By Mike Jessop
NZCMS Missions Intern
From December 2022 to January 2023, a group of 38 kiwis went to Nairobi, Kenya for 3 ½ weeks. We were led by Waweru and Mato, two Kenyan pastors serving in ministry here in New Zealand. We partnered with Nairobi Chapel and got to experience their different outreach ministries. These included visiting children’s homes, community centres, and slum areas, participating in sports ministry and helping lead on a children’s holiday bible camp. It was an incredible, life-changing experience.
Before heading to Kenya, I had a couple of doubts about the trip. One was around whether I could offer anything to the people over there. Around 5000 people attend Nairobi Chapel each Sunday. They have 67 staff and hundreds of volunteers. What could I contribute that could make a difference? I tried preparing my testimony and a few short talks to share, but every time I tried, I was gripped by a sense of inadequacy. So I prayed to God, and I was reminded of Matthew 10:16-20 and felt him say three words in reply: “Trust in me.”
And so the first Sunday in Kenya, Nairobi Chapel hosted a thanksgiving testimony service. A few of us were asked to share a short 3-minute testimony of what God has done in our life (particularly in 2022). Now I don’t like public speaking but accepted the challenge to share part of my story in front of approx. 1500 people. What was incredible was that I didn’t feel nervous and could talk confidently as I trusted God to speak through me. As I stepped out of my comfort zone and spoke to different people and did different things, I learnt to trust in God more. Through this, my faith grew heaps.
The second doubt was wondering if this trip was even going to be worth it. I had spent thousands of dollars to go and had spent countless hours organising fundraising events, doing trainings (thanks Alice and NZCMS!) and preparing to go. I also read “When Helping Hurts” which outlines how particularly short-term missions can often cause more harm than good. Despite all these doubts, I still felt like God wanted me to go. And I’m glad I did because this trip was definitely worth it!
One thing that surprised me was the importance placed on devotion in Kenya. We didn’t rush off to do things or visit places but rather spent the beginning of each day together in worship, reading the bible, sharing testimonies and praying. This really grounded the trip for me, and I, like many others, experienced God in a refreshing, more intimate way. I think when we are taken out of what is comfortable, it gives God the freedom to be able to work in our lives. I know for myself I had a few things brought to the surface that God wanted me to work on, but I also had a greater sense of God’s presence. One of the beauties of having such a large group all stepping out of our comfort zone is that it created a deep connection and sense of whanau quickly. We were there to listen to and support one another.
This also extended to those we meet. We journeyed with a team of about 10 Nairobi Chapel staff who showed us different ministries. We formed relationships with the manager, cooks and cleaners at the retreat centre we stayed at. We connected with the kids and youth we met at the different homes and centres. I was astounded at the connections that were formed in the 3 ½ weeks we were there. I believe this was the most impacting thing for our group and the most impactful thing our group achieved. We worshipped together, prayed together, and cried together. Our lives changed together.
On our last day in Kenya, we had a farewell service at Nairobi Chapel. As a part of this service, the church pastors washed our feet. As they served us in this way, they anointed our feet and prayed a blessing over us. They spoke prophetically into some of the group. It was an important and emotional moment that speaks to the level of relationship that was formed.
My experience in Kenya has only confirmed the relational foundation of mission. The Kingdom of God is spread in and through relationships with others. Jesus spent his ministry primarily discipling twelve men in close relationships. If we wish to be effective in sharing the Gospel and discipling others, we must begin with the relationships and friendships we have with those around us.
Mission is a global endeavour (Matt 28:18-20, Acts 1:8) and so not only are we to connect with those around us but across the entire world. The Kenyan Church has a spiritual richness that I haven’t seen in New Zealand and the New Zealand Church has something to offer Kenya. So as we formed relationships and experienced the Kenyan culture, I became aware of the importance of interculturality within the global Church. As we continue to build relationships with the global Body of Christ, we will continue to learn from each other and will only be enriched by it!
Photos from the trip