Gladys K. Mwiti, M.A., a counseling psychologist, is the Founder and Execute have Director of Oasis Counseling and Training Institute in Nairobi, Kenya. In addition to her work at Oasis, Gladys is the Chairman of the Christian Counselors Association of Kenya. Her husband, Gershon, is the national team leader of African Enterprise, an indigenous African counseling ministry. Gladys and Gershon have three daughters and one son. At the 1997 AACC World Conference in November, I spent some time with Gladys, talking about her pioneer work in Kenya.
Tell me about yourself, your background, and how you encountered God.
I was born in Meru District in Kenya, which is near the snow-capped, northern slopes of Mt. Kenya. Its quite a cold area indeed. I grew up in a Christian home. My mother loves the Lord. She has always been a woman of prayer, and Id love to be like her. She used to take me to church and to huge conventions.
In Africa, we have the huge, evangelistic meetings, people sitting on the green grass under the sun. That’s the kind of setting where I receive the Lord as my Savior. We were at a 3,000-strong convention and the gospel was preached from John 3:16. I remember that the preacher said, It is not so much the sin you have committed in your life; it’s that the Lord loves you so, so much, and what he is asking you is, Could you love me a little bit in return? As a seven year old, I did not see my sin as such a bad thing. I knew I was guilty of licking the cream off the top of the milk when my mom was not looking or taking and eating bread from the cupboard. What I really saw in myself that day was a heart that was desired and longed to know the love of God.
I probably should mention that my father used to be a Christian. He brought my mother to the Lord before they got married. She had never been to church, so when they met, my father took her to church, and she accepted the Lord as her Savior in the East African Revival of the late 1940’s – 1950’s that transformed most of the church is in Kenya to evangelical church is. Mom got to know the Lord in that revival, but then Dad backslid. He left Christianity he got richer, he became a businessman, a farmer, and its as if he did not need much from the Lord. He even married a second wife, and there was a lot of tension and stress at home. Sometimes as a child I wished there was more peace in my home. Dad would drink alcohol, come home sometimes, and rough up my mother. I longed for fatherly love, a father I could trust. There was so much insecurity with my dad, that when I heard the preacher talking about a God who loved me, I longed for that security.
I knew that if this God was the God of my mother, I could rely on him as a father. When the altar call was made that day, I literally ran to the front, joining hundreds of other people. Now, it’s not unusual to dismiss or take lightly the fervent commitment of children at the revivals. Some people think that young children cannot make a decision for the Lord. But when I went to the front among the crowd of adults that day, an old man around 70 years old he was wearing a huge coat, and he had such big, soft hand same to me, bent on his knee, and just gathered me to himself, hugging me. I remember disappearing into his coat, and it was so sweet and comfortable, I did not want to leave there. I still remember the smell of his coat today. He just hugged me to himself, and that symbolized acceptance of me, a child, in the church of Christ. It also represented security and a sense of belonging. I was one of the brethren.
From then on, the church took me seriously, because the next Sunday, they put me up on a table and asked me to share my testimony of what the Lord had done! I spoke out, and I am told today that some people were challenged and they cried as a result of my testimony. From that time, I have not stopped talking about the Lord. I have talked to thousands of young people in schools, women ministries, and toronto couples ministries. After I married my husband, Gershon, who is an evangelist, we went on preaching together. I went to college, got my education, and taught physics and chemistry in school for about 14 years before the Lord called me to the ministry of counseling. How have you seen the field of counseling center and change the part of the world where you work? Some of us are literally pioneers in the field of counseling in the countries. When I began the Oasis Counseling Center in 1990, I knew very few people who were in full-time Christian counseling in Kenya. So I have actually been a part of the ministry of premiering professional Christian counseling. There’s very little lay counseling, so most of my time is spent in equipping the church to be a counseling community, rather than waiting for people to crumble and then coming to Oasis.
The changes that I have seen are changes that have come through some of us in the field. The counseling ministry in Kenya is professional, Christian, and boldly prevent have in nature. Many people have opened the door to us since my husband and I have worked with the church for a long time. We have been able to introduce programs like couples seminars along with our preaching and evangelism.
The credibility of our lifestyle encouraged people to trust us. We found doors swinging open from bishops to lay people, and I think this is what has helped counseling to progress through Africa. Yes, it’s true. The reason I decided to change professions was because of the students who kept bringing their problems to me. I discovered that the kids had so many problems that I was not able to help them adequately. What actually drove me into counseling was the following story. I was a deputy principal in a girl’s high school. One morning I was just about to do assembly for the Morning Prayer when a girl came running into school crying. I could see she was really stressed. Mrs. Mwiti, I need to talk to you right now. Susan, I cannot talk to you now, were just about to do assembly. But I have got to talk to you! She said. OK, I said. Go to my office, and I will talk to you as soon as I am through with assembly. When I finished assembly and went into my office, she was still crying. Now this girl was about 15 years old, and I had led her to the Lord the year before, so I knew she was a Christian. I said to her, Susan, what’s up? And she began to tell me this story: Since I got saved, I have been able to handle the stress in my family.
There has been a lot of stress in my family for a long, long time. Dad drinks heavily, comes home drunk, and then starts fighting with my mother. We live in a marionette, and often, I have to climb up the stairs when Dad comes home. I have to put my ear to the keyhole, because I know anytime he will start beating Mom up and I have got to jump in to separate the two. I am the firstborn and I have got three other siblings, younger than me, and the baby is about two years old. This week, the tension has been very high at home. Last night, Dad came in again at 3:00 A.M., and I stayed up to make sure he was fast asleep before something erupted. But last night they did not fight. This morning I came downstairs, dressed for school, and my little brother who never goes anywhere this early in the morning, was also dressed up.