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Mwangi's solution to an AIDS-riddled nation

 

Jim Yancey

An orphan studies the Bible in the classroom at Grace Primary School on the campus of OrphanConcern International in Solei, Kenya

David Mwangi

MARIETTA — Dr. David Mwangi came to the Atlanta area from Kenya, East Africa in 2001 to pursue a theological degree at Luther Rice Seminary.

Mwangi was one of the most visible and notable leaders in the political and religious life of Kenya. He was Kenya’s school superintendent and pastor of one of the nation’s most prestigious churches, the church where the president of Kenya was a member.

Upon arriving in the United States the African pastor/educator and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Marietta and soon began attending Eastside Baptist Church and within a few weeks became members of the East Cobb congregation.

Since the Mwangis’ money was in short supply he needed to find employment and was able to secure a job as a custodian at Eastside. The quiet, soft-spoken man who had been a virtual celebrity in Kenya seemed perfectly happy sweeping floors and cleaning restrooms at the church.

Mwangi, with his gentle spirit and winsome smile, quickly won his way into the hearts of the Eastside church members. While he dutifully and methodically went about his work at the church and diligently pursued his Doctrine of Ministry degree at Luther Rice Seminary, a vision was beginning to emerge from his heart.

“Luther Rice Seminary’s emphasis on missions inspired me and their focus on short-term mission trips challenged me to think about how I could effectively plan and organize groups to become involved in volunteer missions endeavors,” Mwangi stated. “I ended up writing my thesis on short-term mission trips and knew that I wanted to be involved in leading trips like that in the years ahead.”

As Mwangi pondered launching a mission trip from Georgia to Kenya the vision God had birthed in his heart was beginning to become clear. He sensed that God wanted him to establish an orphanage in Kenya.

As in many African countries AIDS has had a devastating effect upon the population of Kenya, leaving thousands of children destitute, directionless, and in need of someone who cares. Mwangi found in the Eastside church a core of people who just might help him bring his vision to fruition.

In August of 2002 Mwangi led his first short-term mission trip by taking a group of 45 people, mostly from Eastside, to Nakuru, Kenya. Nakuru, with approximately 300,000 inhabitants, is the provincial capital of Kenya’s Rift Valley province and is the fourth largest urban center in the country.

Students, teachers and staff of Grace Primary School stand with short-term mission team members from Eastside Baptist Church in Marietta.

Once the Marietta missionaries got to Nakuru via Johannesburg, South Africa and Nairobi, Kenya, they were divided into ten ministering groups each led by a Kenyan pastor. This mission trip launched a partnership between the pastoral leadership in Kenya and Eastside Baptist Church that has led to some remarkable and enduring ministries, one of which is the establishment of a distinctively Christian and beautifully accommodating residence for the underprivileged waifs of the Rift Valley province.

Two of the Eastside groups were given medical assignments, one in a rural area known as Emi and the other in the small village of Solai, north of Nakuru, where a small medical clinic had been built but never used. Little did anyone know then that Solei would become the site for the establishment of the orphanage envisioned by Mwangi.

The Kenyan pastor/educator was driven to his vision by the fact that HIV/AIDS has devastated the country in recent years. Although the number of AIDS-related deaths have declined since 2002, eight percent of the adult population is HIV-positive. Sadly, 1.2 million children in Kenya have lost one or both parents to the disease.

Extended family members often take in orphans, but those families already afflicted by poverty may struggle to cope, both financially and emotionally, and find themselves unable to care for these already-traumatized children.

Mwangi explained, “Our Father in heaven through his generous people gave us 10 acres of land [at Solai] for the orphanage. We have built a beautiful home for the children, as well as primary school; and we have dug a well, which will be used by our children, and provided a water catchment system so the people in the community can irrigate their land.”

A dormitory is currently being built for the teachers of the school and Mwangi recently announced plans to begin construction of a secondary school on 21 acres of land in Mwariki, a community south of Nakuru. The construction is to begin in 2011 and the secondary school is designed to accommodate 300 students.

Jim Yancey

Some of the 1250 students of Echariria Primary School in Nakuru, Kenya showing a keen interest in the video camera being used by the short-term mission team

The establishment of the orphanage has resulted in electricity being brought to Solai and the medical clinic becoming operational. In addition to the medical help provided, a volunteer mission team recently provided eye examinations for the visually impaired. One man, 85-year-old John Muita, had not been able to see for years. He was given an exam and provided prescription glasses that restored his vision sufficiently to read his Bible. He was thrilled with his restored vision.

