*Trigger warning: this article references suicide and mental health issues which some readers may find upsetting.
This World Mission Sunday, we’re focusing on Kibera in Kenya – the largest ‘slum‘ in Africa. Despite the huge problems poverty causes, Kibera is also a place where people help each other, form communities, and share each others’ burdens.
Amongst those willing to help, befriend, and share what they have are the Little Sisters of Jesus – missionary Sisters who choose to live with, and work alongside, the people of Kibera. Winfred is one such person. He has lived in Kibera in 1987 when his mother passed away. He explains:
‘I took my mother’s body for burial where I was born in Kakamega, but they said that I didn’t belong there, and they chased me away after my mother’s burial. I came back to Nairobi and started my life here in Kibera.’
Raising children single-handedly
Winfred later married and had five children with his wife. But sadly, after some years, their marriage broke down and his wife left, leaving Winfred to raise their children alone. He says:
‘I continued with my life, and I have been living with my five children and taking care of them since then. When I separated from my wife, my youngest had not stopped breastfeeding yet.’
Reaching breaking point
After his wife left, Winfred experienced more misfortune. But as he was hitting rock bottom, he met Sr Josephine and shares:
‘It all began when my house caught fire, and my daughter got burnt in the incident. I had no one to help me and give me hope.
‘I met Sister Josephine, who held my hand and supported me. She took me to visit my daughter at Kenyatta Hospital. She used to give me food, and gave me hope during that incident. My child has now fully recovered…
‘Sister used to check on me to see how I was doing. I am very private, and I rarely tell my business to people, but I have been very open with Sister. I remember there was a time I had decided to commit suicide and take my children with me. I had nothing to eat that day, but Sister came visiting and brought me food. I opened up to her and told her what I was planning to do. I told her that she was lucky to find the kids and me alive. From then on, Sister made me promise to visit her at least every two days.’
A new start, through Christ’s love
With help from the Sisters, Winfred’s life began to change for the better. He shares:
‘Sister Josephine encouraged me to attend Church every Sunday, and she introduced me to the congregation. That is what changed me, and since then, I have dedicated my life to God and my children.
‘When my mother passed away, I didn’t particularly appreciate having friends or interacting with people. I loved being a loner. The congregation has been of great benefit to me. When I joined the Jumuiya (community) of Saint Jacob, I learned to talk and interact with other people. Through the prayers there, I was set free, and I forgot most of my problems. I am still a member of Jumuiya, and I love going to Church too.’
Could your parish community support communities like Winfred’s? Click here to find our Mission Month fundraiser>>
Going forward with hope
Winfred is clear that meeting the Sisters has changed his life profoundly. He shares:
‘The Sisters have not abandoned me. They help me pay school fees for my children. They clothe my children and me… They also give us enough food. I am very grateful to God as I know that it is all His plan. If it were not for the Sisters, I would not be alive with my children today.
‘My hope comes from the support I get from The Little Sisters of Jesus and the Church. I don’t have any relatives, so the only people that help me are from the Church. Whenever I have a problem, I turn to the Church and Sisters for help.’
A better future for the children
Thanks to the Sisters’ friendship and care, Winfred is getting back on track. Life still has its problems, but Winfred is passionate about giving his children better prospects than he had himself. He says:
‘I remember I had told Sister Josephine that I have not gone to school, but my prayer is to see my children get an education.
‘I am growing older every day, and I don’t want to leave my children behind suffering. I also don’t want them to go astray and be used as a bad example to society. I want them to help others the way I was also helped.’
Providing hope through work
Winfred is a tailor, and works whenever he can. But, like many people in Kibera, work is not always guaranteed. He says:
‘Whenever I get a job, I do it and use the money for my basic needs. I also do any other work available as long as I can get something for my children.
‘I got my machine from a Father in 2017. I had just had an accident; I was hit by a vehicle. I told someone to call the priest, who came in a car and took me to the hospital. After I got well, that is when Father Hailo bought me the sewing machine. This machine is everything to me. It is what gives me income!’
Passing on the love
Winfred has had some hard times in his life to say the least. But he is living proof of how faith, and a helping hand, can help us overcome even the most difficult times. He says:
‘What I would like to say is thank you to all those that have helped me… I want to thank the Church and all the people that are helping me. I believe that all this is the work of God.’
There’s no global mission without you! This World Mission Sunday and during Mission Month, please join us to pray and give whatever you can to support missionaries in Kibera and around the world. With your help, we truly can set hearts ablaze with God’s love!
- Donate to World Mission Sunday here>>
- Celebrate World Mission Sunday in your parish – find our downloadable resources here>>>
- Pray with us throughout Mission Month – get your daily reflections here>>
- Could your parish community fundraise for Missio this month? Get your FREE fundraising pack here>>
Photo by Brian Otieno/storitellah.com