Different World, Same Kingdom

Posted by Roger Cooke on Fri, 25 Oct 2013 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

I recently had the privilege of spending three weeks in Nairobi as part of a period of sabbatical leave from my home parish (Kilwaughter & Cairncastle with All Saints’, Craigyhill). In fact, this was a long-awaited return visit, since I was here before in 1987/8 studying at the ACK language school. At that time I was teaching as a CMS Mission Partner in Dodoma, Tanzania (together with Fiona who is now my wife) – and I can still remember some Swahili!

My plan was to learn about the Urban Development Programme which forms part of the Evangelism and Outreach pillar at All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi. I am very grateful to the former Provost [now Bishop] Julius Wanyoike and to the UDP project leader Louise Githire for making this possible. I am also grateful to the Bishop of Connor [Rt Revd Alan Abernethy] for recommending the project to me (having visited himself in 2011), and to Ronnie Briggs of CMS Ireland who helped arrange my trip.

I was greatly blessed by my time in Nairobi – right from the moment I arrived at the Cathedral one Sunday morning to witness the many hundreds of worshippers (children, teens, youth and seniors) and the rich variety of services. There was a wonderful buzz around the church compound.

I felt warmly welcomed by Louise and the rest of the Cathedral staff, and soon began to discover all the hard work going on behind the scenes. There was clearly a well-thought-out strategy which was being implemented by a gifted staff team, together with a much larger number of committed volunteers, all motivated by a sincere Christian faith and a desire to serve.

The most memorable parts of my placement, however, were the visits to various community projects outside the Cathedral. I joined a group of around 150 Cathedral members who took a 4-hour safari by bus to visit the Christian Impact Ministries agricultural project in Yatta. It was amazing to see the transformation – both of the landscape and the community – brought about by the integration of Christian discipleship and practical farming technology.

I also visited Church Army Captain Margaret Thuo who has an extraordinary ministry of evangelism amongst taxi-drivers in Nairobi. I was introduced to a gathering of recent converts and interested onlookers meeting under a roadside hedge right next to the taxi-rank and Matatu stop! This was the parable of Jesus being lived out today, “Go out to the country roads and lanes and make people come in, so that my house will be full” [Luke 14:23].

More impressive still, however, were the visits to the slum communities at Kibera and Kayole. It was a great privilege to be welcomed as a friend here, and to be shown some of the amazing transformation that has taken place over many years in contexts of social deprivation that I found unutterably shocking.

he Urban Development Programme, from the outset a partnership between the Cathedral and CMS Ireland, has been supporting the community self-help group Tujisaidie since the time of the resettlement. The UDP has been sponsoring a number of children through school & college, some of whom went on to successful careers in banking, teaching, librarianship & journalism. Other projects addressed key areas of need in the community: brick-built homes replaced temporary shacks, toilet and washroom units were erected, a church was built, water mains pipes laid, rainwater harvesting tanks installed and medical care provided.

I have been profoundly affected by the people I have met in these communities – it was both encouraging and challenging to see their commitment, faith, perseverance and generous spirits. They have shown me that God’s kingdom can indeed come on earth no matter how great the obstacles, and that partnership between rich Christians and those in poor communities is a priority in that kingdom.

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