MY MAVUNO STORY
Every Mavunite has their Mavuno story. This is mine.
The first time I was at Mavuno Church was back in 2005, the day before the first service. I was part of the setup crew, the team that had volunteered to help arrange the seats and put up the decor at the south C sports club in readiness for the first ever service.
From my other blogs, you may have heard that I was first born again in class one at full-gospel church in Buru-buru. At that age, it was clear to me that I really didn’t want to go to hell. Heaven was and still remains my destination after this life. My older brothers and sisters were also happy to graphically describe the pain of encountering Obel: the devil present in hell and in charge of burning those who found themselves in this terrible place. It was clear he would start with the small finger tip and burn it for centuries before moving to the next part of the body. Not only would he do this, he would use sulphur! Do you know how hot sulphur is when described by older children to younger children? And in those stories, he did have a pitch fork. You could also never have water to drink. Your throat would be parched but not a drop of water would you get for the period of time it took Obel to deal with you. I cannot remember clearly whether in those stories he had a brother called Magwar, or whether Magwar was his fork. Nonetheless, these were the stories of horrors, enough to keep one away from the slightest of sins. Indeed, growing up, the greatest fear I had in telling a lie, was the fear of the greatest consequence: meeting any of the two, Obel or Magwar.
With time, I grew older and invariable backslid a number of times. Fortunately, by the time I got to high school, there were regular challenge weekends during which I would be convicted by the holy spirit to get born again, again. Still, youth does have its folly and challenges and by the time I left high school, I wasn’t as close to God as I should have been. I had my own sins and guilt those kept me from approaching God for forgiveness. This situation persisted through the next couple of years until 2002, some time in campus. That year, I broke up with my first ever girlfriend, or rather, she had broken up with me and I had only finally mustered the courage to move on that year. Somewhere along the way, I opted to stay away from relationships, not for religious reasons but as a form of self-restructuring. Around the same year, I moved to stay with my brother who was doctor in Kenyatta. This is where I my school was.
My sister in-law, would play this novel type of gospel songs that I’d never heard before but found very interesting: not because they were gospel songs, but because they were wonderful songs (turned out to be Don Moen and Michael W. Smith and such).
One day, as I was passing along Mamlaka road, near main campus, I heard the same songs coming from a nearby building. It sounded like a public function, hence out of curiosity, I peeped in to find out what was going on. That is how, after three years in University, principally the same neighbourhood with the church, I discovered Nairobi Chapel. The same way John Speke discovered the Source of River Nile. For some reason, I found these songs so appealing that I would stay and listen to all of them, the worship in its entirety. Now here is the things, the cost of listening to the music was that I had to listen to the sermons. The truth be told, I found these sermons too long. They lasted, and still do last about an hour. However, I credit my parents with the way they had raised me. I found it impolite, unacceptably rude to step out of church before the sermon ended. It is this way then that I eventually found myself being reconnected to the word of God and sure enough, I gave my life to Christ once again. And this time, I somehow got to know that I do not require to be born again over and over. Just once is enough, but repentance and a constant relationship is necessary.
As it turned out, a few years later, the Nairobi Chapel determined to plant a number churches across the city. The church in its own wisdom determined the geographical regions that would be covered by each of the four churches that were to be planted. Kenyatta landed on the Mombasa road segment, that was to be led by pastors muriithi and Carol Wanjau. At that time, they had no clue what the church would be called. After a couple of months, the leadership team announced the name: Mavuno church. Put an emoji that represents my reaction (yes I am talking to you the reader).
As the churches were to be new, Nairobi chapel required volunteers to help with tasks as the new churches found their footing. No chance I was joining the worship team but there was a task that required power and energy: the set-up crew. And that is how I, guided by pastor Tony and his wife, and Pastor Rangie Gatama (the typo is not accidental), found myself at Mavuno church, the day before the first service, with a few other energetic folk arranging green seats in rows and putting up decoration. By the way, the venue at South C sports club was a club. It is only a church on Sunday and hence, we would set up for the service and set-down after.
The life of a broke student can be interesting. The road to the club…what road, it was a murram, rocky potholed path that in some areas was also a black cotton fieldish path, flooding during rains. This road was the last part of my journey to church. Because of this section, it was said that those going to Mavuno must have really needed God as the hoops one had to jump over, the torture that even those who had cars had to go through, meant that there was something higher than common sense that got people to Mavuno. However, my own trips were often trickier. At the time, I was residing within KNH grounds and would have to make the trip to church. On very few of the church days did I have the full KES 30 fare to get me to church. Taking a bus the whole way: which meant a bus to town, then a south C bus to container, then a vehicle from container to the sports club was out of question. That cost would have been closer to KES 50 or 60. No chance. On the good day when I had fare, I would therefore walk from KNH through a shortcut to Nairobi West. On an average day, I would take one matatu from West to Container, and on many days, I would have to walk all the way. Oh, and get back home after church.
In this era of nani atniscratchia, it may seem like a lot but for me it was perfectly fine and in line with my ability at the time. Besides that, every day I came to church, I encountered God and was never the same again. I looked forward to church in this way: set-up and church and thus it was for about a year or so, can’t quite remember. I cannot remember being more excited.
The concept of lifegroup, or eklesia or Bible study (only we never really studied the Bible) never crossed my mind. It was spoken off over and over in every service. I once signed up out of courtesy and obedience but never really had any intention of actually attending one. I cannot remember at what stage I got a mobile phone, maybe it was earlier. I do remember however, this caucasian lady calling me often and inviting me to uppper hill eklesia. She was quite persistent, and I quite polite, and so we spoke with no intention of ever getting to the group. Until one day, I was in church, greeted the lady who had sat behind me and it turned out to be Jill Brace. That week I attended Eklesia. At first I felt odd, out of place, among all these old people who didn’t seem to talk of much that was interesting, but this group, upper-hill eklesia ended up playing one of the most pivotal roles in my life for the next decade plus years. Indeed, when it ended in 2017, it left a hole that is yet to be filled to this day. I met wonderful people: Jill Brace, Beth and Lauren Koehler, Susan and Kuria Waithaka, Angie Murenga and the Cowmans and lots of other great folk. The Igobwas and others came by later and the impact was great.
