Meet Pastor Festus
Last week we had a good meeting with four key leaders; pastor Alex Karia from Narok, Joseph Otieno from Ahero, Bertrum Manyonge from Bokoli and Festus from Mbeere. We invited these leaders from their villages for a time of reflection, consultation and planning as to the future of the work in their communities. Each of these leaders is involved in numerous responsibilities in their communities ranging from serving as committee members of key community institutions, serving as pastors of their churches and overseers of church plants under their ministries, and working as community administrators, small business owners and farmers in order to earn a living to support their families. They are each the voice, hands and legs of hope and transformation for their people.
Festus is a devoted Christian and father of four. He is one of the initial pastors that Possibilities Africa (PA) started to work with over five years ago in his community of Mbeere. PA’s vision of holistic community transformation resonated well with him and after undergoing PA training he has continued to partner with us in driving the holistic agenda in his community. Festus was initially a Khat farmer (Khat is a controversial drug-like stimulant crop with huge market value) who decided to shift from cultivating this crop to operating a small-scale retail kiosk for the sake of being a role model in his community. With startup capital of KES 3,000 (US$35) (savings from his previous trade), he opened a grocery store at his local trading center. He has since grown this business with a loan of KES 30,000 (US$350) which he received from the PA micro finance and economic empowerment program. With the loan he has diversified into selling of used clothes and also opened a barbershop at the local trading center. From his business savings he has purchased a plot of land at a cost of KES 120,000 (US$1,400) upon which he is constructing a building where he hopes to relocate his business operations. From his businesses he makes a monthly profit of KES 12,000 (US$ 140) and he estimates his business net worth to have grown to KES 1 Million (US$ 11,600) in the past 5 years.
As a result Festus is now able to pay school fees for his four children and provide for his family’s daily upkeep. Through his business he has financially supported the work in his local church by, among other ways, contributing towards the purchase of church furniture. He also mentors a group of youth by helping them abandon substance abuse and encouraging them to grow into responsible members of his community. Festus is working with this group of youth to help them start their own businesses. He has fully repaid the loan from PA and has become a model businessman in the community.
Pastor Festus (like the 3 other leaders mentioned alongside him) exemplifies the qualities of a transformed spiritual and community leader. He is currently involved in planting a church in a town near his village which has a promise of greatly impacting the community. Festus also serves on a committee of a community hospital. He has been in the forefront of championing the PA holistic agenda in the community for the past 5 years. Festus has also been instrumental in promoting this transformation vision beyond his community of Mbeere to the regions of Kiritiri and Gachoka where 17 pastors have bought into the vision; Siakago where 7 pastors have been recruited and are engaging in the holistic programs; and Riandu where 8 pastors are engaged in the holistic program. He has also identified 6 pastors in Embu whom he intends to recruit into the holistic transformation work. All these are large communities neighboring his own community. The leaders in these communities are attempting to engage in the holistic programs; mentoring children, starting economic empowerment activities and undertaking spiritual discipleship.
The story of Festus is testimony that individual leaders and communities can take responsibility and work together to provide solutions to the host of problems that bedevil them. This is the belief that PA holds as it seeks to work with Festus and people like him, to achieve spiritual, social and economic transformation in rural African communities. The Mbeere community, where Festus lives and serves, is far from total transformation. But the efforts of 3 pastors and a number of church leaders has brought about a new energy and hope which is making it possible for transformational programs to be undertaken for children mentorship, economic empowerment and spiritual discipleship. Despite the challenges and many false starts in this work the people in this community, such as Festus, are slowly embracing hard work and abandoning the handout mentality which has bound them for a long time. Though there is still enormous poverty in the community and though most families live below the poverty line, yet leaders like Festus, with the little support they get from PA, are committed to creating a new future and community for their children. They are balancing the competing responsibilities as family men, church leaders, community leaders and working within the reality of scarce resources to make a big change and achieve a big vision for their people and community.
For whatever is impossible with man is possible with God!