Elder Jacob Ng’ang’a Karau in 2016 at age 90.

Photo courtesy of Godfrey K. Sang 

Karau, Jacob Ng’ang’a (1926–2019)

By Godfrey K. Sang


Godfrey K. Sang is a historical researcher and writer with an interest in Adventist history. He holds a B.A. in History from the University of Eastern Africa Baraton and a number of qualifications from other universities. He is a published author. He is the co-author of the book On the Wings of a Sparrow: How the Seventh-day Adventist Church Came to Western Kenya

First Published: February 4, 2022

Jacob Ng’ang’a Karau was a pioneer Adventist in the Kitale Area of Western Kenya and a church planter.

Jacob Ng’ang’a Karau became an Adventist through the Voice of Prophecy program that was instituted at the Central Kenya Field (now conference) in 1953. He was already a member of a dominant denomination in the area, and when he enrolled and received his first lessons through the mail, it was a journey that led him to the Adventist faith.

Early Life

Jacob Karau was born in 1926 in Nderu Village in Kiambu near Nairobi. His parents were Karau Mugo and Wambui Karau who lived in Kiambu. He began his early education at a school that was founded under the “Kikuyu Karinga” educational program, a part of the independent schools that were instituted by the early anti-colonial movement.1

In Kenya’s colonial system, the missionary-led schools were restricted in the course content (for instance, English was not taught as a subject), which led to protests by the early African leaders who then came up with independent schools in protest.2 Ng’ang’a attended such a school but then left at the Standard 3 level, going back home to his parents. He then joined a dominant denomination in the area and began taking Bible lessons. He began a business and supplemented his income with farming. In 1949 he married Grace, and in 1950 their son Kenneth was born.3

Becoming an Adventist

It so happened that one day in 1955 he went to church and got word that there was this Bible correspondence course, and members were encouraged to enroll. He was suddenly interested and enrolled and also asked his wife to enroll. He got the forms entitled “Voice of Prophecy Worldwide Correspondence Bible School,” and so he wrote to the Capetown address applying to get his first lesson. Many other members of his Sunday-keeping church happily enrolled, and they began the study. The first lesson arrived, and they did it then sent back for the next. After a few lessons, the church authorities began to notice that the lessons were teaching things that were not in line with their denomination’s teachings. They raised their concern, but that was not taken seriously.

When the seventh lesson arrived, it was about the Sabbath. The church authorities, who had unwittingly encouraged the members to enroll, were suddenly in a panic. They called for an urgent meeting and banned the studies with immediate effect. But it was too late. Ng’ang’a and his wife were so engrossed with the teachings and began to question what their denomination stood for. Everything in the lesson was supported by scriptural reference, and they were learning things that had been hidden from them. From that time on Ng’ang’a and his wife made the decision not to discard the lessons and instead visited the Karura Mission and met the mission director Pastor Robert J. Wieland.4

Wieland visited them at their home and gave them further teachings about their newfound faith. They stopped attending the old church. The person who coordinated the lessons was Andrew Gathemia, assisted by Pastor Fred K. Wangai.5 After completing the lessons, he and his wife were enrolled by Wieland into the baptismal classes. They received further instruction by Pastor Ben D. Wheeler.

In 1956 the Karauses were baptized by Robert J. Wieland. After their baptism Karau became an evangelist. He began holding Bible studies with members of the Akorino sect, a denomination that arose in Central Kenya characterized by wearing of white turbans by the menfolk while the women wore scarfs and pleated skirts. They did not believe in the use of modern or any other form of medication, preferring instead, faith healing. Their discussions became quite emotive, and Karau then wrote down the controversial points and wrote to Wieland at Karura Mission to clarify. One of the issues he asked Wieland to clarify was whether it was all right to use modern medication to treat the sick or just to pray for them.

Wieland’s Response

On February 13, 1956, Robert Wieland responded stating that the Bible did not teach that it was a sin to use good medicine for treatment, referring him to Ezekiel 47:12 and Revelation 22:2; 2 Kings 20:1, 6, 7; and John 9:6,7.6 Karau eagerly read Wieland’s letter to his Akorino friends at a large meeting as they frantically searched the biblical references. They were shocked to discover such references were in fact in the Bible, and they had not considered them. Members began to question the basis of their faith. His brother-in-law Harun was one of the sect leaders, and seeing the effect of the letter, angrily asked Jacob to leave their congregation at once. Karau then asked Wieland to hold an evangelistic effort in the Limuru area. Wieland agreed and many gave their lives to Christ. Karau then organized a new company in Limuru, which is today a large church with numerous companies. Many members of the Akorino joined the Adventist Church, and Harun pleaded with Jacob saying that his church would close down if the Adventists continued with their teachings.

In 1958 Ng’ang’a was a part of a 90-member team from the Limuru church that went to Nairobi for the dedication of the Shauri Moyo Church. He continued serving in various capacities in his church and conducting personal evangelism, bringing more to the faith.

Moving to Kitale

In November 1965 Ng’ang’a purchased a 24-acre piece of land in the Kapsara area in Kitale, western Kenya. He closed down his business in Limuru and left for Kitale. In June 1966 he relocated with his family to Kitale and settled at Kapsara. By this time they had eight children. When he arrived he was shocked to find that there was no church in the entire area.

