Candid chat with Bible society boss

Elizabeth Muriuki, CEO Bible Society of Kenya
Elizabeth Muriuki, CEO Bible Society of Kenya. Photo | Courtesy 

You have never seen so many different types of Bibles in a room until you walk into Elizabeth Muriuki’s office at Bible House, along Langata Road. She’s the CEO of Bible Society of Kenya.

There are Bibles in different languages, Bibles that have gone out of print, Bibles dating back to the 60s, children’s Bible, thick Bibles, Bibles with young spines and Bibles with thin skins.

Bible Society of Kenya’s - a non-denominational and non-secretarial - mandate is to work with all churches that believe in the Bible. They do Bible advocacy and also have many programmes like trauma healing, children’s programme, alcoholism and many more.

Elizabeth Muriuki has been with Bible Society for 18-years. Befittingly, she opened (and closed) the interview with JACKSON BIKO with a prayer. Such a remarkable lady to speak to.

I have done interviews for many years but this is the first time someone has opened one with a prayer. This should go very well.!

[Laughs] Here we open and close all meetings with a prayer because you have to commit discussions in the hands of God.

David happens to be my favourite character in the Bible. He was highly favoured by God, very artistic and emotional, but he was also such a thug at the same time. I find that fascinating. Who in the Bible do you most admire and why?

Prophet Isaiah. He brought a lot of hope for people as he prophesied about what God had told him in Isaiah 61. God is restoring the nation, giving us a crown instead of ashes. The reason it touched me at one point was when I lost my daughter. The Israelites used to show their mourning by covering themselves with ashes and wearing a sackcloth. And Isaiah tells these people that God is going to come and remove all that and put a crown on their heads instead of the ashes and restore you. That reminds me that in the earth there's hope no matter how bad things are.

By the way, I’m curious about your recruitment process here; does one have to be born again or be an active Christian to get hired here?

Yes, you have to be a Christian and in good standing with your church.

I like that phrase, “good standing with your church.” But how do you measure ones good standing?

We expect you to tell us the truth but we also get reference from your pastor, who has to be a one of your referees.

Oh I’d never get a job here then, because I don’t think my pastor would say nice things about my good standing with the church. We haven’t seen each other in a long time.

[Laughs] Instead of being at war, David saw Bathsheba bathing and made plans to steal her from her husband. He did many bad things but the Bible tells us that he was a man after God’s own heart. God doesn't look for perfection in us. We are all flawed.

Would you close your eyes for me and describe Heaven, or your idea of Heaven...

Very beautiful place. I'll not actually close my eyes but I'll tell you of a dream I had once. I lost my brother-in- law sometimes back in 1997. And after many years I had a dream of this beautiful place where you got everything that you needed. At the point I was wondering 'why is he not coming back with us? Why is he not talking to his family?' And in my interpretation I concluded that must have been Heaven. And everything was so good so perfect, without flaws. That's my idea of Heaven.

If I want to get to Heaven, what's the sure way of getting there? Apart from accepting Jesus Christ.

[Chuckles] That's the only way.

Probably this is a question I should ask God directly, but why do you think God allows bad things to happen to good people?

We have a programme here called Trauma Healing. That's one of the questions we ask in the trauma classes. If God loves us, why do we suffer? But we do not live in a perfect world, just like we're not perfect. There are those things that happen to us because of the first sin, and a punishment came right there. And you know God does not change. The Bible says, 'will He promise and He does not?' So I also believe that if He promised we suffer because of the first man's sin, that is one of the reasons why sin happens in the world. But God still loves us. That's what I believe.

Do Samburus have their version of the Bible in their language?

No, for now they share the Bible with the Maasai. But a Bible for them is also being translated.

How was your relationship with God when you lost your daughter?

Very interesting. I still hoped and trusted in God. It was not easy. My daughter had cerebral palsy and she died just when she was just about to celebrate her 17th birthday eight years ago. I remember at one point I told God, 'God when it comes for my daughter to die, never allow her to suffer.' One day my daughter wakes up, goes to school and I'm called she's unwell.

By the time I reach hospital she's dead. It was very very hard. There's nothing as hard as dealing with death of a child. I questioned Him. But later when I came to my senses I thought: did I not tell God that if He's to take her not to allow her to suffer? That made me accept His will.

I want to understand the Bible and learn from it but I don’t want to read it like it’s duty or task. I want to read it like a story and actually enjoy it. How can I read the Bible differently?

That's a very interesting question. There are many ways; there is a Bible that is written in prose, like a novel without the verses or chapters. Another way is just to do an audio Bible. The last one is a Bible of illustrations.

When I was telling you earlier that I recently ran into an atheist in a bar, did you judge me and my drinking ways? Even a little?

[Laughs loudly] No. As I said, we have no reasons of judging anybody. Now, I would rather understand; why was Biko in the bar instead of church? (Laughing). Or relaxing somewhere doing something else. What is it that he's finding in the beer that he can't find anywhere else? Now, the Bible does not completely condemn alcohol. Actually Timothy would drink wine because he had a problem with his stomach. But that is the quote people who drink use.[Laughs] But the problem is they take too much. Look, if we met I would not buy you wine or beer, but if you ordered it yourself I’d not walk away either. I'll not condemn you. Just don’t drink and offend your community.

What do you do outside this, for fun. How do you fill your cup?

Watch the wild animals. I love animals and nature. I appreciate what God has done. Nature really relaxes me.

What wild animal are you?

That's a quite interesting question. [Pause] The giraffe. It's tall, it's above everybody but it doesn't harass anybody. It lives in peace with almost everybody. It’s tender.

Tell me, what kind of man did you marry? Is he in church or Is he outside the church? Did you meet him out and then brought him into the church?

(Laughs) I married a Christian man. When we met in university (University of Nairobi Lower Kabete campus] he was already a Christian and of good standing with his church. [Laughs] We have two daughters currently - 19-years and 12-years old.

That 19-year old daughter, when you quarrel her, do you find yourself quoting Bible verses to her?

[Laughs] Of course. Sometimes I will tell that what she’s doing is not Biblical. [Laughter in the room]. You know, at that age they have their own ideas and they make their own decisions on how they want to live their lives, some which I might not agree with or understand, but so far we haven’t had any problems with her that are worrying.

You know, when I received an email from your people I was sure that you guys finish your emails with “Be Blessed,” or “Praise to the Lord”. Imagine my disappointment when that wasn’t the case!

[Laughs loudly] We do? Did we not? We say “blessings!” I have to send you an email with kind regards and add “blessings.”