You shall be my witnesses

Being a witness of Christ as a university student is a tall order. The challenge is even bigger when one is young. The natural thing is to blend in with the rest for fear of being labeled by one’s peers.  However, despite the demands of studies, labeling, loneliness and adaptation to campus life, Effie managed to safeguard her Christian faith. After a lot of struggle, she not only kept her faith but also proclaimed it.  She narrated her inspiring story as an intern at New People.

By Effie Auma

Intern – New People

[Student at Maseno University Main Campus, Kisumu-Kenya]

I was born on Tuesday, 14th December 1999 in the Eastlands part of Nairobi, the Capital city of Kenya. I am the second child, and second daughter to my parents. Later during the years, they would be blessed with three more children, all boys. My father is a business man, and a firm but gentle disciplinarian. Growing up, he was the one who instilled the importance of education and upheld morality among all his children.

Although I would not say that my father is a harsh man, my mother is gentler than him hence being the disciplinarian of the house, it was only natural that we all almost gravitated more towards her. She is also the person that introduced my siblings and I to the church and the way of Christ. My mother was raised in a catholic family and wanted to do the same with her own children. My very earliest memories of the church were my excitement for the snacks- usually crisps, mabuyu and on very good days, ice cream- that she would get us after the mass. For this reason, my younger self was always excited about Sundays.

Christian initiation

My older sister, in whose footsteps I had always desired to follow, had been baptized when I was younger. I had started my catechism at Holy Trinity Kariobangi North in Nairobi when I was in class four, but stopped when I relocated for my studies. I decided to start again in high school.

I went to different primary schools and on completion, joined Our Lady of Fatima Secondary School. It is a day mixed secondary school built by the Catholic church [Comboni Missionaries] in 1988 and located in Kariobangi North and Korogocho slums in Nairobi. It is at this place that I was baptized and received my first Holy Communion when I was In Form Three.

In 2019 after completing high school, I joined Maseno University, the main campus which is located in Kisumu County, some good distance away from my home. I enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature (with Information Technology). Prior to my relocation for higher education, I had never stayed far from what I believed to be home, or be without the influence of someone I considered family or a guardian.

I was thrilled to get out, for the freedom often talked about of course, but I was also terrified. The teachings and beliefs that I had learnt while growing up were about to be tested in that new environment and I was not sure if I was strong enough or ready to overcome whatever would be thrown my way.

Faith tested

On campus I met different people, who were raised differently than I did. They had different beliefs from me. I remember when I was in my first year, a few months in and I found myself feeling extremely lonely. I was used to sharing my faith, going to church with friends who I had grown up with and family, reading the bible as a small community and just practicing faith communally. During my first few months in campus, this was not the case.

“You have to actively seek a community.” My sister told me this one time when I called her. It was at a time when I was going to church largely because it was something that I had been doing since I was young. More of a routine that I was used to. I decided to start staying behind after mass. The first Sunday I did that, I felt like an outcast. The few people that had remained after mass that day already had such an established group that I couldn’t help but feel awkward. I was anxious, and for someone who finds it difficult to make friends easily, it was nerve-wracking. But I did not let that deter me. I was determined to find a place where I felt like I belonged.

The next Sunday I remember making a friend. Brian Obrien. He was a first year like myself, an active member of Young Christian Students (YCS) Maseno university and was learning catechism. He introduced me to some of his friends, who later became my own friends. I had finally found a small community of my own at St Anne Chaplaincy Maseno University. I felt like I belonged. But belonging only wasn’t really enough.

Witnessing Christ

As a young Christian person in university, being active in church ‘work’ comes with its own challenges. Being a witness to Christ Jesus, I had and still have to live in the ways of Christ. I have to present Christ in not only my words but also my actions. These sometimes have led to me being labeled, being given names by my peers. Evangelization at school involved movements almost every other weekend. There were outreach programs and community service. I had to learn, very quickly, to manage my time better if I did not want to have school work to pile on me.

I consider my family to be such strong and steadfast pillars of my life, especially when it comes to my faith and spiritual being. My mom and sister are always present in times of any tribulation. During the moments that I felt like my life was being consumed by everything, it was they who urged me to pray about it. To speak to God.

I am almost completing my university life, I still sometimes get overwhelmed with everything, it still feels God’s hand is leading me. Its been four years of a discovery journey for me. While being a witness, and presenting Christ Jesus through both words and my deeds, I found pieces of myself that I didn’t even know were missing in the first place.

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