Coming to faith…
The loss of two older siblings in a span of two years sparked fear and uncertainty in young Rosemary Mbogo. She was only eight when the second sibling passed away after a short illness. “I tried to enquire about the meaning of life and death but practically society doesn’t speak to young children about death with the depth that one would expect because they think they don’t understand. The assumption is that it doesn’t affect them but it does,” she says as we settle down for the interview at her Lavington home.
These two deaths greatly affected her and she was perpetually plagued by violent nightmares. It took seven years before she got someone to answer the queries of her heart. She was in Form two in 1976 when she listened to a sermon that both answered her questions and dispelled her fears. “It gave me a clear-cut dimension on my purpose and what I was living for and taught me that life is meaningful in connection with God,” she says. It was also then that she gave her life to Christ.
“God has a divine plan for every individual who seeks to align himself with his purpose. This has been the very foundation of my story,” she says.
She was very inspired by her late grandfather, the only person then who could identify with her newfound faith. “He was an evangelist who was actively involved in the church and loved God with a lot of zeal. We would pray together every Saturday evening,” she says.
Rosemary grew up in Kavutiri in Embu. She remembers her late mother as a disciplinarian, very hard working and clear-sighted about life and what she wanted for herself and her children. In spite of her little education, her mother was very enterprising and understood the value of hard work, good conduct and discipline; values that she instilled in Rosemary and her siblings. She attributes her hard working nature and consistency to her late mother. Her father, now retired, grew coffee on a large scale in Embu and was chairman of the local coffee factory.
Rosemary loved school. She excelled in her primary education and attended the Loreto Limuru Girls High School in Kiambu, a national school, before joining the Kenyatta University for a Bachelor’s degree in Education, specialising in History, Philosophy and Religious Studies.
A passionate teacher and counsellor…
Following her graduation, her first posting was to the Siakago Girls School in Mbeere where she taught for a year before transferring to Nyangwa Boys in Embu for another year, then to Kivaa Secondary School in Machakos so she could be closer to her family, as she was already married and had two young children. Her husband, an engineer, was then working at the Seven Forks Dam.
Aside from their jobs, Rosemary and her husband were actively involved in the churches in their community. She was involved in marriage counselling and also worked with students at her school, helping steer their lives in a proper direction. She worked at Kivaa for nine years, rising to the rank of head teacher, then requested a transfer to Nairobi where her husband had been transferred.
In Nairobi, she taught at the St. Teresa’s Girls High School in Eastleigh where she started and headed the guidance and counselling department. While there she encountered a great deal of intensive counselling cases. Some of the students she worked with at the school were from needy backgrounds and had been forced into prostitution in order to provide for their families.
Rosemary left teaching to work at the Ministry of Education as an inspector of schools (secondary division) in charge of guidance and counselling. Having been exposed to guidance and counselling severally, she decided to further her studies in the area and enrolled for a Masters in Theology and Biblical Counselling at the Nairobi International School of Theology (NIST). She strongly believed that the answers to man’s problems could only be found in God and looked forward to serving the community even more after getting her degree.
Her calling into full time ministry…
It was while pursuing her masters that she sensed her calling into full time ministry and in 1998 was appointed a deacon of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK). She went on to be priested in 1999 by which time she had graduated. She was sent to serve at the Lavington United Church where she worked for four years.
“This was my first practical base where I got hands-on experience in mentoring and counselling. This opportunity paved way for me to be an outreach minister to many churches in Nairobi,” says Rosemary.
She was made the first ACK ordained woman canon (a priest or minister who is a member of certain bodies of the Christian clergy) in 2003, which she considers a great honour as it identified her as a role model in faith and ministry. Not long after, she was appointed a member of the Egerton University Council in 2004 where she served for three years.
At this time she was also working at her alma mater NIST, as a faculty member. She was the director of the Institute of Christian Ministry in charge of the certificate and diploma programme for training women ministers and pastors’ wives. Towards the end of 2005, Rosemary was appointed director of missions at the ACK, another honour for her, as she was the first person to fill that position. In 2010, she got another appointment, this time as the provincial secretary of the ACK, a position she holds to date.
