Sunday was a busy day here in Nairobi. We had the opportunity to visit two great churches, each with their own distinct expression of God’s kingdom in action. Our first visit was to Karen Vineyard Church, a diverse international church community made up people from over 40 different nations. The culture at KVC is very familiar, the worship style similar to our church back home and the entire service is in our native English, led by Americans, Brits, Kiwis and Kenyans. This is the kind of church that would be easy for me to call home.
Our second church visit of the morning was the Dagoretti Corner Vineyard Church, led by pastor John Gitau. The church is a rock in the community and is filled with some of the most loving and God-fearing people you will ever meet. The culture is very Kenyan, the worship songs in Swahili and the message given in English (for our benefit) and translated into Swahili. In the small room are Kenyans from a variety of socio-economic levels, all worshiping in a way that seems warm and familiar to them, but is completely foreign to me. This is a church where God is doing a great work, but I find myself (as do many international visitors) more of an observer due to the cultural and language differences.
These are only some of the dynamics at work here in Kenya. Churches like the one in Karen and churches like the one at Dagoretti Corner have coexisted here for a long time – each reaching out to the population of people who culturally connect to their church. Rarely, however, do these types of congregations work together or partner in God’s work. The communities tend to stay fairly isolated from each other and independent in their efforts to reach out to the city.
Within the Vineyard churches, however, this could not be further from the truth. One of the things that excites me most about partnering with the Association of Vineyard Churches in Kenya is that we have an opportunity to truly become part of the family. Noah Gitau, the National Director of AVC Kenya, will effectively be my boss. I will serve under his leadership and authority. Our church, along with the two other international (culturally western) churches in Kenya will be on equal footing with the 70+ indigenous (culturally Kenyan and Kenyan-led) churches. We are brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues.
While our experiences at these two churches highlighted some of the cultural differences between Kenya and the west, they also served as a reminder that Kenyans and internationals all bring something unique to the mix that, in the context of this large, diverse family, strengthens the faith of the people and broadens the work of the kingdom of God in Kenya. Are we excited to be part of this great big Vineyard family? You bet.