In April of this year Lowell and I (Kathy), and Pastor Britto visited Africa for the very first time! Even though our main focus is still India, God is really laying on my heart a burden for the nations of Kenya and Pakistan. On our trip to Kenya we felt led of God to visit and help a Pastor named Calvince Osongo that I had been communicating through email and phone. Also I have been working with Pastor Calvince for the past eighteen months on the Gospel media projects and he has been translating ICII books into his language of Luo and other languages of Kenya. We felt that the Lord wanted ICII to branch out and help Pastor Calvince Osongo, the leader of Freedom and Truth Ministries, to get more established and to equip him and his ministry team to reach the lost and help those in desperate need in Kenya.
Our Amazing Trip to Africa.. by Lowell K. Smith
We arrived in Nairobi on April 17th, worn out from our overly long journey. With an eight-hour flight delay and a missed connection in Amsterdam, it had now been more than a day and a half since we left our home. Yet when we saw Pastor Calvince’s beaming smile of welcome, the weariness lifted, and we greeted each other in person for the first time. As Pastor Calvince and a friend drove us to the hotel they had found for us, we tried to take in the vast African city.
High-rise buildings and traffic jams on the overcrowded six-lane highways bore witness that Nairobi is one of the most modern urban centers in Africa, yet we could see that we were not in a prosperous American city. All too obvious were the run-down slums, dirty littered streets, ragged beggars and hungry homeless children that spoke volumes about the painful reality of daily life in Kenya.
We rested a few hours in Nairobi until evening, and then boarded a bus for yet another exhausting eight-hour leg of our journey as we bounced our way all night across the Great Rift Valley and up into the highlands of western Kenya to our destination, Rongo, where we arrived just before dawn. Rongo is a far cry from modern Nairobi. As we followed Pastor Calvince on foot through a maze of muddy gully-riddled dirt streets to his church for the first meeting, a jumbled, confused collection of tin-roofed shacks and dirty, dilapidated shop stalls met our eyes everywhere we looked. Children in tattered clothing peered curiously at us from doorways and alleys, often waving excitedly and shouting “Mzungu!” (white person) or “how are you?” in barely intelligible English. Here in Rongo, the oppressive poverty we had seen lurking in the background of Nairobi hit us square in the face, feeling like a heavy weight constantly pulling down on us.
Pastor Calvince’s church, Freedom Church, meets in a small brick-and-mud building with no electricity, crooked benches of rough wood for pews, and a tin sheet roof that leaked during the daily downpours we experienced in Kenya’s spring long-rains season. But they have a passion for God seldom seen in the stylishly-decorated and luxurious sanctuaries of the Western world. This first week of our visit, there was a gospel crusade at the church in Rongo, one of three such events the ministry conducts yearly among the partnering churches of the network. The pastors and some members of the seven network churches were participating, and even a guest minister who had come all the way from the coastal city of Mombasa because he had picked up one of ICII’s translated tracts.
In the evening, Gospel music videos and ICII’s Word for Word Gospel of John in the Luo language were shown on the big screen by a video projector which had been provided by ICII for the ministry.
One morning we split into three teams and went door-to-door through Rongo for evangelism and prayer ministry to the sick and needy. The week ended with powerful messages and altar calls at the Rongo church.
The next week began with our evangelism seminar at the church. We preached and taught about evangelism, and showed a video about the reality of hell, which Pastor Calvince had narrated in his native language of Luo. During the prayer time, we saw nearly everyone on their knees, crying out loud to the Lord with tears for lost souls to be saved.
We learned that in Kenya, due to parents’ deaths because of the high incidence of HIV and other diseases, there are staggering numbers of orphans, and the neediness experienced by children in that situation is overwhelming. Relatives usually cannot or will not support them, so they are often forced to live on the streets, and are all too often abused, substance-addicted, enslaved, or turn to crime or prostitution to try to survive. Pastor Calvince himself came from this very same kind of life, having been orphaned at age nine and living in the streets and tunnels for many years before coming to Christ. Before leaving, we distributed food, and other items to the children, including toys provided by some kind folks in the US.
Over the remainder for the second week of our stay, we visited several of the seven churches of Freedom and Truth Ministries. Each of these churches, was founded by Pastor Calvince, who would walk as far as twenty-five miles at a time into remote areas to reach the lost and bring the word of God to the unreached across the countryside. There are also many house churches, Bible studies, and children Bible studies that are part of the ministry. We drove as far as we could on the rut-filled mud and dirt roads on our way to the churches, sometimes into the rolling Kenyan hills dotted with huts and homesteads amid bananas and tiny plots of maize, sometimes through vast fields of sugarcane where workers toiled in the scorching sun. Still, we had to walk as long as nearly an hour to get to the most remote churches.
We were warmly welcomed by the members of each church, who invited us to their homes and shared their meals of maize, rice, vegetables, and stewed chicken with us. Once again, the stark reality of living with suffocating poverty stared at us through the eyes of skinny children with distended bellies, rags to wear, and living in tiny mud-and-brick huts. In spite of the obvious lack, each of the churches was caring for several orphans because they had nowhere else to go.
Although there are churches in the cities and towns, many of these teach unorthodox beliefs, and Pastor Calvince explained that no churches are reaching out to the large numbers living in the remote countryside regions such as the places we visited. Pastor Calvince’s faithful evangelistic work in these areas has produced seven new churches of those who came to Christ through his ministry. He shared that his vision is to expand this rural outreach even into the neighboring nations of Uganda and Tanzania and evidently all over Africa!
When Sunday came, we shared a final message at the Rongo church and said our farewells. Soon it would be time for our bus ride back to Nairobi, and the long journey home. What we experienced working with Freedom and Truth Ministries was the same compassion for the lost and the same love for the poor and needy that ICII is already doing in India. Through Freedom and Truth Ministries we saw much fruit of their diligent labors for the Lord – many souls added to the Kingdom, and many touched by the love of Jesus. With your generous support, ICII’s vision is to help Freedom and Truth Ministries to build the kingdom of God in Africa.
If anyone would like to give a gift of any amount for Independent Church in India’s ministry partner in Kenya it would be wonderful blessing to them. They are already doing so much with very limited resources and they need help so many more souls can be saved and urgent needs are met.
The orphan baby in the above photo has malaria and is now fighting for his life. He is in need for his doctor bills to be paid, and other needs to be provided. Also there are many other orphans that are in desperate need. If you would like to give a gift to help provide for orphans in Kenya, 100 percent of your gift will be given to help orphans in desperate need. Thank you so much and may God bless you!
If anyone would like to send a gift through the mail, please send it to the address below: Independent Church in India PO Box 238 Fredericksburg, PA 17026
Please make out your check or money order to “Independent Church in India” or “ICII”. (Please mark it ‘Kenya Outreach’)
Thanks again, and God bless you!
Reaching the Unreached,
Lowell and Kathy Smith