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By Barbara Collins

Poverty has a face.  I know because I have seen it.  I first saw it in the church.  Every church from now on would have a dirt floor.  Every bench we would sit on would not have a back.  However, on some occasions, churches provided a chair, and we were blessed.  Needing to go to the toilet necessitated going to an outhouse.  On the way, I jokingly said to some men in Kitale building a new one that I wouldn’t be able to wait on them to complete their job! The toilets most everywhere we went except for the two hotels in which we stayed in Kitale and Bungoma were on the floor!

Electricity is a luxury item which one of the two pastors of the Covenant City Church in Kitale had at the time.  Although the night we had a scrumptious dinner at Dawson and Elizabeth’s, the electricity was off as the power company decides whenever it chooses to simply cut the power throughout the city.  Our host and hostess, however, were Albert and Christine, who treated us royally in their home on a previous evening.  In place of a living room, Kenyan homes have sitting rooms which usually take up at least three walls to provide plenty of room for seating guests.

Our first encounter with culture came at a luncheon for staff in Kitale the day after we arrived.  Then, we saw our task was not only to encourage the women and enlarge their perception of self-worth, but to remove the erroneous, unbiblical concepts men have learned from their culture.

When I discovered the first group of women with whom we would meet were widows infected by the HIV-AIDS virus, I cried out to the Lord because I knew only He would be able to bring a word of encouragement to them. They were widows because their husbands died of AIDS. Their children, who came with them, are destined to be orphans sooner or later. May this ministry arm of the church multiply rapidly since some 1,300,000 people, mostly women in Kenya are infected with HIV. Later that afternoon, we visited two homes where the women were too sick with AIDS to come to the meeting, laid hands on them, and prayed for their healing.

The Vision Gate Hotel, located right in the midst of a bustling city of a half million people, is owned by a Christian man whom we had the pleasure of meeting.  The restaurant where we ate breakfast every morning had Christian television from America or Kenya on most of the time. 

What was unusual about this hotel is the church that met in the basement.  Their music and prayers filtered up to the third floor where our room was located.  The pastor, whose name is Ezekiel and had come to our meetings, told us that every weekday around 5:45 a.m., they had a prayer meeting called “Morning Glory” so the working people could get “tanked up” before going out into the business world.  It was a wonderful way to begin the day that reached even to us.

Before leaving for the Bungoma Tourist Hotel after one week in Kitale, our friend and sister Christine took us to the Museum of Kitale which was walking distance from our hotel.  What an eye-opener it was to understand just how much tribalism was alive and well with its emphasis on polygamy.  We saw the house of the first wife as well as the second. 

We were receiving one of the basic reasons why the Lord’s hands are tied in His desire to bless Kenya as a polygamous arrangement in marriage contradicts the Lord’s words in Genesis 2:24—“a man .  .  .  be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Wife is “singular” and completely negates two or more.  The primary reason is because a third person enters the “two shall become one” relationship and mars the image of “oneness” that God desires.  God’s Word gave the world the right path to marital harmony and fidelity while erecting the greatest barrier to woman’s degradation by preserving the oneness of husband and wife. 

One of our greatest impressions of the Bungoma/Watoya ministry was the industriousness of our host, Br. Fred Barasa.  He showed us a certificate he had earned recently for organic farming.  The good news is his spread of that knowledge as he leads nine families in his church to start the same for self-support.  He has a wonderful companion in Sarah, his wife, who planned meals in their home for several of us as well as having beautiful African dresses made for the three of us.  Actually, we found our most receptivity to the message of biblical equality in this region. 

"The Mustard Seed" is the name of the church where Br. Fred is the pastor.  It is one of several aligned under the leadership of Bishop Fredrick Mulai.  Frankly, I had misgivings simply because I’ve never been part of a church situation that needed a bishop in charge.  Those fears quickly evaporated when I met him.  He writes, “Now pastors and other men have known that women must be allowed to work as equal partners with men in all spheres.  This was God's original plan before the fall.  After the coming of the Messiah and reconciliation of the human race with God through His shed blood men still subject women to the curse.  I remember God promised deliverance for both men and women through the Seed of a woman.  So keep on preaching; this is what God wants people to know and accept Him without prejudice.”

Br. Albert, pastor from Kitale, said that the eighty percent of Kenyans counted as Christians is too low a figure.  Although we awakened in Kitale at the Vision Gate by prayers and singing reaching our third-floor room, a Muslim call to prayer early in the morning in Bungoma awakened us.  Sounds like Bungoma has caved in to accommodating Muslims now present all over the world. 

