“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” This is a paraphrased quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw that fits with my thoughts today.
Over the years I have struggled to understand what my call is. I sometimes think it’s just to have fun with Mathare kids or help them go to school through sponsorships. Sometimes I think I should enter politics to change the institutions of power. I guess I still do not know precisely what my call is. Five days ago I received solemn news from one of the single mothers in the slum of Madoya which is next to Mathare. Her son, who was 11months old, had passed away while she went about looking for job. As is often the case in my community, she is a teenage mom heading the family as the child’s father is also deceased.
I gave my contribution as usual and offered my condolences to the bereaved. The family had invited a “pastor” who had agreed to conduct the burial ceremony. The so called “pastor” wanted to be paid for his services and had even offered to provide transport for the family to the cemetery for a “small” fee of $60 (which is double the normal price.) I am sometimes ashamed to be called a pastor since my predecessors and peers have not lived up to the name. The “pastor” in question backed out on this family at the last hour. Last year, I was ‘privileged’ to conduct my first burial ceremony for a father of one of the boys at Inspiration Centre. The same issue now faced me again. I was called by the family in tears, three hours before the burial. I guess I was the only wild card they were left with.
To me, it didn’t matter that I was the last choice and had not been given enough time to prepare. I wonder if God wants us to serve him when we are ready or not – wearing a great suit, nice tie, or just jeans and sneakers, using an amazing vocabulary or ghetto slang? The list is endless and I am very sure that I am totally unqualified to fit in this league of who a “pastor” is. For starters, I rarely wear suits, ties, office shoes and always use “sheng” (slang) even when preaching. I guess the family was right for not putting me as their first choice.
Conducting a ceremony to bury baby Easter (who was born on Easter) was special to me since it confirmed to me that as much as I may try to shy away from being called “a man of God”, it is evident that I can run but I can’t hide. It reminded me of a quote I heard that says “knowing others is intelligence but knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” My prayers are that all men and women will know their call and trust that the God who called them to His duties, like He did in ancient times, will be gracious enough to provide them with whatever needs they may have in the present.
Moses Okonji is the director of Inspiration Center located in Mathare Valley in Nairobi, Kenya. He is also a member of the CTM Nairobi Cohort working toward his Master of Arts in Global Urban Mission from Bakke Graduate University in partnership with CTM.