Just in case anyone was wondering what had happened to posts on this blog recently, I just got back early this evening from a six-day trip to Kenya. My head still hasn't quite caught up with my body, so I can't offer a full-scale report, but it was certainly an eye-opener.
I can confirm the suspicions of some by saying that the trip came about through my links with Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream. However, the focus of the visit was a conference on Micro-Economic Development, organised by Vinay Samuel and the Anglican Church of Kenya (see here for some idea of what this means). My own role was simply to give the three morning Bible studies. For the curious, this did also mean I got a chance to talk to some of the bishops present, but that was incidental to the main programme.
As my first visit to any developing country, this was a real 'culture shock'. You can watch these things on the TV, but until you get near enough to smell it, it is hard to appreciate the true meaning of the phrase 'dirt poor'.
At the same time, though, I began to appreciate that my 'developed world' idea of how to 'help' the poor was somewhat off target. Throughout the conference, the repeated theme was that 'we don't need your hand-outs, we need our own enterprise'. Of course, in a crisis, the hand-out may be the only option if people are to eat, but, as was constantly emphasised, after decades of such hand-outs, there has been very little movement out of poverty.
The future for Kenya, according to the Kenyans, lies with self-help and economic entrepreneurship, even if this means borrowing as little as £15 to buy a set of pots and pans to set up a street-side cafe. (To us that is a little, to a Kenyan it is the equivalent of borrowing a couple of thousand pounds to start a small business.)
So, my head is a whirl, but I will be very glad to sleep in my own bed tonight and not be woken up at 5.30am by the call to prayer through the (very) loudspeakers of the mosque next door. (It did occur to me that this wouldn't be so bad if they could find a cheerful tune - something like the theme to the Archers would do it.)
It is also nice to be warm again. Nairobi in July rarely gets above 18 degrees, I discovered. Just as well I took a couple of jumpers!