“Mine is an administrative role and I work directly under the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Most Rev Dr Eliud Wabukala. I deal with all matters of administration for the entirety of the ACK, and also serve as the personal assistant to the archbishop. It is a demanding job but also very fulfilling,” she says. The docket has a five-year tenure and Rosemary just started her fourth year.
Her position comes with numerous tasks including overseeing of finances, mission, educational training and social services and generally the day-to-day operations of the entire church. One of the greatest challenges she faces is that she has a great deal to accomplish and at times not enough time. She however counters this through proper planning and prioritising to achieve her objectives.
Her appointments nonetheless didn’t end there. In August 2012 she was appointed the chairperson of the National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK). She is the first woman in 100 years to be working in this position. “It calls for more energy and time on my part because I have two positions to serve in,” she says regarding her most recent appointment, a position she will hold for three years.
“Having the NCCK post as the first woman in a 100 years is a milestone and I’m happy to serve as an inspiration and role model for many women in Kenya,” she adds. Rosemary encourages women not to shy away from leadership. She goes on to say that women in leadership should not try to ape men in their leadership style but should do their jobs as the women that they are, being excellent in all they do.
She understands that the balancing act is not very easy for women leaders due to the heavy responsibility they have in the family as nurturers, among other challenges they may face. Even so, she believes that it is possible for them to be adequate leaders with a good support system, especially from their husbands and families.
Rosemary is also a part of the Elections Observation Group (ELOG), a national platform for civil societies, faith-based organisations and other key stakeholders interested in promoting citizen participation in the electoral processes in Kenya.
So how does she do it all? “I give my best every day, as if it is the last day but also plan and focus as if I will be doing it for the rest of my life. I am committed and don’t procrastinate tasks. I try to do my preparations for preaching, teaching engagements and anything else I have to do, long in advance,” says Rosemary.
“I’m also careful to ensure that I rest because it’s important to care for your body. I also have my devotional walk with the Lord daily because that is one of the things that matters most to me. I owe everything to the presence of God in my life and what he does in me,” she adds.
On the family front…
Rosemary got married to Rev Engineer Sospeter Mbogo at age of 21, shortly before joining the university. “My parents thought I was rushing into things but later on they understood me,” she says, adding that she came from her honeymoon to report for her first year at the Kenyatta University.
Her husband was already working at the time. She got her first child while still at the university and applauds her husband for always being supportive as he stayed with the baby when she had to study. Together they have four children, three daughters and a son.
Rosemary and Sospeter celebrated their 31st marriage anniversary in November last year. Marriage has been wonderful for them. “For us it’s just like we got married recently.
God has blessed us with two additions since our first two children are married, and we have three grandchildren. We have enjoyed our walk together because we are not just husband and wife, but also good friends so we do things in agreement,” she says. She adds that they do not compete over any of their roles as they both know their tasks and instead work alongside each other.
Sospeter is also an ordained minister though not in full time ministry like his wife. He works as an engineer at KenGen, Nairobi, and intends to get into full time ministry eventually. Rosemary says that they fully support each other in their various roles. “Sometimes my husband accompanies or drives me to my meetings or speaking engagements. When I can, I also accompany him when he is involved in his ministry work,” she says.
Their children are all young adults now. Rosemary says that as they grew up, she made a commitment together with her husband to support them and be available for their school engagements, among other important events. They have also supported their children in their different pursuits as they acknowledge that all of them are differently gifted.
Over the years, they have both worked hard to ensure that the family spends time together regularly. When her children were growing up, Rosemary never had house help over the holidays so that the family could spend more time together, and also so that her children could learn important household chores.
“Now that they are all grown ups, we plan for family dinners and lunches that include the entire family. We also have a prayer, retreat and conference centre in Embu that we built as a family. We are all directors of the centre, which gives us more opportunity to spend time together. We also travel together to our destination of choice every year,” she says.
Another important habit that the couple has cultivated together and with the family is praying together and having family devotions. They have done this since their first child was born. They have also involved their children in their respective ministries.
Rosemary believes that the church has the responsibility and privilege to be of service to humanity and she cherishes all her roles in it and continues to serve with excellence and commitment.
Published on February 2013