You’ve already heard about Karura Youth Sports Association (KYSA) and the impact they’ve had reaching at-risk youth through soccer leagues and community service projects.  Now meet the man behind the ministry, Pastor Evans Makatia, who sat down with me after a busy month of community clean-ups and tournaments, to tell me his own story.

WND: First of all, what is your role here at Karura Community Chapel?

EM: My name is Evans Makatia.  I’m the pastor of the church in evangelism and missions.  It’s a big portfolio! There is evangelism and missions, there is the prayer ministry and the Swahili [weekend service] ministry.

WND: And since you are the director of KYSA, can you tell me a little bit about how KYSA was born?

EM: When I came to Karura, there was a church soccer team.  People used to meet as a pastime after services to play soccer.  Through that, people in the community started to come, young people, to play with us. We invited them to church, and that became the sports outreach ministry wing of the church.

At another point, one of the members of a Karura small group, who is the director of MYSA [a youth sports program in Mathare Valley slum], told us, “You guys, we can enlarge this.  Let’s not just think of soccer and bringing people to church, let us think of community development.”  And we agreed, with that small group and the board members, that we would take the MYSA model and bring it here, and put it in our context and add the character development bit to it.  And since then, KYSA has never been the same.

Young, at-risk, boys playing for KYSA's soccer team.

Young, at-risk, boys playing for KYSA's soccer team.

WND: Wow.  Now I’ve heard you say that it’s a miracle you are here at Karura, in this role.  Why do you say that?

EM: It’s because first and foremost, I have a past.  As I grew up, I never imagined I would be a pastor.  As I went through school, my focus was to join the army, because the people I had in my family were all soldiers.  And also, I was not born again.  In high school I answered several altar calls.  You know (laughs), they preach, you’re convicted, you answer, but no discipleship, no follow up, so you end up not really transformed in your lifestyle.

So after high school I did drugs.  I smoked marijuana for more than 10 years.  I was addicted.  I could not sleep without a roll of bhang.  Also I was a football player, and before I entered the field I used to smoke.  So I used to smoke cigarettes, I used to drink alcohol.  I was violent.  If you place your camera close you’ll find some scars… This one is actually a bottle of beer I was hit with (pointing to the bridge of his nose).  Nowadays I’m violent in the spirit.  The energy you see me put in ministry, then used to go to the things of the world (laughs).

And so that’s my past.  When my father died, there was no one who could help to connect me to the army, because in Kenya it is who you know.  Rarely do you just go by merit.  I had not gone to college, so I started working as a casual laborer on building projects, the people without any training.  But I was not born again, so because of my drunkenness, I lost that job.

And after that, in 1998, I made a prayer one night after reading T.L. Osborne’s book How to be Born Again.  Since then, I’ve never looked back.  By the grace of God, I’ve survived the ups and downs.  When I got saved, I went to Nairobi Lighthouse Church.  I really thank God for that church.  They are good in discipleship.  Retention of newborn believers: the best church around.

Now when I got saved, people would not believe it, because of my reputation.  There are people who said, “Now, you’ve lost your job, that’s why you’ve gotten saved.”  But I told my friends, “Listen, God helped me.  I want to be a model so that people will look at me and say, ‘yeah, there is God, there is salvation.’”

Through Lighthouse, I was [involved] in many small groups, and that birthed in me the passion for ministry.  It gave me a platform to learn.  I became a leader of other small group leaders.  For two years, I did a diploma in Biblical Studies.  My desire was to be a pastor.

WND: And how did you find Karura?

EM: Pastor Mike (the first Christian I met after I got saved) was in the process of planning a church plant of Karura.  So I teamed up with Pastor Mike, and for two years I served there.  And I prayed to tell God, “If you want me to serve in church full time, confirm it.”

Then one day, I picked up the church bulletin [at Karura], and I found they had advertised for interns.  I told God, “I’m going to apply for this.  If I’m called, then I’ll know you have called me.  If not, I’ll go look for a secular job out there.” And I fasted for 3 days.  After a few weeks, I was called.  So I came for the interview, and I passed the interview.

Four months into my internship, my supervisor, the pastor who was in charge of outreach resigned.  He wanted to concentrate and finish his master’s degree.  And so I found myself in ministry without the pastor, and I thank God through that, the elders were able to see my ability.  In my tenth month of internship, they chose to give me the job as their pastor in charge of outreach, evangelism, and prayer, and then to start the Swahili service.

