Diaspora Stories: Amazing Grace The Mother of Orphans
Starting out as a primary school teacher, Dr. Grace Kariuki migrated to the USA where she obtained a PhD and was also ordained as a church minister before founding a Christian ministry with 15 churches in Tanzania, seven in Kenya and a bible school.
She later handed over the TZ churches to the TZ leaders but oversees a few and so are some of the churches in Kenya so that she can concentrate on the children’s work and ministry for people with disability.She told her heroic story to MWAURA MUIGANA.
Dr. Grace Kariuki was an only child who went out of her way to take care of other people’s children, as she prayed to God to give her siblings. When one day she accidentally hurt a child at play she was accused of doing it on purpose. Her parents often had it rough denying accusations that their daughter mishandled other children because they did not have their own. But when she was 12 years old, her parents got her a sister and in quick succession three brothers followed.
In 1982, while in her first at St. Marks Kigari Teachers’ Training College in Embu, Grace became a born-again Christian and a desire to serve God through working with children was fired in her.
“I felt as a teacher, I needed to give more to children. After college I worshipped at the Deliverance Church in Nairobi, which was near my parents home. The pastors noted my calling for children’s work. I was requested to join the Children’s Ministry – the Sunday school – where I was also appreciated as a leader. They immediately promoted me to become the overall Sunday school superintendent,” says Grace.
As she took up her leadership role at the Deliverance Church headquarters in Eastleigh, she brought together teachers in other church branches to train teachers on Sunday school teaching and caring for children. Church workers and pastors were also trained to develop proper curricula. That was the idea that later gave birth to Christian education schools. Deliverance church was also growing and opening other branches throughout the country so Grace and her team of trainers were asked to train in other regions.
“I trained teachers and children workers. We also held conferences for Deliverance and other churches that brought their teachers and workers for training. Many teachers who were trained are now pastors in Deliverance and other churches,” Grace says proudly.
At the time, Sunday school was hosted in mabati structures within church compounds. The church leadership was challenged to start nursery and primary schools. During the week the classrooms would be used to teach children Christian education and Sunday school on Sundays. The church leadership embraced and owned the idea. These became a blessing to parents and communities around the schools where children were taught using the local curriculum with a Christian approach and resulted in the high number of Deliverance Church schools today.
“I often visit the schools and enjoy what God has done through an idea I mooted many years ago,” says Grace.
Starting nursery schools was easy but primary schools were a challenge. Grace took up the challenge in early 1995 and resigned from her job to teach at the then Deliverance Primary School in Zimmerman, Nairobi. It was renamed Cornerstone Deliverance Academy with her as head teacher.
Grace wasn’t earning much as a primary school teacher and her husband, Richards Kariuki (now an ordained church minister and manager at Delta Airlines in Washington DC, USA), too did not earn much.
“Every week we went to various places to train teachers, church workers and pastors and I spent my salary on travel. A friend suggested that instead of being broke after mission work, I should start a side business to earn some income. She sponsored me to travel to the UK to buy clothes to sell to my friends, fellow teachers and other people. It sounded a good idea and I took it up. I made three trips to London. The first time I made a profit, and while I loved that, I felt sad that I had skipped my mission work and that probably was not what God wanted me to do. On the second trip I also made some profit but again missed some mission work. I could almost hear God’s voice saying, ‘I didn’t call you to do this…’ On the third trip I made a loss and had to heed God’s voice and concentrate on what He had called me to do,” Grace recalls.
Grace, a mother of two grown children both of who live in the USA – Cynthia, a married mother of one and Alex Kariuki, a father of one and a civil engineer – received a life-changing telephone call in May 1995. It was from a Kenyan living in America who had heard her sermon at Deliverance Church Eastleigh.
“Mama Cynthia,” she told her, calling her by her daughter’s name, “your sharing of the love of Christ with me was not in vain. I’m now a born-again Christian. I’m attending a Christian conference and want you to attend with your whole family. You will only have to meet your travel expenses to the US.”
“We applied and got a five-year visa for my family. It was however expensive for the whole family and I therefore took along only Cynthia,” says Grace. She adds that the International Calvary Pentecostal Tabernacle in Ashland, Virginia, where the conference was hosted in August 1995 was a turning point in her life as it was then that she decided she needed to take care of orphans.
Initially, she was apprehensive because paying school fees for her own children was a problem and taking up the added responsibility would be very challenging. However, she went ahead as “God does not call us to do something easy, He calls us to do what we can’t do entirely on our strength and have to rely on Him.”
She attended the US conference for the second time at the invitation of a Kenyan couple living in Washington DC area during her second year at the Cornerstone Deliverance Academy. She also visited a US Christian school that assisted her to develop a Christian curriculum and was given a lot of teaching material for her school.
