Mandela saved their lives-Hope in Kibera

Joseph, Kennedy and Felix in Kibera Slums in Kenya

Joseph, Kennedy and Felix in Kibera Slums in Kenya

back to my journey in Kenya…our first day we spent in the largest slum in Africa, possibly the world.  I wrote a few things that night here.  That day is engraved on my mind.  I was privileged to sit with some amazing teens…Joseph, Kennedy and Felix.  They shared their Compassion portfolio.  It was filled with their goals, every letter from their sponsors and their school work.  All three of these young men have great dreams…yet their plight of living in object poverty is heart breaking.  The fact that they are Compassion sponsored children is a good thing and maybe the only thing that gives them ongoing hope.

A good friend, Unami (who was part of the IJM Tour) pointed me to an interesting article on CNN’s page written by another young man, who is also named Kennedy and lived in the same slum as these young men.  As the ongoing news of the decline of Nelson Mandela comes to us there are many things that turn in my mind.  We as Americans know how important role models are.  i find this young man’s words hanging in my brain…

It was Mandela who saved my life..A visiting American gave me two books. I had never gone to formal schools, but I had learned to read and write with the help of a kind priest. The American gave me a collection of speeches by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom.” It was Mandela’s book that spoke to me. I couldn’t put it down. Here was someone whose life I could somehow picture.  For the first time in my life I saw I had a choice. I could either submit to the degradations of poverty, to the prevailing hopelessness, or I could start my own long walk. – Kennedy Odede



I get it. It was almost that same sentiment that these young men spoke to me. Their deep desire to help them move beyond their circumstances.  I’m still wrestling with the “what to do” from the “why” of our trip. I’ve spoken to others who have done similar Vision Trips with Compassion.  Their worlds were equally unsettled…a phrase that showed up on our IJM Freedom Tour last year as brought awareness about human trafficking

Once you know…you can’t not know.

My young friend, Kennedy, is holding a beaded trivet that he’s making to sell to make money.  It is his own long walk.  It broke my heart to leave this church and its compound.  To leave behind young people who desperately want something better for themselves.  This church, with the help of Compassion is truly offering hope in the midst of chaos. They are a beacon.  I’m not settling for any comfort now…I want the unsettledness of trying to figure out what God is asking me to do to be there.  But I have to ask you…what will you do?
i can think of two ways right now…

kibera compound

An armed Kenyan solider guards our visit inside the compound of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa School.

1. Compassion International
2. Moody Radio Cleveland partnership with Indian’s Justin Masterson