East Africa Trip Report (February-March 2017)

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By Laura Walta, Global Mission Project Director

Trip Purpose and Summary

Believing in the value of face to face conversations with our mission partners, I planned a trip to East Africa, where I hoped to spend time with eight partners. My purpose was simple: The Lord called me to learn more about what they are doing, where He is leading them, and how the congregations of the Diocese of Massachusetts might form deeper relationships with churches in their Diocese as they accompany one another on God's mission journey. My respect for them and their respective ministries is enormous. I wanted very much to involve each of them in this effort.

It had been three years since my last visit, and I had invitations from two new potential partners that I wanted to assess.  I wrote to each partner in advance, explaining that I planned to be in the area, the purpose of my trip, and asking if they would like me to spend some time with them.  All replied affirmatively, resulting in a five week, five country journey that fed all involved.  We traveled, we talked, we each shared and learned.  It was a trip of mutual discovery, inspired by the Holy Spirit, as we discovered God’s gifts and began to imagine new approaches and opportunities in each community.

The following is a brief outline of my trip, including each of the communities I visited.  My hosts were incredibly generous with their time and attention, sharing history, explaining context, and accompanying me on my journey.  Daily, I met Christ in them and the people around me, in their radical hospitality and loving care for me as a visitor.  For me, “seeking and serving” is learning and sharing a Christian direction and purpose.  For 35 days, that is exactly what happened, as I was blessed with the opportunity to live fully into my Baptismal Covenant with the peoples of East Africa.

Nairobi- host: Kenneth Chomba, Executive Director of Tatua

This was my second visit to Kenya, but my first time outside of Nairobi.  Kenneth Chomba and I have become good friends over the past three years, working together on a couple of projects, and he was a speaker at the 2016 Diomass Global Mission Summit.  While Nairobi appears to be a well developed city, complete with huge traffic jams, those residing outside of the center live in impoverished conditions, lacking access to food security, medical care, and traveling long distances to attend government schools.

Diocese of Kajiado, Bishop Gaddiel Lenini

This diocese is low church with missionary beginnings, when the East Africa Bible Fellowship came from Rwanda to Kenya.  In the Kenyan Anglican Church, diocese are autonomous, and do not receive support from the national church.  There is a new Archbishop, recently visited by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Diocese is working diligently to become self-sufficient, undertaking the construction of office buildings and malls to provide a source of income to the diocese. The building in which the Diocesan Office resides is fully occupied with NGOs and local/regional government offices.  The Diocese has applied for the Trinity Grant through the Episcopal Church for sustainable projects in Kenya, with which it hopes to build a shopping mall.

There are currently 238 congregations (of from 50 to 2000 people each), in 52 parishes (double that of 20 years ago).  Only 90 priests serve all of these churches- only two have the time to be bi-vocational, and pastoral care is limited to members. 

Ministry:              

  • The diocese runs a hospital (really just a clinic) that serves the entire region                               
  • There is a Diocesan secondary school
  • The Diocese tries to remain relevant to people, recognizing paradigm shifts in a culture it needs to both understand and tackle head on. 

Challenges:         

  • Poor churches provide no real funding to the diocesan offices, barely able to support their own priests. 
  • Support of the church by the younger generation is not as strong as it used to be

Opportunities:

  • Bishop desires pre-ordination experiences in other parts of the world for all priests
  • The Diocese is refreshing its mission strategy to go where the people are.  Churches are strongly challenged to expand.  The area is mapped to identify gaps where churches are then planted. 
  • Youth pastors and Sunday school pastors are being developed to engage the younger generation
  • The Bishop is trying to develop a purpose driven church with a ministry of sustainability

Requests:   Prayer

 

Tatua Kenya, Nairobi, Kenneth Chomba, Executive Director

Kenneth’s organization, Tatua Kenya, trains “fellows” in the process of 1) Campaign Visualization, Fundraising, 2) Awareness through Community Listening, 3) Organizing through Community Engagement and Leadership Development, 4) Campaign SetUp, Community Organizing and Mobilization around an issue, and then Project Management of the locally derived campaign solution.  Fellows return to their village, city, or town to implement, with ongoing support from Tatua staff.  A final phase of Reflection and Evaluation prepares for future initiatives.

Ministries:            

