Rusinga Got Mission Station

By Wilson Wandago

×

Wilson Wandago (B.A. in Theology; M.A. in Education) is an ordained minister and the current executive secretary for Lake Victoria Field. 

First Published: April 6, 2021

It was from the small hill named “Got” in Rusinga Island, Kenya, where missionary A. Watson first ignited the torch of Adventist faith that is now burning in the Suba North and Suba South counties in Kenya. From one church planted at Rusinga Got, today there are 194 churches and 54 companies. Currently, the membership in that region has grown to 22,390 as recorded in March 2021.1

Introduction

Rusinga Island is an island with an elongated shape that’s approximately 10 miles (16 km) from end to end and 3 miles (5 km) at its widest point. It lies in the eastern part of Lake Victoria at the mouth of the Winam Gulf, and it is linked to Mbita Point on the main land by a course way.2 The main language is Dholuo although the ancestors of many of the current inhabitants were Suba, a Bantu people who came in boats several hundred years ago from Uganda as refugees from a dynastic war. Most residents of Rusinga make their living from subsistence agriculture (maize and millet) as well as from fishing. The native tilapia is still caught, though this species (like all other fish family in Lake Victoria) has nearly been decimated by the voracious Nile Perch that was introduced into the lake in 1954.

Historical Background

The Adventist Church in Rusinga Got came into existence as a result of the work of the early Adventist missionaries.3 The first missionaries were Arthur Carscallen and Peter Nyambo from Nyasaland (Malawi), who left England and reached East Africa - Kenya on October 1, 1906.4 By November 27, 1906, this team had reached Gendia Hill in the eastern shore of Lake Victoria-Kendu Bay.5 The first mission station was established at Gendia followed by the second – Wire Hill – established in 1909.

In the year 1910, Samwel Kaoga Mainya, a native of Rusinga who was an "office boy" in the office of the District Commissioner in Kisii, met A. Watson, a colleague of A. Carscallen.6 Kaoga seized the moment and invited Watson (known to the Luo as Bwana7 Washton) to visit the people of Rusinga and teach them the “good news.” Watson invited Kaoga to the Gendia mission to plan the intended visit together with Carscallen.

Within a short period of time, Carscallen sent a team from Gendia Mission to visit the Rusinga people. The team included Watson, Daniel Onyango, and Isack Okeyo Midamba. They were hosted by Paramount Chief Nyakriga of Rusinga. The team took a two-day tour of Rusinga Island and identified Kiwegi Hill in the Waregi Village as the most suitable site for a mission station.8 The Chief of Rusinga soon granted their request. Their expedition ended, and they returned to Gendia, and while in Gendia, they invited Samwel Kaoga and informed him of their intent to establish a mission in Rusinga. Carscallen requested that Kaoga put together a group of six people who would be trained on how to read and write at the Gendia Mission station before being sent back to Rusinga. These were Zakaria Sudhe, Daudi Ogoe, Petro Orwa, James Owala, Mathayo Opiyo, and Samwel Kaoga himself.

While they were being trained in Gendia, Watson went to Rusinga Island and started building his house and a wooden church at Waregi, which is today the Rusinga Got mission church. He used the church as a school to help the community learn how to read and write and to teach the Word of God. By the end of the year 1911, when the six had returned from “school”, the mission was officially opened both as school and a church. Both still stand to this day – as the Rusinga Got SDA Church and Waregi Primary School.

Bwana A. Washton led the faith in the Island until the onset of the war in 1914 when he needed to leave, and Bwana Thomas was the leader from 1915-1916. Bartlett served one year in the Island (1917), followed by Daniel Onyango (1918-1920), Petro Ogeda (1921-1927), Isaac Midamba (1928-1934), Yohana Onyango (1933-1935), Elisha Olero (1936-1940), Rasto Ogila (1944-1950), Charles Masio (1949-1951), Silfano Ododa (1952-1953), Elisha Arunga (1954-1959). The list continues to this day.

