Two Americans travel to Africa to explain feasts
By Mac Overton
Two Church of God elders traveled to Kenya in April after a Church of God (Seventh Day) elder invited them to come to his country to explain to his congregation the feast days.
Ray Wooten, founder of United Christian Ministries, Birmingham, Ala., and George Crow, pastor of the Church of God Houston (Texas) Fellowship, visited Kenya during the Days of Unleavened Bread at the request of Peter Shikuku, formerly a CG7 minister.
Mr. Wooten thinks there are too many religions in Kenya. "They are way overchurched," he said. "It seems that many are willing to accept anyone who will help them with their physical needs, regardless of their teachings. Thank God there were a few exceptions to that."
Mr. Shikuku had learned about the feast days, said Mr. Wooten, through UCM publications.
"He asked if we would come and show them how to observe them. God provided the resources, so we went. We were there from Wednesday, April 4, to Wednesday, April 11."
Mr. Shikuku served as a guide for the two men and provided transportation.
"We traveled several hundred miles during the week we were there," said Mr. Wooten.
Mr. Shikuku also served as an interpreter even though English is the official language in Kenya. But Swahili is also a national language, and many Kenyans speak Swahili or tribal languages.
On April 5 in the capital city, Nairobi, Mr. Wooten and Mr. Crow met Steven Karuga Kariuki and Philemon Mguera, leaders of a fellowship group in Nairobi who left the Worldwide Church of God and have not affiliated with any other COG organization.
"We had a wonderful visit with them, and I believe there is a like-mindedness. We plan to stay in contact with them. From that meeting we traveled to western Kenya."
The Americans arrived in Kakamega, in western Kenya, April 5 and stayed at a hotel.
On April 6 they met with Mr. Shikuku and met the current CG7 pastor in the area.
On Friday night, April 6, the men observed the Passover.
"So began the hectic pace that we traveled to Kenya to experience. George Crow and I conducted the service. Thirty-one mostly former Church of God (Seventh Day) members who now observe the annual holy days participated.
The Passover was "different," said Mr. Wooten. "The brethren wanted to sing, which we enjoyed. It was the same spirit that we experienced back here in the United States. Brethren readily accepted foot-washing, though it was the first time for some of them."
On April 7 they participated in Sabbath services in Bukura with more or less the same group that had taken Passover with the two men the previous evening.
"I gave an overview of the meaning of the annual holy days with special emphasis on Passover and Unleavened Bread. George also gave a sermonette."
On Sunday, April 8, for the first day of Unleavened Bread, they drove to Kisii, five hours away. About 45 believers were present for that meeting.
"I gave the meaning of Unleavened Bread in God's plan," Mr. Wooten said. "The message was well received. These brethren have much zeal and want to carry the message of salvation to others."
Some of the brethren misunderstood the purpose of UCM, Mr. Wooten said, which "is to support and help others in their personal ministry, not to have churches, ministers and congregations under our government."
After fellowship with the brethren in Kisii, they drove five hours to Nakuru, Kenya's second-largest city.
In Nakuru Mr. Crow and Mr. Wooten met members of an independent group called the Church of God Seventh Day Kenya.
"They have an interesting story," Mr. Wooten told The Journal. "The leaders of this group began observing the Sabbath and holy days back in 1970. They had contacted the Zion Church of God 7th Day, Jerusalem, Elder [A.N.] Dugger's group, and had been visited once by a church representative who said they would return.
"However, there has been no personal contact since that time. But they have faithfully observed these days and persevered ever since that time. They still keep all seven days of Unleavened Bread together. They are 80 to 85 in number in Nakuru."
Mr. Wooten said they met with this group on the second day of the spring feast. Founder and leader of the group is Pastor Hezekiah K. Karanja.
The local pastor is Njguna Muchendn. Seven or eight congregations are affiliated with the group in that part of Africa, said Mr. Wooten.
On April 10 the two Americans met with relatives of Joseph Kimani, a Kenyan who last year toured America to drum up support for Sabbatarian Christians in Africa (see "Kenyan Pastor Visits American Sabbatarians," The Journal, Sept. 30, 2000.)
That evening they drove to Nairobi for their last evening in Kenya.
"We met with the Nairobi congregation of the Church of God Seventh Day Kenya, where more than 600 brethren were observing Passover and all seven days of Unleavened Bread together," said Mr. Wooten. "Pastor Karanja and all the elders of the group were very gracious."
Mr. Wooten said donations to UCM have paid for the expenses of his and Mr. Crow's visit.
"However, we are considering continuing a fund for ministries in the international areas, especially the poorer areas, like most of Africa. The needs are many, and I believe their spiritual needs are even greater than the physical. But all of it is costly. The efforts of many working together in circumstances like these accomplish more than the efforts of individuals."
Mr. Wooten and Mr. Crow left Nairobi Wednesday morning, April 11, and flew to Amsterdam.
"Leen Hengeveld and Johan Timmerman met us," he said. "We were taken to the home of Johan and Renee Timmerman. There a few from their local fellowship gathered, and we had a wonderful dinner that they had prepared. This was a time of rejoicing and fellowship. We had a very scintillating, interactive discussion on biblical topics." Mr. Timmerman treated the group to an organ concert, playing an organ he built himself over a span of 19 years.
"Thanks to all of you who helped make it possible," Mr. Wooten said. "Most of all, thanks to God our Father and our Savior, Jesus the Messiah, for making it happen."
Mr. Wooten told about an experience on the trip that "moved me deeply."
On the last evening in Nakuru, Mr. Crow and Mr. Wooten were visiting with Mr. Kimani.
"Joseph had just purchased dinner for his children, including his daughter Mary, who was in the car with us. I believe she is 11 years old. We were ready to drive away from our parking place when a boy--a homeless boy, Joseph explained later--rapped on the window and asked for help.
"Without hesitating, Mary, in compassion, reached into her bag, took out her piece of pie and gave it to the boy. I later asked Joseph if we could replace it, and he said no.
"He wants her to learn that it's good to sacrifice something for others. This act characterized what I saw in the African brethren we met. They don't have much, but they are willing to share what they do have. Are we?"
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God