KIBERA, KENYA – With a fluctuating population of nearly a million people, Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya and one of the largest in the world. It is home to one of the most unusual churches in the world.
The Unhealthy Conditions in Kibera
Most families in Kibera live in rented 12’ x 12’ shacks with mud walls and tin roofs. The people have limited access to clean water via one of two water pipes that have recently been installed to serve the slum.
There are very few toilet facilities. Those that exist are typically just holes in the ground shared by as many as 50 families. Open sewage lines slowly wend their way through the dirt streets. For this reason, the slum is “heavily polluted by human refuse, garbage, soot, dust, and other wastes.” The entire slum is contaminated with human and animal feces.
Kibera has no government hospitals or clinics. The only available medical aid is provided by churches, faith-based organizations, and other NGOs.
Drug addiction and alcoholism are rampant. The most recent surveys indicated that 40 percent of adults between 18 and 20 are addicted to alcohol whilst 27 percent of men and 13 percent of women were hooked on drugs.
Half of the girls aged 16 through 25 are pregnant. Abortions are rampant and are usually conducted in “clandestine facilities using unsafe methods.”
The Unusual Church in Kibera
The members of The Christ Miracle Church for All Nations in Kibera are thankful for their new building. They consider themselves blessed to have a place for fellowship, worship, praise, and learning the Bible in the midst of all of the squalor that surrounds them.
It’s not the size of the church that makes it unusual. It’s the building the church rents for its meetings. Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not lavish by any means. However, it is a much sturdier structure than most in Kibera.
The thing that is so unusual is that the building was originally constructed as a public latrine.
Typical of many well-intended government-sponsored toilet-building campaigns, this facility was built as part of the effort to attain an open-defecation free (ODF) area to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
SDG progress in sanitation is largely measured by the number of toilet facilities that are built. As Missions Box has reported in the past, building toilets is a worthy project but doing so does not necessarily mean that people will use them. Nor does it mean that the means of waste removal have been adequately addressed.
Failure of the waste removal system for this Kibera latrine – and failure to repair the system – caused the facility to be abandoned. A bit of ingenuity and an abundance of faith led to people cleaning and refurbishing the building so that it could be used by community groups, including The Christ Miracle Church which now meets there for all of its services.
What makes The Christ Miracle Church in Kibera so unusual?
It meets in a place that was originally a public toilet.
Isn’t it ironic that a building originally made for sanitation purposes is now a place for salvation where people come to hear the Gospel, put their faith in Christ, have their sins washed away, and be cleansed from all unrighteousness?
To read more news on the Open Defecation on Missions Box, go here.
- Devex News Wire, When public restrooms fail, rent them out as churches?
- Kibera.org.uk, Kibera Facts & Information
- Kibera.org.uk, Population and Health Dynamics in Nairobi’s Informal Settlements
- Wikipedia, Kibera
- Trocaire from Ireland [CC BY 2.0]