Time flies, no matter what you are doing. I cannot believe that I am have come to the end of my time in Kenya. As a trip, it has been inspiring, frustrating, challenging, hard, wonderful, depressing and joyful. For all that I have experienced I am thankful to God; From the people I have interacted with and most of all how the Spirit has been working in me and around me. After a wonderful few days in Nairobi, it was time for part two of my placement. In a town called Kitengela, a short drive from the city centre in terms of distance yet a journey that could stretch close to two hours with traffic. If I was to describe the town in one phrase, I would say something like ‘nothing I have ever experienced before in Africa.’ As a town it did not even exist 20 years ago, through the growth of the economy and the developing of a middle class; Kitengela was born. Born as a commuter town and one with obvious wealth and poverty. There are several substantial housing developments with rows of two-story houses and private security to guard them that sit on the edges of the town. There are new buildings, shops, supermarkets and hotels going up where ever your eyes fall. Most of all there is traffic, the town centre is a nightmare to try and commute through because of the buzz around it. It’s a town that has boomed because it is close to Nairobi and the airport and one that is slowly taking over more and more green fields. Simply, it is an amazing mission field.
Part two started on Sunday 23rd of May 2016, as my time in Nairobi drew to an end I was both excited and nervous about the next few days. The reason so little had been revealed to me in terms of plans. I love surprise’s but I am not great a lack of detail, a lesson learned here in Kenya over the few weeks has been flexibility and learning to adjust to the moment, simply put: Faith that God’s planning is greater that our own. On Sunday morning, I woke from a worthy slumber around 5am finding my head filled with thoughts of what would the day hold in store, and come to the end of the day where would I be falling asleep. I got ready and brought my bags down around half six not expecting any breakfast or company, the ACK guesthouse had a breakfast ready and I was able to enjoy the company of an American, Pastor Ron; before Peterson a good friend from being in Kenya last year as we transited to Tanzania arrived and packed my bags into his car. The one major difference between travelling in Nairobi on a Sunday to any other day; traffic, the roads are empty compared to every other hour of the week.
We arrived at the Holy Trinity Church around 8.20am, where I was to sit in on a service that celebrated the end of the mission week. The service would allow me to experience an informal Kenyan Anglican service. I knew the name of who I was looking for but not the face, so I jumped out of the car and went in search of someone in a dog-collar. I found Rev. Amos the youth pastor who invited me and Peterson for breakfast with the mission Team, I had eaten a full fry – but when you are offered food in Kenya you eat something out of respect, thankfully I managed to eat a couple of buns and drink some very sweet tea. Soon, Peterson was on his way back home and I was in Joseph the Vicars office chatting about the service and what I would be doing during the week. Because it was a special Sunday both the English service and Swahili service where combined, come 9 o’clock when the church was meant to start the building was empty by 9.30 the Kenya start time it was packed and they were having to put seats at the end of the pews and move all the children to sit on the mini chairs at the front. It was a beautiful sight, to see a church full of people, energy and anticipation for the service of worship to a wonderful God. If I was going to describe the service in one word, I would use ‘extended’. I was not out of the building again until around 1.30pm. The service was long because it had so much packed into it; Guest Worship teams with a few loud and vibrant sets, an extended time of intercessory prayer, a guest speaker who preached a wonderful sermon that was translated into Swahili from English as he went along and a Guest soloist singing her own songs. It was a long but wonderful expression of Christianity in a local context.
Once finished in church, the moment that had been lingering in my mind came into reality and we headed off into town to discover the place I would be staying. The first place we reviewed was in the centre of town, I am a light sleeper in the quietest of places and in an African town that does not sleep I did not fancy lying awake in the middle of it. I had Monday off and spend the day waiting in the new hotel to get stuck into work on Tuesday morning. Once Tuesday arrived, I was eager to get stuck in so left the church early, walked down from the hotel to the Church and meet up with Rev Joseph. A lovely and Godly man who has just arrived in a new parish with a vision to build Gods kingdom. We visited two houses that could not have been any different on the outside, but identical on the inside; they both felt like homes. The first house was literally a tin house, the occupant was a lone mother who worked out a living with an entrepreneurial spirit and a deep trust in God, her hospitality was wonderful and she even cooked us some fresh food to feast upon, we sung together, prayed together and then Rev Joseph shared a short message to encourage her. Soon we were walking to the next house, with our new friend accompanying us to show us the way and to partake in the next visit. One thing that blew me away as we walked to the next house was the development of Kitengela, House after house that stood like a castle when compared to what I had grown used to. Houses that would not look out of place in the UK and new foundations being laid everywhere. Eventually, we arrived at our next stop which was the opposite of the previous house, a beautiful two story house. While the buildings were different on the outside, the love of Christ and a spirit of welcome was equally present in both. The pattern was the exact same, except this time I was sharing the message of encouragement.
