By Emily Riehl, for the Kent Reporter
The Kenyan Community International Church is moving to its new building in Kent, which means great things for the congregation in terms of freedom and convenience for members.
KCI Church has leased space at Rainier Beach Presbyterian Church in Seattle for about 20 years, but intends to move to a location off Pacific Highway in Kent. A new building will eliminate many of the challenges they face at their current location.
“The other [Seattle] the space was rented space, and we had certain time slots. If we wanted to do anything outside of that, we had to go and consult the other congregations. At one time we had three congregations in this building,” said Edgar Rurii, chairman of the KCI church building committee.
“It’s very difficult to expand service offerings because there are a lot of moving parts,” he said. “But now, here in Kent, it’s very simple.”
In 2015, the church created a building committee made up of seven elected members of the congregation to lead the project to build a church on new land.
“We tried to look for buildings for almost 10 years, but we couldn’t find a building that would truly welcome us fully,” says Joseph Karanja, chairman of missions ministry at the KCI church. “So we decided to create a whole new building with our own designs, and also incorporate what we want and like.”
Working with contractors and the City of Kent to obtain permits for the building delayed the new construction project. Rurii said they expected to move into the building a year ago, but due to the number of permits needed, it was difficult to meet the schedule.
“It’s exciting and tiring. Working with builders and a broken supply chain these days, and the rising cost of materials,” Rurii said. “Everything is just delayed, especially all the finishing touches like the electronics.”
Despite the challenges of working with contractors and the city, KCI Church is thrilled to have its own building which is much more convenient for members to attend services.
“Most of our congregation has moved from the Seattle area to the suburbs around Federal Way, Kent, Puyallup and Tacoma,” Rurii said. “It was really a motivation for them to be able to go here [Seattle]. Eighty percent of the congregation is within 20 minutes of the new site. It’s much closer for everyone.
The building is over 20,000 square feet with an additional 4.35 acres of property. The congregation plans to hold services, conduct ceremonies, teach Sunday School and other classes, host a daycare center, operate a bookstore and gift shop, and serve as a meeting for members of the community.
Ruth Njoroge, communications director for the church, said members also wanted flexibility with service times. At the old Seattle location, there was only one time for their service because the church had three other churches to schedule. The new building allows morning, afternoon and even weekday services.
“We have a lot of people who work in healthcare who are not available on Sundays, especially new immigrants,” says Rurii. “We really hope that the weekday service can fill this gap.”
Not just a church
The Kenyan Community International Church is a non-denominational diaspora church. The KCI church congregation is made up of many Kenyan immigrants who moved to Seattle.
“Most of our members come from Christian backgrounds and Christianity is very much alive in Africa, especially in Kenya where we come from,” said Joseph Karanja. “So we know that moving to our new location is going to improve the diversity of people who come to our church. We will try to reach not only Kenyans, but also the general American public.
The congregation is delighted to honor its culture in the new building by being able to celebrate freely with loud worship music, barbecues and big parties – all important parts of Kenyan culture and activities that many members have grown up with. .
The new KCI church building will not just be a church, but a community center for members to live together.
“This is where they go to hold their events, birthday parties, baptisms, weddings and graduations,” Rurii said.
Services in the new building will also be held in a mix of languages including English, Kiswahili and Kikuyu to meet the needs of their multi-ethnic congregation, as many are trilingual.
Rurii said when people from their culture move to the United States, they are very vulnerable and new to fellowshipping with people. By incorporating services in a variety of languages, celebrating with traditional worship and hosting large community events, they hope this will ease the transition for many immigrants.
“We try to make it a home for people to come and feel like they’re not alone,” Njoroge said.
Fundraising and more
Fundraising for the new church building was done entirely by members of the community and congregation. The church holds two to three fundraisers a year, and community members have been instrumental in raising the funds needed for the new building.
“When we held our first fundraiser of $100,000 in 2017, doors opened…and in the last two fundraisers, we made about $350,000. People keep believing and giving and that’s something that makes the job easier,” Rurii said.
The church building also received funding through pledge forms. These forms were distributed to members and the church began to receive many donations. Njoroge explained that there is a high level of trust between members and the church, which translates into such donations.
“We are very transparent in how things are going. What we have realized is that members love the truth and see things happen. Members are always free to drop by when construction is underway to see how the project is going,” he said.
On March 30, church leaders will close their mortgage and learn how much they have to pay back the bank. They estimate the building will cost around $5 million, but have already raised over $1 million through support from church members.
“When you have a dream, you keep wondering what it’s going to look like and if you’re really going to make it happen,” Rurii said. “Now people come and think: I can touch this building, I can see it, I can see where my money went and my years of loyalty to the project, I can actually see it.”