CROSSING THE SEA WITH AMOUR OF FAITH
Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you”.
Many a time people focus their attention on the immediate results, the things that seem to affect them now but they intend to forget, that tomorrow belongs to God as well. He takes care of it. Tomorrow unfolds the mystery and wonders of God yet to be revealed to us.
We are called to be in a relationship with God, it is this special relationship that gives meaning to the life we live, the things we do and how we do them. We therefore must be consecrated to God for His service.
Joshua had just taken over the mantle of leadership. He was laying a foundation for a new relationship with God. He learnt a lot from Moses.
He had an institutional memory of the desert life, the crossing of the sea, and all the difficulties the people faced. There were conflicts of interest that they had to deal with. Scandals and innuendos characterized the entire migration exercise. Some people gave up hope and decided to abandon their faith. The leadership was divided right in the middle. It forced Moses to take radical steps to bring order. People expected Moses to perform instant miracles that would eliminate their miseries but little did they know that they had to seek the face of God first and allow their life to be consecrated to God for His service.
It is now 14 years since our consecration and investiture as the first Bishop of the See of Bondo. What a great joy and privilege to share with you our sincere and honest reflections of our oversight role of this See for the past 14 years. What a joyous moment to have walked with you this journey of faith at a time like this when the mission and evangelistic character of the church is pegged on numerous forces that sometimes we find it difficult to control. What a wonderful moment we have had together to witness the birth of new visions and implementation strategies which have called for our sense of uniqueness and solidarity of purpose. Yes, what a splendid time we have had to share our diverse experiences, knowledge and other resources for the building of the Lord’s church.
Dear people of God, it is such a desire to research on our past glory that would uphold our sense of hope for a brighter and broader scope of our mission and evangelism in the Diocese of Bondo. We want to take this opportunity first and foremost to thank the Almighty God for the opportunity He has given us to found this Episcopacy and to extend His Kingdom through our vitality and cognitive aspects of our spirituality and sociological characters. He has been so faithful to us even at a time when the future appeared so bleak and unpredictable. He has seen us pass through turbulent terrain of billowing demands and expectations. Yes, we had had bigger vision than we could realize. Many expected us to perform symonic miracles without the merchandise of operation. There is a reason to thank God for being there in our midst at a time when we were tearing each other a part, sometimes falsely accusing those in leadership of ineptitude. We have come from far, but our God, was always there, the invincible companion, whose presence could only be felt but not seen; whose voice could only be heard but not adequately discerned. God we thank You!
We also wish to thank all our clergy, the laity, and all our Christians who bore the brunt of criticisms for our failures and other short comings and at the same time shoulder our pride of successes in the areas of our strengths. You held on to hope that has seen us crossing the sea. Even though the turbulence of global impact on religion and secularization has had a toll on our outreach ministries as focus of evangelism, you still held fast on to your faith and contributed immensely for the extension of the gospel that enabled us to keep the diocese at vibrant epoch. We salute the Mothers’ Union for keeping the flame of their vision and ministry alive and for laying a strong foundation for the ministry of women in this diocese. We cannot forget the role the founder of the Mothers’ Union worker Mrs. Florence Osido played. Indeed we have managed to keep our partnership with the Mothers’ Union headquarters intact by being accountable and resolute in all our endeavors.
Further, we must thank the Diocesan Central office staff, led by the Venerable George Omil Nyunja, for their endeavors even at a time when the going seemed to be impossible but still worked without complaint nor bickering. In this regard, we wish to register our sincere appreciation to Mr. James Aggrey Aremo, who has genuinely brought some vitality in the life of this Diocese as a volunteer.
Last but not least, our sincere thanks go to my dear wife, Mama Elizabeth, without whose encouragement and support, we would not have managed this ministry this far.
CHRONOLOGICAL ASPECT OF OUR ENGAGEMENTS
Uniqueness of Bondo
When we established this diocese we were guided by certain values, principles, philosophy and priorities which collectively became identified with our uniqueness. The term uniqueness was employed as a driving force for sound administrative policies, entrepreneurial activities, motivating factors in our mission oriented activities, exploration and recognition of individual talents and the adoption of a Christ centered mannerisms. Uniqueness based on these concepts captivated our agenda for the better part of our episcopacy and we want to say with all possible confidence that some of our Christians especially the clergy failed to embrace these concepts with the same zeal and ethos as we would have wished. Just allow us to mention a few things that build our confidence in the ingenuity and proactive nature of our Christians:
Fishing occupation had provided solid bedrock for our economic life as a community. River and lake fishing has supported the economy of Bondo for a long time but little has been invested in this industry to boost its revenue turnover. Most of our young people are the ones involved in fishing occupation and this has had both sides of consequences. The positive consequence is that the business kept our young people fully engaged and thus reduced the level of the potential to engage in security problems. The negative aspect of this engagement is that most of them are lured into cultural practices which promote promiscuity and spread of HIV/AIDS. It had been our call and practices to extend our hands of mission to this community with the intention to assist them adopt a transformational approach to fishing. Our effort to influence the government to consider establishing cooling facilities along all our major beaches has not bore fruits save for the establishment of some cooperative societies. We are not going to relent in our effort to influence the Siaya County Government to invest resources for promotion of fish farming along all our beaches and rivers. The problem that has been caused by overfishing in Lake Victoria, and also the use of illegal fishing gears by some unscrupulous fishermen has contributed to the shortfall in fishing in our lakes. Fish has therefore become very expensive and rare. The alternative to this is to motivate the locals including our Christians to heavily invest in fish farming not only for domestic consumption but also for commercial ventures. Our administration will seek audience with County Government to secure its support in this venture.
