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Dear Makoko

Everyone said ‘don’t go’.

‘The boys there are bad’. ‘Too much bad boys’. ‘They may steal from you’. ‘They will harass you’. ‘It’s not safe’. ‘Don’t go’. ‘Don’t go without a guide’.

Forty-five minutes later, and after ‘Lycan’ had come.

We went. As stubborn and adventurous as we were. We went.

And this trip.

This place.

It is one experience that I will never forget.

‘Mundus’ and ‘Pragmatic’ had gone earlier. They had wonderful pictures to show.  But the pictures they shared could tell only a part of the story.

Because the stories…the real stories can’t be contained in a picture.

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Makoko.

This is Home to some.

…..A tiny path led us in.

It was paved with sawdust and waste. It sank a bit. I jumped and skipped, but everywhere was the same.

My street is tarred, and there are cobble stones in some places. But in Makoko…it was not like that. The ground held waste. It was ground.

…..the tiny path led us to a bridge.

No. It wasn’t concrete. Yes. It was wooden. Yes. It was broken in many pieces held together. But surprisingly, it was firm. As firm as the people living in this place. ‘Don’t worry you won’t fall’, they said, as I carried shaky legs across the bridge.

…..the bridge led us to the canoe stand. To the water.

My sister and some friends had gone ahead in their canoe.

I sat in mine with some other friends.

Was I scared? Yes.

The water, it wasn’t blue. It wasn’t the kind you’ll love to view from a fancy hotel. This water was black. It held paper, clothes, sand, dirt, death. It was dumping ground for waste. For liquid waste.  For solid waste.

But I had bragged. I told my friends that I can ride on a Lions back for adventure (Ha!). I am brave. And so, riding a canoe was no big deal. But in my heart, I kept sending prayers up heaven door.

….the canoe led us to the people, whose heart isn’t captured on a camera.

We rode through their homes. Made of planks, and nylons. We waved and said Hello to everyone we met. Little boys and girls were staring at us. Strangers.

Children paddled their boats like professionals. Moms sold food right there on her canoe. Little boys carried drums of clean water, not fearing their boat will sink. Men went about their wood business. Sawing away here and there.

We saw gangs with ‘drugs’, abusing us with every photo snap.

We saw canoe riders defending strangers like we were family to them.

…..We snapped photos. We collected memories. We made videos. We smiled.

Children watched and old men wondered.

I wondered too, ‘what will I do if a stranger invaded my home…walking through my rooms, taking pictures of home?’

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The canoe ride took us to almost third mainland bridge.

I see this place from third mainland everyday on my commute to work. It looked like art from up there on the bridge. But the ride through there painted another version of home to me. Sometimes, it is not pretty and fancy. Sometimes, it is made of nylon, bamboo and a smile that refuses to leave here.

If they had a choice, will they leave? Why do they reject every evacuation attempt? I heard they wouldn’t leave. They wouldn’t leave their home.

Nifemi, our canoe rider turned the boat around…We met beautiful precious and her family having a quiet moment outside their shack.

Did you see a crab? She asked…with a beautiful smile. ‘No’.  We said.

It must be brave to live here.

As we rode back to the dirt shore. Friends welcomed us. We didn’t drown. And God reminded me of Naaman (2 kings 5).

‘What if River Makoko was like River Jordan, and God asked that swimming through the river is the path to healing…will I do it? Will you dip yourself 7 times in this river to be rid of leprosy?

Now I get why Naaman refused to dip himself in the Jordan. If that river looked like Makoko. I too, will pack my bags, and go back home with the leprosy.

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I hated the water.

People say that maybe they ‘poo’ and ‘pee’ in the water. Where was their toilet?

…..It got me thinking….God may ask you to do the unthinkable or uncomfortable…and like Naaman, when you listen and obey, letting go of pride, you will experience the beauty that cannot be found in ‘sticking to your will or comfort’…

Beauty and joy can be found in the uncomfortable too.

While it was adventurous to tour Makoko, I was also reminded of the many blessings I have, and I take for granted. It made me much more appreciative…and to do better with the blessings I’ve been gifted.

We are not ‘GOD’. We may not have all the solution to the various world problems. We can partner with God however, to do our ‘one good thing’ on earth and leave the world better.

And sometimes, that may require seeing and swimming in discomfort, to get to the shore of beauty and joy. Can you obey God when it does not make sense? Can you obey God if it requires going through murky, dirty water…through the hard stuff? Can you let go of pride?

Read the star-fish story.

“We all have the opportunity to help create positive change, but if you’re like me, you sometimes find yourself thinking, “I’m already really busy, and how much of a difference can I really make?”  I think this is especially true when we’re talking about addressing massive social problems like tackling world hunger or finding a cure for cancer, but it pops up all of the time in our everyday lives, as well. So when I catch myself thinking that way, it helps to remember this story.  You might not be able to change the entire world, but at least you can change a small part of it, for someone.

They say that one of the most common reasons we procrastinate is because we see the challenge before us as overwhelming, and that a good way to counter that is to break the big challenge down into smaller pieces and then take those one at a time–like one starfish at a time.  And to that one starfish, it can make a world of difference.”

-Peter Straub

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Before we left Makoko, we asked one of the boys to take a picture of the group.

It was His first time with a Camera. His friends gathered around Him. They laughed. We laughed. He did.

Mundus showed him how. And, He took great shots.

What if a boy like that is trained on photography? What if he is shown a taste of a better life?

What if a school, hospital, education, food, clean water, or environmental cleanup is provided for them? Will it make this place- ‘home’, better?

Makoko is a land of opportunity. It’s a breeding ground for love to flow.

Love your neighbour. People living in the slum qualifies as neighbours too.

The slums are breeding ground for love to be planted…for love to grow…to mindsets to be renewed.

I struggle sometimes to see Gods goodness in places like Makoko, but on that day, I learnt that God is good. He loves us all, even when we live in a hole. Or in water. Or in a slum.

Love & Light! :)

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