Kenyan Mennonites make history by writing it

Kenyan author and son: Author Francis Ojwang holding his son, Emmanuel King, Jr. Photo by Debbi DiGennaro
Release date: 
Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Nairobi, Kenya – Nine Kenyan delegates and three editors gathered together at the Mennonite Guest House in Nairobi the last week in January. Their task: to proof the manuscript of a history of the Kenya Mennonite Church (KMC), a Mennonite World Conference member church. The idea for this book, chronicling KMC’s 50-year history, was birthed in 2003 at the Mennonite World Conference summit in Zimbabwe, in a discussion between Kenyan Bishop Dominic Opondo and David W. Shenk, author and EMM global consultant.

“This is the account of the acts of the Holy Spirit in calling forth and forming the Mennonite Church in Kenya,” wrote Francis Ojwang, primary researcher and author of the book, in the foreword. “Just as ancient Israel and the early church made a very high priority of writing their history of the acts of God among them, so also the KMC needed to record their journey with Jesus Christ.”

The nine delegates were bishops, pastors, and leaders, each representing dioceses of KMC. They spent three full days pouring over the nearly 200-page manuscript. They read each section aloud and then discussed whether the story it portrayed was accurate – moving on only after reaching consensus, in the African way. There were stories to amend, adjectives to tweak, and because of the different ethnicities involved, misspelled vernacular words and place names to correct.

During the reading, David Shunkur, a Maasai pastor from Olepolos, read a section of the manuscript that described his own congregation’s story. Shenk, who served as a consulting editor, said, “It was a moving scene to see Shunkur proofing a paragraph about history he had made himself years before. The delegates showed an enormous amount of ownership in the process.”

The book will be published by Uzima Publishing House, the Anglican publishing house in Kenya, early in 2013.

International distribution of Eastern Mennonite Mission release by Debbi DiGennaro

Additional photo available

Kenyan group shot, back row: David Shunkur, Domnic Opondo, John O. Ndege, Samson Ogoye, Laura Kurtz, Gordon Obado, Fredrick Bobo, Zsdekia Arwa, and David Shenk. Both Kurtz and Shenk, former EMM workers in East Africa, were involved in editing the manuscript and travelled to Kenya for this final review. Front row: Sophie Shunkur, Caren Okello and son, Naomi Awino, Everline Achieng, Francis S. Ojwang, and his son Emmanuel King, Jr.