The MAF Marsabit shuttle is collapsing the miles not only between Nairobi and Marsabit, but between far more distant places too. In late April we flew visitors from the UK and USA to celebrate the retirement of Anglican Bishop Rob Martin, and the enthronement of his successor, Qampicha Daniel Wario.
Perhaps the most eagerly awaited passengers were Andy and Simon, Rob and Sue Martin’s two sons. ‘One of the biggest sacrifices is to be far from our children and grandchildren,’ Rob shares. They were especially pleased that family could celebrate with them at the end of what his successor describes as ‘faithful and selfless ministry,’ carried out with ‘endurance, courage and focus’.
Anglican bishops from all over Kenya, and even South Sudan, arrived in a continuous stream of smiles and handshakes; all wanted to greet Rob and Sue, and Qampicha and his wife.
The service was a beautiful interweaving of many different threads: the formalities, encapsulated in the presence of the Chancellor in his gown and wig, ensuring adherence to the legalities of the service; the traditional, most obvious in the beautifully attired Rendille women’s choir, singing in their unique and distinct harmonies; the ultra-modern, with every moment captured on a sea of mobile phones, iPads, cameras and camcorders; and the many biblical aspects, the most beautiful and meaningful being the laying of hands on Qampicha by his fellow bishops to ordain him for ministry.
Exuberant joy tempered the seriousness and ceremony of the occasion. When the congregation was asked if they wanted Qampicha as their bishop, instead of solemnly responding ‘That is our wish’ as printed in the order of service, the whole building erupted into a mass of shouting, clapping, cheering and ululating.
Marsabit's hope for the future
During the weekend, Qampicha shared his thoughts about his new role. ‘Obviously there is that bit of excitement,’ he says with a smile, ‘but also fear, because of the challenging mission context of northern Kenya. This is a huge diocese, with meagre resources to do ministry.’
In spite of this, Qampicha expressed much hope for the future, sharing plans to develop evangelism and discipleship, education, health, and conflict resolution. He was keen to express his gratitude for the work of his predecessors. ‘I’m not beginning from scratch, God has already provided faithful men and women who have served,’ he explains. ‘Our Diocese has grown through thick and thin, it has taken God’s grace and the faithful labour of those who have gone before us.’
To serve in Marsabit Diocese is to take on a ministry committed to collapsing the miles, ethnically and spiritually, as well as geographically. Responsible for a region the size of England, it is home to eight distinct tribal and language groups, and plagued by inter-tribal conflict. Qampicha will have to engage in peace and reconciliation work, as well as open dialogue with the many Muslims and followers of traditional religions who combine to outnumber the Christians.
Quietly spoken but with an obvious strength of spirit, Qampicha is ready for the task ahead. ‘The encouraging thing is, when you know that God has called you, then whatever is happening, is happening because God has willed it. And if God has called you, he equips you. He walks the journey with you. Because of this confidence that the Lord is in this ministry with us we have the courage to step forward in faith.’
MAF 'giving us peace of mind'
As Rob and Sue prepare for retirement, they reflect on the joys of serving in Marsabit Diocese. ‘What a privilege it has been to minister among these different people groups with their rich and varied cultures,’ Rob says. ‘Some of the greatest joys have been the sheer variety and unpredictability of life, especially of our different people groups, as well as the adventure and colour and wildness.’ They have also appreciated ‘being able to bring much needed infrastructure and development to our huge area, and see the Lord at work.’
Throughout their time here, Rob and Sue have been grateful for MAF Kenya. ‘We live in a remote area with poor medical and other resources, as well as insecurity,’ Rob explains. ‘MAF has been that background partner, giving us peace of mind by being there in case of emergency, to fly people to safety or hospital. You have enabled our many visitors to reach or leave us quickly and comfortably.’
We look forward to continuing this support as the new bishop starts his ministry.