Unequal Space

One of the difficulties of living in Nairobi was attempting to convey the dichotomy between the very great wealth and devastating poverty found in the city, often extremely close in proximity to each other. From the balcony of Missions in Hope in fact, one could look across the devastation of Mathare Valley, a massive slum where most families live on less than $1 a day, to massive UN compounds on the adjacent hill, wreathed in magnificent walls, lush vegetation, and houses big enough to make most Americans blush. Behind these great riches, the towering skyscrapers of Nairobi which house great corporations and malls loom in impressive array.

The view from the balcony was always very jarring and difficult to take in with comprehensive understanding, and it was much easier to process if you broke the view down into sections. Either focus in on the slum at the feet of Missions of Hope, or focus on the impressive villas across the valley, or set your sights skyward towards the impressive cityscape. But to break the view down in this way is to lose the tension of Nairobi. To focus on one area was to lose the significance of these unequal spaces crammed up against each other.

My friends and missionary peers in Nairobi recently shared a website they discovered called Unequal Scenes. Using drones with great cameras, this website has been photographing various cities around the world where immense wealth butts up against extreme poverty, in an attempt to force us to confront the whole picture. The website just added Nairobi to the list of cities, and the images are incredible. In vivid detail, and often jarring contrast, the website shows the unequal wealth distribution of this city, and conveys in stunning pictures what I have been trying to share with you for the last few years.

And so, this Thanksgiving, as you sit down with friends and family and reflect on the things you are thankful for, pause to view these images of a world divided, praying not only for God’s coming Kingdom, but also how you can be an active member in that Kingdom.

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