"My disciples living abroad should not abandon good characters; they should remain engrossed in the Karan Satsang, and should not forget their duty. They should remain self-disciplined and adherent to the commandments of the supreme Lord Shree Swaminarayan and Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree." With the aim of instilling this understanding within the disciples of East Africa, Jeevanpran Swamibapa travelled to the African continent with four sants and one parshad by ship.
On Tuesday, 6 April 1948, Jeevanpran Swamibapa sailed from the port of Mumbai to the coastal city of Mombasa, Kenya. For the journey, He took with Him a few jerry-cans of water for bathing and drinking, and some dry food. They even carried sackfuls of soil, in order to wash their hands after performing their bodily functions, because it was not considered appropriate for sants to use soap at that time. Each morning, Swamibapa and the sants would awaken before any of the other passengers, so that they could bathe and perform pooja in peace. They would then sit in meditation until the middle of the day. Ten days after leaving Mumbai, Swamibapa's steam ship reached the destination, Mombasa, on Friday 16 April 1948.
Swamibapa set foot on African soil. This was a revolutionary event. Until then, no sant had ever left India. It was considered unacceptable for any sant to venture out of the 'holy land of India' and go to foreign lands. Years earlier, Mahatma Ghandhi had been excommunicated from his society when he returned from England because he had crossed the so-called polluting 'kalapani' (black waters). Similarly, Swamibapa's first visit to East Africa was regarded with the utmost of contempt by sants in other sects. Jeevanpran Swamibapa ignored the disapproval of others and concerned Himself only with the welfare of His disciples.
Soon after the first visit in 1948, many of the other sants also followed Swamibapa's pioneering divine footsteps, even though they had spoken words of contempt for Swamibapa previously. The truth is that the spread of the Swaminarayan Sampraday throughout the entire world today is due to the immense endurance of Adya Acharyapravar Jeevanpran Swamibapa.
A large number of disciples had travelled from Nairobi to Mombasa to welcome Swamibapa. He was warmly welcomed in Mombasa by the disciples and the group travelled back to Nairobi by train.
A grand procession was held from Nairobi Railway Station to Jadvabhai Mulji Vekaria's residence where Swamibapa was to reside. There were no decorated chariots in this parade, everyone travelled on foot chanting the glorious name of Lord Swaminarayan.
Swamibapa and His group of sants were invited to visit the Swaminarayan temple situated on Temple Road. After seeing this well disciplined and divinely group of sants, the committee members of the temple requested Swamibapa and the sants to reside at the temple. Swamibapa agreed to the requests of the temple committee and stayed at the communal temple, however it was evident to all that it was going to be difficult for all the disciples to propagate the tenets of Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree at that temple. Swamibapa therefore discussed His plans with the disciples to look for a suitable piece of land on which to build a new temple of their own, where they could peacefully worship and further spread the teachings and principles of Lord Swaminarayan and Jeevanpran Shree Abji Bapashree.