Kenya & Uganda 2015
It is never easy to be certain of leadings. However the Christian walk is one of faith. It is not logic and certainty. As Brother Branham had said, it was better to be doing something than nothing, even if it was making mistakes! So, I decided to accept the invites to visit Ogembo over Easter 2015.
It began on Monday 30 March 2015. It was a 38 hour journey to Nairobi via Auckland, Perth and Johannesburg. 17,000 kilometres later I was sharing message concepts with seven pastors over supper in a rather warm and bustling Nairobi.
Flight SA 184 Is ready to depart fro Nairobi. Will passenger Richard Oliver please make your way to Gate 8. You are the last remaining passenger and all other passengers are waiting for you. The gate will close in two minutes!” I had heard others being called like that and had scorned them for their selfishness. God has a way of humbling us and this was one of His ways of dealing with my bad attitude.
I don’t run well. “Drop foot” makes it easy for me to trip and fall flat on my face, another of God’s humbling tools. But I made it! As I sat red faced and embarrassed on the aircraft, trying to quietly puff and wheeze my way back to normality, I wondered why God would want a third rate message teacher from New Zealand to travel to Africa. I can’t fathom that, but I have to trust that God knows what He is doing.
The Eltham Message Church web site (www.messagechurch.com) had attracted some non message believers over the past few years. Two pastors in particular, Vane Obure and Josephine Omari had kept frequent email contact. They, and one or two other contacts were all living near the town of Ogembo in western Kenya. They were either new to the Message or had not been believers very long.
Now I believe that this Message calls predestinated children of God out of Spiritual Amnesia so I have no problems with speaking at churches not run on Message lines. Those last few sheep may be in those groups. I felt to visit Ogembo to teach the little I knew.
It is never easy to be certain of leadings. However the Christian walk is one of faith, not logic and certainty. As Brother Branham had said, it was better to be doing something than nothing, even if it was making mistakes! I decided to visit Ogembo over Easter 2015.
Such a visit would cost our small church a lot of money. New Zealand is a very long way from Kenya and Uganda and virtually all accommodation, local transport and meeting costs would also have to be met by us in New Zealand. Brother Greg Alford’s church in Kaiapoi, near Christchurch in the South Island helped us with a donation. Pastor Victor Okwaro of Funyula in Kenya and his church also helped financially and spiritually. However the total financial cost was high.
On Monday 30 March I began my 38 hour journey to Nairobi via Auckland, Perth and Johannesburg. 17,000 kilometres later I was sharing message concepts with seven pastors over supper in a rather warm and bustling Nairobi. They all turned up next day for a hotel breakfast too!
One of the striking differences between African countries and the West is youth and vitality. The median age in New Zealand is around 35 years. In Kenya and Uganda it is around 16. The result is a much younger and more vibrant culture. There are young people everywhere. They spill over the pavements into the roads while innumerable small motorbikes weave in around the traffic and people. The motorbikes sometimes even use the footpaths! And yet it all works.
From Nairobi Vane Obure and I headed west. Vane’s Uncle Joseph drove us in his car. The others followed in another car. We crossed the Great Rift Valley and passed the Masai wild life park. Speed humps and pot holes are the bane of motoring in Africa. And locals add their own home made speed humps especially if there has been an accident. We struggled with one that a Land Rover would have difficulty with and damaged the car, an extra expense!
My base was to be the Samita Lodge about 5 minutes from Ogembo in one direction and some 25 minutes from the larger town of Kisii in the other. Brother Victor from further north met me there as arranged.
Ogembo is a small Kenyan town of around 1,900 people but this is not a western country where most people live in cities and towns. There are some 10,000 people living on family land within a 7 kilometre radius of this small town. In other words about 80% of the population live on the land with lots of small villages scattered around. Ogembo itself is just south of the Equator and is 5,400 feet above sea level, quite near Lake Victoria.
The area around this small town in western Kenya is hilly. A patchwork of individually owned plots of ancestral land rise from the valleys and lower slopes to smooth topped hills. These plots of land grow tea, coffee, banana and sweet potatoes as well as many other staple foods such as maize, sugar cane and beans. The plots of land are worked by families living on subsistence level farming.
It was good to be back in the area for the second time. This time I had arrived in Ogembo at the coolest time of the year with temperatures dropping to around 20 degrees C at night and rising only up to 35 degrees on the warmest days. April is also the beginning of the rainy season. And it can really rain! Towering thunderclouds, almost incessant lighting and thunder are an almost daily occurrence. These do not improve an already unreliable power supply. Because I am overweight I have sleep apnea. I have a small air pump and a mask that allows a good night’s sleep. But without power the pump stops and I wake up. I lost count one stormy night but I awoke at least fifteen times!
Fortunately these daily storms are reasonably predictable. They often start from about 3PM. This allowed time for two church services a day. As long as we were off the country roads by 3.30, we were unlikely to get stuck in the cloying red mud. The sealed main roads are, with some qualifications, very good. This was the first opportunity for Victor and I to make our Kisii/Ogembo mission trip that we had planned together in 2009.
