Born in a church-going family, Agnes Odero says being mentored by a female missionary led to her faith becoming her own at the age of 12. “I gave my life to the Lord by myself when I saw a book that had pictures of Jesus’ crucifixion. It reminded me of [the missionary’s] teachings, that I was a sinner and Jesus died in my place. I cried and asked Jesus to come into my heart.”
As an adult, Agnes’ ministry began after she lost her husband to a random act of violence in 2000. She had left to go work in another town and was to return the following day. While away, she received a call from her brother-in-law, explaining that her husband had been attacked and was in critical condition in a Nairobi hospital. She drove two hours straight there, but he passed before she arrived. This traumatizing event reshaped the focus of her life. Her pastor and his wife were the only pastors nearby who had experience in counseling. They walked her through the stages of grief. As she processed this event and experienced healing through the counseling they provided, Agnes became interested in helping others in the same way and decided to take up the mission of multiplying counseling services throughout Nairobi. “After the tragedy, I purposed to serve the Lord in counseling [in order to help] people who go through [traumatic events] like I went through. I joined the counseling ministry at church, but I really needed training.”
Agnes began her studies at the Nairobi International School of Theology (NIST), Kenya, to acquire the necessary training. In her studies, Agnes said God taught her to serve Him with her whole heart. She grew to love Him more and matured in her faith. “He also taught me that there are very few laborers and much work,” she says. In Kenya, Agnes says there is a growing need for counseling of both the young and the old. “The rate of suicide is increasing among the youth. The cause is unknown since suicide notes are not left, but most parents suspect it is either failed relationships or academic performance. Adolescence is a difficult developmental stage for some people. Due to the many changes taking place in their bodies, they can become depressed because they are overwhelmed. Some find it difficult to open up to anyone when struggling with a problem. I felt God calling me to minister to the youth. As I studied theology, I saw more clearly the problem of the fallen nature of man and how it is only God who can help. Psychology and counseling theories help me understand people better. What I studied has helped me sharpen my counseling skills and made me more proficient as I minister to God’s people.”
Agnes graduated with her Master’s degree in Counseling Studies in 2008. She benefited from an Overseas Council scholarship. “I believed that God would provide my school fees, and He did. Glory be to Him alone.” The long-term impact of scholarships is the multiplication of godly leaders like Agnes who are equipped with theological and responsive contextual knowledge in order to lead the Church and society through the issues and problems they face with vision, integrity and competence.
While still studying at NIST and since graduating, Agnes established three counseling programs in churches throughout Nairobi. She manages the counselor training sessions and returns regularly for quality assessment and improvement at all three churches. Together these programs have served more than 1,000 individuals specializing in HIV/AIDS diagnosis, tribal/ethnic blending of families, peace and reconciliation, grief, addictions and pre-marital, marital and depression counseling services.
In addition, Agnes leads a ministry to single mothers and widows. Her ministry seeks to comfort the women and meet their needs through personal one-on-one visits, group prayer meetings, guest speakers and social outings.
She also still volunteers for the counseling ministry at her church in Nairobi. She hopes to teach counseling studies in institutions of higher education.