Kenyan Visit to Mathia & BondoNovember 20, 2013
During our stay in Mathia we were hosted by John Njeru Karuoya and his wife Esther. John is the Senior Elder and Chairperson of Mathia Church and he stayed with us during his visit to Maxwelltown West in August last year. They and their lovely granddaughter, Gabrielle – Gabby, made us feel at home and during the next few days we had long conversations with John and his colleagues relating to the traditions, culture and religion of his country. Mathia is one of twelve churches in the Parish of Kiangai, part of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) and its sole minister; Rev Erastus Mbaka Beta has considerable responsibility. We visited the manse and took the opportunity to present him with a Laptop provided by the Scottish Water Board who actively support Water Aid and other projects like our own. Unfortunately, Rev Erastus was unable to be present in Church on the Sunday but he was extremely pleased with this demonstration of support which will assist him in the administration of the Parish.
There are five elders in Mathia congregation, each being assisted by four/five deacons and they are expected to keep close contact with the folk in their district assisting family life where possible. They have responsibility to supervise services and members of the congregation are invited to participate. John’s wife Esther convened the service we attended and another member of the congregation provided the Address. The hymns included Amazing Grace, When we Walk with God sung to Cwm Rhondda, Make Me a Channel of your Peace and What a Friend we have in Jesus sung by the ladies of the Guild with one lady – Harriet – being over 100 years of age.
The atmosphere in the church was of people living and proclaiming their faith, and singing with enthusiasm. When the Guild finished their hymn ‘Young’ Harriet let forth in Swahili and while we did not understand the rough translation was to let the Bible be their guide. During the service we again presented the Laptop to the congregation and we brought greetings from Max West and thanked them for being asked to join in their service. On a different occasion we also handed over several King James Bibles and three CDs of same.
The ministers in the PCEA are moved around every five years with Rev Erastus having completed just over three years in his current post. With his encouragement the dozen members of the Boys Brigade that we saw four years ago has increased to a Boys/Girls Brigade of sixty all in smart blue uniform and wearing hats! There are eighty children in the Sunday School and thirty in the Youth Club.
There are a number of committees and organisations including Deacons, Woman’s Guild, Youth Fellowship, Church School, Education, Boys/Girls Brigade, Evangelism, Health, Development, Justice/Peace/Reconciliation, Men’s Fellowship and an Intercession Group. The small church that was used four years ago has disappeared and the larger new church is now almost completed having been started prior to our last visit. They have curtains from floor to ceiling in the curved Chancel Area, with the Communion Table and two Lecterns on a slightly raised section – altogether something they can be proud of – and something created without the support of their Presbytery.
Education has a high priority in Kenya with many new universities constructed in the last twenty years and accordingly a number of young members of Mathia go on to further education and they are pleased and proud that Max West has assisted over thirty of them to be able to attend university.
When we asked how we could continue to support them their answer was
a) help with the students
b) provide cement
c) provide sand
to enable them to complete the gable end of the Church.
We left an enthusiastic, forward-looking Church, who value our contribution and who perhaps could be an inspiration for our own church.
Psalm 147 :1 Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him.
Winnie Owuor visited Maxwelltown West Church in August 2006 where, over tea after the service, she related the problems being experienced in her community in Kenya.
We visited her in 2007, learned about the problems in detail and submitted a report to the Session who decided to start a project to help her.
She is still supporting approximately 250 orphans in three of the four adobe built Nursery Schools constructed before our involvement, taking in children between the ages of three – five years. Over the past five years the World Church Team (WCT) has supplied reed mats for the floors of the schools, books, shoes and toys and has supplied funding to build toilets at three of the schools. Three dozen of our congregation have faithfully provided £250 per month to assist in a feeding programme for the children.
From a suggestion and finance from the WCT a few years ago, she initiated a fund to provide interested parties with a loan to set up their own businesses. This has been a successful venture and from the proceeds and revenue from selling water from the first Well (£0.02 for every five gallons of water) she is able to proceed with her vision which is to:
a) provide education to the orphans
b) sustain a supply of food
c) improve the lives of the community.
When we visited Winnie four years ago, we worshipped in an adobe-built church that they had constructed a few miles from her home and we also saw the first stage of a brick build church. With assistance from Max West and income from her Business Enterprises this has now been completed along with an extension, which has enabled Winnie to start another school using the Church and extension to provide an educational facility for an additional 250 children. She has three nursery classes and two primary and five teachers, only one of whom is fully trained. Nursery education is not provided by the State so it is a considerable disadvantage to a child if they start primary education without the benefits of a few years at nursery.
During our tour of the school entertainment by some of the children included a song:
‘The sun is there out in the sky
When I wake up in the morning
I wash my face and brush my hair
I put on my uniform, I take my bag
I run to school.
Winnie told us that there is no mention of breakfast as this is not part of the routine, so every lunchtime she provides all the children with a cup of porridge and a doughnut.
Also in the quadrangle (field!) are two toilets and the second Well financed by Max West and part of the old church is now used as a classroom.
With advice from the Ministry of Education Winnie and her colleagues in the Usenge Development Initiative (the charity set up six years ago by Winnie) intend to teach children up to primary 6. This will entail additional classrooms and to this end they intend to use land adjacent to Lake Victoria to grow kale and sell 100 kgs per week to a local Secondary School. Our WCT has undertaken to provide the finance to purchase the necessary equipment – a water pump, tank and pipes. In addition, the installing of fish cages in the lake is well under way and this will allow them to sell fish to the community and gain more income.
Winnie has included in the curriculum a period of Christian Education per week. The community at large is so entrenched with local and traditional customs that she feels it is better and easier to introduce this to the children who can absorb this along with their other subjects. At weekends the Church reverts to a Church! the services conducted by Michael, her deputy and a devout Christian. Every Sunday evening there is a Bible Class at Winnie’s home attended by about six of her colleagues.
As with Mathia, when asked how we can continue to support her endeavours Winnie told us she requires
a) kale seed
b) fish and fish food
c) books in English (Christian and otherwise) to form a library
The WCT feels that Winnie and her colleagues have achieved a great deal and that we should encourage them in whatever way we can.
Luke 18:16 Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
The Town Band is providing a concert in Maxwelltown West Church for our Kenyan Projects on Sunday afternoon of 8 December 2013 at 2.30 pm.
No tickets required but there will be a retiring collection. I & R Slack