Friday, 13 July 2007

Back from Kenya

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!


  1. Nice to have you back

    I look forward to reading your reflections. I've been ministering among the poor of the Philippines for 2 years now and it has had a profound affect on my reading the Scriptures and on my preaching. Passages I once 'took for granted' now have a resonance they never had before. I recently led a Bible series on the Lords Prayer for a group of extremely poor fishermen. 'Give us this day our daily bread' suddenly seemed almost alien when discussed with a group who frequently go without food if they fail to catch anything.

    God's peace

  2. John,

    I appreciate your comments. It is a helpful insifght. We certainly should be hearing what people say they need rather than imposing our solutions. One question, is there still some element of double checking that their won ideas are the right way fwd. Don't we need to discuss the issues of debt and borrowing with them? We surely should not be making loans at interest. What about partnership? Instead of a loan, someone here invests 15% in a Kenyan's business and gets a (very small) stake.

  3. Hello John,

    perhaps it's not for me to say welcome back, but welcome back!

    Interested to hear your comments on Kenya. Your point about borrowing money to start trading prompted me to think of this organisation: (how do you put hyperlinks in...?). Shared Interest was (I think) founded by Christians, is based in the UK and offers credit to producers in developing countries. I don't think their work's widely known, hence my mention of them.

    in friendship, Blair