For a very long time, I groped in the dark using my hands to feel the way because it was pitch dark. Many are the times I stumbled on obstacles including huge rocks, pot-holes,tree stumps and logs along the way, sometimes hurting myself so badly and lying down for hours before painfully gathering myself up and trotting on. What terrified me most was that I could not see where I was headed.
I had lost direction! I could run for many kilometers, only to find myself at the point where I had started. Was I going round in circles? Most definitely. I felt like a wrecked vessel in the middle of a vast sea which could only move to any direction the waves swept it.
All this time I was gripped by inexplicable fear. I was always breathlessly on the run trying to escape from unknown assailants! I was sick and tired of it all. I badly needed a way to bring it to an end once and for all. The ordeal had sapped all my energy and I was at the verge of giving up. That was my life before I met Christ who lovingly took my hand and lit the way. I now know from Psalms 27:1. That ” The LORD is my light and my salvation–so why should I be afraid?…”
I grew up in a relatively religious home. I remember when we were small kids, my mother ensured that she prepared us for church as early as seven, every Sunday , so that we could not miss the Sunday school session which started before the main service. This was in spite of the fact that the P.A.G church we attended was a stone-throw away from our home. Funny enough, even my dad, who never used to attend church services, could remind us not to miss going to church!
Sunday -school involved bible study sessions right from beginners class, for children, up to adult classes where adults discussed the bible in detail. I used to enjoy the classes because of the interesting bible stories that were narrated to us by the teachers. Thereafter we could answer simple questions from the topic of the day during the main service, which seemed so simple to me. Songs presented by various groups made church so lively and something worth looking forward to.
At the age of eleven I went to boarding school quite some distance away from home. The school was sponsored by the Lutheran church and this meant that going to church on Sunday was mandatory. The Bible stories continued and by the time I was in class eight, I had accumulated a sizable number of stories from the bible but that was all. Just stories!
After graduating from primary school, I was admitted to an S.D.A church sponsored high school whereby going to church on Saturdays was a rule that was strictly enforced. The services were so dull and boring to me since their songs were never accompanied by any musical instruments. I found myself sleeping through the services most of the time, which often put me in trouble with the teachers who were in charge of the services. I remember one day I decided not to attend the sabbath ,altogether, but instead chose to read for our weekly tests that usually came on Sundays. I was unfortunately caught red-handed by the teacher on duty. This earned me a suspension from school for one week and and I was required to go back with my father. I knew I was in deep trouble and had to think very fast because I was certain my father could kill me for any kind of misbehavior in school. I decided to go to my maternal grandparents’ place which was nearer to our school. I had to pretend that we were on mid-term break and I did not want to go home. Though the timing was suspicious, they reluctantly bought my story and welcomed me to stay with them for a week. Meanwhile, I made plans with a village drunk who was fortunately smart and fluent in the English language. He was to take me back to school, posing as my uncle and tell the teachers that he was representing my dad who was on a business trip. This was to be at a fee of two hundred shillings and our agreement was, I pay half upfront and the rest was to come after the deal was done. It was a very daring stunt but I at last let out a sigh of relief when I managed to pull through the suspension saga without my parents knowing anything about it,though I had to kiss goodbye to the only pocket-money I had on me. The incident made me really hate the Saturday service even more and made me develop a negative attitude towards church.
The teacher in charge of the Saturday church service,whom we nicknamed “Semo” summoned me to the staff-room and wanted to give me additional punishment of cleaning a whole dormitory. He said I was fond of sleeping in church but I put up a spirited defense arguing that I was normally making personal prayers when he thought I was sleeping. This was so humorous to the other teachers who ended up siding with me forcing him to leave me alone.
That is how my interest in church started dwindling even when I went back home for holidays. After my high school, I was a young adult who never knew Jesus personally. I went through life like any young man excited about clearing high school and having prospects of joining university as a freshman. Unknown to me, something else was developing in me. A spinal tumor that could later cause untold suffering into my life.
