History of Friends church (Quakers) in Africa
The Missions of the Friends Church (Quaker movement) in Africa date back to 1902 when the first North American missionaries, Arthurs Childson, who came from LaGrand, Iowa; Edgar Hole, and Willis Hotchkiss set foot on the African soil.
They first settled at a cool, quiet and wooded 1,010 acre piece of wooded land at a place known as Kaimosi.
They were followed by other missionaries, Emory and Deborah Reece from Vermillion, Illinois, U.S.A (1904), after spending several years in South Africa trying to establish Friends church missions in the region (1889-1903).
Emory and Deborah made very little achievement due to war that was going on in the region. They found relieve when they arrived in Kenya and embarked on transforming oral literature into written language.
They helped translate English Bible and English hymns into local Luhya languages and dialects.
Less than a decade later, a host of other missionaries followed who included Jefferson Ford (1913) from Westfield Indiana.
You can also read, Friends church, ‘Quakers’ how “Quakers” term emanated.
All these Quaker missionaries were trained in Cleveland Bible Institute (now Malone University), which was started and led by John Walter and Emma Brown Malone.
When Arthur Chilson and Edgar Hole were cleared to go on a mission to Kenya in 1902, Emma Brown Malone was chair of Africa Industrial Mission under what was known by then as Five Years’ Meeting, which transformed into the current Friends United Meeting (FUM).
Following Chilson, Hole, Reece, and Ford was an influx of North American missionaries to East Africa.
Numerous Missionary projects were set up which include Kaimosi Girls High School; Kaimosi Boys High School; Kaimosi and Lugulu Friends Hospitals; Friends Bible Institute (now Friends Theological College where Dr. Robert J. Wafula is Principal); Kaimosi Industrial & Agricultural Department; Kaimosi Teachers training college; Friends College of Science and Technology; and now there is Kaimosi Friends University College.
Other missionary centers were set up outside Kaimosi Mission Station.
These included Lirhanda, Malava, Vihiga, Lugari and Lugulu Friends Mission Station, and later, Nairobi, Bware in Kisii. The Lugulu Friends Mission station was started by Jefferson Ford who established a hospital and numerous elementary and high schools in the region.
As a mutual concern of both, African and North American Friends for the development of indigenous leadership, in 1942 Jefferson Ford launched a pastoral institute known as Friends Bible Institute (now Friends Theological College, FTC).
It functioned in mud-and-thatch-huts at the Lugulu Mission Station. It lapsed for a time until 1948 owing to a shortage of missionary personnel.
It was reopened and moved to Kaimosi in 1950 to be headed by Leonard and Edith Wines. It operated in a mule shed until a permanent building was constructed in 1954 under the leadership of Herbert and Beatrice Kimball as principals.
In the late 1940s and mid. 1950s, other mission centers were set up outside of Western region of Kenya.
These included Friends International Center and Ofafa Friends Community Center (by British Friends in 1956) in Nairobi.
The two centers were established for purposes of providing service to the less fortunate families that lived in the suburbs of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi.
And other centers were established in the arid and semi-arid areas such as Turkana and Samburu. Coming close to 1960s and 70s, the Quaker missions were extended to neighboring countries, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.
And now plans are underway by the Friends United Meeting-Africa Ministries to establish Quaker missionary centers in the deep southern, Central and Northern regions of Africa.
Evangelism and outreach is happening in places such as Malawi, Mozambique, the Congo, and the Southern Sudan.
Kenya is the largest constituency of Quakers in the world.
There are over 750,000 Quakers with Over 2,000 congregations, over 1, 500 Quakers primary and high schools, and numerous colleges; two Friends hospitals and hundreds of clinics and dispensaries.
So far there are 18 Yearly Meetings.