Sunday, June 16th, 2019 marked the beginning of a long spiritual journey for six church leaders as they were appointed to serve God in different capacities within the International Churches of Christ EastAfrica (ICOCEA). Michael Burns from Twin Cities Church in Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN made the announcement after evangelist Tom Akello from Bujumbura Church of Christ presented the leaders to the congregation.
The four teachers were evangelist WilliamAuki (married to Victoria with two children); Jarrett Odwallo (married to Nancy with two children); Julius Nguku (married to Margaret with three children); and evangelist Richard Ahenda (married to Florence with four children). Jarrett Odwallo and Julius Nguku have been teaching the word of God for many years while William Auki is an evangelist and the leader of the Southern Block. Richard Ahenda, former evangelist of the Kampala church, was appointed to be the Nairobi- Western Block leader at the same function. All the new appointees have been disciples of Christ for more than twenty years. Frank Okodugha, an elder from the Lagos church, traveled with his wife Femi to pray for them.
Michael Burns, who has been a teacher in the kingdom since 2000, spoke passionately about the need for teachers in the kingdom of God as it continues to grow. He reminded the new teachers that the word of God comes from the heart and their responsibilities have now increased in the church. God has more expectations and strictness for those who teach his word as we see in Nehemiah 8:8.
Evangelist Mike Odwallo, the Eastern Block, Nairobi leader led the appointment of two elders after they were presented before the church. Mr. Antony Mwanza is married to Mary and has three children while Jeremiah Oginga is married to Benta and has four children. The two will serve the entire ICOCEA as the only two elders in the region. Tom Perkins from North Carolina prayed for the new elders. He was accompanied by his wife Amy.
Antony and Jeremiah thanked the church for the appointments. The two leaders are known for their humility in service of God and to others. Their relatives and friends traveled from different parts of the country to witness the occasion.
Herve Fleurant was among the leaders from different parts of the world who sent their congratulatory messages via video. From San Antonio, Texas, Herve sent his love to the newly appointed elders and teachers. “Love one another deeply through Jesus and honour God in all your actions ensuring that what we teach brings about great love and unity in the hearts of all the brothers and sisters. Jesus prayed that we would be one, so to my brothers in Kenya, serve and teach the word of God faithfully… the world would know us not by our opinions, not our tribes but for our love for one another,” he concluded.
The appointments were crowned by a powerful sermon from evangelist Richard Alawaye who leads the Gulf Coast Christian Church in Corpus Christi, Texas. He led the church in Nairobi before heading back to the US. He was invited to the podium by evangelist Samson Monda, where he delivered his sermon “Our Identities in Christ.” Richard beseeched disciples to define their identities well enough and never forget that God considers each one of the disciples as belonging to him. His wife Sarah also took the opportunity to encourage the sisters to never to give up in their journey of faith.
He shared about his own experience when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years ago. It was a difficult moment coming at a time when he had lost close and dear friends, some from the same condition. After a series of therapies and other procedures, the Lord healed him confirming that he was not done with him yet. He affirmed that, “our prayers have no expiration dates; you never know when, where, or how God will answer.”
Richard paid a glowing tribute to some of the disciples who have since left to be with the Lord. He shared deeply on his closeness with the late Onyechi Oguagha who was a dear friend that died from aggressive prostate cancer. The other two were Scot Green and Damian Jean Baptiste. “God has a purpose for each one of us. When his purpose is accomplished, he would be glad to start a new life in eternity,” he added.
Richard Alawaye challenged the church to reach out and target more disciples in order to expand the church. “If our dreams do not scare us then they are certainly not big enough” he shared. “God always uses people, heal ways provides, all we have to do is to trust in him. The best is yet to come. Let us remember our identity in Jesus,” he concluded. After service, the church had an opportunity to support Richard’s in the release of his new book, “According to Your Faith.”
The communion message was shared by gilbert Kimeng from the Lagos church in Nigeria. He shared deeply from the book of Mark. Christianity without the cross is incomplete just as Jesus without the suffering is of no meaning to disciples. Disciples’ paths are narrow. It takes God’s strength for disciples to continue serving God despite the sufferings they may go through just as Jesus experienced. It involves great sacrifice and self-denial.
Evangelist Samson Monda took the opportunity to announce some changes in the ICOCEA leadership to the congregation. Johnson Namei transitioned to the Kampala church from the Kigali church in Rwanda. We hope and pray that the church can continue with its mission of reaching out to the lost after it was shut down among other churches following a government directive.
The occasion was graced by different leaders that included Joachim and Eva Pallangyo from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Berhanu Bedada from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Elibariki Benjamin and Lucy Edward from Arusha, Tanzania. Also in attendance were Johnson and Norah Namei, former leaders in Rwanda church who were appointed to lead the Kampala church in Uganda. Hillary and Annett Musinguzi from Lucero, Uganda; Elias and Margaret Aketch from Kisii; Edwin and Evelyn Mahiga from Eldoret; and Juda and Irene Email from Kakamega also came to support the event. And it was an honor to have Steve and Josephine Gateru from Bungoma; Polycarp and Fatuma Ageta from Mombasa; and Steve and Josephine Gateru from the Bungoma church among our guests as well.