Messy. Slummy. Safari Beautiful.

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I woke at 4:30 a.m., unable to fall back asleep. Our team was supposed to meet downstairs for breakfast at 5:30 before heading to safari, so I decided to go ahead and get up.

We woke at different times, but all got ready briefly. No fluff. No big prep. No unnecessary primping. Today was our last day in Africa. High maintenance and Africa are NOT synonymous.

Most of us skipped the hotel’s breakfast in lieu of a granola bar or snack from our backpacks. The hard boiled eggs were reportedly soft.

We stored all our luggage in a main-level room at the hotel, then hopped on two safari-style vans. A quick 15-20 minute drive from the hotel and we arrived at Nairobi National Park for our day-long safari.

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safari

Our guides popped open the tops of our two safari vans and off we went.

The safari was wonderful and surprisingly lasted most of the day, approximately 6:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We stood with heads popped into open air 95% of the time. Nate kept us awake and alive with his unique and incredibly funny sense of humor; there was quite a bit of laughter. Who knew a safari would be beautiful AND fun? We documented a page-full of animals we saw on the safari – a lion, herds of wildebeests, impalas, zebras and giraffes to name just a few. The animals were incredible. The trees, breathtakingly beautiful.

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Halfway through the safari, around lunch time, we came upon the one and only rest area. We stopped, used the restroom, then made our way to a modest gazebo where an armed gunman and Masai tribesman were there to protect, answer questions and provide beverages for purchase.

We had a cold lunch of PB&J sandwiches, chips, Oreos and water out of the back of our safari vans. Then the Masai tribesman offered to take us on a walk down to the hippo pools. There was a small fee for the guided tour. Randy, our trip leader agreed to cover it. Our teams’ walking journey through the African bush was stunning. Breathtaking. Absolutely beautiful. A not-to-miss experience. The Masai warrior, draped in red, tire sandals, and beaded necklaces and headwear, showed us hippo tracks, rhino tracks, a giraffe who’d fallen in the water and died, a couple hippos hiding under the water’s surface and some oh-so-painful safari ants. Did I mention that the scenery was breathtaking? Wow. Amazing. God’s African creations are a sight to be seen.

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Masai

After a group photo with the Masai tribesman, we got back in the vans and made our way back through the safari towards the entrance. We were so deep into the safari that it took 1 1/2 – 2 hours to get back out to the entrance. It was a good opportunity for conversation and a few unexpected afternoon sightings of giraffes against blue sky and green grass, as well as a domination fight between two male ostriches.

When we finally arrived back at the entrance to the safari, we rushed a bit as we were set to arrive at the Kibira Slums within a half hour. No problem. No worries. Hakuna Matata. We made it to the Kibira Slums right on the dot, right on time at 3:30 p.m.

Kibira slum is the second largest slum in Africa. 1 million people live in 1 square mile of space. Extreme poverty everywhere. Unsafe, unsanitary and highly underdeveloped living conditions everywhere. We left 95% of our bags and belongings on the bus at Randy’s suggestion. I didi wear my wedding ring, turning the diamond in towards my palm, and decided to bring my camera with bag strap shortened, and easy to hold close to my body up front. Everyone was wearing pants and tennis shoes. I had Toms on, so I added socks for an extra barrier between the garbage, mud, sewage and my feet.

When our vans entered the slums, Randy phoned Pastor Timothy, Kibira Slums resident and pastor at a church-school ministry operating in the slums. Randy connected with Pastor Timothy several years ago and has remained in contact ever since. As we drove down the narrow slum roads, Randy talked non-stop to Timothy on the phone, keeping him updated as to where we were and how close we were. There was a calm urgency in Randy’s voice. We needed to ensure direct and immediate contact with Pastor Timothy. He was our point person, our Kenya contact in these slums, and we wouldn’t do well here without him. Finally, there he was, in front of us with phone in hand, wearing a white plaid shirt and a great big smile. The drivers parked the vans right in front of Pastor Timothy’s church-school ministry building in the slums, they stayed to protect our belongings, and in we went.

