1 June 2022
Kamwende Gatende never thought she would end up working in a parish.
With a deep love for both mission and evangelism, Ms Gatende thought that she would be serving in mission somewhere in the French-speaking world.
She instead found herself working as associate minister at All Saints Anglican in Greensborough earlier this year.
And she is loving it.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it is a real joy and a blessing,” she said.
“It’s a very supportive and loving team and church community.”
The 27-year-old grew up in Nairobi, Kenya surrounded by Christians who loved Jesus.
When she moved to Australia to study commerce and French at the University of Melbourne, she was shocked by the prevalence of those among her friends who did not know the gospel.
She attended AFES Christian union meetings at the University of Melbourne and began to develop a love of evangelism.
“The Christian union was amazing for me in getting [an] experience [of learning about ministry],” she said.
“My heart for evangelism and discipleship really expanded during that time. I did lots of Bible study leading and reading the Bible one on one with people. That’s really where my love for ministry began to develop.”
Through AFES, she was also introduced to the concept of world missions and joined a small mission breakfast group who met once a week to discuss the topic and speak to mission workers across the world.
She also visited mission conferences, hungry to learn about cross-cultural outreach.
“Kenya is one of the most Christian countries in the world and I didn’t quite understand before I came here about unreached people groups. Most of my friends in my first year didn’t understand the Gospel and I was mind-blown and heartbroken by that.”
Then, she became aware of the possibility of studying at Bible college.
“As soon as I realised that Bible college was a thing, and [that] you could go somewhere and read the Bible for three years, I thought ‘that’s what I want to do!’,” she said.
Upon completing her studies in commerce, she returned to Kenya.
“I wanted to see what it was like to be an adult and a Christian in Kenya,” she said.
“Was there something God wanted me to do there?”
Ms Gatende joined a ministry which did outreach programs in universities using music, dance and Bible studies.
This experience helped her to grow a deep love and appreciation for the rich Christian faith in her home country.
“It was very encouraging to see how flourishing, solid and vibrant the church in Kenya is,” she said.
Ms Gatende said that even though she planned to work in a different country eventually, Kenya was to be her home until she pursued further study.
Then, family ties unexpectedly brought her back to Australia.
She found out that her twin sister who had also moved to Melbourne was pregnant.
Ms Gatende returned to Melbourne to be with her sister and began her master’s in divinity at Ridley College.
She found that she thrived with the academic challenge.
She began a journey towards mission work in Tunisia, but her plans were again altered when she met her now-fiancé, Edgar.
The pair decided to stay in Melbourne until they decided where they would go together.
“Rather than going on mission, I started looking for places to serve in this context,” she said.
“I honestly wasn’t intending to be in parish ministry. I was applying for roles with mission organisations.”
Ms Gatende came across the role of associate minister at All Saints in Greensborough and found that she clicked well with senior minister Reverend Julie Blinco-Smith.
“I loved the vibe, the ethos and the culture [of All Saints],” she said.
She said that when she found out that one of her close friends from the University of Melbourne Christian union had just been appointed youth and young adults pastor, she thought it was too good to be true.
Ms Gatende said she was quite surprised when she was offered the role but has loved the experience.
“It has just been such a joy getting to know the people and getting used to a different style of ministry,” she said.
“It’s less seasonal than university ministry where you have a semester and then everything slows down. I’m quite enjoying getting to see God’s grace in the midst of the rhythms of people’s lives and the weekly worship service.”
Ms Gatende said she hoped to launch an English as a second language program to grow the church’s involvement with those of a variety of cultural backgrounds in the area.
“The church is in a really good place to reach out to people and reflect the increasing diversity of Greensborough,” she said.