The sun’s bright, piercing rays receded. Dusk turned the vibrantly blue sky into pale shades of gray. Timothy felt the coolness of the evening settling in.
His limping, old Land Rover had stalled for the nth time. Nightfall caught him in the wilderness of northern Kenya, on his way back to Meru town from a tribal village. Here wildlife abounds — ferocious lions, skulking leopards, laughing hyenas, monstrous elephants. He had to act fast. No help was available anywhere near.
All he could think of was his dear wife, Yvonne, waiting for him at home. He needed to call her and let her know where he was and what had happened.
His cell phone had no signal inside the truck. Leaving the safety of the stalled vehicle, he searched for the tallest anthill he could find. He climbed one, unmindful of possibly stirring the ants and being stung. The signal was faint.
“Yvonne, the truck stalled again and I’m in the middle of the bush,” Timothy reported. “Please send someone to help me.” He tried not to alarm her.
“Whose tire is that?”
When Timothy’s father, John Kirema, the beloved founder of Cornerstone Evangelistic Ministries, passed away in March 1999, the mantle of leadership passed on to him. Timothy also inherited his father’s well-worn Land Rover, which had served the ministry for years.
It was no surprise to Timothy when he found himself stranded in the bush to or from his visits to tribal villages. One of his scariest experiences while on such a trip in the Land Rover was seeing a tire roll in front of him from out of nowhere. Wide-eyed and puzzled, Timothy turned to his Turkana co-worker, Pastor Paul, and cried, “Whose tire is that?” In seconds the truck landed awkwardly in a ditch with a loud crash. The wheel studs had broken. The pair spent the next four days on the roadside, waiting for a mechanic to get the replacement part.
In 2004 a team from ANM went to Kenya to hold the first-ever pastors’ conference in the country and for Cornerstone Evangelistic Ministries. They traveled for days with Timothy in his old truck to visit villages in the bush and agreed it was time he had a better one. A team member gave $12,000 toward a used Toyota Hilux from another NGO. Unfortunately, the vehicle was in a road accident in 2007. Timothy and his riding companions were blessed to walk away after the truck rolled five times, but even after extensive repairs, the Hilux continued to break down on Kenya’s rough roads.
A few years ago, a group of three women from ANM traveled with Timothy to several remote villages in central Kenya. ANM staff member Laverne Castillo recalls,
Having our teeth and bones jarred day after day traveling over deeply rutted roads of dirt and rock, we had an entirely new impression of “four-wheeling.” I was increasingly amazed at all that Timothy had to juggle in this work: encouraging and counseling pastors across a huge area; dangers on the outermost roads from bandits, wild animals and tribal rivalries; all the while navigating several tribal languages. Who knew that, on top of all this, a missionary would have to be an auto mechanic as well? When the truck began to make a new noise, the three of us were no help at all as Timothy went to work under the hood with his few tools. After a couple of false starts and several prayers we were able to make it back to town and the truck returned to the shop in the morning for yet another repair.
“We heard the bone-chilling sound of the lions”
In July 2016 Timothy and his co-worker, Pastor Samson, were on their way back from the town of Maralal when their truck developed a transmission problem. He recounts, “The bell housing of the Hilux developed a big crack, and I could not engage the gears. We pushed the truck to the side of the road. It was already dark. That area is a wildlife conservancy with all the Big Five animals, lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and cape buffalo, and sixth, the sharp-teeth hyena. We wanted to get to the town of Rumuruti, where we could spend the night and proceed to Meru the following day. We ended up spending the night in the truck.”
Just before midnight, Timothy and Samson heard a terrifying roar from the woods: “While we sat inside in the truck, we could see many hyenas and elephants crossing the road near us. We were terribly shaken as we heard the bone-chilling sound of the lions that night, making us feel like they were just a few feet away from the truck. We had to keep our voices low and could not even dare to make a short phone call or step out to relieve ourselves until morning came.”
Despite the brutal landscape, Timothy continues his work, gifted with the same heart and burden that his father had for unreached people groups. In partnership with ANM, he now has 400 churches and outreaches among over a dozen tribes, including the Turkana, Samburu, Rendille, Borana, and Maasai.
“We shall be able to reach new villages”
By 2017 the continual drain of repair and maintenance costs caused Timothy and Yvonne to cry to the Lord for a better and stronger vehicle to serve the ministry effectively.
They visited the U.S. in 2019 and spoke in churches and homes about their work in Kenya. The Lord gave them favor in people’s hearts.
After returning to Africa, the couple excitedly informed ANM, “During our visit, God manifested Himself beyond what we listed. We asked Him for forgiveness for limiting Him. After all our U.S. meetings, God’s people provided more than twice what we had prayed for! 20 church buildings! 17 water wells! 7 motorbikes! We also had an urgent need for a mission truck (our old truck has a broken frame and frequently breaks down in the bush placing us in danger of being attacked by lions). It was Auntie Marlou who felt so heavily burdened on Yvonne’s behalf to pray for a new truck. Uncle Bo said it would be very difficult due to the big amount needed. But God is an awesome God full of surprises: more than $40,000 was raised for a new or slightly-used truck!”
This February, thanks to the amazing generosity of God’s children, Timothy and Yvonne were able to buy an almost new Toyota Land Cruiser. In a letter of March 25 to the donors, Timothy writes,
Yvonne and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping us get a modern vehicle for the mission. It’s a great blessing to us in spreading the Good News of Christ here in Kenya. Most of the time our old truck would break down in the wilderness putting our lives in danger for days, but the newly acquired vehicle will serve us effectively and we’ll be able to reach thousands of souls with the gospel. My wife will not worry anymore when I travel to the field. Through this blessing I will be able to visit the missionaries in the field to encourage them in their areas of operations. We shall be able to reach new villages where the gospel has never reached. We praise God that the new vehicle is so modern and has air conditioning because in some of the places we travel to, the temperatures are so high, sometimes up to 40 degrees Celsius [104˚ F]. Before, we used to drive at night because of the heat of the day. However, it was more dangerous when the truck would break down, but now we are doing our travels during the day.
The first trip we did with this new truck was to travel to Western Kenya, about 745 miles both ways to encourage the brethren working there before the cancellation of gatherings by the government due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was a great moment to encourage God’s servants as many are discouraged. It has come at the right time and we praise God for it! All our missionaries are so happy and rejoicing in the Lord for the new vehicle and praying for you.
We rejoice with our brothers and sisters in Kenya! God’s timing indeed is perfect.