A Triple Threat in Kenya

James Melchiorre

The Rt. Rev. Joseph Muchai knows the scriptures. After all, he’s bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Nakuru in Kenya and the spiritual leader of 35-thousand church members.

And lately, the Biblical story of the plagues in the book of Exodus has seemed particularly relevant.

“We are not sure what will happen. People are in a state of confusion. So, everybody is worried,” Bishop Muchai said.

Locusts above Nakuru county
Locusts swarm above the farmlands of Nakuru county.

Bishop Muchai is speaking of the novel coronavirus pandemic which in March forced the suspension of public worship in the seventy parishes in the diocese, but that’s not all. Soon after came an infestation of locusts which devastated the maize and bean crops.

“They came just the time farmers had started planting. So, they stripped our crops in most of the areas, like about ten, fifteen parishes were affected.”

Heavy rains followed, flooding fields, submerging homes near Lake Nakuru, collapsing dams, and cratering highways. The pandemic had already shut down all but essential businesses, adding to the economic strain of the diocese which depends on rents from the commercial buildings it owns to finance its operating budget, including outreach to the most vulnerable.

Floods at the diocese of Nakuru
Floods struck the rural areas of the diocese of Nakuru particularly hard, severely affecting a population already economically vulnerable.

“Over 60 percent of our people have been affected in a big, big way. In fact, some people are even coming to seek help from us, actually food and so forth,” said the bishop.

More than two-million people live in Nakuru county. However, it became clear to the diocese that between one and two thousand families were in the most desperate need of assistance, according to Rajab Karanja, Finance and Property Manager of the diocese.

“With this pandemic, the locusts, the floods, they were really affected. In Nairobi and Mombasa, they had a lockdown, so adult children are not able to move to their rural areas to help out their parents.”

Faced with the three-pronged challenge, the diocese turned to Trinity Church Wall Street, a longtime partner in the effort to ensure sustainability for the Church in Africa, for an emergency grant.

“While the plagues in the book of Exodus devastated the land of Egypt, God still provided for his people,” noted the Rev. James Clark, III, Managing Director of Mission Real Estate Development in Trinity’s Grants and Mission Investing team.

“We value our relationships with church partners like the Anglican Diocese of Nakuru which are uniquely positioned and engaged at the ground level in meeting the critical needs of their local communities. These existing relationships enabled us to expedite emergency relief in response to the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rev. Clark.

Trinity’s support of the Diocese of Nakuru is part of $1.5 million provided by Trinity for COVID-19 international emergency grants in 43 countries.

Imani Shopping Mall in Nakurur
The diocese has many income-generating projects, including the Imani Shopping Mall, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for merchants to pay rent.

Bishop Muchai already knows what the diocese will do with the Trinity grant.

“We wanted first of all to give people food because there are people who are hungry. We also intend to buy seeds for the families so that they can plant again and I want to buy face masks for those who cannot afford it, in the rural areas, and hand sanitizers.”

Flood waters in Ndabibi Parish
Flood waters in Ndabibi Parish, part of the Anglican Diocese of Nakuru.

By the last week in June, Kenya reported almost five-thousand persons infected with the novel coronavirus, with 128 deaths. Those numbers may seem low, certainly by U.S. standards and even compared with other nations in Africa. Still, the virus has not disappeared and, combined with the flooding and the locust infestation, Bishop Muchai wants to be hopeful, but also cautious.

“It’s really hard, it’s not easy,” Bishop Muchai said. “As Christians, we will keep on trusting God, and we hope once things come back to normal, we will be able to move on. But we don’t know how long it’s going to take.”