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The Rendille Miracle: A story from Missionary in Residence Jeff Nelson

Jeff Nelson has served as the Missionary in Residence at Evangel for the last two years. He and his wife, Janelle, have been missionaries to Kenya since 2000. His primary responsibilities overseas were at Kenya Assemblies of God University where he served as the Chancellor (aka President).

During his two years at Evangel, he has taught Anthropology, Introduction to Intercultural Ministries, Working Cross-Culturally and Best Practices in Missions. He has been the faculty sponsor for World Changers (the missions club). He also led a team to Kenya in the summer of 2017 and will be taking another team in 2018. He and Janelle have enthusiastically interacted with students interested in global missions. The World Changers club has seen record numbers of students participate in everything from the annual bonfire designed to kick off each school year, to the Underground Church, Petra Ballet, Monthly Awareness events and Global Impact Week. Jeff and Janelle have opened their hearts and their home to Evangel students and the missions-minded among us. It has been a pleasure to serve with them.

A story from Jeff Nelson…

I had planned to lead another East Africa School of Theology mission’s team to plant another church. When I ask the district superintendent where we should go, he told me about a grandmother who wasn’t qualified to be a missionary, but she was preaching to the Rendille, an unreached people group in Kenya, and people were coming to Christ. He suggested we plant our next church in the Rendille town of Laisamis.

An Evangel University Medical team and our EAST mission team went to minister and plant the church. I sat with the elders and asked them their oral history. They said, “We are Jewish.” They told of slaughtering a perfect lamb in substitution for their first-born son and putting the blood on the doorposts and the top of the door. The harvest was indeed plentiful. In those first two weeks, we witnessed 573 Rendille make decisions for Christ and the church was planted.

I returned to EAST and we declared the next year the “Year of the Rendille” at EAST. We decided to pray, give, and send more missionaries to the Rendille. We made Light for the Lost banners with the theme “Behold the Lamb of God.” We planned to preach using their Old Testament Jewish background as a cultural key to reach them.

Grandmother Sarah was a woman who felt a desire to be a missionary to the Rendille sent word to the District Superintendent. “Can you send a pastor to Laisamis. I feel like planting another church in another village.” So one of our EAST alumni went and she went to Merille.

A few months later we took the second team and planted our second church among the Rendille in Merille where we saw 409 decisions for Christ. We went back to EAST and encourage many to go to work among the Rendille.

2017 Kenya Global Connections Team
The Global Connections Team that went to Kenya in 2017.

In November, we gathered the largest mission team we had ever taken. One hundred student missionaries went to work among the Rendille in six towns: Kargi, Korr, Marsabit, Laisamis, Merille, and Loglogo. During this mission, we planted a third church with Grandmother Sarah in Loglogo. And we witnessed an amazing miracle of salvation as 3,143 made decisions for Christ in 10 days.

We began to wonder if the Rendille could be moved off the UPG list. We conducted a survey of the believers in the churches. We visited the churches we had planted, plus two others planted by an alumnus of EAST and others. One missionary had been laboring among the Rendille for 40 years. We sent the survey results to Joshua Project for analysis.

We invited the Rendille to come to EAST for a celebration. We sent a bus to the end of the pavement, where 50 Rendille believers, pastors, and missionaries got on. In the chapel that day, we celebrated the thousands who had come to Christ among the Rendille. Then, we had a Skype call with a leader from Joshua Project and he announced that the day before they had moved the Rendille off the Unreached People Group list. The chapel erupted into joyous praise.

Grandmother Sarah returned to a fourth village, Korr, and our team joined her there to plant the fourth church where we witnessed 447 decisions for Christ.

While there she told me, “Jeff, I feel my time among the Rendille is done.” I thought she would go home to be with her grandchildren. I thought of how she was not qualified to be a missionary and now she is an apostle. But she said, “I think I will go to another tribe now to preach to them.”

Grandmother Sarah wrote me a message not too long ago. She is in the village of Ileret among the Daasanach, another UPG in Kenya. She said, “Pray for me as I go to meet the chief today.” She now has the full support of the KAG missions department.

I am guessing it won’t be long before we take another group of mission’s students to work with her to plant another church. I pray that every UPG in Kenya, in fact in Africa, will have a Grandmother Sarah, someone with the tenacity to go and preach to a people who have yet to hear of the love of God.