Lynn Wilson is a CMSI volunteer who for the past few years (before lockdown) has been providing regular clerical support to the staff team in the Belfast Office. Lynn is also the CMSI parish rep for St Mark's, Dundela, which has a long-established partnership link through CMSI with the Urban Development Programme (UDP) of All Saints' Cathedral, Nairobi.
Last week I was blessed to be included in a conversation by Zoom, linking me in Belfast with Linda Abwa in Ballymena, Isabelle Prondzynski in Brussels and Kathleen in Nairobi. In this time of physical isolation, it was a joy to simply press a button and be connected to Isabelle who helped establish the link between St Mark's and UDP over 25 years ago, and to make a new connection with Kathleen. Within minutes I felt the warmth and friendship which has characterised our partnership and is strengthened every time we are able to meet in person.
There has been huge disappointment amongst the group from St Mark's who have had to postpone a visit to Nairobi in July, but also an increased interest and concern for how our brothers and sisters are managing in a practical way with the challenges they are facing in the pandemic. Isabelle and Kathleen were able to share news of Lucy, Antony and Louise who work together to support the UDP community in Kayole and explain so clearly the daily impacts of food scarcity, restrictions on travel, flooding and lost employment.
Listening to the issues first hand not only prompts us to pray for the big picture (for rains to ease, for health education messages to be spread, for essential food, water and fuel needs to be provided), but has also given us very specific individual prayers to offer – for John the painter we worked with in 2015 to be healed from his kidney failure, for Antony and his wife Nancy as they welcome their new baby, Isabelle Njeri, for Louise as she struggles with technology and hugely lengthy bus journeys and for Lucy as she cooks and walks many miles to distribute meals from her own home.
As we shared personal greetings from parishioners who have supported our link over many years, I could see that Kathleen was taking notes and I know that these greetings are valued and will be passed on. I pray for a sense of encouragement and uplift in each person who hears that they are being remembered by us.
The St Mark’s Kenya support group has been able to forward funds raised in anticipation of our visit, to meet the emergency needs the UDP community faces and offer support in a practical way. Our website will bring the news to a wider audience and offer the opportunity to listen in to the recorded Zoom conversation in full. But the impact of hearing such up to date news has also led us to plan a special service on 21st June through Facebook, when we hope to share prayers recorded by parishioners and by our CMSI partners in Kenya, to reinforce that sense of true connection we have in bringing God’s Kingdom to life, whatever circumstances we all find ourselves in.
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1: 17
Here's a short extract from the Zoom call, in which Kathleen provides an insight into the latest C-19 developments in Kayole and highlights the importance of staying connected and supporting one another.