After three years of holding church under a tree in his village in rural Kenya, Richard was discouraged. His two grandparents had accepted the Lord. Two of his neighbors also loved Jesus. But having only four people come to worship and hear him preach for three years was depressing!
What was he to do? He loved Jesus and wanted to serve Him. Richard wasn’t sure this was how to serve the Lord.
His thoughts went something like this: “Lord, I am ready to quit. I have held church every Sunday under the tree in my village for three years. My two grandparents come, and that is so good. They love you and want to know more about you. The two neighbors that accepted Jesus three years ago come, too. I am glad. But seriously, one week, two people are meeting with me; the next week, it might be three or four. I am so tired of not reaching more people. I want to stop. I know you love me, and I love you. I just want to do something where I see some success, some progress. Please help me.”
When Richard accepted Jesus as his Savior, local missionary Timothy Kinyua encouraged him to start a church. In Africa, meeting under a tree is acceptable as a place to worship. That is what Richard did. He found a tree in his village and started meeting with his two grandparents and two neighbors. Initially excited, now he was discouraged.
Encouragement for the discouraged missionary
One day, Timothy contacted him and invited him to a special conference. A team from Advancing Native Missions was to hold a conference to encourage local pastors and missionaries. Timothy assured him that there would be no cost to him. The team would provide food and lodging for the pastors who attended. He said to Richard, “Just come, listen, and learn more about Jesus.”
Richard attended the conference with little expectation of the meeting helping him with his situation. But those few days with the men from ANM and the pastors from Kenya were life-changing for Richard. He told Timothy, “God sent those guys for me!”
With fresh determination, Richard rededicated himself to ministry. He returned to his village, his tree, and his small congregation. Well, not tiny for long. His fervency and enthusiasm were contagious. His church began to grow. One person, then a couple, then whole families started to attend to hear about Jesus, and they accepted Him as their Savior.
Meanwhile, Jerry Harding, who led the conference, heard from Timothy about Richard’s church, how it was growing and still meeting under a tree. Jerry visited a church in North Carolina where he shared about Richard, the impact the conference had on him, and how his church was flourishing. Jerry raised $1,500 for a church building for Richard. Timothy brought the money to Richard joyfully, and a small church building went up quickly. That building attracted a great deal of attention. Richard’s church grew even more.
In the past 20 years, Richard has expanded his church six times. He now has over 1,000 members attending his services. The church that almost wasn’t is touching many lives for the Kingdom. Last December, Jerry participated in the dedication of the newest building, bringing the story full circle.
The Continuing Impact
Timothy also explained the difference it made in his own life. He was a young, single man following in his dad’s footsteps with three years in the ministry. The messages Timothy heard challenged, inspired, and encouraged him to rededicate himself to the ministry.
The experience also changed the way he and Richard ministered together. Before the conference, they would go to a village and share the Gospel. When people accepted Jesus as their Savior, they were encouraged to serve the Lord. Then Timothy and Richard would go home, leaving the people without a place to worship or hear the word of God. After the conference, they recognized the importance of starting churches in the villages, finding pastors for the churches, and helping them get established.
Timothy was overjoyed to share that they have started 502 churches in villages in Kenya since that conference in 2004. There is an urgency for more pastors and churches in the towns they are reaching with the Gospel now. As hard as it is to imagine, there are still unreached people who have never heard about Jesus even once. Timothy, Richard, their fellow missionaries in Kenya, and ANM are working to change that.
Would you like to join us in making sure people hear the Good News that Jesus loves them?
Image by 12019 from Pixabay