Tribute to Gladys Kangahi By Marian Baker, A Friend from New England Yearly Meeting who travelled widely across Africa.
What a blessing it has been to have known Gladys for many years. She has been a true woman of substance.
During an oral interview with her several months ago, as part of the Africa Quaker Religious Education Collaborative’s Oral History Project, she shared how she grew up as a child as a Quaker when her family would provide food and shelter along the way for those walking the long distance to Kaimosi to attend special gatherings there, (back when cars and public transport were not available.) She shared how she loved the Sunday school and began teaching other children at an early age, and she told the two younger Kenyan women helping on the interview to keep working in the ministry.
She always encouraged women to stand up, to minister to others, and to support each other.
She had worked as a policewoman and could stand up with authority to get people active, but did it in a humble grandmotherly way. She was the one who caused the USFW of Kenya to become strong in prayer and in ministry and support of each other, not to be intimidated by the male leadership of meetings. She served as president of USFW Kenya for many years. After she handed over the leadership, she stayed in the background, always willing to help out when asked, and encouraging new leaders to lead using their own talents and callings, and not feel like they had to do things exactly as she had done. She’s been the role model to many women Friend’s pastors especially, and was constantly lifting them up. She also led the USFWK women to write up a Constitution and Handbook to be registered with the Kenyan government.
Gladys also served as the representative from USFWK on the USFW International board held in USA.
She was an excellent representative of Kenyan women and helped the board to become a truly international body, not just North American.
Later she became active in FWCC and was chosen as Clerk of the Africa Section. During that time, along with Moses Musonga, (the staff person), used that opportunity to travel widely among Friends all over Africa, experiencing the challenges of sleeping on floors and riding crowded public matatus (station wagons in which people are packed like sardines). They helped encourage cities like Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and Kampala, Uganda to start meetings, as there were many Kenyans who had moved to those cities to work and could help a meeting begin. They also were the ones to whom the people in southern Tanzania asked to become Quakers. Gladys came back to Kenya to get USFWK to help them buy land for the first Friends church in Kyela, Tanzania. (This is the project that is on the Tanzania/Malawi border now supported by John Muhanji of FUM along with help from Friends in USA.)
She wrote a brief history of the women in Kenya, that was issued at the time of the USFWI Triennial held in Mombasa in 2010. She was good source of much of Friends history.
In retirement, she moved to Shihendu, near Kitale, on a farm her husband still runs. It is located within walking distance of the main highway between Kisumu and Kitale, and often Friends like me would stop by as we knew they were always welcomed with a smile and at least a cup of tea as well as words of encouragement. She was on the initial support committee in Kenya for me.
She went through a lot of medical issues, but was strong and courageous. She now is at rest in the Lord. Thanks, Lord for such a faithful, hardworking minister and leader of Friends. May we all follow her footsteps and keep on in Gospel ministry.
Photo: Marian’s final visit and time with Gladys in December 2020.