A member of the Missio team visited the Mill Hill Missionaries in Kenya. She was struck by the enthusiasm and joy the young people of Shauri Moyo parish expressed for our heavenly Father.

The faces as I entered the compound were a mixture of young and old; happy, smiling children chasing the car and wary elders keeping a watchful eye that they didn’t get run over. Fr Francis Makuba MHM expertly manoeuvred our vehicle into the tight car space and turned to me with a smile. I’d arrived in ‘his’ parish.

The ‘slum parish’

I visited Nairobi, Kenya, to gather material regarding the amazing amount of life-giving work that is being done by the APF and Mill Hill. One example of this is in Shauri Moyo, which the locals call ‘the slum parish’.

In the dry season, the parish’s red earth turns to dust and the heat is difficult to escape. People crowd the streets; many selling fruit, others selling shoes.  But the majority are watching the world go by. Clearly there aren’t many job opportunities and many people are living in abject poverty.

Despite their circumstances, people greeted me with shouts of ‘Mzungu!’ (roughly translated as ‘white person’) and cheery waves. As we clambered out of the car and into the heat, the children excitedly tried to give me ‘high fives’. Fr Francis’ ushered me into his modest home, where I met Mill Hill deacons who were preparing for the midday Mass while watching Pope Francis on television.

The shocking truth

When I asked about his parish, Fr Francis explained,

‘The parish is bordered by the Majengo slum and many parishioners come from the slum. There is low income, limited shelter, drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, pregnancy in school children, crime, and it’s a hot spot for recruitment to terrorist activities.’

I met this blunt description with shocked silence. It was hard to reconcile this with the warm welcome I had just experienced, and coming from London, even harder to imagine waking up to it every day.

Building hope

Despite these challenges, Fr Francis went on to explain that he had been at Shauri Moyo as the parish priest for the past two years, and had initiated programmes to help serve his community both physically and spiritually.

One example of this was the youth programme, created to help young people form their faith. Still smiling, Fr Francis explained:

‘My vision is to identify the needs of the youth and help them in the future by forming them through seminars and helping them to be better citizens tomorrow.’

We were interrupted by a young man who quietly told Fr Francis that ‘lunch hadn’t arrived’. Fr Francis quickly rose from his seat and vanished into the kitchen. He returned shortly after carrying a huge pot and indicated that I should follow him.

Placing the pot in the back of the car, he told me we were going to meet ‘them’. As we drove through the streets, slopping watery stew around as he navigated the pot holes, he explained that the Shauri Moyo youth group was performing at the Deanery Youth Festival and he had forgotten to deliver lunch due to my arrival.

We arrived at a large high school and were met by a group of hungry young people. Unfortunately they still couldn’t tuck in as they were on next! The young men and women performed a dramatic piece which delved into the struggle to follow Jesus in times of crises, hardship and suffering. Their enthusiasm and joy in expressing their love of God was truly inspiring. And although it was late, they were still very happy to see us. And their lunch.

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