Words by Jeremy
If you have been following our newsletters, you will know that I have been enrolled in a local bible college known as the Kenya Ministry Training Institute (KMTI). Every quarter for two full weeks (six days a week), I sit for class with around 40 other students from all over Kenya over a two-year period to study biblical foundations and how to practically apply scripture in our everyday lives. After recently completing my second-to-last term and participating in the most recent graduation ceremony, I have been reflecting on my time at an international bible college and how grateful I am to have had this cross-cultural experience.
Most Christians from a western culture would probably takes this type of education for granted, having access to learning from a young age and having the fortunate circumstance of receiving biblically-sound teaching every week, generally speaking. I am no exclusion to this generalization. However, for the hundreds of indigenous pastors in East Africa, many of whom don’t have any biblical training at any level, I can’t speak highly enough of an institution like KMTI and the implications it has on the thousands of churches throughout Kenya and Uganda. The Kenyan government is very soon requiring pastors to obtain a diploma or certificate from an accredited Bible-training institution, much like Rwanda has implemented. Therefore, this marks a crucial time in which the spiritual leaders of Kenya and Uganda need to have a solid foundation for their beliefs (don’t we all?)
As my time at KMTI begins to wrap up, I was again reminded of the assumptions I brought into this beautiful country and how they have been challenged, corrected, and enlightened thanks to the vulnerability of my fellow classmates. Originally, attending KMTI served a two-fold purpose - getting to study the word in a formal setting and promoting Youth Venture. I now realize, however, that God was also using it to open my eyes a little more to a specific part of Kenyan culture, stretching me and challenging my mistaken certainties, if you will. Below are just a couple of these observations that I hope will encourage you, the reader, in thinking about the mistaken certainties you yourself carry and how they play a part in your view of the world around you.
When I first started school, it seemed like the questions being asked reflected students’ opinions and theologies. It was my assumption that I knew “better,” had a more accurate understanding of scripture, and that most Kenyan pastors are doing it wrong. I have now come to realize that that was and is not always the case (on both accounts). Sure, some students may have had their views and theologies challenged in how they’ve been applying scripture and the format for their Sunday service isn’t “right” because it’s different than what I’ve been used to for over the 20 something years I’ve attended church, but I think many of them are genuinely coming from a Truth-seeking position. The questions they ask may be indicative of their personal interpretations of scripture, but it has been encouraging seeing many of my classmates grow in their understanding of the Word, both in the class and in conversation. There’s an excitement they exude when discovering how Truth can be applied in their lives. For me, it’s a humble reminder that I certainly don’t have church and scripture all figured out, no matter how educated I may be.
My first point proves that it’s easy to criticize things we don’t understand, especially when we think we are right. However, even western believers can have the propensity to create their own theologies (God forbid!). What I’ve come to appreciate about my time at KMTI is remembering how simple the gospel message is and realizing how complicated we can make it. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with learning and advancing in knowledge. Scripture tells us that the wise add onto their learning (Proverbs 1:5), but we mustn’t also forget the following passage, which comes a couple of verses after: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). When the process of learning, or learning for the sake of itself, becomes the main thing, we end up missing the Main Thing - the fear of the Lord. With KMTI being a foundational biblical institution, it’s helped me to remember to stay grounded in the principles of salvation, repentance, faith, justification, regeneration, and adoption into the Kingdom - and that it’s not so complicated afterall.
Based on my limited time in Kenya, I believe women are becoming a major driving force here. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me because in much of rural Kenya, women are doing most of the work - gathering timber for cooking and heating, fetching jugs of water from the village well, keeping the house clean, taking care of the children, and tending to the husbands various needs - all this is in a typical day! On a more relatable scale, the first couple of graduating class at KMTI did not include any female students. Now, in my most recent cohort, almost more than half of the class population was made up of women, a growing figure every term. Incredible. Amongst our more beautiful counterparts, there also seems to be a better understanding of certain biblical principles than my fellow males are able to grasp. It’s no wonder that Adam himself needed Eve - a suitable helper. In much of Kenya, particularly in rural areas, women are oppressed in a such way that would make many wazungu shake their head in disapproval. In knowing women are becoming empowered in and through biblical truth, however, I’m encouraged to think about how effective they will be for the Kingdom and for their country.
Though Nairobi is the technological and commercial epicenter of East Africa, much of Kenya is still majorly deep-rooted in cultural and tribal traditions and rituals, further exacerbated by cults, witchcraft, and a misunderstanding of scripture. It will take more than a weekend crusade, a week-long conference, or a two-week Bible class to break free from generational bondages and live a life of biblical Truth and Freedom. However, thanks to institutions like KMTI and many others, I’m hopeful in the change to come though, in true Kenyan fashion, I can expect to see it taking place slower than my western preference. As they say, “haraka haraka haina baraka” - there’s no blessing in a hurry!