For the new face of African missions, look no further than Patrick and Violet Nabwera – the Kenyan couple that has been our next door neighbors for the last year. It’s no exaggeration to say that these two are true saints in every sense of the word.
They work for a twenty-year old mission agency that is entirely Kenyan. They live simply, and they go to places where Christians normally fear to tread. They have to start slowly because everyone suspects that they are there to “convert” them. Sometimes the challenge is simply to fight the spiritual weight that presses them down in bed every morning.
They start schools, teach English, join the football (soccer) associations, and become an integral part of the community. Before long, people start coming to them seeking advice and prayer for various problems. Neighbors can see that their faith in Christ makes them strong and wise; eventually a new community of believers in Jesus begins to form.
Once an area has been “tamed,” they replace themselves with newer missionaries, and begin looking for areas where the gospel has still not been lived out or preached. They’ve moved through remote parts of Tanzania now and are looking to mobilize new teams for Mozambique. If you take out a map of eastern Africa, and look for the most remote sections, that’s usually where their heart is.
Even here at NEGST, they have not taken a break. In their first year of study, there was a housing shortage on campus, so they had to live 20 minutes away. Still, Patrick and Violet won the “couple of the year” award. When they moved next door to us, we immediately knew why. There’s hardly a moment when you won’t find someone sharing a meal at their table or pouring their heart out to them.
Our children have become inseparable, and are equally at home in each apartment. (Joy is Kiara’s age, and Abby is between Leila and Liam.) One of my secret highlights of living next door to them is the “song” of their early morning prayers; I can’t hear any of the words, but as these prayers float over the concrete walls, they are sweet music to my ears. We will all miss them deeply when they graduate in July.
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone more passionate and strategic about contextualized missions than Patrick, so next week, I’m going to post a series of segments from Patrick’s master’s thesis – “Attrition among African Missionaries” (or in rough terms- why missionaries quit.)