Prayer Profile
The Orma of Kenya

[IMAGE] The Orma are semi-nomadic shepherds, well known from their tall, slender physiques and handsome features. They live in the southeastern deserts of Kenya except during the rainy season when they move their herds inland.

The Orma are remnants of the once powerful "Galla nation" of Ethiopia and northern Kenya. In the late nineteenth century, wars with neighboring tribes forced the Orma to migrate south. Some moved to the rich delta area of the lower Tana River, and others settled west of the river.

The Orma also go by the name "Galla," which is widely used in Ethiopia. They do not call themselves this, however, since it is considered to be derogatory.

Herding cattle is their basic means of survival. Their distinct breed of the white, long-horned zebu cattle are among the finest in Africa. Zebu are used as a "bride price" and are slaughtered at weddings and funerals.

What are their lives like?
Though the Orma basically survive by raising cattle, they also raise goats and sheep. Men who own more than 1,000 head of cattle are granted special recognition in their communities.

Meat is the main food of the Orma, supplemented with milk or cow's blood. They also eat maize, rice, beans, and drink tea. The arid Tana region is not favorable for growing produce; therefore, they have few vegetables in their diet. Any produce they obtain must be bought from another tribe. This is not an easy task since the shortage of watering holes often leads to bloody clashes between tribes.

The Orma live in round, wood-framed huts built by the women. The huts are covered with woven mats and grass. When the family migrates with the herds, the homes must be dismantled and put on pack animals, along with the household goods. A larger version of these huts is built for those who live in permanent villages.

An Orma man typically has only one wife, even though polygamy is allowed. Special ceremonies are performed at the birth of children. Babies are dedicated seven days after they are born. A woman stays secluded for forty days after giving birth. Then, a feast is held with the other women in the village and the baby is dedicated a second time. If the child is the couple's first, the parents take on the child's name, preceded by aba (father) or hada (mother).

Orma funerals are also interesting events. The family members sometimes inflict wounds on themselves, scratching their cheeks and bodies to indicate grief.

Among the Orma, the line of descent is traced patrilineally, or through the males. Masculinity in attitudes, rituals, and symbolism is customary. Such things as bravery and warrior ethics are also stressed. Riding, spear throwing, and fighting are admirable skills among the men, and those who have killed dangerous animals or human enemies are honored.

What are their beliefs?
The Orma are almost 100% Muslim, and have been so for three or four generations. They are devoted in their faith, observing all the rites and religious festivals of Islam. Most of the Orma have never heard the name of Jesus. If they have heard His name, it has been through the Islamic teachings that Jesus was simply a prophet, teacher, or good man, but not that He is God's Son.

The original religion of the Orma included belief in a creator God associated with the sky. They recognized the existence of many spirits and associated them with various locations in nature such as mountain tops, trees, groves, rivers, and wells. These beliefs have now apparently been combined with their Islamic beliefs.

What are their needs?
The Islamic religion is very difficult to penetrate. Five missions agencies are currently targeting the Orma, but there are still only four known believers. Portions of the New Testament are available in their native language; but less than 5% of the population can read, so understanding of the Scriptures is limited.

Prayer Points

  • Ask the Lord to call teachers who are willing to go to Kenya and share Christ with the Orma.
  • Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the four known Orma Christians.
  • Pray that the Jesus film will soon be made available in their language.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Orma toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
  • Pray that the Orma will become dissatisfied with Islam and that they will begin searching for the Truth.
  • Pray for effectiveness of the Christian radio broadcasts that are being aired among the Orma.
  • Ask the Lord to raise up a strong local church among the Orma by the year 2000.

Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.


  • People name: Orma
  • Country: Kenya
  • Their language: Orma
  • Population: (1990) 30,700
    (1995) 36,800
    (2000) 42,400
  • Largest religion: Muslims (Shafiites) 99.9%
  • Christians: <1%
  • Church members: 4
  • Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
  • Jesus Film in their own language: None
  • Christian broadcasts in their own language: Available
  • Mission agencies working among this people: 5
  • Persons who have heard the Gospel: 11,000 (29%) Those evangelized by local Christians: 1,100 (3%)
    Those evangelized from the outside: 9,900 (26%)
  • Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 25,800 (71%)
  • Country: Kenya
  • Population: (1990) 23,612,700
    (1995) 28,261,200
    (2000) 32,577,200
  • Major peoples in size order: Kikuyu 19.6%
    Luo 13.7%
    Central Luhya 7.7%
    Kisii 6.2%
  • Major religions: Christians 84.2%
    Ethnic Religionists 6.7%
    Muslims 7.0%
  • Number of denominations: 116

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Bethany World Prayer Center

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