Blessed To Be A Blessing
Happy Birthday Mavuno! To God be the glory for all that He has done!
This week I’ve had a chance to reflect on the Mavuno story. When we began, I got the clear sense that we were going to be part of a miracle and I needed to write it down. So I’ve been taking notes of some of the exciting things He’s doing here. Your story is important because if you don’t know where you’ve come from, then you’ll never know who you’re meant to be going. So today, I want to tell you the stories again; the stories that make the Mavuno story.
Our story actually began in 1952 (60 years ago!) @ the Girl Guides HQ next to the Nairobi Arboretum. A small group of British settlers, mostly from the Brethren tradition, had a vision to start a church that would be strong in evangelism & teaching and open to people from all denominations! In just 3 years, they got a prime property that is now Mamlaka Hill Chapel. They had radio services called ‘Gospel Hour’ that were broadcast live to the whole nation. Reached many of the British troops who were in the country fighting against the Mau Mau. Services were full to overflowing – soon expanded and doubled the size of the original building.
But in 1963, all that changed. Independence came to our country, and most of the soldiers were recalled back home. One by one, many of the members began to move back to England. At the same time, the University of Nairobi, formerly known as the Royal College, began buying up the land around the church & building up student housing, so that with time, the church building became surrounded by hundreds of university students. But few Africans were interested in coming through doors as it was still seen as a church for ‘mzungus’.
By 1988, it seemed a lost and hopeless cause. The less than 20 adults who were there faced with the eventuality that they might have to close the church down. They prayed desperately to God for help. After around 6 months of prayer and fasting, they felt led by God to approach an African led church and ask for help. Humbling! But in 1989, leadership of Nairobi Baptist Church agreed to send over one of their interns and also to ask some of their families to move and help. That’s when I moved – as a 1st year university student!
Well, God began to do a new thing. The little church began to grow. More and more students began to attend. Along with the students were young families, many of them lecturers and university staff. I joined the staff as one of the first interns along with my wife Carol in September 1992. [Next month will be exactly 20 years since I joined church ministry!] From 20 adults in 1989, we witnessed the church grow to 3000 adults (and many children) by 2004.
Around 1998, God began to speak to the elders of the church about the need to expand so that we could reach the needs of the society better. After prayer, we decided to buy 14 acres of land on Ngong Rd that would cost 40M. In those days, that was more money than any of us had ever imagined! We paid the deposit by faith and embarked on a furious fundraising campaign, which included golf tournaments, bake sales and fundraising walks. I walked from Naivasha and climbed Mt Kenya! A week to the closing date, we had only raised just over half the amount. We were faced with the possibility of losing the whole deposit. And then with two days to spare, we got several large gifts that paid off the whole amount! It was such a huge miracle! Lots of rejoicing! We did a celebratory service on the land then prepared to move. Then in 2002, the Kanu era ended and the Narc government came into power. One of their first acts was to freeze development of all land near forests. A frustrating time as things just weren’t happening! Many wondered, how could we have trusted God and taken such steps of faith only to have Him close the door in our faces? But as we prayed over the next two years, we felt God was asking us not to move to one location but to start five different churches at the same time! It was the craziest idea ever but it wouldn’t go away. So we formed 5 teams and began to prepare. In July 2005 we launched Mavuno Church at the same time as 4 other sister congregations. God sometimes carries out his purpose through the ‘closed doors’ in our lives!
I still remember 7 years ago as we were about to move, we were known as the Mombasa Road Church Plant then. We prayed and asked God to give us a name. At a pastor’s retreat, we found ourselves torn between two names. Refuge (place of healing) and Harvest (place of growth & impact). God used a comical way to confirm! But also showed us that we’d be a place of both healing and impact. What’s the moral of that story? God can use anyone, even a donkey!
We started our first service at the South C Sports Club on Aug 7th. We had to set up the night before (there was a wedding at the club on Sat so we labored from 6.30pm – 11pm! I finally slept at midnight after dropping off the team then was up by 5am even before the alarm rang! It was an exciting day indeed – 398 adults + kids attended that first service. Pst Oscar preached and we cut cake and took a group picture.
Right from the beginning, our desire was to be ‘real people, with real issues before a real God.’ The club was a great venue but very inaccessible. The road leading to it was terrible! Dusty in the dry season and muddy in the wet. Every Sunday I was impressed that people actually came to church! The result though was a faithful committed core of around 400 who were there ‘rain or shine’. In that time, God showed us our mission – Turning Ordinary People Into Fearless Influencers Of Society. We also began to realize that God wanted us to reach not just Nairobi but the entire world, and we came up with our vision statement, ‘to plant a culture-defining church in every capital city of Africa and in the gateway cities of the world by 2035’. How many joined Mavuno when we were at the club? Please stand – let’s appreciate them!
It was soon clear that we would need to find another venue so within a year; our relocation team began hunting for venues. For two years we met almost every Saturday. It was a difficult time as every promising lead closed in our faces. At times we’d meet, find we had nothing new to report, and just pray. Belle Vue was one of the first places we looked but wasn’t available. We had ‘hookups’ at MOW and College of Insurance but nothing worked! Eventually, walked into the owner’s office and the rest was history!