Pastor Timothy had told us the kids were off school, so he rounded up “a few” kids to sing and dance for us. “A few” was, perhaps, an understatement. There were many more than just “a few.” When we entered, there were at least 50 kids sitting waiting amidst the blue backdrop of wood and tin-constructed church-school buildings. Pastor Timothy introduced himself and greeted our team incredibly warmly and with great joy. He introduced PoPo, a former student of his who is now a leader in the church-school. PoPo said they had a few dances to perform for us. Boy, did they ever! Timothy made sure to let us know we could take as many photos as we wanted. Fortunately, three of our team decided to take the risk and bring cameras.

Oh. My. Word. The kids were incredible. They danced. They sang. They shared a verse. Then two testimonies. Amazing. I was deeply, deeply moved. It was so, so good. The joy on the childrens’ faces, despite their home in the slums and many of orphan status, was humbling and amazing to witness. What a fabulous ministry Pastor Timothy runs in the Kibira Slums. I stood next to him on the side as he proclaimed to me quietly and with all certainty…

“We have the children dance and sing like this and it draws in people from all over the slums. Then we tell them about Jesus, our one and only Savior.”

100% certainty was written all over Pastor Timothy’s face. I know, without a doubt, that this ministry is effective.

They invited our team to join them for several songs of dancing. What can I say? It was joy to the max, the Holy Spirit igniting and uniting us as one as we danced, all together, in the heart of the slums.

The Bible promises that in heaven there will be no more tears. Today, after this experience in the slums, I am certain there will be no more tears in heaven. All joy. All peace. All unity. All colors and all backgrounds. United together through faith.

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“It was amazing to see Pastor Timothy bring hope to the poorest of the poor in the Kibira slum. Christ’s love shining bright! Hope for the hopeless.” – Randy Stensgard

After dancing to the point of sweating, our team shared some testimonies and Pastor Timothy gave us a tour of the building, which was followed by a group walk through the slums. We were each individually escorted by an older teenage boy from the church school. Pastor Timothy, a youth pastor and an additional group of older boys from the church school surrounded us to ensure safety.

As we walked through garbage, sewage, mud and overly crammed and populated streets of the slums, our team experienced a variety of emotions.

Overwhelming.

Emotional.

Filthy.

Sad.

Unimaginable.

Overwhelming.

Inconceivable. Landfill. Miraculous. Joy and hope in Christ in the midst of a sewer.

My escort was wearing green. I stayed close to him the whole time and for some reason felt complete peace as we walked through the slums. I can’t say exactly why, but for some reason I felt God’s presence so clearly there. Perhaps my escort said it best as we chatted and made our way back to the church school.

“Some people think we’re poor. We have life. We have Jesus. We have everything we need.”

Wow. I think he’s right. Perhaps that’s why I had complete peace as I walked through the slums. Sure, we don’t live in the slums, but other aspects of our lives are undoubtedly slummy and incredibly messy and out of control. There comes a time when we must surrender and agree…if we have life and faith in Jesus, we have everything we need.

Life on earth never promised to be perfect. Life is life. It’s messy, slummy beautiful.

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Our walk deep into the slums and back up again brought us back to our vans. A quick group photo and off we went to a quick stop to change, pick up luggage at the hotel and head to the airport for our departure.

What a journey this has been. Our 10-day mission trip to Kenya, Africa, with Love for Kenya, is near complete. A day and a half and THREE additional flights later, we’ll be back home in the USA.

Thank you for joining our journey. It’s been a pleasure, a true honor, to serve God and His beautiful people here in Kenya. God bless you all. God bless Kenya.

Amy & Team

Kenya_smallbuttonThis blog post is part of a series I’m writing about my journey to Kenya, Africa, with the nonprofit organization, Love for Kenya, in the fall of 2015. Click here and you’ll be directed to the landing page where you can read ALL the posts from the series. If you haven’t already, read the post I wrote when I announced the trip. Otherwise, scroll to the bottom and you’ll find ALL the Kenya posts listed and linked for your reading enjoyment. Thanks for joining the journey, friends.

  1. Vicki Thunstrom says:

    I’d never heard of the Kibira slum until this past couple of weeks. Now I hear this testimony from you and I also have another friend who is spending the year in Isreal working with a feeding ministry to the poor and their group just was in this same place last week! So much is to be said for the joy that they can have in the midst of what we can’t even imagine. Thank you for sharing your journey!

  2. Carol Femling says:

    Wow!! I am in AWE!! Beautiful post, Amy!! Loved your words, the pictures and the videos!! Just awesome!!’ What an experience of a lifetime!! You are blessed!! Love you!! ❤️

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