In this episode of Inspiring Stewards, Nathan Jones speaks with Valentine Gitoho from Kenya. She shares how she came to faith and why she serves in the accountability and governance space, which led to her co-founding AfCAA (African Council for Accreditation and Accountability). She explains that stewardship is not just about stewarding finances but also linked to the vision and mission that God has for each of us. She concludes with a reminder to trust in God and rely on His Word as He is always there for us.
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The music is Concerto a’ 4 Violini No 2 by Telemann played on classical guitar by Jon Sayles. Published by Exzel Music Publishing.
In this episode, we remain on the continent of Africa as we head to Nairobi, Kenya to spend time with Valentine Gitoho. Having served in both the for-profit and nonprofit space, Valentine has had roles with organizations including Pricewaterhouse, the World Bank, and the World Council of Churches. In addition, Valentine is co-founder and chair of AfCAA, the African Council for Accreditation and Accountability, and also serves as the vice-chair of the board of Global Trust Partners.
My name is Nathan Jones and I’ll be your host on today’s episode of the Inspiring Stewards podcast.
Valentine, thank you so much for taking time to be with me. I am just thrilled to jump into your story and hear how God has been at work in your life and how you're observing His working in your context and around the world. So let's just jump into it. Give us a little bit of background of your story, where you grew up, kind of family life…
I'm from Kenya and I grew up mostly in Nairobi. I'm a first born of six. And my father, who was an internal auditor, Caltex, had always wanted me to be a chartered accountant. And that's what he made sure that that happened after I graduated from the University of Nairobi and went up to the UK. I did my articles and then later on did an MBA at the University of Chicago. I'm married to James. He's an architect, been married for over 35 years. We've got two adult married children and two grandchildren. So we are empty nesters and thoroughly enjoying it.
How old are your grandkids?
My grandkids are nine and seven.
It's just lovely. I really thank God for that, yes.
I've worked all over the world. I worked in the private sector and also in the nonprofits. I worked in London and then in Pricewaterhouse when it was Pricewaterhouse, not PricewaterhouseCoopers, and in Diners here in Kenya, and then did quite a lot of work with all kinds of churches in the World Bank. And it is in that process that I actually got to know the Lord.
Tell us about that. How did you come to know him?
Right. Our son was born in December 1989. And I was so, so grateful to God for him because the first one is a girl and I always wanted a girl and a boy. So I was very grateful to God. And I was basically quite a religious girl, church goer, Christian fellowship member, read my daily devotions with Every Day with Jesus by Selwyn Hughes.
In January 1990, about three weeks after he was born, I was just doing my devotions as usual. And then I read Psalm 116:12-13. And it says, “How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?” And they said, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.” And so for me, it was because of His goodness to me. I really had a wonderful job. I was doing well. And I asked myself, by the way, why don't I accept the Lord? What stops me? What holds me back? And three things which today – thank you so much for getting into this. It's nice when we speak and share testimonies, because that's when you start wondering, why am I the way I am even today?
There were three things that actually was stopping me. It's basically my lovely mother, who I loved all my heart and soul had been drawn into occult, and she was born again. And then she was drawn into a cult and to a point where she was going to say that we don't have children and all kinds of things. It was very confusing for her, but because she was unwell. She had a brain tumor, so she was manipulated.
So I just said, I love my mother so much, but right now I don't want anything to do with her. And that was very, very difficult. So I knew, according to the Word, I must love my mom, and I must also love those who were in the cult because He says love your neighbors and even love those who persecute you.
Then, the other thing was control and finance, as you've heard I’m a chartered accountant. And I love controlling my money. I was always scared of getting broke. I knew from the Word that I need to give, but I wanted to say and be in control of what I gave. So control was an issue.
Then, the third thing was connections. At that particular time, we're doing so well in our careers with my husband. We were just going. I mean, I was only 32 years old, and we're really up in our careers doing very, very well. And I was like, “Oh dear, if I get born again, there's no way I'm going to lose all these connections.” But I was so convicted by the Lord's goodness that I said, “Lord, just take me through these things.” And He did. So I thank God for that.
Wow. What impact did that then have on your life as you then began to walk in that?
Immediately, I knew I needed accountability. I needed to go in the Word. So I joined a Bible study group. And since then, I've always been in Bible study. I've never been out of Bible studies, and now we are in Bible studies together with my husband. And that I found very useful because it gives me accountability and growth in the Word all the time.
Then, I also got involved in a prayer group with some ladies, two other ladies who are more mature than me spiritually and they really helped me grow. That was in 1992 and they’re still friends and [we] prayed together and walked together. Then, I got involved in ministry because I was very, very keen just to see, first of all, my family come to know the Lord. I was the first one in my family and my immediate family and also at my workplace. I got involved in the church and in schools and colleges. I'm very passionate about young people and growing young people to know the Lord.
