Kenyan native brings message of hope as new pastor of Centenary UMC

·3 min read

Aug. 5—The Methodist Church called the Rev. Eve Mugambi to Lebanon, and she brought a strong message of hope.

Magambi was born and raised in Kenya and became an ordained Methodist pastor before she was even married. She and her husband, George Mugambi, moved to the United States as adults so she could earn a PHd in pastoral care and counseling and in congregational care.

Eve was then faced with the choice of teaching at a seminary or providing pastoral care. "I chose ministry," she said. "I'm more fulfilled when preaching the Gospel of Christ and seeing the positive changes it brings to people's lives." So they stayed in the United States, and she served where she was called, most recently in Norton, Kansas, with George and their daughters, Marianne and Prudence.

George also has a degree in pastoral care and is a hospital chaplain.

The church recently called the Mugambis from Kansas to Centenary United Methodist Church in Lebanon, which is a long way from the congregation she once served in Kenya's second largest city, Mombasa, with a population of 600,000. Lebanon's population was estimated at a little more than 16,000 in 2020.

She replaced former pastor Peter Curts, who left the ministry to work as a counselor with The Cabin Counseling and Resource Center in Lebanon and Zionsville.

"One month before I came, I was wondering what God wanted me to speak to Centenary and to the Lebanon community," Mugambi said. "And as I prayed, he said to me, 'Tell the people that I love them. Tell people God loves you.'"

Attendance at Centenary is gaining on pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels but has not yet caught up. And at the same time, an increasing number of people are feeling hopeless, "because so much has happened," Mugambi said.

Church attendance is generally down across the nation, according to a recent study by Lifeway Research. Only a quarter of Christian adults say they attend church at least weekly, compared to a third before the pandemic.

Most still-missing churchgoers aren't skipping services intentionally, but because they got out of the habit during the pandemic and have not made a new commitment to return, according to a story published by Lifeway Research in June.

"And those who are at church can feel the absence of fellowship, and they worry about how far it will go and where the church is going," Mugambi said. "We need that fellowship that we used to have."

Those who do attend services come with hope and high expectations, Mugambi said, adding, "My major theme, really, is to speak to the hope of the people, because so much has happened that people tended to become hopeless. And I felt my major focus is to bring that hope back — the hope of Christ, the hope that God still loves us, that God still cares about us, and that we are still the children of God."

Mugambi tries to keep services at no longer than one hour, and everyone is welcome.

"We are encouraging people to come and explore with us what God has for us, the hope God is bringing to us," she said. "The church is the house of God ... of Jesus ... and it belongs to everyone who comes in."

Services are 10:30 a.m. Sundays in the church at 910 Fordice Road, Lebanon, and can be viewed live on Centenary UMC's Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/centenaryumc.