In 2005, I joined foundations class, modern day mizizi. I was broke and had no idea how I would fund myself through the class. The cost was about, five thousand shillings. A complete stranger, a single mother, not very rich, out of the blue paid for me the full cost of the class. Christine. She too was a member of that class. I do not know whether subsequent Mizizis were that powerful, but that class transformed my life and connected me with God. Really. Perhaps it was there that I found purpose in leadership and service. I do not know and cannot remember. However, I do remember clearly that during the half-day prayer and fasting I experienced things I never had before. It was at the arboretum. Please note that whereas I was born again, my prayers were rarely ever longer than a minute or a few minutes at them most. I silently dreaded the possibility of being required to pray continuously for ten minutes let alone four hours! And like the parable of the five loaves of bread and two fishes, when the four hours ended, I wasn’t done praying and there was a lot more I had to pray about. I had two of the clearest and earliest visions I had up to that point: in one I was praying and at the same time trying to crash a giant snake, bigger than I that would disappear into the ground every time I tried to crush it’s head. Don’t worry, it was a dream-like vision. Eventually, I did crush it, but with the help of Christ Jesus and I literally felt the victory. The second was a sense that a colleague in the class was going through some trouble and I was to approach her about it and reassure her that everything would be alright. I did and she asked me how I knew. At the final retreat, we had some other unique adventure: a prayer walk. We would walk around a certain circular path, silent, in prayer. Suffice to say that in that short walk, I experienced God in a way that I had not experienced before. It is not something I can describe, it is something I experienced and in it, you know God is real and God is true, and Jesus is his son.
As I digress a little bit, whereas one may get into religion or Christianity for many reasons including the fear of hell, there are personal experiences in life that are different and defy logic to one who may not know what underlies it. It is these personal experiences that one should pray for so that one may know what I, and many others do, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Pray for it, and it will happen, for Christ says: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me.” My prayer for you is that you may experience God in a way that convicts you of the truth of life.
Have you seen this image on the net of a cat looking at itself in the mirror and seeing a lion? This was me. It never hit me how thin, out of fashion and uninspiring I looked while in campus. My Afro hairstyle was modeled along a fashion I had rated highly in my early childhood. The 80s. The baggy trousers too. I didn’t know better for what I learnt in childhood as fashionable is what stuck with me all the way to university. Still, in my own eyes, I saw reliability and style. At the same time, I had identified leadership as my calling. It is with this vision of self that I was so touched by pastor Simon’s sermon on leaderhip. He asked all those who felt called to the space of leadership to meet him after the sermon. Only two of us turned up. And what I remember is that I did not inspire much confidence a display any features of a leader.
A few years later, in 2010, I had finished medical school, and had been invited to join a few doctors in petitioning the ministry of health against a decision to stop sponsoring students for specialists training. I was not one of those students neither was I working in government. However, I believed that there was need to stand with my colleagues and about 25 of us went to the ministry headquarters to deliver a letter and seek audience. We were huddled in a room for about an hour after which a ministry official delivered to us the official position. There would be no change to the position. Little known to us, this one event would be the straw that breaks the camels back, and would lead to the process that birthed the Doctor’s union. I was one of a handful of doctors who carried on the hope that we could form a union and successfully rally doctors around it. We thus formed a steering committee. All this is probably known to most doctors. What is not known is that throughout, it was at Mavuno Church that many prayers by a prayer counsellor called Kevin Okwako, himself a university student were held. A remember a time when we were rattled by internal politics: within the steering committee (looking back very minor stuff that is actual part of growth, and that was handled democratically with respect. This was a great team) and I felt strongly that I had to take leadership of the group to ensure that we stayed true to our mission and delivered a union for doctors. The steering committee had decided to democratically select its leaders. We prayed that I be elected chairman. I was elected secretary general. I was disappointed with this turn as my key interest was internal leadership not external still we prayed and thanked God for his will. However, the following week, a contention arose “members” were wondering how a doctor in the private sector could be the secretary general. In reality, there was no such question. Our God works as he does. In the second election that resulted, I was elected chairman, and by August of that year, we had delivered a doctors’s union that proceeded to be one of the most consequential trade unions of the last decade in Kenya.
The count me in Campaign. Help build God’s church. We’ve always heard stories of how people got favoured by God. I was too. I gave an initial lumpsum as well as 10% of all my earning beyond my principal salary. My personal target was quite high and I probably got to slightly more than 50%. Well guess what, subsequent to that, I got promoted three times in two years from medical officer in ICU, to deputy head of ICU, to head of ICU, to acting Medical Director and finally to the Medical Director. I don’t have the exact figure but my eventual gross salary was definitely in the ballpark of what I had contributed to count me in. Knowing how amazing my God is, I have long suspected that is is the exact amount.
I have since joined the Ndoa ministry, the prayer counselling team, and moved to Mavuno Mashariki. I feel that I may not have been as engaged as I could have been but my God remains alive. My Mavuno story is not done. There is much yet to come. And I will sure be updating this with God’s grace.
For the avoidance of doubt, I am not even close to perfect. I am a sinner like almost every other person out there. What I do have is an abundance of God’s grace and favour in my life, for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him, shall not perish but have eternal life.