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Remembering greetings of ‘Jambo,’ big smiles and real joy in Kenya


Arriving in Mombasa, we met Ken and Moses Gitau. Moses, an evangelist for the Kisauni church, is a man who has endeared himself to many who have gone to help with the work in Kenya. He greeted us like long-lost friends. His warm welcome symbolized all our connections with Kenyans.
The road from the Mombasa airport became a symbol of the poverty and hardships of all the people we encountered. The narrow strip of choppy blacktop wove through neighborhoods of tiny houses and lean-tos. I counted two stop signs and no traffic lights in our 40-minute drive to our hotel.
Despite the hardships that many face, the Kenyans are warm, genuine people who show their love to those around them. They greet you with “Jambo” (the Swahili word for “hello”) and big smiles.
The church members we encountered had little but shared what they had freely. They welcomed us into their homes and churches. A sense of joy seemed always present.
The churches in Mombasa are growing, and new churches are being planted regularly. That growth is the result of the great faith and capabilities of many people. The Mombasa Educational Institute enhances the Bible knowledge and leadership skills of men and women devoted to serving the kingdom by sharing the gospel.
We met with Mustafa Masudi, headmaster of Kimbilio Christian Academy, a school operated by the Changamwe church. We shared with him what we would be teaching at the school. Mustafa is a soft-spoken, highly competent administrator whose faith and Bible knowledge are impressive. He was thoughtful and cooperative as we talked about the work we were planning. He was knowledgeable about educational standards and the importance of effective and faithful teachers.
As we have reflected on the work of Kimbilio, we are convinced that the academy is a great service to the community because of Mustafa’s leadership.
Ken and I met with six church leadership groups, taught English classes for seventh and eighth graders at Kimbilio and taught leadership classes for about seven hours.
Pat and Joyce went to four classes with women of different churches, taught two groups of elementary children at Kimbilio and conducted a workshop on teaching children. Joyce taught large groups of children five times.
Joyce came home concerned that the Kenyan churches had so little material for children. Our last day in Mombasa, she taught 60 children for two hours. She described the children as “amazing learners.” They loved the stories of Moses and Elijah.
We will always remember their big eyes, their bigger smiles, and their desire to touch the white visitors.I regret deeply waiting so late in life to see Africa, and we saw only one city in one of the 53 nations.
But we have come home changed. Each time I buy cup of coffee, I think about how the money I spent on it would feed Moses’ family for three days. Our materialism has been challenged by encounters with people in the humblest of circumstances.
We will never forget the joyous look on the faces of children and church members in Mombasa, Kenya.
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