by Matt Chancey
Editor’s Note: 1 Corinthians 12 describes the church as one body with many parts. As we fellowship with our persecuted family in the two Sudans, we share in their suffering. When we began our outreaches more than two decades ago, we based out of northern Kenya. And today, much of our work continues to rely on logistics and staff support in Kenya, as Bibles, life-saving medicines, relief and shelter items, and other supplies transit by road from Kenya up into the two Sudans.
PPF board member Matt Chancey shares a short story about one of the team members who served alongside his family during the season they were basing in Kenya serving PPF.
As you read, I hope you will be prompted to remember and appreciate the other “parts of the body” who are important contributors to your own life and calling. As we bear one another’s burdens, we fulfill the Great commandment to love God and our neighbor.
Traffic in Nairobi, Kenya can be perilous. Fender-benders are not just likely, they’re a sort of rite of passage. Unlike America, where drivers involved in minor accidents must pull their vehicles off the road as to not impede traffic while awaiting the police to arrive, drivers involved in accidents in Kenya typically never move their vehicles until instructed to do so by the authorities. The result is a bad traffic situation becoming even worse, and impatient drivers becoming more desperate to reach their destinations, and, consequently, increasing the likelihood of further accidents.
For this, and many other reasons, as soon as we moved to Kenya in 2011, I began looking for a driver to protect my wife and children from new habits of road rage.
Fortunately for us, we had a good referral from a pastor in one of the largest slums in the city. “Benjamin is very good,” Pastor Chris assured us. “He’s a Matatu driver and mechanic.” Matatus are the mini-bus taxis one sees everywhere in Kenya – often on their sides in ditches.
I thanked Pastor Chris and arranged for a job interview. Benjamin arrived at our gate early the next day, wearing perfectly creased pants, a nice dress shirt, and tie. I liked the guy already. But looks can be deceiving. In Africa, just because someone has a license and can present themselves well doesn’t mean they have a clue how to drive. We learned this the hard way when interviewing our first candidate and were very fortunate to have arrived home in one piece after a test drive.
But Benjamin did not fail to impress. He knew exactly what he was doing, and I knew within minutes that I could trust this man with my family’s safety. From that day forward, Benjamin was a fixture in our home. Every day, he’d show up immaculately dressed and begin his routine. He’d tuck his cuffs into his dress socks and begin washing our van. When “Mama Jennie” was ready to do the shopping, she always had a nice, clean vehicle in which to ride, and a safe driver to take care of her.
Benjamin had a large family “up country” on his ancestral land near Lake Victoria. Like so many, he had to live in the city to find a job to support his wife and several children. To make sure they had enough, Benjamin lived in a typical slum dwelling – usually 10 x 10 room (often shared) with a dirt floor and no electricity.
And yet, every morning, somehow Benjamin showed up looking like he walked out of an upscale men’s clothier.
Benjamin may have only been our driver, but he was part of our family. He was serving us, so we could serve the persecuted church.
The work we do at Persecution Project involves a lot of people at various levels doing different kinds of work, and making their own unique sacrifices. They might be drivers, or loaders, or cleaners, or cooks, but they’re all vital. We’re all serving together. We’re all one body.
If you’re reading these lines, it’s because you’re part of this body as well. Without your unique sacrifices, safe water wells would not be repaired, medicine would not be delivered, and more people would suffer. Some of you have been a part of this story for a long time. Some are new arrivals. Welcome and thanks to all.
Three years after moving away from Kenya, I received a phone call from another former staff member, informing me that Benjamin had tragically passed away from tuberculosis. He was just 43 years old. His wife and children were forced to move to the slum near Pastor Chris’ family to try to support themselves now that Benjamin was gone. We were heart-broken.
But God has provided. Although Benjamin has been gone several years now, Pastor Chris still sends me updates letting me know how his widow and children are doing, and we still send support and prayers their way when we can. The latest from Pastor Chris is that Benjamin’s daughter, Valary, has passed her exams and is preparing to enter a technical college. We are so proud of her, and only wish her Papa was here to see it. I’m sure he knows.
I want you to know as well, because you are part of this story. We are all “One Body,” as the Apostle Paul wrote. One Body in service to One Head. So whatever your role in this work, thank you. And thank God for the Benjamins of this world.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-26)