How Discipleship is Transforming Nairobi, One Woman at a Time

Image: UnSplash / Zeddy Msagha

This week wraps up our #AmplifyWomen series. As an organization that represents the global church, Christianity Today is committed to platforming voices from around the world. In that spirit, our final essay takes readers inside women’s discipleship in Nairobi, Kenya.

This last Christmas, I almost didn’t notice the young woman sitting at the reception desk at work. She hid behind her sunny smile and didn’t share anything about her family or holiday plans. During a brief chat, I was surprised to learn that she had no one in the city to celebrate the holiday with and no one to visit outside the city. In two generations of her family, relationships were broken between people, God, and their home communities. At 24, she was an orphan with no shalom, no wellbeing, and no abundance. Her job only brought in enough for subsistence—rent for a shared room with another orphaned young woman who was also struggling to survive.

As I listened to her story, I felt prompted to ask her to join our family for the holidays. She jumped up with an enthusiastic Yes! and with joy, I opened my heart and home to her. Within a few days, she was joking and laughing, playing in our family’s Friday game night challenge, connecting with others on WhatsApp, and generally acting young and carefree. She radiated the image of God—an image that had been obscured by years of pain.

Sadly, this young lady is not alone. She is an example of a larger challenge faced by many women in Africa who don’t have access to so-called “experiential discipleship.” According to Randy White in Encounter God in the City, experiential discipleship involves a cycle of scriptural study, action, reflection, and whole-life application. It relies on the exceptional power of shared experience, entrusts to another all that Jesus has commanded, and leads to personal and community transformation. Although women in Africa are hungry for this holistic discipleship, many of them don’t have access to it.

I was once one of those women. Years ago, I was among the few girls to complete my secondary education and qualify to join the university—probably only the second girl from my village to do so—but even so, I was stumbling, struggling to survive. While the United Nations may not have classified me among at-risk women, I was. During those difficult years, an older woman named Joyce intentionally committed herself to practicing experiential discipleship with me. Her instruction, affection, and intercession helped me to move past survival mode and onto the highway of economic empowerment, spiritual wholeness, and emotional wellness.

Her investment in turn equipped me to create an onramp to the same highway for other young women. These years later, my calling and vocation are defined by discipleship: I mentor a number of young women who hold positions of leadership and influence in Kenya and the neighboring countries of Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. I lecture at the International Leadership University, which seeks to train pastors and leaders within the city and from around Africa. And my husband and I help lead a congregation of about 2000 people at Nairobi Baptist Church.

In these last few decades of discipling young women in Africa, I have seen over and over the many obstacles that impede their spiritual, emotional, and moral health:

Economic disempowerment.
After high school, many women get caught in the vicious crush of poverty and don’t have sufficient funds to pursue education. The forces of family strife, war, and distance from stable infrastructure also impact their lives. Many of these women are so alone in their circumstances that options like prostitution, human trafficking, polygamy, and street life seem like the only way out.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Levina Musumba Mulandi