By Samuel Ochieng’
Sometime in 2014, Christine Mkanjala, 36, applied for a job as a receptionist with a tour firm in Nairobi. She had prayed and fasted before handing in her application and was optimistic she would be picked.
The lead male interviewer gave her his telephone number and told her to meet him at lunch time at a city restaurant for “briefing”. When they met, he said: “You have passed the interview and this job should be yours but since there are other applicants who are more qualified than you, I need Sh20,000 to push your case through.”
Mkanjala declined, citing her Christian convictions. But the man replied: “I’m also a Christian and remember you will earn Sh45,000 per monthly, so what is Sh20,000?”He added: “Alternatively, you can be my girlfriend because nowadays work is about relationships and you can’t get employment if you are not connected.”
The man moved closer to her, held her hands and fastened his gaze on her. She was confused. She thought about her faith, the salary and the hard times she had endured without a job.
The man demanded they meet that evening to “seal the deal” and bragged about the number of Christian girls he had helped to secure employment at the company. He said some of them were fired when they resisted his demands.
Finally, Mkanjala gathered courage and told him off. He was shocked and that was the last time she saw him or set her foot in that company’s office.
Mkanjala has unsuccessfully applied for jobs in several other companies after that incident. “Sometimes I wonder why I have to go through all this. A preacher once told me I was living under a generational curse. He prayed and anointed me with oil to break the curse to no avail,” she recalls.
But it is the nagging of her parents that sometimes makes her think it is because of swapping denominations. When she got saved in 2006 and joined a Pentecostal church in Nairobi, her Catholic parents warned her that life wouldn’t be easy for her because she had abandoned the faith she was raised in.
“When you don’t have money, are unmarried and jobless, you wonder why God has decided to be quiet on you. One time it was so painful I thought of ladies who sell their bodies to make ends meet. I wondered why I am faithful to Christ but still jobless. But I remembered Psalm 73 which has been of great encouragement to me,” she says.
She believes God will finally come through for her, but maintains that even if she remains jobless and unmarried forever, she will not compromise her faith. “That is my prayer. It is disastrous to sell your birth right – salvation – like Esau over a morsel of bread because you will never get it back,” she says.
Many Christian job-seekers like Mkanjala have had to forsake employment opportunities even after passing interviews because some employers or recruiters demand sexual favours or bribes. Some in business are forced to give up tenders or contracts they have qualified for because officials are asking for kick-backs.
While some, like the biblical Moses, have chosen to suffer oppression rather than experience fleeting enjoyment of sin, others have given in to temptation because of joblessness and are now regretting.
Alice (we are only using her first name to protect her privacy) falls in the second category. After looking for a job for many years, she fell to a charming young man who could occasionally offer her cash when in need and pay her house rent.
They later got married but have since parted ways after realising the man was a fake believer and a womaniser who would bring women to Alice’s matrimonial bed.
She is bringing up their baby girl alone with the proceeds she gets from selling foodstuffs. She recently told a friend that if only she had known what she was getting herself into, she wouldn’t have taken the risk.
Young born-again unemployed women seem to face the greatest temptation when job-hunting. In September last year, Archbishop Arthur Kitonga of Redeemed Gospel Church told a Nairobi congregation the tale of a young woman who had sought his advice as she couldn’t get a job because she had refused to give sexual favours.
“She had been to three different companies and in each case, the men she was dealing with wanted to sleep with her before giving her a job. She refused and was denied opportunity,” he said, urging young women job-seekers to keep themselves pure, even if that means losing a job opportunity.
Those in business are also feeling the pressure to compromise. For many years, Nelson Onyango was the secretary of a land selling company in Nairobi and remembers one time when he disagreed with some of his juniors who wanted him to consent to a deal with a prominent rich Muslim man.
“The five-acre plot was going for Sh35,000,000 and the potential Muslim buyer said he would use part of it to construct a mega mosque. That is what got me concerned,” he remembers.
His juniors saw nothing wrong with building a mosque but Onyango refused saying his conscience could did allow that. For more than one year, no client came by. But his patience finally paid off when a World Bank employee came by and bought the land, paying slightly higher than the initial Sh35,000,000 price tag.
“Since then, they have learnt to respect my faith,” Onyango, who has since left the organisation to run his own, says, noting that it pays to be faithful to God.
“When some people see the things I own, they assume I come from a rich family. They don’t know the rough road I have travelled, the battles I have fought and conquered and the temptations I have surmounted to be where I am today,” he says.
Both Mkanjala and Onyango are good examples of believers who have stood for their faith in the marketplace against all odds. While their accounts are different, one thing stands out: they are among those not afraid to be salt and light and the epitome of a modus vivendi of the Christian faith in a fallen world.
According to a recent survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), seven million Kenyans are unemployed. Out of these, 1.4 million have been desperately looking for work. The rest have given up on job hunting, some opting to go back for further studies.
The survey, released in March last year, paints a grim picture of the country’s unemployment levels while shattering the 40 per cent unemployment rate myth. It states that the working-age population is expected to increase to 28.5 million by 2020.
In 2016, there were about 25 million Kenyans in the working-age bracket of between 15 and 64 years. Out of these, 78 per cent were economically active. Youth unemployment has been described as a ticking bomb, with frustrated young men and women susceptible to drugs, prostitution, or even being lured into terrorism.
That survey explains why some believers easily give in to temptation when seeking employment or opt to work for companies that manufacture and sell alcohol, cigarettes, condoms or any other stuff not compatible with the Christian faith.
While working for these firms in itself not a sin, some Christian leaders advise believers to differentiate between what is their right to do and what makes others stumble in the faith.
Bishop Charles Mulema, the senior pastor of Nairobi Gospel Centre International in Embakasi, says the Christian faith is about sacrifice, which involves saying No to everything that doesn’t glorify Christ.
“You have to live to that at all times whether jobless or not,” he says, giving the example of Daniel in the Bible, who refused to defile himself in Babylon and rejected the king’s food which had been offered to idols.
“Purpose is what matters here… There is no shortcut to the things of God. You must deny yourself, carry your own cross daily and follow Christ. That is sacrifice and it has great and lasting reward,” he said.