Linda Spriegel shares how the seeds have flourished in Tabitha Ministry, an outreach in Kenya that started as a small Bible study. Read on to learn how God has and is continuing to use this ministry to glorify His name and bring new believers to His kingdom. All photos credited to Linda Spriegel.
“Heading to Kenya in 2005 with my physician husband and our three children to homeschool, and not terribly excited about our ‘little America’ destination, I asked the Lord, ‘Please give me a few women who are hungry to study Your Word, and I will be happy.’ God was gracious. Within two months of landing at Tenwek, a departing missionary asked me to continue to disciple two Kenyan friends after she left. Thus began my first Bible study. Rachel and Anna were illiterate and did not speak English, or Swahili, which I had just studied. But they had a hunger for God’s Word and a delight in singing and meeting together.
“Enter Peris, whom we had hired as our cook. She filled the much-needed role as my translator and began to grow herself as we four studied the Word together. It wasn’t long before the news of our study spread. More women came- from their vegetable stands by the hospital, from their gardens nearby, and from farther away. Most of those who came were literate but did not have their own Bibles. So, we looked for funds for Kipsigis Bibles to award them if they learned 17 Scripture verses. God’s Word was entering deeply into their hearts.
“When we reached the six-month mark of having our studies, we had 50 women crowding into our living room each week. So, we divided them into village groups. Each group sent their leader and assistant leader to our home for the weekly study. Then these leaders went and taught the lesson in their villages. The groups were closer to home, and more women were able to attend.
“A year later, the number of studies had grown to the point that we had 50 leaders coming to our home each week. Again, we divided them; this time into hillsides with ‘overall leaders.’ These top leaders studied the Word with us each week and then went and taught their leaders, who then taught their members in their villages.
“Obviously, women were hungry to know God and His Word. Some had been in the church for years but had never studied the Word on their own. Others found Christ for the first time in these groups. All were drawn to Jesus. You see, women are often marginalized in Kenyan culture, and they were surprised to read how important they were in God’s eyes. Studying the Gospel of Luke, we began by studying Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna—women of great faith whom God loved and used in His plan. As we continued through the Gospel, we noted the women whose lives were changed by Jesus, the role of women in Jesus’ ministry, and His love for them. The ladies were almost embarrassed to recite one of our early verses from Isaiah 43:4: “You are honored and precious in my eyes, and I love you.” They couldn’t wrap their minds around this amazing attitude of the Almighty God toward them.
“Fast forward 10 years. Peris is co-director with me of Tabitha Women’s Ministry, a network of over 250 Bible studies over the hillsides around Tenwek. We have added another layer of leadership to the studies and have 300 women teaching God’s Word at the different levels each week. They get no remuneration for teaching; they volunteer for the sheer joy of sharing with other women the truths of Jesus they have discovered. The studies continue to expand, on their own. Over 9,000 women have earned their own Bibles, and over 2,500 are presently involved in the weekly studies.
“The ministry has also developed a compassionate outreach aspect, coming alongside local churches that want to help their neediest with house projects, gift cows, or field help. We have partnered with local churches to build 200 homes and to present 150 gift cows to needy families. These visible demonstrations of God’s love have had an impact on many communities, drawing even more people to Christ. And local churches are accepting their responsibility to care for the poor among them.
“Back in 2005, we could never have envisioned what God would do with one small Bible study with two illiterate women whose language I did not speak. It was not my strategy, but the Lord went before us and we followed, and He continues to produce much fruit.”