By Phil Jaseph
Representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya (ELCK) distributed food and shared the Gospel Oct. 2-6 among more than 500 families in the drought-stricken region of Samburu in northern Kenya, thanks to funding from a $30,000 grant from the LCMS.
The ELCK, a partner church with the LCMS, requested the grant to provide emergency relief to areas of northern and northwestern Kenya that were particularly hard hit by drought during the past year. LCMS missionaries in Kenya administered the grant funds, provided logistics and made arrangements for the field, while the ELCK identified sites and provided personnel and field support.
Dry beans, corn and cooking fat were distributed in the rural villages of Sirata, Ngilai and Nchok. The villages are remote and somewhat isolated from external influences — particularly relief efforts and health services — and many residents follow cultural traditions. Two of the villages have their own ELCK congregations; the third would like to start one soon.
Evangelism efforts related to the aid distribution were intended to share the Gospel with those who do not know Jesus Christ, and to support Lutherans in these distant regions.
Patterns of rainfall in Kenya have changed in recent years, causing problems for farmers and those living in dry areas. Even during the rainy season, the amount of rain has been less than expected.
ELCK representatives involved in the project were the Rev. John Kispan, bishop of the Central Diocese; the Rev. Benjamin Lemosi, general secretary; Afrahm Pete, national projects coordinator; the Rev. Kora Woche, project coordinator for the Central Diocese; and Richard Lewaseiyan a lay evangelist who served as translator, worship leader and distribution facilitator.
Pete said the aid program opened his eyes to some of the pressing issues in Kenya. “When you do this exercise, it makes you realize how little you’re doing,” he said. “As a church, it gives us a chance to not only speak the Word, but live it, too.”
Geoffrey Gunyali represented Nuru Lutheran Media Ministry, the Kenyan branch of Lutheran Hour Ministries, serving as the primary evangelist while sharing Bible passages and prayers.
Representing the LCMS by documenting and directing the relief efforts were the Rev. Shauen Trump, regional director for East and Southern Africa; Shara Cunningham, volunteer coordinator for East and Southern Africa; and Phil Jaseph, communication specialist for Africa.
“To have the men volunteer, to not specifically ask for a favor or a gift as they helped” surprised Cunningham. “To have them say, ‘We don’t need anything, but we need to make sure the women and the elderly are taken care of first,’” is not a common attitude in the many patriarchal environments in which she usually serves, she explained.
In all three villages, songs of praise were sung to God, and some gifts were given to the relief workers. This trial run will serve as the standard for future food-distribution programs in two other villages in Samburu, and in Pokot and Turkana, Kenya, according to organizers.
Gratitude, Christian fellowship and an unwavering faith in God’s provision seemed to set the tone for what was a very successful project. As one village elder told the visiting team: “Many people have forgotten us,” she said, “but God never has.”
Phil Jaseph is LCMS communication specialist for Africa and a GEO missionary based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Posted Nov. 6, 2014