He then traveled to Kitale town and made inquiries if there was any Seventh-day Adventist church. Back in 1956 the East African Union had instituted the “Highlands Mission,” which was to take care of European Adventists drawn from the settlers of Nakuru, Eldoret, and Kitale districts and also in Nairobi.7 They had about fifty-three members at its peak. Then the clamor for independence in Kenya saw many Europeans leave for other parts of Africa and Europe. The church at Kitale was closed down, and the plot sold to another denomination.8 After independence in 1963, the church began to grow again. Ng’ang’a was one of the new members.

After searching through Kitale town enquiring from complete strangers, nobody seemed to know that such a denomination even existed. The one person named Simon, who was a prison warden at the Kitale Prison, told him that he had seen some people meet at the Prisons Hall on Saturdays. Perhaps they were the people he was looking for. Early that Saturday morning, Ng’ang’a left for Kitale township and found three people meeting at the hall. They were Adventists. He happily joined them, and with his family of 10, the numbers rose suddenly. They continued to reach out to other people in the vicinity, and their numbers grew steadily.

The young company in Kitale was the farthest church under the Central Kenya Mission at Karura, 367km (230 miles) away. Ng’ang’a was appointed the church treasurer. As they came in with their tithe and offering, it soon became apparent that they would have to take it physically to Karura. He was authorized by the young church to take the money all the way to Karura. When he got there, Wieland received the money but then advised him to connect with Pastor Jackson Maiyo at Eldoret, who would take charge of the work at Kitale. Ng’ang’a then met with Maiyo who now added the Kitale church to his pastoral circuit.

The Growth of the Church at Kitale

Soon their company reached the required number to organize as a church. On January 9, 1969, their leader, Benjamin Sikwata, wrote to the Central Kenya Field requesting to be organized as a full church.9 They raised the money to purchase a piece of land at Shauri Moyo in Kitale. They constructed a church and moved out of the Prison hall. The members continued to grow, and Ng’ang’a helped organize a new congregation at Naisambu, not far from the town. The Ng’ang’a’s continued commuting from their farm at Kapsara to Kitale town every Sabbath morning, a trip that cost him Sh. 1.50 each way.10 They also attended another organized group at Chisale and grew the congregation to a full church.

Late in the 1970s, Ng’ang’a learned that a new neighbor, Duncan Kamau who had moved in from the Molo area, was an Adventist. They then came up with the idea of establishing their own church at Kapsara.

Final Years

The Ng’ang’a children who are now grown people with their own families moved to other areas taking with them the faith of their father. Some of his children moved to the United States, and he traveled there in 2008 staying for a number of years. He returned to take care of his business at Kapsara. He passed away in April 2019, at the age of 93. He was survived by Grace, his wife of 70 years and their children, including several grandchildren and great grandchildren.


The three members of the church at the Prison’s hall were Benjamin Sikwata, Shaphan Lunani, and John Giriama.11 Ng’ang’a joined them to expand the Adventist Church in Kitale and became a significant church planter there. Today there are over two dozen full-fledged churches with numerous companies between them. Thousands of congregants find their spiritual home there.


Adebola, A. S. “The Kikuyu Independent Schools Movement and the ‘Mau Mau’ Uprising.” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Vol. 10, No. 4 (June 1981).

Letter from Benjamin Sikwata to the Central Kenya Field dated January 9, 1969. In the Ng’ang’a family’s private collection.

Letter from Robert J. Wieland to Karau dated February 13, 1956. In the Ng’ang’a family’s private collection.

Sang, Godfrey K., Kili, and Hosea K. On the Wings of a Sparrow, How the Seventh-day Adventist Church Came to Western Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Gapman Publications, 2016.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1956). https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.


  1. A. S. Adebola, “The Kikuyu Independent Schools Movement and the ‘Mau Mau’ Uprising,” Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Vol. 10, No. 4 (June 1981), 53-71.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Jacob Ng’ang’a Karau, interview by the author, July 19, 2015, Kapsara, Kitale.

  4. Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1956), 157.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Letter from Robert J. Wieland to Karau dated February 13, 1956, in the Ng’ang’a family’s private collection.

  7. Godfrey K. Sang, Kili, Hosea K., On the Wings of a Sparrow, How the Seventh-day Adventist Church Came to Western Kenya (Nairobi, Kenya: Gapman Publications, 2016), 57.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Letter to the Central Kenya Field by Benjamin Sikwata dated January 9, 1969, a copy in the Ng’ang’a family’s private collection.

  10. Jacob Ng’ang’a Karau, interview by the author, July 19, 2015, Kapsara, Kitale.

  11. Sang et al., 265-266.


Sang, Godfrey K. "Karau, Jacob Ng’ang’a (1926–2019)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 04, 2022. Accessed March 21, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4JC0.

Sang, Godfrey K. "Karau, Jacob Ng’ang’a (1926–2019)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 04, 2022. Date of access March 21, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4JC0.

Sang, Godfrey K. (2022, February 04). Karau, Jacob Ng’ang’a (1926–2019). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved March 21, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=4JC0.