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Impacting a Church 8,000 Miles Away

Like watching your toddler grow to adulthood is how Pastor David Strope of Ankeny (Iowa) Baptist Church describes helping a church plant in Kenya, East Africa.

Last February, David traveled to Kenya with Gary McConeghey (an Ankeny Baptist deacon), Tim Whatley (Baptist Mid-Missions Africa field administrator), and T. J. Klapperich (pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Winter Garden, Florida) for Elgon View Baptist Church’s 10th anniversary of its inaugural meeting.

For David and Gary, it was their third trip to Stephen Muindi’s church plant in Eldoret, a metropolitan city of 750,000 people, located about a 30-minute flight west of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

Ankeny Baptist commissioned Stephen Muindi, a missionary with Baptist Mid-Missions, in 2007 to plant a fundamental; non-Pentecostal; non–health, wealth, and prosperity gospel Baptist church. David says these factors were intentionally specific because the region’s profoundly poor population has embraced the American export of a health, wealth, and prosperity gospel to the point of acceptance by nearly every protestant church in that area.

David first went to Nairobi with Gary in early 2007 to survey the metro area for a prospective location to start the church. Pastor Muindi began a Bible study with four or five people and then launched its first service in February of that year.

In July 2014, Ankeny Baptist took 10 church members to Kenya to help Elgon View Baptist begin constructing its building by digging ditches and pouring concrete footings. Today Elgon View Baptist has 130 members, and the building is expected to be enclosed and completed by July of this year.

Last February’s celebration Sunday included three services in which all three men preached and the church hosted an outdoor dinner for its members and guests. David says the only negative was being outside all day at 7,000 feet of elevation on the equator with no hats. He says the men didn’t realize that their exposed scalps were blistering in the hot sun, and the effects did not go away quickly.

David tells his church’s members that even though they are not doing the actual work of planting Elgon View Baptist, by extension they are reproducing themselves in a cross-cultural setting. “Although my church family can only see pictures, we are having a very significant impact for a church 8,000 miles away. It is the farthest missionary away from Ankeny,” he says.

Whenever the Muindis return to the United States, Ankeny Baptist provides a home for them. David says, “I always underestimate how valuable it is for them to see my physical presence and what an encouragement it is for them to see our church’s continuing commitment to them. Since it’s our third visit, it is important to their church that we are continuing to foster that relationship.”

In the long term, David says the Elgon church desperately needs leadership training. “In the future, we may be going back and take some of our key resource people to provide a module-style training for their aspiring pastors and leaders.”