So you know, like I said, I became a Berean Christian. So I fully surrendered my life to the Lord and my career. And I can tell you there was such a change thereafter. I didn't realize what changes would happen because I had to lay down certain things that I was used to, certain lifestyle I was used to, but I love it. I do not regret.
That's wonderful. Did any other members of your family follow you into a relationship with Jesus?
Yes. Everybody in my family – my children, my husband – are all born again. And then my dad, my siblings, all of them, we're all born again. My mom has since rested and my two brothers – both of them, by the time they rested, they knew the Lord. So it's true. It’s beautiful.
Yeah. That’s wonderful.
Thank God for that, yes.
Well, Valentine, you touched a little bit on some of your work over the course of your career. What does the Lord have you involved in today?
Right now, it's basically the accountability and governance sections, and also things to do with transformation and leadership with the young people, things to do with marriage that comes into the church because I'm a lay leader in our church. Yeah, the stewardship and accountability space is big because that's where in – wait, I need to go back.
In 1995, because of having the desire to get involved in the church, I ended up being in boards, being invited to join various boards. One of them was the Association of Evangelicals in Africa and they asked me to join the Stewardship and Accountability Commission. That was in 1995.
At that same time, I also joined the Trans World Radio board. In the Trans World Radio board – because Trans World Radio International is an ECFA-accredited organization – we started getting information about boards and how we should work and things like that. I really like that. I asked the Association of Evangelicals in Africa whether we can adopt this for Africa at that time. But I didn't realize that I was the one who was going to do that later on in 2012 when the Lord laid it on my heart and get people around so that we founded the African Council for Accreditation and Accountability.
So that was in 2012. So what were some of the indicators that you were observing throughout the continent or in your particular context that were indicators that something like this type of accountability structure would be valuable?
First of all, it's the issue of governance and compliance to the constitution or the laid down rules regulations, which formed organizations. I'm very passionate about that. One of the things that was happening was the government had started saying that they are going to legislate churches and Christian NGOs because we were not filing returns. We're not doing what we're supposed to do as far as compliance is concerned.
And for me, why my heart was aching because of the issues of corruption. We are the Church, and we are the ones who are supposed to speak into the government and into these situations, and we didn't have the moral authority. I mean, every time anything came up, something else would come up. But you do this, you do that. So that was very, very painful.
Secondly, the whole issue about a kind of a mediocrity in running of the Christian organizations or churches. Just saying that we can't afford, we can't afford to have so and so, we can't afford to have so and so, we can't employ so and so, as a result, whatever we produce was really mediocre. Whether we talk about financials, whether we talk about – that was very, very painful.
The other thing was basically this whole thing that we suffer from ethnicity. It's one of the big things in Africa. It brings a lot of fighting, infighting and things. And that again, we are not looking at it for the body of Christ being all together, working together, looking at people with their talents and gifts, and bringing them in and creating that platform so that they can actually come into the place where God has called them into. So that and then when the government started saying they will regulate us because of the false doctrines – there's prosperity gospel that came in – and we said, “No way, not on our watch.”
So, that's how we got together. And since I worked in the World Council of Churches throughout Africa as an ecumenical enabler for governance and financial accountability, I had a good feel of what was going around in Africa. Getting friends that we've met and then getting other friends, that's how we all connect. That really, really helped. And we found many people who the Lord have placed it in their hearts to do this.
Then, the other thing we also realized is that the Francophone Africa is not very well covered. The Anglophones – that’s the English-speaking Africa – is very well covered and we are well ahead. And then the Lusophones – that's the Portuguese-speaking – they also have got a problem. So we said we'll make sure as we start that we have those three major languages – because of colonialism as it were – covered. And so we had representations from that. So we were very sure, we were very keen on ensuring we've got representation. And it is on that basis that we all sat together. And by 2013 April, we had a steering committee of about 23 from all over, actually 8 countries, that represented this kind of mix.
People got a call from us to now start working on how we're going to form AfCAA. I chaired that. And finally we got registered in 2015, and then in 2016, we had a launch where Gary came. ECFA was represented.
Yeah, that's tremendous.
They are the ones who came to help us in the launch.
How many countries are involved now in the Council?
We are about 8 countries, so far. When I say involved, it’s where we have representation from. Because we've got in West Africa, we've got Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. We've got some form of representation and also some accredited organizations, too. When we come to Southern Africa, we've got South Africa represented. We've got Malawi represented. We've got Zimbabwe. And then now in East Africa, we've got Kenya, and we've got Uganda and also Rwanda.
Wonderful. That's tremendous.
Your vocation, your calling in life: How would you put words to that? You've mentioned so many powerful roles that you've played. If you take a step back and kind of put a finger on, what is it that God has put you on this earth for? I could even guess a number of things. But what drives you in the morning, wakes you up, impresses on your heart that is connected to that calling that God's placed on your life?
I'm called to engage Christians in fulfilling their God-given vision and mission and in so doing, that of nations. So I'm very, very keen on just looking at whatever it is that each one of us is called to that we are totally aligned. We are aligned. We are not misfits. In that way, we truly are fruitful and we bear fruit at last because we are working in the Kingdom.
