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April 30, 2015

East African real estate project to fund mission work

Written by  Chris Fretz
George Nyaundi, a church planter from the Kenya Mennonite Church, reads on the grounds of the Amani Gardens Inn in Nairobi, Kenya. George Nyaundi, a church planter from the Kenya Mennonite Church, reads on the grounds of the Amani Gardens Inn in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by Travis Tice.

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Mennonite Board in Eastern Africa Registered Trustees are launching a real estate development project, SkyView Gardens, on the property of Amani Gardens Inn (formerly the Mennonite Guest House) in Nairobi, Kenya.

The development entails construction of two ten-story buildings with 32 condominiums each on about a third of the three and one-half acre compound. Groundbreaking is anticipated in mid-2015. Pam Golding Properties has begun marketing the condominiums and has secured initial sales agreements for 10 of the 64 units.

“While this is new for Mennonite Board in Eastern Africa (MBEA), many churches and mission organizations are taking similar initiatives; creating a legal investment arm for their organizations,” said Philip Okeyo, chair of MBEA. “The Mennonite churches in East Africa are pleased with this initiative because funds from sales of the units will be brought back into MBEA to promote evangelism and mission work in the region.”

Currently there are six different Anabaptist groups in East Africa, numbering around a half million members. They are growing and many of them are now sending their own missionaries cross culturally.

“One of Eastern Mennonite Missions’ (EMM’s) priorities is mobilizing partners for mission,” said Aram DiGennaro, EMM’s regional representative in East Africa. “We are very excited about how SkyView Gardens will generate funds for developing missional church leadership, build awareness and passion for mission, and enable churches to be planted among new language and people groups. Funds from SkyView will further catalyze East African churches to extend the work they are already doing to share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

DiGennaro has been working with EMM partners in East Africa to determine how EMM can best partner with their ministries. These conversations coincide with a renewed focus on missions and discipleship among the churches.

“Recently, God has been blessing EMM and MBEA with wonderful grace to open new chapters — a new vision; renewed, positive relationships with churches; breakthroughs with key leaders; churches being planted; a rapidly growing team,” said DiGennaro. “God wants to do new things, and EMM and MBEA are just beginning to crack open some of these new opportunities.”

Over the past two decades real estate values have increased dramatically in Nairobi. At the same time, funding for missions in East Africa has been decreasing, limiting MBEA’s ability to invest in expanding missional opportunities and relationships.

In an effort to better utilize the land, MBEA used proceeds from recent guest house operations to build a new building with eight guest rooms in 2009, expand the dining room, and increase the capacity of the guest house to 22 guest rooms.

“After much thought and varied interactions, I believe that the recommendation to further develop the property is a right course of action,” said EMM President Nelson Okanya. “Yes, it includes risk, but taking risks is in line with what missions has always required. We move into this new era with a deep sense of call and vision for the ministry EMM shares with MBEA.”

The Mennonite Guest House originated in the mid 1960s when EMM established a headquarters in Nairobi to increase missionary presence among the growing churches in the region and to support EMM missionaries and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) service workers on the field in Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.

In 2014, the name of the guest house was changed to Amani Gardens Inn. DiGennaro explained that the word amani means peace in Kiswahili. The new name builds on the reputation of the guest house as a peaceful refuge in the middle of bustling Nairobi and connects to the fact that it is owned and operated by Mennonites, who strive to be peacemakers in East Africa.