africa: day 8

Sat. 11.14.09: "an emotional roller coaster of a day"

Our morning was spent in the slum of Mathare.
Before entering Mathare, we met Irene - a beautiful girl from Fountain of Life who helps Clara with the young mothers' ministry and also assists with the home-based care ministry. She was our translator. We also visited a woman named Mary, who lived just across the street from Mathare.
When the Charis Foundation came last March, they met Mary, who was, at that time, living in Mathare. Over the summer, Mary was evicted from her "home" in Mathare. A woman at Fountain of Life helped find Mary the temporary home where we visited her. Mary is about 60 years old, and she has HIV. She also has a granddaughter named Eunice that she cares for. Eunice is 8.
Our visit with Mary was actually cool, because the home where she now resides is much safer and more structurally sound. Sara was really encouraged, because when she met Mary and Eunice, they were desperate; last time Eunice didn't smile at all, but this time she was smiling and laughing and playing with a friend. Fountain of Life is trying to help Mary earn money to purchase a home outside Nairobi.
Dave, Irene, Mary & Eunice, Sara, me, Scott & ... I forget her name.

Then we entered Mathare, where we visited 5 more people (all with HIV).
Mathare is one of three slums in Nairobi.

The first person we visited was Paul. Paul is probably in his 50s. He used to sell "samosas" (meat patties), but has been out of work for 3 months because of a back injury. His family lives "back in the village" where he lived before moving to Nairobi to find work. Paul sort of tagged along became our unofficial tour guide for the remainder of our time in Mathare.
Children flocked to us, chanting "How are you! How are you!"

Next we visited Irene (age 22) and her two children, Washington (age 5) and Sylvia (age 3). Irene's husband passed away in August. Washington is extremely underdeveloped - he can't talk and can barely walk due to a bad case of meningitis and pneumonia when he was an infant. Additionally, this past summer Washington pulled a boiling pot off the table and scalded himself severely, leaving terrible scares on the lower half of his body. Irene earns money to support her family by washing clothes 2-3 times a week.
Cloth strands over the entry of "hotels" and "pubs" indicate that prostitutes are available there. They are literally everywhere in the slums.

After Irene, we visited Florence. Florence has two young boys. I would guess that she's in her mid-30s. Her husband is currently in jail because of false allegations (he was a taxi driver and the man he was carrying had drugs; they were stopped at a checkpoint & the passenger ran off, leaving the drugs behind.). She currently earns money to pay rent and send her boys to school by cooking and selling breakfast and lunch every day. However, her goal is to quit that job and sell firewood instead. Firewood would be more cost-effective because she wouldn't have to worry about it spoiling if no one bought it that day.
The population of Mathare is approximately 500,000.

Then we went to the home of Sarah Madina. She has four children, and her husband has also passed away. I think she's in her 40s. She makes money by washing clothes whenever she can find work. She was also hoping to learn how to sew to earn additional income.

Children make up 60% of the population in Mathare.

Our last visit was Anis (pronounced... um, "anus" - but we like to pronounce it "annis"). She also has four young children, and her husband left her. Before Anis got pregnant with her youngest, her husband began "getting sick" - then when Anis got pregnant, she also began "getting sick". She figured out that her husband had HIV and decided to get tested. Her husband was denying his infection, so she told him that she was going to have some prenatal tests and cleaning done. When she told him she wanted to do that, he told her, "If you go, you're going to hear some bad things, and I don't want to know anything about it." Anis went to the doctor, where she found out that she was HIV positive. When she arrived home, her husband had packed his bags and left her.
The sewage system in Mathare.

Anis is currently learning to sew and she is very passionate about improving her skill - she wants to be able to make an income selling her clothing. Right now she is making money by washing clothes. She can't afford the sewing classes (she can't afford rent either; her landlord took away her door as a warning, so she had a curtain over the entrance), but the instructor gives her cloth scraps for free. When Anis doesn't have any cloth to work with, she practices on paper products - when we visited her, she had a paper skirt and paper "button shirt" sewn and hanging up in her living space. Oh, and when she is able to get cloth scraps? She sews whatever she can get together into shirts, skirts, pants, etc. Since she isn't able to sell these clothes, she gives them to orphans. A woman living in the slums, barely able to earn enough money to feed her family, is giving away clothing she makes to orphans. Talk about a change of perspective.
After our time in Mathare, we went to see our boys. Our beautiful boys - most of whom are from those same streets of Mathare, but who have been rescued. A transformation from despair to hope, from death to life.
It takes my breath away.
I have never had such a tangible picture of Christ's grace. From being surrounded by the hopelessness of the slums to being surrounded by the joy of children who are now hopeful: our lives before His redeeming love and after. Without the cross and resurrection, we are completely lost - there is no hope. But because of the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, we have hope. We have a future glory!
As thankful as I am for that picture, though, if I can be really honest - I still struggle with suffering. It still doesn't make sense, and "because we live in a fallen, sinful world" is still not an acceptable answer. I know that one day there will be no more pain or suffering, and that I'm not the determiner of "fair" or "right" - but I still struggle, and I assume I always will on this side of eternity. However, I think I'm finally learning not to be overwhelmed by pity or the "impossibility of fixing all the problems in the world" - - and I think I'm learning, by the grace of God, to "do right".