Vol 1 No. 7 Kenya

If you have been following these letters this summer, you will know that I have
been traveling in Britain and have been in search of various resources for the
Baptist Union and attended the Baptist World Alliance in Birmingham.

On August 1 my wife Kerry and I flew to Kenya to prepare for teaching at
programs sponsored by Canadian Baptist Ministries and Carey Theological
College.  When we arrived we stayed with Malcolm and Patty Card, CBM
coordinators for the region.  The Cards have very helpful experiences to share
and are most gracious hosts.  Kerry (who has a counseling practice and degrees
in physio, occupational therapy and counseling) team-taught with  Drs. Carla
Nelson and Sophie Parkins a ten-day counseling course to 40 teachers from all
over Kenya.  Caryn and Brian Stelck and I team-taught a course on Ministry and
Spirituality to 36 pastors, deacons and teachers–a course that Caryn and I
suggested would have been better entitled Spirituality and Ministry.  By the way,
Kerry and I were guests in the Stelck’s home in Mitaboni and I was deeply
touched by these gifted and kind people.

CBM offers a Diploma of Christian Teacher Education and Counseling using
Carey Hall as the institution of record.  Carey offers a Certificate of Ministry
course and has offered several of these over the years training hundreds of
students.  The students come from two denominations both of which are about
60 years old.  The African Brotherhood Church has 750,000 attendees in about
800 churches, about 150 “preaching points” and operates 700 schools.   The
African Christian Churches and Schools denomination has 250,000 adherents in
175 churches, several “preaching points” and operates 38 schools.

Kenya is a country which has just recently begun to experience some political
stability under President Kibaki and is experiencing some economic renewal as
well.  The two churches we are partnering with are also in renewal and growth
mode.  I preached at Kangundo and George Matheka, the minister, (also an area
minister for 49 churches) reported that the Kangundo church alone had started 6
new churches in two years.  Mischak Mukwilu at Kwale church (also an area
pastor in charge of 19 churches) had reported that his own congregation had
begun 7 new churches in 3 years.  The ABC denomination will not list a new
church as a church until it has 100 members!  Wonderful stories.  I learned a
great deal from these two denominations.  There are three main areas of note.

First, these churches have a strong sense of identity with one another.  This
identity begins with a unity in Christ and it “morphs” into a keen sense, shared by
all the churches that one of their main collective purposes is to start new
churches.  Wouldn’t that be incredible if that was our stated purpose?  How do
we declare our unity in the Baptist Union?  We assume our unity is in Christ but
how do we express that together?  What do we share as a focus amongst
ourselves?  We are beginning to experience common purpose in several things;
camping, youth, Carey programs both locally and globally, CBM, “God sightings”
at Banff and beyond, our new affinity groups and finally the new resources and
story telling on our website later in the Fall.  What I have just listed describes
some of the things we do together, but how do we build community over such
diverse geography and church experience?  The Kenyan churches taught me
that our unity is founded in our common Lord Jesus—more of that as the Fall

Secondly I was struck by the Kenyan churches’ commitment to social concerns
and justice.  After their personal and community worship, after their common
goals in church planting and that people would come to faith in Christ, these
people are vehemently concerned with everything from HIV and Aids, education,
the addressing of orphans, widows, the treatment of women and economic
development.  They are a church that looks out for one another and those in
need in society and have a plan to implement those activities.  We in the Union
have a myriad of wonderful stories in the area of social concerns to share.  In the
months ahead we will be telling some of our own stories.

The last thing that I learned from our African partners was a sense of joy; joy in
worship, joy in greeting one another and joy in an expectation of what God will
do.  How do I experience joy personally and how do we do that as churches and
as a Union?

Next week we will look at some of the more complicated topics that come out of
our partnerships; cross cultural issues, the use of money, evangelism and social
concerns in balance amongst other things.  This has been a long letter.  Thanks
for reading!

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell