Kijiji church that defied flames now a refuge for many

Residents of Kijiji village collect remains of iron sheets and household items that remained after fire guttered down the area on Sunday night .[David Gichuru, Standard]
Pefa All Nations Church in Kijiji, Southlands, stands like an island among the ruins. While every building around it fell to the Sunday night flames, the church did not.

And because it remained standing, it became a refuge for many of the fire victims. Some of the residents see this as a miracle.

Head pastor Benson Wachira said 35 families took refuge in the church on the night of the fire.

Mr Wachira, who lives in Dandora, Eastlands, said he was horrified when he heard that the fire had burnt the church offices and stores, located about a metre from the main sanctuary, and had no hope it would survive.

“I had to come from Dandora to look at the situation. We lost important office files and more than Sh35,000 that were kept in the office,” Wachira said.

He added that they were lucky that the part that was burnt fell away from the main building, otherwise it too would have caught fire.

“Even though several families sought refuge in the church, fear gripped us because the amount of smoke and heat was overwhelming,” he said.

The pastor added that most of the families who were at the church had moved to Ngei Primary School because that was where people were getting help.

“People moved from here to the school because that is where food, clothes and other kind of help was taken. The sacks of maize and beans that were in the stores were all destroyed in the fire.”

Since 2008

Wachira said the church had been in existence since 2008. They bought the land from someone who had a bar on it.

“We bought it anyway. He later sold us the land next to this one, and that is where we built classrooms and offices,” he said.

Paul Ouma, a victim of the fire, is one of the people seeking refuge at the church.

He lost everything and even the clothes he was wearing were given by a good Samaritan. He has lived in Kijiji for 13 years and has raised his children there.

“I have sent my family to stay with friends as I organise myself and rebuild our home; then they can come back,” Mr Ouma said.

He said he lost property worth about Sh500,000 in the fire, but remained hopeful for the sake of his family.

Those who have remained in the church are the caretaker, a church elder and a few individuals who are members of the church, together with their families.

David Tirike, the church youth leader who is also in charge of Care for Aids, the church’s initiative that takes care of people affected with HIV and Aids, no longer has an office to go to. It got burned in the Sunday fire.

Five churches

He said there were five churches in the area, but only theirs survived the fire.

“Ninety per cent of our congregants live here in Kijiji. I am so glad that not much damage was done to the church even though all the structures surrounding it were brought down by the fire,” Mr Tirike said.

Most of the houses in Kijiji were flats made from iron sheets, but the Pefa church was built partly with galvanised corrugated iron sheets

Kijijilangata firelangas estatePefa