Wrestling with Questions

Living here begets difficult questions, like:

  • “Is it really ok for me to live in my apartment/have fun/bake lots of cake/go to a church full of wealthy people, whilst there’s many people living in the slums or displaced from post-election violence?”.
  • “Do ex-pat aid workers (like myself) simply cost more than the benefit they give?”.
  • “What should I do when I see small children/infirm/old people/able-bodied adults begging?”.
  • “How do I stay sane when the politics/traffic/customer service/treatment of the vulnerable is maddening?”

There are no easy answers.  However, for me at this point in my life the biggest question that I’ve been asking myself since I’ve been in Kenya is “Lord, how should I respond?”.  And to be honest, I can’t say that I’ve been given clear answers to this question even amongst the diverse situations I encounter.

For instance, a couple of days ago a petrol-fuelled fire engulfed a part of a slum in Nairobi’s Industrial Area.  The day of this horrific event, I was in the office on lunch break.  My mum who saw news of this on CNN in NZ, was frantically calling me – worried that we could have been affected.  Thankfully, this was not the case – the fire was about 20km away.  But still.  Seventy-six people lost their lives and over a hundred are seriously injured.  It’s awful.  I want to do something.  Be useful, helpful.  A blessing.  “God, how do I respond?”.

Fire in Sinai, Nairobi

One person who did respond to this in a small but poignant way is a judge in one Nairobi court.  My room-mate & co-worker told me of the court session that she attended yesterday.   She was waiting for a hearing for one of our clients.  Before that, was a man who had been charged with a capital offence and a lesser charge.  At the judgment hearing, the magistrate dismissed the capital charge, but upheld the lesser charge, which carried a penalty of a one year’s jail term.  The man’s wife and children live in the slum affected by the fire. They had lost everything and were struggling to survive.  He appealed to the magistrate, who took this into consideration and allowed the man to go free based on some relevant sections of the law.  This one magistrate was powerless to comfort every grieving person in Makuru Sinai, but his extension of mercy was a beautiful response to a horrible tragedy.