Rev. Prof Emil Chandran and his wife Mano, who hail from South India, have been working with Church Mission Society (CMS) as mission partners reaching out to the Asian communities in Kenya since 1985.
Emil was first referred to the then Church of the Province of Kenya (CPK) which changed its name to the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) by a CMS mission partner in Kenya, Dr. David Barret. He got his call to serve in Kenya after learning of David’s publishing of the first edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia through Time magazine. It helped Emil to realise that as a researcher he could use his skills to advance Christian mission in Africa. He then contacted CMS (UK) and Dr. Barret convinced the Archbishop Manasses Kuria to write to CMS about the possibility of engaging Emil in mission research. “It was then that I and my wife were interviewed in London and sent to Kenya with prayer support from the Church of South India effectively becoming the first Indian mission partners to Kenya,” he recalls.
Emil was posted to the then Mount Kenya East Diocese in Embu to work as the Diocesan Researcher and Statistician with Bishop David Gitari, who later became the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in 1997.
His service to the Anglican Church started with training of the clergy and church officer’s on gathering parish and community information. After five years in Embu, he was moved to the Archbishop’s office in Nairobi as the Provincial (National) Director of Research, which role he filled for a further five years. During this time at the Anglican headquarters, he worked with all the dioceses and set up data collection systems and training in the dioceses with the support of the Bishops. One of the biggest challenges for the church then was data collection and analysis in order to help the diocesan leadership in decision making. The setting up of the data collection system greatly helped improve the Church census exercise and Church-Community development initiatives.
In 1992, the church was very active in supporting the popular clamour for multi-party politics and Bishop David Gitari was very vocal in speaking out against socio-political injustices. Election-related violence was also prevalent in that year in a few parts of the country. The Anglican Church played a big role in highlighting the violence in the areas of Likoni and Burnt forest while demanding justice for the victims. dDue to these issues, the CPK set up the provincial Peace and Justice desk. “At that time the Provincial Community Services and Research Departments were supportive of the initiatives of the Peace and Justice Department in who made public statements that articulated the position of the church including proposing social interventions and support to the victims of the unrest,” says Chandran.
Call to the Asian Community
While serving the Anglican Church, Emil developed an interest in reaching out to the Asian community in Kenya that was basically completely neglected by almost all churches and their ministry programmess. “A group of five, like-minded leaders from representing different denominations, supported by the Archbishop Manasses Kuria, begun outreach programmes through some churches to the Asian community in Nairobi and other major cities in the country,” he reveals.
A fellowship of Asian Christians in Kenya was formed in 1992 with the mandate to reach out to the Asian community in all the cities of the country. Over the years, three outreach churches for the Asian community have been founded in Nairobi and are located at Parklands, Kileleshwa and Nairobi’s South C. A number of church denominations in the city began making outreach to Asians a mission focus.
The congregation in Parklands, the Nairobi Pentecostal Church - Parklands was started in 1998 with 50 people including 27 Asians and with Emil being the first Senior Pastor. It grew to 400 people of mixed races, including over 70 Asians in a period of four years: its special focus was on serving the Asian community.
“We tried to work with Christians of African descent to reach out to the Asians living in Kenya. This was not easy as there was a historic divide between the Asians and Africans along racial and class lines. Our attempts and initiatives therefore were very helpful in bridging this gap”, asserts Emil. He adds, “This was done through the awareness creation programmes begun within the Anglican Church and major churches in Nairobi. We also conducted training to equip and African churches with skills so as to effectively interact with the Asians who are from other faiths. This has over the years enabled the churches to initiate outreach activities among Asians.”
Emil and Mano were instrumental in leading to Christian faith a group of 30 or 35 Hindus who came to Kenya in 1995 as refugees from Sri Lanka. “A door was opened for us to start ministering to them and we shared our love through relating with them. We visited them on Sundays to share with them our time and food and to encourage them in their loneliness and anxiety about their families in Sri Lanka, and also about the future. We shared the gospel of Christ and sowed the seeds of salvation. In a period of three months four of them become Christian believers and I had a joyful opportunity to baptise them in 1996 at St. Marks Church in Westlands,” testifies Emil.
“One of these new converts went to live in Netherlands and started attending a church there. He met the daughter of the pastor and married her. They are both now engaged in church ministry in Netherlands. Others members of that initial group moved to other countries in Europe where they continued with their journey of faith in Christ.”
Emil and Mano worked in Kenya in all for 26 years since 1985 supported by CMSas Mission Partners serving the Church and related institutions.
1985-1989 Anglican Church Mt Kenya South Diocese, Embu where he was made a Deacon
1990-1995 ACK Head office in Nairobi where he was made a priest at All Saints Cathedral
1995-2004 Daystar University, Nairobi, Kenya- seconded by ACK to Daystar University, Nairobi to head the Research and Publication department. While there, he was given the associate professorship
2004- 2008 Ndola, Zambia as Senior Pastor of an Asian Outreach church House of Prayer
2008- 2012 Carlile College as Director Studies as well as Acting Principal
2012- To date as Senior Pastor at New Life International Church, an Asian Outreach church in South C
Sharing the gospel of Christ with the Asians who have strong Hindu and Sikh religious background amidst racial and economic divide in Kenya has been the biggest challenge faced by the Chandrans.
Having been the Director of Research and Publications, Emil has successful executed several publishing projects for the University.
i. Research Methods: A quantitative approach with Illustrations from Christian Ministries, 2004
ii. Youth in an African City: A Report of the Nairobi Youth Survey and Consultation, 2004
iii. A Community in Development: A Research Report of the Community Needs Assessment Survey in Kapiti Plains, 1999
iv. A Call to Share: The Unevangelised Peoples of Kenya, 1995
v. Rabai to Mumias: A Brief History of the Church of the Province of Kenya 1844 - 1994 , 1994
vi. Problem Solving: A Research and Statistical Manual for Church Workers, 1992
Relationship between the Called and the Sender
“Prior to 1985, I had been teaching in India for 8 years before I went to Brussels, Belgium for a doctorate. Then I was linked up with CMS in the UK when I realised God’s call on my life,” says Prof Chandran. “It is nostalgic that my family in India became Christians through CMS work. And when I was called to serve, CMS provided a platform for me to give back to God for saving my family.”
Emil is of the conviction that the person who has been called to missions work must engage with the local churches. On the other hand, he challenges the CMS of today to be both the vision bearer as well as the animator of missions work by inspiring churches to get involved in missions work.
Having worked in Africa for over 30 years now, Emil believes that CMS-Africa in particular has a role to stir up the church in Africa to participate in mission by giving them a sense of ownership of mission and the urgency of the call, especially to the unreached people groups.
“It is time to draw people into the mission; challenge people to respond to the call to missions and become mission partners right from where they are. The churches need to support their own to go out into mission’s work, not to wait for someone else, say, from Europe or USA to send missionaries to Africa in this day and age,” affirms Emil.
Finally, as for their future ministry, Emil and Mano are planning to leave Kenya for good by the end of May 2015. They intend to continue with outreach work in their home town in South India. As for the New Life International Church in South C, he reports: “Pastor Percy from India has already been appointed to replace me and to take up the leadership of the church in Nairobi South C. All other strategies and the church outreach team are in place to continue the outreach ministry to the Asian community in Nairobi,” affirms Emil.