Battles at SDA church linked to millions and prime assets

South Kenya Conference headquarters that is under construction in Nyanchwa, Kisii County. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]
Millions of shillings in property and cash are at the heart of wrangles that have rocked the Seventh Day Church in Nairobi.

It is the quest to control the church’s wealth in the elections slated for late next year that is suspected to be the reason behind the recent wrangles witnessed at the Maxwell Church in Nairobi and in Kisii’s South East Kenya Field.

Currently, those in power have further been fragmenting SDA by splitting the already existing churches with an aim of increasing delegates who will vote in their favour.

The hotly-contested church position has been attracting several contenders some of whom have bought high-end vehicles in readiness for the campaigns.

It is those currently in power that has been jostling for the few church monies at the expense of several social-economic projects under their leadership even when some of these projects are on their deathbed.

At the entrance of the SDA’s South Kenya Conference are words inscribed on a wooden board to reflect on the mission and vision of the church.

“In harmony with the Bible, Seventh-Day Adventists see as the climax of God’s plan the restoration of all His creation to full harmony with His perfect will and righteousness.”

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The East Kenya Union that Maxwell Church operates under, has shares in a multi-million shilling property in Nairobi’s Lavington Estate and several parcels of land in Mombasa County.

In Kisii where leaders are also wrangling, Nyanchwa Adventist Complex and South Kenya Conference Church headquarters is located approximately two kilometers from Kisii town in a serene environment on the slopes of Nyanchwa hill.

Millions of shillings

The complex has the once highly regarded teachers training college. There is also the once well-maintained secondary and primary schools section.

This is the image of what was once a vibrant social-economic institution under the church in the larger South Kenya Conference and partially Nyamira Conference.

Under Nyamira, the church runs Matutu Complex. Eronge Adventist Boarding which was once being managed by the church, was taken over by the government and is among the best-performing schools in the region. Other than the Nyanchwa Hospital that offers some of the best medical services thanks to donor funding, the other institutions are run down and could need millions of shillings to be restored.

Around 50 metres away from the conference headquarters is the Nyanchwa SDA School which is among the oldest in the region.

It was established in 1912 by SDA, which set foot in the region through missionaries. The school is a mixed boarding school with less than 41 students.

 It is on the same compound with Nyanchwa Adventist Teachers College where 70-odd students are studying P1 course.

At the edge of the compound with more than 100 acres of land, is Nyanchwa Adventist Boarding Primary School which has 500 pupils.

Dr Julius Bichanga, South Kenya Conference president said they require at least Sh7 million to get Nyanchwa back on its feet. As concerns the college section, Dr Bichanga said they have already handed it to the Ministry of Education to be converted into a technical and vocational training institute.

More students

“We have plans to start offering scholarships to needy students. This will help us admit more students in our secondary school. The 100 per cent transition has played out to our disadvantage,” Bichanga said. Near the camp grounds and the church’s hospital, is South Kenya Conference (SKC) centre that is almost 70 per cent complete.

Bichanga explains that no money has been lost in the project despite the fact that the construction has been the talk in the church for years.

According to Bichanga, the project has cost Sh64 million with the church members contributing Sh48 million. “Deputy President William Ruto contributed Sh16 million towards the project. He has already paid Sh6 million in two instalments,” Bichanga said, adding that the project is set for completion in October.

The church also runs Omobera Boarding School which has now been hived off and is under the management of the recently-formed South East Kenya Field.

According to Pastor Bichanga, there is no wealth wrangles in the church.

“It is nearly-impossible to misuse church money. What we can spend without approval is Sh20,000. The rest of the amount is spent with the approval of more than 10 people,” he said.

Pastor Morwabe in his research thesis Role of the Church in management of socio-economic projects, a case of South Kenya Conference of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, writes that since the establishment of the projects, there has never been a clear way of running some of the initiatives.

Human resource

The SDA does not have a human resource department. “Due to this, the church faces major challenges that have to do with recruitment and selection, staff compensation and motivation; training and development and personnel policies,” Morwabe writes.

He adds: “Though there is external funding, the church does not concentrate on the proper management of funds so as to ensure maximum profits. Majority of the managers do not have adequate training on financial matters.”

The research was submitted to the University of Nairobi in 2011. In a sample of 100 respondents, 37 per cent strongly agreed that those working in the projects had adequate training while 29.73 per cent disagreed.

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