The first thing a 72-year-old villager in Kenya thought when he woke up unable to speak was that someone had cast a spell on him.
Shaaban* could not even open his mouth; it had to be black magic, he thought. He had done the same to many people over the years – casting spells that were said to ruin targeted people’s efforts to succeed in any endeavor, according to the director of a ministry based in the country.
The sorcerer lost his speech exactly a year ago this month.
“Many people had died in his village, and villagers had claimed he was the reason for those deaths,” the local ministry leader said. “Among them was his own brother, with whom he had conflict over a piece of their ancestral land. One evening they picked a quarrel that led to a fight; his brother had a sudden stomach attack during night time, and before dawn he was dead.”
Frantically, Shaaban tried in vain to invoke magical powers with his trinkets, fetishes and potions in order to restore his speech. His wife sought advice from their neighbor, who advised her to seek prayer from one of the native ministry’s church pastors, the director said.
When the pastor and a church elder arrived, they found Shaaban communicating with hand signs. They sang Christian worship songs before praying for him.
“While praying, something strange happened – this man screamed and started saying strange things even his family could not understand,” the director said. “All of a sudden, a big black monkey came out from his room; this animal was scary. When people who were around saw it, they ran out in fear because of what they had seen.”
Shaaban fell unconscious, he said. The church leaders continued praying for him for nearly three hours. When he regained consciousness, he was able to speak again, the director said.
Native missionaries held worship meetings on his property over the next week as word spread of what the Lord had done, the ministry leader said.
“It was not easy for this man to surrender his sorcery, but after talking with him, he accepted to surrender – he and others burned their items used for sorcery, and he was led in a repentance prayer to invite Jesus to be his personal Savior,” the director said. “He and others who witnessed his recovery did not know that Jesus was preparing a platform for them to preach the Good News to people in that village and in the neighborhood.”
As local missionaries worked with Shabaan and others who witnessed his transformation, they began to realize the extent to which powers of darkness held villagers in bondage; many others were practicing witchcraft, the director said.
“Some of them surrendered strange things used for bewitching others, and they burned them,” he said. “Soon 65 souls were won to Christ, they started a fellowship there; 25 adults attend daily with 22 children. We thank God who, through one man, won many other souls to Christ.”
There and in surrounding villages, there are five churches and other fellowships sprouting even as sorcery and vice remain popular, he said. In nearly every home, the director noted, people produce alcoholic drinks, believing it is the easiest way to make money.
“Men, women and children are lost in alcohol,” he said. “When they wake in the morning, the first thing they do is take alcohol. We thank God that through the unity of preachers, they are now working as a team doing evangelism from house to house and also in open-air meetings.”
Native missionaries have begun Bible studies where converts are given ample opportunity to ask questions about the nature of the Lord, the Bible, its historical elements and present relevance, he said.
Shaaban is now a church elder who is helping to spread the gospel to surrounding villages.
“As people know the Truth, they slowly change, and we thank God that cases of rape, alcoholism, drug addiction, robbery, abortions, divorces and children dropping out of school have reduced,” the director said. “They also teach them about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, and how they can prevent them.”
Africa, where Christians totaled only 10 million in 1900, is expected to have 1 billion Christ-followers by the 2040s, renowned religious history researcher Philip Jenkins noted in a recent issue of The Christian Century – which will make Africa the continent with the most Christians in terms of raw numbers.
Though Christianity in Kenya is weakened by nominalism and mixing with the animism of tribal traditional beliefs and rituals, the country illustrates the growth of Christendom on the continent. Kenya’s 10 million Christians in 1966 have grown to 50 million today, according to Jenkins.
The native ministry that reached Shaaban has also sent workers to urban areas, where workers have seen deliverance as many people put their faith in Christ and are baptized, the ministry leader said.
Among unreached people in remote areas in the interior, native missionaries planted two churches before the new coronavirus hit, he said.
“We have been able to take our relief aid to our brothers and sisters in those arid places as we preached the word of God to them, and they accepted it with gladness,” the director said.
In other regions of the country, churches have been planted with an average of 25 people in each, and they are growing, he said. Over a six-month period, about half of 500 people who heard the gospel put their faith in Christ, he said.
Through home visits, open-air events and outreaches that include relief aid, local missionaries throughout Kenya are bringing the message of eternal life in Christ to the spiritually hungry. Please consider a donation to equip them for service.
*Name changed for security reasons