Pastor Ogallo, welcome to Reformation Zambia.Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family? When were you converted?

Thank you for welcoming me to Reformation Zambia. It is a great privilege for me as a Kenyan to share with you a little bit about my family and myself. I celebrated my 51st birthday (50 plus 1!) on 28th August 2005. This was special to me since it occurred when I was in your great country, at Lusaka Baptist Church! I am the third born in a family of 7 boys and 1 girl. My Christian mother sought to bring us up in the ways of the Lord but for many years I just lived a hypocritical life.

It was in 1971 when I joined Form One that the Lord opened my heart to receive the word of salvation for my soul. A visiting preacher spoke of the certainty of meeting God in judgement and I knew of my unpreparedness to stand before him with my sins not forgiven. That drove me to repent of my sins and put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. The result was peace and a growing desire to please God in my life. I began to have an interest to go to a Bible College. However, my dad did not consider it a thing of value, and so demanded that I continue with my Engineering course. Looking back, I know it was God’s good providence that hindered me as I was still immature and needed some exposure in the secular world.

I met my wife Helida in 1983 during her studies in Midwifery at Mater Hospital. She was converted in 1973. Her calm spirit and Christian demeanour were her great attractions to me. We got married in 1985 and have two children, Timothy (Tim) 14 and Elizabeth (Liz) 11. Tim has professed faith and it is our prayer that the Lord’s gracious work will be clearly evident in him.

How did you come to an appreciation of the doctrines of grace? Who are the men and women who had the greatest impact upon your life, especially in your formative days? 

In 1975 I joined Engineering Training under the Ministry of Labour and went for practical placement in Thika town about 45 kilometres from Nairobi. On my first Sunday in the town, I went searching for a place of worship and providentially entered into a church where Keith Underhill was preaching. He was preaching through the Gospel of Mark. The Lord granted me a unique hearing of his Word. The preaching captivated me. After the service I was invited to an afternoon Bible study through the book of Ephesians. My eyes were opened to see the grace of God in the gospel. The doctrines of Election and the Sovereignty of God gripped me. The truth that if I am saved, it is only because of God’s grace; but if I were to remain lost in sin, die and go to hell, it is only what I deserve; these truths affected me deeply as a sense of humility and a yearning for holiness grew. I never kicked against these gracious doctrines. They found me empty and thirsty and so I just drunk them in and I still do!

How did you come to work with our beloved brother Keith Underhill in the pastorate of Trinity Baptist Church in Nairobi?

When Keith Underhill’s time came to an abrupt end in Thika he went back to Aberystwyth, Wales. After sometime, a few of us who he had made contact with him wrote to his home church, Alfred Place Baptist Church requesting if he could return to Kenya so that we could start a Reformed Baptist Church. This was granted and in 1978, seven of us began Trinity Baptist Church with Keith as our Pastor. My desire for the ministry grew steadily. When I expressed this to Pastor Underhill, he gave me a series of sermon tapes by Pastor Al Martin entitled “Called to the Ministry.” These sermons greatly helped me to have a biblical view of the ministry.

In 1984, the church recognised my gifts and desire for the ministry and so set me apart as an elder alongside Keith. In 1986, I resigned from the Technical College and joined the church ministry fulltime and embarked on a theological course of studies conducted by Pastor Underhill. So Keith has been my Pastor, Tutor and fellow Elder. I have profited tremendously working with him over the years; I owe him so much.

What have been some of the greatest challenges you have faced in establishing solid biblical churches in Nairobi and around Kenya?

Challenges we have faced in seeking to establish solid biblical churches in Nairobi and around Kenya are numerous. Let me mention some of them:

  • There are those who turn out to have been of spurious faith. It is bad enough when it happens to the members but it is worse when those in leadership turn away from the Lord.
  • Many who come from unbiblical backgrounds struggle for so long to shed off the wrong teachings and to embrace biblical truths. In particular, the “health and wealth gospel” deludes so many for a long time.
  • Mobility within urban centres because of jobs or housing changes is another hindrance in seeking to establish solid biblical churches. Members are hindered from full participation in the church by having to work even on the Lord’s Day or having to travel long distances to church. In fact some have to walk for about 10 kilometres to the place of worship in Rendille.
  • Lack of men called to the ministry. Some feel the call but shy away because of the challenges associated with the ministry.
  • Inadequate support for men in the ministry. Pastors are struggling to make ends meet, as financial giving of the churches is scarce. This is not only true in the poor rural areas but, strangely, also in the towns.

Trinity Baptist Church runs a Bible College for pastors. How does that operate and would you say that it is achieving its intended goal?

Trinity Baptist Church Bible College for pastors is over twenty years old and has gone through many phases. Pastor Underhill has always had an interest to see men properly trained for the ministry. The inaugural cause began with three men in 1984, one of them being myself. It has grown steadily to an intake of a maximum of 10 men per year.

