— an Englishman’s impressions
Keith, pastor of the Nairobi church, was working on the theory that the more I saw and did the better. So on Wednesdays we went pastoral visiting from about 4.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. We met five families altogether. One man had been suffering from depression and this had been making him doubt whether he really is saved. He struggles with the question of why he feels like this. Is it due to physical factors, personal sin or even demonic oppression?
Another man, made redundant recently, lives with his wife and six children in a one-roomed house. One of his daughters was trying to plan how she could attend college (and so have a better chance of getting a job) without the £1000 needed for the fees. Another daughter had been forced to go to a Catholic church that day, Ash Wednesday, and take part in a mass through the influence of some Catholic nuns in her government school.
In another one-roomed apartment a Ugandan mother, deserted by her husband, told us about her struggles to discipline her eleven-year-old daughter. This was the first person I have met who I have known to be HIV positive. The husband in the fourth family was about to go to the USA to spend a month inspecting planes which Kenya Airlines had just bought.
At all the places we visited, sometimes without warning, we were welcomed warmly and ‘forced’ to drink Chai (a form of tea, but not as we know it, made using hot milk and lots of sugar). I was impressed with the way the people were prepared to open up to their pastor, and to speak of their concerns without the conversation being forced.
Bible study in a shack
One evening, I visited two converted Somalis. Both were former Muslims and both had been cut off by their families when they were converted. One of them was having particular trouble with the father of his (still Muslim) wife, and was afraid that his only surviving son (two had died) would be kidnapped. But the wife was at least now prepared to read the Old Testament with another woman.
A nearby slum has many thousands of people living in tin shacks, with no running water or any sort of toilet facilities. It is home to a large number of Rendilles, whose homeland is in the far north of Kenya and who, as a tribe, are totally unreached with the gospel.
A group of them meet in a shack for Bible study three afternoons a week, led by someone from the church. One day I accompanied the teacher and the next day I led the study myself. It was an immense privilege to talk to such people, most of whom are illiterate and, in terms of worldly wealth, have practically nothing.