“You come with a Bible in one hand, but what do you bring in the other?” That was a question posed long ago to the first missionaries to Kenya. “Our people need food for their souls—and for their empty stomachs!”
At Heaven’s Family we do our best to remember the Apostle James’ words, “Faith without works is dead,” and focus on the needs of the whole person. Meeting pressing needs is particularly relevant when you are serving, as we are, in some of the poorest places on earth, where so many struggle to survive from one day to the next. As one missionary succinctly summed up the importance of meeting both spiritual and physical needs: “Dead people can’t hear the gospel.”
One place where that sobering adage applies is Mathare slum, buried within the sprawling city of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Only a mile and a half long by half that wide, Mathare (pronounced Maw-thar-ay) is home to over 500,000 appallingly-poor people. They live in tiny shacks constructed of tree branches and rusted pieces of corrugated metal. The stench of open sewage and rotting garbage is so pervasive that visitors don’t linger long.
Yet God’s light is invading Mathare’s poverty and darkness. And to the surprise of those who might limit God to working only through men created in His image, God is using two women created in His image. So far, those two women—both Mathare residents—have planted 20 house churches.
They are widow Auma Oloo, who goes by Mary, and abandoned mother Pamela Onyango.
Mary not only cares for her ailing mother, but also 4 of her 8 children who are still at home, plus 2 orphans she’s taken in. She’s also a disciple-making servant.
Pamela formerly supported herself and her 4 children by brewing cheap alcohol. But after Mary led her to Christ, Pamela knew that her profession was bringing no glory to her Lord. So she shut it down.
To survive and support their families, both women did laundry for middle-class Muslims who live near Mathare. They each earned about a dollar a day.
And that is where Heaven’s Family was privileged to join forces with them. Through our habitually-happy friend, missionary Glenn Roseberry, and by means of gifts to the Widows & Abandoned Women Fund, we offered a $500 small-business start-up grant to Mary and Pamela. And they began selling fish, right in Mathare.
Now, each morning, the two business partners take turns either traveling to the wholesale fish market to buy inventory or evangelizing and serving Mathare saints.
Once the fish are purchased, they have to be dried 3 days before they are ready to fry and sell at Mary and Pamela’s open-air stall. Business is best during the afternoon lunch rush and in the evening when Mathare residents return home from their work places. By sundown, however, Mary and Pamela must collect their wares and close up shop, because their business location is very dangerous after dark.
Mary and Pamela now have a successful and sustainable trade. With a Bible in one hand and a business in the other, they not only have the means to support themselves, their children, and other poor Mathare saints, they also have time to make disciples. Mungu ni nzuri! (God is good, in Swahili.)