-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Back in Kenya, crowded in a small 7x7 foot room in the Mathare slum, the Community Transformers (CT) crew and I sunk deeper into our chairs as we discussed all of the seemingly monstrous set backs for the rapidly approaching launch of the CT Cyber + Resource Centre: stall tactics and bribe requests for our government license, a lost credit card, an unresponsive internet service provider, a greedy hike in rent from our landlord, inflated costs for the network connection, delays in our posters and banners, misprinted t-shirts, and a dozen other speed bumps posing as road blocks. With our launch party only 4 days away and the newly constructed desks and freshly painted walls of our Resource Centre completely computer-less, the spirits of our 20-plus member team began to slowly (or perhaps rapidly) shutdown.
Taking a break from the blank stares into our Excel work plan and endless to-do list, I scrolled through my iTunes mindlessly. Partly in jest but mostly in desperation, I started playing Dr. King’s We Shall Overcome speech. Around the fifth time Dr. King repeats that that well known but so easily forgotten declaration, something magical happened: We realized how profoundly his words – spoken 45 years ago to a deeply segregated American South – related directly to us in an ostracized slum in East Africa. Within a few minutes, the whole team was speaking in harmony with Dr. King as he continued to repeat the declaration: deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome.
Over the next four days – and with our new motto repeated tirelessly – miracle after miracle brought us closer and closer to our launch deadline. With the funds transferred three days before the launch, the computers installed with two days remaining, the photocopier delivered the day before, the internet connected the morning of and the software installed with minutes to spare, the Resource Centre was miraculously operational as Steve and Nick cut the ribbon to the cheers of hundreds of observers. As the acrobats flipped, the performers sang and Njenga gave a speech, I couldn’t help but shake my head in near disbelief: God must really like performing miracles!
Over plates of chicken, goat and rice that evening, we each shared lessons we learned over the past several months (and especially the past 4 weeks). After a relieved and humble asante sana to all the CT members and our sponsor in the States, Charles Alulo, one of CT’s founders, reminded us all of that fateful moment in the office, when the team rose from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope. He reflected on how life always throws us challenges – something that Mathare knows all too well – but that God never allows anything bigger than we can handle and that he works all things together for good if we are faithful and perseverant.
Mike, one of the older CT members who was an invaluable help with the Centre, went on to shared an Erwin McManus quote that he thought prophetically described CT, their journey and struggles over the past 5 years, and specifically the possibilities for the Resource Centre:
There comes a point where crawling isn’t enough. Though we fall over and over again, we fight our way to our feet, and we begin to walk. Walking is great until we can run, and running is great until we can drive, and for some of us, driving is not fast enough – we just have to fly.