Imagine Me – Mavuno At Ten

Happy 10th Birthday Mavuno! To God be the glory for all that He has done!

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Your story is important because if you don’t understand where you’ve come from, then you’ll never understand where you’re meant to be going. So as we celebrate our 10th birthday, here’s the story of this family; the Mavuno Story. If you’ve been part of the family for a while, then our hope is that this will remind you who you are. If you’ve just joined our family recently then our hope is that it will help you understand better who we are. And since it’s our 10th birthday, allow me to tell you the story of 10 important dates in our story so far!

#1. Many people don’t know that Mavuno’s story began long before there was a Mavuno. Actually in 1952 (63 years ago!) A small group of British settlers, mostly from the Brethren tradition, had a vision to start a church that would reach unlikely people, people who did not come to church! They began meeting at the Girl Guides HQ next to the Nairobi Arboretum and they went by the name ‘Nairobi Undenominational Church’ because they were the first non-denominational church in Kenya. They soon began to be referred to as Nairobi Chapel. After just 3 years, they got a prime property next to the governor’s mansion and gave sacrificially to put up the building that is now where Mamlaka Hill Chapel meets. They had radio services called ‘Gospel Hour’ that were broadcast live across the whole nation. Through these, they 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.

#2. But in 1963, all that changed. Independence came to our country, and most of the British 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 thousands of university students. But few of them were interested in coming through doors as it was still seen as a church for mzungus or British settlers.

The church began to steadily diminish in number until eventually, there were less than 20 adults left! It seemed inevitable that they would 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!

#3And so in 1989, Senior Pastor of Nairobi Baptist Church, Rev Mutava Musyimi and the elders of Nairobi Baptist Church agreed to send over one of their interns, Oscar Muriu and also to ask some of their members to move to Nairobi Chapel and help.

God began to do a new thing. The little church began to grow. Many students began to attend. Along with the students were young families, many of them lecturers and university staff. From 20 adults in 1989, we witnessed the church grow to 3000 adults (and many children) by 2004. How many here were part of that history?

#4. In 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. Walked from Naivasha and climbed Mt Kenya! People gave sacrificially but 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.

#5. Then in 2002, the Kanu era ended (after 40 years of rule!) and the Narc government came into power. One of their first acts was to freeze development of all land near forests. A frustrating time ensued for us as a church! 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 like we intended, but instead to start 5 different churches at the same time! Craziest idea ever but it wouldn’t go away. So formed 5 teams and began to prepare. That’s how Mavuno Church came to be. God sometimes carries out his purpose through the ‘closed doors’ in your life!

The Mavuno Story

#6. And so on Aug 7th 2005, Mavuno was born! Ten years ago, we had our first service at the South C Sports Club. We had to set up the night before (there was a wedding at the club on Sat so we laboured from 6.30pm – 11pm! It was an exciting day indeed – 398 adults + kids attended that first service. Pst Oscar Muriu of   Nairobi Chapel preached and we cut cake and took a group picture. It was also a special day for my family. First time my one-year-old twins were in church.

Right from the beginning, we set out to reach out to people who did not attend church, unlikely people who thought church was irrelevant. We wanted them to understand that following Christ is not just a religious activity, an ‘opium of the mind’, but it’s a key towards understanding why we’re created and living out our purpose. Many began to ‘get it’ and every week we saw great transformation. 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 however 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 with that mission, and so 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’.

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. Eventually, Bellevue miraculously became available. 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! 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.

#7. And so on the last Sunday of May 2009, we had our first service at Bellevue. In the first month alone, we grew from 400 to 1600 people God did some amazing things while we were there. Thousands became Christians and we began starting churches in different parts of the world. Sceptics came to faith, baby daddies became faithful fathers, families were reconciled, marriages were saved, alcoholics became role models, orphans were cared for, and many initiatives were launched that are changing our city. In addition, many churches both locally and across the world began to be impacted through the programs we developed.

#8. But it soon became obvious that we’d need to relocate from Bellevue. And so we began another search for a venue and again, this one took another frustrating two years. Searched everywhere in town! Eventually after several false starts, we found the land we’re on and began an impossible campaign called Count Me In. The target was to raise 350M KES to purchase and occupy these here 20 acres. Many amazing stories of generosity followed with people giving money, land, cars and land to ensure we moved.

#9. And so it was that in March 2014, we moved to our new Hill City campus. It was a rather intimidating place and many found it far. We lost many who’d been at Bellevue. But I’m so grateful for the many who’ve continued to come and to bring their friends. Through their giving, this place that was once a dry, empty space has now become an oasis that is the city on a hill that cannot be hidden.

What Next

As we look at our story, the amazing sacrifice of the many that have made possible what we are celebrating. What is clear   is one thing to say you are a fearless follower of Jesus, but fearless costs! One of the most influential leaders of all time, Paul of Tarsus, understood what it means to pay the cost for something he believed in. Unlike what many would imagine, following Jesus had not resulted in an easy life for him! From a human perspective, things actually seemed a lot worse in his life after he started following Christ than before! In 2 Cor. 11:23-28 he described some of the things that had happened in his life because of his decision to obediently follow Jesus…

Paul was describing the challenges he’d faced not because he’d done the wrong things but because he’d chosen to follow Jesus. With a scorecard like that, it would be very hard to blame him for giving up/throwing in the towel! These are more than enough challenges for one person to bear! Even if you picked up just one of the things Paul went through, say, “pelted with stones” or “3 shipwrecks”– I’m not sure how many of us would still want to keep following Jesus after that! I mean we’d be like ‘What? God? If this is what serving You means, hasta la vista daddy!’ And yet Paul just kept moving on. How did he push through challenges that would have made most of us pack our bags and go home?

Unlike many Christians today, Paul knew that following Jesus does not guarantee that your life will get easier. Fearless costs! Many of you know that only too well! You started so well; you came to Mavuno, found amazing acceptance, committed to follow Jesus fully, did Mizizi, and maybe even began to get a sense of your purpose. But then you hit the wall! Life happened! In fact some of you are in trouble right now because of following Jesus – your business isn’t growing as fast, your relationship with your spouse is tense, some close friends have abandoned you… and you’ve found yourself thinking – if I’d known how hard this thing was going to be, I might never have started at all!

It’s fashionable nowadays for preachers to focus on the benefits of the gospel but not on the costs. But the result is that people easily get disillusioned when trouble comes. Jesus said in this world you will have trouble but take heart because I have overcome the world! In other words, hang in there will overcome it too! Listen – a pain-free Christianity is a Jesus-free Christianity. Every great goal requires great sacrifice!

The incredible growth and transformation and impact we’ve seen – is as a result of the prayers of those few who prayed at the arboretum for a church that would reach unlikely people in the early 1950s, the few who prayed fervently for the Nairobi Chapel in the late eighties, the giving of those who gave sacrificially in the late nineties, the sacrifice of those 400 who poured themselves out for this vision in 2008, and the faith of those who gave so to date. Because of them, we are all blessed.

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One Response to “Imagine Me – Mavuno At Ten”

  1. And in ten years, I pray that we will be in every major city in Africa. Tumetoka mbali n.a. tunaenda mbali…by God’s grace.

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