Nyamira Conference

By John Nyatogo

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John Nyatogo is secretary of Nyamira Conference.

First Published: April 4, 2021

Nyamira Conference is a part of the East-Central Africa Division of Seventh-day Adventists. It was organized in 1995 and reorganized and divided in 2020. Its headquarters is in Nyamira, Kenya. Its territory is comprised of Nyamira South, Nyamira North and Borabu sub-counties of Nyamira County. AS of June 30, 2020, it had a membership of 86,992 organized into 380 churches amongst a population of 765,366.

Origin of Adventist Work in the Territory of the Conference

The Adventist message came to the land of Gusii from Gendia by Lake Victoria. Adventism was first established in Kenya in the year 1912 in a place called Nyanchwa;1 however, its progress was interrupted by World War 1. The work had to be re-launched in 1918.2 With time, the work grew as the local people embraced the gospel and were converted. Subsequent and key to this was the establishment of missionary bases in Bonyunyu, West Mugirango, in 1921 and Sengera–Manga, in 1922.3,4 These areas would eventually become the Nyamira Conference.

Organizational History

It was in the early1990s that the South Kenya Conference (SKC), which then covered the entirety of Gusiiland, proposed the formation of another conference. The initial idea was thought to be actualized at Omobera, but this would not immediately be.5 The scouting for the proper new conference continued.

Significant growth in both membership and income in the SKC precipitated the need for a new conference. In addition, more trained pastors had entered the ministry, improving the quality of the workforce. Many of these pastors had a passion for the youth.6 Hitherto, the youth were undervalued in the Church, and their input was minimal. The recognition of the youth resulted in the formation of the AYO (Adventist Youth Organization) movement, which catapulted evangelization among and by the youth. Young persons who had embraced the Adventist faith, particularly those who were employed, became supportive in furthering the mission of the Church even with their finances.7 This made it essential to reorganize the work administratively in order to improve evangelism and reach new church members as churches increased in size and number.8

Procedurally, SKC made the request to the East African Union for the creation of a new entity in 1993. The request was forwarded to the Eastern Africa Division. Zablon Ayonga, communications director at the union and a native Omogusii,9 was dispatched to share with the SKC what was required so as to realize the dream. This included the availability of offices from which the work could be directed as well as enough land for further development.10

In response to Ayonga’s request, a subcommittee-cum-task force was set up to look into the feasibility. The taskforce comprised of Shem Ngoko, chair; Joshua Oindi, in charge of stewardship; Stanley Nyachieng’a; and Alpheus Ateka. They were tasked with finding an appropriate place where the new entity would be located. The four ventured in criss-crossing the Nyamira District in search of an ideal place. Key factors for consideration included availability of water, electricity, and its accessibility so that pastors could conveniently get in touch with the office. The team settled on Kebirigo because it looked to have land, it was relatively centrally situated, and included a pastor’s house that could be transformed into temporary offices. The SKC leadership at that time was comprised of Peter Chief Mairura, president; John Nyamwanda, executive secretary, and Alpheus Ateka, treasurer.

It took two years to actualize the formation of the Nyamira Conference from the SKC in 1995. The inauguration ceremony was presided over by Lassew Dennis Raelly, the president of the Eastern Africa Division. At that time, the new conference consisted of five stations: Kebirigo, Tombe, Mbanda, Gesura, and Matutu.

The Nyamira Conference did not settle permanently at Kebirigo owing to the fact that the land was not large enough for development. Searching for an alternative location was necessary. Joshua Oindi and Stanley Nyanchieng’a spearheaded this venture. The team identified the parcel of land where the conference office now sits, which is 6 kilometers from the original location.

