Human Dignity in the Heart of a Slum

by Jon Rhiddlehoover on

Articles 8 min read
Matthew 25:35–36

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

God, the Creator of all things, the perfect Father, compassionate and loving, has made you in His image. The literal interpretation of “in His image” is to be made in the pattern of Himself. It is hard to fathom the intentionality of God to create us by His words and give us purpose in all of creation. Because of His nature, as His creation, we are immensely valued by Him. If we are valued by Him, then it is necessary for us to also value others, His created people. This valuing is displayed in what we call human dignity.

I recently visited a slum in the heart of Nairobi, Kenya, where more than 500,000 people live, work, go to school, and fight for survival. An organization called Kapu Africa donates food to a school in this slum, and one day Kapu Africa's Kenya director, Christine, led our Central Bible Church mission team to visit the school. Kapu Africa is an international branch of Midwest Food Bank out of Bloomington, Illinois. Midwest Food Bank also has a location near Fort Worth, Texas that partners with our church to supply food for the Central Storehouse food pantry ministry.

On that day, we visited Glory Christian Education Centre and met up with the school director, Mrs. Beatrice Benta Malika. Beatrice became a Christian at a young age and later worked for Kenyatta University in Nairobi before helping to launch Glory Christian Education Centre. At that time, she had a compassionate heart for children and loved teaching and leading Bible studies for kids in her church.

She was introduced to the slum neighborhood in 2012 and felt the Lord calling her to start a Bible club for local kids, most of who were not attending school. As she noticed a growing need for children to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lord led her to Romans 10:14, which asks the questions, “How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have never heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” The Lord used these questions to prompt Beatrice to act on His influence and build a strategy to reach these kids for Jesus Christ.

In 2013, the Bible club began and grew rapidly. Beatrice used a small bus to pick up kids each day and bring them to learn Bible lessons. Overwhelmed with what might become of the club as the needs increased, she soon felt the Lord share with her to go and do, and He promised to be with her along the way. Very quickly the club expanded into a school that taught math, science, and the basic subject matter for self-sufficiency and flourishing. Not long afterward, it moved into its current, larger location. Beatrice's heart continued to grow for her students, and she remains committed to seeing these kids from the slums become more than they could have ever dreamed.

At Glory Christian Education Centre, the school provides up to two full meals for kids each day. Kapu Africa donates a packaged meal called Tender Mercies, which provides a full meal with all the vitamins and minerals needed to sustain a healthy body. This product has been transformative in the lives of these children who often struggle with hunger, with distended bellies, sunken eyes, and hair falling out. The donated food has increased their health, reversing the effects of their hunger and bringing joy back into their hearts. Beatrice calls Kapu Africa their “angels sent from God.”

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In the early years, Beatrice noticed that the kids had been coming to school with torn and tattered clothing, one shoe or no shoes at all, covered with dirt. She decided to provide school uniforms for each student, including a pair of shoes. The blessing of the uniforms is not just for the students to look similar, but so that the kids would have a set of clothes for which they could be proud. You should see the smiles on their faces when they put on their uniforms.

One day, Beatrice observed that a few kids, all the way from 4 years old to their late teens, were coming to school each day with bodily injuries. They were holding their stomachs, and some were limping when they walked. She took a couple of them to a local medical office to get checked out, and learned that they had been abused by their parents. After more investigation, it was revealed that many of the children had been trafficked by their parents to collect funds for their alcohol and drug habits. When we heard this story, our jaws dropped and tears began to well up in our eyes. Who could do such a thing to these precious children?

Beatrice held the same opinion and, as is in her character, jumped into action. Along with the medical professionals and the local legal authorities, Beatrice began a Rescue Home in her own house for children who had been abused. As of today, she has a house with 63 children whom she has rescued. Her faith that the Lord will provide for them, and her constant outpouring of love and compassion in every way the Lord leads, sustains these children and has restored hope and joy that was missing for the first portion of their lives.

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God continues to provide and to sustain this ministry of education and love into more than 620 students at Glory Christian Education Centre. Because of Beatrice’s extraordinary love and care for these children, she exemplifies what it means to hold high the value of human dignity.

Just think of how human dignity has been on display to these students through Beatrice:

  • She shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ with these children so they may believe and be saved.
  • She provides transportation so that the kids may attend school.
  • She connected with Kapu Africa to provide food for each child, each day so they might see increased health and never go hungry again.
  • She found a way to supply uniforms for the students to increase their self-esteem and confidence.
  • She saw the need to rescue the abused children, and made a safe home for them.
  • She desires that these children in the slums have the best opportunity to succeed in life, and provides them them with free, quality education in all areas of life.

The Lord used this example to help our team understand even more fully the value God places on human life. He blessed us in meeting Beatrice, who sees the value God has for each of her students. Her example influenced us to place great importance on the value of human dignity and to appreciate our church, which shares it in our formal set of values.

We were able to pray over Beatrice and her staff within the walls of Glory Christian Education Centre and meet and play with hundreds of students there, including many of her rescued children. We will not soon forget Beatrice and the example she set for us, as she followed the example of Christ.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Matthew 25:35-36

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About the Author

Jon Rhiddlehoover (MA in Christian Education, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the Lead Community Pastor at Central Bible Church and Director of the Central Storehouse food pantry.