Okendo, Rebecca Kizinza (1902-1970)

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Rebecca Kizinza Okendo: salt maker, peasant farmer, and a devoted church woman was born around 1902 to Kaoto and Leunida in Waware, Kakrigo village, Rusinga Island, Homa-Bay district, Nyanza Province, Kenya. She was the second child in a family of one son and three daughters. She married Mgambwa Kisuko around 1917 and moved to Sindo to be close to her husband. He died shortly after their wedding, leaving her several months pregnant. She gave birth to a boy, Msiwa Mgambwa. Rebecca died in 1970.

Msiwa had protruding teeth that made his appearance somewhat strange. Some of the family wanted him killed by drowning him in Lake Victoria. When Rebecca learned about this wish, she sent her son away secretly to Suna, 80 kms south of Sindo to stay with Mgambwa’s uncle, Kimama. Later Msiwa was hired by Mr. Okwaro as a herd’s boy.

After her husband’s death Rebecca was inherited by a Mgambwa’s close cousin, Jamali Okendo. with whom she had three children—a girl and two boys. As a widow, Rebecca learned how to prepare and sell salt in order to earn a living. She remained in Sindo until 1934 when she was forced to move with her family to Ore in Suna, because of starvation and suffering she experienced as a widow in Sindo. In Sindo she received some support from her son. Jamali Okendo visited Rebecca and her family occasionally in Suna.

As a widow Rebecca relied on her relatives for financial support. She also started to collect milk from those who had many animals, and took the milk to a dairy processing unit. In most cases she got her milk from Mr. Okwaro’s home, the man who employed her son. She did this work from 1934 until her death.

Rebecca was a Catholic as a child, but after marriage joined the Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship of Africa (PEFA). In 1941 her son Alfaczard Odhiambo went to school in Shirati, Tanzania and Rebecca occasionally visited him there. It is during this time that she learned about the Mennonite church and decided to join a peace church. She was baptized in Shirati in the early 1940s by Bishop Elam Stauffer. In 1942 she welcomed two men who came to Kenya to preach the word in her home, and appealed to people to come and worship with them.

In 1961 Jamali Okendo, who had inherited her also died. Rebecca opted to remain a widow and gave herself to serving the church and supporting church workers. Her home was a meeting place for both local and international evangelists. She received Hellon and Joyce Amolo in Nyarombo when they reported there as missionaries in 1965. Rebecca’s grandson Samson Ndaga became a deacon on 11 September 2016.


Ojwang’, Francis S., ed. Forward in faith: History of the Kenya Mennonite Church: a seventy-year journey, 1942-2012. Nairobi, Kenya: Kenya Mennonite Church, 2015.

Author(s) Francis S Ojwang'
Date Published December 2017

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MLA style

Ojwang', Francis S. "Okendo, Rebecca Kizinza (1902-1970)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. December 2017. Web. 25 Mar 2019. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Okendo,_Rebecca_Kizinza_(1902-1970)&oldid=156196.

APA style

Ojwang', Francis S. (December 2017). Okendo, Rebecca Kizinza (1902-1970). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 March 2019, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Okendo,_Rebecca_Kizinza_(1902-1970)&oldid=156196.

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