The long-term impact of one pastor’s hunger for biblical truth is truly profound. Only eternity will reveal the full fruit resulting from one man falling in love with sound doctrine and resolving to expose others to the truths he cherishes. That man is Pastor Andrew of Christian Fellowship Baptist Church in Nyamarambe, Kisii County, Western Kenya. Several years ago, Andrew was introduced to HeartCry missionary Sam Oluoch by a mutual contact in the UK. Sam invited Andrew to attend their first Kenyan Reformed Family Conference in 2013. (Sam Oluoch and Sam Odeny discussing the work in Western Kenya)
Pastor Andrew was captivated by the method, content, and authority of the biblical preaching he heard at the conference. Andrew was a long-time Charismatic in belief and practice – the common ‘Christianity’ of Africa. He had planted and was overseeing 3 churches in his area, and was called ‘Bishop Andrew’ by members of his churches. For the first time at this conference, he heard the historic ‘doctrines of grace’ and immediately fell in love with these precious and powerful truths.
Andrew (right – translating for Sam Oluoch) attended the next 2 annual conferences, with growing resolve to conform his churches to biblical doctrine and practice. But his love of truth went beyond reforming his own churches – he wanted to expose other pastors and churches in the region to his theology and practice. So in 2016, HeartCry missionaries Sam Oluoch and Naphtally Ogallo were asked to come lead a conference in Nyamarambe. Their theme was ‘The Gospel the Apostles Preached,’ covered in 7 sessions. Like their pastor, Andrew’s church displayed a genuine desire to learn. They practically forced Sam and Naphtally to promise to return every year for an annual conference!
Let me here include Andrew’s letter to Sam suggesting the topic for the 2017 conference:
“My desire, if possible, is that you tackle the role of the Holy Spirit in the early church (Apostolic time) and the church today. That will automatically put you teaching on the understanding of and use of spiritual gifts in the early church and today. In that same sense, also specify the role of the Bible in the Church today. We know that many people today, when they meet for worship, they normally have no use for the Bible. They believe the Holy Spirit will descend from heaven and show them the way. In so doing, you will find that in the church worship, they will spend most of their time crying for the descent of the Holy Spirit rather than studying the Bible. Also, if possible, you can touch on the issue of the prosperity gospel and so on.
It is important to let you know that this time round we are expecting many new people to attend. Most of them are new to our doctrine but desire to learn from us. We will be having some 2 or 3 churches that recently expressed desires to learn and adopt the Reformed Faith. I invited them to attend the Conference and will be introducing them to you so that they can be able to get some gospel teaching from you as we do.”
With the help of HeartCry funding, Sam Oluoch and Sam Odeny led the 2017 conference. And it was not just the men who were hungry for teaching. Soon there came a request from the women for their own conference. Sam’s wife, Melly, has since led 2 conferences for the ladies.
Theological School Extension
Still Andrew wanted even deeper grounding in the Word, so he enrolled in the Kenyan Reformed School of Theology (KReST) hosted by Sam Oluoch’s church in Kisumu. But this big-hearted pastor was not yet satisfied. He wanted to bring the theological education he was receiving to the pastors of his community. Thus, in September 2018, the first extension of KReST was launched in Nyamarambe.
The first 2 subjects were the Doctrine of Scripture and the Doctrine of God. Sam Odeny (left and right – teaching) reported that the response was ‘amazing’ and they found students who were ‘keen and willing to learn.’ In December 2018, Sam Odeny returned to teach on the Doctrine of Christ and the Doctrine of Man.
Sam was surprised to learn that after the first session in September, some of the students were so excited about the truths they had learned that they went out evangelizing in the community. Some even zealously confronted Charismatic pastors with the errors of their prosperity gospel. Apparently their efforts had some effect, and Sam found a few new students when he returned for the second session in December.
After the second session, Sam reported:
“For the four days of teaching there was maximum cooperation from the students. Those who were in the previous class submitted hand-written assignments and were ready to press on. The students consisted of all ages – young people not yet married, middle aged, and even old men. There was an old man who has been pastoring for decades without theological education. He was so eager to go to KReST. They had so many questions about women preaching, polygamy, anointing oil, prosperity gospel, dancing in churches, etc. In our answers, Scripture was always our point of reference.”
Interesting Cultural Observation
In his report after the second session, Sam made an interesting cultural observation about his students: “Some character traits in the tribe of Kisii make the work interesting and promising. While our community (Luos) like following popular ideas influenced by their opinion-shapers regardless of legitimacy, both in religion and politics, the Kisii are thorough and careful on taking positions. I first saw it practically when Kenyans were preparing for a referendum on a new constitution in 2010. The majority of the Luos did not care to read the document because their opinion-shapers had read it and said it was good. The Kisii’s on the other hand read it carefully. The old and the young were studying it. Those who could not understand English had a Swahili translation. They were searching for clauses that would benefit them and they voted from an informed position. This is the same spirit that they approach the word of God with. They are very keen on the Scriptural verses used to support doctrinal positions.”
Sounds a lot like the Bereans of Acts 17, doesn’t it?
Cost of Reformation
Confronting long-standing error always comes at a cost, and reforming churches is never easy. Sam concluded his report with this sobering reality: “Though many have responded positively, things have not gone smoothly for Pastor Andrew. His reformation activities have divided his ministry. The numbers that used to attend church services have gone down. Some pastors have parted ways with him, even discouraging some people in his congregation. Those that have disagreed with him accuse him of not operating under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Please keep Pastor Andrew and the churches of Nyamarambe in your prayers. Pray that these pastors would embrace the truths they are learning and implement them in their churches.
Before his current role at HeartCry, Robert served several years in pastoral ministry, and a few years in Zambia, Africa as a missionary. He is also a veteran of the Marine Corps. Robert and his wife have been blessed with 3 children and 4 grandchildren. They live near Christiansburg, VA in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, where he enjoys deer hunting and fly-fishing for trout.More By Robert Shepherd