A walk down memory lane


A brief history of the Nairobi-Newton Partnership between 1986 and 2004

1986 : Having volunteered for 1980 with an NGO in Kenya and serving as Stated Supply Pastor with the Hackettstown Church 1983-86, Rev. Keith Barkley returns to Kenya to launch an independent indigenous effort to build a safe-water delivery system among rural villages of Kibwezi.

1987: Hackettstown area churches ecumenically begin financial support of the water project; several Newton Presbytery congregations also join the funding effort.

1993: As water project prepares to open, Harold Johnson and Jim Dieterle accept Barkley’s invitation to travel to Kenya celebrate the launch. Newton Presbytery’s Mission Committee (Hasegawa & Brown) pursues creation of an international partnership with PCEA Nairobi Presbytery. (Session of leading congregation in Nairobi has an “nendeni” in Kibwezi, thus connected though 150k distant.) Dieterle begins successful effort to raise primary scholarships
from congregations.

1994: Johnson returns to Kibwezi villages along with nine others from Newton churches. As PCUSA is discouraging another partnership with Nairobi and directing Newton elsewhere, Johnson suggests to Nairobi Presbytery that they extend the invitation to Newton; this effort succeeds. Concept of a primary medical care clinic for the villages is taken up by Dieterle et al.

1995: First delegation of Newton Presbytery (13) travels to Kenya to begin the relationship. Ad hoc group supports Newton Stated Clerk Charles Ringe’s willing commitment to 6-months residency in Kenya (with Chester CPC approval) to learn PCEA culture and bind the relationship.

1996: Newton hosts first PCEA visiting delegation in May to sign the initial Memorandum of Understanding dated 1995-2000. A team of interested persons are pulled together by the Mission Committee to develop the Kenyan Connection. A campaign is successful for mailing used books to Kithasyu Library. A second group of Newton travelers visits Kenya.

Presbytery creates and elects a Nairobi Partnership Committee (Rev. Tom Sheffield, Chr.), and provides $20,000 budgeted support annually. Funds continue being contributed toward sustaining the water project and primary scholarships. Nairobi proposes additional projects for consideration. A Third group of Newton travelers visits Kenya. Newton funds travel and Presbyterial sponsors Julia Mungai to PCUSA Presbyterian Women’s Gathering. Rotary International approves a $187,500 3-H grant to fund the Kasasule Clinic.

1998: Newton hosts four visitors from Nairobi. A fourth group of Newton travelers visits Kenya. As the Rotary grant funds only staff, medicine and equipment, Newton Presbytery provides the funds for erecting the building. Several submitted small project proposals are adopted by Newton and receive funding. In October, Harold Johnson becomes NPC Chairman upon Sheffield’s departure from Newton.

1999: A fifth group of Newton travelers visits Kenya, and Newton hosts a team of four Kenyans. All funding needs supporting projects are met. Newton hosts Rev.Patrick Mungariria for 6-months pastor-in residence at Chatham Twp. PC.

2000:  Grace Njuguna is sponsored by Newton Presbyterial for national PW Gathering as the Partnership provides for her travel. Johnson and Betty Shuman participate in the initial meeting of PCUSA entities with Kenyan partnerships. Three additional Kenyans are hosted in May. A 6th group of travelers visits Kenya. The second Memorandum of Understanding (2000- 2005) is approved by both presbyteries. Nairobi appeals for addition of secondary school scholarships for best performing students, and they are added to funding commitments.

2001: Nancy & Tony Steiner represent Newton Presbytery at the Kasasule Clinic’s opening celebration. Months later a community-initiated lawsuit disputing land ownership for the clinic closes its doors, requiring the creation of two temporary operations in Kibwezi and Maikuu. Three Kenyans are hosted in May by Newton. Newton sends its 7th group of five travelers to Kenya. Rev. Dr. David Gathii is hosted as pastor-in-residence for 8-weeks by Newton

2002: Issues arise within administrative operation of the Thange water Project, with inefficiencies creating repetitive expenses. Three Kenyans were hosted in May.

2003: Newton begins sending representatives to Nairobi in early months to help coordinate administrative efforts. A social worker is hired to vet poor families whose children qualify for scholarship. Mary Ndungu becomes the PCEA rep sponsored by Newton Presbyterial for participation in the Women’s Gathering. Five Kenyans are hosted in May by Newton.

2004: Nairobi Presbytery subdivides into three separate units, Central, North and East, and they create a cooperative board to administer the Partnership, rotating leadership responsibilities. The Kasasule suit finally gets its day in court to produce the property deed and have the case dismissed, and reopens the gates for service to locals who have been longing for return of its services. Problems continue with the water system, the government suggesting PCEA takeover. An attempt at collecting used items for incorporation by churches and the clinic results in successful collection from congregations; but an unfortunate failure to clear in advance the shipping manifesto with PCEA help results in the container being held in port for exorbitant fees and is lost. William Gathecha Kimani is sponsored by Newton for participation in the PCUSA Youth Triennium. Four additional Kenyans visit Newton in May. Mid-year, Nancy Steiner assumes chairmanship. Rotary grant funding, extended through the lawsuit, is exhausted, and Newton picks up full Kasasule clinic funding, increased by expanding service.

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