Online Church Services in Kenyan College

By Covid-19, Kenya

Revd Abraham Koech is Chaplain at Koitaleel Somoei University College in Kenya. He tells us how APF inspired him to set up online services during Kenya’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Koitaleel Smoei University College (KSUC) is part of the University of Nairobi. KSUC has two campuses, one at Mosoriot and another under construction at Nandi Hills, Kenya. The main courses offered include Education, Commerce and Business Administration among others. We currently have over 300 students and believe the student population will keep on going up every year. Hopefully we will soon receive a charter from the Kenyan government meaning the college can run its programs independently.

“I have been the chaplain at KSUC since December 2019 and I enjoy serving the Lord here. My contract has been renewed and the work designation has changed slightly to Lecturer/Chaplain. It is my prayer that through my ministry here many will come to the saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“I would like to thank APF so much for inspiring me to begin online church services at KSUC. The inspiration came from an APF online gathering in July 2020 which I attended. We had a wonderful time of fellowship and prayers with other APF partners from across Africa through Zoom. I had never taken seriously the importance of online meetings before. After the meeting I said, “Why should we not begin online Church services at the university using Zoom? If we can have a meeting online, why not Church online.” Our students and staff had been at home since March, due to the pandemic so reaching them with God’s word online became crucial. I shared the idea with a number of people at the university and they supported it. We began the services without delay.

“The university IT officers were willing to help me with facilitating the online services and helped students and staff get a web link and login to the services in good time. Many students would join the services online along with most of their parents and siblings from different parts of the country and everyone actively participated. The university staff also joined the services.

“The link to join the services was sent through the students and staff WhatsApp groups. The services always lasted one hour every Sunday and included praise and worship, prayer, hymns, testimonies, encouragements, scripture readings, a sermon, and an offering. God gave me the grace to preach in these services.

“I am so grateful to God for APF as without the inspiration from the APF Zoom meetings I wouldn’t have started Sunday services at KSUC. I am also so thankful to the university for supporting this ministry.

“I believe that online platforms have a great role in expanding God’s kingdom in Africa and in the wider world now and in the future. I pray that pastors will seize the opportunity and start spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this way. In Africa today, a big number of people have mobile phones with access to the internet. Reaching them online has become easy. Through the internet a local church pastor is connected not only to his local area but to the entire world. Let’s take up this challenge today in obedience to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Mathew 28:19-20).”

Please pray

Give thanks for the African partners who have been able to network together online during 2020.

Pray for new initiatives that have arisen from online gatherings including Lawson’s farming project in Zambia, the partnership with Eaglelite Associates in Uganda and Abraham’s online church ministry in Kenya.

Please pray for those African partners who have not been able to use Zoom, asking that they continue to ‘feel’ connected and be supported.

As face to face contact restarts and APF personnel return to Africa in 2021, pray especially for Dave Stedman as he prepares to visit Kenya and Uganda in January and February.

Lockdown, locust and landslide in Kenya

By Covid-19, Kenya

Western Kenya has faced a triple-hit in recent months. Besides the significant impacts of the lockdown on jobs, incomes and livelihoods, the area has been badly affected by locust swarms and landslides. Revd Shadrack Koma from the AIC North Rift Convention in Western Kenya shares his thoughts on the situation.

“In such time of suffering and adversity it is futile to imagine there is no God. Even in the darkest times God is present with us. There is no time when God is absent. According to Job 36, he is in control of the entire universe. He knows the weather patterns and what is happening in the world. Nothing happens without him knowing. God sometimes allows such events like the lockdown, locusts and the landslides to take place to demonstrate his sovereignty but amidst such events, God remains the creator and the sustainer of the universe. God is everywhere, even in the lockdown, locusts and landslides.

In this time, I see that God is teaching humanity about humility. He is preparing us for a greater blessing to come but for now, we have to endure this. God is teaching the church that there is value in suffering. Through suffering the church is strengthened. It is a wakeup call that adorns the church with the garment of glory (Romans 8:18). Suffering prepares the church for mission. It is important to note that God does allow suffering, pain and even death if they best serve his purposes but the suffering is for a short time. The pain that has been caused by the lockdown, locusts and landslides is for a short time compared to God’s eternity.

“This time of lockdown, locust and landslides can be our greatest motivation for spiritual growth or a deadly means of discouragement. The difference depends on our understanding of God’s purpose for allowing it to happen. We must remember that God is with us through these events. He is teaching humanity about humility. What God teaching the church now will help us serve him more diligently in the world as the threat of Covid-19 passes.”

eVitabu Expansion in Western Kenya

By eVitabu, Kenya

Daniel Odour Gwara coordinates Renewal Ministries, an ecumenical gathering of Christian leaders in western Kenya. Daniel attended the first eVitabu stakeholders conference and in 2018 became one of the pilot users. Since then, Daniel has become one of the most influential and strategic eVitabu trainers in Kenya.

Armed with eVitabu and an annual APF grant for travel and training, Daniel serves 18 teaching hubs for pastors and lay leaders around his region. We estimate his teaching ministry reaches at least 2,000 church and community leaders. Daniel told us:

“People in western Kenya are now happy because they can learn the word of God through eVitabu which is helping them to understand and apply the Bible well and illustrate it. Many pastors now come looking for me, requesting that I go to their churches to teach using eVitabu materials. In Kisumu, I have a group of widows that I train every month. Most recently we have been learning about prayer using the Prayer of Jabez and the Lord’s Prayer.

“We now have pastors who can prepare better sermons with good interpretation. Their church members are telling them that they have changed. I witnessed this one day when I was traveling. One pastor told me how people are happily receiving Christian teaching and are learning new things that deepen their understanding and maturity.

