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Missionary Spotlight – Pioneer mission in Kenya

January 2008 | by Cliff Barton

 

Pioneer mission in Kenya

Here is a typical question from the people of Tarakit: ‘Is it true that we must pray before the cock crows, as this is the time when the angels return to heaven and the devils come down to earth?’

Tarakit is on a hill beyond Chepkinagh, with good views into Ugan da. The only way to reach its 400 inhabitants on the 7000 feet plateau is by climbing a steep path. The congregations are vulnerable and illiterate. The leader here is Isaac, a young married man still at primary school. He has had no formal training.

Sacrifice

On one occasion, the leading mzee (old man) escorted missionary Keith Underhill to where the steep descent starts and said he wanted another jacket – he was sporting a blazer with a school badge sewn on it!

Keith warned him about spiritual nakedness and he admitted he had sin. It turned out to be a glorious opportunity to tell him about Christ and his perfect sacrifice.

The Pokot have a tradition that when one person has killed another, even in a raid, he cannot re-enter the fellowship of his family and society until a white goat has been slaughtered and the blood applied.

But what animal sacrifice can wash away our sins? How easy it was to use this to teach reconciliation with God through the death of Christ upon the cross.

On another occasion, a few hours were spent with fifteen women and five men – and what wonderful questions they asked! How rarely over the past 30 years have such basic questions been heard about Christian experience:

‘What is it to receive Christ?’ ‘Is coming to Christ like walking?’ ‘How can I know my sins are forgiven?’ ‘Can a Christian know he is on the right road?’ ‘Am I a real Christian if my dreams lead me to meet with dead people?’ ‘How can I repent?’

Surely the Lord is at work in these dear people.

Home of wind

On a ridge below Tarakit are more settlements. Two years ago noone had preached at Kapyomot (‘home of wind’). They asked for Christians from Trinity Baptist Church, Nairobi, to preach every Sunday.

We visited them again on this trip. Since the last visit they have constructed their ‘cathedral’ – poles supporting leafy branches as a roof to keep away the sun’s direct rays and logs to serve as seats. Amazingly, 35 adults appeared and we understand that 28 people regularly gather on Sunday, including five men.

‘What have you learned in your meetings?’

‘There is a hell that we must avoid’.

‘How can you avoid it?’

‘By believing in God for the forgiveness of sins’.

‘What does Christ have to do with this?’

‘God sent his Son to die as a sacrifice for our sins’.

This is really encouraging in a place where we have only been preaching for about two years. Keith preached on Luke 18:9-14.

Afterwards there were questions and requests. ‘We need a church leader’.

‘We do not have anyone available to stay and live with you’.

‘We need a nursery school for our children. We need a building with a corrugated iron roof’.

‘We will provide a roof if you first construct the mud walls’. They are delighted and there is applause.

 

Home of stones

On the following day we walked for more than an hour to a place called Kapkaghun (‘home of stones’)where preaching has only recently begun.

The first news we hear is of a raid against the Pokot by some Turkana. There was a gun trader there (a Toposa from Uganda) carrying his wares openly. This was an opportunity to talk about the sin of raiding and revenging.

Their meeting place for ministry is in the open, with log seats under the bushes and a little shade from a couple of trees. It is astounding that in this isolated place among inaccessible hills, more than 60 adults are present – at least 25 being men.

Keith preached the gospel as simply as possible from Matthew 1:21. As in Kapyomot, there were questions about the meeting place and Keith made the same promise of corrugated iron and got the same applause.

David wanted to know how we can know if we are truly saved. After lunch, there is another large meeting and Keith tells them of the cost of following Christ (from Luke 14:25-27). This is the first time that a white missionary had ever been to this place. We have since heard that ten people are requesting baptism.

Cliff Barton

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Kenya