At the end of October, Kirk and Mo Morgan (nee Mansill) began a three-month trip to Africa. They began their trip in Embu, a small town in Kenya, about two hours north of Nairobi, where they spent a month building and helping out at a live-in discipleship and life-skills programme for school leavers run by nondenominational organisation Trinity Fellowship. They then went to Zambia for three weeks, visiting projects supported by the Global Mission Office and the Livingstone Presbyterian Church, where they painted their youth centre and taught classes in their community computer programme.
“Our experiences in Kenya and Zambia were quite contrasting. Embu is not a tourist town - most people live in mud-brick huts with thatched roofs and the few cars drive alongside donkeys pulling carts down dirt roads. We didn't see any other muzungus (white people) while we were there, so we were a bit of a novelty! In contrast, in Zambia we were in the two places with the highest muzungu populations in the country. We found both countries had a lot to teach us, but it was perhaps Kenya that somehow tugged on our heart strings the most.
One of our main motivations for coming to Kenya and Zambia was that we might be able to explore global inequalities more deeply, and have more insight into how we might respond in more compassionate and effective ways. One of the things that stood out to us - that we would change if we could - is children having equal opportunities to attend school. In Kenya and Zambia, most children attend primary school, but many miss out on high school due to their family’s inability to pay for them to attend, or their family's need for the child to start working and contributing to the household income. This has been the case for many of the labourers that Kirk has worked with on the building site in Embu.
Some of our experiences have emphasised the inequalities and indeed injustices that are evident when comparing life for those living in the developed world compared with those in developing countries. But we have also been reminded that what poverty is depends on who defines it. We have been reminded that poverty is not just a financial issue; it is also about oppression and freedom. And we have also been reminded that while we should be challenged to respond to poverty, we should also be challenged to receive from it.
Many of our experiences have shown us that poverty has a lot to teach us. For example, one day while we were at Embu, Katherine, one of the workers at the place we were staying asked me if she could have the weetbix box I was about to throw out so she could give it to her son for a toy. The day before, Kirk had seen a boy walking down the street with a “pet” plastic bottle on the end of a string. While one could see these as signs of poverty, we found ourselves hoping that our kids might, one day, not need plastic crap or play stations to amuse themselves, but instead might have the imagination to find amusement from cardboard boxes and old plastic bottles.
So as we reflect on the things that stand out to us from our time in Kenya and Zambia, perhaps the most significant thing that Kenya and Zambia have taught us, is that when it come to poverty, we should be open to give and receive - in essence, we should be seeking to be partners in mission.”