Before I will leave Kenya for now, I wanted to take the time to introduce Diane and Ibrahim Omondi and their history a little. After all I lived and worked with them for half a year. I also wanted to share a little about my church here and give you a glimpse into the African worship style.
Diane & Ibrahim Omondi
In 1988 Diane - youngest daughter of a Mennonite pastor from Ohio - and Ibrahim - the oldest son of ten children of an Anglican Lay Pastor from Luo land - started a small group in Nairobi. Three decades later this small group had grown into a church with close to 200 congregations all over East Africa.
Photo by Debbi Omondi
Ibrahim started ministering in prisons with 18 years and became a firy evangelizer in the East African revival. With 27 years he got a scholarship from Rosedale Bible Institute in Ohio. From where he went on to get his bachelors in English at Goshen and then his master in Communication at Wheaton College.
Diane had developed an interest in intercultural exchange and a heart for international missions from early on despite of her upbringing in a fairly monocultural environment. When she was 20 years old during her studies for a degree in Ministry at Goshen she went on her first international mission trip to Costa Rica for half a year. After this experience she knew that this was what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
One sunday in 1981 Ibrahim was preaching about missions at a service at Goshen. Amongst his listeners was Diane. She was fascinated by the spirit of the young African preacher and wanted to learn more from him about missions in Africa. So they met for a coffee the next day which turned out to change both of their lives profoundly. They started dating and got involved in youth ministries and a year later they went on a missions trip to Africa. First they were at a youth camp in Congo and after that they wanted to attend a youth conference in Kenya. But just when they arrived in Kenya the 1982 coup attempt took place and the country was in the grip of the military for a couple days and everything stood still. They used the time to visit Ibrahims family in Kitale and got engaged.
However that set the stage for their lifelong commitment against corruption and for the betterment of Kenyan politics and for more integrity and peace in the Kenyan society. When they came back to Kenya in 1984 as a married couple they started a magazine for christian leaders called 'Beyond Magazine'. The magazine had a strong focus on integrity and national politics and brought up many controversies in the times of the oppressive regime of president Moi. After three years one of their editors was thrown into jail and they were forced to shut down the magazine. They had already been in contact with DOVE and though about starting a church. But it was then that they felt a strong calling to really give it a try. They started a small group at their house and a year later they were meeting on sunday mornings in a little room. From their on the church grew tremendosly. The church in Nairobi never became a megachurch, but very soon it started planting more congregations in Uganda and other parts of Kenya.
Diane and Ibrahim had four children and their church continued to grow exponentially as a lay movement with a relationship based structure. Diane became an educator for Montessory teachers in Kenya and started writing childrens books about integrity and the instillation of positive values. Some of these books also promote tree planting and cleaning the environment. Ibrahim rose to become the leader of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, where he continued promoting integrity and fighting corruption in Kenya and when president Kibaki installed the Anti-Corruption Steering Committee in 2011 Ibrahim was invited to become a member. They were part of the movement which finally brought Kenya to peace after the post election violence in 2009 and in the efforts to keep the elections this year peaceful. After three decades their church has nearly 200 congregations in East Africa and missionaries in countries as far as India.
The Service of DOVE Kawangware
I go to the DOVE church in Kawangware, Nairobi together with Ibrahim and Diane. DOVE is not Anglican or Mennonite or Pentecostala but pretty much nondenominational. It is a very African church though: evangelical, fairly charismatic, politically and socially engaged and very passionate and spirited. The social make up is very mixed. We have people from the slums and people which are having good businesses in the city. We often have Kenyan and international guest speakers which are mostly good but every once in a while an odd western missionary passes through. Especially in the last months you could really feel something happening in the church though and it is amazing to see how the church prays for repentance and justice in Kenya and works to break the spirit of poverty and hopelessness.
It has taken me a little to get used to the service and become part of the community, but by now I feel really at home in the church and have found some good friends here. The service is fairly different. It starts around 9 - we usually arrive around 10 - and it goes for four to five hours. There is an hour of prayer, an hours of worship, half an hour of testimonies, presentations and announcements an hour long sermon and another half hour of prayer for the peope at the altar. It is pretty impossible to describe the experience, you have to be there. But to give you a little glimps of what it is like I created a little video clip of the amazing worship for you.
I really enjoyed becoming part of this church for half a year and even though it sometimes still feels a little weird I really love these people and feel at home.