By Jeremiah Gamba
Sunday 16, 2019 marked the beginning of a long spiritual journey for six church leaders when they were appointed to serve God in different capacities within International Churches of Christ East Africa (ICOCEA). Michael Burns from Two Cities Church in Minneapolis-St. Paul Church of Christ in the US made the announcement after Evangelist Tom Akello from Bujumbura Church of Christ presented the leaders to the congregation.
The four teachers were Evangelist William Auki who is married to Victoria, has two children. Mr. Jarrett Odwallo, married to Nancy, has two children while Mr. Julius Nguku who is married to Margaret has been blessed with three children. Evangelist Richard Ahenda married to Florence and has four children. Jarrett Odwallo and Julius Nguku have been teaching the word of God for many years while William Auki is an evangelist and the leader of the Southern Block. Richard Ahenda also an evangelist and was until that Sunday the leader of the Kampala Church before being appointed to be the Nairobi – Western Block leader at the same function. All the new appointees have been disciples of God for more than twenty years. Frank and Femi Okodugha elders from the Lagos Church in Nigeria prayed for them.
Michael Burns, who has been a teacher in the Kingdom since the year 2000, spoke passionately about the need for teachers in the Kingdom of God as it continues to grow. He reminded the new teachers that the word of God comes from the heart and their responsibilities have now increased in God’s Kingdom. God has more expectations and strictness for those who teach His word as we see in Nehemiah 8:8.
Burns has taught the word of God both in the US and also in over thirty countries in Africa for many years. He has authored eleven books; the twelfth one will be out very soon. Crossing the Line, one of the books he has authored was the main book at the just concluded MTA on Christ and Culture where he was the main facilitator. See related story.
The four teachers appointed have been in training for the last five years under Dr. Steve Kinnard and have also learnt extensively from Jeremy Templer, Paul Ramsey, Dave Pocta and Michael Burns.
The four were appointed to serve in the East Africa region as the new teachers. The International Churches of Christ (ICOC) has in the past few months appointed five teachers in West Africa before the current appointment in Kenya. More teachers are expected to be appointed from South Africa to serve the church in the Southern Africa region bringing the total appointments to 15.
Speaking on behalf of the appointed teachers, Julius Nguku said that they were humbled by the appointments and they thanked God and the church for the privilege to serve God’s kingdom as teachers. It was a great honour for the church to have confidence in us. Julius expressed his love for God and passion to continue serving Him as a teacher in the Kingdom.
Evangelist Mike Odwallo, the Eastern Block, Nairobi leader led the appointment of two elders after they were presented before the church to be appointed as elders in the ICOCEA fraternity. Mr. Antony Mwanza married to Mary has three children while Jeremiah Oginga married to Benta has four children. The two will serve the whole of ICOCEA churches being the only two elders in the region. Tom Perkings from North Carolina church in the US prayed for the new elders. He was accompanied on this trip by his wife Emmie Perkings.
Antony and Jeremiah thanked the church for the appointments sharing their experiences both as disciples of Christ and also as members of the church. The two leaders are well known for their humility both in the service of God and also in their own personal lives. Relatives and friends of the leaders appointed travelled from different parts of the country to witness the occasion.
Herve Fleurant, who is recuperating at home, was among the leaders from different parts of the world who sent their congratulatory messages via video link. In his congratulatory message from San Antonio Texas, Herve sent his love and congratulations to the newly appointed elders and teachers. “Love one another deeply through Jesus and honour God in all your actions ensuring that what we teach brings about great love and unity in the hearts of all the brothers and sisters. Jesus prayed that we would be one, so to my brothers in Kenya, serve and teach the word of God faithfully…the world would know us not by our opinions, not our tribes but for our love for one another…,” he concluded.
The appointments were crowned by a powerful sermon from Evangelist Richard Alawaye from Texas, USA. He was invited to the podium by Evangelist Samson Monda who shared some light moments of his experience with this man of God.
In his Sermon, “Our Identities in Christ”, Richard beseeched the disciples to define their identities well enough and never forget that God considers each one of the disciples as belonging to Him.
He shared about his own experience when he was diagnosed with Prostate cancer a few years ago. It was a difficult moment coming at a time when he had lost close and dear friends some from the same condition that he had just been diagnosed. After a series of therapies and other treatment procedures, the lord healed him confirming that He was not over with him yet. He confirmed that…Our Prayers Have no Expiration Dates. You Never Know When Where or How God Will Answer.
Alawaye paid a glowing tribute to some of the disciples who have since left to be with the lord. He shared deeply on his closeness with the late Onyenchi Oguagha who was a dear Friend and who died from aggressive prostate cancer. The other two were Scot Green and Damian Jean Baptiste. God has a purpose for each one of us, when his purpose is accomplished, he would be glad to start a new life in eternity, he added.
Alawaye challenged the church to reach out and target more disciples in order to expand the Kingdom of God. “If our dreams do not scare us then they are certainly not big enough” he narrated. God always uses people, He always provides, all we have to do is to trust in him. The best is yet to come. Let us remember our identity in Jesus, he concluded.
Richard Alawaye currently leads the Corpus Christi Church in Texas and is married to Sarah Alawaye and they have two beautiful daughters. He led the church in Nairobi before heading back to the US. Richard quoted the Bible extensively including Romans 8:1, I Corinthians 6:19, Philippians 3:20, I Thessalonians 4:16, 2 Corinthians 5:20 and I Peter 1:4. A section of the church got an opportunity to purchase his book, “According to Your Faith” which he was able to autograph after the service. Sarah also took the opportunity to encourage the sisters never to give up in this journey of faith.
The combined church choir from all the blocks in Nairobi was not left behind, dressed in black and yellow flowers for women while men donned in black suits and yellow ties, presented great songs that resounded very well with the congregation.
The communion message was shared by Gilbert Kimeng from Lagos Church, Nigeria. He shared deeply from the book of Mark 8:27. Christianity without the cross is incomplete just as Jesus without the suffering is of no meaning to
disciples. Disciples’ paths are narrow. It takes God’s strength for disciples to continue serving God despite the sufferings that they may go through just like what Jesus went through. It involves great sacrifice and self-denial.
Evangelist Samson Monda took the opportunity to announce some changes in the ICOCEA leadership which came as a huge surprise to the congregation that had filled the hall to capacity.
Evangelist Richard Ahenda was transferred back to Nairobi from Kampala, Uganda to take up the new position of leading Western block, Nairobi. Johnson Namei was transferred to Kampala Church of Christ from Kigali Church in Rwanda which we hope and pray that God will come through so the church can continue with its mission of reaching out to the lost after it was shut down among other churches following government directive. The western block leadership position fell vacant after Evangelist. John Maleya and his Wife Jane left the country to lead the Zambian Church early this year.
The occasion was graced by different leaders that included Joachim and Eva Pallangyo from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Berhanu Bedada from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Elibariki Benjamin and Lucy Edward from Arusha, Tanzania, Johnson and Norah Namei, formerly leaders in Rwanda church but appointed to lead Kampala church, Uganda. Hillary and Annett from Luwero, Uganda, Elias and Margaret Aketch from Kisii, Edwin and Evelyn Mahiga from Eldoret, Steve and Josephine Gateru from Bungoma, Polycarp and Fatuma Ageta from Mombasa and Steve and Josephine Gateru from Bungoma Church