Abisage Ogutu Odima was born in 1933 to Joel Oluoch and Mama Patroba Onyango at Ramunde village of what was then Ukwala division, Siaya district in Nyanza province of Kenya. She was the firstborn in a family of eight siblings. Four of her siblings are Grace, Osiro, Ataro, and Arera. Although she was a girl, she played a pivotal role in the family and took care of her siblings in a Christian way. She made sure that her siblings got an education when she got married.
In education, Abisage was very unlucky. She was a victim of unfair cultural practices and gender insensitivity at that time. When she reached class/grade B (the equivalent of standard 2 today) she was denied the chance to proceed further with her education. Her father stopped educating her after being convinced by a cousin, Mr. Ayere Opuk, that allowing a girl to go to school was like throwing a fish in water. To Ayere, educating girls was like promoting prostitution because no dowry would be forthcoming. But this did not discourage Abisage. In 1958, she trained in home economics at Rosterman in Kakamega and was awarded a certificate. She specialized in cookery, weaving, looming, and knitting. Her experience gave her a reputation in making cakes and doughnuts in weddings and church functions in the village.
Abisage married Mr. Eliakim Odima Ogiso in 1950 at the tender age of seventeen, while Odima was twenty-six. They were blessed with eleven children, eight sons and three daughters, whose names are: Leonard, Newton, Christabel, Caleb, Oduori, Masiga, Crispin, Moody, Pamela, Arthur, and Debora. She had forty-five grandchildren and ten great grandchildren. As a Christian and loving mother, she made sure that her children were well groomed and brought up in a Christian way and well educated. She was a disciplinarian who was ready to use the cane at any cost to maintain her parental authority. She was kind, loving, and forgiving. Because of her strictness, love for education, and discipline, she thwarted the plans of those who tried to abandon school for early marriages. She never allowed her children to show disrespect to elders, peers, and themselves. Her noble advice was: “Only the best is good enough, there is no shortcut to life; the world is a deep pit–unless you work hard, it will swallow you.” She was a pillar, a peace-maker, and a source of hope and inspiration to the family.
Abisage was a committed Christian from childhood. She was born an Anglican and served in the church on many ministries. She worked diligently as a church/parish council member and a sponsor’s representative on church-sponsored school management committees at Simuli Primary School, Busiada Primary School and Bukhalalire Primary School. She was also a founding member of Urgent Choir of Bukhalalire Parish in the 1970s. As a choir member, she could sing bass and tenor comfortably and used to surprise her choirmasters by singing bass.
In 1974, while visiting her maternal aunt Adda at Siwanze village near Siranga, the aunt introduced her to “Injili Maler” (Injili Takatifu) Church. Abisage started in earnest visiting the church for special prayers, a thing that did not go down well with the Anglican leadership in Bukhalalire parish. She was suspended from the Anglican Church in 1979 and so decided to join “Injili Maler” (Injili Takatifu /Holy Gospel) Church as a full-fledged member. Here her prowess in singing and leadership skills were immediately discovered and tapped. She rose from a mere member to leader of the parade choir, then to lay leader and finally to a pastor, a position she held up to her death.
Abisage first became seriously sick in April 2003, when she suffered from a near fatal stroke that paralyzed the left side of her body. She was admitted and treated at St. Mary’s hospital, Mumias, but her left leg and hand never fully recovered. She continued attending the clinic at Mumias and Busia hospitals. In 2004, she decided to live at the Injili Maler headquarters at Asere in Siaya district. This was because she could not cope with the stress and loneliness at home when her grandchildren were at school. At the church, the archbishop, Mama Jane, on a routine basis assigned her “sisters in Christ” to take care of Abisage. In the process, one of them, Mama Gaudencia Atsieno alias “Nyauradi,” decided to commit herself to caring for Abisage and played this role up to the time Abisage completed her journey on earth. Abisage died at 11 a.m. on May 30, 2008 at Mbagathi district hospital, Nairobi.
Abisage Ogutu Odima will be remembered for her total devotion and commitment to God. She believed in total surrender to God. She lived an undeniably consistent life of confidence in her God. She was very sensitive to the moving of God’s Spirit, she was also very forthright in ministry and she loved the truth. She was an outstanding apostle of faith who inspired many people. One was never the same after having had personal fellowship with Abisage. Under her leadership, the church experienced phenomenal growth throughout Marachi land, which was under her jurisdiction as a pastor. She is remembered for her bold messages in which she openly condemned evil and led people to Christ. She never compromised her faith and she was a woman of extraordinary ability.
Alfred S. Keyas
Crispin Maloba Odima, son, research and interview by author, June 2008.
Margaret Maloba, daughter in-law, research and interview by author, June 2008.
Life history of Pastor Mama Abisage Ogutu Odima, June 2008.
This story, submitted in 2011, was researched and written by Rev. Keyas Alfred Sheunda, a DACB Project Luke fellow (2004-2005), currently serving as the chaplain at Booker Academy, Mumias Sugar Company, Mumias, Kenya. Email: [email protected], [email protected].