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A spiritual father for the youth

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By JECKONIA OTIENO. | June 15th 2014
                                Michael Kuria                    PHOTO/STANDARD

Growing up, the last thing Michael Kuria wanted to be was a church minister. Little did he know that this was where his future path lay.

“Church leadership was the last thing on my mind. It is rare to hear a primary school pupil mention wanting to become a pastor; everyone wants to become a lawyer, doctor, pilot, teacher and so on,” he admits.

The alumnus of Carlile College in Nairobi says he is thankful that he got mentors who identified his calling and walked him through that path. He is now the Director of Youth Affairs (DYA) in the Anglican Diocese of Nairobi.

The DYA is in charge of youth activities in the diocese. Therefore, Rev Kuria — referred to simply as ‘Passy’ or ‘Rev Mike’ by his youthful flock — has the humongous task of managing young people’s expectations and guiding them through the often-turbulent waters that are youthful years. He heads the Nairobi Diocese Youth Ministry (NDYM).

And Passy is setting quite a track record. The financial fortunes of the youth group have grown in leaps and bounds, from just about Sh30,000 when he took over to about half a million shillings in just one year.

It should not pass mention that Rev Mike has mentored three young people who are currently undergoing their pastoral training in preparation for church service.

Other than that, many others who have grown under Rev Kuria are now youth pastors, and may also opt to join ordained service. One of them is Joshua Mwangi, the youth pastor at St Paul’s Church in Nairobi’s South C.

Among the reverend’s plans for the group he is leading is to ensure that there are sustainable income-generating activities that will help the youth fend for themselves.

“This will help the youth with matters like rent and school fees,” he argues.

Last year, the Nairobi Diocese Youth Ministry acquired a two-acre parcel of land in Ruai on the outskirts of the city. Plans to put up a retreat and prayer centre are underway, and it is anticipated that  incomes derived  will assist young church members.

“Lack of opportunities is impacting negatively on the youth, and as a church leader, it’s my duty to ensure that as many people as possible become self-reliant.”

To help him in his activities, the reverend works with a team of leaders elected from the various churches that make up the diocese, and a few professionals who are members of the youth ministry.

In 2013, the church organised ball games that brought together 52 parishes. Another successful event was the drama festival, which sought to build the talents of the young people in the diocese.

Kuria then led a team of young people to a national youth conference in Butere, where Nairobi had the highest number of young people. This was closely followed by Camp Mulika — a retreat or young people in Naivasha. Just before the year ended, the group held a cultural dinner to promote the link between culture and Christianity. All these within the span of one year.

Born in Nairobi’s Makadara area on September 4, 1982, Kuria, the fourth born in a family of ten, sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education exams at Martin Luther Primary School in 1996. He passionately remembers getting born again in Class Eight, with just two weeks to the final examinations.

He would have joined one of the secondary schools in Nairobi but instead chose a different region.

“I chose to go to a school far from Nairobi because I saw my peers becoming wayward, and if I did not go away, I knew I would follow the same path to destruction,” says the cleric who attended Ndia-Ini Secondary School in Nyeri.

After high school in 2000, he came back to Nairobi and did odd jobs for two years. He then joined ACK St Phillip’s Jericho’s praise and worship team.

“I became the worship leader as I also held other posts in the church. In 2004, we began to organise missions in  different parts of the country,” says Rev Kuria.

In between he would preach at Ofafa Jericho Secondary School every Friday. This prepared him for the pulpit, and in 2005, he started getting opportunities to preach in church. With time, the Kuria spearheaded the institution of a Sunday church service for the youth of St Phillip’s.

HESITATION

Shortly thereafter, the youth pastor left to serve in another parish, and the position remained vacant for a year. Kuria was then asked to take over.

He recalls, “I refused because I had received a scholarship to study Counselling Psychology at the University of Nairobi and I was also pursuing a business course at a city college, and did not want these chances to go to waste. There was just no way I could be a youth pastor!”

Thanks to his mentors, Kuria finally accepted the position, but with a lot of hesitation. He was officially appointed youth pastor in October 2005, and served for six years.

The youth grew their various talents under his leadership and some of them are prominent faces on TV adverts. Under Kuria’s watch, St Phillip’s Jericho won the diocesan drama festivals.

“In 2007, I decided to go to Bible school, so I joined Carlile College in Nairobi, where I studied for three years and graduated in 2010,” says Kuria.

After undergoing the rigorous test that involves appearing before the bishop of the diocese and his panel for interviews — famously referred to as Bishop’s Examination — another stumbling block stood in his way; he had to pay his own fees. For a while, he juggled between his studies and selling suits to earn income.

“By chance, I got to interact with the new college principal; he saw my potential and quietly organised for my fees to be paid. That wonderful principal was none other than Right Rev Tim Wambunya, the current bishop of the ACK Diocese of Butere.”

Emerging among the top five in his class, Kuria was ordained deacon on August 6, 2011, and posted to St Andrew’s church in Nairobi’s Zimmerman area. A week later, he tied the knot with Vivian Anyango, whom he had known since their days at the St Phillip’s Jericho worship team.

The path to his current post began when he was ordained a priest on August 18, 2012, and posted to St Andrew’s as a curate. He held that position until May 1 last year, when he was appointed DYA.

Kuria says most young people have no mentors who can show them the right way: “Pastors, leaders and parents are too busy for the youth, hence the moral decadence witnessed today. Modernisation has brought with it secularism, which is really affecting the youth.”

Cults, the occult and secret societies are sucking up the youth at an alarming rate because “any wind of doctrine carries them along”.

Among Kuria’s plans is taking the city of Nairobi by storm in 2014 by preaching in as many schools as he can to counter these trends.

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