“From the moment I was asked to consider going to Kenya, I felt God begin to work in my heart. The Scriptures that kept coming back to me were the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV), which reads, “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” The words Go therefore significantly impacted me. As I was seeking God’s will, I kept hearing the question, ‘Why can’t you go?’ I didn’t have a good excuse.” These heartfelt words were from Les Rogness, one of the ten Gideons who traveled thousands of miles to Nairobi, Kenya, to join over 150 local Gideons and Auxiliary for a week of ministry this past spring. The sincere time together brought an infectious joy that comes from living in the fullness of all Christ has to offer.
In God’s perfect timing, this ministry activity took place right before the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic was in full effect. Even a one-week delay in the original schedule would have greatly altered plans. Thankfully, the team placed and distributed over 400,000 Scriptures at schools, universities, and facilities that were closed just a week later.
Delight and hunger
Nairobi, the nation’s capital, is largely a Christian city. Sam Siple, a Gideon from Tennessee, puts it this way: “The people of Nairobi—from local Gideons, school administrators, the students themselves—all have a contagious and infectious joy about them and welcomed our efforts with open arms.” This joy was met with a hunger for the Word of God. Micah Rigoni, a Gideon from Alabama, says, “When I was boarding my plane to Kenya, I was excited God was sending us to give Testaments to those who truly desired the Word.” True to the nature of most people in Kenya, those who received a copy of God’s Word were incredibly grateful.
Many distributions throughout the week took place at public and private schools, ranging in size from 40 students to over 2,000 students. The well-organized and enthusiastic local Gideons organized the school distributions and could not wait to see how God would move. Team leader Kevin Beal had the following to say about their passion for ministry: “The local Gideons truly rallied around this week of ministry. They used this as an opportunity to revitalize Nairobi.” Some of the Scriptures were even pre-delivered to make the process run with more ease once the week commenced. There was such a desire for God’s Word that when the local Gideons arrived at the schools to pre-deliver Scriptures, the administrators wanted them to go ahead and distribute.
“Our students need this”
God continued to reveal the excitement for His Word. On various occasions, the team was welcomed with the singing of hymns or Headmasters starting the day with Scripture and prayer. Some days ended with Gideons standing in the middle of a group of students joyfully waving their Testaments.
Even during some reluctance, the Holy Spirit was moving. One day, several participants visited a primary public school. The principal was hesitant to allow a disruption of classes to distribute Testaments. One of the Gideons was able to share the Gospel with her using the back page of a Testament. The Holy Spirit’s working was evident as she declared, “Our students need this.” The team was then able to distribute Testaments as the principal had all the students brought to the school courtyard for an assembly.
In some cases, students with a different religious background respectfully turned down a Scripture. At other times, there was a holy curiosity. One middle school student looked at one of the Gideons and sincerely said, “I would like one of those little Bibles” after all of his friends had left. Gideon Micah Rigoni also had a similar experience. At one school, all the students had come through a line. Micah was packing up to leave and looked up to see a student heading his way. He handed her a Testament after she had previously turned one down.
“The people of Nairobi—from local Gideons, school administrators, the students themselves—all have a contagious and infectious joy about them and welcomed our efforts with open arms.” –Sam Siple
“I will get you one”
Several Gospel interactions took place at schools, but this was not the only place that God moved. The team’s hotel also presented opportunities to share the Gospel. Gideon Dennis Kantz experienced this firsthand. As he was heading back to his room after a Sunday morning church presentation, two hotel employees were in the elevator. He asked them if they had received a Testament. Both employees said they had not received one and would like to have a copy. He reached in his pocket and soon realized he only had one Testament left. Dennis said, “I’m sorry, I only have one remaining Testament. I’ve given all the others away.” The lady employee immediately raised her hand and started jumping up and down, saying, “Please give it to me; please give it to me.” He handed it to her as the elevator door opened, and she went on her way. The other employee looked at Dennis and asked, “Do you have one for me?” Dennis responded, “I promise I will get one for you.” The gentleman told Dennis his name was Josaphat and that he would be working on the fourth floor. Dennis knew God was opening a door for him to share his faith. Immediately, Dennis went to his room and messaged members of the team looking for another Testament as he personally wanted to give one to Josaphat. Just a minute later, Trevor Thompson, a Gideon from New York, whose room was on the fourth floor, had one for Dennis.
Together, Dennis and Trevor found Josaphat in a small room sitting behind a sewing machine. Dennis was thrilled to give him a copy of God’s Word, as both he and Trevor began to share the Gospel with him. In just a few short moments, Josaphat received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. As the Gideons were about to leave, Josaphat told them he was supposed to be off this day, but for some reason, he was called to work. God had different plans. Josaphat now understands that his being called into work was divine intervention.
Joy Leads to Appreciation
By the end of the week, the team witnessed over 1,300 people enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Pray these new believers get connected to a local congregation and mature in their faith. Gideons spoke in more than 100 church services, and congregations were warm and receptive to the message of the Gideons. May local businessmen inquired about joining and over US$7,000 was given through generous donations. The week ended with an event for local pastors. Over 200 people attended, including the leaders of some of the largest churches and denominations in Nairobi. Pray for Gideons and Auxiliary as they partner with excited local churches and pastors, and for more people to come to faith in Christ because of these relationships.
“The local Gideons truly rallied around this week of ministry. They used this as an opportunity to revitalize Nairobi.” –Kevin Beal
God moved in several hearts and lives throughout the week. Kevin Beal concludes, “There are places hungry for the Word of God. He will meet that need in whatever way He sees fit, but it is a blessing He allows us to be a part of it.”