Training the first Kisii-speaking church leaders

Jem Hovil

Bishop John Orina believes himself to be the youngest bishop in the world. He is just 35 years old and a bishop in Kisii, Southern Nyanza Diocese, western Kenya. This is an area that has been specifically targeted for mission. It is lush, highly fertile and densely populated. It is, however, hard work for a bishop.

Most of the locals in the region speak the minority Kisii language, but Bishop John and his colleagues largely speak Luo. Even though most of the Kisii speakers can also speak Kiswahili - the official language of Kenya - the Luo ministers are not able to speak Kiswahili well. The resulting problem is that there is very little bible teaching in churches in the language that the local Kisii people can easily understand. Added to this, only 15 Anglican churches serve a vast area. It is estimated that there are just 2,000 Christians in Kisii.

To support this small body of believers and help them reach out to others, the critical need is to grow leaders from the grassroots. To have local people preaching the language of the local congregations week by week will enable them to be built up through God's word and equipped to bring others to Christ. By starting with just five church leaders who speak both languages, Bishop Orina hopes to train up a few who will then train many more.

Thomas, Naomi, Vincent, Benson and Joshua are being taught the BUILD training material. All five have big hopes and ambitions for what this training could enable them to do in the diocese: Naomi - aged just 22 - leads a church in Kisii town, an important node for growth. Benson - who is the coordinator for mission and evangelism in the region - has a vision for developing a team of evangelists to share in the work. Once they have been trained, they plan to teach people in their own parishes step-by-step, starting with the simplest and most important units. They will go back over the more complicated areas as and when the participants are ready. They will teach in the local language and develop written material as they go along.

Thomas shares, "As you train people they grow in confidence. Whereas before they were shying off and not wanting to do their duties, they're now saying things like, 'I can now REALLY teach in the church.'"