Each year Moderators undertake an overseas visit. The primary purpose is to continue to build relationships, and strengthen ties with global partner churches, in this case one of PCI’s longest established partners – the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) - and to encourage and support PCI’s Global Mission Workers. In Kenya, PCI has five, all of whom work with PCEA.
Accompanied by his wife Karen, speaking ahead of the visit, Dr Mawhinney said that they were very much looking forward to getting back to the country that they know well, and meeting up with the Global Mission Workers. “Kenya is an amazing and beautiful country with much to offer, a place where the people have a great attitude to life and are positive about their faith.
“For a year in the early 1990s I worked as a doctor in PCEA’s Kikuyu Hospital just to the west of the capital, Nairobi. I covered paediatrics, did ward rounds, night cover and minor surgeries. I also worked in maternity where I was taught to do emergency C-Sections and ended up bringing 34 babies into the world. It was the year before I began training for the ministry, and was an amazing experience. I am sure much has changed since then and while I have very fond memories of that time, I won’t be delivering any babies! I am, however, looking forward to returning to the hospital, praying with staff and meeting the CEO and Chief Medical Officer,” he said.
Kenya is a predominantly Christian country of over 50 million people, and at present, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa has over 1,000 congregations in 310 parishes across 45 presbyteries, with a small number of congregations in both Uganda and Tanzania. Each of PCI’s Global Mission Workers are engaged in various projects connected with PCEA in different parts of the country.
During his visit, Dr Mawhinney will meet the General Secretary and senior officials of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa when he pays a courtesy call on the denomination’s headquarters in the capital. He will also lead staff worship that morning. On both Sundays the Moderator will preach in two of PCEA’s congregations. In Zimmerman Church, in the north of Nairobi, he will preach twice, the second time with a translation in Kikuyu. Then, on the second Sunday, he will preach at the morning service in Tuum, amongst the Samburu community, in the north of the country.
“In sharing God’s word with our brothers and sisters in Christ, I want to show how, as followers of Jesus, we can be confident in Christ, holding on to His words in the scriptures and building our lives and communities that will thrive in the reality of the present world. That we can have confidence in Christ and His promises, is the message I brought to our General Assembly in June, and is my theme for the year, which I have taken to our own congregations across Ireland. PCEA is very much a growing church, and I look forward to listening and learning from them as well,” Dr Mawhinney said.
PCI’s first missionary in Kenya served as a chaplain at Thika High School in the 1960s. Today the Church has five Global Mission Workers partnering with PCEA. When Dr and Mrs Mawhinney arrive, they will spend time with Naomi Leremore, her husband Thomas, and children, in Nairobi. Naomi is serving with PCEA’s Theological Education by Extension, which has just celebrated its 40th anniversary. Writing theological and educational distance-learning materials, Naomi has worked for the department for 10 years.
Having taken their leave of the Leremore’s, PCI’s Stephen and Angelina Cowan will take them north. While the Moderator has known Stephen since his university days, the Cowans have been serving together in northern Kenya, working with the Samburu and Turkana people, through Church-based community development and outreach programmes since 1989. This includes introducing the Bible and Jesus in a relational way.
Travelling around 240 miles to Tuum, they will break their journey in Rumuruti, and make a courtesy visit to the headquarters of the local presbytery that the Cowans are based in. They will spend the next four days meeting those involved in various aspects of the Samburu Awareness and Action Programme that Stephen and Angelina run.
For the final part of his overseas visit, the Moderator and his wife will take an African Inland Mission internal flight south to the Keekorok Airstrip in the Masai Mara, to the south west of Nairobi, where Global Mission Workers Gary and Mary Reid will welcome them. The Reids first went to Kenya in the year 2000 and have been working in the Olkinyiei area since 2005. They are currently working with PCEA in church planting, outreach and literature distribution, among the Maasai people in their spiritual heartland.
“I know that the Moderator and Karen have been looking forward to spending time with our Global Mission Workers in different parts of the country for a long while, as well as bringing the greetings of our Church to the Presbyterian Church of East Africa,” said Rev Uel Marrs, Secretary to PCI’s Council for Global Mission, which organised the visit, and was himself a Global Mission Worker with PCEA from 1989-1998.
“Opportunities to strengthen and support our longstanding partnerships on visits like this, are really important, as is the valuable time that is spent with our Global Mission Workers, seeing their work first-hand. They are also a pastoral visits, and this particular one is an opportunity to spend time with them, especially in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic,” Mr Marrs said.
Before he left, Dr Mawhinney concluded by saying that having worked in Kenya for a short while as a doctor, he returned the following year leading a PCI youth team to support the Cowans and Uel Marrs. “While Karen and I know and love Kenya, having returned again in 2008, this will be a very different kind of visit. Continuing to build relationships with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, while coming alongside our Global Mission Workers, will be important. It will also be a special time to see how God is building His Church globally, especially as PCEA has doubled in size over the last three decades. It will also be a time to listen and learn,” he said.
Postcards from Kenya
During his overseas visit you can read Dr Mawhinney's short blogs on his visit here.
Photos: (1) The Moderator, Dr Mawhinney and his wife Karen in their home city of Dublin (photo credit Jamie Trimble) (2) The main gate of PCEA’s Kikuyu Hospital (photo credit Kikuyu Hospital) (3) a young Dr Mawhinney in Kikuyu Hospital (photo credit Mawhinney family) (4) PCEA's Zimmerman Church in Nairobi, where the Moderator will preach on Sunday (photo credit Zimmerman Church) (Kenyan flag on home page: photo credit Jorono/Pixabay)