‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!’ (Psalm 133:1). That is an apt verse to describe our recently concluded Africa Summit meeting in Kenya over the weekend of 18 August 2017.
It was a much-anticipated event – the first ever NAMS Vision meeting taking place in East Africa. About 20 or so participants from African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Congo (DRC) gathered with 5 NAMS companions for a weekend of hearing the NAMS story and vision and being encouraged and equipped to make disciples the Jesus way commanded (Matthew 28:19-20) in order to plant new churches.
In the weeks preceding the event, Kenya had a largely peaceful General Election, and we thank God that we did not see the violence that marred previous elections and the aftermath, which would have made travel to Nairobi difficult for many. However, a few days before the event, our NAMS Sub-Saharan Africa leader Gabe Smith was struck down with a lung infection and was not able therefore to fly to the event as planned. As he was the main organizer, we had to do some last-minute reorganizing. We thank God not only that the event could continue without him, but that he is now fully recovered.
The Africa Summit was held in a Roman Catholic retreat center about 30km out of Nairobi. The temperature hovered around a pleasant 20 degrees Celsius for the most part of the days. The lovely setting of the grounds enhanced our time together, which was designed to be a mixture of prayer, worship, teaching, training, and free time for networking, rest, and retreat. We were also blessed by the great service and the food cooked up by the cheerful staff of the center.
Some of the participants made long journeys at their personal cost to come, including one Anglican pastor from Congo who had to make a three-day journey by bus each way. We were encouraged and humbled by their immense desire and willingness to sacrifice to meet with us for the sake of the Gospel.
Looking back on that weekend, we were richly blessed by our interaction with many wonderful leaders, pastors, and servants of God – a mixture of clergy and lay leaders, old and young, some working in church ministries and others in the marketplace.
We were able to share the NAMS story and vision that God has taught us: disciple-making disciples as the seeds of new churches. We heard stories from the lips of NAMS companions from places as diverse as North India, Egypt, Chile, and Thailand.
The rich, heavenly sounds of African voices in worship and dance was heard and seen between sessions, as well as inspiring testimony and teaching not only from NAMS Companions, but also from our friend Richard Mayabi of Church Army who gave a clarion call to the African Christians present to make disciple-making and mission a priority for the African church – or risk losing ground in Africa.
NAMS Companion Bishop Bahemuka William celebrated at Sunday Communion and preached a stirring message. In his sermon, he quoted his friend, retired American bishop Fitz Allison who said, ‘If you don’t give the Gospel away, you don’t get it!’ Indeed!
The outcome of this meetings is that there is a clear desire among participants representing different Anglican dioceses and other non-Anglican churches across East Africa for partnership with NAMS. We are now praying that in time, we can plant a NAMS base community in East Africa to facilitate the work God is clearly giving us to do there.
We thank all of you who prayed for us during this week and for the meetings. God heard your prayers and gave us a wonderful foretaste of heaven, Africa-style! To God be the glory!