Book: Troubled but not destroyed (The autobiography of Archbishop David Gitari)
Author: David Gitari
Publisher: Isaac Publishing
Year of publication: 2014
Number of pages: 327
Genre: Biography, autobiography
David Gitari was the leader of the Anglican Church in Kenya from 1997 to 2002. He was also at the centre of the movement to ensure that Kenya had a more open society universally referred to here as the “second liberation.” Gitari whose parents were Samuel Mukuba and Jessie Munuku the fifth of eleven kids, three of whom died in infancy, was born in 1937.
His father Mukuba had met missionaries with the Christian Missionaries Society while working in Mombasa and gotten a vision that he would spread the gospel in his home village of Ngiriambu. He worked tirelessly to ensure that his home village was evangelised inspiring one of his sons to join the ministry as an adult.
Gitari tells us about his journey in Class A (kindergarten equivalent) in Ngiriambu, founded by his father, through to Kabare primary school for intermediate classes 6 to 8. He landed at Kangaru High School in 1955 where he started evangalising fellow students and attending fellowships. In 1959 he eventually made it to Royal Technical College (now the University of Nairobi) where he graduated with a degree conferred by Chancellor of the university Julius Nyerere in 1964. Here he had studied Geography, English literature and math. As part of his education he spent a period in England before coming back and starting a role as the general secretary of the Bible Society of Kenya in 1971.
He stayed in this role at the Bible Society of Kenya selling and distributing bibles as he prepared an entry to full ministry. In July 1975, he was consecrated and enthroned Bishop of Mt Kenya East which was the largest diocese in Kenya by land mass at the time. Eventually the diocese was subdivided to Mt Kenya East and Kirinyaga as the faithful multiplied and he was appointed the bishop of the latter. He performed his role as the bishop of that diocese until he was elected as dean of the province (Kenya) in 1994 before being enthroned as archbishop of the Anglican Church in 1997. He did this job, the biggest in the biggest protestant faith in Kenya, for five years until he retired in 2002. From this period he was an active senior citizen taking part in the community. The book doesn’t mention this but he passed on in 2012.
The book is one from a religious man so you can expect to find a lot of references to the Holy Bible and you will find quite a bit of this. The archbishop ministers to many not just locally but around the world from the period when he was working with student fellowships in the continent and beyond.
The most interesting part of the book for this reviewer was the way that he went about his evangelizing. In the Archbishop’s opinion, the human being was a whole unit and not just a soul and so one had to minister to all of him. This is why while at Mt Kenya East they were very successful in the ministry as they set up not just churches but also schools and hospitals and other facilities that would be useful to people. With these the church grew fast.
His ministry was at the centre of the period of the country when there was a lot of political activity with a majority being when President Moi ruled. He suffered having strong convictions about how the country ought to have been run and had to deal continually with a bristling administration. The lowest point of this came when thugs raided his home and attempted to harm him in 1989 and the government failed to apprehend the assailants and charge them in court. Throughout the period he was bishop and arch bishop he battled bravely with Kanu youth wingers, the unofficial state gang, land grabbers, corrupt officials and many other ills bravely.
The book also gives his relationship with many of Kenya’s leading figures like the presidents Moi and Kibaki as well as the late Bishop Alexander Kipsang Mugo of Eldoret who was controversial to his death in an accident.
It is exceedingly well written and edited which makes sense as when one goes through the book one can see how important education is to the church leader. If I must say that there is a flaw, this book concentrates itself solely on the life of David Gitari the Archbishop and very little about David Gitari the man. Thus apart from the nuclear family he was born into and the one he founded little is mentioned of his family. Little is mentioned of the man not related with the ministry. Did he have any strong opinions on non religious matters? Did he prefer Fanta or Coca Cola? Did he support Gor Mahia or AFC Leopards? Did he prefer poetry or prose? As he warns in the introduction, the book is meant as reference material for future generations and thus he puts his job at the centre of the tale.
Would I recommend it? Highly. It is an illuminating view of a country that is changing and some of the most active players in our religion and politics for a large part of it. And no you don’t need to be Anglican to enjoy this one. It is a book for all of us to learn.