The Rev. Sam and Cindy Wolff are ELCA missionaries based in Nairobi, Kenya. Here’s their latest letter, e-mailed to sponsors. To learn more about ELCA missionary sponsorship, visit www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
Greetings from our home and church in Nairobi,
Cindy finally made it to the States. We were both supposed to go for our son’s wedding last month, but the unpronounceable volcano prevented that from happening. We along
with millions of fellow sojourners were grounded. It was a bitter disappointment but the mother of the groom is now very happy to be back with the newlyweds.
I have mentioned before that many of our members come from the vast slums of Dagoretti, an area just behind our church grounds. Each week Cindy and I, together with other members of our HIV/AIDS support group, go into Dagoretti on home visits.
It seems to me that the slum is not dissimilar to the mud hut arrangements corrugated iron roofs that can be found in villages all over rural Kenya. But in the slum the houses are tiny affairs, usually no more than one room, and there is no view; no trees, no grass, no space, just thousands of people with many sanitation problems. There is rubbish dumped randomly, open sewage, goats, sheep, cows, chickens and dogs mingle freely. One is advised to be careful where one steps. And yet, children of God live here, fall in love here, set up households, raise fine young children. It is a place where one can celebrate the human spirit as people prevail over a most difficult set of circumstances.
Dagoretti is not a place to be pitied. It is as much of a community as Elm street in any city, USA. There are busy, thriving enterprises; a maize grinding shop, a place to rent DVDs, boiling pots of meat, small eateries, an old woman selling bananas, a young girl braiding hair, a traditional healer, a traditional beer purveyor, teenagers with blaring boom boxes, children playing soccer. Roadside vendors are all over the place, selling what we would consider rubbish. Old electrical items, bits of broken mobile phones, second hand toilet seats, old boots, recycled plastic, old clothes, empty margarine containers. As in any economically depressed place, crime is sky high and yet, people try and take care of each other.
Cindy and I are celebrities when we go to Dagoretti, well, at least to the children under five. They follow us everywhere, want to hold our hands and shout “howayou” as we pass by.
We do not have any photos to share with you; pictures without knowing the people only elicit a “poor Africa response.” And Dagoretti is not “poor Africa,” for here live the people we are privileged to serve. Here are good people, brothers and sisters with a strong commitment to their God and a faith that often puts mine to shame.
Sam and Cindy