On 21 December 2000 my wife and I left Zimbabwe, to spend six weeks at our Church’s Sengera mission in Kenya. Apart from some days with the auditors, I had the joy of being able to devote myself to the spiritual work of the gospel ministry among the Kisii people. This was made possible by the able work of the temporary administrators, Mr Calum Gunn at the beginning and Mr Hugh MacKenzie at the end of my stay. In between, I was thankful for my wife’s attending to routine office administration.
Each Sabbath the public activities begin with a catechism class attended by old and young. These men and women had nothing of the privileged upbringing that many readers of this report have enjoyed. Hearing them recite the Shorter Catechism brings to mind the Lord’s promise: “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten”. Humanly speaking, without our Church’s mission, they would know nothing of these things.
The Sabbath services were well attended, especially in the morning, when more than 250 souls would be present. There was a steady increase over the period. The people were attentive to the preaching, and I am thankful for the most able and willing interpreting of Mr Justus Mosoti.
There are four large Sabbath School classes, taken by an African teacher and the three Dutch nurses helped by their interpreters. Many of the children have parents who are only beginning to learn the gospel themselves. Others come from families who do not attend the church. Without our mission, these children would have every right to say, , “No man cared for my soul”. Sister Ringelberg was on furlough, so with the help of Mr James Matara as interpreter I conducted her class of approximately 60 young people. We hope that the Lord will bless their diligent memorising of the doctrines of the Reformed faith so that they would obtain more than a mere form of godliness.
At 8 a.m. each working day, worship is held in the mission compound with all the workers. Upwards of 25 staff attend, along with patients and their relatives awaiting the opening of the clinic. An explanation of the Scripture passage is given before the concluding prayer. Then an opportunity is given for questions, usually prompted by the passage studied or the Sabbath sermons. These times are very profitable. We studied the first ten chapters of Romans, which explain so clearly the way of justification by faith and not by works. The way God’s law relates differently to believers and unbelievers raised many questions. How can you know if you truly have saving grace, or are just a hypocrite trying to work for the favour of God? In different forms, this was often raised, indicating real soul concern. After worship the staff attend to their various duties around the compound or in the clinic.
I was able to visit some 50 homes, including those of the mission workers. Invariably I was received as a gospel minister ought to be received – as one who had come for their spiritual benefit. With Mr Mosoti interpreting, worship was conducted and I briefly addressed the gathered families from the Scripture passage read. Frequently the people showed a keen interest in the Word of God. Along with the public preaching of the gospel, I remember these visits as some of my most worthwhile times in Sengera, and we hope that, when so much seed has been sown in public and from house to house, it will not be in vain.
Future prospects for direct missionary work among the people are almost unbounded. Time constraints meant that we could not get to all the homes that would have welcomed a ministerial visit, neither could we accept invitations to speak at local schools. There are many “churches” and cults all around and it is fearful to see so many being led astray by blind leaders of the blind. Regrettably, relatively few Psalms have been translated metrically for singing, and the Kisii translation of the Bible needs much improvement. Providentially, contact has been made recently through the Trinitarian Bible Society with a Dutchman who has specialised in the study of the Kisii language and is willing to assist us.
Although it is a day of small things with us at home, our privileges are many. Unlike the people of Sengera, we have the pure preaching of the gospel; we have ready access to the Word of God in a most accurate and faithful translation; we have sound literature to read in our own language; we are acquainted with those who know and have experienced the truth. We have a wonderful opportunity to bring these benefits to others. We have the oil and wine of the gospel that can heal the spiritual wounds caused by sin. Will we be like the priest and Levite in the parable who passed by on the other side? Today the door is open to the Kisii people. “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee”.
There were a number of funerals in the community during our stay. When a 14-year-old boy died from a brain tumour, our mission carpenters made the coffin. A continual stream of people came to the bereaved family’s kraal, some of them wailing day and night. Polygamy and immorality are rife with all their attendant miseries. Aids is widespread and newspaper photographs of the deceased show how young so many are. May it soon be said that “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined”.
Mission communication difficulties were much relieved by a new satellite telephone. Security improvements include a new wall, four lampposts and new fencing. When a false alarm was raised recently, a number of locals appeared at the compound with their machetes, ready to defend the mission. The relationship with the local community seems to be good. At a recent de-worming initiative run by our nurses at the Chief’s office, 800 people attended. The clinic became very busy during my stay with malaria cases. Many babies were safely delivered at the clinic, but we long to see evidence of many new births.
The congregation’s Poor Fund provides necessary relief by distributing free or subsidised maize – the staple food. The people struggle to pay school fees and there is a real need for help with this. As its handmaid in doing good, the gospel has always had close ties with education. Perhaps a fund could be set up, into which friends of the mission could contribute. Obviously, the people see that temporal benefits can be gained from the mission. Nevertheless, a spirit of genuine gospel interest and enquiry appears among them. One wrote, “Our main concern as a congregation is salvation of our souls. How shall they call on Him they have not believed? How shall they believe in Him they have not heard? How shall they hear without a preacher? Yes, we have hospital, jobs, mission. It is good but not good enough without a minister. What will profit a man although he gain whole world and lose his soul?” Another wrote asking the church in Britain to “pray to the Lord to harvest us from the garden of Satan to the garden of the beloved Jesus Christ”.
We left Sengera on 2 February 2001, thankful to the Lord for His care and help. To all who gave us such a warm and hospitable welcome and made our stay in Zimbabwe and Kenya so memorable, we extend our sincere thanks.