“The groups I serve vary from semi-literate marginalised groups, some of whom believe polygamy is a prerequisite of Christian leadership, to government officials.

“Good leadership training is wanted across all sectors. For example, a nursing officer asked for more information after listening to one of my community health training sessions prepared using resources from eVitabu. At another workshop, we used eVitabu to learn about God, the environment and farming. A government officer invited me to return this year and deliver further training sessions on this.

“I am so grateful to APF for eVitabu and the annual training grant which enables me to continue this important ministry.”

Please pray

Giving thanks for Daniel as he travels to meet, encourage and train diverse communities throughout western Kenya.

For Daniel’s predecessor, Edward Amwayi, who graciously handed over responsibility and resource to Daniel after being appointed to lead another denomination in Kenya.

For the pastors and leaders who gather for training to benefit richly from what is being shared.

For funding to be found to enable more Trainers of Trainers grants to be shared with African leaders like Daniel.

Getting the Hump in Kenya

By Kenya

Rev Shadrack Koma is an APF partner serving in the Kenyan Africa Inland Church (AIC). He lives in Kapsabet, in west Kenya, with his wife and children. He told us about some of the challenges facing rural pastors in Amaya, Baringo County, a tribal area to the east of Kapsabet, and how he hopes to support them.

Dear friends and supporters of APF. I am so grateful for your tireless sacrifice to African pastors. I personally thank you for your assistance when I was doing my master’s degree in theology. I am so grateful for APF.

My big concern now is for pastors in Amaya. The pastors depend on their cattle since they are from a pastoralist community. In the last two years, however, they have been affected by the worst droughts which have killed most of their livestock. The pastors suffer in abject poverty. Women and children form the bigger part of their congregations and their small contributions cannot sustain the churches.

As the climate is changing and drought is now normal, we need to change our way of life. Cattle cannot continue here because of drought and overgrazing has made it so the land cannot sustain them anymore. Instead, I am leading pastors towards camels to take the place of cows. A pastor can support themselves, their family and their ministry through camel rearing. The camel is the only animal that can survive in this increasingly hostile environment.

Camels cost about 50,000 Kenyan shillings (about £390) each. This is a lot of money for anyone but there is a great demand for camel milk in local markets because it is highly nutritious. A camel produces over six litres per day and one litre goes for around 90 shillings. With a camel, the pastor will be free to put their ministry first and the rest will follow. Having trained in skills of how to teach, outreach and basic theology they will impact the community in amazing ways.

Building on a cultural tradition, where the eldest child receives a heifer and is expected to gift calves to each younger sibling until all are provided for, the firstborn calf from each pair of camels will be given away to another pastor. In this way, the project grows itself and becomes self-sustaining.

It is my sincere request that friends can help me to boost this mission in this marginalised and arid area so pastors are not suffering anymore, and the rural churches can grow.

In an attempt to adapt to longer and less predictable droughts caused by climate change, a growing number of Kenyans are keeping camels. There are now around three million camels in Kenya, three times as many as ten years ago. 

In cafés in downtown Nairobi, camel milk is catching on. It has a longer shelf life than cow’s milk and contains far more Vitamin C. It is rich in iron, unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins. In Kenya there is talk of a ‘camel rush’, as demand outstrips supply.

Please pray

For Revd Shadrack Koma overseeing multiple congregations and pastoral formation in the AIC North Rift Association.

For church planters in Amaya seeking to share the gospel and bring Pokot and Ilchamus communities together.

For funding to be found to enable APF to sponsor the camel project and enable four pairs to be bought. This will cost £4,000.

For communities in increasingly arid parts of Africa struggling to adapt to increased drought.

A ‘win, win, win’ partnership model

By Kenya

An exciting new three-way partnership is being established between St Barbara’s Church, Earlsdon in Coventry Diocese, APF and St Paul’s Theological College in Kapsabet, Kenya.

After visiting St Paul’s, members of St Barbara’s Church were impressed by the dedication of staff and students at the college and decided they wanted to make regular donations to help the college develop its vision, improve its infrastructure and make theological education more accessible in West Kenya.

Rather than sending money directly to St Paul’s, however, the St Barbara’s approached APF to help manage international transfers and monitor how the additional funding would be used. College staff were delighted to receive the first amount of funding in November 2019, retain a direct friendship with St Barbara’s Church and know APF are there to support the relationship.

The college has already earmarked some of the support from St Barabara’s for desperately needed improvements to the college library and a small computer suite which will give students access to online resources. The college already has two eVitabu tablets.

APF made a short visit to Kenya in October and meet with the college’s principle, Rev Elizabeth Cheruiyot. Elizabeth has a remarkable testimony. In an environment often hostile to women in Christian leadership she overcame many obstacles to pursue her call to ministry. She is also an incredibly busy woman, serving the college, local church, diocese and national synod in various capacities.

With travel to and within Africa becoming easier, more and more UK churches are developing their own links with churches and projects in low- and middle-income countries. The three-way partnership being modelled between St Barbara’s, APF and St Paul’s seems a good and sensible one. St Barbara’s can have confidence that with APF’s access, experience and expertise their generous donations will be well used.

It is a win-win-win opportunity for all parties!

Please pray

That the three-way partnership with St Barbara’s Church, APF and St Paul’s Theological College should lead to significant and much needed improvements to the college.

For Rev Elizabeth Cheriyokot as she oversees administration, academics and infrastructure developments at the college.

For other theological colleges and Bible schools with which APF has close ties including Atirir Bible School, Uganda (Baptist); Kapsabet Bible College, Kenya (AIC) and Wisdom Bible School, Rwanda (Free Methodist).

For students currently receiving academic scholarships to study for degrees including Tom Opiyo, Simon Laboso and Victor Turikumwe.