I sat for my final high school exams in 1997, which meant that I had to wait till late 1999 to join University. My dad decided that I take a short computer course as I waited. This is how I landed in Kisii putting up with my elder brother Alfred. My computer lessons lasted a few hours in the morning, hence I was free for the rest of the day. My brother ran a pool table business in one of the popular pubs in town. So I found myself spending the rest of my time after class, playing pool in the pub and before I knew it I was gradually introduced to alcohol and night clubs. By the time I joined university,I was already hooked into the lifestyle.
The next 14 or so years would be a total nightmare to me. Unknown to many, I suffered the devastation of a spinal tumor which the doctors failed to diagnose all this time. I was always in and out of hospital taking drugs meant to cure the symptoms because of misdiagnosis. While in campus,my friends started noticing a slight limp when I walked. At some point I had serious skin ulcers on my legs due to what I came to discover later was the malfunctioning of the nerves supplying my lower body. I had serious bladder problems too. All this time through college and afterwards,I tried to maintain a normal facade but deep down I was really hurting. Honestly speaking, I had a very rough time in university and never had fun like other young men of my age. But I always pretended to be happy.
Mine was a relatively poor background with my father retiring as a primary school teacher, while I was in high school and my mother was a peasant. I am the middle-born of a family of six with two brothers and a sister who are older than me and two younger brothers. After high school, each of us in the family was literally left to his/her own devices. All the frustrations brought about by my condition and lack of a close person to confide in, forced me to turn to heavy drinking and smoking for solace. It is mind boggling how one can feel so lonely while surrounded by so many people! What bothered me most was the fact that I never knew what hit me and, needless to say, my studies were significantly affected.
The fact that I couldnt find a meaningful job when I finally came out of college did not make things any easier for me. After a short stint as a short term contract high school teacher, I had to venture into business where I could control my own schedule as I understood my predicament. The health conditions couldn’t allow me to keep a regular job.
Meanwhile as the tumor affected the nerves connecting the lower parts of my body to the central nervous system, I was gradually losing power in my legs.
When it was finally discovered in late 2013 through MRI scans, my legs were already considerably weak and numb. I had an obvious limp that forced me to walk by aid of a walking stick. That was how my journey to India was hatched.
I had no idea how the money for my medical expenses could be raised but my family was in unanimous agreement that such a delicate surgery had to be done in India due to the comparatively higher technology and affordable rates. This is the point at which God started revealing Himself to me in a very amazing way!I had this strong feeling that my health problems would be dealt with in India once and for all. Little did I know that God had much more in store for me, in India.
Even though I wasn’t born again during the time of my ailment, I never missed to make a silent prayer every time I woke up and whenever I went to sleep. I had a strong belief that one day my tribulations would come to an end. For the sake of my wife and little son I had to put on a brave face and limp off to work every morning even though I knew that I was about to be incapacitated. My trip to India for a spinal surgery came as a big surprise to many since few people knew that I was ailing.
I believe the moment I stepped into that plane from Nairobi en route to Bangalore India,in the company of my younger brother Julius, my heart was finally softening through practical lessons that God was teaching me. You see I had always viewed Christianity as a way of life and nothing more. The first major lesson I learnt was about Godly love that can only be found in a godly person. My brother left a heavily expectant wife behind together with their three year old son,went ahead to raise the bulk of the money that enabled us to fly to India for my medication when I was at a point in life where I imagined that nobody cared for me except my wife and son.
This gesture of pure brotherly love overwhelmingly touched me. I now understand that to Christians, LOVE is a commandment not a suggestion as clearly stated in Mark 12:31. (‘Love your neighbor as yourself.) I now know that my brother, a born again Christian and a pastor, was simply doing what God commanded us all to do. I am convinced that one kind gesture can minister more to a person than a million words.
When we landed in Bangalore airport at five in the morning of 13th February, we were received by a jovial Tanzanian pastor who walked with an Obama swag. The man had braved the night cold waiting for us. Given that our plane had delayed for two hours in Sharjah UAE,the man of God my brother addressed as Ahmed must have patiently waited at the airport for at least three hours! I saw humility in him as he led us to a waiting cab which took us to an apartment room he had already booked for us. As I lay down to rest that morning, I had began to understand what it meant to be a Christian. I learnt from my brother that Pastor Ahmed had been in India since May last year with his wife, taking care of their son who was suffering from liver cancer.
