Ever watch a mother communicate with her new born baby? Every see a grandparent communicate with one of their grandchildren? Ever see a long-time married couple communicate without words? Common language can take on many forms.
After a 9,000+ mile trip in less than 24 hours our team arrived safe in Nairobi, Kenya on Saturday night. Sunday morning came way too quickly, but the team was looking forward to attending church in Bondeni.
For some of us this was our ‘Kenya church’, as much as Traders Point is our ‘home church’.
For those on their first visit to Kenya this was their first introduction to the streets of Nairobi and the great Mathare valley which in its 1 mile wide, three mile long expanse of what seems to be forgotten territory to modern humanity is home to one million people.
As we traveled from our guest house to the Bondeni slum community, we passed very nicely appointed estates, government compounds, and through a city that during the week is the thriving economic center of this great country. Then the sights begin to change, from prosperity, to less affluence, to abject poverty. At the latter we knew that we had reached the area where we will be spending the next several days and where our Kenya church is located.
The Hope Outreach Church is all set up for this Sunday’s service as we arrived, proof that someone has cared enough to arrive far ahead of us and set up chairs, sound equipment, portable electric service, and yes, signs declaring the house of God is open.
The first part of the service is led by Pastor Stephen and is on Jonah, and how God used Jonah’s words to save the city of Nineveh, even though Jonah did not want the city to be saved. Could this have been words of encouragement to those of this community that no one cares about except themselves? There is a God, who cares, who spares, and who saves! This part of the service was in English, because the Pastor knew that visitors were coming and would not understand his native Swahili.
The second, main part of the service, followed closely on the teaching about Jonah, and the energy and participation by the congregation increased. Out of their nothing, came songs of praise, uplifted hands and voices. On their faces were the smiles of triumph, victory, hope, and faith. We, the visitors, did not understand the words, but this was a service that we were swept up into.
Maybe this is the future spoken of in Revelation, where the nations will stand together and praise and worship God. Will we all learn a new language, or will our voices and languages mix into a great symphony of worship? It did not matter on this Sunday, as we, not at all feeling as ‘outsiders’ but as part of the Church, became part of the congregation, fully participating in worship and praise to our same God.
Later that day as we met to discuss what we had been a part of, we expressed how their lack, did not decrease their hope, faith and love. This caused us to question how in our significantly more affluent lives, we give rise to our perceived lack (our latte is too cold?), that at times greatly diminishes our ability to express our own faith, hope and love.
What we did agree on, is that in this community, 9,000 miles from home, we were ‘Home’, in a church, where language was not a barrier to expressing God’s love and power.