Kenya (MNN) — Kenya means "God's resting place" in all three of the original languages of the indigenous people of the area.
The country's spiritual history is rich, with Christianity dating back to the 15th century. Still, there's room for "firsts" in terms of Great Commission work. Last week (18-20 April), Global Advance hosted the Global Advance Apostolic Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
What makes that a first? According to David Shibley with Global Advance, it was the first-ever event assembling 98 overseers of denominations and church planting networks throughout Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. "They represented about 15,000 churches. Of course, they were convening at a very important time in the aftermath of a bitterly disputed election."
The summit convened days after the Supreme Court of Kenya decided the winner in a closely contested poll. At stake in this particularly complex election was choosing the president and deputy president, county governors, senators, members of parliament, and women representatives.
The aftermath of the 2007 post-election violence (which resulted in 1,300 deaths and thousands more displaced) left an ugly scar in the minds of Kenyans. This time around, Shibley credits Christians with keeping the peace after contentious presidential elections. "These wonderful men who convened really led the way. They appealed for peace, and they also urged great amounts of prayer in the aftermath of this recent election. Consequently, even though the election was bitterly disputed, there was generally peace in the aftermath this time, over and against the election of several years ago."
Days after the results were announced, the summit began. Differences were put aside under the Great Commission, Shibley notes. "Different bishops had been on different sides of the issue and had supported different candidates and yet they came together in a real spirit of unity and prayer." What's more, he adds, in a forum of fellowship, these church leaders began responding to the call of working together to evangelize and disciple all of East Africa. "They came together as the single body of Christ. We dealt with issues about succession, raising up younger leaders in the church, and also responding to the increasing Islamic violence against churches throughout East Africa."
At the end of the conference, the delegates came up with the Nairobi Confession. In it, Shibley says, these church leaders committed to setting aside the fourth Sunday of every June as Gospel Sunday. "On that day, throughout these 15,000 churches represented by these 98 overseers, it will be something of an evangelistic rally in each of the churches. There will be a clear presentation of the Gospel and an invitation given to repent and receive Christ."
"What made this unique is that these were the equippers of the equippers," adds Shibley. He goes on to explain that by the end, these Gospel workers had a new vision and tools to see their commitment through. "In conjunction with The JESUS Film Project, we were able to give copies of the JESUS film in several of the East African languages and dialects to these overseers." What's next? "I believe there's going to be a great new surge of evangelism throughout East Africa."