When she returned home, an American evangelist she had met at the conference asked her what prayer she had for her own family. She said that they were uncertain of meeting their children’s school fees obligations to provide them with good education. He promised to assist the family relocate to the US as permanent residents so their children could receive a good education. He gave her some money to apply for a US Green Card. They were successful and immigrated to the US in 1998.
In the US, no one was willing to host them as a family. Grace and her family had to go back to a camp in Ashland, Virginia, in which they had first arrived in to start life in the US. Food and accommodation was provided free as long as they stayed in the camp. A US pastor who had been hosted by Grace’s family in Kenya in 1997 learnt of their plight, and with help from his church, hosted them at Wellington Warrenton in Virginia, near Washington DC and helped them to settle and take their children to school. After six weeks they moved out to rent a home, which they eventually bought after living in it for 14 years.
Grace was initially employed as a teacher in a public school for one year but felt she needed more training to effectively minister to children. She had already trained in child evangelism at Daystar University and attended other training programmes on children, but still felt inadequate for the ministry to rescue orphans.
She therefore enrolled at the Life Christian University where for the next eight years she undertook her undergraduate, masters and doctorate degrees in theology. After her first year, the university and church she attended, Faith Christian Church under Dr. Decker Tepscot, ordained her as a minister. She was not aware of her Deliverance church in Nairobi having ordained a woman and therefore called her bishop to seek guidance. She was given the green light and the church sent bishops to participate in the ordination in 2001. Thereafter Amazing Grace International Ministries was launched and registered in the US with Grace and her husband as co-founders.
‘Orphans’ in the Diaspora…
Grace was invited to minister and interact with young Kenyan students faced with very challenging circumstances in the US. Their parents had raised funds for the first semester of school after funds drives and after these ran out there was nothing else coming from their parents. Some students failed to attend university due to lack of fees since they held student visas, which do not allow them to work and face deportation if found working. Without support some resorted to drugs while others joined gangs.
Grace reached and continues to reach out to students by overnight prayer (kesha in Kenya). With assistance from other church ministers, she started kesha in different states through which some Kenyan churches in the US were born. Many of these young Kenyans send her to their parents whenever she visits the country. She advises parents not send their children to the US if they will not be able to pay their school fees and support them, as they are likely to face hardships.
Kenyan and African orphans…
Grace started reaching out to orphans in Kenya by first establishing an office in Ngara, Nairobi, in 2002. Later in 2004, Amazing Grace Children’s Home was started in Kasarani’s Kenhurt Estate with eight children, increasing to 120. She got sponsors who helped to start a school at the centre that also enrolled children from the neighbourhood. However, the sponsors later withdrew and the children were transferred to a nearby public school. Grace felt that was not what she wanted for the children since they needed more personalised attention.
Currently, there are 22 children at the centre, which is running at a monthly deficit of Ksh90000 that has to be taken care of before they can take in more needy children and start other children’s centres. Grace raises funds for the centre through her ministry work in the US and Europe.
“There is no way I can call myself a rich woman when there are needy people around me. If I accumulate and not take care of the needy I would be very selfish and inconsequential. I draw strength from the Book of Proverbs 22:9, “He who has a generous eye will be blessed…’ You don’t have to be rich to be generous, all you need is to share what God has given you,” says Grace.
To give the children a spiritual background, a church, Abundant Glory International Ministries, was established at the centre. The children spend a lot of time in prayer and worship. Some preach and evangelise in other churches, schools and institutions.
After establishment, the centre attracted a lot of attention from young pastors, some of who desired to start similar orphanages. The pastors requested Grace to counsel them, saying they had orphans possibly worse off than those in the orphanage. Any time she visited Kenya she would receive so many requests and visitors that it became difficult to concentrate on the children.
“I would receive several pastors from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania asking me to counsel, pray for and help them, while others requested me to be their spiritual mother. I realised there are also spiritual orphans who I could not turn away. Today our ministry is especially for people who feel they want to become pastors but have no spiritual authority they can submit to. This has resulted in the establishment of seven churches in Kenya under Abundant Glory Ministries International. We have 16 Amazing Grace International Ministries churches, a Bible school in Tanzania and one church in the offing in Uganda,” says Grace who is author of Amazing Blessings for Destiny Connectors.
Home sweet home…
Grace asserts that no child should grow up in an orphanage; the best environment is with their own relatives. She has been working hard to find the parents and relatives of children in her orphanage so they can claim their inheritance. It has emerged that some relatives are rich; a grandmother recently drove into the centre to rescue her grandchild. The child had apparently been dumped at the home by relatives to prevent her from claiming her inheritance.
The centre, which is run by a nine-member board of directors, is appealing to well wishers to contribute to or donate land to put up a home for the children.