Written by Emily Glazier
I remember squeezing myself through a narrow passageway I thought would last for a few seconds, until I realized the entire slum consisted of small alleys between homes. The sun beat down on my skin as we walked single-file through Kibera Slum. My eyes scanned the area, and I held tears back from my eyes. The conditions seemed unreal. People lived in shacks made of mud or cardboard and tin roofs, all tightly packed in like sardines. Foul smells rushed out of open ditches filled with human excrement and sewage. It was dry season, so the place was filled with dust, and it was hard to keep my eyes open. It felt like I could taste the dirt as I trudged through this unfamiliar environment.
I had trouble keeping my balance as we hopped over sewage to dirt through the tight passageways. I ducked and crouched to continue walking without being scratched by the rusty tin roofs jutting out towards me. We took turns upon turns, climbing up and jumping down through the slum, while dirty stray dogs, pigs, chickens, and cats rummaged through sewage next to our feet. Children were everywhere whispering “Mzungu,” some brave enough to ask me “Howa yoo?” My mind whirled with thoughts and emotions as I asked God, “Where are you?” and “How is this okay?”
We continued on our journey through the slum, winding up and down as small children with torn and stained clothes followed the mysterious white people. My mind continued to race as I prayed for all the people residing in this place. We made it to a more open area of the slum where the space was big enough for a car to pass through. It smelled of French fries being fried nearby, and there were people everywhere. There were children running around chasing each other as dust flew in their eyes, teenagers coming home from school, young people hanging out on plastic chairs, and many, many people walking. There were street shops made from mud or cardboard selling food and other random services. As my eyes tried to take it all in, I found myself at peace watching these people. Not one of them seemed upset, sad, or hurt. Almost all of them had smiles on their faces, and joy that was visible in their souls.
Eventually, we made it to my friend’s church. It was a small building also made of mud and with a tin roof. As I entered the small dark space, there was almost nothing inside. One poster on the wall with a Bible verse and that was it. My friend ran outside and found plastic chairs for us to sit on as we waited for the service to start. A young woman came into the church and sat down next to us. As we talked and introduced ourselves, she smiled and said, “Praise God” over and over again. She was full of joy and love; I could tell she loved the Lord so much. More people came in within a half hour, and my friend came into the church with a keyboard. Once there were about ten people in the church, the pastor said a few words, and we all stood in a circle looking at each other. I wondered what this was going to be like. I’ll never forget when he told each of us that we would be changed after tonight, because we were entering the presence of God.
The service started with the sweet young woman I had met earlier leading us in worship. Her voice was loud and booming and so sweet to the ears. She closed her eyes, raised her hands, and slowly sang, “I have no other God but You, I have no other God but You. You have done what no man has done, You can do what no man can do.” As I stood with my eyes closed, taking the words in, my eyes filled with tears. I opened them and found everyone spread around the small room, hands lifted, eyes closed, singing to God with all they had. We sang these words over and over again as they soaked into each and every single one of us there. We continued with the next song: “I surrender all to You, everything I give to you, witholding nothing.”
As I stood in this tiny church in the heart of the slum, I raised my hands and tears rolled down my cheeks. I too sang with all my heart. This continued for two hours straight. We stood and sang simple and sweet lyrics to our God in heaven while some prayed together, others prayed out loud to themselves, some sat on the ground and others on their knees. Each person experienced the presence of God as if it was the greatest moment of their life. And for me, it honestly was. After two hours, we made a circle and shared what God had spoken into us during our time. People shared encouraging words to each other, others shared beautiful prophecies they received that lifted others up, some shared prayer requests, while some just wanted to express their gratitude to God.
That night, I experienced God’s presence in a way I never have before. I realized I didn’t need bright lights and expensive instruments to feel God for myself. I didn’t need a pastor standing up on a stage telling me who God was. I didn’t need songs I have heard hundreds of times. I just needed God. That was it. I spent two hours fully immersed and entranced in the Lord’s presence, and I needed nothing but Him. This day was honestly one of the greatest days of my life.