This being a near national catastrophe, unemployment has all along been on top of our agenda. How well do we prepare our Christians, especially our young people for economic sustainability? We have talked about this matter longer enough. All major talks have been around this talk! We had mentioned previously the need to create opportunities for employment in the fishing industry. One of the major resources Bondo should be proud of is the lake. Farming along the lake through irrigation has not been adequately explored. Horticulture can do well along side fish farming. Our proposal to this Synod is that we set up an ad hoc committee to look into these possibilities with the mandate to explore linkages with the County Government and some NGOS on how horticulture can be adequately explored. Rural electrification program had been with us for a while. The only challenge is that we have not commercialized the use of power as an income generating resource. The linkage team will have to liaise with other agencies which can provide alternative use of electricity power as a way of addressing unemployment. In our last Synod we emphasized on juakali industry as a major source of employment. But the sector needs a lot of panel beating and lobbying for cooperative society for all the juakali artisans. One way is to influence our institutions of learning to promote the use of juakali product in order to support the industry. We therefore propose that the diocese invest in a juakali as a business enterprise and to create a marketing body for its products.
Human resource is critical to the development of any organization. In our previous resolutions we envisaged to develop our human capital thus enabling it to conform to the prevailing needs and challenges. We want to reiterate that a lot has so far been achieved. Most of our clergy have either registered for higher level of education or have already attained their basic academic qualifications. It is still our hope that come 2016, all the clergy in this diocese shall have attained the minimum requirement of a bachelor degree in relevant field as per the Synodal resolution at its 5th Ordinary Session. We wish to encourage school based program as a better option for the staff who are in service. Our advantage is that we have our own University College, Bishop Okullu, which can provide affordable rate and quality education for training our staff.
Our encouragement to all of you is to support your clergy in their training. It is unfortunate that we have not had training in our budget and for this reason it has been difficult even for your bishop to lend financial assistance to needy students. We are calling for the creation of a revolving fund that will act as a loaning fund for needy students. Whichever way we look at it there is no way the diocese can totally abdicate its responsibility for training her personnel. Our say in their training is almost nil at the moment. We have no say so long as we have nothing to inject in their training. We urge this Synod to develop a policy on training. We wish at this juncture to thank the Principal of Bishop Okullu College, The Rev. Canon Prof. David Kodia, through whose effort many of our clergy here have gotten either partial or full scholarships for their training. At this moment we want this Synod to appreciate the work of Bishop Okullu College and help it grow to become the first Anglican Church owned University in Kenya. We urge every parish to send at least one student to the college this coming semester to do any of the courses mounted there. The college can only be self-sustained by a good number of students. We wish to encourage you to adopt a positive attitude for training of your servants and give them all the necessary support required.
Crossing the Sea with hope
Crossing the sea with hope is a reminder of our long journey to the Promised Land. Our original motto was to create a viable, god – fearing, self-sustaining diocese with uniqueness reminiscence of a diocese established on a solid foundation. It had been a journey characterized with turbulence, despair and hopelessness to some degree. Our major dreams of having a landmark building failed to be realized. All our major fundraisings could not raise enough money to start even the foundation. As your Bishop I felt cheated by our own dream. Some of our Christians raised eye brows when they realized that the Synod House could not take off. Rumors went round that the money raised had been mismanaged. This is the burden of leadership: absorbing criticism with a smile. But God in His own way had had another plan for us. Probably we were overly ambitious with our Synod House and time had come for us to have a second opinion with realistic objectives. It is for this very purpose that we used part of the money raised to purchase a parcel of land for future development. We wish to commend our Dream Team led by Messers. Meshack Anyango Omoro and Walter Lwanya Korege, that came up with this idea. As we are gathered here today, we are proud to say with confidence that we are in the process of constructing a modern Guest House with a bed capacity of 30. The Guest House will have a conference facility as well. It is our hope that this will be completed during our tenure as your bishop. We want this Synod to give this project a top priority. Funding is being negotiated with the Church Commissioner for Kenya to undertake the project.
