by Polly House
I learned three things during my mission trip to Kenya:
1) Never take a glass of tea for granted. 2) You just may have to yell at a monkey. 3) God is bigger and more amazing than I ever imagined.
Our team of 16 men and women went to Kenya not only to share the gospel, but also to help start six new churches. While leading people to Christ was our ultimate goal, the new Christians would need churches where they could gather with other believers and grow in their new faith.
A Long Journey
From Nashville, Tenn., we flew to Chicago and then to London. Finally, we left London — next stop, Nairobi!
We arrived at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport around 9:00 p.m. the day after our departure. As soon as we deplaned, new sights, smells, and sounds assailed my senses. Even though we were still inside the airport, I had a wonderful sense of being somewhere new and different and so exotic.
After passing through heavy security, obtaining our entrance visas, and reclaiming our luggage, we were met by our host, Samson Kisia.
Since 1968, Samson, a 71-year-old pastor, has started more than 2,500 churches in East Africa. His church, First Baptist Church of Ruiru in Nairobi, is attended by more than 2,000 in multiple Sunday worship services. He has been called a “modern day Paul”; after meeting him, I believe the description is accurate.
We spent our first night at Bible Translation and Literacy (BTL) Christian Camp run by Wycliffe Bible Translators. We gladly welcomed the warm showers and clean beds.
Taking in the Sights
The next morning, I got my first daytime look at Africa. The BTL campus reminded me of Hawaii with bird of paradise plants higher than my head. Everything was bright and colorful.
After breakfast, we began our seven-hour trip to Kericho. We drove through the Great Rift Valley, a 3,700-mile long crack in the earth’s crust, stretching from Syria to Mozambique. Considered to be at its most beautiful and dramatic in Kenya, it essentially divides the country into east and west. The highway was paved with at least two lanes. One van driver laughingly called it Kenya’s “super highway.”
The area is famous for producing some of the world’s finest teas. The equatorial climate, the altitude, and almost daily rain showers work together to make growing conditions ideal.
My first tea field was a breathtaking sight! Harvesting acres and acres of tea leaves is labor intensive, with workers picking only the newest three to five leaves from each plant. They cover the field in about two weeks; then they start over again. Imagine how many tiny tea leaves it takes to make 40 pounds. This Southern girl will never again take a glass of iced tea for granted!
We arrived at Dream Cottage, a Kenya-style bed and breakfast, where we were warmly greeted by the staff members, Helen, Jeremiah, and Robert. Our quarters were heavily secured with locks and bars, plus a 24-hour security guard.
Kericho isn’t considered a dangerous place, but special precautions are taken at hotels where Americans are staying.
One morning during breakfast, we heard soft-spoken Helen yelling outside the window. When we asked about the commotion, Robert explained she was yelling to stop a monkey from stealing clothes off the clothesline. He said, “You have to yell. Monkeys will steal anything!”
Transforming Power of the Gospel
I had heard stories about how thousands of people were won to Christ by mission teams, but I must admit, I was a little dubious. Was I in for a surprise!
Each team member was paired with a pastor or other church leader to help with translating and to explain about the new churches coming to their area. My companion, Pius, helped me get into a rhythm of talking then waiting for him to translate. Most Kenyans under the age of 25 are proficient in English, but many of the older people still use their tribal tongue as their primary language.
On our first day, I used the EvangeCube® to share the gospel with two women. They accepted Christ. Wow! I thought. That was easy! I shared next with three young men. They accepted Christ. Whew! I was on a roll!
Next, Pius and I talked to two women at a vegetable stand. Two more women joined us, and they all accepted Christ. One woman asked us to share with her husband and her friend at her home. Of course, we did.
Before the morning was over, Pius and I had shared the gospel with 51 people, 48 of whom accepted Christ! Each day, the results were similar. People were excited to hear about Jesus, the hope He offered, and the gift of His love and sacrifice.
I think part of the reason the Kenyans were so ready to hear and receive the gospel was the offer of hope. Their lives are very difficult, and their circumstances don’t change much from generation to generation. They work hard, making about $1.50 a day — if they have regular work. But, this gospel! This Jesus! He provides an opportunity for all to experience permanent and eternal life change.
As I presented the gospel to one group, I asked who would be interested in receiving Christ as Savior. One young man, with complete sincerity, looked amazed as he answered, “Anyone would be crazy not to want this. Yes! Yes!”
Pius and I had led almost 450 people to Christ. Our team had the privilege of seeing 3,825 come to Christ.
How could we be certain about the decisions? The numbers reflect the people whose names and contact information were collected. Many more may have decided to receive Christ, but for one reason or another, they did not give their information to our teams. I believe these large numbers are accurate.
Follow-up is critical for the new believer there just as it is anywhere. The pastors and church leaders who served as translators already had a plan in place to visit each person.
Our team was assigned to start six new churches. We helped start seven. The biggest problem these new churches face is not having places to worship. All but one location are simply spots along the road or in a village.
I will never forget the faces of the people in Kericho. The children were beautiful, precious, and unbelievably curious. Being a redhead, I was quite the spectacle. The children would touch my hair and laugh. They would rub my hands and laugh. Laughter became our means of communication.
The adults were kind and hospitable. By our standards, they had so little, but they were incredibly generous. I loved seeing the respect shown for the older people.
My best advice when taking a mission trip is wherever you go, God is already there. He has prepared your way and will give you amazing opportunities to share the gospel. When visiting a different country or culture, check your American sensibilities at the airport. With joy, embrace the differences and learn from them.
Polly House is editor of LifeWay’s Facts and Trends magazine. She is married to her wonderful Sam and has two amazing sons and two beautiful daughters-in-law. She believes any day she can scuba dive is a perfect day.
This article first appeared in the May 2012 issue of Mature Living. Subscribe