We Christians can be a romantic lot. Most of the time when we hear someone’s testimony we hear a ‘that was then, this is now’ kind of story. The ‘old man’ was homeless or a drunkard or suffering the consequences of some really bad sin. Then, the person finds Jesus and cleans up their life and now they are clean and sober and gainfully employed. I don’t mean to belittle those stories at all, but in most of the world those kind of ‘happily ever after’ stories just don’t happen. Yes, they find Jesus and they now have hope and a purpose and peace, but for many of them, life doesn’t necessarily get easier. In fact for some, it gets harder.
This is James. James is 22 years old and until four years ago was wandering the Kamkunji slums outside of Eldoret, Kenya. These slums consist of rows and rows of little 12 X 12 mud houses with tin roofs and dirt floors. It’s dusty and dirty with raw sewage in the street and no utilities to speak of. According to 2010 UNICEF figures, the average Kenyan lives on $2.13 a day.
At eighteen James found himself at an evangelistic rally where he heard a man named Ben Bahati preach about a God who loved him right where he was. Ben and his organization, Global Field Evangelism, and his US-based ministry partner, Mike Curry and Light Ministries, reach out to people all around Western Kenya. That day James heard about a God that could soothe the emptiness in his heart. He became a Christ-follower and never looked back. This is where we would normally add the ‘happily ever after’.
But today James still lives in that slum, albeit with an entirely different outlook. Instead of leaving the slums for a ‘better life’, he is evangelizing and ministering to the same people from whom he used to try to steal. Through his witnessing, several prostitutes have turned their life to Christ and are now living in houses in the slums that are provided by GFE. James is also caring for about 30 of the ‘street boys’ that are living in two houses rented by GFE, teaching them about Christ and trying to mentor them. GFE is feeding the women and children in the slum once a week now and hopes to expand their ministry to a full blown feeding station and school.
I don’t mean to make it sound like James’ life is not better than it was. He now has a hope and a peace he never knew before. I just wanted to point out that when we abandon our own will and follow Christ, He may lead us into the dark and dirty places of the world. I wonder how many of us would follow Christ if it meant going back into our past and ministering to those people we’d rather just forget? James is a hero of the faith, bravely serving Christ from a mud hut in a dirty slum. Well done, thy good and faithful servant!