During the time of World War I (1914-1918), Carscallen, alongside other white missionaries who objected to forced military recruitment of the young Christians, were locked down at Kaimosi. During the absence of their church leader, the work was divided among them as follows; Gendia Mission was manned by Isack Okeyo, Rusinga Station by Daniel Onyango, Mfangano Island by Petro Rakula, Wire Station by Johana Tolo, Kamagambo Station by Petro Oyier, Rapedhi Station by Mariko Oyier, and Nyanchwa Station, Kisii by Jakobo Olwa.9

Impact

The first camp meeting in this region (currently Suba North and Suba South Sub counties) was held in 1938 at Kamasengre. In 1939, it was relocated to Kaswanga, from 1940-1951, it was held at Wayando, and from 1952-1953, it was relocated to Rowo with Kaksingri back to Kigoda Rusinga Island in 1954. As the church grew in numbers, Kagwa Uyoma (now in Central Nyanza Conference) had their first camp meeting in1952, Mfangano Island in 1956, Kaksingri and Gembe held their first camp meeting in 1957.

Rusinga Got Mission in 1913 is credited for sending missionaries to Rapedhi, Karungu, and Sirati in Tanzania. These were Daudi Ogoe, Paulo Nyaema, Mathayo Onyango, and Petro Orwa. Elisha Olero was sent to Uyoma Kagwa in 1944.

The church taught people how to read and write, and how to maintain healthy living among other things. Children gained access to the best education of that time and subsequently were employed in the church, in the private sector, and in the government as teachers, accountants, nurses, and politicians. Currently these homes manifest testimonies of faithfulness with positive impacts among the young and old.

Out of these pioneers at Rusinga Got Station haves come esteemed individuals who have and still serve nations at various levels including Mbeo Onyango,10 son to Johana Onyango, and Gerald Otieno Kajwang’11 and Moses Kajwang’,12 the grandchildren of Timotheo Nyakwamba, among other names just to mention but a few.

Rusinga Got Church continues to serve as the mission center for the region. It is surrounded by Church-sponsored schools including: Waregi Primary and Nyamuga Primary. In its larger contexts are: Wasaria Primary, Kaswanga Girls, Wanyama Primary, Wakondo Primary, Utajo Primary, Tom Mboya Secondary, Agiro Primary, Temo Primary, Uya primary, Kamasengre Primary, and Kamayoge Primary.

Sources

“Kenya: Pioneer Legislator Onyango Mbeo Dies at 82.” Standard, Nairobi, retrieved on July 3, 2020.

Mbwana, Geoffrey. “Like a Mustard Seed.” Adventist World, April 12, 2014.

Midamba, Samuel Okeyo. Wach Maber Odonjo e Piny Africa (Good News in Africa). Kendu Bay, Kenya: AHPH (2002).

Notes

  1. Membership report from the Executive Secretary’s office, Lake Victoria Field, 2021.

  2. “Rusinga Island,” http://wikimapia.org/1671316/Rusinga-Island.

  3. Philemon Okwaso, a long-serving elder and clerk to the pastors at Rusinga Got SDA Church, Lake Victoria Field, West Kenya Union Conference 2021, was interviewed by the author on February 17, 2021, at the Rusinga Got SDA Church Compound.

  4. Geoffrey Mbwana, “Like a Mustard Seed,” Adventist World, April 12, 2014, 24-25.

  5. Ibid.

  6. Philemon Okwaso, a long-serving elder and clerk to the pastors at Rusinga Got SDA Church, Lake Victoria Field, West Kenya Union Conference 2021, was interviewed by the author on February 17, 2021, at the Rusinga Got SDA Church Compound.

  7. Bwana in British English (in E. Africa) was often used as a respectful form of address corresponding to Sir from www.collinsdictionary.com.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Samuel Okeyo Midamba, Wach Maber Odonjo e Piny Africa (Good News in Africa), Kendu Bay, Kenya: AHPH (2002).

  10. “Kenya: Pioneer Legislator Onyango Mbeo Dies at 82.” Standard, Nairobi, retrieved on July 3, 2020, https://allafrica.com/stories/200704300801.html.

  11. Otieno Kajwang was a member of Parliament (1998-2013), Minister of State for Immigration and Registration of Persons (2008-2013), and a senator from Homa Bay County (2014). Taken from Wikipedia at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otieno_Kajwang.

  12. Moses Otiento Kajwang, MP, was a senator for Homa Bay County and a member of the Kenyan Parliament (2015-). Taken from https://ke.linkedin.com/in/moses-otieno-kajwang-mp-7322368.

×

Wandago, Wilson. "Rusinga Got Mission Station." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 06, 2021. Accessed September 25, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GFHV.

Wandago, Wilson. "Rusinga Got Mission Station." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. April 06, 2021. Date of access September 25, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GFHV.

Wandago, Wilson (2021, April 06). Rusinga Got Mission Station. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved September 25, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=GFHV.