The people we met in the diocese of Bungoma are ready to hear the good news and, fortunately, there are over two hundred evangelists and seventy priests ready to share it. Two stops in the Bungoma diocese best represent my memories of evangelism in Kenya.
One day, we visited with a woman who lived in the midst of a cornfield. The road we walked along could not support car travel so the maize would be used for feeding people, but could not be transported or sold.
The woman was dressed in a torn shirt and kitanga (long skirt) and her three children varied in their approach to us between hiding behind their mother and walking up to touch us.
A pastoral visit in Bungoma generally follows the format of a song, a prayer for the home, introduction of the family and evangelists by way of testimony, closing prayer and a chorus. The difference in this woman’s home was that there were no chairs to sit on. The one-room hut had a small table and one chair. We stood within the dark and mud-caked walls as she shared that her husband had been sick and had gone away some time ago. She was grateful for our visit and insisted that we wait while she picked some corn for us to take with us.
This was a woman who did not attend church. She did not have the ability to get to a church, the “proper” clothes to wear or any money to contribute to the church. For her, as for many like her, the evangelist has become the church. The evangelists here are the living expressions of the community of the body of Christ.
A second visit helped me to fill out the vision of evangelistic goals in Bungoma. We traveled along a path in an area untouched by machines. A man in the village of five small mud huts had donated some of his land for the church. We stood in a ten by six-foot structure with two completed walls and poles holding up the grass roof. We prayed and gave thanks for the witness in the community. He then asked us to come to his home and pray for his wife. During prayers, she lay on the floor with her six-month old infant, not having the strength to get up.
This church community represents the goal of the evangelistic process: to engage people, turn them to Christ, develop their faith and then have them share in the responsibility of church building.