A Well of Life in the DesertThe Northern Bible Training Centre equips pastors and leaders to bring the gospel to Northern Kenya
Story and Photos by Sean W.
The desert stretches on for miles. The landscape is enormous. Villages and shepherds dot the hills. Heat, water shortages, and camel herds are daily life. The world of the Bible comes alive here. In Genesis 24, Rebekah draws water for Abraham’s servant’s camels. The people here in northern Kenya know that this was no small task, it requires lots of hard work and dedication. Camels can drink as much as 30 gallons of water at a time!
Northern Kenya has seen missionaries and church leaders working to bring living water to the unreached peoples for over 100 years, and now this work is entering a new season. In the middle of this vast expanse sits the Northern Bible Training Centre (NBTC). This school, started in January 2019, is designed to equip pastors and evangelists in Northern Kenya to bring the gospel to their unreached neighbors.
Life out here requires intense devotion, and the students and staff of the NBTC are willing to toil diligently in order to provide living water for the unreached peoples of this region.
There is nothing like the passion of the students who attend the NBTC. Coming from remote, often nomadic, communities, they know how much their people need the gospel. There are good theological schools in Kenya, but they can be hard to access for people in the northern parts of the country. Many do not have the financial resources to travel the long journey to Nairobi and pay tuition for a seminary.
Serving as the school’s principal are John and his wife Hey Ran, who serves as Finance Manager. This couple has served many roles in AIM. For years, they trained pastors in Namibia and Uganda. Then they returned to their home country of South Korea, where John served as the AIM Korea Director. But while in Korea, they longed to return to Africa and continue training pastors.
“When you visit the remote churches, you can often see only women and children, because most of the men are away from the home, especially when there is a drought. With trained pastors [who go out to the herdsmen], we believe the men will have a chance to hear the Gospel.”
John says, “We understood that training pastors is our key ministry. From that time on, we really devoted ourselves to training pastors. Pastors that can plant churches in their home cultures.”
With the dream of equipping local pastors to reach their unreached neighbors, the Kangs finally came to Northern Kenya. They arrived in May 2018 to help start NBTC, fulfilling the prayer of many other missionaries. “Many people responded to the news of starting the Bible school, ‘This is what we have been praying for years, a Bible school in the North,’” Hey Ran says. To support the work of the NBTC, Alan and Pauline arrived in Kenya in December 2018. Alan serves as a teacher at the school, using his theological degree and background in education to train the aspiring pastors.
A City on a Hill
Northern Kenya is a vast expanse of desert and hills, with only a few patches of green landscape. The area is remote, with few roads or towns. Shepherds dotting the hills are often the only sign of life in this expanse of arid land. The town of Marsabit is the last major stop before the border of Ethiopia, about 150 miles away. The city sits at the top of a hill, one of the only green areas for miles around. The area is home to six different unreached people groups, including the Rendille, Borana, Gabra, and Samburu. The eleven students at the NBTC represent these groups.
In these nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes, the men are often out with the herds while their wives and children stay home. “When you visit the remote churches, you can often see only women and children, because most of the men are away from the home, especially when there is a drought,” John says. “With trained pastors [who go out to the herdsmen], we believe the men will have a chance to hear the Gospel.”
The Northern Bible Training Centre is designed to be low cost and to require minimal travel for students, which is why it’s based in the central town of Marsabit. Students attend classes for one month, then return home for a month of practical application and self-study. The whole curriculum is completed in one year. Students come from many different backgrounds and ages. Some have families with older children, others have young children at home. They come from a number of different church backgrounds too, including Africa Inland Church, Anglican Church of Kenya, and the Pentecostal church. Some students even come from rival tribes. But here they all learn, work, and live together in harmony.