Kenyan Chaplain Works to Connect Communities

Source: United Methodist News

Unlike many of his colleagues graduating with him from Bethany Christian College in Mathare, Kenya, in 1994, Rev. Eliud Kahanya Karanja felt compelled to not just want an “ordinary” career, but something that would allow him to serve God in a tangible way.

Not feeling called to the traditional pastoral ministry, Karanja embarked on a path that would lead him to found a United Methodist chaplaincy presence within the police department at his region’s headquarters. Later when transferred to the Kenya Airport Police Unit in Embakasi, Karanja organized a chapel worship service for visitors and volunteered at the local school where airport staff’s children attend.

Reflecting on his experiences after more than twenty-eight years of active ministry, he said, “With a keen attention to police and community culture. I’ve been the balancer, providing support for police officers and civilians in need.”

Reflecting on his journey, Karanja said chaplaincy opened unique opportunities to minister to a wide range of people, many of whom might not walk through the doors of a church. 

Offering prayers while visiting with sick or injured members of the police department at their home or in the hospital has been part of Karanja’s role as a chaplain. He highlighted the importance of offering comfort, counsel and referrals to those in need. 

By ministering to both civilians and police officers, Karanja hoped his presence with the department would help create positive views of law enforcement in communities where police units frequented. Because of the lack of trust by officers and communities due to their history of violence and abuse of power, community members are often reluctant to engage law enforcement for assistance even when they are victims of a crime.

Arguing that spiritual support is vital to combating stress, Karanja strived to change the culture in positive ways that allowed his fellow officers to better interact with those they are sworn to protect.

In 2000, Karanja organized his state’s first chaplaincy unit. Under his direction chaplains were placed at the general headquarters and stationed at the airport chapel at the Kenya Airport Police Unit.

During his tenure with the police, Karanja trained 20 police officers to help in counseling work. Upon retiring he said, “I retired at the age of 60, having walked faithfully with God and diligently served the police and the church.” 

In his last year of chaplaincy he founded the Kenya Airport Police Unit Chapel Academy, a Christian-Muslim school.

Source: United Methodist News