Written by Andi Clinard
Seeing a way out . . .
“What do you see?” Bernard Kabaru asks.
He glances first at the faces of his workshop attendees, then over his shoulder, to the wall. A picture of an empty, destroyed house is projected there.
“What do you feel?” Kabaru continues.
The picture changes. Two young women and a child sit in front of a dilapidated tent, obviously a scene from one of the many Internally Displaced People camps that cropped up around Kenya after the country’s peaceful landscape exploded with post-election turmoil just four months ago.
The women aren’t smiling. The child isn’t at school. This isn’t a home.
Kabaru, a representative from African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministry (ALARM), frowns at the picture.
The pastors sitting in a semicircle look at the picture thoughtfully. Emotion draws its expression on their faces. A deep line here, down a forehead. Wrinkles etched outside eyes. A frown traced around a mouth.
“Desperate,” a man says.
“Discouraged,” another one suggests.
Kabaru shifts in his seat to look at his workshop attendees more directly.
“Is this wound in us?” he says, gesturing to the images projected onto the wall.
Heads nod slowly, eyes still looking at the homeless women glowing from the wall. A man drops his chin to his chest.
This scene, and these feelings, aren’t uncommon today in Kenya.
The semicircle of pastors, part of the larger Seminar on Reconciliation put on by Scott Theological College’s Institute for Church Renewal, would be a good place to start to get insight on how Kenyans—specifically Kenyan Christians—are doing in these months after the chaos.
Ministering to those who will minister . . .
Pastor Steve Munyambu struggles with a strange dichotomy.
His home and belongings torched just hours after the election results were announced, he comes to the seminar with mixed feelings.
“I’m not sure whether to minister or to be ministered to,” he says, shrugging his shoulders slightly. He looks at the other pastors standing around him, and they tip their heads in understanding.
Manyambu isn’t the only one here who has been personally affected by the country’s troubles. Churches in America and England chipped in to provide 30 scholarships for other pastors living and ministering in Nairobi’s slums, some of the hardest hit areas during the violence and looting. So, just as these pastors can represent their flocks, they can also shed some light on the thoughts and feelings of their individual sheep.
Kabura’s ALARM workshop on trauma healing was just one of a handful made available to the seminar’s participants. A similar organization, Peacebuilding, Healing and Reconciliation Programme (PHARP) also presented a short program on repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
As the pastors were given opportunity to explore and tend to their own wounds through these workshops, they were also equipped to lead their congregations in efforts of reconciliation.
“As a church and observers, we are brought into the situation—and we can be brought into the solution,” Pastor Kariithi Ngari, from Karura Community Chapel, said in his mobilization workshop. He urged the church leaders to be relevant in their preaching and teaching, so the church can address the needs of people outside the church.
“Your people must know more than theory,” Ngari says. “They need to know what they can do.”
Nevermind the Nakumatt thermostat…
And there’s a lot left to do in Kenya to rebuild the relationships and stability this country once enjoyed. Pastors and Christians might find themselves swimming upstream, said Lt. General Lazaro Sumbeiywo.
In his keynote address, Sumbeiywo explored the history behind the tribal conflict in Kenya and warned that the simmering racial distrust that caused the outbreak of violence wouldn’t go away overnight, though some Kenyans would like to brush it under the rug.
“Some Kenyans have the notion that just because Nakumatt (a large supermarket chain) is open, everything is OK,” Sumbeiywo said. He stressed that the cessation of violence isn’t synonymous with peace, and that there are underlying issues that the church needs to address in its people.
And, from what the seminar’s participants said in a sharing time, it seemed as if these pastors were ready to go back to their congregations and begin the long process toward reconciliation.
“I think we failed as Christians, and especially as Christian leadership,” one man shared. “But the only way to healing is to share between people. To say, ‘You’ve done this, and I did this.’ We need national healing.”
“And we can spread out awareness from this nucleus, from this seminar.”