So that for me is very, very key. I actually teach vision and mission and goal setting. I'm a Haggai faculty, international faculty. So it's one of the things that I teach and I totally love it. So I'm very concerned about vision and mission drifts and that's where stewardship comes in.
Yeah. Talk about that. What role stewardship, kind of how you're seeing that concept play out in your life and from your perspective.
Stewardship, for me, is first of all, we all must agree and I agree: Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it.” That means myself as a child of God and everything that I am and I have belongs to Him. So I have to live in continual communion with Him, seeking and doing His will even when it does not make sense and teaching others to do the same in word and deed.
So when now it comes to stewardship, there's stewardship all along, whether you're dealing with one single individual or all the way, whether you're dealing with the whole organization and impact. Because I've been involved in microfinance, as well. So I know how it is to help and steward resources or teach those who are less fortunate in order how to steer their resources and grow in that, but in a way that you don't cause dependency, also in a way that I don't cost them a mission drift.
So, for example, in microfinance, everybody's like in business, but not all of us are called in business. We are all called into business. So it's a micro-saving, savings and lending, or whatever it is to try and mix it up in order to be able to help people to fit into whatever the Lord has called them to.
When we move into organizations and the stewardship arena, it's basically who has God called to come into giving into this particular organization so that I do not become the god. I don't become a little god of the organization. You know, I can be manipulated.
And that's what we've had vision and mission drift. That's what I found in Africa in most of the organizations. I've sat in many, many boards and I've seen because a certain giver wants to get into a certain thing, they come and give it much more money in that and they don't want to walk along what the organization's calling is, what their vision and what their mission is. And as a result, because money has got this wicked thing about moving us to directions that we're not supposed to go to, we lose what the calling is, what God has called us to.
That is one of the things that makes me cry in that we really need to ensure that as we are stewards, we are not only good stewards of the financials, but also of the vision and mission that God has called us to. So none of us plays god – the giver, the receiver or anything in between.
That's a great way of describing it. I do a fair amount of fundraising training here in the US. And that's the framework I like to lay out is to say that generosity happens when the Lord stirs somebody's heart towards something and they faithfully respond to that. And it really takes us as organizations and fundraisers out of the middle of that equation. So I love how you describe that. It's us actively avoiding playing god in that equation and trusting that He is at work and that's amazing. So how are you seeing God at work in the world around us in your context or even on a global scale?
Definitely we are going through a shake-up, which I love. And the shake-up is exactly in what we've just ended up with. We've been playing god, but I look at it from the Christian aspect and the churches. The Lord is just telling us: Just get back. Let's be relevant in word and deed. Let's deal with personal levels. Let's deal with individuals. Let's have impact – fruit that lasts. It's not about numbers. It's about the depth and the growth of His people.
I find also in the family especially, there's been an exposure of relationships and values. Here in the African context it's actually quite serious because with all the deaths and the various things that have been going on, we find quite a number of African traditions coming in and young people coming in, taking up the wealth from the family members.
There's also been fatigue in helping those in need. We've given. We are very generous when it comes to all that, to funerals and to sicknesses. But now there's fatigue. But also the fatigue comes out of the economic situation because of that and the others were exploiting.
But then, the most beautiful one, which I think has come out of this, is creativity. It's just beautiful. We are truly in an era of the young ones within Africa, just growing up with creativity in all kinds of ways. Basically, it's because of tech. They're really on tech. Tech for us is a big thing now. It's growing.
And then for us here in Kenya and in other places, we are now going through this tension because we're coming through to our elections. Then what has happened is that we've got all these young people who have grown up and they've seen and they're aware of what is going on. So they are asking performance based results. I mean, why should I elect you? You know, it's not the usual. It's different. It's a new generation that are asking questions. You just don't do it. So there's sensitivity as far as that is concerned.
Then socially there's loneliness, lots of mental health issues. And so we really need to reach out to those in pain. We have a lot as the church.
Valentine, I feel like we can go on for a long time. You've got such rich story and God has done a tremendous work through you. Thank you for sharing that with us. What would be a final thought or two that you would leave us with today as we wrap up?
Just remember that our God is almighty. I think sometimes when we think about God, we actually belittle who He is. And He is always there for us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. Whatever He says in His word is true. And so we should always try and live and respond with this in mind in our lives. And we should trust Him with all our hearts and not lean in our own understanding. That’s Proverbs 3:5-10. And also remember Isaiah 55:8: For His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither His ways are our ways. So whatever He tells us to do, just do it! Because His word will accomplish whatever it is He has desired and purposed it to do.
What a great reminder that it doesn’t matter where we are in the world and where we are in history, that God’s truth remains. Valentine, thank you for reinforcing that and illustrating that for us today. Really appreciate your time today.
Thank you, Nathan. Beautiful.