You know it is easier to write something without knowing where you’re headed with it. It gives you some sort of anxiety that makes you continue. It’s like you’re rushing to see how it will turn out in the end. But that however isn’t the case with this post. Though I don’t know how this will go, or how it’ll end, I already have a title. And now I have to stick to it. I could stop writing this altogether and forget about it, but you know it’d sting inside me forever. I would have sleepless nights and bad days beating and hating myself for not writing. (This is normal with every idea I suppress for a post).
Okay let me start:
Moi university students, current and former, already have an idea from the title. Yes I am writing about the small wooden chapel in the university.
I think I discovered the chapel myself. I’m not sure though. I can’t remember.
November twenty something. The year is 2012. I had just joined university. Things had not been so normal during my first week. Sio mambo na coil. Sio unhygienic bathrooms. Sio kelele ya watu. I was surprised that this was University. Yaani all the hardships I went through in primary and high school culminated here? Dilapidated facilities? Matope? Confusion here and there?
But I took it all in as fast as possible. I accepted everything. I remembered the phrase from high school: “If you can survive in _, you can survive anywhere”, and decided nothing would discourage me.
So my first Sunday came. During the week, I had walked myself round the institution discovering schools, hostels and cafeterias. I think this is how I found the CU. In that big hall. They were singing loudly and it was at night. It was the only Christian gathering I had stumbled upon so I decided come Sunday, I would worship there.
I walked inside. Sat next to the door I had walked in through. And took out my Pocket to read the bible. Pocket was the rising smartphone then. If you didn’t have a pocket you probably had an ideos. Or at least that is what I saw with the people around me. Having a Pocket was an achievement man. Gave me confidence. LOL.
Five minutes after joining the service, I felt completely lost. Not to mean the service wasn’t good or organised, it just wasn’t done in a way I could blend in. So I walked out. I couldn’t do it. I hope you understand.
I walked back to Hostel L and sat on my bed. Wondering. I was asking myself: Will I ever find a church? I mean, yes I am Anglican, but is there anything close to that over here? Like a Catholic Church? Or an interdenominational chapel?
Aha! Now I remember how I discovered Grace Chapel! Immediately after asking myself that question…
Samsung tone. Swipe to the right. Receive.
“Hello Dickson!” shouted the familiar voice. “Tunakuja Grace Chapel. Make sure tukupate huko.”
“Yawa. Sasa Grace Chapel iko wapi? Acha jokes. Mimi niko Moi. Nilijoin last week,” I say.
“Hahaha.” Now why is she laughing? “Unapenda mchezo. Grace chapel ni kanisa Moi. Ulizia. Dad anakuja kupreach hapo”
She’s my god-sister. The Dad is my god-father.
My roommate wasn’t yet existing, so I had no one to ask about Grace Chapel. See this, I had been given a room and told that a certain guy would be joining me soon. “I don’t know how soon,” the janitor had mentioned. So I was roommate-less, coil-less, woofer-less and clueless.
I walked out of the room carrying my mini laptop in the bag. “Security ni mbaya sana Moi,” was the advice everyone had been giving me. I locked the door, walked out of Hostel L, and headed to sides’ za Soweto trying to find Grace Chapel.
Looking back, I must say that is the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life. If you haven’t been to Moi University you won’t understand. It is something like this: Somebody in Nairobi is going to Mombasa but boards a Kisumu bound bus.
I walked for quite a while. I was looking for voices of people singing or praying. When I realised I wasn’t making any progress I decided to stop. Some smartly dressed people who looked like they were headed to church approached from a distance. I stopped them. I was practically egoless at that time since I was A. tired from all the walking I had done and B. lost. So I sought their assistance. And man did they laugh at me…?
One was in tears. The other was almost sitting down from laughter when they told me “Grace Chapel iko sides’ za dispensary”.
Of course I knew where the dispensary was. I had taken a certain green form there during admission. How come I didn’t notice a church?
Five minutes later, I was a few metres away from the church. Laptop in my bag. Bag on my back. Pocket in my hand.
I couldn’t be blamed for failing to notice it was a church the first time I had seen it. Wooden. Small. Old. Dilapidated. Seemed like an old abandoned structure. It looked like anything but a church. One of those things that had been of relevance in the past. An antique. Kept but for the memory of the good old times.
I approached the structure still laughing at myself for getting lost.
“Karibu,” said a beautiful girl as I walked in. She led me to an empty seat.
I was there feeling new but warm. Comfortable and uneasy at the same time. A few minutes’ later visitors were told to stand. I didn’t. They then introduced themselves and were welcomed and hugged and told to feel at home. And that is how I fell in love with Grace Chapel. With its grace and warmth and love. With the passion in the congregation and the elders. If someone had told me this would be my church for the rest of my time in university (and life), I wouldn’t have opposed them. I knew it from the moment I heard the presentations and the Praise team singing. From the faith that was so alive and the love that filled the air. I knew this was home.
And so I learnt, the church isn’t in the structure. It is in the people.
Grace Chapel has existed for a long time. I was born in October 1994. During that time, I hear it was a year or two old.
The structure in which we worship now, used to be a milk place. Cows were milked here and people came to buy.
However necessity saw to it that it was transformed and remade to become the House of Worship for Moi University. And thousands of students’ lives have been impacted upon by this one church. From politicians, to teachers, to engineers.
Currently, the structure can no longer house the students who gather every Sunday to pray. Two tents have to be erected outside. And that isn’t enough as many still sit directly under the sun. This is of inconvenience as those outside cannot verily participate in the activities that are going on inside. It is like two congregations with one preacher. And that’s why the flock is coming together to build a new church.
What has prompted this post was a quote from the Reverend; “…This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a House of Prayer. We spend our lives building a lot of things. But rarely do we get the opportunity to build a church…”
The new structure will be able to hold more than 3500 people in one sitting. Meaning no sitting outside. No tents. No more feeling like you’re not part of the audience.
Sasa whether you are currently in Moi University or are an alumni who wants to see this realisation of a new structure, there is an ongoing one-month Harambee towards the completion of the structure. I know this is something we’ve been hearing for long. But this time it is happening. Maybe our help and determination and prayers is all this project has been needing. People are giving whatever they can. From chai for the builders, to architectural expertise. Cement, sand, money, prayers, moral support. Anything. I don’t know who you can contact if you feel like contributing. But if you have connections, contact them and let’s see this structure completed. Together. A church is coming up. And I think, there will be some amazing sense of pride and fulfilment in all of us when we see it stand and can say, “I helped build that church”.