By Ephraim Nkonya
Meet Orupa Mbwana
Orupa carries a radiant smile that gives you one clear sign right at first sight – she is a pleasant young lady, full of grace and happiness that we read in Philippians 4:4 which urges us to “always rejoice in the Lord.” A resident of Maryland and third generation Adventist and daughter of Pastor Mbwana – the General Vice President of the Seventh Adventist Church (SDA) – Orupa finished her bachelor’s degree in computer science at the Washington Adventist University in 2015. She currently works as an administrative assistant for the Adventist Mission Director at the General Conference of the SDA church. Her main tasks involve web correspondence, research and preparation for presentations, social media management and other official tasks.
Orupa’s Future Plans
Beneath Orupa’s radiant smiling face lies determination and vision to use her professional skills to work for the Lord. Orupa plans to do a Master degree in Cyber security and work for the church to ensure that the growing church computing facilities are protected from cyber-attacks. After hearing these blessed plans, one question came into my mind, why is Orupa revealing an opposite of what we sometimes see with Pastor’s Kids (PKs) tending to move away from church? For example, a Barna study showed a third of PKs are not actively involved in church activities. Orupa’s answer was simple and clear – it is the upbringing in her family. Jesus gave Orupa the best family to take care of her spiritually. Both of her parents – Pastor Geoffrey Mbwana and her mother Mrs. Nakku Mbwana – has taught their kids to relate to Jesus and His church personally and not because they are PKs. Perhaps one of the most effective lessons that Orupa has learnt from her parents is how they reach out to people beyond the pulpit and church. Consistent with Matthew 23:3, both parents practice what they preach – they are highly accessible and lovingly interact with everyone around them and they are humble and hospitable. I, Ephraim once visited the SDA East and Central Africa Division (ECD) campus in Nairobi when Pr. Mbwana was President. I asked the ECD driver who picked me up from the airport about Pr. Mbwana. He told me that one of unique characters of Pr. Mbwana is that he interacts with everybody. It was common to find him animatedly chatting and laughing with janitors and all kinds of people and one would not ever know that the conversation is between an employer and an employee. This has taught Orupa Christian life is not about doing things because they are what the Bible says but do them because they are the right things to do and are rewarding. For example, Orupa has seen the reward from this Christian lifestyle through the love she has received from neighbors, co-workers and now the virtual social groups. Both parents have also made intimate friendship with their kids because they spend time with them to understand their needs and aspirations.
A good example of this is Orupa lunchtime at the GC office where her mother also works. I asked how she interacts with young people in office. She described the welcoming social environment in the GC offices and the exciting summer programs for the youth when young people come together, play games and interact. But what hit me very hard was the person Orupa frequently takes lunch with – her mom!! I asked her “don’t you have enough of your mom?” Her reply was “no, my mom is my best friend and the age and generational difference literary doesn’t exist when we are having lunch or interacting at home!! I also asked Orupa to tell me the most exciting moment in their family. Her reply was also quite amazing. She said the most exciting moment in the family is when Pr. Mbwana returns from an overseas trip. Pr. Mbwana spends long time with her family telling stories of his trip and each family member telling stories of what happened during his absence. I pressed her hard to tell me if the beautiful daddy-daughter precious moments that are common during childhood has not ended yet. She said, “No, those daddy-daughter precious moments are everlasting!!”
Orupa’s Services to the TAUS Community
Orupa recently volunteered to be the TAUS web developer and administrator. In August 2016, she was elected as secretary of the Maryland chapter. I asked her to tell us what she plans to do to ensure that TAUS website attracts visits from young people. Orupa’s reply was right on the nail’s head “We need to have content that young people can relate to. A very good example is opportunities for volunteering and stories about its impacts on people helped.” Orupa gave an example of her own volunteer work in Tanzania. A few years ago she went to Tanzania with other college students from Washington Adventist University volunteers to conduct a vocational Bible for kids in Tanzania. What excited Orupa most and left an indelible mark in her heart was one girl from a non-Christian family who came to the Bible Vocational classes every day. This girl told Orupa and other volunteers that she learnt a lot about Christ.
Orupa’s suggestion is consistent with a study that looked at strategies for attracting young people to church activities – which includes volunteering opportunities and giving young people a role to play. This suggestion is important to TAUS’s new strategy of broadening its activities beyond evangelism.
Orupa’s Message to Young Girls
Finally, I asked Orupa if she has a message for girls. Her answer was again, crystal-clear and to the point. “Find someone in church who you feel will enrich you spiritually. Talk to people and learn from others and communicate with God and know what He has for you. Pastors are more open these days, so go to them because they are more accepting and encouraging. Don’t be afraid of talking with them.” She lives with a pastor in her home and has lived with many pastors as neighbors. So she knows what she is talking about.
May our Loving God bless Orupa in her life as she works to accomplish her mission of working for the church to enhance cyber security and other activities? May He answer her intimate prayers so that she continues to be a shining light to young people and others she touches every day?