Roslyn McKenzie-Ochieng was born in Guyana in a single-parent home, the youngest of four children. Her family migrated to Canada in 1987, where, as a young person, she gave her heart to Jesus at a strategic time in her life.
Roslyn’s family and friends had a mixed reaction to her born-again experience. Her mother encouraged it, though her own faith was nominal. Roslyn’s siblings and friends questioned her decision and what it meant regarding her hopes of becoming a wife one day. The “fruits,” “opportunities,” and “open doors” that resulted from her new lifestyle caused their questions to dissipate. Roslyn went on to become a Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) global worker, adopted a teenage daughter, and ultimately got married. After 10 years in Nairobi, Kenya, she returned to Canada with her husband to serve the Cree First Nation in Mistissini, Que., as a senior pastor and spiritual advisor for five years. Presently, they are involved in the same community serving the Cree Nation in counselling and leadership development.
She gave us a view into the details of her unique life experience.
DH: Let’s begin with a general question about your faith background.
RMO: As a young lady, I was very interested in being among people and was called “sociable.” I am also an analytical person who likes examining things in detail. I was first attracted to a yellow bus that came around to the community, collecting children in the neighbourhood for Sunday school at Bible Way Pentecostal Church in Montreal, Que. It was not long before I hopped onto Mr. Lee’s yellow bus and joined the youth Sunday school class myself. Since then, I’ve never turned back. I gave my life to Jesus Christ on August 9, 1987. Indeed, it was the beginning of my Christian journey!
DH: How did your life and ministry experience develop after that?
RMO: During my time at Bible Way Pentecostal Church, I was drawn towards the children’s ministry and moved up the ministry ladder from a teacher to a superintendent. I also found myself interested in prayer and participated in intercessory prayer times regularly. It was during those times of prayer that I felt the Lord calling me to “more.” I sensed there was more for me to do outside the church walls, and since I was already in children’s ministry, the call for children intensified. I felt the need to go to Bible college and study Christian education. After obtaining a certificate at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College (now Master’s College and Seminary), I felt led to pursue a bachelor’s degree in theology with a major in cross-cultural ministry. This degree opened the door of opportunity to Kenya for my internship.
After returning home from my internship, I could not erase the children’s faces from my mind. I was convinced that my ministry work after graduation would be back on the mission field in Kenya. Indeed, after struggling through what it entailed to qualify for missionary work for two years, God opened the door and granted me the desire of my heart. I returned to Kenya as a full-fledged PAOC missionary in 2004.
At that moment, I felt like the patriarch Abraham of old. God told him, “…Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1, NLT). I was elated, even though I did not know where I was going. However, I was also prepared in my heart to face challenges, whether good or not so good. When I got there, I was immediately connected with the PAOC regional office, which introduced me to Christ Is the Answer Ministries (CITAM), one of the largest and leading churches in Kenya. I was ushered into working alone as the children’s pastor. My first cultural shock was leading a ministry of 1,600 children and over 100 teachers.
In the end, I spent 10 years in Kenya serving as a PAOC children’s pastor, including five years as deputy senior pastor with CITAM in collaboration with PAOC.
DH: How did you meet your husband?
RMO: Spiritual formation was the key to my sustainability as a single person—spending a lot of time with the Lord, reading the Word of God, and praying. I stayed involved in ministry instead of focusing on who to marry. This kept me from yielding to the temptation that comes to each one of us. During my time as a missionary in Kenya, I encountered several would-be suitors offering to have a relationship with me, some of whom were married! I wanted to be married, but I submitted that desire to God, and in so doing, I resisted paths that could have led me away from my calling. At age 45, just when I began settling into single status—telling myself that the Lord is my keeper—Dr. Ochieng came knocking at my office door. Only, I mistook him for someone seeking counselling! At that time, he was a community pastor serving vulnerable people and children in Nairobi, Kenya. Due to my busy ministry schedule, we had to wait before our first date could take place. We married in 2009, five years into my 10 years of missionary service.
DH: How did you remain encouraged along the way?
RMO: I would like to encourage those in ministry, especially singles, that it is possible to stay on course and not to fall out of the spiritual race. “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of [our] faith” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a). One of my favourite Scripture verses that kept me going was, “Fear not, for I am with you…” (Isaiah 41:10, NKJV). In addition, there were highlights when people from the Fellowship embraced me and showed me love beyond what I could imagine. Permit me to mention two dear friends. One of them is Marilyn Bush, a faithful servant of God who held me up in times of pain and discouragement from my college days to the mission field. Until today, she still reaches out to me to find out how I am doing. Another is Janice Foss, who was and still is the greatest and most loving host anyone can find within the Fellowship. These are merely two friends among many others who are too many to mention. In this life, you cannot make it alone. There is a great need for people to confess to and confide in along the way.
DH: What were some things you had to overcome?
RMO: My experience within the PAOC Fellowship came with diverse challenges as a person of colour. But I stayed on course because I was looking at the lives I touched along the way. Most of those challenges came from not meeting the budgetary requirements stipulated within the policies of the Fellowship that qualified one for the mission field. I gained strength from my Bible college studies on the example of missionary William Carey, the father of missions, who went to India with few resources. His motto was, “Expect great things; attempt great things.”1 In other words, he went with few resources but expected God to do great things with what he had, and indeed, God did. He founded Serampore College, the first of its kind. I may not have left great structures, but I left children’s ministries that were created within the Northern remote parts of Kenya, a school in the village that caters to less fortunate children, and most of all, lives changed and transformed by the power of God, through Jesus Christ. I have no regrets for pushing through!
DH: Any final observations you’d like to share?
RMO: Paul said, “…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, NKJV). As a credential holder, I am pressing on. Presently, I’m being encouraged in my devotions by Paul’s missionary journey in the Book of Acts.
Roslyn McKenzie-Ochieng lives in Mistissini, Que., with her husband, where they serve the Cree Nation in counselling and leadership development. Duane Henry is the senior associate pastor of care at PORTICO Community Church in Mississauga, Ont. This article appeared in the January/February/March 2024 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2024 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos courtesy Roslyn McKenzie-Ochieng. Pictured: Leadership training in progress at Living Water Assembly in Mistissini, Que.
- “William Carey: Father of modern Protestant missions,” Christianity Today, accessed November 21, 2023, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/missionaries/william-carey.html