Homa Bay church stands test of time to turn 91

Monday October 21 2019

St Teresa's Asumbi Catholic parish in Rangwe, Homa Bay County, on October 18, 2019. The church was built in 1928 by missionaries. PHOTO | GEORGE ODIWUOR | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Every Sunday the bell at St Teresa’s Asumbi Catholic Church in Homa Bay County rings repeatedly calling the faithful to worship.

The ringing can be heard many kilometres away. Every Sunday, hundreds of believers from Asumbi town and beyond walk into the brownish church with colourful windows.

They pass a graveyard where Catholic priests and nuns who served the church rest in peace, with crosses bearing their identities placed atop their resting places.

At the gate are messages of hope that inspire the faithful to live a pious life.

A picture of the first missionary at the church is painted on the gate and captioned: "Father Philip Scheffer Odero, the founding father of the church."

Another message reads: "My God, you know that the only thing we ever wanted is to love you. I have no ambition for any glory except that." Next to the message is a picture of Mary, mother of Jesus.



The church has red steel doors with white crosses painted on them. On top of the door is written AD 1928, the year the church was opened.

Inside are statues of Mary and Jesus. The church still stands strong despite being over 90 years old.

However, vegetation growing out of its walls, old benches and a leaky roof betray its age. It is one of the oldest buildings in Nyanza.

Fr Scheffer, later named Odero Wuon Got, sailed across Lake Victoria from Ojola Catholic Station, in Kisumu County, to set up the church in 1912.

On the way, Fr Scheffer, accompanied by Ft Hotsman, passed through Kendu Bay, Homa Bay and Mbita towns. They travelled across the land to Gem in Homa Bay.

They met paramount chief Okello Moraganga who directed them to buidt a church at Nyahobe.

The place was full of wild animals and magicians who kept snakes in small pots called Asumbi. The area was later renamed Asumbi.


The missionaries built a grass-thatched church in 1915 which non-believers burnt down in 1917.

Strangely, the fire did not burn the tabernacle, which motivated the missionaries to built another grass-thatched church.

Fr Hotsman travelled to Europe in 1919 with samples of red soil from Asumbi for tests on whether it could be used to make bricks.

With the help of local believers, the missionaries made thousands of bricks between 1922 and 1923.

Asumbi Catholic Church was completed in 1928 and served people from as far as Suba, Mbita and Karungu.

Later, the Fransican Sisters of St Joseph set up Asumbi Convent and Asumbi Teachers Training College.

Mr Denis Oketho, 94, was among the first tutors at the college that initially admitted men. “The principal, Sister Getrude Mary, was a tall, strict English woman. She was assisted by Philip Obar, one of the smartest and cleanest teachers,” Mr Oketho said.


Teachers at the college planted trees in the church compound, which have grown to provide shade to the faithful.

After the church came other institutions including Asumbi Girls National School, St Teresa Asumbi Girls Boarding Primary School, St Marks Asumbi Primary School, Asumbi Technical Training Institute, Asumbi Mission Hospital, and Father Scheffer Primary School.

Fr Richard Odhiambo, who is in charge of Asumbi Catholic Church, said they plan to rehabilitate the church. “We intend to hold a funds drive to enable us improve the church,” he said.

“We also plan to buy new chairs. The faithful still use benches which were left by missionaries in the 1990s. We appeal to well-wishers to assist us fulfil this duty,” Fr Odhiambo said.

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