Until recently David Okoth helped lead St Paul’s Parish, Malela, in western Kenya. St Paul’s is set in the fertile region close to Lake Victoria and is typical in many ways. This means it is exemplary when it comes to BUILD’s work. St Paul’s nine congregations are spread around the villages and, for the parish staff, “the distance between these churches is simply not manageable and pastoral work is far from easy.”
However, those who can lead, teach and care for these congregations are already in place: the lay readers who are scattered around the parish and committed to their local churches. The first names of those twenty-two local part-time and volunteer workers might make the picture more concrete. We are talking about Annah, Caroline, Dishon, Edwin, Florence, George, Jael, James, James, Jane, Jared, Martin, Maurice, Mercy, Mildred, Peter, Richard, Robert, Salome, Sulman, Syprose and Tereza.
Because they are present but undertrained the simple act of gathering them together regularly in a local BUILD group has had a dramatic impact as they develop their skills in handling the Scriptures, reflecting on the gospel and growing as leaders: “The group has mastered skills of sermon preparation and they are now doing well in preaching, and their growth in confidence is being noticed as well as their spiritual growth. And this has all led to congregational growth as people are being truly converted to Christ.”
Furthermore the parish and diocese are encouraging the group to continue working their way through the BUILD training modules and there is local commitment “to mobilise funds for the sustainability of the programme and the participants’ contribution towards the programme is a positive indicator of that commitment: this has amounted to 50,000 KES [500 USD] together with donations in kind from the Christians.”
David’s work has been noticed: he has been moved to another parish where it is hoped that he will build the capacity of other scattered churches and their leaders that would otherwise be neglected.