The First Church and Christians In Pokomo Land

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First Missionary in Tana River - Methodist Church

Before coming of modern civilization, the Pokomos used to believe there is a supreme being somewhere in the skies. They believed in sacrificing to please their supreme being that’s why they used to give certain amount of their harvest to this supreme being.

Apart from believing that there is someone watching over them, the Pokomos also practiced cult traditions such as the kijo and the wagangana. These two practices saw them thrive in discipline and lifestyle. Although it was part of Pokomo culture, these periods were considered as dark days until in 1887 when the first missionary set foot in Pokomo lands.

Ferdinand Wurtz together with his wife landed in Ngao village. Ngao was considered a soft landing spot because the villagers were considered more welcoming and peaceful compared to the other Pokomo villages. Also, the villagers were curious of these white forks and were willing to learn from them. Other villages such as Golbanti and Wema were a bit reluctant to leave their long practices and listen to strangers. Then more missionaries came to Ngao and started building up there station.

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News reached the Somalis who already had unfinished business with the Ngao villagers. They heard of the intruders and wanted to teach them a lesson. The Somali came and destroyed and burned town the house of Wurtz. This caused panic among the missionaries and they wanted to move their headquarters to either Kisichi or Silowa. When the villagers heard the missionary planning to move to another location, they totally refused and they promised they would beef up security against any hostile intruders. They used all their traditional technology to secure the village from any stranger. This did not help much because in 1890, the missionaries were transferred to Lamu after attacks erupted in Witu.

Although the missionary left, there was a great milestone especially in education sector as Wurtz together with Abadula had published the first Pokomo Dictionary and a Pokomo Book called CHIKWE. This happened in 1890, the same year the missionary left to Lamu.

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After the war had calmed down, in 1891, the missionaries decided to returned back to Ngao. Ngao was reffered as The New Ngao. This marked the transition from dark age to golden age. The ‘New’ Ngao resolution was to leave aside all sinful practices such as believing in sorcery, using dark magic to secure their village among other unmentioned practices. The missionary was led by Rev. Sturberg who had the following strategies.

  • The Methodists to preach on Oromo villages
  • Neukirchen to spread gospel in Pokomo villages.

Due to the welcoming nature of Ngao people, In 1893, the first church was build in Ngao village. The project was closely monitored by missionaries including; Ferdinand, Wurtz, Webber, Kraft, Bocking, including others.

The missionary then continued to teach Christianity to the locals. One had to undergo thorough learning and tests before they can be fit to be baptized. The preaching continued until 1894 when the first pokomos were ready to embrace Christianity. They included:

  1. Kipira
  2. Chadhoro Tutu
  3. Kirage
  4. Lulutya Kapanga
  5. Subo Bonaya
  6. Gudina Kanana
  7. Zamani
  8. Abadula
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Zamani helped Wurtz to translate the New Gospel, songs and Old Testament to native Pokomo language.

With now support of locals to spread Christianity, a motorboat nicknamed NAGHEA landed first in 1895 at Ngao village. It was a famous boat and one of its kind. The boat was used to spread the gospel into the interior.

Later, more Pokomos were baptized and the old tradition was alienated.

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