Kenyan broadcast student finds new voice at BYU

Karani Busolo Namunyu, a young man accustomed to the Savanna, wildlife and people of his remote African village, stepped off a bus to complete his one-hour commute to his branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with only the heat of the sun to keep him company.

Time and resources only allowed him to make this trip two or three times a year, while most days are spent working to support his entire family. Despite the challenge, he willingly sacrificed time and effort to worship.

“I see myself as lucky,” he said. “Some people have to walk very far and take breaks.” 

Namunyu, a BYU broadcasting student from Kenya, said his lifelong commitment to stay true to the gospel is what allowed him to come to the U.S. in the first place. For Namunyu, the gospel eventually led him to attend BYU to one day be a voice for his people.

With the guidance and hard-working example of his grandfather, Namunyu said he became “inspired to continually build integrity,” a quality he hopes to apply through a career in media. 

The one news radio station that reached Namunyu’s grandfather’s small village, Makunda, inspired Namunyu to become a public voice on political matters. Namunyu said he understood the importance of learning to achieve his goal.

Though he said he desired to pursue an education, Namunyu continued his role as a provider for the family and did not know he would one day attend a nationally-acclaimed university in the United States. 

“God opens doors,” Namunyu said with a smile. Although there were many stumbling blocks, he shared how often he noticed God’s hand guiding him in life. 

At age 19, Namunyu gradually formed connections that allowed him to start out as a reporter, then radio host, for government, sports and news stations speaking his native Swahili.

However, he said he noticed the lack of information and resources provided in his country, which further motivated him to become an expert in media and politics.

“Journalists have died reporting against the corrupt in Africa,” Namunyu said. “There is sacrifice to report the truth there, but it needs to be done.”

Over time, and with the permission of his father, Namunyu left the comfort of his village to further pursue his passion by moving to Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya. While there, the Church became a stronger part of his life. He actively served and met Hunter Sebresos, a BYU alumnus and instructor in the BYU School of Communications who became a trusted friend.

“I was on a work assignment attending the Mombasa branch with 50 or so active members when I met Karani,” Sebresos said. “I knew he would be a very important person in my life and that I should know him better.”

While serving as each other’s home teachers, Sebresos learned of Namunyu’s interest and experience in journalism.

“I could see that there could be ways to help. I had a prompting to try to convince him to come to BYU,” Sebresos said.

Sebresos described what he could only call miracles in helping Namunyu be accepted and enter the U.S. to attend BYU. Sebresos gave several examples of such miracles, including Namunyu’s experience to obtain a visa.

Sebresos said he remembered how nervous Namunyu was for his interview with a consular officer, who determines whether an individual receives an immigrant visa. After receiving a video message that Namunyu’s interview would take place soon, Sebresos, along with his wife and children, knelt in prayer.

During the interview, the consular requested documents Namunyu didn’t have and only allowed him to enter the U.S. after learning of his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“I don’t know if this individual was a member of the Church,” Sebresos admitted. “I just know he immediately approved Namunyu as soon as he said he was a member of this Church.”

Sebresos said he was confident God wanted Namunyu in the U.S. and gave an encouraging message for anyone with a desire to help someone else. 

“It’s better to see the world and the people in it for our similarities and not our differences,” Sebresos said. “There are more people who are like us than unlike us. Part of these experiences are the blessings that have taken place. We have helped (Namunyu), but he has helped us.”

José Abarca, who serves as the bishop of the Thanksgiving Meadows 2nd Ward in Lehi that Namunyu previously attended, expressed the great blessing Namunyu is to those around him.

“Sometimes you take for granted the things you have,” Abarca said, as he pointed out the many chapels and temples conveniently close to his community in comparison to Kenya. “Karani is so humble and always has a smile on his face. He reminds us of what matters most.”

Namunyu said the 2017 announcement of the Nairobi Kenya Temple just serves as another example of God’s love. He shared his first experience in the Salt Lake Temple and his excitement for family members back home to one day enjoy the same experience. 

“I was blessed to go to the temple when he got his endowments,” Abarca said. “He was grateful for that experience in Utah. His humility has helped me appreciate more the blessings my Father in Heaven has given me.”

Namunyu said he hopes to continue his education and pursue a master’s degree in political science, all while staying centered on the gospel.

“God opened the way, and now I am here,” Namunyu said. “In Swahili, there is a saying that goes, ‘Where there is the desire, there is always a way.’”

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