A sweet Nairobi Sunday

25th August 2013

Our first Sunday in Kenya started much as our Sundays in England, with church. We had the privilege of attending Kilelesha Covenant Community Church (K3C) which is the suburban home church of our hosts Silas and Rahab. Both the well designed building, the smartly dressed, multi-generation congregation, and the well designed multi-media presentations, would not have been out of place in any major city in the UK and the US.

It was a special youth service and the excellent multi-lingual music ministry of the young praise band, the energy of the guest rap artist, and the culture of clapping God in praise, might have raised a few eyebrows in quiet rural Suffolk. However the clear bible teaching, the obvious love of the church for it’s youth and children, and the church’s dynamic focus on reaching out to make disciples, all made Ruth and I feel very at home. Even the report back from the teenagers about their summer camp showed the same breathless enthusiasm and energy of our own young people.

This outward looking emphasis is well reflected in the motto of the church: “Loving God … Connecting With People … Transforming Community”. Even more importantly it is reflected in what they are doing through their Tandaza mission work in the slums, their focus on planting small self-replicating worshiping groups in the slums, and their willingness to engage the poor in Nairobi and beyond. This is in such sharp contrast to so much of the pseudo-Christian culture we have seen in the Nairobi streets and the Kenya media, which seems to ape the worst excesses of the US church. This seems to mean, at best, an emphasis on “lifestyle gospel”, and at worst a virtually pagan emphasis on paying “prophets” for quick win prayers to sort life’s problems.

We were told “Tandaza” means “Spreading” and the Godly focus of this warm hearted group of believers on demonstrating and spreading God’s love through word and deed was inspiring and refreshing. Once again I was left wondering at what we Christians in the UK could learn from our dynamic Kenyan brethren.

Sweet fellowship indeed!

Given how well we have been getting to know Rahab, we should really have known what to expect when we were invited to have lunch at her brother’s house with her extended family of mother (already a great-grandmother), half-a-dozen siblings, spouses, children, close friends adding to a total of approx three-dozen. Even for Kenya I suspect this is no normal gathering or normal family!

The Youth Pastor at K3C had that morning been challenging Christian parents about how much they were investing in shaping, modelling and mentoring the next generation of Kenyan’s, and as Ruth and I were welcomed (literally) with open arms into this wonderfully gregarious multiple-generational gathering I quickly realised we were witnessing in action the answer to the pastor’s prayers.

For, as each head of household introduced their family it was quickly evident that each generation had not only been infected by their parents warmth, humour, and generosity but had also followed their footsteps to a living faith in Jesus Christ. Faithful lives of discipleship were being modelled in every corner of the room as every generation joked, laughed, ate, prayed, preached and worshiped together in unselfconscious joy. I could not help but reflect that this was just the sort of family that Timothy had been privileged to grown up in and which generated such sincere faith.

In typical Kenyan style, our fellowship together spilled over at one stage to the sunny garden and we were introduced to the delight of chewing succulent sugarcane cut with a razor sharp machete straight from the garden by Silas and his relations. For those of us who have only ever tasted refined sugar, imagine standing in the sun chewing on a fibrous stick approx one inch diameter only to feel succulent, cool, refreshing sugary water pouring into your mouth – nature’s portable chilled lemonade! Another first for Ruth and I in this amazing journey of ours.

I left Rahab’s family gathering still with the sweet taste of sugar cane in my mouth, and a simple prayer on my lips: that in England and in Kenya, and everywhere that there is a parent professing Christ, that God will raise up more families like this one who simply and naturally overflow with Christ’s love and model so deeply for the succeeding generation what Christ’s family is all about.

Sweet fellowship indeed.

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)

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