George Nyaundi grew up as a traditional African in Enemesi, Kenya. He and his family knew nothing of Jesus. His tribal background was Kisii, though he lived among the Maasai. His grandfather had moved into their village from Kisii and adopted Maasai ways.
Everything began to change when he met Eastern Mennonite Missions worker Clair Good in 1989. Good introduced him to Jesus, encouraged him and blessed him. Though the Christian story was new and strange, Nyaundi drank it in like a young plant drinks water in a desert.
When he left home to find work in a safari camp, God surprised him. Once a month for the first three months of 1992 he had the same encounter — an audible voice saying, “I want you to go back home. You will be baptized. Then you will serve me.”
At first Nyaundi hesitated. Is this really God? Might it be an ancestral spirit? But when it came three times, he was sure it was not one of his ancestors. He went back to Enemesi in May, and there he found Good, his mentor. He was baptized in June. On that same day he preached his first sermon from Matthew and sensed the anointing of the Spirit.
His mother said, “You’re crazy. Why would you leave a good job to ‘serve God’?”
But Good believed in him and sent him to workshops in Kenya, where he grew in his understanding. He met Christian leaders nurtured in the Kenyan revival movements of the 1960s and 1970s. EMM found a way to send him to the Mennonite Theological College of East Africa in Tanzania. He graduated in 1997. He remembers good foreign teachers like Harold and Daniel Wenger. Good blessed him all the way: “You can do it!”
Back in Kenya, Nyaundi helped the work of the local church, discipling others. Some from other tribes did not encourage him as Good had.
“But that was OK,” Nyaundi said. “I learned to depend on God.”
In 2008, an EMM team visited Kenya during its post-election violence to encourage their brothers and sisters. Driving through Chipolet, Good saw the devastation in the tribal borderland and felt led to send a peacemaker into the heart of the conflict. Immediately he thought of Nyaundi’s tribal background and experience in regions of conflict. He challenged Nyaundi to move.
Though Chipolet was a scene of great violence and far from home, Nyaundi answered the call. In the years since, he has partnered with God to see 10 new congregations with about 400 members raised up in the region — people of vision for God’s peace in a strife-torn tribal borderland. Nyaundi’s vision does not end there.
“Many Kenyans who are still followers of traditional [animistic] religions are ready to meet Jesus,” he said. “Like my family, it is a simple matter for them to turn from a tree or a mountain to Jesus, yet when they do, everything changes.”
In February and March, at the invitation of a friend, Nyaundi spent some time among the isolated Pokot tribal traditionalists in north Kenya. As he shared, hundreds wanted to know Jesus.
“How do we reach them?” he asked. “They have no water supply, hospitals, schools — nothing. How do we make disciples there?
“That’s what I am asking Jesus these days.”
Richard Showalter, currently in Nairobi, Kenya, is chair of Mennonite World Conference’s Mission Commission.