Celebrating a toilet

Today was a very moving day for us. We spoke today in our little church in the Kibera Slums. In the last 2 1/2 months I have spoken in 10 churches. Some of them had over 3000 members and were very grand. But today this little church located in the worst place in all of Kenya was like a Cathedral for us. We were overwhelmed by the presence and the power of God manifested in this place. The singing was acappella, there was no sound system, there were only half enough chairs, it was hot, but we were in heaven. I had the distinct feeling that this is the church that Jesus himself would be attending as he visited Nairobi.

We’ve been to this place many times, but never for a church service. Today was very special because the whole place smelled fresh and clean. The reason for this was that within the past 10 days (thanks to a $900 gift from a couple back home) the awful toilets behind the building were completely torn down, pumped out and rebuilt. When we arrived they were all wrapped in ribbons and balloons waiting for Valerie to officially open the toilets. Only in a place like this would you dedicate and celebrate a toilet. There was a big sign above the door that said “Welcome Mama Valerie and Richard, The pride of Kibera is our toilets.” John and Mary really stretched that $900. They built 4 clean, well ventilated toilets and one washroom for the kids to take showers. They have designated one of the toilets as a “community toilet” and told their immediate neighbors that they are welcome to use it. This news was a major cause of celebration among the neighbors, because the sanitation situation is so bad. They also had enough concrete left over to spackle the walls of one of their two new classrooms.

As I sat with Pastor John and Mary Indagiza I was so touched by the compassion and vision of this man and wife. He and the 4 elders of the church have dedicated their lives to improving the lives of the people around them. They have gone door to door just to make themselves available to people in the neighborhood and to tell them that God loves them. I sensed that John is going to be raising up several of these little churches in the slums. There are many little “weird” churches in the slums that have doctrines and practices that are far from biblical. John however served on the staff of a prominent Christian University in town (Daystar University) and during those years developed a sound and balanced theology that makes him a precious commodity in this place. He is a humble man who is not in it for himself. I love him so much. The leadership of the church has a great vision for micro-finance. I learned a lot about how it should be done in the slums and in the future I hope we can find a way to help them build their startup fund. Their vision is going to help a lot of people. I could talk all day about today’s thoughts and feelings.

Following the meeting we took 10 of the church leaders to lunch in a nice restaurant. Eight of them had never eaten in a restaurant in their lives. They’ve never had a latte and never drank a milkshake. It was like Christmas for them. They kept commenting that it was their first meal in “Mzungu Land”. Mzungu, is the Swahili word for white people. I know that some people might view this as a waste of money, but once in a while everyone needs to know that they are loved, honored, respected and worth the trouble.

What a lovely day!