Adventures in Kenya...at Nakuru 316 and beyond...on the surface, and below...
The places and faces...the spaces of despair, and the traces of hope.
The sights, sounds, smells...disgusting, disgraceful, demoralizing on the surface. but while there was much to initially repel us, i found myself strangely drawn into the communities at the gioto dump and the black base, not so much afraid but more astonished...not at the abject poverty and disease, but more at the absolute beauty in the eyes of the children, the young men and women, the mothers and grandmothers...even the eyes covered in flies, the arms covered in sores, the teeth covered in deep brown stained remnants of inhaling glue.
- i see the faces of Kelvin and Samson, smiling and telling me of their dreams of being a pilot, a teacher...dreams that have NOT been destroyed by years of living in waste as forgotten people...surviving amidst a pack of young people transformed by hunger and addiction into a pack of rabid hyenas upon the sight of freshly made stew and rice.
- i see Ann and Anna and Sophia, keeping their balance in the back of a tiny pick up truck that is being gradually crushed by the surging weight of those dear boys-turned-wild-animals, clawing for every last grain of rice and morsel of stew, even smiling in the midst of the extreme chaos, laughing afterwards that while it is a challenge to feed such tragically starved and addicted young people, they LOVE them...and that love compels them to keep feeding them, keep seeing them for they truly are at the core of their being, keep smiling and shining Light into a seemingly insurmountable darkness.
- i see Monica pointing to the dumpster spilling out trash and rotten food in every direction that once was her home, her arm wrapped tightly around my shoulder, smiling in recognition of her new reality of life...a life with hope, promise, love, peace.
- i see Susan, a former street girl and young mother, no longer in the shelter but living with the father of her two children in a home...NOT on the streets...clear eyed, radiant, beautiful, thankful.
- i see Ann, her strong, fierce spirit of independence reflected in her children, Pauline and Hope, living in joyful inter-dependence as a part of the N316 community, discovering her gifts and passion for social work which can lead her to help many others living lonely, orphaned lives on the streets to find hope and a future worth living for.
(Ann, holding little Hope, with Monica)
- i see Agnes, such a young girl when i met her in 2008 at the shelter's opening, her smile peeking out only occasionally, usually when no one's looking...and to see her now...this precious little orphaned girl from the streets now a lovely young woman in a SCHOOL uniform...leading her sisters in faith and life at N316 in worship, dancing in freedom and singing with a voice that emerges from the depths of her being with a heart and soul that ushers all who hear it into the very presence of God, Aretha Franklin-meets-Youssou D'Nour...and i can't keep my feet from moving, my lips from smiling, my eyes from crying...with pure, unfettered joy.
- i see Regina, the woman with the strength of 10,000 men, in the midst of a rugby scrum of boys at the feeding line maintaining her sense of dignity and purpose as she is tossed to and fro in the raging storm of greed and need...praying at all watches of the day and night for her girls and their children, that they might know the Love that not only saves life, but gives life in all its fullness...shyly smiling as people sway and bounce to music that connects her people with each other and the visitors from a far away land that have instantly become family, and connects us all to the much more primal and profound Rhythm that calls us all to join in the greatest Dance of all.
(me, Regina, Jennifer, Zablon & Travis)
What should have smelled like death to me actually smelled like life.
What appeared to be despair looked more to me like glimmers of hope.
What seemed to sound like the last gasps of survival and growing dissonance reverberated into my soul as the winds of change, the breath of life, the harmony of the heavens...the music of the spheres grounded in the humus, the soil of this trampled sphere, pounding its crust down to its core like a heartbeat that simply will not stop.
When i looked deeply into the eyes of these people and others, i saw a light and a radiance that was all but hidden by the hardship, agony, cruelty, injustice, and despair of life's circumstances on the surface of things. and i was reminded that down beneath all that seems to desecrate and destroy life, down even lower that the pit of hell, there is the spark that lights the stars, the Love that fires the sun, the hope that ushers the heavens onto this sordid, scummy and oh so sacred earth.
i am by nature a doubter, a wrestler who hates getting pinned because then i can't breathe, a skeptic and pessimist who is the last to believe that the sky is blue on a sunny day and that there may actually be someone in Washington D.C. who actually wants what's best for the people of this country. In my everyday life, this sense of uncertainty both exasperates and empowers me to grow more and more into the person i'm created to be.
In Kenya, i have faith. i am a believer. i trust in those fickle and unpredictable winds of Spirit to do what only they can do. i see, hear, taste, touch smell, and KNOW hopefulness and holiness. When i am there, i feel like i already AM that person i'm created to be.
Here's hoping that one day, the rhythms from these these two distinct yet connected circles of my life might come FULL circle.
(ALL the faces of hope at Nakuru 316)