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Moments with missionaries: Dan Laitinen in Kenya

Church begins in the home

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Joseph is a young man living in Nairobi, Kenya. His daily routine includes milking a cow and goats as well as tending a garden on an estate. He invited me and the local pastor from Nairobi into his home: a one-window, concrete-walled room no bigger than a box truck. Sitting knee to knee, he offered us tea and told us his story. He is the eighth of eight children, raised by his oldest sister. His parents passed away before he knew them. As a child, he learned how to work and paid for his own schooling through grade 12.

“Did you go to church as a child?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “We did not go to church. A friend invited me to the Mormon Church. I went for a while. But they taught from books that were not the Bible. Another friend invited me to a Seventh-Day Adventist church, but they did not teach much about Jesus.”

“Are you going to church now?” I asked.

“I am,” he replied, “with you and the teachers at TELL Network.”

Over a year ago Joseph stumbled across a Facebook ad for TELL, an online English-language Bible-based training platform developed by WELS Multi-Language Productions to bring the gospel to English-speakers around the world. He had to see what it was all about. After completing the three self-study courses, he began live group classes with a pastor, studying the Bible and the Lutheran catechism on Zoom. He formed friendships with students thousands of miles away. His best friend is from Trinidad. They make TELL T-shirts and share what they’re learning with others. For over a year Joseph grew in knowledge and confidence to share his faith in an online classroom.

That day we finally had a Bible study together in the flesh. We read, asked questions, and discussed. Joseph could identify that sin was the problem and God’s grace was the solution. He has learned how to read the Bible and express his faith to others. Throughout our visit, we encouraged Joseph in his studies, introduced him to the local church, and presented the next steps for him to gather in a Bible study group.

Missionary Dan Laitinen and boy
Missionary Dan Laitinen and Joseph

As our time came to an end, my pastor friend shared his own story with Joseph. He too was orphaned as a young child. Raised by his grandmother, he stumbled across a Lutheran church when he heard music from inside. He had to see what it was all about. There he found Jesus. Today he is pastoring and planting many churches in Kenya. He encouraged Joseph, “Continue learning with TELL. Follow their path and gather a Bible study group. I can tell you from my experience: It starts right here,” he said, pointing to the floor. “Church begins in the home.”

I feel I took away more from that visit than I contributed. God meets us with his Word in rooms no bigger than a box truck. Jesus calls, gathers, and grows his church within our communities: online and in-person. How humbling, amazing, and true: Church begins in the home.

Author: Dan Laitinen
Volume 110, Number 02
Issue: February 2023

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