And so that’s why, for me, it’s a miracle to be here.

Through the ministry of KYSA, these kids are given a chance to avoid the dreaded Mungiki.

Through the ministry of KYSA, these kids are given a chance to avoid the dreaded Mungiki.


WND: That’s an incredible story.  So how has your past affected or enhanced your ministry in KYSA?

EM: Being a former footballer, and knowing what happens on the football pitches, being able to connect with the footballers, knowing their way of thinking, and speaking their language, but now from the transformed point of view.  Understanding their challenges, and now being able to minister to their challenges.  That has helped me.

WND: Now to focus on the youth leagues.  KYSA chose Banana Hill as their target zone for beginning youth teams.  Why was Banana the place to start?

EM: We chose Banana because it seemed to be, in terms of challenges, a more difficult area because of the militia groups.  It’s considered one of the headquarters of Mungiki.  One of the strongholds within the entire country.

WND: And what’s Mungiki?

EM: Mungiki is a militia group that believes in traditional worship.  They recruit young men and women, they take blood oaths, and they basically extort money from people to survive, causing a lot of insecurity.  They kill those who are against them, and they kill people in bad ways.  They mutilate their bodies, take off their heads.  They are just causing havoc.

And Banana being the headquarters [of Mungiki], we decided, “Let’s do it.”  But it is a tough place, and as a church, we asked ourselves, “How can we respond to the Mungiki?” apart from praying for security, praying that they’ll be saved, how can we go and start to love them? And have access to the community?  And we said, “Yeah it’s a good place to begin.”

WND: What gets you excited about KYSA, where it’s at today?

These kids have a real reason to celebrate!

These kids have a real reason to celebrate!

EM: What gets me excited is the mobilization that has happened.  Getting young people to know KYSA, to be committed to KYSA leagues and clean-ups.  When we say, “We will have a clean-up,” they are there.  And getting also volunteers mobilized at the grassroots level.  It shows me the opportunity we have to transform a community.  I look at the under 16s, under 14s, under 12s, and I think, 10 years from today, these are people we’ve interacted with, prayed with, taught, we’ve modeled Christ to them…what kind of community we will have.  It’s big, it excites me.

WND: How many kids are involved with KYSA right now in Banana?

EM: Right now, in Banana we have more than a thousand kids, but there are new zones in Gathanga, in Girigiti, in Kiambu.  In total, we are more than 2000 kids.

WND: Can you sum up your dream for KYSA in the next five years?

EM: Hallelujah!  In five years, my dream is that KYSA leagues, like what is happening in Banana will be in all our [6] zones.  Every Saturday, and everyday during holidays, KYSA leagues are going on.  KYSA kids have taken up the shopping centers for clean-ups, planting flowers, planting trees, watering them.

When you hear of Banana, you don’t hear of Mungiki, you hear of KYSA.  You hear of a KYSA under-16 girls team that went to the US and won a tournament, went to Tanzania and won a tournament.  You hear of a player from Banana who is now playing for the national team.  You hear of life transforming stories.  KYSA is a door for transformation. There is no Mungiki, because all these kids are in KYSA.

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Next Steps
    • Visit the KYSA website to track the progress of the youth leagues in Banana Hill. Pray for the safety and healthy development of the players and the volunteer coaches.
    • Consider sponsoring a coaches workshop in the Banana Hill zone. Email info@karuracc.or.ke for more information.
    • Send Pastor Evans an encouraging email!
    Next Steps

About the Author: Jessica Shewan is a journalist with World Next Door. She graduated in 2009 from The University of Evansville with a bachelor's degree in History. She loves making new international friends and is passionate about seeing the global church pursue justice and peace!

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Comments

  1. Bee said... 

    Reply

    September 29th, 2009 at 3:47 pm  

    Wonderful one-on-one. I’m glad to see this format added to the website. Pastor Evans’ story is inspiring, as is his vision for KYSA. And it’s great to see the hope this ministry is bringing to kids who had no options outside of joining a gang.

  2. Bill Shewan said... 

    Reply

    October 4th, 2009 at 2:37 pm  

    Jess – Such a rich story of transformation. I love Pastor Evans vision. May God protect it and empower it.

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