Hope in the Darkness

For the next two weeks, we'll hear from Michele Miers, in ministry with The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS) in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Michele shares her mission experience in Kenya.

"The home was one room made of dirt with a roof of corrugated wafer-thin tin panels. It was so dark that one couldn't see anything. The blackness was all-encompassing.

We encountered Michael, sick and suffering. His stomach was enlarged, and no one knew why. He had no money and relied on the local priest to support him as well as get him to a clinic. Yet, when you entered his home, Michael's unforgettable eyes shone like beacons full of hope. I could see God's reflection in them.

He had no electricity. No running water. No bed. He spent his time lying atop straws and leaves to cushion the dirt floor. The tin roof and lack of windows under the scorching Kenyan summer sun meant there was barely any air to breathe. With eyes brimmed with hope, Michael is one of the people I encountered in Kenya who I can't forget. The hope radiating in his eyes can only be explained as a gift from God. If not, it wouldn't last a minute under that oppressive sun.

Michael is one of too many people who live in Makuru, a collection of 30 slums in Nairobi, Kenya's capital. These "informal settlements" occupy a five-mile area and are home to over 750,000 people who live in one-room dwellings stacked atop each other. As many as ten people live in corrugated tin boxes with mud floors. They left their rural homes dreaming of a better life with jobs 'in the big city.' Now a river of sewage serves as a road, unmapped by Google.

Three of five Catholics in the world live in hardship: families barely have one meal a day; there's no clean water to drink. Often enough, when there is, they walk miles to retrieve it. Neither you nor I could stomach drinking it. Children often drop out of school before learning to read and write.

I worked in Philadelphia's TPMS office for many years before this life-changing trip to Kenya. Until that point, much like the patroness of the missions, Saint ThérÈse de Lisieux, or the founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Blessed Pauline Jaricot, I was moved to action by hearing the stories of missionaries who shared their lives and ministries with me.

It became my mission to echo those voices, inspire others to pray for the missions, and sacrifice to help others proclaim Jesus' love for all.

In Nairobi, I was able to touch the wounds of Christ and experience His redeeming glory through Michael."