End of the road for father of Pentecostal ministries in EA

Archbishop Javan Aggrey Silas Owiti and wife Winnie.

Many describe him as the father of Pentecostal ministries in East Africa, having taken the front line in preaching the gospel.

In his heyday, the name of Archbishop (rtd) Javan Aggrey Silas Owiti, the founder Voice of Salvation and Healing Church (Vosh), rang a bell in Christian circles for the more than six decades that he led the church.

But today, friends and relatives are congregating at his Tura village home in Nyando, Kisumu County, to pay their last respects.

Mr Owiti died on January 15, aged 92, at the Aga Khan Hospital in Kisumu.

His body was transferred to Lee Funeral Home in Nairobi and flown back to his rural home on Wednesday ahead of today’s burial.

Owiti retired from active ministry last June over ill health. According to his widow, Archbishop Winnie Owiti, he suffered a stroke in 2011 that affected his normal activities.

Last sermon

“He gave his last sermon in 2013 and in 2014, he was unable to preach anymore because of his deteriorating health. He was officially retired last June,” said Winnie who has since taken over the church leadership.

Owiti had vast experience in evangelism dating back to 1956, when he moved from the African Inland Church (AIC) where he was baptised, to join a religious movement that had just arrived in the country through clergy from South Africa.

Owiti and other believers would later join the famous East African Revival Movement, which started spreading the gospel across the country.

In 1956, he pioneered the formation of Vosh, which became among the first evangelical ministries. The first church was set up at his father’s home in Apondo.

More churches would later be opened in Nyamware, Miwani and Asawo in Kisumu, and Asembo and Ramba in Siaya County.

He would then become the leader of the church, which attracted a huge following both in Kenya and the East African region, with more than 1,000 churches spread across the region.

According to scholar Adongo Okonjo in a master's degree thesis titled The History, Beliefs and Practices of The Voice of Salvation and Healing Church submitted at Kenyatta University in 2015, the church was founded on the emphasis of teachings about salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ, divine healing and the in-filling of the Holy Spirit made evident through speaking in tongues as told in the biblical story of the day of Pentecost.

Beyond tribes

Bishop Arthur Kitonga of Redeemed Gospel Church described Owiti as a man whose vision was beyond tribes.

“When I came back to Kenya from Uganda in the 1970s, I was received by Bishop Owiti who mentored me in the Pentecostal ministry. He was very generous with his international connections and everywhere I went, he recommended me, giving me the pass to minister in foreign territories,” said Kitonga.

Nyanza Council of Churches Chairman Bishop Ogonyo Ngede described Owiti as a welcoming man who never practised religious segregation even after pioneering evangelical ministries.

He said during Owiti’s missions out of the country, the two would work together to consolidate the evangelistic base back in the country.

Born in a polygamous family, Owiti mastered the art of hard work, which saw him excel at Kagimba Primary School, Onjiko Intermediate School and later Maseno School before he got a job with the Kenya Cereals Board in Bungoma County.

Owiti married his first wife, Fanny Rosley, in 1954. A road accident in 1984 claimed the life of the mother of five but spared the clergyman. He married Winnie a year later.

Winnie described her husband as a friend and a teacher who was a key pillar in her strong commitment to church and service to Jesus Christ.

Owiti resigned from his job in the 1970s to go into full-time church service.