The Slum Lord: Nairobi, Here I Come! Part 2

by | May 12, 2014 | Freedom, Nairobi, Here I Come!, Surrender

“God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5 NIV)

Tempted by promising lies, Eve gave in to the serpent so that she could become “like God”. One thing she realized only too late is this: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Cor 8:1 NIV) The devil promised her knowledge, God promises us a loving relationship!

Let us see where such knowledge has brought us. Have we really become “like God”, or are we just mere imitators of the evil one?

Let’s travel to Kibera, a slum of Nairobi, Kenya.

As you approach your destination, a stench begins to fill your nostrils; a stench that becomes more and more pronounced with each approaching step. It is a mixture of smells: wood fires, fried fish, refuse, human waste… In the distance we begin to see low-lying structures covered with rusty corrugated metal. The walls of the buildings are red – mud mixed with dung.

As you enter, you find yourself surrounded by a multitude of people. You stand out. You are obviously a visitor, an “outsider”. Many smile and ask you to take their picture. Children swarm around you screaming, “Howareyou? Howareyou?!”

Welcome to Kibera, the second largest slum in the world, home to a million people living within a single square mile of land. At least a third of the population of Nairobi lives right here in this slum which serves as home to anyone who cannot afford to live anywhere else. Amazingly enough, a railroad runs right down the middle of the slum.

You look around, shocked by what you see. The nearby river is used not only for personal hygiene and washing clothes and dishes, but also as a large public toilet and garbage dump. How can people live like this?

You notice that the muddy streets are littered with garbage, dung, and oddly, plastic bags. Don’t try to open one of these plastic bags! Most of them are filled with human waste! Because it is dangerous to be out at night in Kibera, if someone has to use the bathroom, they don’t feel safe going to the river. Instead, they use these “portable potties”, locally known as “flying toilets”. Once full, they are simply tossed over the wall where they are out of the way.

As a tourist, you will never find this place on any map. You see, slums are illegal in Kenya. This is why there are no title deeds, no hospitals, no schools, no sewage pipes, no roads, and no services of any kind. Even the police refuse to enter Kibera, and the only policemen to be found in the slum are there looking for a bribe. Postmen are nowhere to be seen, either. After all, how could they find a specific address when there aren’t even any street signs?

The luckiest of the inhabitants live on 2$ a day. From this meagre sum, they must feed their wives and children, and they must pay the slum lord.

Yes, I did say “slum lord”. They actually have to pay rent for these miserable dwellings! And if for some reason they fall behind on their rent, their shack will be padlocked with all of their belongings inside and out of reach.

Countless homeless orphans live on the streets. They huddle in groups of four or five under cardboard blankets, trying to stay warm at night. Once the sun rises, they leave their bedding behind, knowing full well that it will be stolen before they can return for another cold night.

During the day these orphans beg. They carry bags for others, and once in a while, they shell a bag-full of peas for 20 shillings (about 30 US cents). All of these children long for a better life, but as they have no identity cards, they are prone to abuse. Hopeless, they continue to live among the rats and mice, in the streets of Kibera.

Amazingly, you can find stores, pubs, outdoor vendors, movie theatres and even hotels in Kibera. Imagine shopping in a store where the walls are covered with mud and dung! And who would take pleasure in a movie theatre showing movies from the 80s in a dwelling smaller than the room you sleep in?

These people have no choice but to live here. What’s amazing, however, is that they seem to be much happier than those of us who live in the Western world. I wonder if they could teach us a thing or two!

“You will be like God!” Seems far for being true no matter where we look on our globe. The way we treat one another, we are more like creatures from hell! Only One showed us the way. Only One brought us true hope. Through Him we can dream of an assured future!

“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6 NIV)

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev 21:4 NIV)

The choice is ours to either live “like God”, but without God in our lives, or to live with the One who can show us the way to true freedom. One way leads to dung-covered walls, the other to real living.

Who will you choose? Who is Lord over your life?

Rob Chaffart

(To view the entire “Nairobi, Here I Come!” devotional series, please click here.)


The Slum Lord: Nairobi, Here I Come! Part 2