Donell Peck and I (Carrie Miles) traveled to Kenya in January to conduct two New Man, New Woman, New Life seminars for St. Paul’s University and for another university. We had conducted executive sessions at both of these universities in 2015, which received us with a lot of enthusiasm. The original plans were for us to go to Uganda afterwards to work with the Kigezi Diocese of the Anglican Church. That program, however, was postponed by the bishop, who was concerned about disruptions that might be caused by the upcoming Ugandan presidential elections.
We were delighted to be greeted at the airport by Empower’s African Program Director, Bishop Frank Michael Tweheyo, before we even got through passport control. Frank’s flight from Uganda had arrived at about the same time as ours. We also met Empower Orange advisory team member Susan Njemanze, whose flight came in an hour before. We all went together to a hotel in Nairobi for the night.
St. Paul’s University: The next day, Donell, Frank, and Carrie traveled to St. Paul’s University, in Limuru, a lovely town about 40 minutes away, for a meeting with our host, Dr. Zablon Bundi. Dr. Bundi is the director of the Soteria Center at St. Paul’s. Frank and Wayne Pelly met him in 2014 at a conference sponsored by Ekklesia in Bondo, Kenya. Frank, Carrie, and Stephen Olang conducted an executive overview of New Man, New Woman at the center in 2015. Dr. Bundi had invited an interdenominational group of church leaders to attend the seminar, which we began the next day.
This was an exciting group of people with whom to work. They were articulate, engaged, and bringing a lot of interesting experience and questions. We thoroughly enjoyed our three days with them. Current plans for this group: Frank Tweheyo will return in June of this year, Bishop of Nairobi willing, to conduct a one-day executive overview with a group of Anglican clergy organized by Rev. Jackmoris Wachira. Rev. Jackmoris came to the seminar expecting women’s empowerment, but he was even more interested in how our biblical material supports the family. He is eager to promote the program throughout the diocese.
Another group that expressed a lot of interest was represented by Nyabuto Marube from The Master’s Men. Frank is exploring further connection with them.
Frank and Dr. Bundi will also facilitate the seminar for another group of church leaders during this visit. Then Carrie and Frank will return in summer, 2017, to conduct a Master Class for both of these groups. While we are delighted with invitations to work with specific organizations and dioceses, Empower’s main method of operation is to offer thorough training to these outstanding leaders so that they can take the program to their own organizations. We are excited to be working with Dr. Bundi and St. Paul’s in part because of the solid and interdenominational network of church and academic leaders to which they have access.
Graceworks: After the program at St. Paul’s, Carrie, Donell, and Frank drove up to Rwika, a small town out of Embu, to visit Susan Njemanze’s Graceworks project. Graceworks offers support to the guardians, usually grandparents or other family members, of children whose parents had died. Many of the children whom Graceworks sponsors were away at boarding school, but we were fortunate to meet those who happened to be home and the nursery school students. They put on a terrific program for us with lots of singing and some talks. We were excited to be able to visit this wonderful program. Learn more about Graceworks at www.graceworkshopenet.org/
IJM: Empower has long partnered in Nairobi with Stephen Olang, the director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission in Kenya. See www.ijm.org for more information about this amazing organization. Stephen arranged for us to speak to the national office staff on Tuesday. We enjoyed meeting these bright and dedicated people, one of whom brought his wife and joined us at our next seminar.
While we were at IJM, a young woman sitting opposite Donell said, “I know you from somewhere.” She was JoAnn Klandrud, the granddaughter of one of Empower’s supporters, Barbara Bracy. Mrs. Bracy had told me her granddaughter was interning at IJM in Nairobi, but it went completely out of my head. JoAnn has visited Trinity United many times, so must have met Donell there, although they never figured out just when. Small world!
Scripture Mission Conference Center: We began our second seminar on Wednesday, Jan 27. Whenever something does not go as planned – as happened with this seminar – we are always surprised and pleased by what the Lord meant for us to do instead. In this case, the university for which we thought we would be doing the seminar is in a financial crisis, many of the faculty and staff had not been paid in months, and understandably, very few people from there could come. Fortunately, Frank and Stephen quickly called their contacts, and we soon had a very energetic group of participants. A few were from the original university group, a couple from IJM, and ten were from Teen Challenge. Several of their leaders had attended the one-day executive overview we did at St. Paul’s last year. Owiti Omollo, in particular, has been a strong advocate for an Empower/Teen Challenge partnership. Teen Challenge is a faith-based, international, residential drug treatment program, not, despite the name, targeted to teens. Our participants were leaders in the program and several senior students about to graduate from the treatment program.
We met at the Scripture Mission Conference Center, a lovely retreat compound in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi. We enjoyed our neighbors, who in turn enjoyed the trampoline.
I loved, loved, loved two participants, Rev. Mary Ohangah (from the Nairobi Anglican diocese and daughter of Festo Olang, the first archbishop of Kenya) and Rev. Grace Itegi (clergy woman and lecturer from Africa International University and niece of a Mau Mau fighter. Go here to read about Kenya’s fight for independence). I asked them about the belief that woman was cursed by God, and they told me that, culturally, before the missionaries came, women were subordinated by men but were not considered evil. The men “pounced” on the idea that women were cursed, however, having what Grace described as an “Ah ha!” experience. Go here to read about the devastating impact of the belief that woman was cursed by God after the Fall. We hope to work together with these two wonderful women in the future.
We traveled to Teen Challenge’s Nairobi facility on Saturday, where we gave a sermon. Omollo, a senior leader with Teen Challenge, has been a big Empower fan and believes our material will fit well with theirs. Donell is particularly interested in following up with them.
Our flight left Kenya late at night, so Donell and I had some time to visit a baby elephant orphanage. Baby elephants cannot survive without mother’s milk for the first three years. When an orphaned baby is found anywhere in Kenya, it is brought to this center, where it is fed and cared for, and when it is older, exposed to a family of wild elephants in small doses, until it is eventually accepted by them.
May we similarly all find our families in Christ, with whom we can live as God intended us!