Taxicabs bearing Christian decals and tents that serve as churches are common sights along the people-filled streets of Kenya’s cities on any given Sunday morning.
Christianity is the dominant religion in Kenya and witnessed everywhere. Of the more than 44,000 inhabitants, an estimated 82% are Christian, with 48% being evangelical.
A general sense of morality pervades Kenya, yet many still do not know and believe the full, true Gospel. And just as the appearance of Christianity is deceptive in this country, the wealthy minority also gives a pretense of affluence in Kenya. In reality, 38 percent live in utter poverty.
From Washington to Kenya
Pastor Gabriel Powell of Sudden Valley Church in Bellingham, Washington experienced the extreme poverty first hand when he traveled to Kenya.
In early July 2013, the pastor and a couple from his church traveled to southwestern Kenya to check out a children’s home his congregation considered supporting. Powell’s team met Julius Otieno and became acquainted with Living Water Church, which he planted 18 years earlier.
Over the years, those in other regions of Kenya noticed the good work of God in the lives of Living Water Church members. Today this church reaches over 3,000 people in associated church plants.
In the midst of poverty
During their trip to check out the children’s home, Powell and his team held a 3-day conference for over 60 pastors with Living Water Church. His preaching on the Gospel and the power and sufficiency of Scripture included hours-long question and answer sessions.
Upon arriving in Kenya, Powell was told it is customary for the Americans conducting a conference to cover all the conference costs for all the attendees. Many had to leave when they found out Powell’s team could only provide food for them. Others stayed, sleeping on the hard floor of the orphanage where the conference was held, because of what Powell describes as their hunger for truth. The pastors and leaders in Kenya are so eager for solid teaching that they will endure discomfort, and sacrifice their own resources.
During the conference, Powell was surprised to find that these pastors living in extreme poverty are faced with similar issues North American pastors encounter. Questions such as, ‘How do you keep teens in the church’ and ‘how do you handle a newly converted woman who won’t leave her unbelieving boyfriend?’ Powell says, “I was struck by the exact parallel of problems these pastors face.”
A hunger for truth
There is a vital need for biblical resources to help Kenya’s pastors address these issues. As the number of believers continues to increase, so does the need for resources. Many leaders do not even possess a Bible.
“Because most pastors are not able to afford formal Bible education, their understanding is limited; as a result it is worse among the people,” Powell says.
Powell took some ESV study Bibles that were distributed at the conference. And each conference attendee received a copy of Greg Gilbert’s, What is the Gospel? The books were provided through Packing Hope, a project of The Gospel Coalition-International Outreach. (Those willing to pay the shipping cost can have free resources delivered to their houses to carry in their luggage for travel overseas).
Powell says that although these books are merely a start, they were received with joy and will be used to strengthen these many churches and drive them to faithfully proclaim, live and preach the Gospel.
“They didn’t ask for money; they asked for Truth. Many of them don’t know where their next meal will come from, and yet they were hungry for the Word.”