What a privilege to be onsite for the launch of Hillsong’s first African church location outside of South Africa – Hillsong Kenya in Nairobi!  This was a dream come true after walking a two-year journey of launch readiness with Pastor Enock Ngone and his core leadership team.  Launch Sunday took place on March 24th and I arrived in Nairobi a couple days ahead to be a part of the local team’s final preparations leading up to the big day.

I was able to meet so many wonderful, committed volunteer members of Enock’s team as we checked in with the worship, creative tech, staging, welcome & hospitality and other teams who have all been a key part of making meeting as a “Connect” church successful over the past 5 years leading up to the launch as an official church Location.

Ps. Enock standing beside signboard in the Mall supplied as part of the Hall lease arrangement from the Sarit Convention/Expo centre.

One foundational element of any church is the venue where congregants gather, and the team recently negotiated a new hall lease in the Sarit Centre – a major, multi-story retail mall and convention/expo center in the Westlands district of the city.  Its an excellent location with plenty of secure parking, a myriad of retail shops and eateries, and of course all the elements that come with a convention/expo centre management company that produces major events and functions in the city.  The transition to the new facility was made easier being that Sarit is right next door to the Signature centre where the church had been meeting in a smaller leased hall for the past several years.  And the Westlands district is right beside one of the major transportation corridors in the city making accessibility easier for everyone as we grow.   The drawback of not having their own dedicated church building is having to “bump in” and “bump out” each Sunday (which usually starts at about 4 am and finishes at 3pm when they host two Sunday morning services).  This means having to store equipment offsite and with partner suppliers.   For the special launch Sunday, arrangements were made to lease a larger auditorium in the expo complex and the team was provided access to set-up from mid-day Saturday.  Below are a few pictures of how the hall was transformed ready for the church service next day, and teams setting up the welcome lounge as well as the worship team doing sound checks and a final rehearsal.  The team set up 400 chairs in faith for our biggest turnout yet (their highest attendance as a Connect was 160 leading up to launch)

Hall set-up and ready to welcome up to 400 people on launch Sunday

A key part of Hillsong culture – strong emphasis on a Welcome Lounge – set up just before congregants enter the main “sanctuary”

The The Worship Team musicians holding a sound check and final rehearsal Saturday afternoon

The atmosphere as I stepped into the large “Arabuko” meeting hall (see picture below) was vibrant and welcoming as I arrived on Sunday morning, well ahead of the 10:00am service time.

People continued to stream in and as the service got underway with worship and praise, the chairs became quickly filled and the auditorium was alive with the team singing many well-known Hillsong worship songs.  The worship team included a package of songs in Swahili which was very well received and helped give the service a unique Kenyan feel, as you watch the video below:

There were several congregants who shared their personal testimonies of what the journey has been like since starting as a Connect in 2019.  Then I had the opportunity to bring greetings and share some remarks from the stage.  It was such a privilege to represent the ACET, the Kenyan Board and bring greetings from many South African church friends who have invested in Kenya over the years.

And then the icing on the cake was being asked by the local Core Leadership to pray a special prayer of blessing over Pastor Enock and his wife June as they take on the mantle of leading this key church for Hillsong in the Eastern African region (photo below)

Enock closed out the service with a powerful message, some quick snippets captured in the video below:

As the worship team returned to the stage with their final set, many responded to the gospel message and then the crowd wouldn’t let the worship team go as they chanted “more!, more!, more!…  No one wanted to leave the atmosphere of God’s presence in the room!  When the service finally did close, I had more opportunities to meet further members of the church, visiting friends and family of the pastors and leadership.   When the final count came in, some 365 adults attended the service, not counting over 30 children in kids church – praise the Lord!

Launch Sunday was such a rich and unforgettable memory that will stay with me for years to come.

Leadership is always key, and we could not be blessed with a more dynamic and on-fire pastoral couple to lead the church forward.  Was so special to meet June in person for the first time!

Pastors Enock & June Ngone

Then on Monday, we spent a lovely, slow and peaceful afternoon together with Enock and June as we took a drive into the farmlands outside of Nairobi.  Our first stop was a large tea plantation, where we got to walk through the waist-high tea plants growing along the beautiful hillsides.


Then we headed to the Brakenhurst Retreat centre – a place where Enock and June often come to reflect, pray and just chill in the lush beauty of the Kenyan hill country.  It was a wonderful, pastoral time to both get to know Enock and June better andd to reflect on all God’s goodness and call on His continued faithfulness as they lead the church forward in Nairobi under God’s blessing.

Monday afternoon with Enock & June at Brahenhurst Retreat

No visit to a new country is complete without sampling some of the local delicacies.  I wasn’t disappointed when Enock encouraged me to try the “whole Tilapia” on the menu, which came plated as a whole fish!  I was encouraged to eat the flesh right off the bones with my fingers while dipping the meat in plenty of coconut sauce – delicious!

I rounded out my final two days in Nairobi meeting with Dami, our Treasurer, working together on getting on a deeper dive into our financial processes and banking set-up in the country.  We are so blessed to have Dami taking leadership as a volunteer in this capacity.  She is highly-capable and brings seasoned expertise in world development banking, business and economics into the role.

Damiola (Dami) Adebiyi – Treasurer

It was also an opportunity to hold a Hillsong Kenya board meeting while I was present and along with Alima Awori, our local Kenyan director we were able to move forward several items of business together with Lou Kruger joining us remotely from South Africa.  Having Alima on our board has been a godsend.  She’s already helped us navigate so many start-up challenges for the organization and I’m sure she’ll continue to play an invaluable role as we provide governance to this young church as it grows and becomes a healthy, sustainable church in the years to come.

Alima Awori – Board Director

I cannot wait to get back to Nairobi.  Hopefully soon and this time, with my dear wife Sonya alongside!