By Heidi Thulin
On Field Media
Wayne Raychard reminds me of my father: a Vietnam veteran with a jovial personality who can offer a kind, wise word at just the right moment. Unlike my father, Wayne has spent most of his adult life teaching missions classes in an American Bible college and serving among the Digo people in coastal Tanzania and Kenya. Joyce, his petite, artistic wife, is joyful despite the loss of vision in one of her eyes and exhibits a strong faith in God’s sovereignty that is inspirational. “She supports me and the teammates by praying for us always,” Wayne praises. “[She also] encourages us by creating little drawings. And all the while, she homeschooled our three kids from grade one to senior in high school.”
They started their life on the Kenyan coast back in 1987. “It was a mildly Islamic place at the time,” Wayne explains, “but it became very strongly Islamic during our [thirteen-year] tenure, just because wherever Christians tend to be, the Islamic community pushes back. They built a bigger mosque and a madrasa, and they trained more teachers.” Despite the resistance, after about seven years in the village, the Raychards planted a church, met with the new believers in their own home, and, in 1999, left the church in the capable hands of a Digo pastor.
Their current Kenyan home is just seven kilometers from that first coastal community, but it’s a very different kind of environment. “I prefer village environment over town,” Wayne says with his hearty, one-of-a-kind laugh. “[A village is] mostly focused on one culture, the Digo. In the city, there’s always activity. There’s always noise! Also, there are nine churches in Kwale Town, but they’re all ministering to upcountry people [who work in the government offices], and the Digo feel uncomfortable right from the beginning. They don’t have any money to put in the offering, and they aren’t dressed nearly as well as the people who have jobs in town. A couple have visited and not come back.”
For this reason, Wayne almost daily rides his bicycle out into the local villages to visit and minister to his Digo friends in their family-unit homes, called kayas. “The [church] model we want is something that’s familiar to them,” he describes. “It’s not meant to feel like other people are looking at them or looking down on them. We are seeing a lot more openness. People are recognizing that Islam does not satisfy them… There is some searching going on. Mainly with the young ones. The older ones have too much invested in the system. It seems to be the younger ones that God’s drawing right now.”
Because God is moving in the hearts of the young people, Wayne and Joyce are thrilled to be leading a team of new, young missionaries—two American families, two ladies from Australia and Canada, and a Kenyan couple—who will continue the work after they retire. “Our role now,” Wayne says, “is to equip and encourage this next generation and show them that this [ministry life] is really doable. We want them to be thinking long-term.” With the Raychard’s rich missions’ history and deep love for the Digo people, they seem well-suited to spread that zeal.