What is your favorite thing about living in Kenya?
Serving God by serving others and proclaiming the Good News about Jesus Christ.
What is the hardest part about living in Kenya?
Leaving our family and friends in America.
What is the average income for a Kenyan citizen?
It is really difficult to determine an “average” income for Kenyans. Those with professional degrees
working in Nairobi earn a much higher salary than most. Over 40% of Kenyans live below the poverty
line (less than $2 per day). Kenya is ranked 8 th in the world for most people living in extreme poverty and
our county of Bungoma is among the counties in Kenya with the highest percentages of people living in
How would you describe the landscape of Bungoma, Kenya?
Almost all of Bungoma county is farmland. The major crops being grown are corn (field corn, not sweet
corn), sugarcane, and beans. From Mercy Home, you can see Mt. Elgon, which sits along the border
between Kenya and Uganda.
What keeps Kenyans from knowing God?
There are several challenges that make it difficult for many Kenyans to know God. Political instability
and the growth of Islam and religious cults are certainly among them. But the biggest factors are
probably poverty along with illiteracy and especially Bible illiteracy. With such a large population living in
extreme poverty, the main focus tends to be on getting out of poverty, as opposed to knowledge of
truth. Therefore the so-called “prosperity gospel” is very prevalent as many like to hear that god wants
them to be rich and healthy. This is why we try to focus on a holistic ministry approach, combining the
preaching of the gospel, teaching Biblical truths, and meeting the very real personal needs of our
community. We try to not only proclaim God’s love, but also demonstrate it.
What’s something interesting about Kenyan culture?
There are about 42 tribes in Kenya, and each has its own language and culture which all mesh together
to make up the Kenyan people. Most Kenyans, especially the younger generations, speak their tribal
language (they call their “mother tongue”), Swahili, and learn English as their third language. Those who
complete high school are usually fluent in all three. The tribe we live among, the Luhya tribe, is
the second-largest tribe in Kenya. There are about 18 sub-tribes of the Luhya tribe, of which we live
among the Bukusu. Something peculiar about Bukusu culture is it is considered an abomination for
most in-laws to greet one another, or even be in the same room or ride together in a vehicle. For
instance, when our eldest son, Cory, came to visit with his wife Rachel, Jeff hugged Rachel at the airport,
which would have made our Bukusu friends VERY uncomfortable had they been there.
There are so many needs in Kenya. How do you decide which ones to meet? And how do you have
peace about the ones you can’t meet?
We pray a lot, that God would meet the needs according to His will. With the help of our social worker
and some of our staff, we have put procedures in place for identifying and prioritizing needs. As various
needs are brought to us, or as we meet various people with needs, especially children and widows, we
trust that God has connected us for a reason and try to determine the best way we can help. Knowing
how much monthly committed giving we have to work with also helps, but there have been several
times where we felt we had to help beyond our means and trust that God was leading us and would
provide. Up to this point, God has provided every time we have done that, usually beyond what we even
What language do the Kenyan people speak?
All Kenyans speak their tribal language, most also speak Swahili, and about 30% are fluent in English.
What are your plans for the Mercy Home kids after they graduate high school?
Our plan is to assess each of our kids’ desires, abilities, and aptitudes in order to help guide them into adulthood. For those who would like to pursue a degree, the costs for college in Kenya is quite reasonable. For others, we will help them get technical training. We raise our kids as a family, therefore we will remain their family and a source of support even after they leave Mercy Home.
Can items be mailed to you?
Yes, though we warn you, shipping to Kenya can be expensive. You can mail to:
Jeff Bys P.O. Box 1166 Bungoma, Kenya 50200
About the Bys family…
How long have you been married?
16 years. We married January 11, 2003
For many years, Jeff had an unexplainable love for Africa. For most of that time, Steph was resistant to
the thought of moving. Jeff often prayed that God would either take the desire away or change Steph’s
mind. David of AFM, which is based in Garland, TX, approached Jeff about volunteering with the
ministry, which Jeff did for a couple of years. Jeff finally had an opportunity to visit one of the AFM
supported ministries in April of 2016, which happened to be in Kenya. During that short trip, Jeff felt
that was where they needed to be. While Jeff was away, God made it clear to Steph that we were to go.
When Jeff returned, we started selling all our belongings and making plans. We arrived in Kenya with
our 7 youngest children on December 1, 2016.
How do your biological kids help in the ministry?
In so many ways! Just to name a few: Caitie is in charge of medications, keeping up with birthdays, helps
with the babies, is the girls’ room monitor (she sleeps in the girls’ dorm) and is really one of the
backbones of Mercy Home. Karson helps with maintenance, does our weekly produce shopping at a
market about an hour away, often takes kids for medical treatment, is the boys’ room monitor (he
sleeps in the boys’ dorm) and is also one of the backbones of Mercy Home.
Karson, Brendan, Joy, Violet, Aspen, and Reed are all fluent in Swahili and help with translating often!
Do your biological kids go to school?
Violet (grade 3), Aspen (grade 1) and Reed (pre-school) all attend our school, Mercy Christian Academy.
Karson, Brendan, and Joy all homeschool.
How do you get spiritually fed?
Spending time in the early morning praying and reading the Bible, Jeff and Steph try to spend some time
reading a devotional and praying together in the mornings, we start every school day with chapel which
is often taught by Jeff, most nights we have a family Bible study, once a week we have a Bible study
specific for the older kids, Jeff preaches nearly every Sunday so he spends time during the week studying
and preparing sermons, and we go to Mercy Baptist Church every Sunday together, which meets at our
Mercy Ministries campus.
How long do you picture your family in Kenya?
Jeff and Steph are here for life, God willing. We sold all our possessions and do not take a salary,
therefore we are trusting that God will provide for our needs. As for our children that are here with us,
we are praying that God will lead and guide each of them as He sees fit. Caitlin has, to this point,
expressed that she desires to remain in Kenya and continue in ministry work. God willing that will
include starting a clinic at some point. For the rest, they are still a bit too young to know what God has in
store for them.