Photo: Chris Meehan
Photo by Chris Meehan

Even when he was treating animals as a veterinarian in rural Kenya, Rev. Peterson Wang’ombe spent time sharing his faith and helping people, especially youth, realize that God could transform their lives.

“I was someone who could walk with people in building their beliefs and treat animals at the same time,” said Wang’ombe, who recently started the Nairobi Transformational Network in Kenya’s capital city for Resonate Global Mission.

“I saw my job,” he added, “as discipling others to work as Christians in the marketplace — to see that God would work through them.”

During that time, a period of about two years, he also started a church and in the process found that teaching, preaching, and serving others was his life’s calling, not being a vet, said Wang’ombe.

As a result, he switched careers to take a position in Nairobi with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, an association of over 160 student movements worldwide. He had worked with fellow students as part of a youth fellowship while he attended college.

“For several years after that, I was training student leaders,” said Wang’ombe. “I loved to see the transformation in them. They came to college and met the Lord and became fired up to serve God.”

He also started Deliverance Church, a multicultural congregation in Nairobi, Kenya, while serving in youth ministry.

Wang’ombe said he became familiar with the Christian Reformed Church about five years ago when Mwaya wa Kitavi, leader of Resonate’s eastern and southern Africa regional team, started attending his church.

The two became friends, and wa Kitavi told him more about Resonate’s ministries in education, leadership training and starting transformational networks.

“I admired the wealth of their programs and how they work with other denominations to empower them to serve God better,” said Wang’ombe, who is currently in North America to speak to churches and leaders about the transformational mission network.

“I went through the Timothy Leadership Training [TLT] and learned about biblical preaching” and pastoral care, stewardship resources, and spiritual growth, he said.

After that, he became a TLT trainer and, among other things, developed a school of preaching at his church. Later, Resonate, in partnership with Deliverance church commissioned Wang’ombe to start the network in Nairobi.

“So today I am Mwaya’s pastor, and he is my boss,” said Wang’ombe with a smile.

Currently Resonate has 14 such networks, all based in and serving their communities, around the world, including one in Pretoria, South Africa, and three in North America. Others are in the Middle East, Cambodia, Romania, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

“Resonate has an increasing number of diverse and inclusive local networks that unite God’s people to work for spiritual and social transformation of their communities,” said Joel Huyser, Resonate’s global director for Latin America and Asia.

“These holistic mission networks,” added Huyer, “are relational webs of leaders, churches, and organizations that join together in what God is doing for the common pursuit of transformation in their context and beyond.”

These networks have become centers for ministry. Some work in prisons; others in community and business development; others in theological education; and others in using the arts as outreach.

Starting a network in Nairobi is important given the challenges the city faces, said wa Kitavi.

Nairobi has become the most populous and economically active city in East Africa with a population of about 3.5 million in its administrative center and a total of 6.54 million people when the suburbs are included, according to World Population Review.

Nairobi houses many multinationals and NGOs. It’s also the entry to East Africa and its stock exchange is ranked fourth in Africa with the capability of making 10 million trades a day.

Nairobi also boasts of the unique reputation of being the only capital city in the world with a game park where residents and wildlife occasionally visit each other.

“Despite its charm and fame, Nairobi has its share of problems. It houses one of the largest slums in the world … A huge percentage of people live below the poverty line,” said wa Kitavi.

Dehumanizing scarcity and disturbing social ills, he said, bedevil the city. It is in this situation, “that we ask what would the Kingdom of God look like in this city here and now; and what can we do together to make it happen?”

Kitavi added: “It is unfortunate that the rate of growth of people of goodwill and especially gospel-shaped Christians doesn’t match the population growth rate of the city. That means that the culture of the city isn’t largely influenced by good values. The city  therefore needs to becomes famous for other things — the network has the mission of making the city famous for God.”

In starting the network, said Wang’ombe, they kept all of this in mind and decided to conduct a survey.

“As we started the network, we wanted to get a baseline on the status of the city so that we could begin from a scientific background,” he said.

So he formed a team of nearly 20 researchers to conduct a broad survey that included on-the-ground interviews with church leaders, businesspeople, and others about issues that concerned them.

After the survey was finished late last year, he said, “We found several areas of brokenness that we hope to address.”

Those include alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, ethnic and tribal conflict, pollution, crime, the breakup of families, prostitution, and people practicing witchcraft.

“There are many concerns in Nairobi. More than 60 percent of the people live in slums. The gap between the rich and poor is really big,” said Wang’ombe.

Especially of concern is an unstable political situation in Kenya in which two men now claim to be president, as well as ongoing strife between the country’s big tribes.

“We want to develop our network to have the ability to respond to the many needs. We want to bring hope in the midst of poverty and scarcity.”

Reconciliation and healing on many levels — spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically — is what the network hopes to do by training leaders and working together slowly, often with one church at a time, to bring about transformation.

This may mean finding ways to help alcoholics and drug addicts, providing training for economic development, and raising up church leaders. And, of course, added Wang’ombe, they are establishing regular times of worship and prayer to seek God’s face and the Lord’s directions for helping Nairobi to flourish.

“God is at work in Nairobi. But his servants are needed in every nook and cranny until the knowledge of the Lord covers the city as the waters cover the sea,” said Wang’ombe.

“This is our dream for Nairobi — a city of shalom, a city in which the policy makers, the businesspeople, and all the other inhabitants are working together for the peace of the city.”