Education, climate change, evangelism, community development projects strengthening relationships and preaching in a local congregation are all on the agenda for Presbyterian Moderator, Right Reverend Dr William Henry, as he heads for the equator today to begin a 14-day overseas tour of Kenya.
His pastoral visit to the east African nation will focus primarily on encouraging and supporting the work of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s (PCI) Global Mission Workers there. Each of them is seconded to serve with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA), one of PCI’s longest established partnerships. . The relationship with Church began in the mid-1960s, just after independence from the UK.
The predominantly Christian country is home to some 48 million people and is considered to be east Africa’s economic, financial and transport hub. It is also home to five PCI Global Mission Workers, and their families, who lead on various projects connected with the PCEA.
“We have three missionary families in Kenya and I am looking forward to spending time with all of them. Seeing their work first hand and spending time encouraging and strengthening them is my primary reason for going. It is also important that they know that the whole church is engaged and prayerfully upholds them,” Dr Henry said.
“The gospel always has an outward focus and translates into practical good deeds, whether it is at home in Ireland or in Kenya. Enjoying God is not simply a private experience, it is also about what doing what God calls us to do. We cannot do everything, but in the spirit of Mary’s act of love that we read about in Mark 14:8, and reflecting on the fact that “she did what she could”, so should we. As we support others, even a relatively short visit like this can also be personally life transforming.”
Having travelled 4,500 miles to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, the Moderator will face a two-day journey by Land Rover to Tuum to the north, to visit Stephen and Angelina Cowan, who have been serving together in Northern Kenya since 1989. The Cowan’s have been serving the Samburu and Turkana people, through Church-based community development and outreach programmes that introduce the Bible and Jesus in a relational way.
He will also spend time with PCI’s Naomi Leremore and her husband, in Nairobi. Naomi has served in PCEA’s Theological Education by Extension department since 2013 writing theological and educational distance-learning materials.
To the west of Nairobi, Global Mission Workers Gary and Mary Reid, will welcome Dr Henry to the Olkinyiei area. Here they have been working with PCEA in church planting and literature distribution among the Maasai people in their spiritual heartland. The Reids first went to Kenya in the year 2000 and have been working in Olkinyiei since 2005.
“I am really looking forward to meeting and encouraging our Global Mission Workers in the work that they do. In their work the Cowan’s and the Reids are working with people, often pastoralists, who are living day-to-day with the impact of Climate Change,” Dr Henry said.
“While I am in Kenya I will see this first hand, and be able to talk to pastoralists and farmers about the effect it has on their livelihoods. I will also be a meeting with Christian Aid Kenya’s theological Advisor Bob Kikuyu, who I met in Belfast. He will be talking about how the climate emergency impacts Kenya as a whole. While Climate Change has a greater intrinsic effect on those I will be meeting, we can all do small things that can make a difference. Recently with Christian Aid, we encouraged churches to reflect upon how they might make a difference in protecting God’s creation.”
This will not be Dr Henry’s first time in Kenya, in 2018 he spent time in Kikuyu Hospital and a local orphanage school run by the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. He was with a team of second year medical students, one of whom was his eldest daughter, Bethany. The students will be returning to do their medical elective in the same hospital this year.
During his Overseas Tour Dr Henry will be accompanied by his wife Nora. He has also paid for his three children to experience part of the tour to get a sense ‘mission’ and what it looks like on the ground.
Rev Uel Marrs, Secretary of PCI’s Council for Global Mission, which organised the visit, was himself a Global Mission Worker in Kenya from 1989-1998, “The overseas visits are an important part of a Moderator’s year in office. Not only do they get to see first-hand the work of our Global Mission Workers, they also contribute to the developing and strengthening of relationships with partner churches and organisations,” Mr Marrs said.
“While Dr Henry is in Kenya he will take the opportunity to reflect with the leadership of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa on our missional relationship that has lasted for more than half a century now. He will also hear of the PCEA’s mission initiatives in Kenya and, more recently, their work in Tanzania and Uganda.”