  • Kibagare slum- outside the gates of a wealthy development, the residents of Kibgare live in temporary housing of corrugated metal and scrap wood.  Children are handed a death sentence just by virtue of being born here.  A spontaneous development in the 1960’s, with no infrastructure whatsoever, and 120,000 residents in the confines of under 2 square kilometers, the slum is notorious for crime- the rich suburban gates close at 7.  The two government schools at each end of the suburb, and the Catholic school across the street (with fees of 1200 K shillings) are all filled to capacity.  Originally created as a daycare in 2010 for the children of day workers in a small room, they grew to 50 children in 2012.  In 2014 they moved into a new shelter built to serve 50, but 130 showed up.  In 2016 they found temporary space of four rooms intended to serve 120 local children ages 2-9 who have nowhere else to go and 150 showed up on the first day.  With virtually no materials, teachers instruct in all primary school subjects.  Parents afford the 410 Kshillings/month, but then have trouble feeding their children.  Those in the oldest class have nowhere to go come August when the school year begins.  Entre to the rich neighborhood (employing many slum residents) is hoped to lead to organizing and fundraising to support education.  Need a building and materials- operations and salaries are covered by fees.
  • Limuru and Menengi tea estates (Maramba housing)- Workers on the tea estates live in two room apartments” in long concrete rows of 120 total housing units at the rear of the estate.  Intended for workers, it is also the home of their extended families, creating a very densely populated group of people.  There are roughly 150 children, 20 in secondary school, 70 in primary school, and 60 in nursery school, who walk long distances to local schools.  The government pays for school through the 8th grade.  Without options after year 8, girls become vulnerable to men living but not working on the estate.  Nyariara, a Tatua fellow, and Nancy, now a college educated social worker who grew up in the worker community, are concerned about the lack of productive activity for teenage girls.  From different tribes and languages, organizing this group could prove difficult.  All Saints Church in Kamundi provides mentorship, faith practice, sex education, life skills training, and child protection for children being drawn into sexual activity with older men.  Now beginning a listening phase to identify perceived issues.  What factors motivate or demotivate bahaviors?  Are these setting or institutional factors?
  • Athi River- The community at Athi River is a mixed between new, individual homes and older, multi-family buildings erected by squatters- day workers at local construction sites who do not own their property.  There are no water, electricity or roads.  Observing the poor speaking and reading skills of residents, and looking for educational opportunities for kids in the community, Winnie started a library called Tu Elimike or “Let’s Get Educated” through which she reads aloud to young children, provides a homework center, and loans a small selection of books to residents.  The closest school is 7 km away, and many of the younger children simply do not attend.  Winnie is challenged by the question, can you organize a community if there is no sense of community?  (Note- I have received a donation of a large box (75 books) of multi-level reading materials from my Public Library, but lack the funds to send it to Nairobi.)
  • Nairobi- Missionary Beatrice has formed Children at Risk Ministry for children, identifying the most vulnerable (mostly orphans) on the streets of Nairobi and connecting them with mentors and sponsoring churches.  She is looking for a close partner- a church, organization or individuals that would be willing to adopt her or her project as a missionary and register it as a non-profit (501c3). As a local missionary without a salary, she struggles.  She operate from the SIM Kenya offices and they have graciously hosted her for the last fifteen years. She only pays for office bills and not space. In her own words, Beatrice asks: “As you pray please pray for God to come through for me in the following areas: 1) Monthly house rent, water and electricity bills, monthly office bills, food, medical, university education for my children, self development etc; 2) With a seed capital of about $2000 I can start an income generating activity that can sustain me and enable me meet my personal monthly bills. This would enable me more time to concentrate on the ministry coordination, consultation, research and ongoing activities.”

Challenges:

  • Tatua needs funding for staff- currently working for nothing
  • How to make this amazing work into a viable business model
  • How to partner congregations with specific community efforts


Opportunities:

  • Take method further through Kenya though other churches or govt. connections
  • Take method outside of Kenya into the larger Anglican Church- UK connections?
  • Create materials for a US market for community organizing around issues of social justice?
  • Further document and copyright instructional process, training trainers to take abroad
  • YASC volunteers paired with fellows
  • Create pilgrimage opportunity with history and living church ministry

Requests:

  • Prayer and Partnership
  • Spiritual and Financial support

 

St. Peter’s Anglican Church, Diocese of Mt. Kenya South, Ndumberi, Rev. Anthony and  Rev Joseph, 9 members of the Mother’s Union incl. Chair, Nancy

The St. Peter’s grounds include an elementary school, a high school now funded by the government, an office building, two rental houses, an enormous garden, and three school busses.  Two services serve 500 each in a Kikuyu and English respectively, with 400 children attending Sunday School weekly.  I met with 9 members of the Mother’s Union, along with 7 parents, and two former students.

Ministries:

  • The Mother’s Union addresses the needs of women and girls in the congregation and cares for the sick and desperate, the elderly and the most vulnerable in the parish. A Kenyan Anglican Men’s Association addresses the needs of boys.
  • Scholarships- A grant from the Diocese of Massachusetts has been used by the mother’s Union to send the children of the most needs families in the area to government high school and college (vocational school), regardless of faith tradition.  Scholarships pay school fees only.  The Mother’s stay in touch with parents and get regular reports from the schools enrolling the students.  Poor grades result in counseling.  The relationship with parents has added to the reputation of St. Peter’s in the community.
  • Youth- The church also has a very active program of Sunday School, Youth, Teen groups involved in choirs, dancing, and bands, and a Boys and Girls Brigade (scouting) program.  Participants are trained to be teachers of the younger, to visit orphans, to live out their Baptismal Covenant, and to own the church. 
  • Confirmation occurs at 12 years old, with 60 children and 25 adults confirmed each year.       
  • An Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) program involves parishioners in donating food offerings which the OVC members bring to the children during home visits.  Children are also supported with school fees and materials.

Challenges:         

  • Family, health, and life issues make attendance and keeping up grades difficult.
  • Many participants are not really university bound, needing vocational college training to become independent.
  • Many parents are widows and widowers with multiple, often disabled, children to support.  All have experienced deep trauma.

Opportunities:

  • Connect St. Peter’s Mother’s Union with KCHEF in Uganda, where scholarship recipients and guardians have formed an association to engage the larger community in supporting the education of its most vulnerable.

Requests:

  • Prayer and partnership
  • Continued scholarship funding
  • Would Amy’s new church become a partner congregation?
  • Thanks, love, and appreciation from all for the decision to use the funds for scholarships