This commuter train takes its passengers to work, but the preacher aboard hopes it will also take them to God.
Starting in the suburb of Ruiru, about 19 miles north of Nairobi, the train for the past five years has informally hosted a growing number of self-styled pastors and a makeshift, moving congregation eager to hear the gospel.
At least two coaches turn into “churches” each day, with Christians singing, dancing and clapping as they prepare for a short sermon during the one-hour journey.
Jane Wanjiru, who frequently joins in the worship and occasionally preaches on the train, said many of her fellow passengers may otherwise not find time to pray or attend church.
“In this case, the train fellowship becomes a good alternative,” she said.
As the train picks up passengers in both middle-class neighborhoods and slums, the congregation swells. And by the time it stops at the capital’s Central Railway Station, scores have been touched by Christ or healed, the train preachers say.
Nine pastors minister to the moving flock, many of whom are out of work and looking for employment. Other passengers work as civil servants, traders or casual laborers. The pastors — who hold down other jobs, and for whom the train ministry is an unpaid calling — carefully choose sermons that relate to the struggles of many of their passengers, who suffer poverty, exhaustion and stress, and often have trouble paying the 40-cent fare.
“You must differentiate between true sacrifice and what is not. God wants us to make true sacrifices,” said Pastor Benjamin Mutungi, 34, preaching on a recent train ride. Some of the commuters open their own Bibles to read along with him, as others find the passage on their mobile phones.