I was recently commissioned to write a scholarly paper for an upcoming book on the arts and leadership. My main protagonist happens to be a very vocal and passionate individual who is both loved and hated in equal measure. Nevertheless, he has managed to champion for the rights of the voiceless and continues to do so in unconventional ways that seem to be counter-cultural and abrasive.
On reading about his life and work, it struck me how passive I am in matters Kenya. I am vocal about injustice and even purport to be a catalyst for change, but there are some areas I will not venture into. I seem to be like a thermometer, perfectly reading the temperature of the times we live in but not really engaging as a problem solver.
Being Christian gives me an added advantage- that I can pray for and petition heaven on behalf of my country, but sometimes it seems more of an excuse for not doing anything. Prayer is important, so important that some have said that God can do nothing in this world, but by prayer. But prayer alone cannot change policies, end graft or elect effective leaders. Someone must be willing to pay a price and sometimes the price may even cost one’s life. I have taken a liking to the life and philosophies of the late Tom Mboya- a young revolutionary who died before we could ever see the full impact of his work in Kenya. Such individuals fought for and did everything in their power to make change happen.Statistics estimate that the youth in Kenya (15-30 years) make up 75% of the population. According to the IEBC, voter registration amongst the youth is alarmingly low despite the fact that 1.9 million Kenyan’s acquired an identity card since 2013.
And I can see why voter apathy is on the rise. Recently, I was against my own liking, roped into a conversation with fairly younger individuals than myself. The tone of the conversation was frustration and anger at the cycle of ineffective leadership. One participant vowed not to vote in the upcoming elections for these reasons. In conclusion, they turned to me and asked if I was going to vote and frankly, I lied through my teeth, citing something about voting being my constitutional right as a Kenyan. In that moment, I realized that I had become a statistic, a number pointing towards a worrying trend. If Kenya is truly 80% Christian, it means that we can rally a critical mass in every sector of society, to bring about the much needed change we desire to see in our country. But where do we start?
Exiled and captive in a foreign land, news from his hometown threw Nehemiah into a state of despondence; the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates had been burned with fire- those who had survived the exile were in great trouble and disgrace (Nehemiah 1:3). Though discouraged, Nehemiah’s first course of action was to pray. He recognized that if anyone could change anything, it had to be God. Paul in 1st Timothy 2:1-2 exhorts believers to pray for their leaders so as to live peaceful and quiet lives. It is so important to understand that if the political atmosphere is rife with injustice, corruption is inevitable in every other area of society. It would therefore help to identify and commit to pray for the area God has called you to in the different sectors of society. My area is music and education. Recently, certain leaders in the music sector have been accused of high level graft. As a believer, it is my call to pray for my leaders in this area and ask the Lord to expose and change the hearts of those in authority. If I don’t pray, I shouldn’t complain.
An interesting aspect to note in the story of Nehemiah is that he was the cupbearer to the King. It was no coincidence that God had placed him in that position in close proximity to the king. Nehemiah could have wasted the opportunity by being afraid. You see, it was not uncommon for cup-bearer’s to be hanged if they displeased the king in any way. Nevertheless, Nehemiah petitioned the king boldly, despite the fear of hanging and he was granted his request. Could it be that God has placed you in a position to influence your leaders and you are afraid to petition them? Maybe you have been praying concerning an issue involving corruption or injustice that you are witnessing in your area of calling. It is time to go to the next level and petition the kings around you, those who can bring the change you want to see. The Constitution of Kenya states that all sovereign power is vested in the people of Kenya. This public participation involves the use of protests, petitions, debating issues- just to name a few. This means that it is your right as a citizen of Kenya to lobby against laws that infringe on you as a believer. These could be laws that propagate unrighteousness in the land. Go ahead and petition.
After petitioning the king, Nehemiah went into Jerusalem with a few men and examined the state of ruin. Nehemiah shared with these men what God had instructed him to do. He called upon them to help him rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and in one voice they responded: Let us start rebuilding (Nehemiah 2:18). After prayer and consultation, plunge into doing what God has called you to do. It could start with making a long line to cast a vote, it could be running for a political position or starting an organization that addresses certain injustices in your area of calling. Whatever it is, put your hands to the work that God has called you to. Be of good courage, and rebuild the ruins of Kenya.
Can you think of other ways you can be a thermostat in your area of calling?