Stories from the front lines: Roni Mugaki (Minneapolis/St Paul)

By Roni Mugaki

This week we interviewed three practitioners serving on the field as church planters. These are their stories.

In 2006, a Kenyan youth minister named Roni saw a poster encouraging people to register for the green card lottery for the United States. Each year millions of people try and fail to get one of these golden tickets to the land of promise and freedom—only fifty thousand succeed. Roni was one of those fortunate few.

As a youth minister in Kenya, Roni Mugaki had no formal theological training—something he desperately wanted. He had worked hard at ministry in his homeland but still felt God’s call to higher education and to ministry afar. His request? “God, please don’t send me somewhere cold!”

Of course, Roni was also an urban Kenyan, so there was a postscript to that request: “God, please send me to a city. I don’t want to be in a rural place.”

Roni is living proof that prayers work—and God laughs at man’s plans. After winning the immigration lottery, Roni, his wife Joyce, and their two sons (Imani, age 8, whose name means “Faith,” in Swahili and Wema, age 5, whose name means “Goodness”) moved to Chicago. He began attending Moody Bible College and doing street evangelism as he took his courses. Unlike most of the students who had a strong academic background with little ministry experience, Roni had lots of experience in evangelism and worked to bolster his education. He quickly learned one big difference between Kenya and the United States.

“In Kenya, the two big topics that are safe to talk about with neighbors and even strangers are religion and politics,” Roni mused. “Imagine my surprise to find out that the opposite is true in America!” But he quickly adapted and worked hard to engage people on the street with humor and grace.

He enjoyed the busy life of Chicago and but still hoped that God would answer his prayer to send him to a city somewhere much warmer like Dallas or Austin. “I’m not a rural person at all—I love the metropolitan cities! I need traffic and people moving around.” So after visiting a few places in Texas, that became a heart’s desire. “I hate cold weather more than anything,” he admitted. But following God’s call was always an overriding concern for Roni and Joyce. “I realized that if the Lord asked me to go to Alaska, I would have to go. So I took a mission trip to Minneapolis where it was colder than ever. And that’s where I am serving now!”

Roni works with the SBC church planting partner, Harvest Bible Chapel—a global church planting ministry with more than 112 churches worldwide that follow four foundational principles known as the Four Pillars:

  • Unapologetic preaching – proclaiming the authority of God’s Word without apology (2 Timothy 4:2)
  • Unashamed adoration – lifting high the name of Jesus through worship (John 4:24)
  • Unceasing prayer – believing firmly in the power of prayer (Eph. 6:18)
  • Unafraid witness – sharing the Good News of Jesus with boldness (Eph. 6:19-20)

After a year of preparation, prayer and hard work, on February 12, 2017, Roni and other partners will be officially launching the new church plant, Harvest Bible Chapel: Downtown Minneapolis, which is already ready with a worship leader, a building and equipment. Roni emphasized that there won’t be any flashy big projects or programs, but rather they will “preach the Word faithfully, glorify God and do the work of ministry in small groups or individually. The endgame is to make disciples.”

Roni did get part of what he wished for: an urban ministry environment. As for the bitterly cold weather of the Upper Midwest, “When God calls you to do something, being obedient pays off. Even as we decided not to go to Texas, where it is so much warmer and we had friends, God was already preparing the field in cold, cold Minnesota.”

Published March 21, 2017

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