Pauline is a 38-year-old mother of two, born and brought up in the Korogocho slums, east of Nairobi, Kenya. Here, she experienced the harsh realities of Nairobi’s urban settlements. Characterized by high levels of poverty, crime, disease, political instability, ethnic conflicts and blatant corruption, children have become the biggest losers in this mix.
Pauline vividly remembers the dilapidated home that she lived in until just recently. The walls caved inwards and the roof sagged because of the weak structural support. As is the norm in Korogocho, the houses are closely knit together, with little space to move around. She was embarrassed of her home, let alone the danger it put her family in.
“My door could not shut well and we feared being attacked at night.”
But Pauline found help at the local church of Korogocho slum, Redeemed Gospel Church. She often hosted fellowships in her tiny house, but she could not stand the humiliation of her home and contemplated not hosting more visits.
One of the church members, however, noticed her predicament and raised support for her with the help of Pastor Muthama.
“The church members practically reconstructed the house,” Pauline remembers, wearing a warm smile on her face.
The church bought the posts, iron sheets and provided labor.”
Pauline’s confidence was restored and she is thankful for the act of generosity. She can now host visitors in her tiny home without worry. Her daughter, Margaret, 22, is a Compassion graduate, and Margaret recently got a job as a waitress with a very popular coffee house in town, Java.
This is just one of the many examples of how the church is a shining light to the people in Korogocho. Pastor Muthama believes that the church is the hope to bring people out of poverty.
“Redeemed Gospel Church represents Christ through evangelism and other acts of service. They also offers a multidimensional approach to poverty, starting early through our children. The church’s partnership with Compassion has helped us to reach more needy children and families, not only with the gospel of Jesus, but also life skills that enable them to be economically self sustaining.”
Pastor Muthama also knows the challenges of working in a community like Korogocho. He is well known here, but that has not made him immune to armed violence and constant threats. But having grown up in this village, he says that his heart belongs there.
“I have been mugged several times and armed men have stormed the church during worship.”
The church is a target because the ministry here is a threat to the status quo. Pastor Muthama isn’t afraid to speak against the vices in the community. Many young men have changed their ways, but later run away, fearing for their lives. The government security forces have done their bit, but far too many people lose their lives and no real solution has been found.
“I believe that the lasting solution is the intervention of the Christian Community. Many young people are getting lost in this cycle of hopelessness. I love the church because it offers hope to humanity. The church has the great role of bringing people to the knowledge of God and helps them realize their God given potential. Furthermore, it spreads the love of God to all people.”
Pastor Muthama still remembers the 2008 post election violence that rocked the country. Some estimates say that over 1,000 people were killed in this conflict in which tribe was pitted against tribe, and old grievances between Kikuyus and Luos were brought to the surface.
“We were at the forefront of reconciling warring communities.”
The church was instrumental in offering an alternative to conflict that brought together different opinions, cooling down a polarized people. Church pews now accommodate people of different tribes, age and varying economic statuses. From the pulpit to the doors of the church is a voice that speaks against the glaring inequalities that is often the status quo outside of church walls.
Redeemed Gospel Church’s involvement in taking care of the needy – especially children – and being an alternative community that yearns for justice, positions the church in a place that the community can’t ignore.
“The community appreciates our presence due to the positive impact we are having. Through the various programs like the Child Survival Program, the feeding program for children, affordable high school and of course through reaching out to the community through evangelism, we have seen good fruit and everyone is appreciative.”
Throughout this expansive settlement, children are unaware of the hazardous river banks and unprotected bridges as they go about having their usual fun. They do not share in the same worries as the adults, and many of them succumb to an early death due to disease.
If they survive these childhood challenges, they get caught up in the rat race of unemployment, indulgence in illicit brews and neighborhood gangs. Unfortunately, some of them never get to see the light of adulthood.
Looking at the statistics, the challenge of serving this community appears almost insurmountable. However, the will to have a better future is alive and well. Mothers like Pauline trust that their children will have greater accomplishments than themselves.
The faces of sponsored kids at the child development center radiate the ember of hope which is evident in their eyes and smiles. The church’s surroundings cushion them from the dangers that lurk around the corner.
The church is taking responsibility for raising a generation that cares about each other and understands God’s purpose for them. And what more can one ask for when children receive Jesus at their tender ages and experience the joy of fellowship in a secure environment?
Pastor Muthama is on a mission to help change the outlook of this community. In fact, the locality is now known as Kochland, a change from Korogocho a name that carries a lot of negative connotations. Kochland High School is located at the church and is helps kids in the area to obtain a secondary education, placing them on a path to success.
Close to the Compassion Development Center is a brick wall with the words “Caananland” inscribed on it. It has been standing here for as long as the locals can remember, but represents a future they all look forward to, one of peace and prosperity.
This was originally published on May 24, 2011