Thus began an eleven days preaching and teaching schedule of 21 services in Kenya. Outreach had been done in the Ogembo area before by Kenyan Message churches but sometimes a visiting minister from overseas, especially if he has a different accent and a different coloured skin, can make even more of an impact. Also, by linking with Brother Victor from Funyula Message Church, we offered longer term and ongoing Kenyan spiritual support.
The churches themselves were often, though not always, small; around 12 adults. They met in gardens, under an avocado tree or in home made wooden and corrugated iron structures. The shelters generally had mud floors and, as I pace about a lot while teaching, the red earth had a habit of building up on my shoes until they were almost too heavy to lift! There was also a couple of single course brick buildings with a corrugated iron roof. These had lovely dry concrete floors.
I had prepared a stack of short subjects to teach. These were introductions and simple Message lessons such as; “One God”, “Before Genesis 1”, “Old Testament Parables” and a particularly popular teaching on the Sabbath. The Seventh Day Adventists are numerically strong in the area. Their demand to keep Saturday as the Sabbath seems reasonable to those people whose minds tend to law instead of grace. Our Message Sabbath teaching was very popular and relieved the minds of many. I mixed these and other subjects as I felt led during the services, often using no notes. I felt the anointing many times. Meetings generally went very well unless I used my own logic beforehand to select and pre plan the subject matter!
Sister Josephine’s was the largest church gathering of those around Ogembo and was held in her garden area near her house on Good Friday. Brother Vane’s church had four services over Easter Saturday and Sunday. These services were also held on land near his house. One Saturday service included a question session. One question required the teaching of Serpent Seed. Knowing this subject had caused contention in many non message churches I started with Matthew 13, the parable of the tares and the wheat. Jesus Himself explains that the wheat are the children of God and the Tares are the children of the Devil. Once the concept of two lines of children was accepted as coming from Jesus it made the events of Genesis 3 more acceptable to many and not a contentious issue at all. Easter Monday we visited Brother Douglas’s home church and orphanage where the singing and music was some of the best I have heard.
After a busy Easter, Tuesday was to be a rest day. Seven local pastors wanted more in depth teachings on the Seven Church Ages so Brother Vane arranged a special extra meeting for me to teach on that subject on my day off! Wednesday services were at Brother Jorom’s church.
On Thursday we went to the village of Sengera. The road was so muddy the car couldn’t cope so we continued as passengers on the back of motor bikes. There were three of us on one 125 cc motor bike. We only fell off once!
After another service at Brother Cosmas’s church in Sengera on Friday we left the Ogembo region to head north, through Kisii, crossing the equator and passing through Kisumu to Funyula. It was about a four hour drive. Funyula is a small country town in far flatter and less productive land than that at Ogembo. It is also very close to the northern end of Lake Victoria.
Brother Victor is Pastor of Victory Valley House, the Funyula Message church. From this point on all meetings were to be in Message Churches. This required a consolidation of subjects into deeper messages. The key subjects became Love, The Torn Robe of the Ephod and Seeing yourself in Scripture.
Respect for elders is strong in Africa and there are many pressures on people and ministers in the Message to conform and come under authority of “Elder” ministers. Several ministers told me that some older Pastors had forbidden them to attend my services. Pastors had also felt forced to preach only as instructed by “more experienced” pastors. I therefore included parables about King Saul throwing spears from the pulpit at young Davids!
To minister means to serve. One of my pet subjects is Jesus’ question of who is greater, he that sits at meat or he that serves. Fortunately Jesus answers that question Himself. It is he that sits at meat. It is like at a restaurant. The customer is king. Us pastors, teachers evangelists and others are only the cooks preparing the spiritual food and the waiters serving it. To confirm the place of the ministry I included Boaz’s instruction to his reapers concerning Ruth, “Don’t touch her!”
I also warned that people are often lazy and want someone other than Jesus to lead them. They want someone to tell them how to do things and fight their battles for them. I took the parables of Israel refusing to listen to God at Mount Sinai. I included the similar story of people wanting a king from 1 Samuel 8. These were the scriptural warnings about following men instead of following Jesus Christ and aligned with the middle verse of the Bible. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118 v8).
Funyula was the last church I visited in Kenya. On Monday we drove to Busia where we held a service at Samuel Otaget’s church. Busia straddles the border between Kenya and Uganda and the economic difference between the two countries is very noticeable within the town. Kenya is by far the richer country. However Uganda is improving and has a more active and successful attitude to terrorism. The Kenyan University at Garissa was attacked and students shot while I was in that country. In Uganda’s capital, Kampala, a church deacon noticed a man taking lots of photos and talking to students at the university. He reported the man who was quickly arrested. He was, apparently, preparing for a similar raid on Kampala’s university.
In the Ugandan part of Busia I met our new driver and vehicle supplier Pastor Emanuel of Iganga. He had muslim converts in his church and explained they made really good Message Believers. They had been in a sterile legalistic religion but had now found a real prophet with the living Word of God. They were more active and more fervent than many long term Message Believers or even newly converted denominational Christians.
