For decades, missionary activities in Africa have seen many come to Christ. There has however emerged a need not only to bring the word of God to as many people as possible, but also to connect Christians with one another for the benefit of God’s kingdom as is written in Ephesians 4:16 “He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love”; the premise upon which CMS-Africa has been operating since its inception in 2008.
Among the many beneficiaries of cross-cultural missions within the continent facilitated by CMS-Africa includes the Diocese of Byumba in Rwanda that recently played host to a delegation of Kenyan clergy.
6th March, 2014 saw a team from the Dioceses of Mt. Kenya South and Nakuru leave the country by road heading to Byumba- a town in Rwanda just an hour away from the capital, Kigali for a 6 day cross-cultural mission. The Christian delegation from Kenya led by Bishop Charles Muturi (Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Mt. Kenya) saw over twenty clergy travel to Rwanda including about 5 senior church leaders from the Diocese of Nakuru.
Bishop Charles Muturi, of Mt. Kenya South Diocese (Right) exchanging gifts with Bishop Emmanuel Ngendahayo (Centre) as his wife and Mother’s Union President of Byumba Victoire Uwamaliya (Left) looks on.
“We were really excited to go and join our brethren in Rwanda because it was the first time our diocese was going for such a mission,” Rev. Joseph Kimani Thiong’o who is the administrative secretary of Nakuru Diocese said. The team from Nakuru included the provost, two arch deacons, an official from the diocese’s Mothers’ Union as well as the diocese’s administrative secretary.
“What I learnt when we arrived there is that, the church there is growing at a very fast rate. They have really big parishes with churches containing several members,” said Bishop Charles. Words echoed by Rev. Joseph Kimani from Nakuru diocese who said he was puzzled by the huge numbers and not only that, but was also “impressed with their spirituality; their commitment to the church was very admirable,” he explained.
Mother’s Union Representatives from Rwanda and Kenya exchanging gifts during the mission.
The beauty with exchange programs is that the learning experience is never a ‘one way traffic’ as evidenced with remarks by Bishop Emmanuel Ngendahayo of the Byumba diocese, “The diocese of Rwanda benefited with the knowledge that if people are followed up closely, they can change and transform themselves and their environment.”
In reciprocation, the Kenyan clergy learnt about the expansive outreach of the orphans and women’s ministry in Rwanda. “Following their dark history with the genocide, many men were killed. That’s the reason why most of their congregation is composed of women hence a very vibrant women’s ministry as compared to what we have here in Kenya.” said Bishop Charles.
The church in Byumba learnt that “a good Christian must discover the potentialities and opportunities within and around her/him and be able to use them properly for the glory of the Lord;” and that “Ownership of the church by members of the congregation is possible and important.” words noted by Bishop Emmanuel. This aspect, according to Bishop Charles Muturi of Mt. Kenya South is a key lesson to learn as it places autonomy of running church activities at the hands of the congregation that it serves.
According to Bishop Charles, Mt. Kenya South diocese has not had to depend on any donor aid since 1964. Their resources come from the Christian congregation within the diocese as well us through real estate property owned by the church parish. Among which includes the Bishop Kariuki Training Centre, located in Wangige town that serves as a hub for training youths and disseminating the word of God within the diocese. “The people of Rwanda still heavily rely on the bishop to give them everything; a lesson on self-reliance will help them a lot in church growth,” stated Bishop Charles.
For Rev. Joseph Kimani of Nakuru, the huge numbers present in the churches in Byumba is what impressed him most about this mission to Rwanda. “We were informed that one parish had about 10 churches with each containing nearly 2,000 parishioners.” he explained. In comparison, he revealed how in Nakuru one parish can have only 1 church with about 100 members; a huge contrast in numbers when both dioceses are compared.
Mothers’ Union Byumba give a warm welcome to church leaders from Kenya.
Rwandese known for their hospitality gave the church leaders from Kenya a warm welcome when they arrived at the hilly town of Byumba. A guest house had been prepared for some of them and others got to spend at the residence of some of the church members from Byumba. It is during these times that the team from Nakuru discovered something special about the congregation from Byumba.
Most of the families that hosted the Kenyan team had adopted at least one orphaned child. According to Rev. Kimani, “Every family that members of my team resided at had adopted at least a child. The family that hosted me had four children; two of them were actually adopted.” Another member of the Nakuru team noted that where they resided 2 out of the 6 children in that family had been adopted as well. “They have a sense of togetherness that I rarely see here in Kenya.” Rev. Kimani added.
Even though the trip proved very successful towards the aims it was intended for, it had its fair share of minor challenges for the Kenyan clergy: a 48-hour long journey by road; issues of language barrier in some instances and unfavourable weather conditions. But despite these minor challenges, good tidings proceeded from this cross-cultural mission that ended on 10th March, 2014.
The Diocese of Mt. Kenya South, through the Bishop Kariuki Training Centre, promised to give the churches in Byumba training material for their various ministries. They also made a request to Bishop Ngendahayo to have him send about 5 teachers to come to Kenya for the Sunday school training scheduled for December this year and send some youth representatives to come and witness a Youth Training conference set for August this year.
But perhaps the highest validation upon which this mission banked on was achieved as illustrated by the closing remarks of Bishop Emmanuel Ngendahayo during the farewell service held at the parish in honour of the visitors from Kenya: “Even though we have not signed papers here today to say that we are starting a partnership, the divine partnership is signed in heaven already!”