Josphat Kinyingi was born and raised in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya, one of the largest in the world. Conditions in the slum are extremely poor with immense pollution, waste, illness and disease. Most residents lack access to basic services like electricity and running water. Josphat’s parents were unable to take him to school due to their high poverty level. He says he almost became a street child due to his lack of hope in life and the daily conflicts of his dysfunctional family. “My dad would come home drunk late in the evening and beat every one of us,” he says. “I could spend several days without food, so I thought surviving on the street could possibly help.”
Josphat accepted Christ after attending a youth conference organized by a local church within Kibera. “The preacher spoke to my heart and told me how much God loved me and the wonderful plans He had for my life. I almost wept because I knew the kind of challenges I was going through, but I decided to believe what he said.”
Josphat attended children’s Sunday school at a church in the slum. Visitors from the West came to visit one Sunday morning. During the lesson, he emerged as the winner for memorizing verses of Scripture. “I was rewarded with biscuits and sweets. With all these gifts in my hands, that day was my turning point.” When the visitors learned that he was not in school, they asked if he would like to go. He was enrolled the next day.
By the time Josphat started high school, he was an adult; his parents had moved north because they were aging. While in high school, he was taken in by a children’s home and stayed there throughout his school life. After school, the children’s home asked him to accompany visiting missionaries from the West to help with translation. He spent much of his time translating for them in churches, home visitations and school fellowships. One of the missionaries realized that Josphat had ministry potential that needed to be polished and encouraged him to join a Bible school. Josphat chose the Nairobi International School of Theology (NIST).
Under the missionary’s support, Josphat pursued a Diploma in Counseling and graduated. He is now in his third year pursuing his Bachelor’s degree in Education, Counseling and Psychology.
“It has taken the hand of God to be where I am today,” he says. “Throughout my education, I have been studying under the support of different scholarships. I am amazed because I never thought it could happen, but God is faithful because He always brings the right people into my life to help.” Josphat says every semester, he has a different story of how God provides.
While still in school, Josphat serves with Children Refuge Centers International (Kenya Hope) in the Kibera slums and other parts of the country. The organization runs a feeding program through its nine Hope Centers throughout the country, feeding hundreds of children. They help put children in school, and medical care is provided through a clinic run by a Christian doctor who treats the children for a small fee. Saturday Clubs allow the children to learn about Jesus, and the Special Ministries staff does home visitations. “I am working with children in the Kibera center because this is the place where I grew up.”
Josphat says the slums are plagued by social issues: rape, dysfunctional families, extreme poverty, drug abuse, premarital sex and early teenage marriages. “These are things I normally find myself addressing while dealing with the children. I have set up a Bible club for spiritual growth for these children every Saturday afternoon, trusting that God will protect them from the daily evil happening in this slum region.”
Sometimes Josphat says he handles cases of attempted suicide from the children. “I thank God for the counseling skills I learned through my diploma courses. I have been counseling both boys and girls on different issues….I have also been talking to the children’s parents on how to respond to some of their psychological needs and empowering them with information based on my relationship with their children.” Josphat says it is amazing that “God is preparing me for a very special task that I never thought of in my life….Thank God I never got lost in the slums, involved with drugs and other evils. God preserved me for a special assignment….I thank God for who I am today. I have so much more hope than before, bearing in mind that I am a child of the Most High.”
After graduation next year, Josphat hopes to continue to the Master’s program if financial support is available. As far as ministry plans, “I would love to work with Kibera people, especially the youth….The organization I’m currently serving is slowly growing [as it] meets the needs of many needy children and their families. I may have my own ministry in the future. Who knows? The God who spoke to our early fathers is still the same God on the throne today, so it’s possible.”