Alton Webteam: June 2016
"He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul." Psalm 23:2
Visiting Nairobi for the first time, many people are surprised. Having only seen media-skewed images of impoverished Africa, they find a thriving economic hub, a modern city skyline and also many beautiful trees. Jacarandas that turn the city lilac every October, flame trees with red succulent blooms, yellow-flowered wattle trees, as well as pink oleander and every hue of Bougainvillea covering walls like carpet. Beauty and colour everywhere, for those who can see it.
Kibera, however, is a different story. There is colour — in the wonderful Khanga fabric wrapped around every mama, in the multicoloured plastic flip-flops and jellies hanging on sisal; stacked up shiny piles of tomatoes and vibrant green local spinach and kale. But the walls, walls everywhere, and the baked-dry dirt beneath your feet, and the rusting iron roofs: all red-brown. Schools around the periphery that have a "field" mostly have a patch of red-brown dirt. Football pitches are red-brown dirt, moved around by red-brown feet. The Turning Point compounds, particularly in Kianda under the evergreen thumbs of Mary, are an attempt at an oasis of green in a desert of brown. They shout "life is possible!" from every leaf. "Be watered here and thrive!"
Once a year Turning Point gives the children an opportunity to leave the red-brown density and the air polluted with a toxic mix of illegal brewing, burning rubbish and open sewage. It's the highlight of the year, for staff and kids alike: Holiday camp time! Out of the city on big hired buses, out to somewhere where the air is clean and one of the biggest treats is — wait for it — the grass. Grass to lie on, grass to play on, grass to roll on, grass to smell, grass to feel under your feet, grass! Think of happy childhood memories you have — do any of them feature grass? Walks and picnics, back gardens, daisy chains, cricket? When was the last time you or I didn't take grass for granted?
Our Heavenly Father knows what feeds and restores and nourishes our soul, and we have so much access to it in the UK. Are the children and families of Kibera so very different? They too need the still waters and green pastures of Psalm 23. They too need to behold how good the natural world is and how loudly it shouts of our Creator. And once a year there is a chance for them to see and breathe and feel His goodness in this beautiful way. So next time you mow your lawn or cross a verge or walk the dog on the Common, will you carry them with you in your heart? Smell and breathe and delight in all the greenery — even the blades of grass — and pray for them to know life and restoration and to see His handiwork in their lives, the way you can in yours.
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