On Tuesday, I was paired with Rev Joyce and I knew straight away we would have plenty of banter. She is a godly person with a passion for the church and more so church planting and an energy that was infectious. Together we spent the morning visiting two elderly couples in the more remote regions of the Parish, it was a privilege to be invited into homes, then to share in fellowship with people of different cultures, who have different styles and yet it is the same God who inspires their worship. I was excited to move out of the town and to experience a more rural ministry. The church Joyce cares for is called ‘St James’ and attracts between 20-40 people. The difference between it and its mother church (Holy Trinity) is that Holy Trinity does not have enough parking – it’s full of 4×4’s and every single member of St James walks to Church. The most infectious thing about Joyce was her vision not just for St James but the fields surrounding it. The fields according to Joyce would soon become alive with people as the town expands and new houses, shops and roads were built. Her passion was to put the structures in place even before there were people so that when they come the mission was already moving. The rest of the week was taken up with Diocesan Synod where again I was blessed to take part, Church government is a necessary evil sometimes the world would seem better if we did not have to take days to make decisions and devote time and resources to committee and canon law if we were simply able to focus being the church. The reality is that it would be impossible to both preach the Gospel and perform social Ministries if the structures of the institution did not exist. I was privileged to watch a synod conducted in a Christ-like way, beginning and ending with worship. It felt like an extended church service.
The last few days had have seen my mind drift towards the next chapter, you begin to prepare yourself for moving back into routine and thinking of what needs to be done, the amount of post that will have amassed (there was none) and things that will need dealt with the minute you touch down on your home soil (nothing). Still, I found plenty of things to enjoy. On Saturday, I joined the Provost of the Cathedral at the Sunday School sports day and when he came down in his t-shirt I knew I could dress informally as well which was a nice change. It was magnificent to arrive and see perhaps 300 kids of different ages from across the town coming together to play different games, the youngest playing a version of Duck-Duck-Goose to the oldest playing football. Unfortunately, it was all cut short by a storm which forced us to withdraw into the safety of the local church. The leaders did a wonderful job of keeping the children entertained through song and even a sort of talent show, with different sketches performed.
On Sunday, I joined Rev Joyce again at St James – it had not stopped raining since the downpour started on Saturday. Thankfully we had the use of a 4×4 and slowly made our way up the ‘road’ parking a short trek from the church which meant trenching through the mud until we got to the building. Because of the weather we had arrived nearly an hour after the official start to a crowd of four people sitting waiting for the service. After coming out of the side-room maybe twenty minutes later the attendance had jumped to around 25 which was wonderful to see with the noise of the truck seemingly having the same effect as a church bell. Everyone had walked to church, and in the pouring rain, they showed a real commitment – a commitment often lacking in the UK. To them, church was a privilege and not a chore. It was a wonderfully simple service, with praise and liturgy all in Swahili I preached from Luke 7 on the women who cleaned the feet of Jesus and before I knew it my last service of this trip was over. That afternoon I spent relaxing with Joyce and her family before heading back to my accommodation to get some well-needed rest.
The week has flown in, as I sit typing this I have one night left and I am thankful to God for all the people that I have met and all the experiences I have had. But, I am looking forward to getting home and getting on with life and starting to apply all the wonderful thing I have learned. Last week God reminded me that he is sovereign in the most frustrating of situations and will always work it out to his purpose and our benefit even when we don’t believe it. It was also a blessing to explore on my last day and be able to see people and some animals as well as visiting a project that the church was involved with.