For most of his youth, Moses Pulei, ’98, envisioned that he would spend his life as his father and grandfather spent theirs: raising and herding cattle across East Africa. Growing up in the shadow of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro – which he has climbed more than 20 times – Pulei saw himself as a good herdsman. This work, along with being a good warrior, is the source of life and pride for Pulei’s Maasai tribe.
But Pulei also had an interest in education, despite his father’s concern: “Is it possible to hold a spear in one hand and a book in the other?” he asked his son. Pulei stubbornly pursued his desire, through a $20 monthly sponsorship from World Vision and greater access to schooling that was mandated by the Kenyan government. His first formal education came from Jesuit missionaries, who exposed him to his first taste of Christianity. When two new missionary couples, Fred and Cecily Strang and Tim and Sue Anne Fairman, came to work with the Maasai people, Pulei’s spiritual development blossomed. “They were very influential in my life,” he said. “I saw a side of Christianity that I’d never seen before, and it was at this point that I felt a commitment to go into Christian ministry.”
The Fairmans’ daughter, Julie (Fairman)Ward, had graduated from Whitworth in 1993; while in Africa, she talked with Pulei about Whitworth. With the help of the Fairmans and Whitworth’s admissions office, Pulei secured a visa and began his freshman year at Whitworth in fall 1993. Professor of English Linda Hunt, ’78, helped him develop his English-writing skills, and Professor of Political Studies John Yoder aided him in making the cultural transition. Yoder said that Pulei was one of the most culturally diverse students he had ever met, so much so that the two co-taught an African studies course.
Pulei’s gentle nature and genuine spirit earned the respect and admiration of his peers. He was elected ASWC president his senior year, and he helped lead a study program to his homeland; he also visited schools in Spokane to speak to children about his life experience. “Moses has a remarkable skill in communicating the story of his life in a way that bridges cultural difference,” said Vice President for Student Life Dick Mandeville.
After graduating from Whitworth, Pulei earned a master’s of divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, where he is also a candidate for a Ph.D. He continued to work on peacemaking efforts in Tanzania and Kenya, including community development projects and microenterprise. In 2007, he returned to Whitworth to teach in the theology department and to help lead the East Africa Initiative, which sought to connect students, faculty, and people in the Spokane region with members of the Maasai tribe and others in Africa. He took Whitworth students on the inaugural study program in Tanzania, where they worked in orphanages and schools and participated in homestays.
Bringing his longtime relationship with World Vision full circle, Pulei returned to the organization in 2010, to work as a partnership specialist in the East Africa region; he is particularly passionate about empowering the women who live there. He has since left World Vision to co-found Better Harvest Agricultural Company, a nonprofit that works with small-scale farmers in Tanzania to produce crops and sell at a profit. The groundwork that Pulei laid at Whitworth in establishing partnerships with East Africa continues to influence students’ lives and futures.