The fellowship at Ulaani gave me a handsome wooden lion. The pastor’s wife welcomed me with a multi-coloured garland. Later I was presented with a wooden walking stick and a hand-made bag and skirt for my wife.
Of course they had to try the skirt on me to show how it should be tied — with much hilarity! Such is the warmth of the brothers and sisters in Christ at Kiatuni, and such their appreciation of the Word of God.
I had been invited to Kenya to minister the Word at a convention at Kiatuni, 50 miles south east of Nairobi. The town centre resembles a derelict ‘Western’ film-set, while the inhabitants of the area are a scattered bush people. Yet 150 people had congregated by the second day of the convention.
Trinity Baptist Church, Kiatuni, with its four associated congregations, is a daughter church of Trinity Baptist Church, Nairobi (where Pastor Keith Underhill and his wife Priscilla have laboured for 25 years).
The pastor at Kiatuni is Joseph Mutua and there has been an encouraging growth in numbers in the church.
I was surprised at the penetration of Christianity into this remote area. An African Inland Church is situated in the centre of Kiatuni, a Salvation Army citadel can be found not far down the track, and other denominations abound. But Trinity Baptist Church is the only church established on the doctrines of grace.
At the convention, the congregation was attentive. Families with small children would sit for up to two hours without disturbing others.
Any preacher receives a blessing when his every word is keenly listened to, despite, as in this case, the need for interpretation into Swahili. The impact of the Word of God on the hearers was often visible.
We travelled later to Nairobi. Here religion abounds. Huge banners announce the arrival of some preacher or some ecumenical event. I saw a choir of boys singing at the roadside from a gospel caravan; and heard a soloist continually singing the words of ‘O happy day that fixed my choice’ through a loudspeaker in Uhuru Park.
Despite freedom of worship, however, local Christians are concerned that much of the ‘Christianity’ is nominal. Surely we can pray that the Lord would grant a true awakening in this politically troubled land.
The prospects for Kenya are gloomy. Bribery and corruption syphons off money from unfinished development projects, and there is uncertainty regarding the coming presidential elections.
The purpose of the second leg of my trip was to visit Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) at Wilson Airport, Nairobi. From this base MAF sends planes for evangelism and relief to many parts of Kenya, and even north into Sudan.
God has provided MAF with a new hangar only 3 years old and with several planes, which still desperately need pilots! In one such plane, a Cessna Caravan 1, I was taken North on an MAF flight to Marsabit — a highlight of the trip! The slopes of Mount Kenya were clearly visible.
Readers may remember the MAF plane that was forced down in Tanzania last March by a severe down-draught of wind, injuring the pilot and four nurses. That pilot, Andy Fothergill, and his wife Mary Anne, are members of the writer’s church. Hence my visit here. When Andy is fully recovered he expects to operate from Nairobi instead of from Moshi, Tanzania.
It was also a blessing to be part of the MAF worship time on that Friday morning.
At Marsabit the local people help keep the dusty, red landing-strip clear of obstacles. However, they do not know exactly when an MAF plane will arrive, so they must check the runway on a continuous basis.
Surely this is a simple illustration of the need to ‘trim the wicks’ of our own lives, in expectation of the Lord Jesus’ return. The Lord himself said, ‘I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work’ (John 9:4).
It was a privilege to witness the work of God in Christ, both at Kiatuni and in MAF. I was reminded that the Holy Spirit bears witness to the true gospel, whether in the hearts of expressive Kenyans or more conservative Britons.
Truly our gospel is not Western, Middle Eastern or African, but worldwide. It saves souls ‘out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation’ (Revelation 5:9).