Zealous African bishop
Henry Mulandi of Kenya was a plenary speaker at the inaugural sessions of the Global Mission Fellowship at the 2003 Mennonite World Conference in Zimbabwe. Bishop Mulandi leads a large circle of intertribal Kenyan congregations, an international affiliate of Conservative Mennonite Conference.
“After I got to Rosedale [Bible Institute] in 1979,” said Mulandi, “and began to study Anabaptist history, I discovered that I was an Anabaptist.” Many of his North American Mennonite friends — and there are many — are convinced Mulandi is more Anabaptist than they.
Born in the poverty-stricken Kamba settlement of Kyengo Kya Uthei (“village of emptiness”) in 1948, Mulandi was reared with no future. He was the eighth of nine children living in the family’s one-room thatched hut.
“I slept on the earthen floor with my older sister in a canvas sack open at one end. Going to bed was an art! Getting into the sack standing up was not so hard, but for two children standing in a sack to lie down together was another matter,” he said. “Our clothes were more patches than originals.”
Mulandi didn’t start school until he was 15. Bigger and taller than the others in his class, he was teased mercilessly. In 1968 he happened into an evangelical meeting in Nairobi. There he met Jesus. That was the beginning of a remarkable journey with God.
In high school he joined a union of Christian students and within two years became a leader in a movement of high schoolers getting filled with the Holy Spirit and sharing their faith boldly, even recklessly, all over Kenya. Zealous but penniless, they went by such names as Ambassadors for Christ and Guerrillas for Christ. Every quarter they gathered in student conventions, praying, preaching and baptizing.
In 1974 this movement made the front pages of Kenyan newspapers when a 14-year-old girl named Margaret Wangare traveled from a convention to her home near Nairobi and laid a cardigan on her crippled grandmother, who was instantly healed. Thousands streamed to centers of the movement to witness the healing power of God. In Mulandi’s home town, 20,000 people poured into a stadium where a woman known all over town who walked on her elbows and feet was healed.
In 1980 Mulandi became acquainted with North American Mennonites when he and other student leaders enrolled at Rosedale, in Ohio. There he owned his Anabaptist spiritual roots, even as he and his friends became instruments of spiritual renewal for North American Mennonites.
Back in Kenya, Mulandi and friends began planting churches and evangelizing. He and several of his friends pioneered in establishing ecclesiastical relationships with North American Mennonites. The circle of churches he led contains more than 25,000 members.
Mulandi, who knows no enemies, leads people to radical discipleship wherever he goes. At the height of his career as a bishop, he left to lead the mission arm of his church, pioneering an African form of “business as mission” by creating well-drilling and wood-carving businesses to support it.
Today he also serves as vice president of the International Missions Association, an Anabaptist group of mission leaders from many nations.
This must be one of God’s favorite projects — connecting older radicals with new ones, even when the older ones are staid American Mennonites and the new ones come from villages of emptiness.
Richard Showalter, of Landisville, Pa., is chair of Mennonite World Conference’s Mission Commission.
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