Over the last four days we have been delighted to have Sam, a Christian Aid Partner from Kenya, as our guest. This morning he has left, to spend a night in Northern Ireland and three days in England, before flying back to his life and work in Kenya.
His world is thoroughly other; it is so different from ours that it is hard to even imagine. The small non-governmental organisation he runs engages with communities whose lives we find difficult to contemplate.
The agency works with people on agricultural and community projects and in education and awareness programmes. The AIDS crisis in Kenya has become a massive obstacle in the way of development; the agency realised that they could not carry on any effective development programme unless they addressed HIV/AIDS.
The programme they have developed has been noteworthy to the extent that Sam spoke at Dublin’s Mansion House on World Aids Day, along with the Minister for Overseas Development.
It is easy to talk about Sam’s work in abstract. To talk in terms of “communities” and “programmes”, it is much harder to talk about it in concrete terms. Can we actually feel how it would be to be dying from Aids, living in a one-roomed house without running water or sanitation, unable to work, unable to support your family, lacking the most basic necessities?
As Sam left this morning I felt a pang of guilty pain about him leaving our comfortable south Dublin home to return to a world where he must engage in a daily struggle for the dignity of people.
I also felt what an absurd existence we lead here; how obsessed with trivia we are; how concerned with the most petty of details; how worked up we get about the most ridiculous of things.
There was hardly a moment when Sam was not smiling or laughing. “Sam”, I asked, “do you not get depressed sometimes, facing such overwhelming circumstances?”
“No”, he said, “I get frustrated that we cannot do more, but I do not get depressed. It is the Lord’s work”.
When I get caught up in the silliness and the plain daft things that people argue about in church life; I need to think of Sam. One day of poverty in Kenya might bring us all closer to reality.