Group gathers to share concerns, praise and news from Kenya
by Robyn Davis Sekula | Special to Presbyterian News Service.
DALLAS — Everything from agriculture to microfinance to Kenyan politics to health and medical issues were part of discussions and presentations at the Kenya Mission Network meeting here Feb. 8–10.
About 40 people attended the conference held at Highland Park Presbyterian Church, which provided meeting space, meals, music and technology needs for the group.
The church has a significant number of members from African nations, including the Rev. Dr. Cyprian Kimathi Guchienda, a native of Kenya who serves as pastor for Church of All Nations. The congregation also has a mission project in Kenya and has long participated in the Kenya Mission Network.
Other members of the group included those attending Presbyterian churches in Detroit, Oregon, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, Georgia and more. The group meets annually, with an informal structure that encourages sharing and collaboration.
The Rev. Kamau Thairu, who serves in Rungiri Presbytery as a pastor and also teaches at the Presbyterian University of East Africa, came to Dallas to speak on the need for partnership. “In executing mission, we must remember there is not ‘those who have’ and ‘those who do not have,’” he told the group in an opening session. “It is a partnership, in which both are participants carrying out the Great Commission.”
Kenya Project Updates
Several church representatives presented updates about projects sponsored by churches in Kenya, including:
Burke Presbyterian Church, Burke, Virginia, started a partnership in Kenya in 1983. Out of this partnership, a new nonprofit organization called Walking with Africans was formed and created a pilot project in 2009 by creating a cooperative relationship with Efforts of the Poor in Development (EPID-Kenya), a local Kenyan nongovernmental organization. Today, the partnership is a microfinance model that helps small groups gain the capital needed for their entrepreneurial efforts and serves about 200 people. Plans call for the EPID to eventually become an independent organization that is self-sustaining.
First Presbyterian Church, Fargo, North Dakota, partners in an effort to assist women and girls with their needs during menstruation. In September 2012, First Presbyterian member Dr. Molly Secor-Turner, Associate Professor of Nursing and Public Health at North Dakota State University, traveled to Chogoria, Kenya, in September 2012. She learned that a major challenge girls face is they did not receive adequate menstrual hygiene protection, and sometimes missed up to five days of school every month. The Fargo church and the presbytery now sew hundreds of reusable pads and panties for the girls in Kenya. Each pad distribution is accompanied by a health education session that increased the girls’ understanding of menstruation and pregnancy, dispelling myths surrounding sexual activity and menstruation. Over the past five years, the program has expanded and over 10,000 pads have been distributed to 31 schools during these sessions. Now the emphasis is to build girl-friendly latrines at the schools and the Presbytery of the Northern Plains has joined with their four Chogoria Presbytery partners to build the first latrines with this focus.
Highland Park Presbyterian Church began a partnership in 2007 with Njuthine, a small village in Kenya that was the home of the Rev. Cyprian Guchienda, who serves as a pastor at the church. Since the partnership was created in 2007, the group has created an 11-mile gravity-fed water pipeline for irrigation, renovated and expanded a local school, created a medical clinic, added bathrooms to a school and a Presbyterian church, distributed Bibles and water filters. With encouragement and support from HPPC, the village has provided staffing to the medical clinic, added electricity to key buildings, started a hot lunch program for the school and planted crops and trees for the school. Groups regularly visit the village. Though HPPC did not give a formal presentation about their work, the church had displays and information available.
- Nancy Collins, Regional Liaison for East Africa for Presbyterian World Mission, brought updates on human trafficking and mission efforts in East Africa.
- Robert (Bobby) McCutcheon of Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia, presented on the topic of The Era of Universal Propinquity: Currents & Countercurrents in Contemporary Mission.
- Stu Ross of The Outreach Foundation presented on Planning a Mission Trip and Completing a Project in Kenya.
- Robyn Davis Sekula (author of this report) presented on the work of Send a Cow in Kenya. She is chair of the U.S. Board of Trustees of Send a Cow, which is a nonprofit organization that works to help farmers create sustainable food supplies.
In addition, Linda Jackson-Shaw of Redmond, Oregon, led discussions with two groups on cultural proficiency in partnerships. Jackson-Shaw is one of several anti-racism and cultural proficiency facilitators for the Office of Racial Justice of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Jackson-Shaw asked those present to discuss difficulties in communicating with their Kenyan partners and to consider the culture of the person they’re speaking with and how that changes the context of what they’re saying.
For more information on the Kenya Mission Network, visit their website, kenyanetwork.org/Kenya_Network/Welcome.html. A date and site has not yet been chosen for the group’s 2019 meeting.
Robyn Davis Sekula is a ruling elder in the PC(USA) who worships at Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. She serves as Chair of the Board of Send a Cow US, which does agricultural and gender empowerment work in Africa, including Kenya. In May 2017, she visited Kenya to see Send a Cow’s work in Western Kenya. She works as a writer and communications consultant, is married and has three daughters.
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