In its present set up, students are drawn from churches of Reformed persuasion. But we have increasingly enrolled men from other churches who are seeking to be under the Reformed faith. Such men get to know us through our literature ministry or having attended our Annual Reformed Pastors’ Conference in which a number of your own (Zambian) Reformed men have ministered. An individual applies through his own church and then is called for an interview. We often desire to know such individuals for about a year before they would be enrolled.

Every so often Keith reports about work among the Somali peoples and/or Rendilles. How did that start and what have been some of the peculiar challenges in that work?

Due to wars in our neighbouring countries in the past, Kenya has had to host refugees from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somali. However, the Rendille are an indigenous ethnic people group in Kenya from the semi-arid Northern part. The Rendille are pastoralists and so their life is mainly spent around their animals both day and night. Consequently, they make good night watchmen. Many have come to Nairobi seeking for “greener pastures” as night guards but jobs are few and far-between. Over the years, many Rendilles and refugees have come to our church basically looking for handouts. It has been our practice to befriend and witness to them and invite them to the teaching meetings of the church. As the years have gone by, we have seen the Lord save many of them and they have been added to the church membership. With time, we have visited the Rendilles in their rural homes and now a Reformed church has started in the town of Korr.

Peculiar challenges in this work include:

  • High levels of illiteracy among the Rendille; so every teaching and preaching must be interpreted into Rendille. There are very few Rendille men who can be trained for the ministry.
  • The Rendille are deeply entrenched in traditional idolatrous practices, which they find very hard to relinquish. Those who turn to Christ in genuine faith and forsake such traditions face constant opposition.
  • The work among the Somali people is very slow. Any individual Somali person would be basically a Muslim. It takes long for any Muslim to see, understand and believe the truth of the Bible unto salvation. The few who get converted are earmarked for unrelenting persecution and their own family members would most likely disown them.

You have been here in Zambia a few times for fellowship and ministry. What do you think we need to do to strengthen our fellowship and enjoy mutual benefits from one another across our borders?

I have been to Zambia twice. First was in August 1992 to attend the Reformed Family Conference held in Kitwe and the second one was August 2005. I had been invited by Lusaka Baptist Church to occupy their pulpit during the month of August. I was greatly privileged to come with my family. I sincerely enjoyed ministering both at Lusaka Baptist Church and Trinity Baptist Church in Livingstone, albeit very briefly. A number of my colleagues have also come and ministered among you.

Equally, it has been our great privilege to welcome to Kenya and listen to a number of your Reformed men preach and speak at our Annual Reformed Pastors’ Conferences. I think we need to keep the spirit and fan the flame of this exchange programme, if I can describe it so.

The other thing that I think can strengthen our fellowship and enable us enjoy mutual benefits is the use of literature. Your periodical Reformation Zambian is very biblical and forthright and touches on very practical and crucial issues. I have read with great profit the three copies I bought last year. We also produce a bimonthly bulletin, Grace & Truth. We need to encourage wider readership of such literature. This would provoke us to serious thinking and godliness within our own local context.

Last but not least, we need to pray for one another more earnestly. One way by which this could be made real is by maintaining communication channels. Regular Prayer Letters are a good means of doing this. Such letters should not just be pinned on our church notice boards but mention should be made of specific churches and their needs for prayer. This is what the Apostle Paul in Colossians chapter four commands the church to do.

From your experience, what are some of the most basic values that we must maintain as people of Reformed persuasion if we are to extend God’s kingdom in a God-glorifying way?

If we are to extend God’s kingdom in a God-glorifying way as people of Reformed persuasion:

  • We need to read and reread God’s Word for our own spiritual well-being. This will keep us from being mere professionals in our witnessing or preaching.
  • We need to preach in our teaching and teach in our preaching. The majority of our hearers don’t know the Scriptures. They need the knowledge of God’s Word for their salvation, as the Apostle Peter reminds his readers in his first letter chapter 1 verse 22 and following. But they also need the same Word for their sanctification (John 17:17 and Romans 12:1ff). Closely tied to this, we need to preach expositorily. Apart from other benefits that this approach has, it will force us to handle the whole counsel of God faithfully and it will spare us from unnecessary attacks by those who may think we only preached a given sermon to get at them.
  • Keep the flame of last year’s Reformation Conference theme ablaze. “Mission – the unfinished task” must remain our ever consuming task. I think I am right to say that the Reformed faith in Zambia has so far had a good inroad among the educated. Please do not forget or ignore the rural areas of your country, as Christ has his people everywhere! The reverse is the case in Kenya. Much of the Reformed work here so far is in the rural area. “Mission – the unfinished task” was Christ’s big business; it was Paul’s; it was William Carey’s. Brethren, it must be ours.

What final words would you like to say to our readers who are mainly, although not exclusively, from Reformed Baptist churches in Zambia?

In my first visit to Zambia in 1992, I was greatly impressed by the readership spirit I witnessed. Believers talked of the Reformed literature that had influenced and shaped their lives. During my visit last year, what stood out was a yearning for the Word. This was evident both in the churches I ministered in and the conferences I attended. May what you read and hear shape you for the Lord’s service now and prepare your souls for heaven.