Ayub, Andrew Gathemia (1927–1992)

By Godfrey K. Sang

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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 3, 2024

Andrew Gathemia Ayub was a pioneer Adventist pastor, Voice of Prophecy (VOP) leader, and administrator.

Early Life

Andrew Gathemia Ayub was born in 1927 in an Aguthi location in Nyeri County, Kenya. He was the son of Ayubu Ndiang’ui Gathemia and Martha Njambi.1 He attended local schools in Nyeri before joining the Alliance High School in 1939, under Principal Carey Francis. After completion of his studies there, he trained as a nurse at the Tumu Tumu Hospital that had been founded by Presbyterian missionaries (Church of Scotland Mission). After he qualified, he found a job at a medical clinic ran by an Asian doctor in Nairobi.

Becoming an Adventist

It was while working here that he heard about the Voice of Prophecy Bible Correspondence School based in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1950, he enrolled in the course and began what would be a defining journey in his life. He completed the course in 1951 and accepted the Adventist faith. He was baptized at the Karura Mission by Pastor W. C. S. Raitt, who was in charge of the Karura Mission.2 In September 1952, he graduated from the Kendu Mission Hospital as a “dresser” or a nurse. He was one of four graduates, the others being Edward Manuando, Johnson Nyakiti, and Naftali Nyamongo. The three were posted to work at Kendu while Gathemia was posted to the Karura Mission Dispensary. The four graduates were each paid Sh. 90 per month.3

Shortly after that, the Mau Mau War broke out in Kenya. This was a time of great apprehension for many, particularly Christians, in Central Kenya. On October 19, 1952, the colonial administration in Kenya declared a State of Emergency to counter the Mau Mau rebellion and banned all private and public meetings in Central Kenya. This made it very difficult to carry out any evangelistic campaigns.

Robert Wieland Comes to Kenya

In 1953, the Southern Africa Division reorganized the work in East Africa by forming three new mission fields for Kenya. These were the Kenya Lake Mission, the South Kenya Mission, and the Central Kenya Mission. The Central Kenya Mission now replaces the Karura Mission, and Robert J. Wieland, who was until then the Uganda Mission president, was appointed the president of the Central Kenya Mission. He now replaced Raitt at Karura.4

Wieland’s appointment came at the height of the Mau Mau War, which made mission work in Central Kenya particularly challenging. Wieland then turned to literature evangelism, selling the Kiswahili version of Signs of the Times magazine entitled Sikiliza. He pioneered radio evangelism in Kenya as well and also established the correspondence Voice of Prophecy Bible school. With these strategies, he was able to grow the Adventist work in Central Kenya while escaping the murderous terrorism of the Mau Mau.5

Gathemia and Mugambo wa Urathi

In November 1953, Ben D. Wheeler had been brought in to head the VOP program, relieving Wieland, who then carried out the administrative work in the expansive Central Kenya Mission Field. In 1954, the Karura Dispensary was shut down by the colonial authorities after they suspected it was providing medical assistance to the Mau Mau. This left Gathemia without a job. Wheeler quickly recruited him to assist at the VOP. Gathemia got to work and translated the VOP lessons into the Gikuyu language, making it simple enough for those with little education to follow. This was the start of Mugambo wa Urathi (Voice of Prophecy). The lessons were surreptitiously deployed into the Kikuyu reserves, and in no time, thousands were enrolled, quietly studying the Word while avoiding both government and Mau Mau operatives. Gathemia would receive the completed lessons and mark them before posting the next lessons. The rising number of students quickly overwhelmed Gathemia, and his typical day would end at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. as he was typing away correspondence just to keep up. Frederick K. Wangai was soon recruited to assist him.

By 1955, there were 4,817 enrollees of the Voice of Prophecy Bible School correspondence from Kenya alone.6 All of them passed through the hands of Andrew Gathemia, Fred Wangai, and their supervisor, Ben D. Wheeler. Lessons were also prepared in other languages and deployed into other areas. The Central Kenya Mission (presently the Central Kenya Conference) was, at that time, the largest mission field in Kenya. It covered the rest of Kenya outside South Nyanza, the traditional cradle of Adventism in Kenya. It bordered Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Tanganyika. It had under it the Karura Mission station, Kenya Coast Mission station, Kipsigis Mission station, and Chebwai Mission station.7

Gathemia and Adventist Radio

Shortly after, Wieland founded an Adventist broadcast in the Kenya Broadcasting Service and appointed Permenas Nduke as the speaker during this broadcast that was heard across Kenya. Gathemia was asked to step in to broadcasting, presenting an Adventist program through the national broadcaster. The broadcast was aired fortnightly.

Other than being an outstanding translator and speaker, he was also a talented musician. He quickly learned the songs in the English hymnal and translated the first Gikuyu language hymnal Nyimbo cia Agendi, (Hymns of the Pilgrims). In 1956, Pastor Gathemia was promoted to be the assistant director of the VOP programs. By 1957, the VOP had been expanded to include James Mutero and Christopher Waigwa, both of them working with Gathemia and Wangai in the Kikuyu language VOP lessons. By this time, I. M. Hanson had taken over from B. D. Wheeler as the director while Pastor Gathemia deputized her. Others in the program included Japheth Manuel (Kiswahili) and D. Washington Buka (Kiswahili).

