Bishop who desired to see son’s grave in America

Elisha Juma, who KAG colleagues have eulogisedas a generous giver who was dedicated to God, family and ministry, died three months after coronavirus claimed his son

When he lost his son Peter Juma to Covid-19 in New York three months ago, Bishop Elisha Juma’s desire was to have the remains buried in a safe place where his family could visit and pay their last respects once the pandemic stopped being a threat.

But that is no longer possible as the senior pastor of Kenya Assemblies of God (KAG) Tudor in Mombasa County has died.

The 70-year-old bishop died on June 29 in a Mombasa hospital where he had been admitted for ailments related to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Initial reports had indicated he had succumbed to the coronavirus. However, a close family source denied the reports.

Rev Nicodemus Waka of KAG Githurai 44 in Nairobi, who knew Juma for more than four decades, described him as a man dedicated to God, his family and ministry. He said the bishop was also a man of encouragement and skill who was not afraid of taking necessary risks to bring his vision to life.

Waka was the KAG youth director when he first met the bishop in Mombasa in 1980. At the time Juma was a member of the KAG church in Changamwe under Rev Jackson Mbuthia. 

In 1982, Waka left Mombasa to launch a KAG church in Kisumu Town. He returned to Mombasa four years later, this time as the senior pastor of KAG Changamwe.

“I found that Juma was one of the church elders, a treasurer and Sunday school teacher. I saw the call of God in his life and made him one of my interpreters” he recalled. 

In 1991, Waka and KAG Changamwe church board sent Juma to start the Tudor church.

He was buried at his rural home in Rachuonyo, Homa Bay County, on July 5.

“When I heard of Juma’s passing, I remembered Corrie ten Boom, the Dutch Christian watchmaker and writer, who once said: ‘The measure of life is, after all, not in its duration but its donation,’” said Waka in a phone interview with the SHEPHERD.

Bishop Joshua Songa, the senior pastor of KAG Likoni in Mombasa, described the bishop as a generous giver with a clean heart. Songa, who pioneered KAG work in the Coast region, said he knew Juma in the 1980s, when he was a member of KAG Changamwe.

The late Peter Juma

Juma’s 35-year-old son was a medical assistant at New York’s St Catherine of Siena Hospital. He died on March 28, after spending a week in hospital. The hospital management had initially planned to cremate him but instead handed his body for burial following a plea by his parents and friends.

Juma said during an interview at the time: “My only desire is to have my son buried in a dignified manner and then once the situation calms down, I will accompany his widow Phoebe Shikuku, and my wife and other children to go and pay our last respects now that the body cannot be transported back to Kenya.”

The family managed to raise the Sh1.2 million (about $11,000) required for mortuary charges, preparing the body for burial and other related expenses. Peter was finally buried on Long Island in a ceremony attended by a few relatives. He last visited Kenya in December last year.

The bishop is survived by his wife, Rev Mary Juma, and five children, most of who are in the US and the UK.

He was buried at his rural home in Rachuonyo, Homa Bay County, on July 5.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to show that it was Rev Nicodemus Waka, not Elisha Juma, who was the senior pastor of KAG Changamwe in 1986. We’ve also corrected the burial date.