The Anglican Church in Mudimbia can be found by passing through the gates of the government primary school and following a dirt path behind the school. There you’ll find a simple mud-wall building with low wooden benches for 100 people. Reverend Franklin Earnest Madiang is standing at the front; tall flowing white robes and a chiseled face, behind which a smile threatens to break out at any time. Our crew arrived too late for the service, but just in time to hear the fifty or so congregants singing “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”, in Swahili. I would challenge anyone not to be moved by such a sight and sound, but for the four us in the crew that grew up as pastor’s kids, it was especially moving.
We’ve come to talk with Reverend Franklin, who gave the closing prayer at our kick-off ceremony on the first day of our pilot. Dr. PK Carlton returned the favor today, and closed their service with a prayer. He asked for a translator, but the Reverend replied that God would understand, and for a brief moment I thought the he believed the translator request was for God’s sake. There are four churches in Mudimbia, and faith permeates the fabric of life in Western Kenya. Visit the school on Friday morning, and you’ll see 900 kids gathered around the flag pole to sing the national anthem, say a prayer, and listen to announcements. We’ve come to talk to the Reverend about our pilot project and hear from him what his congregants are saying, but you don’t just talk about business with a Reverend, especially on Sunday.
Reverend Franklin didn’t grow up in Mudimbia. His father was a deacon, but he was attracted to ministry by watching his own pastor.
“He had a way about him. He was kind to children. He was always happy, always smiling. I liked that very much, and wanted to be like him. So when an announcement was made that children could apply for church training, I was one of three who applied. I was the only one who was accepted.”
Three years ago, the church sent him to Mudimbia, where his biggest accomplishment, he says, is to have grown his congregation by bringing young people into the congregation. Now, he is trying to grow the church around his congregation, literally; next to their humble dirt church lies their future in the form of a partially completed concrete block structure. So far, the congregation has put 2 million Kenyan shillings into the project, or about $25,000, a small fortune for this community of subsistence farmers and fishermen.
“The way these people have given a portion of what they have to accomplish this is a sign of how much faith they have. They like God so much, in spite of the problems they are encountering,” he says.
“I am hoping that I can stay here for at least five years. I must see this church finished.”
The church sits on higher ground, so during the floods it becomes crowded with refugees from the surrounding community, or as Rev. Franklin puts it, ‘They come to the church for rescue’. In this community ravaged by floods and a devastating rate of HIV, Rev. Franklin and his church have their work cut out.
“Most of the breadwinners have gone to heaven in this community, and left behind children. So most of these children are orphans, and are surviving from the mouth of God,” he says. “It is a very hard life, but God is good, and makes them to survive.”
“There are many problems here. Especially water, and so when I heard about the HydroPack I thought ‘sure the whites have had a lot of technology’,” he laughs. “We thank god for your coming here with the HydroPack, to help the local people during the flooding. Whenever I visit the homes, all I hear about is the HydroPack. The people really love it.”
Ironically, the Reverend himself has yet to taste a HydroPack. Not being part of the 90 households chosen to participate in the study, he hadn’t received any. Why not ask for a taste during one of his many visits?
“When you are a shepherd, you cannot go begging,” he laughs. “You go to pray.”
And that sums up the Reverend Franklin Earnest Madiang perfectly.