Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Glimpses of Glory in Nairobi

‘Welcome home’ These are the words with which people have greeted me in Kenya where I am visiting the Methodist Church. And it feels like a second home here, partly because I have visited before and know some of the people and places but mostly because the welcome offered is genuine and generous.

Yesterday I spent the morning with the Presiding Bishop, Revd Joseph Ntombura Mwaine. It was good to meet him, not least because the Darlington District is in a partnership with the Miathene Synod where he was Bishop and we were both designated to our current roles at the same time. We had a good morning together and discovered many friends in common, Methodism is a small world even across the oceans!

In the evening I met many others from the church when we shared a meal in the Bishop’s home. There was wonderful Kenyan food, good conversation, a lot of laughter and prayer together which included singing ‘Bind us together, Lord.’ It was a good way to begin the visit and I am reminded once again of the importance and preciousness of our relationships in the world church. We must never let these be impoverished by lack of resources or we will lose a pearl of great price.

Today (Tuesday) I have seen some of the work of the Methodist Church in Nairobi in the company of Revd Paul Matomba, the Superintendent Minister of the Kariokor Circuit.

We began the day by visiting Kawagware Mehodist Church. I have visited this church before in 2010 and it was good to return to it. Kawagware is one of the slum areas in Nairobi, life here is tough and the environment is neither healthy nor safe. The Methodist Church is in the middle of Kawagware and today I met the Minister, John.   

Revd Paul Matumbi and Revd John, ministerof Kawagware Methodist Church

 The church runs a school for children aged from 3 to 14, all of them from the local area. The school fees are as low as possible and the children who attend are sponsored by a number of different organisations. There are 260 pupils and the numbers are almost evenly spread between boys and girls. Revd John was a teacher before entering ministry and he has put a great deal of work into building secure structures of administration and policy for the school so that it can continue well into the future. He told me about some of the issues faced by children in the area, among them the inability to complete schooling because of the needs of the family and for girls the possibility of pregnancy at an early age because they are drawn into prostitution to provide money for the family. Many are affected directly or indirectly by HIV AIDS.

Kawagware Methodist Church with Minister's manse to the left.

 They are in the process of building a new church for their rapidly growing congregation and from this view through one of the windows you can see that it is right in the centre of the slum area.

View from site of Kawagware Methodist Church

The manse is on this same site and Revd John lives here alone. He has been threatened on many occasions but has made life more secure by working to build good relationships with members of the local community, who have come to trust him and so protect him. He told me, ‘You are in no danger here now that they have seen that you have come to this church’. His wife and children live in their family home and Revd John has one more year to serve this church before he has to move on. He has worked hard to make sure that the work will continue when he does. It was good to visit again and to see that the work here is still flourishing.

We went next to visit Lavington Methodist Church which is situated in a wealthy area of Nairobi and has well established work both in the local community and in neighbouring slum areas. Kawagware Methodist Church was founded on the initiative of Lavington, a church which looks to the needs of communities beyond its own context.

We then drove further out of the city and into the Kariokor Circuit which is the fastest growing circuit in Nairobi. Our first stop was Ruaraka Methodist Church. Here again, they are building to house a rapidly growing congregation. A year ago the membership of the church was 500 it is now 1800 and they are gaining about 50 members each month. The new church building will hold 2,000 people but they are looking to increase their membership to 5000 in 5 years. 

Building the new ruaraka Methodist Church

There are 2 presbyters and an evangelist working here and they are reaching out to the estates for commuters that surround the church. I met Ken, the evangelist and asked him, ‘How do you do it?’ He told me that a key factor was that whenever a new person came to the church they were followed up and no-one was left to feel that the church didn’t care. This takes hard work and good organization. Each person is asked to give contact details and because these are mostly employed professional people they can be contacted by email or text easily. They have also set up home cell groups although they now need to divide these and have faced some resistance. In order to overcome the resistance the smaller cells will still have the name of the parent cell and so relate to one another, it seems to be working well.

Ken and I outside Ruaraka Methodist Church

 Our final visit was to Kariokor Methodist Church where Revd Paul is the pastor. This is another strong and growing church, well established and with a faithful and committed membership.

Then we went to the Nairobi animal orphan sanctuary. A great place where animals that are orphaned in the National Park are brought and cared for. An enthusiastic and committed volunteer showed us around. For him this is his hobby – he has no time for football! Instead he kisses lions!

How much more glory could there be in one day?

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