As well as Emanuel our party now included Pastor Baliita Hannington of Kaliro, a town inland from Jinja at the source of the Nile. Baliita is the pastor at Kaliro and is in charge of our Luganda translation and printing work. Most of the Luganda translations on the Message Hub have been done by the team based here. When finance is available they also print and distribute Luganda Message books throughout Uganda. Also with us was Pastor Elijah and Pastor Paul. With them and Emanuel as driver I felt I was a minor believer traveling in exalted company.
From Busia we headed on to Kaliro passing rice paddies and large sugar cane plantations. Uganda is sometimes called the Pearl of Africa as it has many lakes and rivers keeping a good part of the land productive in all but the most serious of droughts.
Being in Kaliro again was like coming home with many friends and acquaintances attending the two services. Although Victor remained with us until my last Friday it was Baliita Hannington who now acted as manager.
From Kaliro we traveled in Brother Emanuel’s Toyota Land Cruiser to Kampala where Pastor Paul Mukama, our translation team proofreader, also prepares Luganda voice over recordings of Brother Branham’s messages.
It took us another two hours to reach Mityana from Kampala using the Congo Road. I taught at Brother Leo Ruhwabwabu’s church that evening. Most small towns and village churches almost never receive visits of preachers from other countries and they really appreciated the contact. I used several of the congregation to create a time line of key Biblical characters as illustrations of types and patterns that apply to the Bride of today.
Idi Amin was the Muslim President/Dictator who brought Uganda to its knees about forty years ago. In the back country, some two hours from Mityana, was the site where the rebel headquarters of the current President of Uganda,Yoweri Museveni had been. The little message church at that site welcomed us with open arms and, unusual for me, a new convert came forward at the close of the services.
Friday was to be a simple drive back to Kampala with an evening service but our old Toyota engine seized solid before we reached the capital. With delays due to hiring other vehicles the evening service had to be canceled. Next day the two planned Saturday services also had to be canceled as the pastor had our visit date wrong. Brother John Kyakonye was out of town on a very successful mission some 500 miles away!
For the first time in nearly three weeks I had a day with no travel and no services. I was staying in western style luxury rooms at the Silver Springs Hotel in Kampala. Although Brother Victor had been impressed that a sixty-eight year old overweight teacher could stand and teach for two and occasionally three services a day, I had felt no tiredness at all at the time. The was due, I believe, to the Lord. However Victor had headed home and this was a perfect place to rest. It was also an ideal place to introduce Baliita and Emanuel to Pizza! I had eaten lots of local African food so here was a chance to show them western food. They had never seen or tasted Pizza and were so impressed when they ate it that they asked for the recipe!
The last two services on Sunday were at my long time friend Robert Kabasi’s church in the centre of Kampala. When I had visited in 2007 they had met in a schoolroom. Now they meet in a large covered area nearby. Our translator, Brother Paul, brought his church along too. Instead of the usual rice and beans we went for lunch at, of all places, KFC where we were inspected by an armed guard before being allowed inside!
It was interesting, on that last evening after all the services, to hear from ministers. What help, if any, the visit had been?
Apparently it is generally evangelistic messages on the cross that is preached, not the range of subjects I taught. (I did preach the cross too!) Types and patterns had become more than just a parable to them. This was especially true when Ruth and Naomi were linked to events in the second world war and 1946. That is the year when Israel (Naomi) went back to her homeland after losing her husband and sons in the holocaust. It was also the same time that the angel came to Brother Branham (the head reaper) to have him prepare food for the Bride.
Queen Vashti, in the book of Esther, receiving seven chamberlains to call her to the King’s feast being a type of the seven church ages with Esther being believers, was another eye opener for the ministers. They even wanted me to postpone my trip back home a week so they could learn more!
Baliita reminded me that I had explained the Absalom story at one meeting. Absalom is like a Deacon who stands in the church doorway empathising with church members and saying, “If I were pastor I would do this or that”. That was how King David almost lost his kingdom. Baliita told me a minister had asked him, “Who told Richard what happened in my church?” Types and patterns had indeed become very real!
It was an honour to be able to visit and teach God’s people. I had wondered if the money spent would have been better used for specific projects instead of me spending so much on travel, accommodation and other expenses. However it is that personal contact that means so much to both those visited and those doing the visiting. I also believe that, as it is through the foolishness of preaching that lives are saved, it is through teaching that believers are built up to maturity.
My ministry has done nothing more than provide basic message concepts for others to build on. We are all to help fulfill Revelation 10 v11, Matthew 24 v14 & 28 v18-20. We can do that by supporting, or by being those, who go out to preach or teach. We can’t fulfill those scriptures by everyone sitting safe in their own churches. The Message has always been “Come Out of Her My People”, but now it is far more “Come Into Jesus.”
All ministries are different and each should have the courage to walk with Christ alone based on what the Bible and Message teaches. How else can the Bride of Jesus Christ become one with Him, the Word?
The book of Revelation is a book of symbols. There are 7 Churches, 7 Seals and prophecies of end time events, such as World War 3 and the return of Jesus Christ in judgement. Discover the meaning of the Book of Revelation in MP3 format.