This was my first trip to Nairobi, a huge cosmopolitan city in Kenya, Africa. Like many large cities, it has large highways, an international airport, and American style shopping malls. But also like many major cities, there are slums, run down suburbs, and places forgotten by business, law enforcement, and politicians.
Eastleigh is a suburb in Nairobi that has been in rapid decline over the past several years. We passed by four and five story buildings, one after another, on the neglected streets made of crumbled pavement that have become nearly impassible. I saw uncollected garbage piled high as street children rummaged the trash heaps for something of value. Perhaps a small bit of metal could be sold for a few shillings, enough to buy another bottle of glue. Glue? Yes, it is the drug of choice among street children in Eastleigh. It is cheap, keeps them high, and deadens hunger pangs. Their blank and distant stares made the children look like zombies.
“How did these children, numbering in the thousands, end up in the streets of Eastleigh?” I wondered. The simplistic answer was poverty. Poverty, the soul-sucking social process that situates people to have to make impossible decisions between something horrible and something terrible. Poverty, the expansive distance between people and the resources they need to get by in life. What I saw was a black hole sucking humanity into non-existence.
Although poverty was a simple way to explain why thousands of children ended up in the streets of Eastleigh, it was much more complicated and heart-tugging to hear how they got to the streets. For a large number of these children poverty attacked their family structure. Marriages suffered under the stress of chronic poverty. The marital capacity to handle the chronic poverty stress was overwhelmed and the couple divorced. The mother almost always kept the children, keeping in line with the gender expectations of the local culture. However, after the divorce, mothers had even fewer resources and ended shouldering all of the parenting responsibilities. Many of these mothers eventually found another man, but a man who didn’t want her children. Women are forced into impossible choices about the children they cannot afford to raise.
Facing the devastating and downward spiraling results of the evil of poverty, I felt overwhelmed. It lead me to ask some hard questions of God.
“Don’t you see this? Where are you? Don’t you care?”
But I knew the answer. The ministry of Made In The Streets is on the frontlines of mission as its ministers enter into the darkness of the horrors of poverty and love street children right where they are at. They bring these sick, high, starving, wounded, and abandoned children a message of hope, they develop friendships with these children, and invite them children into a better life.
If the children accept the invitation, and in collaboration with local authorities and families, Made In The Streets gets the children off the glue to give them safety, food, water, and clothing. But more than that, they give these precious children a place to live, education, Bible teaching, and trade skills training – all in the context of a loving and Christian community.
My summer mission trip to Made In The Streets was an amazing experience. Getting an up close and personal observation as well as participation on the frontlines of the coming of the Kingdom of God is inspirational. Seeing the amazing transformation a child can make from glue-addicted, scared and covered in flies to clean, healthy and thriving is moving. Seeing God work through people is beautiful.
“Where is God?” He is the compassion and dedication of the missionaries with Made in the Streets. In them, He has entered the slums, the streets, and into Hell itself and pulled children into love.
For more information on Made in the Streets, visit www.madeinthestreets.org.