Johnson M Njuki
How it all began
In 1970, four years after the Methodist Church in Kenya attained her autonomy from the British Conference, a need to start a small 'rest house' was felt in Nairobi.
It should be noted at this juncture that, prior to 1967 when the church became autonomous, the Methodist church in Kenya had very little work in Nairobi and African church workers where very few. The early missionaries concentrated their missionary activities at the coast and in the Meru regions. The following factors came into sight after 1967:
It was after considering the above factors that the church felt the need of a small rest house. I refer to it as a 'small rest house' deliberately because I want the reader to understand that the leadership then never had any intention of making it the commercial enterprise that we have today. The church need at that point in time was to get a self-contained flat where our workers (especially missionaries) could stay while in Nairobi on a temporary basis, preparing their own food, etc.
How the idea became a reality
The late Bishop RS Mng'ong'o was about to hand over the church leadership to Bishop (Dr) Lawi Imathiu who was the Presiding Bishop-elect then. An advert was noted in the press for a property with two double bedroomed flats under one unit. Each flat had a sitting room and was self-contained.
It was going for Kshs. 155,560,00, and I can assure you that that was a lot of money in 1970.
The church wasted no time in acquiring this property immediately. This property stood between the swimming pool and the music land, on the corner of the new wing. There was an effort to save this structure for historic purposes but this was not desirable, as it was standing in front of the current facility. It could actually have compared with the old PCs office outside the magnificent Nyayo House in Nairobi.
The first clients
As soon as this facility was furnished, two missionary couples arrived - Rev. and Mrs David Weeks and Rev. and Mrs Derrick Shaw (with their children) - and they catered for themselves.
When they completed their language course and were stationed outside Nairobi, the demand for this facility was on the increase and therefore it was felt that, by having a staff person to manage this facility and by charging a minimum fee for full board, the facility could pay its way and render the necessary service to the church workers.
The early staff
Mrs Bertha Jones, a retired missionary former headmistress of Kaaga Girls' High School, offered to take care of the facility voluntarily. She was assisted by Mr Kalmeth Menya, an experienced cook, and Mrs Julia K Njuki.
The rate for full board was Kshs. 40.00 per night. The atmosphere was that of an ideal home and clients were feeling very well at home. The fee paid was just enough to break even. As time passed by, the word went round that the Methodist Church in Kenya had a rest house in Nairobi and the demand for the facility was unmanageable, because our own Christians too from upcountry wanted to use this facility. There were 12 beds and they were occupied most of the time.
A conference going on at this time had no conference hall. The annual conferences used to be held either at Limuru Conference and Training Centre or at Kamamai Holiday Centre in Pwani.
Therefore, there was a challenge to expand the rest house in order to meet the demand because, by that time,the project had proved to be economically viable. Secondly, it was felt that we needed a hall of our own for our conferences and seminars. The conference membership at that time was about 60.
The idea was accepted, but there were no funds and the land available then was not sufficient.
Acquisition of the additional plot
In 1972, a plot next to the original one was advertised for sale. This was the area that Kaaga Wing and the car park are now occupying. A big timber house was sitting there. It was going for Kshs. 124,948,00.
The church managed to acquire this property and in 1973 it was decided to put up what is now known as Kaaga Wing, the hall next to the reception, the old kitchen and the old dining hall. This new facility was officially opened in 1974 and it added 60 more beds to the institution. The cost of construction was about Kshs. 1,357,559,00.
From rest house to guest house
As soon as the new facility became operational, it was realised that it had to be operated like any other business in order to pay its way and also to contribute the surplus to the main church budget.
That is the time it earned its name of the Methodist Guest House because it started catering for all, regardless of who they were or where they had come from. Nevertheless, the main original objective of the project remained unchanged, ie, service to the conference as a priority. The original facility was referred to as the 'annex'.
Construction of the new wing, including the swimming pool
By 1986, the size of our annual conference had grown from 60 to about 200 members. The demand for this facility had more than trebled. The conference passed a resolution to extend the guest house plus add a swimming pool, and the finance committee was authorised to look for funds. Our sister church in Great Britain, Methodist Church Overseas Division (MS), gave us a soft loan which we thought then was enough for the project, but due to inflation and other economic factors, the project was left incomplete. We were forced by circumstances to take a commercial loan from Kenya Finance Corporation which made things worse because they were compounding the interest on daily rests.
It was at that point that we negotiated a loan from Madison Insurance Company, the loan the Guest House is ably servicing to date.
The new extension including the main hall, extended kitchen, extended dining hall, the two new wings facing the swimming pool and the swimming pool were duly opened by His Excellency the President of Kenya Hon. Daniel T Arap Moi MP - CGH. on 10 August 1990.
The construction cost was about Kshs. 25 million. Since then the name of this facility changed to the Methodist Guest House and Conference Centre.
The value of this property according to a M/S Kinyua Koech Ltd Valuation report dated 10 December 1990 is Kshs. 53 million. A valuation today could be more than treble this figure.
For more information, contact Methodist Guest House and Conference Centre, PO Box 25086, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: 002542567225 Fax: 002542562385