On April 30, 1958, the East Africa Union Mission (EAUM) passed a resolution to pave way for Pastor Gathemia’s ordination, which took place in May of that year. He was ordained together with Pastor Elikundu Mkuruti of Tanganyika.8

Gathemia in Church Administration

In November 1958, Pastor Gathemia was in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare Zimbabwe), to attend the 11th Council of the Southern Africa Division. He was part of the delegation that represented East Africa Union. Others from Kenya in the 17-man delegation included Pastor C. Odero and Pastor P. Ong’uti.

In October 1960, Pastor Gathemia attended a six-week leadership course at Bugema College organized by the East Africa Union. Participants were drawn from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanganyika, and the trainers included H. W. Stevenson and M. E. Lind.9

In March 1961, Pastor Gathemia was appointed vice president of the Central Kenya Field. He then deputized A. H. Brandt.10 Other changes made at that time included the appointment of Pastor C Odero as the first African to head a mission field. He became the president of the newly created Ranen Field, and B. Aseno was appointed the secretary-treasurer.11 Other appointments were Pastor Daniel Odulu, who became vice president of Kenya Lake Field, and Pastor Abraham Oirere, who became vice president of the South Kenya Field.12 He became the senior-most African in the denomination at that time.

Shortly after his appointment, he moved to Solusi College to further his ministerial studies.13 In November 1963, he was in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), representing Kenya during the 12th Session of the Southern African Division Council.14 The other Africans in the delegation included Pastor E. Nyamweya, Pastor C. Odero, and Pastor W. Otwori. The rest in the 14-person delegation were Europeans. Pastor Gathemia went into the nominations committee, and in the elections, Robert Pierson became the new president of the Division while M. E. Lind, formerly of Kenya Union Mission, was elected the new president of the East African Union. F. G. Thomas was elected the Tanganyika Union president. There were only six unions under the Southern Africa Division, namely Congo Union, East African Union, Nyasaland Union, Ruanda-Urundi Union, Tanganyika Union, and Zambesi Union. Due to the issues around Apartheid in South Africa, the South African Union had been excluded from the Southern Africa Division, and the division offices had moved from Cape Town to Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia.15

At this time, the administration of the church in East Africa was still dominated by European missionaries, and change was slow in the making. The Africans felt that the administration should be placed in their hands while the foreign missionaries felt they were not ready yet. Gathemia disagreed with some of the senior administration on this matter and opted to resign from his position. He remained a practicing Adventist for the remainder of his life, until his death in 1992.

Legacy

Andrew Gathemia’s work in the Adventist Church in Central Kenya is difficult to quantify. He worked to bring thousands to the faith through the VOP program. His brother Reuben Theuri joined the Church and became a pastor. Most of his relatives also joined the Church, including his mother, Martha, who remained in the faith for the rest of her life. Gathemia was married to Josse Wambui Gatheru, and their son, Job Gathemia, joined the ministry, following in his father’s footsteps.

Sources

Minutes of the EAUM, April 30, 1958, East Kenya Union Conference archives, Nairobi, Kenya.

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

Southern Africa Division Outlook, February 1, 1953; August 1, 1953; February 15, 1956; March 15, 1961; January 15, 1963; April 15, 1963.

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 (Nairobi: Grandmaster Empire, 2021), 82.

  2. Kenya Mission Field Minutes – September 22, 1952. (EAU Archives, Nairobi).

  3. Sh. 90 was equivalent to £4.50 in 1952. This was equivalent in purchasing power to about £159.67 or USD 195.44 or KSh. 28,742.58 in October 2023. From https://www.in2013dollars.com/uk/inflation/1952?amount=4.50 (accessed October 8, 2023).

  4. R. S. Watts, Southern Africa Division Outlook, February 1, 1953, 4.

  5. R. J. Wieland, Southern African Division Outlook, August 1, 1953, 2.

  6. E. D. Hanson, Southern Africa Division Outlook, February 15, 1956, 31.

  7. “Central Kenya Mission Field,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1956.

  8. Minutes of the EAUM, April 30, 1958, East Kenya Union Conference archives, Nairobi, Kenya.

  9. Christopher C. Waigwa, Southern Africa Division Outlook, October 15, 1960, 3.

  10. Ms. M. B. Dawkins (ed.), South African Union Lantern, March 15, 1961, 10.

  11. Ibid.

  12. Ibid.

  13. John Raitt, Southern Africa Division Outlook (April 15, 1963): 9.

  14. R. J. Wieland, Southern Africa Division Outlook (January 15, 1963): 5.

  15. Ibid.

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Sang, Godfrey K. "Ayub, Andrew Gathemia (1927–1992)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 03, 2024. Accessed June 18, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AJMO.

Sang, Godfrey K. "Ayub, Andrew Gathemia (1927–1992)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 03, 2024. Date of access June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AJMO.

Sang, Godfrey K. (2024, January 03). Ayub, Andrew Gathemia (1927–1992). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 18, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AJMO.