Yeri, Reuben Kombe (1920–2023)

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: January 8, 2024

Reuben Kombe Yeri was a prolific preacher and church planter who also served as the president of the Central Kenya Conference.

Early Life and Education

Yeri was born in a Hurirani village in Kilifi County on Kenya’s Coast.1 His parents, Israel Mwanikandi and Kauchi Mure, were members of the Mijikenda, an ethno-lingual group in Kenya’s coastal region. They gave him the name Karisa meaning “Shepherd,” and he would end up being a shepherd in the Lord’s vineyard.

His father had already received an education and taught little Reuben to read and write. He later went to live with his uncle who was an Anglican priest and who took him to the Kaloleni Mission School. He studied there between 1939 and 1942 when he registered with the Dulukiza Adventist School. A year later in 1943, he joined the Changamwe Mission School, which had been founded in 1934 by pioneering Adventist missionary William C. S. Raitt.2

Kombe completed his primary and secondary education and proceeded to the Kamagambo Teachers College where he received a teaching certificate. He taught for two years at his old school at Chamgamwe before being called to the pastoral ministry. He then proceeded to the Bugema Missionary College in Uganda where he obtained a diploma in Theology in 1954. He married Janet Kasichana Mugoja and started a family. He was then employed by the Central Kenya Field and deployed to work among the Kikuyu, Embu, and Meru communities.

Due to the severe travel restrictions on the Kikuyu people during the Emergency years (1952-1960), Yeri was able to travel without a pass. From 1955, Yeri ventured into Kiambu, conducting further Bible studies with the Mugambo wa Urathi (Voice of Prophecy) students and bringing them to the faith. He then prepared them for baptism. Initially, he covered the vast distances on foot, but later he was provided a motorcycle which helped move him further and faster. Some of the churches that trace their origins to the work of Yeri include King’eero, Gatundu, Rironi, Ngarariga, Kabuku, Ndenderu Kimende, Ndeiya, Ngeca, Kairi, and Githunguri.

Sabbath School Department

In 1956, the Central Kenya Mission appointed Yeri as the departmental secretary for Sabbath School.3 That same year, he was ordained to the ministry. He relinquished his position in the Sabbath School department after a year, preferring to remain in the field spreading the gospel message.

Yeri moved to Nakuru in the Rift Valley, where he found many Kikuyu people working in the European settler farms. While based in Nakuru town, he received a long list of Mugambo wa Urathi (MWU) students who had requested a pastoral visit. The first person he visited was Duncan Kimani Wanderi in Njoro, and he led him and his wife to baptism. Wanderi later became a literature evangelist and ordained minister. Yeri made other pastoral visits to the MWU students, and a number of congregations were soon organized.

While in Nakuru, he brought to the faith an engineer and his wife whom he had sold a copy of the book Daniel and Revelation. The couple studied the book and invited Pastor Yeri to visit them, and he explained the strange beasts and their prophetic meanings. The couple, Joed and Lilian Ngaruiya, became evangelists and lay preachers who worked powerfully for the gospel work.

Yeri then moved to Olenguruone area, predominantly settled by the Kipsigis, Nandi, and Ogiek people, who are members of the Kalenjin people. He was invited to a church on a Sunday morning, and he preached on the four beasts of Daniel 7. The following day, he was summoned by the local district officer to answer charges of “incitement” with his preaching. He preached to the government officer, who appreciated the message, and he dropped the case. He was also allowed to continue preaching. He brought to the faith a number of Kalenjin people, and today, there are vibrant congregations of Adventists in the area.

Return to the Coast

In 1961, Yeri returned to his native Kenya Coast to run the Kenya Coast Mission, founded in 1934 and at that time based in Malindi. He was still under the Central Kenya Field, which had four mission stations – Chebwai, Karura, Kenya Coast, and Kipsigis. The field president at this time was Robert J. Wieland.4 The following year, 1962, A. H. Brandt took over the CKM while the secretary/treasurer was E. G. Olsen.5 He spent only a short time in the office running the Coast Mission, opting to return to the field. He returned to Nairobi and pastored several other churches. His ordained contemporaries at this time included Andrew Gathemia, Fred K. Wangai, Perminus M. Nduke. S. K. Ngoroi, Jackson K. Maiyo, Caleb Kipkessio, and W. Buka.6 By 1965, P. D. Bakker had taken over from Brandt at the Central Kenya Field. E. E. Omutamba was the secretary-treasurer. He later travelled to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he obtained a diploma in Leadership from Solusi College.7

East African Union

In 1969, F. K. Wangai took over from Bakker as the president of the CKF. Yeri continued as a field pastor. In 1971, Wangai moved to the EAU, and the vacancy was then open for Yeri to become the CKF president.8 He reluctantly took up the position as he indicated that his heart remained in the field. He led the CKF until 1979 when he handed over to Elijah Njagi to return to the field.

Retirement

Yeri pastored various churches until 1985 when he reached retirement age. He remained active in the ministry for a number of years after that. At the age of 100, he still walked upright, read his Bible without glasses, and continued to minister.

Sources

Mnene, Paul H. and Sang, Godfrey K. “History of Adventist Church in Kenya Coast Field” (unpublished manuscript, 2021).

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Wangai, Frederick K. The Power of the Word: A History of Seventh-day Adventism in Central Kenya. Nairobi: Grandmaster Empire, 2021.

Notes

  1. Frederick K. Wangai, The Power of the Word: A History of Seventh-day Adventism in Central Kenya (Grandmaster Empire, Nairobi, 2021), 177-179.

  2. Paul H. Mnene and Godfrey K. Sang, “History of Adventist Church in Kenya Coast Field” (unpublished manuscript, 2021).

  3. “Central Kenya Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957), 159.

  4. “Central Kenya Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1962), 181.

  5. “Central Kenya Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1963), 201.

  6. “Central Kenya Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1967), 257.

  7. Wangai, 177-179.

  8. “Central Kenya Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (1972), 94.

×

Sang, Godfrey K. "Yeri, Reuben Kombe (1920–2023)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 08, 2024. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JN4.

Sang, Godfrey K. "Yeri, Reuben Kombe (1920–2023)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 08, 2024. Date of access May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JN4.

Sang, Godfrey K. (2024, January 08). Yeri, Reuben Kombe (1920–2023). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 23, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JN4.