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On the evening of July 5, our team of nine began our journey from Pittsburgh to the Mathare slums of Nairobi, Kenya. After spanning twenty hours and 8,000 miles of travel, we safely arrived in Nairobi, where we will spend the next eight days serving at AIC Zion's church and school. We are concentrating primarily on developing teachers, staff, and pastors, focusing on potentials for spiritual growth that Reverend Johnson Wambua has identified.
As always, we were greeted this morning with a multitude of smiles and cheers as our van entered AIC Zion's courtyard. Watching the excitement ripple over a wave of children energized our jetlagged bodies as we began our day. We overheard shouts of "they're here!" as we took a brief tour of Zion's updated facilities, which include new sheet metal classroom buildings, an office space made from recycled shipping containers, and property acquisitions indicating that more expansion is in the near future. The members of our team who have previously visited Zion were extremely impressed with its sustained growth that has lasted for over a decade. As Dee said, "If Reverend wants something done, it gets done!" The same goes for God and His incredible plan for Zion.
A large portion of our day was spent developing Zion's teachers as they asked us questions about integrating faith in daily lessons, helping students to report struggles faced at home, and setting examples for the students' relationships with Christ. Ron and Cami, who are both high school teachers, and Laura, a former elementary school teacher, answered questions with grace, taking special care to ensure that their points translated across the cultural divide. Our hearts were broken when we learned that numerous students experience frequent physical abuse at home and often do not report it. Although the teachers were clearly overwhelmed as they constantly grapple with the results of these problems, we were encouraged when the teachers brainstormed and formulated a course of action to more comprehensively address the issue.
In the afternoon, we spend many hours playing games--volleyball, rock-paper-scissors, soccer, and many more--with the students. Each of us did our best to engage with the swarm of children that fills AIC Zion's courtyard with life and laughter. With God's help, we are attempting to build as many holistic relationships as possible; though we certainly want to be friends with the students, we also want to show them that we are trustworthy and open to helping them to deal with their struggles in any way possible.
Of all the places on the globe to which we could have traveled, why did we choose Zion? Why does The Bible Chapel annually send a team to journey 8,000 miles specifically to the Mathare slums of Kenya? Because Zion is a unique mixture of laughter and pain, growth and setback, friendship and heartbreak--all with a silver lining of hope through the Gospel--that impacts the devastating poverty around it each and every day with the love of Jesus. Zion, its mission, and its people are, as Bill puts it, "a little piece of heaven on Earth" that God has blessed The Bible Chapel and its members to impact and befriend. Although Mathare has myriad problems, we are all in a unique position to come alongside Zion in their mission to be part of the solution. We cannot wait to see what God will do with our team in the coming days.
(Written by Ben Zeisloft, on behalf of the team)