During a tribal war the orphanage became a place of refuge for 300 people whose lives were in peril. Police officers came and lived in the dorm for 14 months during the days of conflict.

Mwangi has established a non-profit organization known as OrphanConcern International to provide guidance for the ministry he oversees.

OrphanConcern currently has 270 children under its care, but the elementary school, providing eight grades of learning, has 150 students enrolled. Each student has the opportunity to study the Bible and participate in regular chapel services where the Gospel is proclaimed.

Mwangi declared, “So far every student has come to know Christ as personal Savior and each student who graduates from the 8th grade must give his or her personal testimony. One student was saved out of his Muslim religion and his whole family have now become Christians.”

Eastside pastor David Chauncey explained, “OrphanConcern International has been a real blessing to our church. Our vision is to see Kenya impacted for Christ through the young people who are brought under the care and instruction provided by OCI.

“Ultimately, the children to whom we have the privilege of ministering no longer think of themselves as orphans. They know they have a family in Solai and in Marietta (and throughout the nation) who are praying for them and who desire to meet their needs.

Jim Yancey

The King of Beasts and one of the “Big Five” of African animals (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Buffalo, Rhino) that can be observed in the Masai Mara of Kenya.

“From time to time,” Chauncey remarked, “we get letters from the children in Solai and those letters have a profound affect upon us at Eastside. The letters remind us of the hurting world God wants us to reach for Christ. It also motivates us to give and go in the name and power of Christ.

“My family has been deeply impacted through OCI. My wife, Sarah, and I have worked in Kenya and taken two of our sons. It is now in our blood. We plan to take each of our children. Because we know they will come back home with a deeper love for people and for missions.”

Eastside member, Gerald (Jerry) Brown, who is a member of the OCI Board of Directors, stated, “Orphan Concern is a testimony of what common folks can do with the help of the Lord. It is proof that by being obedient you can make a difference in changing lives.

“It’s obvious that much of the success is based on David (Mwangi’s) leadership, faithfulness, and obedience. There is no question that God is in this ministry. I believe the children in this program will impact their world for Christ.”

Jim Yancey, another Board member, remarked, “One of the most dramatic impacts is seeing the profound changes in the lives of the children over the years we have been going to Kenya. The children are in superior condition physically because of the nutritional food they are served, the clothes they are provided, and the shelter offered at the orphanage.

“Spiritually they are superior because they are learning the Bible and memorizing Scripture. The greatest testimony comes from their own lips: ‘We’re not orphans anymore.’”

In the past nine years Eastside alone has mobilized approximately 200 people to be engaged in short-term trips to Kenya. Other Baptist churches have also become involved in God’s work in Solai, Kenya. Those interested in finding out more about Orphan Concern should go to their website at www.orphanconcern.org.

David Mwangi, once Eastside’s church custodian, has become the custodian of Kenyan’s displaced and orphan children. He is a champion for the cause of the Kingdom.

 

Jim Yancey

Masai women in their colorful dress at their boma in the Masai Mara of Kenya welcome team members with a song.

Jim Yancey

Jackie Brown, with granddaughter Meghan McCollum, leads singing with some of the 1,250 students of Echariria Primary School in Nakuru, Kenya.

Jim Yancey

Team member Ben Smallwood of Eastside Baptist Church engages members of a local tribe in conversation.

Jim Yancey

David Mwangi of OrphanConcern International makes the first basketball goal in the newly constructed goalpost as local Solei men look on.

Jim Yancey

This proud student was chosen to play the part of Joseph with his coat of many colors as team members taught the Bible story to the students at Grace Primary School in Solei.

Jim Yancey

It takes quite an effort for the tallest land animal (up to 18 feet tall and over 3,000 pounds) to drink water.

Jim Yancey

Ben and Carolyn Smallwood, members of the mission team from Eastside Baptist Church, observe some of the million flamingoes that surround the edge of Lake Nakuru in Nakuru, Kenya.

Jim Yancey

Above, students at Grace Primary School in Solai, Kenya smile for a photographer. Members of Eastside Baptist in Marietta have provided much aid for the school.

Jim Yancey

Carolyn Smallwood, a member of Eastside in Marietta, speaks to students at Grace Primary School.