March 7, 2018, As we traveled to the airport, I carried many hugs from my family with me, and my grandchildren’s arms were still wrapped around my heart. My grandbabies had turned my suitcases into a piece of art with yellow and black tape for easy identifying. They drew hearts and wrote words of love along with “See you soon” and then proceeded to put their toys inside for the kids in Africa. The time for parting grew closer, and the hugs got tighter. The little ones dressed for the blast of cold air they would feel as they opened the door lingered and ran back for more hugs and kisses. With a heartfelt goodbye, the door closed. I would soon be on my way to a destination halfway around the world.
The March northeaster threatening eighteen inches of snow was still pressing in, and a pending flight cancelation was of concern. As we traveled toward the airport a mixture of snow and rain started to pelt the earth. Buses had already begun to change their schedules, and parking bans were being put into effect, but we continued with a prayer that all would go as planned.
March 8, 2018, After being in the air for sixteen hours I arrived in a land very dear to my heart. The flight was smooth and the northeaster ready to reveal its strong winds and snow was far behind me. All my luggage arrived intact and on time. Customs waved me through so I didn’t even have to stop, and my reliable driver was waiting for me outside the airport. As we left the airport and headed toward Nairobi, the security surveillance continued. Lights from the city cameras flashed periodically as we drove under them. I had entered a land of gated and guarded homes where guard dogs bark and howl through the night.
The late night hour had opened up the roadways and gave us easy travel through the city. Soon we were greeted by the guard at the gate who handed me the key to my room. After a long journey, a hot shower and a bed was a welcome sight. With an eight hour time difference, and being tired from the flight, it would take a few days for the body to adjust.
The night fled quickly as the African sun filled the sky like a blazing ball of fire. The morning was full of friends waiting to greet me. A happy reunion was consumed with hugs, handshakes and a custom greeting of, “welcome, welcome, welcome home.”
The pastor from the slums was walking about the property waiting for me to meet with him. When the Kenyans saw him, they automatically knew I was here. They could “smell Linda in the air.”its cries for help, and now it was time to go into a deeper level of poverty and suffering known as the slums. From the busy highways, tall buildings of glass and fancy stores we travel to the outskirts of the city. The scene changed drastically as we entered a land with one room tin homes locked together in rows. They are built on wasteland and filth. Layers and layers of garbage become the base for which they build their homes. Each year the population increases bringing the unhealthy sanitary conditions to a higher level of concern. Raw sewage rolls through the pathways and beside the dusty streets like a fresh bubbling spring brook. Children play in it with their sticks and breath in the air saturated with a smell known to the slums. Small wobbly wooden bridges are placed here and there across the running sewage so that people can enter their homes. In other areas, it becomes a balancing act as one steps from stone to stone midst the sludge and wetland that blankets the ground.
Not a sound is coming from the church but as we enter all eyes turn our way. Surprise and the awe of seeing a white woman are visible on the school children’s faces. I soon realized there was one little girl that wasn’t as happy to see me. She quietly retreated to a place of safety behind the teacher's desk and watched me from a distance.
The leaky tin roof has given way to puddles on the floor, and their desks are moved to the other side. It is depressingly dark within. The uneven walls have been made of old rusty pieces of iron sheets, and the previous nail holes let a ray of light shine through.
When the darkness of night settles over the slums, evil wakes and runs rampant through the land. Just a couple weeks before I came thieves broke into the church and stole the school children’s chairs. One thief was shot and killed not far from the church. Mob justice often takes over when someone is caught in such a crime. Stoning or a tire placed over their body and lit on fire becomes the instant sentence and ends their life.
In 2005 I went into the slums for the first time. It is an area of high crime with much suffering, disease, and hunger is seen throughout. There is also the beauty of life, precious children and newborns snuggled in close to their mamas. Here in the slums, I am known as Pastor Joy, which is my middle name. My first day here I had a beautiful little baby girl placed in my arms. “Joy Linda” born January 12th is a very healthy and happy little girl!
In the midst of our visits, plans are made to demolish the existing church building and erect a new structure to worship in. One that would keep them dry and would give the children a place with plenty of light to study in. The thought of a new church was filling the hearts of the people with excitement. They had waited and prayed for this day not knowing how it could ever come to pass.
Tomorrow when the sun bounces into the horizon the church structure will be taken down.
Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.