God Will Save Us

I was heading to Ngumo from South B sometime last month, and Route 33 matatus were charging Sh. 50, up from the usual Sh. 30. The makanga said it was because of the traffic jam on the South C route; they were going to have to use Mombasa Road. This is more expensive as they have to bribe the police so as not to get arrested for using the wrong route. They also add a little extra for the “added convenience”.

People were visibly shocked; some complained loudly, others sighed and many refused to board the matatu. Being in a terrible hurry, I boarded because waiting for another matatu to come would take ages, and it would probably also be charging Sh. 50. The extortion didn’t sit well with me, but, having agreed to the terms of the agreement, I held my peace.

The man seated next to me started complaining loudly to himself, and the lady in front of me joined him. They talked about how hard things are in the country, and how they only seem to get harder. The poor keep getting poorer, the rich keep getting richer – the usual Kenyan talk. Then came the clincher – the man sighed and said “Mungu tu ndio atatusaidia.” (Only God will help us.)

I turned to him and said, “Kila kitu sio Mungu atatusaidia! Vitu zingine lazima tujisaidie wenyewe! Shida zote zenye tuko nazo Kenya, Mungu atamaliza kutusaidia lini? Lazima tuache hii maneno ya Mungu atatusaidia na tuanze kujisaidia wenyewe!” (You can’t say ‘God will help us’ to everything. When it comes to some matters, we must also help ourselves. With all the problems we have in Kenya, when would God be done helping us? We must stop waiting for God to help us and start helping ourselves.)

I have grown to despise this statement, despite believing in God’s omnipotence. It is used as a crutch in our nation, alongside “Tunaomba serikali itusaidie.” (We beg the government to help us). We leave the responsibility for our well-being in the hands of God and our government. Our government has constantly proven to be unreliable; as for God, we know not how long he will take to help us (or if he will help us at all).

Only God can save us from rogue pastors

Recently, a pastor was discovered to have been asking his congregation to “plant a seed” of Sh. 310/777 to receive prayers from him – prayers for healing and for those in need of other heavenly assistance. This really can’t be news, as we have known for the longest time that a majority of these evangelical ministers are in it for the money. Maybe we just needed a reminder.

Everyone was outraged. How can a man of God use God’s word to swindle innocent Kenyans? “Ah, only God can save us from such pastors.” You have to save yourself, God will not save you. For those who believe, the Bible is very clear in its markers of false prophets. Why then would you pay a rogue pastor to pray for you when you can pray for yourself? Why give your hard earned money to a man going to spend it on a lavish lifestyle when you barely have enough to feed your family?

In the same vein, we must ask, what is it that creates a society where people are pushed to a level of desperation that would have them believe that giving the pastor money to buy a Mercedes Benz will make them rich? Everyday these pastors come up. They take home truckload after truckload of our country’s wealth. The news media keep making features, yet still they thrive.

How then, can God save us, if we don’t save ourselves?

Only God can save us from international embarrassments like the JKIA Fire

There are some calamities that we cannot avoid no matter how hard we try. We have no control over earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. We can warn people in advance so that they can move out of the disaster prone area, but we cannot stop the natural disaster. Fire at the airport, on the other hand, is something entirely within our control.

The fire at the airport could easily have been put out when it started, it was said to have been small when it was first noticed. Somehow, no one felt the need to put it out. By the time the fire decided to assert itself, we were unable to avert the disaster. It took half an hour for the first fire engine to begin working. The required international standard is three minutes. Water hydrants at the airport were out of function, and police could be seen in pictures from that day attempting to put out the fire with water buckets. At an international airport, which also happens to be a regional hub.

We heard the news and many people, as expected, said only God can save us from such disasters. How? We have created a culture in which we do the bare minimum that is expected of us, and many of us do not accord our work the duty of care it deserves. That is why at an airport like JKIA, hydrants can be out of order and we are none the wiser. That is how airport employees could see a fire but feel no need to put it out. That is why the end result was millions of shillings worth of damage and six hours used to put out the fire, as opposed to less than half an hour had the fire been put out when it was noticed.

Many of us transit through that airport regularly, and complain about it no doubt. When compared to airports in many other countries, including developing countries like Brazil and India, ours feels like a village bus station. Do we hold our government accountable for its state? Do we make noise until they hear us? We wait until something bad happens and then we lament about it. When something bad happens, do we demand relentlessly that those responsible immediately lose their jobs for negligence and institutional failure? No.

How is God supposed to change this attitude towards our responsibilities?

Only God can save us from road accidents

According to a 2004 estimate, Kenya has the highest rate of road accidents in the world, with 510 fatal accidents per 100,000 vehicles. These accidents are caused by speeding, obstruction, poor vehicular condition, incompetent drivers, poor roads and overloading. The only thing God can possibly be held accountable for when it comes to road accidents is weather, and if drivers were competent, this would not be a big problem.

Why then is one of the most common reactions when we hear about road carnage to sigh, shake our heads and say “Mungu tu ndio anaweza kutusaidia”? We feel that we have done our part by making draconian traffic laws and instituting heavy fines. We are happy about the constant police crackdowns, and while these have had some impact, things cannot change radically until we do our part.

How often do we board matatus when they are already full, or alight where there is no designated bus stop – obstructing other drivers and forcing them to blindly overtake because they can’t see oncoming traffic? We are quick to complain when PSVs speed and overlap, but when we do this ourselves, why is it not considered a problem?