Later in the day, after our jet lagged bodies had had enough rest, I got to meet pastor Ahmed Ngombo’s family, in India, which constituted of his wife Audrey and the ailing boy,Joshua. His father in law who had come visiting was also in their house. The family never looked shaken by the boy’s condition! That evening we went out together and I had time to interact with Josh who surprised me
that he had gone through twelve chemotherapy sessions! The boy was obviously strong-willed and so optimistic and above all, God fearing! He in fact made me look forward to my imminent surgery.
That Sunday, my brother Julius and I accompanied the Ngombos to a small Church in the outskirts of Bangalore city. The church was in the fourth floor of what looked like a small commercial building. I had difficulties scaling the stairs since I was using a walking stick to aid me in walking. But the moment I stepped into that church I felt a different type of energy. It was so electric! A choir was performing and the voices that filtered through can only be described as angelic. We were met at the door by a very friendly,long haired indian pastor who looked so American to me. I would later learn that he was the senior pastor, Paul Victor. There were less than fifty people in the congregation but the vigour with which they praised and worshipped was so contagious. All of a sudden I felt so much at home with a very strong sense of belonging. There and then I knew that the stage was set for a big experience in my life because I could feel the presence of a supernatural power in the church.
It happened that pastor Ahmed was to deliver the sermon that day. He spoke with a soft but firm voice that carried loads of conviction. His message was simple and straightforward. He asked a simple question that challenged me so much. “What do we have to give God in return of all He has given us?” He quipped that many Christians felt they had a lot to offer God like tithes,going to church and not doing bad things like their neighbors. I thought about it and realized that I had nothing to offer God for his grace! I knew that it was through God’s grace that I was able to go through all I had been through without collapsing or bowing my head. I felt that he was addressing me!
Perhaps what challenged me most was the strength in him. Here was a man going through a major challenge, but passionately preaching the gospel in a foreign land, thousands of miles away from home! My heart melted. I knew that such strength could only come from one source. God. By the time he was through with the sermon, not only was I in tears but I was standing at the pulpit waiting for him to pray for me. That was the first time in my life to go to the altar after a sermon and that is how my encounter with Jesus began.
After the prayer,church was over and we went round to say hi to people in the congregation. I met people from Burundi,Rwanda, Congo Nigeria and Indians from different states. All of them were so warm and friendly. You could think we had known each other for a long time. I had already come to a conclusion that if this is what Christianity looked like, then I was finally in the right place and in the right company. I have never felt so happy and complete in my life like I felt that day.
Back in our apartment room, my brother Julius asked me whether I was really ready to receive Jesus Christ in my life. I told him it was already a done deal. He told me he had been praying for me for a long time. For the first time since we were children, we had time to really share our life experiences and bond more than we ever did before. I shared with my brother things that I had never been able to even share with the doctors about my situation. But I had to be sure that I wasn’t doing this because of the fear of the imminent surgery. I knew it couldn’t be fear because I had waited for the surgery for so long. I now strongly believed that I was already healed and the surgery was to be just but a procedure. I knew for sure God had touched me that day.
One thing I am sure about is that the moment I stepped out of that church I was not the same person who went in. I was feeling like one who had offloaded a one ton load off his shoulders! We held our hands and my brother prayed for me. That very moment, in an apartment room thousands of miles away from home, surrounded by many Hindu gods and goddesses, I fully surrendered my life to Christ. From Galatians 2:20, I can now say that “I have been crucified with Christ,it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me.”
The surgery went amazingly well. I am sure the most wonderful piece of news I have ever received in my life is when the doctors told me that the biopsy done on the tumor they removed from my spinal chord showed that it was not malignant hence the chances of spreading were totally slim. I don’t have to shout about my new found faith from the roof-tops but I know that the Spirit of God in me witnesses on my behalf(Romans 8:16) I believe this is just but the beginning of my journey with Christ and I can only describe it in one word.AWESOME!