Our storeroom is designed for non-edibles. Things like spare car parts, essential power tools that I brag about, but never use and old fishing gear that I faithfully take out for my alternate decade outdoorsman activities. We are typical Americans. We collect stuff. In 32 years of marriage we have amassed a fortune of things which we can neither evaluate objectively, give away nor sell. We hope our kids want it, but they have no doubt begun their own collection of American treasures. The prospect of no future generations laying claim to this mountain of wealth made seeing the rats run through our treasures in the storeroom even more distressing.
In 2002 Kay discovered that the snake which had been living in the storeroom had been killed by the gardener. So the rats having no predator to inhibit their productivity obeyed God’s commandment to be fruitful and fill our storeroom. Rats were everywhere.
Kay and Keturah had returned to Kenya several weeks before me that year, and were charged with the responsibility of getting the house in order and initiate the ministries prior to my arrival. It was a big task, made even bigger by the invasion of hundreds of furry critters. Kay tells me that as she opened the doors and saw the first varmints scamper across her valuable furniture she promptly slammed it shut and used my name in vain. I thought I felt my ears burn.
Time has passed. This is 2009. We have now fumigated the boll weevils; flea bombed for fleas, ‘eliminated’ the rats and are ready to stuff the storeroom all over again. This year we are set to use it for keeping the foodstuffs purchased to feed hundreds of children in orphanages. We will purchase maize, beans and porridge mix. Prices of these essential food items have skyrocketed due to drought and that deadliest of all diseases ‘GREED!’ Highly placed officials in the grain industry have somehow been able to manipulate the prices and availability of commodities to insure that the only well fed are the very rich people and the rats. The very rich have no problem in purchasing food at any price. As for the rats, they know how to fit in to every small hole in every large storeroom no matter how secure it may seem. They laugh at the poor dogs.
A ninety kilogram bag of beans (about 190 pounds) has doubled and tripled in price to about $70. To keep this in perspective, one child can eat a minimum of 250 grams of food (about one half pound) daily. For 90 children that means one bag of beans will last four days. We currently provide food for 700 plus children. As our supporters gave us $5000 to purchase food, we will acquire 70 bags of beans. 70 bags at 90 kilograms per bag will give us a total of 6,300 kilograms of food. For each kilogram we can feed four children. That means for the total of 6,300 kilograms we can provide 25,200 feedings of beans. For 700 children these beans will last about 36 days. That is, if the rats don’t get it first. In order for us to feed these children with a healthy basic diet, we really need a minimum of $60,000 per year, if the price of food does not go up. Ask yourself. What are the odds food prices increasing this year?
The rats eat will eat well if we don’t secure the storeroom. They could swarm our storeroom. That is why I have termed them rich rats. When compared with the poor dogs in the slums where we will distribute some of the food, the rats have it made. The dogs have it worst of all when compared with other members of this food chain. The food chain looks like this in Nairobi. At the top are the middle class people, like us who have enough to eat and even enough to throw away. We don’t live in, or near the slums. We just drive by and marvel how the raw sewage trickles down the streams into these semiprivate abodes.
These dwellings of mud and sticks are designed to house 16 people in 40 square feet of space, with headroom of six feet. Bend down to enter. Hold your nose if you plan to stay. There is no electric lighting, but your eyes will adjust to the dark because the smoke from the charcoal stove and kerosene lamp will make you squint. We could accommodate two such families in our storeroom, but we would have to sell some of our treasures first.
Lets’ look at the food chain again. The rich and middle class carry in their mounds of food and have their bags of rubbish hauled out to piles in the streets. This upper crust composes about 10% of the population of Nairobi’s 4 million people. The other 90% have access to their discarded excess. Their discards make up the essential nutrient source for many of the poorest slum inhabitants. From the crumbs of their tables, there is a rapid descent into desperation.
Along the streets, men sleep face down in putrid piles of warm, wet refuse as comfortably as on beds of sweet clover. They are not bothered by the swarms of flies. They are narcotized by sniffing glue (gas is too expensive) and are oblivious to their still awake foraging and hungry companions who are looking for something digestible and least likely to cause diarrhea or vomiting.
The poor dogs survive on the left over scraps that chickens won’t eat. As roaming cows rummage through garbage and litter, the dogs fend off wandering goats, which are defending their turf from the muddy ducks. The edibles are contaminated further with animal waste supplemented by the elimination of children and adults who find it easier to relieve themselves on the less trodden paths than the crowded pit latrines. The dogs eat the rotten corn meal mush, moldy kale and rotten fish bones. It is a real study in urban survival for domesticated animals.
The rats in our storeroom are the super rich, but after all, they aren’t man’s best friend. Come to think of it, neither are the urban poor. It is all in perspective. I guess that is why the dogs don’t mind. It was after all the dogs who licked Lazarus’ sores.
Lu 16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, Lu 16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.