My family and I made the move to Nairobi, Kenya, just over one month ago. When people think of the most unreached and spiritually needy places on earth, Kenya isn’t the first to come to mind. After all, according to the Joshua Project, just over 47% of the country identifies as evangelicals.
So how did we end up deciding on Kenya as our landing spot? Why would we move to a country where churches abound? Why didn’t we prioritize the most unreached places in the world?
I want to share three reasons that led our family to Kenya.
1. We have a strategic fit for ministry in Africa.
Margaret and I have the privilege of being the first Reaching and Teaching missionaries sent to sub-Saharan Africa. Lord willing, we’ll be the first of many. Nairobi is a major center of ministry for all of East Africa. We’ve already met numerous men and women who are faithfully carrying out all sorts of mission work.
In particular, there’s a great network of theological educators across Africa, and living in Nairobi will help us connect with the various organizations that are, like us, dedicated to strengthening African churches. Likewise, the city is a major travel hub, which allows for easier travel around the continent as we evaluate future training opportunities.
2. Kenya fit our gifts and our desires.
Maybe you envision every missionary in rural villages doing frontier church planting and evangelism. That’s how I thought of missionaries for quite a while—and, to be sure, these kinds of missionaries exist! But that’s not us. Of course we want to be a faithful witness of the gospel here in Nairobi. But we don’t expect to be engaged in pioneer church planting anytime soon. Why? Because we don’t feel gifted or called to such a work.
Determining your ministry location requires an honest look at your gifts and desires. Are you thinking about going overseas? Great. Invite pastors and other church members to evaluate your gifts and the opportunities before you. See what they think about what you should do.
Everyone who knows me well knows that I love academia and teaching. There’s a massive need for theological education around the world. So even though much of sub-Saharan Africa is considered “reached,” this label skews the reality on the ground: most pastors in the region have little to no theological training.
So when we planned to go overseas, we sought out opportunities where I could teach both formally at a college or seminary and informally around the country. Before we made a final decision, my wife and I sat down multiple times with our elders and trusted friends to discuss the various opportunities. Ultimately, through prayer and many discussions, we decided that Kenya was the best place for us.
3. Kenya fit our family.
When I was in my 20s, I thought that “real” mission work required people to go to the most difficult places for the sake of gospel. To go anywhere else would be a letdown—maybe even disobedient. While I’m thankful for those who feel compelled to go to the most dangerous and difficult mission fields, being a father and a husband altered my priorities when choosing a ministry location.
While every missionary father and husband must come to their own conclusions, I felt a personal duty to put my wife and kids in a spot where they could thrive—physically, spiritually, and emotionally. As we prayerfully considered various opportunities, we evaluated everything from the availability of healthcare to likely social activities for our kids. Though that last sentence is far from the “radical” attitude I imbibed when I was younger, it nonetheless enabled me to keep a clean conscience as I shepherded my family through our transition.
Kenya provides us tons of ministry opportunities. Thankfully, it also provided our kids with opportunities to participate in activities they love, like ballet and soccer. Kenya is also full of healthy local churches. While some are called to move to places with no solid churches in order to start a new work, that’s not our intention. We want to strengthen the churches already here; we want to equip local believers to plant churches. Therefore, having a healthy church that we could join was a priority.
Every missionary family makes a lot of sacrifices. After all, Christian living is sacrificial living. However, each missionary must follow their conscience when they decide which sacrifices and risks are acceptable for their family.
The Lord uses a variety of reasons and motivations to move his people to their particular location. As you consider where God would have you serve, do so with prayer and patience in the context of your local church. Otherwise, you may unintentionally circumvent God’s prescribed means of calling his people, and miss out on the joy of being assessed, sent, and supported by Christ’s bride.