Our Work Must Reveal God’s Permanence: A Reflection On The Life Of Prof. John Samuel Mbiti.

Stars (Verena Mbiti, 2012)

At this time,

The Seeds of stars

are sprouting

on the sky of Mulango

Are you thinking of me

who is under

the blanket of fog

At this time

in the frosty Land?

As the world joins family and friends in celebrating the Life of Prof. John Samuel Mbiti in his death, much can be drawn from his legacy both as a Theologian and Scholar. Prof Mbiti’s service to humanity epitomized humility and a desire to gain an understanding of one of the World’s complex topic, Religion. Contextualized within the African practice of faith, his work offered deep reflections on the Beauty of African understanding of Faith and Christianity.

The Family of Rev. Prof. John Samuel Mbiti joins the Archbishop and clergy for a photo at the All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi before the memorial service. Photo/Dixon Andiwa

At the age of 87, Prof. Mbiti rested on the 6th of October having accomplished an illustrious career that spread out across the world. He had been hospitalized in Switzerland. Upon his demise, the President of Kenya- Uhuru Kenyatta celebrated him as a great Kenyan who went against all odds to become a successful scholar, writer, and priest. The president described him as a “role model and an ambassador of the Kenyan brand abroad.” A memorial service held at the All. Saint Cathedral, Nairobi on the 1st of November, brought together family and friends from academia, Christian, political and Ecumenical spaces to reflect on his contribution to knowledge.

The sermon was delivered by the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Most Rev. Dr. Jackson Ole Sapit. Drawing from the book of Psalms 90, he reminded those in attendance that “our days here on earth are numbered” and understanding this would help us “use the little time we have more wisely and for eternal good.” Just as in the case of Prof. Mbiti, he urged that human beings must seek to understand how they can accomplish their purpose of the days they are alive-with faithfulness. Prof Mbiti’s mark, included among others, was the translation of the bible into the Kamba Dialect.

In a tribute (written by Prof. Mbiti Himself &) read out by a Family member, he listed most of the experiences that enabled him to realize the magnitude of God’s assignment in his life. From a humble beginning in Kitui County’s Mulango area, he lived his life with much commitment and a drive to simplify the Christian experience among Africans. At the end of every experience in the eulogy, he finished by noting, “My soul gives thanks and praise for…” Perhaps, easily a religious man yet by far, one that lived with great faith and understanding of Christian practice.


Youmy father,

who did not so much seek to be consoled as to console,

seek to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

Kavata Mbiti

Makueni Governor, Prof. Kivutha Kibwana (who was the day’s MC) commended his life as that of a “Pastor, first and Foremost.” Having published some of his work, the Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB), celebrated him for “making significant contributions to the advancement of intellectualism in the world in trying to challenge the long-held view that traditional African religious ideas were demonic through his writing.”


Former Chief Justice, Dr. Willy Mutunga reminisced his inspiration as a young man from a 1956 book by Prof. Mbiti that was titled Mutunga na Ngewa yake (Mutunga and His Story). He noted that he would feel good when reading this book as his name had been used in a book written by a great man. He said that a conference was in the offing to gather material that would be published to Honour Mbiti.

Former Vice President, Kilonzo Muyoka eulogized him as one who sought to bring dignity to African Worship. He encouraged that Africa needed more people with a drive similar to that of Prof. Mbiti.

Prof. Mbiti leaves behind a Wife, Verena Mbiti, four children, sons and daughter in law, and many grandchildren.