First published by Sinapis on 23 March 2021
Japheth Kimani is the CEO of Automart Autofilters in Kenya, which he launched in 2015.
In Kenya, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in millions of people suddenly being unemployed, severe revenue losses for businesses still operating, increased poverty, and a mental health crisis. And yet, in the midst of this unprecedented challenge, there are people who are practicing generosity.
Japheth Kimani, a member of the growing Sinapis alumni network and the CEO of Automart Autofilters (an auto-parts business), reflects on the struggles he has faced during the pandemic and the joy he has found in giving.
Like many business owners who have made it through a year of COVID-19 restrictions, he is thankful that his business has stabilised, but remembers how challenging the spring was. “When the Kenyan government issued regulations and safety measures back in March, there was a lot of speculation in the country. Many of our customers restricted their movement and opted to stay home. Those that used to buy in bulk reduced their orders significantly. Ultimately, we were forced to slash salaries by 20%. However, as the country began to adhere to the government’s safety precautions, we began to see our sales pick up. Demand began to rise again in May which allowed us to reinstate all staff salaries. I am very grateful to God that none of my staff lost their jobs during that particularly difficult time.”
As Kenyans hunkered down and tried to speculate on when, or if, life would return to normal, most people eliminated non-essential spending, including charitable giving. But Japeth took a different route and began to give as needs arose around him. “I didn’t have a specific plan or a well-organised initiative. The first time I offered to help was during the Sinapis monthly prayer call and we prayed for someone who needed food. Then I reached out to my extended family and circle of friends and found some needy cases as well. Later, I remembered that my church has a feeding program. I also made my contribution to it to ensure it kept running. Afterwards, I reached out to friends of mine who are pastors who couldn’t pay the rent for their churches, homes and offices and I started helping them offset some bills. To be honest, I didn’t have a plan for these acts of generosity. I just helped in any way I could.”
Growing the Scope of Generosity
What started as small acts of generosity quickly grew to become part of his business model. “My business is a channel God uses to bless me. The revenues we generate bless other people like my staff, who in turn bless their families. And on and on it goes. During COVID I soon realised that I didn’t have to give in an individual capacity only. My business could also give. I went ahead and created a generosity kitty that would be pegged on monthly sales. This is now in the books as a company expense to make our giving more consistent and regularly support initiatives that are practicing generosity.”
A Theology of Giving
Japheth’s deep faith in God inspires and motivates him. “I see myself as a channel through which God can bless another person. Money does not fall from heaven, but God uses people to ensure that money flows through them to those in need. It is up to me to position myself to ensure that His love flows to those I come into contact with. Remembering that God loved me first, just as I am, keeps me humble. There is nothing special I have done to deserve His love. Therefore, I have no reason not to live a generous life. Nothing is mine. God is the one who has given me everything I have. Whatever He directs me to do, through His Spirit, that is what I do.”
“My inspiration comes from understanding who I am in Christ. I live convinced that the generosity that overflows from my Father, to me, should flow through me. I see myself as a channel through which God can bless others.”