Last week in the middle of a long bus journey away from rainy Nairobi, travelling West towards the Masaai Mara, a friend and I got talking about the nature of poverty – of living every day in a fragile, uncertain, often dependent state. I have never experienced it.
I have experienced uncertainty, but not in a life-threatening way. I have experienced being dependent on people, for money, for education, for knowledge, but not for long. I have experienced feeling fragile, but my culture (sometimes wrongly) reassures me that I am not.
I was also born into the richest 2 per cent of the world. A small slice of the world, my culture strives for pleasure, pre-empts the “What Ifs”, creates contingency plans, emergency escape routes, and encases daily life in a protective layer of supposedly pain-proof, risk-proof packaging.
An instant photo of a boma hut near Emmunuel's home, Lolgorien, Kenya
During our mini-muskathlon sports day a little local boy injured his wrist and in between translating his Swahili into English for our German doctor, I suddenly became aware of the fragility of a life lived a developing country. Thankfully, we had an ambulance present at the sports day and there was a plan in place to deal with situations such as this. But I was concerned: How can an ambulance travel fast when the roads are bad? How can a hospital quickly serve a little boy in pain when it is likely under-resourced, perhaps only with one doctor? Would an X-Ray machine work if there was no electricity? If his wrist never properly mended, could he earn a living in this society? I tangibly felt his vulnerability as a little boy living in a third world country with a pressing problem.
Then I prayed. I was reminded of some words in in one of my favourite C.S.Lewis books, “…pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It is at the points in my life when I have felt most pain that I have had no other choice but to rely whole-heartedly on Him to move, to do something and to change me as I wait.
God used a moment of pain to rouse me from my deafness. I felt urgency in that moment more than ever to help create systems and support for children living in developing countries. They need governments, local workers, churches, Compassion projects and sponsors to uphold them, protect them and serve them, in times of emergency as well as in everyday life.
I crave safety, security and comfort and for the majority of the time, I am part of the 2 per cent which have those things. Pain and moments of suffering “shout” as C.S. Lewis says: “Turn to God! In Him you can find comfort and safety you can’t find anywhere else! Turn to others! Use everything you have, your job, your house, your kitchen, your food, your car, your skills, talents, hours, evenings to serve and give to those around you! God will help you!”
So, one reflection which I carried home with me from Kenya was that maybe I don’t need the security that I thought I did. And how can I share this security and abundance of comfort that I do have, more open-handedly and more generously?