Office Construction

Perhaps the most intriguing scenario in the development of the Nyamira Conference was the matter of building the offices. When the land had been officially acquired and the papers processed, the next course of action was to construct the office building. An architectural plan for the building was drafted by professional church members who were public servants at the district office.11 For the sake of absolute professionalism, the construction was given to one Masosa Construction company with full contract terms. The ground on which the building would be placed was soggy. It therefore required much digging and laying the foundation deep. This proved to be so costly that the conference decided to clip off the curves of the U-shape so that the house could be available for use as soon as possible.12

Joshua Oindi, the stewardship director, was tasked with mobilizing church members to contribute their financial resources toward the project. The cash inflow for the project was slow. It even jeopardized the tithes. To counter this risky trend, the conference opened substations within the existing stations for swifter communication to a larger portion of church members within a shorter period. In effect, the project was explained to church members, and they were persuaded to support both the building project and the tithes.

As the monies failed to come as anticipated, the conference decided to unofficially terminate the full contract with the contractor prematurely. The decision proved to be ill-advised. The contractor took the matter to court, and successfully sued for damages in several millions of Kenyan shillings. The conference was not able to pay, instead, the court garnered funds from the East African Union.13

The termination of the contract and the subsequent attachment of the East African Union funds disenchanted many church members, but it was the union’s subsequent recovering of the money from the Nyamira Conference that elicited their anger. To meet that turn of events, church members were asked to contribute towards repayment of the money to the union. The contributions dragged on for several months, but the money was finally paid. At the time of writing, only the first of the two floors in the plan is completed.

Health Institutions

At the time of organization, the Nyamira Conference had five dispensaries located at Kenyenya, Nyasore, Kemera, Nyagesenda, and Riakworo. As of 2020, two more dispensaries had been established at Eronge and Itibo.14

Subsequent Developments

Since 2005, there has been a push to establish a new conference at Tombe, which was the headquarters of the station by the same name during the inception of the Nyamira Conference. After much effort, the Nyamira Conference voted to create the Nyamira West Field in 2019. The matter was actualized in November 2020 when the field was inaugurated at Kemera, some four kilometers away from Tombe, by the East-Central Africa Division leadership.

List of Presidents

Shem Bundi Ngoko (1995-1996), Joel Nyarangi (1997-1999), Richard Momanyi Nyakego (2000-2005), Shem Bundi Ngoko (2006-2015), Thomas Nyakundi (2016-2020), William Ogweno Ongaga (2020-).

Sources

Nyaundi, Nehemiah. Seventh-day Adventism in Gusii, Kenya. Kendu Bay, Kenya: Africa Herald, 1997.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Accessed April 21, 2021. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Notes

  1. Eventually, this is where the headquarters of the South Kenya Field and its subsequent South Kenya Conference were situated as an administrative unit, which was re-organized in 1953 and 1981 (Seventh-day Adventist Online Yearbook, “South Kenya Conference,” accessed April 21, 2021, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=13621&highlight=South%20Kenya%20Conference).

  2. Nehemiah Nyaundi, Seventh-day Adventism in Gusii, Kenya (Kendu Bay, Kenya: Africa Herald, 1997), 28.

  3. Ibid., 45. In the citation, Bonyunyu is misspelled (as Bonyungu) and erroneously placed in North Mugirango.

  4. The area of coverage consisted of two big clans in Gusiiland. One of them is Abagetutu, the other being Abagirango. The clans would later play a key role in necessitating the birth of Nyamira West Field.

  5. Joshua Oindi, telephone interview by author, April 15, 2021. It was not until 2018, a quarter a century later, that the organization of the South-East Kenya Field (SEKF) was actualized at the said locality.

  6. Joshua Oindi, telephone interview by author, April 15, 2021.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Alpheus Ateka, telephone interview by author, April 15, 2021.

  9. Omogusii is the name for the people of Gusii in singular. The plural is Abagusii.

  10. Alpheus Ateka, telephone interview by author, April 15, 2021.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Ibid.

  13. Ibid.

  14. Nyamira Conference Records, Nyamira, Kenya.

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Nyatogo, John. "Nyamira Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 04, 2021. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AFGL.

Nyatogo, John. "Nyamira Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 04, 2021. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AFGL.

Nyatogo, John (2021, April 04). Nyamira Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AFGL.