COG member visits CG7 descendants on Kenya trip
By Don Esposito
CARTERET, N.J.--Before talking about our recent trip to Kenya, and by way of introduction:
I was born in New Jersey. I was raised Catholic until I joined the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong in 1982.
I stayed in the WCG until 1994, when the church leaders changed most of the central doctrines such as observance of the Ten Commandments including the seventh-day Sabbath and the biblical holy days of Leviticus 23.
I joined the United Church of God in 1995 and was ordained an elder while I was a member of United.
I have since left the United Church of God and have an independent ministry in more than 30 countries.
I met my wife, Petra, in Jerusalem inside of the Garden Tomb (the place of the resurrection) in 1997.
Both of us have been on the road as missionaries since 1999.
We encourage believing pilgrims to come to Jerusalem to represent their given country of origin as a prelude to the millennial reign of Yahshua.
Besides Israel, our travels take us to places that include Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines, Jamaica and China.
Our Congregation of YHWH in Jerusalem is a nondenominational organization to expose people of all backgrounds to the roots of the church.
We also lead pilgrimages and study tours to Israel and Sinai in collaboration with Micha Ashkenazi of Jerusalem. Mr. Ashkenazi has been a leader in archaeological work in Israel for more than 43 years. He holds a Ph.D. in history and archaeology and was the finder of the Pontius Pilate stone in 1974.
Church of God history in Kenya
I mention this information as a prelude to reporting our recent trip to Kenya. We just returned from that African country and enjoyed much success there.
Several thousand Church of God members live there, as a result of a congregation of the Church of God Seventh Day started by Elder A.N. Dugger in 1971.
Mr. Dugger, who died in 1975, ordained Mr. Armstrong in 1931. Since then Mr. Dugger's son-in-law, Gordon Fauth, has taken over the work that Elder Dugger was doing in Jerusalem.
Since the initial contact of Andrew Dugger with Kenya in 1971, only once did Mr. Dugger make a subsequent contact. He sent a minister there named Shoemaker for a baptism tour in 1980.
At that time Mr. Shoemaker also ordained 16 elders and pastors. The congregations there have stayed steadfast to the original doctrines of the Church of God throughout the ages.
Most members have and hold dearly a copy of Elder Dugger's History of the True Church.
The only major split in Kenya that has occurred has been over the use of the sacred name, Yahweh. All the congregations there since 1971 have used the Hebrew name Yahshua, as preferred over the Greek Ie-sous, or Jesus.
In about 1997, however, most also started to use the name Yahweh instead of God or Lord, causing a division with the brethren, who, although they believed this to be the true name of the Creator, felt it too sacred a name to pronounce.
About two thirds of the brethren, those who believed in pronouncing the name, stayed with the main group. This constitutes 2,000 or more people all across Kenya.
Some 500 to 800 split off and meet separately.
We visit both congregations.
Poor but cheerful
Our trip to Kenya was eye-opening in many ways. The brethren down there are extremely poor, but they have such high spirits it is amazing. Most do not have even the simple conveniences such as electricity, running water or indoor plumbing, but none of them complained in the least.
The trip also brought home to us that material blessings are not always an accurate indication of one's spiritual condition.
In the chaotic, fast-paced world we live in, simplicity of life is more of a blessing than most realize. Our trip was such a testimony to us.
We drove to a different congregation almost daily using small public-transportation minivans called mutatos. They are supposed to hold 10 passengers, but 22 to 25 people usually cram into them.
I had many speaking engagements and wanted to see as many of the brethren as possible.
On one trip our car broke down and we were almost six hours late. The man waiting for us near a bus stop to take us to the church was not angry in the least. It amazed us that after waiting there for six hours he was still joyful and just so happy to see us. I have never in my life seen such patience.
It was the same with the congregation when we got there. The members had waited all day and were singing and praising when we finally arrived. One young girl had waited six months just to thank us for a dress she had received in an earlier aid package.
These people's humility won't be forgotten. The women especially are extremely hard workers. At the house of the main pastor, Edward, the women have to travel uphill about a third of a mile about four times daily to bring 60-pound water jugs wrapped around their heads.
