“Gospel Growth in Kenya,” Ensign, Aug. 1998, 77–78
When Peter and Elizabeth Ndungu met the LDS missionaries in 1992, Peter was the young pastor of a local church in Kenya. He had a paid position with a promising career ahead of him, and his family lived in a house provided by his parishioners. On learning of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, the Ndungus willingly gave up their job and house to join the Church.
“I read the Book of Mormon in three days,” says Brother Ndungu. “Because I knew the Bible so well, the unanswered questions that I had while training at the Bible school—such as questions on the Godhead, mode of baptism, continuous revelation, and what happened to families after death—started falling into place. I now knew for myself that the Church was true. Knowing the Church is true has helped me overcome many obstacles.”
The Church itself has overcome many challenges since the 1970s when American USAID employees and their families serving in Kenya first held services in their own homes. Because of restrictions on missionary work, it was not until 1979 that the first African converts in Kenya were baptized. The Kenya District, with two branches in Nairobi and Kiboko, was created in 1981. And after years of working with government authorities, the Church received official recognition in 1991. Slowly the Church grew, and in February 1992 more than 200 members and investigators from five branches attended a district conference in the capital city of Nairobi. The first meetinghouse was completed in July 1994 for the Langata Branch in Nairobi. Today membership has grown to 2,650 in 2 districts, Nairobi and Chulu, which are organized into 13 branches.
There are 97 missionaries serving in the Kenya Nairobi Mission, which serves four African nations: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. Currently most of the missionaries serving in Kenya are native Africans and missionary couples because permits for young elders entering the country have been difficult to obtain. Still, the Church is gaining strength as new members join and grow in the gospel.
In 1986, when Elizabeth Masibo joined the little flock of about 20 members at a rented house in Nairobi, she was the only young African woman. “Among the Church members, I saw a unity of different races which I had never seen anywhere else in my life,” she recalls. “I quickly grasped the truthfulness and sacredness of the gospel taught to me.” Sister Masibo and her husband, Peter, whom she helped convert after their marriage, now diligently work to teach these gospel truths to their daughters. “As a mother of three,” says Sister Masibo, “I am not worried about my children’s future in this difficult world. The knowledge of Christ they are acquiring now will become their beacon when they face challenges in their lives.”
Another faithful mother of several children, Jane Ngatia, joined the Church while studying in Britain. She came back to Kenya excited to share the gospel with her son and daughter. Her daughter, Joyce, accepted it immediately, but her son did not want to see the missionaries. Two years later, her son, Joseph, joined the Church; he has since served a mission. Sister Ngatia is now the district Relief Society president in Nairobi. When she found the Church, she says, “I felt like heaven had come down.”
Since that young pastor and his wife gave up their job and house to join the Church in 1992, they also have been richly blessed. One year after Peter and Elizabeth Ndungu were baptized, they were sealed in the Johannesburg temple with their daughter, Joy. The Ndungus were then blessed with a son they named Byron. Brother Ndungu now serves as a counselor in the Nairobi District presidency and is the CES director for Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. As a result of their temple sealing, Brother Ndungu says: “The quality of my family life is better. The temple experience has helped me appreciate the teachings about patterning our lives to that of Christ. I now understand the principle of growth to perfection.”
The goal of the Saints in Kenya is to joyfully share the gospel with the 30 million people who live in this beautiful African nation.