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COLUMBUS, Ohio—“We are going to Kenya because God told us to go,” said Aram DiGennaro. “We feel what we have to offer will be useful in Kenya.”
Despite the fact that Kenya is not a popular place to visit or live right now, Aram DiGennaro, his wife Debbi, and their two young children are planning to move from Columbus, Ohio to Nairobi, Kenya, in mid-March, to serve with Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM).
“I’ve been following the situation in Kenya closely,” Aram said. “No Kenyan I’ve talked to is impartial. There is a lot of disarray in the country right now. A lot of healing is needed. The church is in position to do what churches are supposed to do. I hope they haven’t lost the sense of hope and expectation that they had prior to the current crisis.”
Post-election violence had swept the country since December. A power-sharing agreement was signed on February 27 between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Mr. Raila Odinga. Despite this good news, however, the situation in Kenya is tenuous. Thousands of people remain displaced, the problems are many, and the wounds are deep.
“The church is potent to affect change in the nation,” Debbi said. “With God there is a power that can transform. With the wanton, random violence that occurred in the country, I hope the church hasn’t lost its hope.”
“What attracted me to Kenya is the ethos of the church – the excitement that God is doing something,” Aram said. “We’ll get to be part of that.” Initially the DiGennaros will be serving as hosts of The Mennonite Guest House. Later they will transition into the roles of Missionary Representatives for EMM.
Debbi’s family has long been familiar with the country of Kenya. Her aunt and uncle have lived and served in Kenya for over 20 years. As a high school student, Debbi spent a year there.
“It occurred to me when I was there that maybe this was a place God wanted me to serve,” Debbi explained. “I prayed and asked God, but I didn’t hear an answer at that time.”
As a couple, the DiGennaros originally thought they would go to Latin America. Both studied Spanish language and culture extensively. It made sense that they would go to a Spanish-speaking country, but they never sensed an open door.
Aram earned a bachlors degree in psychology and in 2005 received a master of divinity from Eastern Mennonite Seminary. Debbi also studied at EMS. She later chose her master’s degree in social work in response to her sense of call to future ministry.
A year ago, Aram went to Kenya to teach at a pastors’ training event. During his trip, Aram kept asking God if this was the place he should serve.
“Within three days of being in Kenya, I knew this was the place,” Aram said. “Our gifts fit the stage that the church is at there.”
One last hurdle for the DiGennaros is raising the necessary support they will need to stay in Kenya. “We don’t come from large churches or a wealthy area,” Aram explained. “But we know people have given generously.”
The DiGennaros’ missionary support team (MST) is hoping to connect with several more churches that will catch the vision and desire to provide financial support for keeping Aram and Debbi in Kenya for their 3-year term.
Beyond looking forward to the “fresh pineapple and 70 degree weather,” Aram said he is “most looking forward to interacting with the church. We’ve found the church in Kenya to be vibrant and life-giving.”
However, the DiGennaros are aware of some of the difficulties facing them, including raising their two-year-old daughter, Priska, and four-month-old son, Shem Shadrach, far away from their extended families and in an area of unrest.
“Right now I am focusing on Psalm 18, how God gives David supernatural strength to do what he needs to do,” Aram said. “God makes David’s path safe.”
“We’re aware it’s beyond our abilities,” Aram said. “But it also feels possible. Hope is the key.”
-story adapted from one written by Linda Moffett for Eastern Mennonite Missions www.emm.org