It took us another 2 years and 30M Ksh to finally move. You need to remember that there were only 400 of us at the time. The first year, we gave a full month’s salary above our tithe. The 2nd year, God asked us to give a sacrificial gift and many gave even more. Amazingly, God made up the difference! And by June 2009, we had moved to the dome. Many of us were so challenged that our own lives changed… if God could do such great things at church because of our faith, then He could also do great things in our home or at work if we would just step out in faith and trust Him.
And so on the last Sunday of May 2009, we had our first service at Bellevue. In that first month alone, we grew to 1600 people! God has done some amazing things while we’ve been here ~ the period of our history we’ve referred to as Mavuno 2.0. This year so far have averaged around 4700 people spread out in 5 congregations, and 3 cities, Nairobi, Kampala and Berlin. Many others who faithfully participate in Mavuno services from other countries through the internet. Just this year alone, over 700 people have received Christ which is more than our original congregation! Skeptics have come to faith, lives have been transformed, marriages saved, prisoners found hope, orphans cared for, and many initiatives have been launched that are changing our city. In addition, many churches both locally and internationally have been impacted through the programs developed here. All this in 7 short years! For many of us, these have been some of the most exciting years of our lives!
WHY HAS GOD BLESSED US SO MUCH? For that, turn with me to Genesis 12:1-3 (NIV)
If ever there was a person favored by God, Abraham was that person. God appeared to him and promised to give him fame, wealth and protection. Wouldn’t you like that? God appeared to him in person, talked with him and answered his prayers. God became his friend (Isa.41:8). All this begs the question: “Why him?” Why not a Chinaman from China, or Egyptian from the Nile? Why not a Zulu from SA or a Mumeru from Mt Kenya? Why would God pick one person/tribe/nation and not others? Is this biased/unfair?
To answer that question, we need to look at God’s promise to Abraham. God came to this random guy, called him and decided to really bless Him. But there’s an important reason why He did it. We see that God’s promise carries both privilege and responsibility. In v.2, he says
- ‘I’ll make you a great nation and bless you. I’ll make you famous,’ Privilege
- and then ‘You’ll be a blessing’ Responsibility
Then he says in v.3,
- ‘I’ll bless those who bless you; those who curse you I’ll curse’ Privilege
- and ‘All the families of the Earth will be blessed through you’ Responsibility
There is a reason for God’s blessing! The reason Abraham was blessed was so that others would be blessed through him. And I believe this is the answer to the question ‘why has God blessed us so much at Mavuno?’ is WE ARE BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
You see in the bible, God’s people often forgot this. They often began to think that God’s call and blessing was their right, and only for their benefit. They forgot what they had been called for and began to live for themselves. People like Solomon who gained great wisdom & wealth but used it for himself (had 1000 wives and lived a lavish lifestyle). People like Jonah who was so angry that God wanted to bless people that he didn’t feel deserved it, that he ran away from God. Ultimately, instead of being a blessing to the nations, Abraham’s descendants engaged in their own selfish pursuits, and eventually they were taken captive by the kingdoms of Assyria and of Babylon. They lost their privilege because they didn’t understand their responsibility. So let me ask you Mavuno, why has God blessed us so much? WE ARE BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING
I’ve often said at Mavuno that we are a privileged group. We make up the top 10% of this country when it comes to education, social status, and wealth or the potential to create wealth. Even the poorest or youngest among us has more opportunity than the majority of our fellow citizens. Why has God blessed us so much? WE ARE BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING. God is a good investor! We need to realize that God’s blessings are not rights to be kept for ourselves but privileges to be shared with others. There’s a hue and cry in this country about political, civic and religious leaders who misuse their office to benefit themselves instead of others. When we forget the reason for our blessing, instead of influencing the world, we end up conforming to the world. Instead of being a blessing to others, we become captives of our own needs and desires. Instead of bringing transformation to our nation, we become part of the problem facing our nation. Because remember people, there’s a reason for the blessing. Why are we blessed Mavuno? WE ARE BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING.
It always humbles me to realize that everything that’s happening here at Mavuno – from alcoholics being delivered to churches being planted – is as a result of the prayers of those few who prayed fervently at the Nairobi Chapel in the late eighties, and those who gave sacrificially in the late nineties and those 400 who gave faithfully in 2008. Because of them, we are all blessed.
My question as I end is ‘What part will you play in this adventure? What stake will you claim in Mavuno’s story? Someone sacrificed for you to be here and blessed today. What are you willing to sacrifice that others will in turn be blessed?
After all these years of walking with God and seeing Him at work, I can truly say this…
ONE THING REMAINS… YOUR LOVE NEVER FAILS, NEVER GIVES UP, NEVER RUNS OUT ON ME…
Start claiming a stake… there are people who gave so you could be here. Tell God I too want to be used as a blessing to others. Because of me and with Your help, my family will never be the same. My school/workplace will never be the same. This city will never be the same.