Glenmary Missioner Kenneth Wandera left his home in Kenya to serve at St. Michael’s in Erwin. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church recently brought a unique perspective to the congregation as Kenneth Wandera, a missionary from Kenya, is now serving the community.

Wandera, who has come to serve at the church from Glenmary Home Missioners, said he is excited to serve Unicoi County.

“Growing up in Kenya I wanted to be a missionary priest, which means I would leave my family and friends and go overseas,” Wandera told The Erwin Record.

Wandera grew up watching the missionary priests come from Europe and other countries to serve his community in Kenya and he was drawn to them.

Wandera said he loves the diversity in the Christian faith here in the United States.

“There’s something beautiful working among different Christian groups, because there is a lot that we share in common, and that is what blows me away,” Wandera said.

Wandera said he is able to view the United States from a different perspective.

“There is something beautiful being American that American’s sometimes fail to see,” he said. “There is a sense of hospitality, a love for one another and a deep rooted goodness of people here.”

It’s that perspective that gives Wandera a unique view of the Bible. When Wandera describes being a shepherd in a biblical sense, he can relate it to his upbringing where Wandera actually had to shepherd cattle in Kenya.

“I’m realizing that I can use that as a tool and that I don’t need an entire sermon – I just need one minute to change a life,” Wandera said. “One of my goals here is to continue building on my ‘theology of encounter and ecumenism’.”

Wandera said he is excited to meet new people.

“I’m getting to know people, sharing in their stories and their faith backgrounds, ultimately founded in God,” he added. “I hope to visit Christian churches here and pray with them and be allowed to be transformed by that encounter.

“The welcome and the joy of the people here has blown me away, whether it is the folks at the nursing homes, Clinchfield Senior Adult Center, or in our own church of St. Michael.”

St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church has Mass on Saturdays at 5 p.m. and bilingual service at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Children, aged preschool to eighth grades, have services on  Wednesday from 5:45-7:15 p.m. The youth group, from those in grades 9-12, have services on Sunday from 5:30-7:30 p.m. To keep up with Saint Michael Archangel Catholic Church, visit stmichaelthearchangeluc.org or St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Parish on Facebook. St. Michael’s is located at 657 N. Mohawk Drive in Erwin.