They are happy to be wives and mothers and never complain.
We were also blessed to witness the baptism of 15 new members while there.
The church buildings are simple wood structures with dirt floors and wood benches. They look like old cow barns with holes in the roofs and cracks in the walls.
We were blessed to be able to donate money to them to fix the roof of the sleeping building so the brethren will not have to get soaking wet at feast times. They also keep the Feast of Tabernacles at these places. They sleep on dirt floors with straw and lie side by side, without even room to turn.
Most places do not have running water and have outhouses rather than toilets.
The kitchens are simple, with open fires.
The members do not cook on the Sabbath.
They separate the men from the women during services, as happened in the first-century congregations.
Women are not teachers, according to Scripture, and it would also be offensive to them if a woman wore pants.
Petra and I felt it was the most biblical service we have ever attended. The pastors truly try to protect their flocks from Western perversions.
Main problem: unemployment
We are determined to continue to work with the brethren in Kenya to help them with their main problems of unemployment of about 80 percent and the education of their children, which is extremely poor.
We are trying to start a project, Yahweh willing, to help them obtain a school property they can work from to create jobs and income and also educate not only their children in the ways of Yahweh but other Kenyan children.
The school, if purchased, could also be privatized, so not only would they be able to properly educate their children in the ways of Yahweh but they could produce income to assist the starving African brethren.
This would also put the church in Kenya on a safe ground with the government. Although freedom of religion is the official policy of Kenya, Sabbath-keepers are frowned upon and not legitimized. A school as a headquarters could protect them from persecution but, most important, teach their children how to read so they can read the Bible.
We are setting a goal of $10,000 to $15,000 to purchase property and build a school building, which could also be used to house brethren fleeing from Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda.
The other project we are helping the Kenyan brethren with is the sale of all-natural herbs.
Kenya has some of the world's best herbs, and some of the brethren there are herbal doctors. They grow all the herbs themselves with no pesticides or fertilizers.
Kenya is one of the most fertile countries I have ever seen. These herbs can treat the cause of an illness, not just the effect.
The brethren have natural herbs to cure asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and most other ailments.
We are not benefiting one penny by promoting these herbs for the Kenyan brethren. The herbs can be ordered directly from them, and the brethren will send them directly to those who order them.
We are, however, trying to connect them to other brethren because we truly believe in herbs for healing and want to help the Kenyan brethren.
We also will be sending the Kenyan brethren aid to help them evangelize in other areas. They have started congregations in Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan.
We met one of the ordained elders from Sudan, who shared with us the dire need of the brethren there. The Sudanese are dying of diarrhea, starvation and many other maladies.
Brethren as refugees
As poor as the Kenyan brethren are, each Kenyan congregation took up an offering for the Ethiopian brethren. Our ministry also gave a sizable offering for the brethren there.
Between civil war and drought, the situation in both Ethiopia and Sudan is desperate. Many have fled these countries and are living in refugee camps under United Nations control.
You can read in our newsletter of some of the horrific stories happening in Uganda and Sudan. Muslims are killing our brethren almost daily.
Sharia (strict Muslim law) is in effect in Sudan. According to Sharia law, anyone not converting to Islam is an infidel and should be killed.
We are calling our project in Kenya "Project Africa." Our goal is to make the Kenya operation self-sustaining in 12 months.
These people are hard workers; they don't want handouts. All they need is a little jump start from the brethren around the world who have been blessed to be able to help them.
If we could accomplish the school-building project and the herbal project in the next 12 months, then, from the income of these projects, the Kenyan brethren would fund all the other needy brethren from the other African countries.
We truly have the opportunity not just to help one needy brother but to literally change the lives of thousands of African brethren.
If anyone would like to contribute to this project over the next 12 months, please specify the Kenya project on your offering. Petra and I are committed to help in any way possible. The love and dedication of the brethren in Kenya truly touched us in a way words cannot express.
We thank you all for your prayers and support of the African brethren.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God