A new face was helping out in Ballynure and Ballyeaston recently. Antony Njoroge from All Saints’ Cathedral/Urban Development Programme (UDP) in Nairobi, Kenya, arrived on September 11 for three weeks, as part of placement funded by the Bishops Appeal Harman Scholarship, facilitated by CMS Ireland.
From Ballyclare he moved on to do a three-week placement in in St Columba’s Parish, Portadown, followed by a one-week placement in St Mark’s, Dundela.
After some complications, Antony’s Irish visa was approved in mid-October, and before he returns to Nairobi in December, Antony will be:
We caught up with Antony during his time in Ballyclare, where the Rev Jonny Campbell-Smyth, explained the partnership with CMSI and UDP.
“We have been very keen, as part of our vision, to create partnerships in the Gospel with organisations who are out there locally, for example Street Pastors and Baby Basics, and also on a global level with organisations working in other parts of the world, including CMS Ireland, SAMS and Release International,” Jonny explained
“We had not properly established a two-way partnership, so I talked with Roger Thompson of CMSI at the start of this year, and we began to establish a link with All Saints’ Cathedral/ UDP, based in Kenya. We did not want to define what this would look like but we wanted to ensure it was two-way.”
When the parish learned that Antony would be coming to Ireland for CMSI’s Ignite conference in September, and planned to stay on to learn about church based youth work here, the decision was taken to invite him to spend time in Ballyclare before moving on to other churches.
In planning Antony’s work in Ballyclare, Jonny said: “I have tried to look at various areas he has been involved in models of a similar ministry, but in a different context.”
As a result, Antony found himself helping out with the parish’s different youth organisations. He also worked with the Street Pastors, youth Alpha and Baby Basics, and was involved in football ministry, as he does youth team coaching in Kenya.
“This helps to create partnership and build connections. We wanted people in the parish to get to know Antony through hospitality, and every night he had dinner with a different family,” Jonny said.
Antony agreed that this was a good way to get to know people. “It has been great to have dinner in a different home each day, and it has been a joy to meet everybody, people are so hospitable, sharing their hearts and their experiences,” he said. “It may be cold outside but the people I have met have a great warmth!”
Aged 39, and recently married to Nancy, Antony is one of a family of nine. He grew up in a slum area of Nairobi, but in 1991, the Government demolished his home and all the others in the slum, relocating Antony’s family to a new area some distance away.
“It was a bit of a wilderness. Very empty in many ways,” Antony said. “My mum lost her job and became disconnected from her friends. By God’s grace I ended up in a children’s home with my brother. Some of the family stayed in the new house, others moved in with family further away.”
He recalled that people from All Saints’ Cathedral UDP (including CMSI Mission Associate Isabelle Prondzynski), had come to the new area to help provide food, to build toilets and bring people together so their needs could be met as a group. That group soon had a name – Tujisadie – which translated from Swahili means ‘let’s help ourselves.’
Antony said that when they arrived, there was no water, schools, hospitals, or churches near their new home. All Saints’ Cathedral’s came into the area to support the community and advocate for better living conditions. “UDP helped with a school and enriched the fellowship of the community,” Antony said.
Ballyclare Parish has been supporting UDP financially though CMSI as the project works to empower the community.
“I was one of the young people active in the community and had a bit of involvement in the projects,” Antony said. “In 2003 I reflected on the pain we had gone through, and asked what we as young people could do for our children and youth, outside of the classroom.
“Families lived in homes 10ftX10ft, with no lighting, so it was difficult for children to study. We found space for the kids, and set up the Tumaini (Hope) African Foundation. The school allowed us to use a classroom for the children to do their homework, and we recycled text books.
“As we shared our dream of having a resource centre, UDP could see the vision and bought us chairs, Bibles, textbooks and installed electricity. As the project grew, we had to move to a new centre – the community around us had also grown from 10,000 to 100,000.
“We had to think about expanding our place, to create a ‘Centre of Excellence,’ and we have acquired land for this purpose. It is not just about the resource centre, but we also run a feeding programme called More than Just a Meal, and every Saturday we feed 350 kids. We have 70 come daily to do homework.
“If a community is not educated, it may not do well in life. We also run an outreach ministry to young people. We have a holistic approach, intellectual, social, physical, and health, particularly in relation to drugs, and preventing young people from getting into crime.”
Antony said he really appreciates being in Ireland, and expressed his gratitude both to Bishops’ Appeal for funding his visit, and to CMSI for organising the logistics. “I want to see how people in Ireland do youth ministry. I am also very interested in developing new leaders in my community and wanted to see leadership in practice and its outcome. I also wanted to meet the people who support our programme,” he said.
“I am doing research on the role of the church in mentoring teenagers and the challenges involved.”