In the New Testament, as Jesus’ disciples went out to spread the gospel, believers were not left to themselves to live out their new faith in isolation. Churches were planted, and believers lived in community. This way they could encourage each other, support each other, and learn from each other. As Christianity spread around the globe, this continued to be the practice, and how we are the richer for it yet today! It is the case, of course, that churches in various countries, even in different parts of the same country, often look a little – or a lot – different from each other, both inside and out. There truly is immeasurable and invaluable beauty in this diversity. I think though, that the most beautiful thing is what is in common: people all over the world are gathering to worship the Lord, to learn the Scriptures, and to be in fellowship as a body, a community, a family. Christianity was never intended to be a solitary faith and practice.
One of our favorite experiences in Kenya was finding out in real life what it means to be part of a global church. We were able to visit and worship with several different congregations in and around Nairobi, but our home-away-from-home church was St. Matthew’s, a congregation of the Anglican Church of Kenya. There were things we were used to – like being able to walk to church, and things we were not used to – like using a prayer book and following liturgical forms through the whole service. Although the service we went to was mostly in English, some of the songs were in Swahili, which we quite enjoyed, especially as we started to be able to pick up some words and phrases and the lyrics began to make sense to us. At St. Matthew’s, we heard God’s Word preached, celebrated baptisms together, and the Lord’s Supper, prayed together, participated in Sunday School, and enjoyed delicious Kenyan food at a church picnic outside between the buildings and the soccer field, where our boys were often included in after-church matches. We had chai and mandazi after the service sometimes, and appreciated this at least as much as the coffee and cookies we grew up with. The pastor there is Rev. Redson Komu, known as the Vicar, and he is responsible for 3 congregations, so we didn’t see him every week. Eventually, we did get to know him a little and we appreciated his love for the community, and for the people in his congregations, which he extended to our family unreservedly. He prayed for us, and for our church here in Pella. His blessing over our family on our last Sunday there remains a treasured memory. We saw God’s gracious provision for all of our needs, including this beloved church home during Ryan’s sabbatical.
So, it is no surprise that we are grateful for the ease of keeping in touch even across an ocean. We do hear from Rev. Komu now and then, and just a couple of days ago were very excited to receive the set of pictures you will find below. When we left Kenya in late November last year, there were several of piles of sand and gravel behind the church building, and some deep trenches dug through in a pattern that appeared to most of the children around to be a type of maze for them to play in. Today, a building is taking shape; footings are in place, and walls are standing – a primary school is under construction! This school is being built with an eye to making education available to children right in the area of the church who do not currently attend school. It will not be run by the church directly, but St. Matthew’s is supporting its construction as well as providing the site. As far as we know, one potential teacher is also a member of the church. Since we know that education in its various forms is also a value of our church home here in Pella, we are especially pleased to share this additional area of common ground and to share these photos from Rev. Komu, giving God praise for the progress so far. Please pray for the construction to proceed smoothly and in a timely manner, as this is often a challenge in Nairobi, and that costs would be manageable, so that sound, functional, and useful classrooms can be filled with eager learners very soon!
As we think about being part of the body of Christ, here in Pella, Iowa, and way around in Nairobi, Kenya, and consider things that Christians do differently from each other, as well as things we do that are very similar no matter where we are, we recall these words in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae:
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:12-17 ESV