This article from Michgan’s MLive.com profiles the courageous work of Rev. John Makokha and his wife Anne Baraza at Other Sheep Afrika-Kenya, an independent offshoot of Other Sheep, the international ministry that advocates for GLBT Christians in the developing world. The former United Methodist minister currently serves at Riruta Hope Community Church, where his wife is a leader in the Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme.
Rev. Makokha recently completed a multi-state fundraising tour for Children of Africa Hope Mission, a charity that cares for AIDS orphans and homeless children in the slums of Nairobi. I had the pleasure of meeting him last fall at Rehoboth Temple Christ Conscious Church, a gay-affirming Pentecostal church in Harlem.
From the MLive article:
The Rev. John Makokha explains with obvious pride in his voice that his United Methodist church that’s nestled in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, is a house of worship that embraces open hearts, open minds and open doors.
That’s a watchword widely supported in Methodist circles in the U.S.
But the catchphrase comes with a price for Makokha who, along with his wife, Anne Baraza, have dedicated their ministry to reaching out to gay and lesbian people in the East African nation where people can still be imprisoned or stoned to death for being homosexual.
For that reason, and several others, pastoring the church and his Children of Hope school has made it a tough row to hoe for him, Makokha said last Sunday at an adult education forum held at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Grand Rapids.
Homophobia is the culturally accepted norm in Kenya, but it’s a standard tinged with irony, Makokha said. Gay political and church leaders stay lodged deep in the closet but are famous for publicly proclaiming gays, lesbians and bisexual people should be put to death.
And Makokha’s bishop has cut off funding to his church and his school for neighborhood children, many of them AIDS orphans.
“They say we are promoting sin,” said Makokha, 43, senior pastor of Riruta United Methodist Church, who is on a fundraising/public awareness campaign in the U.S. through June 15.
But Makokha, who also is director of the gay and lesbian advocacy ministry, Other Sheep Africa, says that mentality neuters the gospel.
“Jesus came for us sinners, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, white, black, green, or whatever,” he said, a grin spreading across his face.
“In my church, we work for inclusive compassion. When Jesus came to this world, he came for all of us.”
Other Sheep Africa helps women whose husbands died of AIDS by securing micro loans so they can operate their own businesses making handmade necklaces and bracelets. It also teaches classes on human sexuality and human rights.