In the late 1800’s a family moved to the Kisumu. One of the children, James, became a missionary to the Congo but he returned to Kisumu to marry. James donated land for the first AIC church in Kisumu. One of his grandsons is Pastor Martin Chamah.
In 1997 Pastor Chamah and his wife Edith found themselves taking in children due to family crises when parents were dying of AIDS or killed in fighting. Shortly after, retiring missionaries with African Inland Mission, Sieg and Ursula Grafe, appealed to their supporters to continue supporting this couple as they worked with the orphaned. This was the beginning of Bethel Children’s Home.
In 2007 several members of the Board travelled to Kenya to help repair and paint the orphanage. In 2012 Africa Inland Mission asked that the work of the orphanage become independent from them. In June 2013 charitable status was granted and the name was changed to Bethel Rays Of Hope Ministries to better reflect the future direction of the ministry. The name of Bethel Children’s Home is still used for the orphanage. A Trust has been established and Edith Chamah is the Director of the ministry with a new home built on the donated property in early 2014.
And here we are….. about to launch on a very new quest… and yet the work has already been ongoing for a great many years. We believe that this has always been God’s plan and we are just instruments carrying out his design.
Detailed History (read more)
It was in the late 1880’s that a family moved from Nyatach to the Kisumu area so that they could fish at Lake Victoria. Land was purchased and a strong fishing business was established. There were several children, but one, James, felt the call to be a missionary to the people of Congo. However, in 1906, he had to return to Kenya to seek a wife as he could not marry a Congolese. When he returned back to Kisumu, his eldest brother, an unbeliever, told him that he was not to return to the Congo but to seek a wife, stay and spread the Word of God there in Kisumu.
In typical African culture, he obeyed his eldest brother. He settled on a piece of the land belonging to his father and raised his three sons. However, he thought that he must build a church. So not too far from the house, he built a small thatched house where he could walk every morning and evening to pray. For a job, he was involved in helping a missionary translate the Lou language into the first Lou Bible and he was also the office messenger, on horseback, to the various missionary stations – Ahero, Nyahara and Nytatch.
James decided to give the land, where the little church stood, to become the first AIC (African Inland Church) in Kisumu which continues to this day. However, when a neighbour saw him giving a portion of land to the church, he challenged James because he had 3 sons and he was giving away a piece of land; “Where would they have a place to stay and get their food?” James replied that, “the Lord to whom I am giving this portion of land will give me land for these children.” The neighbours were laughing at him but the Lord provided: the oldest son was blessed and he bought many pieces of land and settled on his own property; the 2nd son (Pastor Chamah’s father) was blessed and he bought his own property; the youngest son worked for Kenya Railway as an engineer and he too was very blessed.
Fast forward to 1997 where Sieg and Ursula had to leave their long standing ministry in the Congo because of the civil war and Africa Inland Mission placed them in the city of Kisumu to finish their term of missionary service. During the years of 1997-2001 they worked alongside Kenyan pastors, one being Martin Chamah, James’ grandson. It was towards the end of this period that the last of Chamah brothers and their wives died from AIDS leaving three children behind. As the last surviving brother, Pastor Chamah had to take charge of the children. He intended to let the two oldest stay in his home while he put the youngest into an orphanage. When Sieg visited the youngest in the orphanage (she was about 6 years old), she appeared to be very distraught and he felt she should be with her siblings at Pastor Chamah’s home. To make this easier on the meagre salary of an African pastor, Sieg promised to continue paying school fees and a living allowance from Canada. AIM agreed and as Sieg and Ursula left the field for retirement, many of their supporters in Canada continued to donate for the needs of these orphans. It was named “Bethel Children’s Home” after their home church Bethel Baptist Church in Winnipeg.
Pastor Chamah and the “family” moved into the home previously occupied by missionaries of AIM. The church council of Africa Inland Church, who owned the property, agreed that the children stay on this compound. During the years that followed, the Lord led many more children to the Chamahs and they welcomed each into their family unit.
In 2007 a group of people who visited did necessary repairs to the orphanage. Some of this group have since become close friends and now form part of the Board of this orphanage. The local bishop decided that he wanted to have the home as his office and started proceedings to remove the Chamah family from the residence, much against the local AIC church council wishes. In July 2012, the family was relocated to a temporary location in the country until a new facility could be found.
Pastor Chamah approached the Board and offered a donation of land to the orphanage. There were two different parcels of land and we chose the one that was in the city of Kisumu. Later we found out that this was the land that had belonged to his grandfather, James. Pastor Chamah is of the exact same opinion as his grandfather; as God had provided for James’ three sons so also would God do the same for his (Martin’s) three sons. So now, Bethel Rays of Hope Ministries has one acre of land.
As in the days of Moses, Joshua and the Judges, God said that He had already gone into the battle ahead and prepared the way. All the people had to do was to follow His leading and direction and to be obedient to His commands. We can see that God is, indeed, leading and directing this work. Something that a young man decided, over a hundred years ago to be a witness to the community has now been passed on in the family to continue that ministry. We want to become, in the future, God willing, more than just an orphanage and fulfil the vision that Pastor Chamah has shared with us. Now it is our responsibility to listen and follow our Commander and Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ, and walk in faith and the knowledge that He has, indeed, prepared the way before us. Will you join us on this journey? We would love to have you.