little research on the people & places you’re going to encounter. If you’re anything like me, the word RESEARCH makes you cringe…so think of this more as EXPLORING :) The internet has some GREAT..and not so great…resources to help you learn about the communities you’ll be visiting. I, personally, am a visual learner, so I like to find documentaries and photography to start learning about a culture. Then, I move my way into articles and new stories. Look for credible sources and seek out the stories of locals vs. outsiders (when you can).
This summer, over 130 Baylor students, faculty, staff, and alumni will be going to Nairobi, Kenya (in addition to our other 12 locations worldwide!) So I am doing a little research today on Kibera & thought I’d share some of my best finds with you :)
One of the most interesting/challenging places in Kenya that you might see up close or from afar is Kibera Slum. There are approx 2.5 million slum dwellers in about 200 settlements in Nairobi representing 60% of the Nairobi population, occupying just 6% of the land. Kibera houses almost 1 Million of these people. Kibera is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. (http://www.kibera.org.uk/Facts.html )
There is a very high possibility that you will meet someone who grew up/lives in Kibera, so having a background on the community comes in very helpful! ALSO, the edge of Kibera is less than 4km away from the hotel that most of us will be staying at…so you’ll drive past the outskirts on almost a daily basis.
Walking through Kibera for the first time was one of the most difficult and challenging experiences of my life, mostly because I had no context for what I was walking into. I didn’t do my research :( . Walking through winding rows of shanty houses made of anything & everything with rusted tin roofs, the crowded streets covered in trash and waste water, and the overwhelming smell of sewage is forever burned into my memory. We were invited into the home of one of the church members from City Harvest Church (one of Baylor’s Global Partners in Nairobi). The front door was actually the storefront for the family’s small business that sold SIM cards and minutes for cell phones. We had to climb/walk in one by one because there was no way that we could all fit in the house that was smaller than the size of my bedroom for a family of 4+. I was in shock, for sure, and started to feel very guilty about American lifestyle where I have so much and waste so much. However, guilt is not a helpful emotion, nor is pity. I needed to move beyond those feelings and move towards compassion and true care for our global partners. While poverty is great in Kibera, Hope and trust in God to provide and care is much stronger among that community. I have learned so much about God through the faith of my Kibera friends. I’ve also learned about resourcefulness, thankfulness, resilience, and the importance of being a good steward of our resources—no matter how big or how small.
If Kibera teaches us anything, I hope it challenges our values. How will the experience affect your relationships with your possessions, your family/friends, and God? How will the experience shift your priorities & opinions about those in poverty?
Enjoy your digital exploration! You’ll be in Kenya sooner than you can say Twende, Twende!! (aka let’s go!)
Coordinator for Global Missions