The Darkness Has Not Overcome It

I’ve never sat down and tried to figure out how much time I’ve spent in classrooms over the course of my life, but between elementary school and junior high and high school and college and then, you know, teaching for approximately 472 years, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve logged some hours. In fact, I recently told a friend that I feel more at home in a classroom full of high school kids than I do almost anywhere else. The only place that tops it, really, would be the house where I get to live with my family and roam around in pajama pants and try to convince Hazel the dog that the leaves falling from the trees do not in fact intend to destroy us all.

So given all of that, it seemed fitting that today, in Nairobi, Kenya, I got to sit in a classroom with about 20 kids – all between 6 and 8 years old – and listen to the Bible lesson their teacher had prepared for them.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

“There was darkness,” the teacher said, as a hush fell over the room.

And then, for emphasis, he walked slowly over to the doorway and turned off the light.

“There was darkness!”

The kids repeated his words: “There was darkness!”

“But then what did God do?” the teacher asked.

“GOD MADE LIGHT!” the kids exclaimed.

And as the teacher’s face lit up from the kids’ enthusiastic response, he flipped the switch again.

“What did God do?”


There was darkness.

And God made light.


It was early this morning when our group from Compassion hopped in a couple of vans so that we could travel to the Mathare slum in Nairobi. I knew in my head that we were going to witness heartbreaking conditions – poverty on a level that most of us can’t conceive enduring or even seeing on a daily basis – so I reminded myself over and over again that we were also going to witness hope. I reminded myself that we were visiting a local church that partners with Compassion and specializes in hope. It specializes in Hope.

The church sits on the edge of the Mathare slum, an area where it’s nearly impossible to take in the scale and the scope of the overwhelming need. Just imagine standing at the top of a valley with a view that’s dominated by three square miles of shacks and mud and smoke and tin roofs and livestock and sewage and, according to some estimates, 800,000 people.

Eight. Hundred. Thousand. People.

But inside that church? Well, it’s a much different story.

In fact, it’s a radically different story.

There was darkness.

And God made light.


Early this afternoon Alex, our friend Patricia, and I went with one of the church’s ministers to visit a family that lives in the Mathare slum. We started at the top of a hill and walked down a dirt roadway that was alternately muddy or littered with trash. Drainage ditches ran in front of the seemingly endless rows of shacks made of cardboard or tin or boards, and as we crossed the bridge that leads over the Mathare River, we saw women washing their clothes, pigs feasting on riverbank refuse, and children running through the alleys with their friends.

About ten minutes into our walk, we stopped in front of a doorway.

There were five or six rooms inside the doorway, and each room housed a different family. After a few feet the front entryway hit a dead end, and we were supposed to turn left to walk down the hall to the room that the family we were visiting calls home. There was no light inside the hallway, however, so as soon as we turned, we were standing in pitch black dark. I couldn’t have told you how long the hallway was, where the doors were, or how far we needed to walk. We were just a few feet from the road, but it felt like we were standing in the middle of an unexpected abyss; Alex and I both stood frozen still until the minister turned on his flashlight to show us where to go.

He led us to a room about fifteen yards down the hallway (this distance is an estimate; please keep in mind that math and I are not on friendly terms) and introduced us to a family – a mama and her three children – who live there. The mother’s husband passed away a couple of years ago, and since the housekeeping work she does isn’t always reliable in terms of providing a steady income, she moved her family to the slum so that she could live somewhere affordable. Her affection for her children was obvious; like most mamas, she absolutely beamed when she talked about her kids. They love school. Her oldest is great at math. Her youngest wants to be a doctor. And her middle child, Maryvinta, wants to be a pilot.

Maryvinta attends the Compassion center at the local church we visited. Even though she doesn’t currently have a sponsor, she was invited to attend the Compassion programs when someone in the church realized how much she and her family would benefit from Compassion’s support. So even though Maryvinta is the only child in her family who is currently participating at the Mathare center, Compassion is able to serve her whole family. They can offer Maryvinta, her mom, and her siblings preventive medical care. They can support the children in their education. The Compassion folks provide stability, they disciple, they love, they protect, and they honor the children they serve.

And today, as we sat in Maryvinta’s home – a home with no electricity – it would have been so easy to be preoccupied with the darkness. But there was no denying the power of the light.

It’s so tempting to see poverty up close and just settle for being overwhelmed. It’s easy to think the problem’s too big, or the problem’s not actually the problem, or the problem needs to be handled by somebody else.

But throughout our day – as we sat in the classroom with those young children, as we watched the kids worship, as we visited with Maryvinta’s family, and as we heard story after story of God’s faithfulness to His children through Compassion – there was no denying the Truth of the teacher’s lesson.

There was darkness.

And God made light.

Through Compassion, you can help shine a light in dark places. You can sponsor a child and bring light to the darkness for only $38 a month. I can tell you from firsthand experience that it is such a privilege. Because no matter where that child lives, no matter what they’ve experienced, your sponsorship is a promise that the way their life is now isn’t the way it always has to be. And more than anything else, you can be a constant reminder in that child’s life that the Light of the world sees them, loves them, values them, and fights for them.

You can change a child’s life by helping to release him or her from poverty in Jesus’ name.

There was darkness.

And God made light.

Don’t miss the posts by my travel buddies Bri, Jamie, and Shaun.

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  1. Lisa B says:

    Absolutely incredible- Praising God for His gift of Light and for Compassion!

  2. Mary Ann Stafford says:

    I’ve never written on your comments before, however, the minister’s first two sentences gave me goosebumps and I felt compelled to tell you that. My four children and my husband and I lived in the Philippines for over 3 years. We saw poverty like you are witnessing and helped as much as we could, which seemed minimal to us but meant the world to them. I so look forward to your posts to come, and wish you Godspeed in your journey!

  3. Beautiful. God made light, indeed!

  4. Tom Emmons says:

    Great post Sophie!

  5. Love this analogy, Sophie. Praying for you all and the families you meet this week – and also the families that WILL BE reached through all you share.

  6. Colleen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It’s so heartbreaking yet so beautiful and so much hope because of the love of Christ. You expressed your experience so beautifully

  7. Amazingly simple and yet so profound! Thank you for your words!

  8. Sophie, Your very best post ever! Praying for you and Alex as you travel.
    God has given you such a sweet heart and the words to express and share it with us!

  9. Sher Sutherland says:

    Having volunteered with Mercy Ships in many different countries up/down the west coast of Africa, this is all so familiar to me. Overcrowded slums. Families in one dark room. The smell. The smoke. And more.
    BUT, thank God for the LIGHT and the HOPE and for people/programs who serve and support. Thank you, Jamie, Bri and Shaun for sharing with us. Thank you for sharing this experience with your kids–they will make our world better. I miss Africa.

  10. Such beautiful pictures and a beautiful message! Praying for y’all!


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