Pioneer mission worker Daphne Kabeberi is pretty unusual on the Edinburgh council estate of Niddrie. Not only does she have a passionate heart for the gospel, but she has yet to meet anyone else from Kenya since she arrived in Scotland at the start of August.
Daphne, 26, is the first person to join the ENGAGE programme, which seeks to bring workers from the global south to join church teams in the UK. She is now part of the staff team at Niddrie Community Church and primarily responsible for outreach to the growing international community in the local area, running English classes and building relationships with women. She also does some children’s work and helps out in the church café.
Daphne says, “I was aware Britain was ‘post-Christian’ and in need of the gospel. In Kenya, the gospel is not preached very well, if at all, and there is a lot of emphasis on the prosperity gospel. In Britain, there just doesn’t seem much interest in the gospel and that is sad to see.”
“Lots of things surprise me here – the price of a bus fare and how much food is thrown away. At home, there is always someone we can give leftover food to. We don’t throw anything away. I’m also shocked that I’m not allowed to hug the children in the groups – that is such a natural thing to do in Kenya and we do it all the time with the children in church.”
“When I arrived, I was eagerly waiting to be taken to see ‘the scheme’, expecting to find filthy, dilapidated streets and accommodation. What I discovered was that the beautiful, orderly neighbourhood where I live and work is actually ‘the scheme!’ By comparison with what I have seen in Kenya, this area does not seem very poor. But the poverty here isn’t so much on the outside as on the inside — sin and its effects are evidenced in things like difficult family situations, hostility to God, foul language and bad behaviour.”
Her journey from Emmanuel Baptist Church, Nairobi to an Edinburgh scheme (council estate) started in 2015, when Niddrie pastor Mez McConnell visited Kenya. The following year she met SIM’s UK Director Steve Smith in Kenya and then applied to join ENGAGE. The connection was cemented when one of the Niddrie staff team, Sharon Dickens, came to her church and spoke at a conference on women’s ministry.
A key part of the ENGAGE programme is finding the right UK church for an overseas worker to join, so it seemed clear Niddrie was where God wanted Daphne to be. She comes from a Christian family, and made a personal commitment to Christ in secondary school. Throughout university as an engineering student, she became more and more interested in mission. After graduating, she worked as a church intern and was well-discipled by the solid teaching at Emmanuel Baptist Church.
At the time, she had a vague notion that she might become a mission worker in Europe or Africa, but decided to apply for Engage at the prompting of her pastor. It was a big step for someone who had never left East Africa!
Daphne has left her mum, younger brothers, dad and boyfriend in Kenya and is grateful that the internet allows her to keep in close touch with them. She is also hugely grateful for the new family she has found in Niddrie, where she lives with pastor Mez, his wife and their two teenage daughters.
Daphne says, “It is very exciting to be working here and I am really enjoying it. The people have been so welcoming and friendly and I know I am with family — my church family, my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
“I’ve settled in well and I’m involved in a lot with the rest of the team. I’m starting to make some friendships with women outside church by going to community activities like exercise classes. I still feel I’m finding my feet but the other interns are a great help too and it’s wonderful to be part of a church which is reaching out with the word of God and teaching the Bible faithfully.”
Daphne is due to spend at least a year in Niddrie and after that, who knows…? She says, “I think my future will probably be in church ministry, maybe back in Kenya, but I will wait to see where God leads me. I trust in him and in his plans for me.”