Moses had a difficult time leading the people of Israel. He faced accusations of different kinds. His own family members could not give him peace either. Power struggle in his cabinet was not amusing to say the least. The Egyptian army was also in hot pursuit almost pouncing on them. There was hunger and thirst that was already crippling people’s confidence in his leadership. It was at such a time that people formed different groupings with different interests all adding up to the state of confusion. Despite all this, Moses exhibited a high degree of patience as he awaited God’s timing for intervention. The people expected Moses to perform a miracle and save them but little did they know that the miracles don’t belong to Moses but to God.
There are a lot of lessons we can learn from the desert experience on how God woks with His people. He is a God who keeps the flame of fire in us continuously burning. Where there is darkness He provides light, where there is apathy He creates confidence. This is the God whom we serve, and it is the very God that will take us through our term of service. Our appeal to you is that it is not the time of lamentation, where we have to focus on our failures and weaknesses. It is a time to reflect on God’s mysterious presence and intervention in our ministries of service. It is a time to reflect on how far we have moved since we began the diocese. It is how far we have built the capital for the building of the church of Christ. It is how far we have built institutions that facilitate the ministries we the ministries we have in this diocese. It is how far we have walked with the Lord in difficult moments and during times of joy.
Lets count our blessings and name them one by one and it will surprise us as what the Lord has done in our midst for His glory.
Dear people of God, before we conclude this charge we wish to revisit our earlier charge during the 5th Session of the Ordinary Synod. We reminded or rather alerted you of our impending retirement. We were specific in our charge that the coming Synod would be our last as a Diocesan Bishop. Today we have the honor to repeat the same before you here gathered and before God that indeed our retirement is due not later than the midnight of 7th of July 2017. One of the uniqueness of the Anglican Church that has also helped to minimize conflicts of succession is the respect we accord to our constitution. During our swearing in as your bishop, we promised to hold the sanctity of our church constitution and we would be the last person to manipulate it for personal gain. Our God had given us the opportunity to prepare able men and women who are equally endowed with charisma and competence to take over the mantle of leadership. The Anglican Church of Kenya Constitution is open to candidacy across the globe and it will be the constitutional right of any clergy in good standing from the communion to seek the office provided one meets the laid down requirements and legal procedure. As your outgoing Bishop, our role in this exercise is limited both privately and officially. We still have three good years to serve you. These years are enough for us to do what the Lord would wish us to do. Let us all combine forces and start and complete the construction of the Guest House in our time. The next Synod should be able to receive the work of our labor with gratitude and thanksgiving.
We wish to appeal to the clergy who might be interested in our succession to go slow for now. We are still the bishop and all of you are our clergy. Please focus on this heavy responsibility ahead of us. When the time for our exit comes, according to our constitution, a notification for succession will be communicated from the office of the Archbishop and a process will commence. The danger of early campaign is that it will divide you and affect our collective effort to achieve our goal. The best tribute we expect from you is unity of purpose at this moment.
As we conclude our charge, allow us to emphasize on our commitment to give an account of our ministry to the Christians in this Diocese. As we shall be discussing this charge, we expect sobriety of thoughts and contribution that will enrich the quality of this Synod. Positive contribution is essential in giving us encouragement rather than dampen our spirit. We all need to support each other for the sake of the gospel. We will expect your contribution to majorly focus on the following:
1. Ecumenical partnership: how best can we involve other Christian denominations in the spread of the gospel through joint approaches to food security, mission interventions to outreach areas? We have forged an alliance christened Bondo Christian Impact Mission. This alliance of different Christian denominations have primary objectives: reaching out the Sub – Counties of Bondo and Rarieda with the gospel, and also to sharing best practices for doing business thus reducing the level of poverty in our region.
2. Professionalism: We must appreciate professionalism in doing business. This Synod has people endowed with diverse talents. Let us recognize these talents by giving them the opportunity to build the diocese. There are those with managerial skills who can be useful in our investment initiatives. There is a need to open our doors for professional advice on the best practices.
3. Education: Education is key to any development. We would not be wrong to say that limited education is a recipe for misunderstanding and unnecessary wrangles. Education transforms our attitude and prepares us for transformative living. Most of our dreams could not be realized because of certain mindset. We call upon this Synod to invest in educational seminars for economic growth and attitude change.
4. Investment: Our major dream is to have a self-sustaining diocese. This dream can only be realized if we are all ready to invest in our proposed ACK Guest House. The need for hospitality services with quality social and aesthetic dimension is one major driving force which we call upon you to support.
5. Transition: We have already given you our prayerful direction on transition. Our final remark on this is that let not this subject be used to divide both the Christians and the clergy. God will provide our successor at the right time. The committee that is working on transition must be sensitive enough not to assume the role of the Electoral College. The very moment you attempt in any way to play this role you shall have lit the fire that may become difficult to extinguish. Stick to your mandate and leave the rest to take its own course. As your bishop, it is not our wish to leave a divided diocese. Let our retirement be a blessing to both the diocese and to my family as well. We pray for your consecration in God’s service. May the blessings of God the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit be upon you all. AMEN.
The Rt. Rev’d Johannes Otieno Angela
BISHOP OF BONDO