The visit to Kenya was an integral part of the ‘Step into the Gap’ year, the young leadership development programme supported by CAFOD, the Society of the Holy Child of Jesus, and St Mary’s Catholic College in Blackpool. Having been involved in the programme from its early stages, as Lancaster was one of the dioceses in which it began, I have seen the fruits of the programme and believe it’s an innovative, exciting and unique opportunity, investing in young people. It’s completely different to your average gap year. However, this year, having accompanied Jon and Rachel to Kenya, I have had a deeper insight into how it works.
In the past few weeks, not only have Jon and Rachel experienced the amazing vibrant African culture, and not only have they seen many examples of real global justice issues around poverty and climate change, but they have learnt much more than this. Their personal journeys have shifted as they’ve asked more questions and reconsidered their stance on ideas in the light of their experience and the experiences of those they’ve met.
In a church just outside Korogocho, a massive slum area in Nairobi, I found a quote displayed: “The first duty of love is to listen” and their willingness to listen has at times taken them out of their comfort zone to ask bigger questions – about the reality of justice, the Church and their faith.
They’ve been surprised, delighted, moved, energised and sometimes saddened by what they’ve seen. We’ve reflected regularly on these experiences and brought to our prayer time, which for me has encompassed some of the deepest and most honest prayer I have ever experienced. Rooted in God and inspired and marvelled by the Holy Spirit, I know all will be well.
In the meantime, I am thankful and humbled to have shared this small but special part of their journey. They’ve been great fun to work with. All I can say is look out – they’re coming home, and there won’t be any stopping them as they respond to what Kenya has offered them! They will, no doubt, continue to grow as they unravel and process the Kenyan experience. I ask you to continue to give them the space and support they need to be who they are called to be.
Rosa, CAFOD Lancaster Diocesan Manager