Lessened resistance - Maryknoll Lay Missioners
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Francis Wayne, Kenya

A trash pile in the streets of Mathare, Kenya (Flickr stock photo by Kristina Rosinsky)

I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Kenya, a few kilometers north of Mombasa. There are 15 units in rows of five one-bedroom apartments. One apartment building has two rows of five making a two-story apartment building. I live in a single-story apartment building.

I chose the apartment on the far end, away from the underground concrete sewage tank, so that when the sewage was removed from the full tank, I would not be so close to the smell. What I did not realize was that it put me nearer to the tank that services the ten-apartment building.

Last week the sewage tank filled to capacity, resulting in sewage starting to back up into the apartments on the ground floor. I was asked to pay two months rent in advance to finance the digging of a relief hole. I did; a hole was dug, and the overflow of sewage waste was pumped into the hole.

For that day and night, the smell of raw sewage was overpowering. I closed my jalousie windows and turned on my two ceiling fans. That helped a little bit, but I could smell human sewage in my apartment.

I thought about packing and moving to a beach hotel, but I knew I would have been the only resident leaving. All others had to stay; some had to clean their apartments.

So I sat there and thought about why I was so troubled by the smell of human waste.

When I walk to Shimo La Tewa Prison to teach delinquent teenage boys, I pass a trash pile every five minutes. Some of these piles are burning, and some are composting in the hot sun. People live across the street from these trash piles. That’s where they throw their trash. Anything not useful is thrown on the piles, even throw-away diapers.

At some of the piles of trash I pass, the smell is so strong that I have to only breathe out. But I can’t breathe out for very long though. I have walked around these trash piles for so long that I have developed a lessened resistance to the smell.

The raw sewage smell in my apartment got me to wondering what it takes to resist the ugliness of it all and just remain in poise. Kenyans have a knack for such poise, they have to; there are just too many problems.

Our environment will encourage us to change. I used to have a re-occurring dream about sewage overflowing. In this dream, the sewage tank would spill out, soaking the ground around me and I would have to wade my way through it.

I would wake up wondering about the dream and what it was telling me about my life, but I didn’t stress about it because the sub-conscious will do what it will do. When I had this dream most recently, the sewage tank was there, but when it started spilling out, it was a fresh clear water stream. When I awakened I realized that the impression of sewage in my sub-conscious might have just been exhausted, finished!

A clean water spring has great implications, a natural flow to life.

I read from Rumi’s “Two Kinds of Intelligence”:

There is a kind of tablet, already completed inside you. A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness in the center of your chest. This intelligence does not turn yellow or stagnate. It’s fluid, and it doesn’t move from outside to inside through plumbing-learning. This knowing is a fountainhead from within you, moving out. Drink from it.

As a Maryknoll Lay Missioner in Kenya, I love the changes that are happening to me. Please support Maryknoll Lay Missioners’ efforts for change.

Please consider supporting my prison ministry in Mombasa with a donation through the link below.

I also invite you to walk with me as a “COMPANION IN MISSION.” Companions in Mission are friends and generous donors who give financial gifts on a regular (usually monthly) basis. For more information, visit Become a Companion in MissionThank you so much for your generosity! 


Francis Wayne
Francis Wayne teaches auto mechanics and math at Marianist Technical Institute, a vocational school in Ukunda, Kenya. This is his second term as a Maryknoll lay missioner. He previously served from 1993 until 1996, also in Kenya.