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O.E. and Mariam Joseph

Retired Missionaries to Kenya
"Sharing Our Lives before Others"
By David Adams, Intern, October 2013

When O.E. and Mariam Joseph were first appointed as missionaries to Kenya by World Gospel Mission, O.E. said they knew nothing about that country. Although O.E. and Mariam had planned to serve in their native India, they were ready for the “new venture” God had prepared for them in Kenya.

The Josephs were raised in Kerala, a state on India’s southwest coast. O.E., short for Ottathengil Eapen, was born on March 18, 1935, into a pastor’s family. His father encouraged O.E. to enter Christian service. O.E. studied history in college before attending South India Biblical Seminary (SIBS), where he studied the Bible in preparation for ministry.

Mariam was born on May 24, 1943. Her parents were Christians, and her mother challenged her to serve the Lord, and even to become a missionary, from an early age. “As I was growing up,” Mariam said, “the Lord opened up my inner eyes and ears to the need around me.” She was in her 20s when she met O.E.

“In India, 50 years ago, parents were responsible for finding a husband or wife for their children,” Mariam said. But rather than seeking a spouse who could improve their families’ status or wealth, O.E. and Mariam’s parents searched for someone committed to following Christ.

When the pair was introduced, they had only a short time to get to know one another before they needed to make a decision. Trusting their parents’ guidance, O.E. and Mariam agreed to be married, and they were wed on May 7, 1964.

The Josephs prepared for ministry over the next five years by serving young people in schools and churches. They also started their family; three of their four children—Anita, Ajit, and Anil—were born between 1965 and 1969.

O.E. began to feel that he needed more training to prepare him for the ministry. At the direction of the principal at SIBS, O.E. left to study religion at Azusa Pacific University (California). Mariam remained in India to tend to their family.

O.E. graduated from Azusa in 1971. Mariam and their children joined him in Oregon that year, where he began further studies at Western Evangelical Seminary (now George Fox Evangelical Seminary). The Josephs’ youngest child, Angela, was born there in 1974.

After O.E. earned his master’s degrees in divinity and religious education, WGM approached the Josephs with the opportunity of teaching at Kenya Highlands Bible College (now Kenya Highlands Evangelical University) in Kericho. Both were excited by the opportunity to serve God and work with WGM, and they were appointed to Kenya in 1977, arriving in the country on December 31, 1978.

At KHBC, O.E. taught Bible, evangelism, and theology courses while also serving, over the course of his time in Kenya, as acting principal, dean of students, and vice principal. Many of his students became pastors and missionaries throughout central and eastern Africa. O.E. also helped local pastors obtain resources for teaching and ministry, since their access to books and other materials was limited.

Mariam’s initial four years in Kenya were difficult. She wondered whether she should return to the U.S. or to India, particularly because the family had struggled to raise enough financial support for their ministry. Not having been trained in seminary, Mariam often prayed, “What am I going to do in Kenya? Lord, if it’s just going to be a housewife, then why do I have to go all the way to Kenya to do it?”

Her prayer was answered when she was asked to help in the chapel at her daughter’s school, a ministry she maintained for 16 years. Eventually she began serving in other schools and at KHBC. O.E. and Mariam mentored couples in their local church throughout their time in Kenya, helping them to develop as Christians, spouses, and parents. The Josephs also worked with The Gideons International to distribute thousands of New Testaments to Hindus and Muslims of Indian origin.

During one of those interactions, a Muslim woman accepted Jesus and began to come to church and Bible studies. Although the woman’s husband remained opposed to her faith and refused to let her listen to Christian music at home, he took an interest in O.E. and attended church whenever O.E. was preaching. The woman’s son even tried to kill her because of her faith, but eventually the entire family came to know Jesus as their Savior.

The Josephs continued their ministries in Kenya until April 2001, when they were called to serve in their homeland—India. They served at SIBS, O.E.’s alma mater, for six months, where O.E. preached and taught at the seminary. Mariam worked in children’s and women’s ministries and counseled students.

O.E. and Mariam officially retired from WGM on January 1, 2004, but they continue to return to SIBS periodically to assist with projects, administration, mentoring, and teaching.

The Josephs’ lifetime of service proved it is possible to practice the “doctrine of holiness.” At WGM’s International Celebration of Missions in 2004, the Josephs proclaimed their desire to “lead, guide, and challenge (others) in the deeper understanding and experience of holiness.”

O.E. summarized his family’s 27 years of ministry, saying, “Yes, it is possible to live a victorious life, to live according to our teaching. Sharing our lives before others was our greatest joy.”

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