We give the policeman that Sh. 1,000 bribe to avoid paying the Sh. 10,000 fine for a traffic offence we probably have committed so that we “don’t waste time”, then we complain when matatus do the same, yet we have already set the standard. When matatus break the law and we are on board, do we ever protest or alight? What is the value of your life vis a vis the value of getting to town 5 minutes earlier? The examples are many, and most of us are guilty of at least one of the above.

Until we are ready to sacrifice comfort and convenience for long term change, we will continue to suffer and cry “Mungu atatusaidia”. Waiting for another matatu may be an inconvenience, but if enough of us do it, it sends a message and probably saves our lives. Going to the police station to pay a fine may be a long and tedious process (made so by the police so that paying a bribe is a more convenient option) but we must begin to take the high road. Speaking up and boycotting places that do not meet the standards and values we hold dear must become the norm. We must first help ourselves before we cry out that God should help us. We must do all we can do before looking to God to ask him to do the rest.

After all, God helps those who help themselves. At least that’s what I was told by my Sunday School teacher.

14 Replies to “God Will Save Us”

  1. Brilliant piece, as always. See url. The irony is that the same media that makes features against plant-a-seedlings also aired this same 310 pastor and his ilk. Because it makes money, na karatasi lazima itengenezwe.

    How can God save us, if we don’t save ourselves from the paper and the while? A mutual friend taught me an invaluable lesson a short while back, when she stuck through the Milimani Court mockery to pay a hefty Ksh 10,000 for not having had her DL with her at the time of “Police Crackdown.”

    Her DL was in another purse. She had left it after exchange, by mistake; it was less than a couple minute’s walk back. But she stuck through it. Wasted days, but made her mark. There is yet hope in these streets.

    1. Just to add to your comment, my friend was stayed with it for two months. Was implicated in overlapping which she did not agree with. She won the case and she is waiting to collect her 10k bail.

  2. Well written wambui.

    It is time that Kenyans took responsibility for their own actions with the knowledge that choices have consequences. We need to know that each of us can make a difference in the society. They say that if you clean the corner where you live the whole house will be clean. We have surrendered our sense of responsibility to others- they call it passing the buck. A 7 year old niece of mine came from the US of A and within no time she was throwing rubbish out through the window , when asked the reason for her actions she said , everybody was doing it. whatever happened to our moral obligations?

    I want to correct your writing though’ by saying that God helps the helpless. If we are able to help ourselves then God has no part in it. In this regard we need Him to help us to change our attitudes and stick to the right no matter what. If it is waiting for an empty matatu or sitting in the jam and get late , so be it! As you rightfully put it – be ready to sacrifice comfort and convenience for long term change,

    keep up the hype gal!


    1. Thank you Florence. My mum constantly uses the example you gave about keeping your corner clean. With regards to your niece, at least she is 7, and can be moulded differently. Actually, I believe God helps those who helps themselves. I believe in doing as much as you possibly can, then leaving the rest to God. Thanks again for the support Florence. 🙂

  3. Love this piece! How you move from the matatut ride to “Mungu tu ndio atatusaidia” society…hahaha!! Just brilliant. Could not stop reading for it was stirring up my thoughts.

  4. Every time I hear term ‘Rogue Pastors’, I imagine rampaging evangelists in town randomly exorcising innocent civilians like a Zombie apocalypse, ‘DEVO BE GONE! Ashahbaalshbrrakatashababa..!!’ The only difference perhaps being, they fleece them first before smacking them with ‘the truth’! 🙂

    Tamu read as always. I see you still feel as passionately as you did about the Ma3 experience. Morality around here is a choice of convenience, with a compass that spins out of control every time money is within hinting distance. It sucks and perhaps realising the haba na haba effect of choosing the easy ‘it’s none of my business’ way of doing things is filling up a jar of poison that will overflow.

    Children have no prior moral reference, what they see, they do. Everything we do and say, they watch keenly and try to surpass it – ironically, in order to impress the adults – if all they get from us, is lies, shortcuts, fear, corruption, deceit,laziness, embezzlement, rage, impropriety, disdain, ignorance, and selfishness, they’ll be damn good at it, very soon. Coming out of that kind of immoral abyss is that ‘Sisyphus-ian’ story, and we will shoulder that boulder forever. (A punishment of divine design)

    We must take responsibility for our actions, use the power that God gave us called Choice, so we can be deemed worthy of his salvation. Not a plea for mercy from the trench of apathy and despair.

    Great read Bee

  5. Your article is spot on Brenda. I was shocked to be in the same driving school with some PSV drivers who have been operating with no licence, and to add salt to injury, they failed. One lesson I have learnt is that this same God we cry to allows some calamities so that people can be more watchful. Someone said that there are no accidents on our Kenyan roads but idiots, I agree. Just a week ago, my sister and her girlfriends were driving along Thika super highway, all drank. When I aired my concern, they said “You only die once”. That’s a phrase you’ve forgotten in your article. 🙂

    1. Thank you Mseri! To think we get into matatus everyday and the drivers can’t even pass a driving test…that is very scary! I think that in many of these issues, we are to blame, and are perfectly capable of avoiding these calamities, but we choose not to for whatever reason. As for your sister, I would urge her to be more careful, one should not be so cavalier!

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