Saturday, September 10, 2011

Mama Mary's Story from the Slums of Nairobi...

This past week, I met a remarkable Kenyan grandmother names Mama Mary. I was helping to conduct a workshop in urban community development with our Baptist Global Response Area Directors here in Africa and we had just finished the classroom work and went out to local communities to practice what we learned.

My team consisted of myself and four Kenyan pastor/leaders. We went to a nearby slum area and met with a small community group to talk about their issues. We went in letting them know that we were learners and were trying to understand from our recent training how to really know a small community like theirs.

We used some key questions to get them to begin participating with us. We also used some mapping and problem analysis tools to talk about the major issues in their community. One of the things that quickly rose to the surface was the fact that they had no water source.

They had one before but it was illegal and the pipe had been cut. They were now using what we in the west would be called a "mud puddle" to get their water. It was basically a seepage area in the middle of the community and it was open to foot traffic of the community, animal contamination and a host of other things that would make any of us gag at the thought of taking a drink from. However, it was the only water they had.

They shared with us the causes of the water problem ranging from no government support to no really good source in the area. They also talked about the results from having poor quality or no water: their children were constantly sick, they had to go a long way to haul water, they spent a lot of time and money in getting water.

During the discussion, we met Mama Mary. She was the "grandmother" of the whole community and the community midwife who had delivered all the babies in that community for the past 50 years. When I asked her how many babies she had delivered during her lifetime, she simply started pointing to all the people gathered in the small room (about 11) and just said as she pointed to each one, "I delivered that one and that one and that one..."

Mama Mary then told us how hard it was for her at her age to get water. She couldn't go the long distances and haul the water back to her house. Since she was the "grandmother" of the community, she would go each day with a glass to every home in that community and ask for a glass of water. She would make her round of about 48 homes and that is how she got her drinking, bathing, cleaning and cooking water for each day. She said (translated into English by one of the pastors with me), "Water is life...without water, life is miserable."

I thought of the story of Elisha in 2 Kings and the widow and the flowing oil. When the containers were exhausted, the oil stopped flowing. But everyday, Mama Mary has to go through her village to collect the blessings of God at the mercy of her neighbors.

Pray for Pastor Patrick (one of our companions and the Kenyan church planter working in that community) as he continues to work with that slum area and share with the member the Living Water. Pray for Pastor Patrick too as he helps the community walk through the process of getting a good, clean water source for their members.

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