“I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well-built.” Luke 6:48
News about Africa is seldom positive. Wars, violence, land grabbing, corruption. Both media and news outlets struggle to find positive things to report on. (Though I have been so pleased to find some, I’m noting the hard work required!).
A little more than a decade ago many agreed that Kenya was a beacon of hope. I took my first trip there in 2005 and I remember the air of confidence in this regard, from newspaper headlines to radio and TV hosts. “Kenya is the beacon of democracy for Africa.” “Kenya is Africa’s future.” “Kenya is Africa’s Christian nation.” The American-Christian-Democratic influence was palpable in the brightly-colored matatus, bearing taglines like “God is king” and blaring “I Can Only Imagine” through their speakers.
Two years after my first trip I remember gathering in a living room with heavy hearts. We came to pray for Kenya. The election year brought with it violence that shook their sense of confidence to the core. We were receiving tragic messages from friends who told us they were afraid. People were fleeing their homes. The country was in chaos.
By 2008, over 1,200 had been killed and a half-a-million displaced.
In 2009, our ministry returned to Kenya equipped with tents, clothing, food, soap, and a plan to help people transition back to “home.” These Kenyans wanted their lives back, but lacked the understanding of how to make it possible. They were also very afraid.
This still wasn’t the end. Over the course of the last 10 years, the country has tried to rewrite its constitution to prevent the violence that occurred in 2007. But after reports of irregularities and illegalities over this year’s election, the Supreme Court threw out the election results altogether and called for another vote. Again, the world noted their progress. But during the second vote in October, only 39% of eligible voters even showed up to the polls (compared to the 80% in the August vote). Kenyans found themselves on display before the whole world.
Not a full month ago, opposition leader Raila Odinga swore himself in as “The People’s President.” All the while, Uhuru Kenyatta remains in the official seat, restricting media that would point to anything contrary. It’s a democracy in crisis.
But I do have good news about Africa, and even about Kenya specifically.
There’s a special group of people who have been building their house on the rock, despite all of the political floods that rise and fall around them. Their hope is not in their government, but in a kingdom to come. In faith, they do their best to manifest that very kingdom. They’ve put their hope not in one president or another, but in a kingdom that is to come, and they are doing their best to manifest it. They’re living the Apostle Paul’s advice: praying fervently for their nation, and at the same time “leading quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and dignity,” (1 Tim. 2:2). They have faith that’s unshaken by the turmoil that rages around them.
Every week they farm, reaping remarkable yields that get the attention of neighbors with whom they gladly share their knowledge. They build reduced-smoke stoves, benefiting the poor with a time-tested product that saves their income and health--and do so free-of-charge for single mothers and widows in need. They gather weekly to worship the Lord, pour themselves over the Scriptures, teach their children, and share their resources to enjoy a community meal together.
Here’s a few examples of the reports we’ve received over the last month of projected political upheaval:
“We had a wonderful fellowship where we had praises, prayer items and we mostly prayed for peace on the issue of 30-1-2018, i.e. the swearing in of Odinga at Uhuru Park. We prayed God to direct us in every aspect of our lives and thanking him as far as he has taken us.”
February 2 - the day after the swearing in of Odinga
“We all felt the presence of God. There was an opportunity for testimonies for all and some said how the Lord has given them good health and provision and peace as well as protection. We learned the word from Colossians 1:1-12 where we learned that the brethren are connected to each other through prayers, irrespective of locality and this is possible through being equipped with a knowledge of God. We realized that all of us have something to give to one another in our community as well as to those who are far.”
“Our fellowship was so good. We had various prayer items and thanks for what the Lord has done in our lives. Prayer items were for peace in our country Kenya, that God would continue to give us good health, that God would help us to know his will, and thanking him for the unity has has given to our community.”
“I’m feeling good to inform you that our fellowship was wonderful. Testimonies were so encouraging from youths to adults, not forgetting the kids who presented songs, memory verses and explaining what they learned from them. We had the word of God from Exodus 3:11-16 and it was very instructive.”
Recently they told us they sing in four languages! Their worship of God is not constrained to their tribe--a remarkable thing in Africa. They know the God who existed long before political and ethnic boundaries came into being -- long before tribes began fighting --the God who will exist long after the fighting is done.
There is a beacon of hope in Kenya, though it’s not making many news outlets.
This true beacon shines through the window of a small house, as a gathering of people who regularly devote themselves to the Lord in prayer, worship and study of his Word. This household of people have been built on the strongest foundation: of learning God’s Word and doing it. This is all the foundation we need.