From Bungoma/Watoya, we headed toward Webuye.  Here we stayed in the home of Wambeye and Loice Wafula.  How rewarding it was to live under their roof this final week.  Br. Wambeye is also industrious and makes income beyond his couple's ministry to help his family--his wife Loice and their five boys.

When time for the seminar came, we had already abandoned the three of us making separate presentations in Kitale in favor of the three of us standing together in Watoya then being seated together with the understanding that should we desire to add something to what another was saying, we would feel free to do so.

During our last few days in Kenya, we discovered in Netima the enormous gap that exists between men and women.  When they wanted to usher us off to another building at lunch to meet with other area pastors and leadership, we told them we’d rather stay with the people. 

Therefore, the table and chairs provided for the seminar became our table of food.  When we noticed a long time passed between the congregation and between us being served in one place as well as the pastors and leaders in another, we stopped eating and began visiting with the mostly women that hadn’t been served.  They were sitting on benches of the same height as the ones in front of them which substituted for their table. 

Of course, we were aware of the honor the leadership had given us.  However, what the women were being served was definitely “less than” what we were being served.  Kathy took a bowl of avocados from our table and gave it to them.  In fact, we asked one young father holding his baby to join our table, and Kathy held the baby while the father ate. 

Had the Kenyan pastor and leaders at this seminar heard our words? At the beginning of many books of the New Testament, Paul referred to himself as a “servant of God.” Time after time, we had mentioned in the seminars that “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.  Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto (served), but to minister (serve) . . .” Mt. 20:25-28 or Luke 22:25-27.  “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.” (I. Corinthians 15:46)

Did true servanthood exist in the in the home life with the wife supporting the husband as well as the husband supporting the wife? One can’t “hop-scotch” over the marriage relationship and find fulfillment in the church.

At the seminar’s conclusion at the Nzoia Market church, we opened the floor for questions.  In this way, we tapped into exactly what was on the minds of the pastors and leaders present.  Basically, we found since the Swahili Bible was inadequate in itself, we had to go back to the original Hebrew language or to the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) for help in translation problems. 

For instance, in Genesis 3:16, most translations in English as well as the Swahili Bible, are simply giving what the King James Version says which causes translations to become multiplied error.  See chart, or for those who can read a pdf file go here. (Make a copy of this clearly-worded chart to insert in your God’s Word to Women book.)

Finally, one of the pastors encouraged the women to ask their questions, and we heard from the second woman of the day although we appreciated the opportunity to answer the questions asked by the pastors and leaders. 

Did God really curse Eve? No, not according to God’s Word, but it comes into theology from the Babylonian Talmud, which we do not accept because it is a book of fables.  As Christian women, we refuse to address ourselves to working out Eve’s curse since scripture nowhere says that God cursed Eve, nor did he curse women.  The word “desire” in Genesis 3:16 came to us directly from the Babylonian Talmud—not from God’s inspired Word. 

The crown of blessing came on Wednesday evening at the couples’ dinner when we asked Felix and Caroline, Sammy and Josephine, and Dennis and Metrie—all young couples who hadn’t been married long—to share about the attitudes they had toward one another.  How refreshing it was! In no way could we have brought something more powerful as their very lives showed their commitment to each other which was something they had been practicing all along, breaking cultural traditions.

Looking back over our three weeks in the three cities, it is easy to see why the churches in Kenya remain small.  Church leadership has a distorted, subverted view of women and their potential to become the mighty force that the Lord intends.  (Psalm 68:11, Amplified, says, “The Lord gives the word (of power); the women who hear and publish (the news) are a great host. 

Just think of it! More than one-half of the Body of Christ in Kenya is relegated to a second-class position because of a false belief that men should rule and lead and that “head” means “authority over” rather than “source” (of life) “even as Christ is “head” or a “source of life” to the church.” “Submit” means “do what I say” rather than “support” (which must be mutual, Ephesians 5:21.  “Submit” in v. 22 is not even found in the original Greek.

Pastors must realize they must do something more than depend on the meager offerings of small churches to support their families.  When church leadership sheds its commitment to “culture” and commits only to God’s infallible Word in matters of marriage and ministry which includes their own wives and families as well as the remainder of women in the church, then will churches begin to grow.  Then, God will call them to a higher level.

Does poverty have a face in Kenya? Yes! It begins in the churches.  As I. Peter 4:17 says, “judgment must begin at the house of God.” Do the churches in Kenya as well as America agree?


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