Photo used by permission. (c) 2023 Keenan Morgan, Hope’s Promise Kenya Connection Trip, Mathare Valley treasure.

We walked their community where half a million people live in six square miles of abject poverty. We slipped in its sewage-laced mud; ducked under its live, pirated-electricity wires; crowded into its one-room, windowless homes; gazed over its garbage clogged river. We stepped past drunken men sprawled in the shadows of rusty, corrugated metal roofs; clutched the hands of child after child in a village of children with adults sprinkled through; and listened to the heartache of destitute mothers.

We mourned the gap between what is and what should be. In their living circumstances. And in our own hearts.

Then, we danced, created art, and played musical instruments with them in a Kuza (Hope’s Promise Kenya’s relative based orphan care program, Swahili for “nurture”) day camp. We worshipped beside them and listened to teaching about their incalculable worth.

On our last of four days with the children, they display the treasure they’ve been digging up all week – an art exhibit, masterpieces taped to the tent walls; a dance, bodies moving in effortless rhythm; a musical performance with keyboards and guitars. Then, a Kuza leader asks us to stand at the front as three children pray God’s blessings over us. We respond, passing the microphone, trying one-by-one to put into words our gratitude that they’ve entrusted us with the magnificence of their souls.

A Kuza leaders announces we will close with the song “The Blessing.” A member of our team whispers to me, asking if he can go to a few children he’s connected with and sing it over them. I reply, “Follow the Spirit’s leading.” As the chords fill the open-air sanctuary of Mathare Worship Centre, we can no more stay away from them than water can resist running in trenches.

We press around the group of seventy children, lifting hands over them, touching them, gazing into their eyes, singing the ancient words directly to them. Then, a rat a tat tat begins to ring out on the roof, rat a tat tat, faster and faster like an out of control tap dance. We sing louder. Until sheets of water run like curtains from the edges of the tent roof and a mighty rushing of heaven’s music drowns out the earthly.

My hands raised, eyes closed, I grin. Then I start laughing. He has come, powerless to stay away from His beloved children. Unable to remain silent, proclaiming His love over them.

Opening my eyes, I notice a little girl in the front row, who’d been leading the song. Tears stream over her face. Seth, one of the Kuza leaders, crouches beside her, arm wrapped around her, gently taking the microphone.  I glance at the children around her. All are swiping tears. I meet their glazed gazes,  “He is for YOU, He is for YOU.” Although they can’t possibly hear the words over the roar of the rain, I know they comprehend deep in their hearts. A roomful of crying children.

Strange how I can feel the fury of flames even as the rush of water drenches the earth. I fear my heart will burst with love. I am at once satiated and starving. This Presence, it’s what we are all hungry for. The Blessing flows into each little heart, each adult soul. We, like a desert unable to absorb this much moisture, overflow in weeping.

Only a few moments later, our team tears away, boards the bus, slumps into seats. We are lumps of dust in the aftermath of a power surge, unfamiliar with the frequency we’ve just experienced. Overflowing with gratitude, yet speechless. Some of us try to pray, but words fail. A team member leads us in the song “Gratitude” by Brandon Lake.

… So I throw up my hands
And praise You again and again
‘Cause all that I have is a hallelujah
And I know it’s not much
But I’ve nothing else fit for a King
Except for a heart singing hallelujah

Days later, I ask the Kuza leaders for their perspective. I think maybe it happens all the time. Mathare Worship Centre is a Spirit-filled place and the leaders love Jesus. Maybe Kuza camps usually end in tear-filled awe of God.

But, no, they say, as leaders they’ve taken to calling it “the thing that happened.” The kids will never be the same, they say.

Indeed, none of us who stumbled into this invasion of the Kingdom of God into a little slum church will ever be the same.

One thought on “Unspeakable Treasure, Tucked Into the Cracks

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