Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Nairobi Getting Back to Normal - Pr. Meeker and the Gospel Presses On

When is Gridlock a Good Thing?

It is exciting is to begin to read reports coming out of Kenya that things are getting back to normal, slowly, but surely. (News: Displaced people to be taken back to ancestral land.) The children are getting back to school and businesses are opening up again.

(Above: Springs of Life preschool meeting in church basement.)

Nairobi sounds like it is returning to its grid-locked traffic and residents in Kibera move forward with life and begin to rebuild. Still, others return to their land around the country. The ban on broadcasting live protest action on TV was lifted by the government.

As is common, the news media has a philosophy of "if it bleeds, it leads." Kenya is not in turmoil throughout the country. It has hot spots, but the calm outweighs the riots.

As a "blue collar" kid from Detroit, I learned young the importance of being street-wise. When I travelled into certain parts of the city with my friends, I had to be smart and know when and where to go at what time. I suppose you can get a taste of what I'm talking about in this article that talks about the middle class and the unrest (Reuters Africa.) The violence is isolated in various areas of the country. The tourist resorts are safe and far removed from the trouble.

The White House reports (Reuters Africa) that there is progress in the talks, but there is a long way to go. However, the best news is that the opposing parties "begin detailed negotiations" today. As one person put it, the protests used to attract thousands, now they are attracting hundreds and a couple of gas canisters will disburse the crowd.

For the most part, it appears that the struggles and political unrest is closely related to the tribal nature of the country. (Just "google" Kenya politics and read report after report on the topic.) The political leaders of the tribes are those involved in the presidential elections. So, when they decide to agree on a plan to settle the political/tribal battles, they will end quickly.

It is not our mission to deal with the politics, so I won't get into the details. However, it is very clear that the people of Kenya have had enough. They want their political leaders to get it together and move forward.

Kenya has too much to lose. It is the shining star of the continent. It has a vibrant economy and is a stable and orderly community.

In the big picture, I hope and pray that the unrest becomes a blip in Kenya's short, 44 year history. The 43 plus different tribes will move forward in learning how to be proud of their tribal heritage, yet, as a country, grasp the strength and unity of being Kenyans, working together for the good of its citiizens, their families, and their tribes.

The Role of the Church in Restoring Order

The church will play a large role in bringing people together. It won't be an obvious miracle, rather, it will take place through the daily vocation, or calling of each Christian.

To love one's neighbor is the daily worship of a Christian. For those of us in the church work, the most important thing to do is to continue to be church. Our pastors must continue faithfully to preach the Law and Gospel and honorably administer the sacramental life. Where possible and appropriate, the church will help the members of their congregations to facilitate the daily acts of love and mercy by providing food and clothing, help relocate the new "refugees."

The people will see the acts of mercy and in turn the love they see will provide the opportunity to bring sin and grace to light. The context of acts of mercy provide a great opportunity to speak of the grace and forgiveness for the obvious sinful world in which we live. The church will always accept the penitent sinner. There is always a home for the homeless, the body of Christ for those whose bodies are riddled with AIDS, The Heavenly Father for the fatherless, and the baptismal adoption into the family of Christ for the orphaned. This is how faith & mercy go hand in hand.

Pastor Meeker and so many other members of the ELCK are doing just that. They persevere in the care of souls with the healing balm of the Gospel, and bring mercy to their communities through their acts of mercy. The food, the clothing, the hope, and the medicine they provide are exactly how God makes His presence among His people known for the love of neighbor.

At the same time, forgiveness comes through the word and the sacramental life, the very place where Christ promised to be there until the end of the ages for the sake of the proclamation of forgiveness and eternal life in the church.