Sangomas, shamans, seers. Whatever you call them, it's not every day you sit down for a chat with a "witch doctor." Of course, nothing about Vision for Kenya trips is "every day," either. Nonetheless, on the first day of a recent vision clinic I found myself sitting across from Michael whose life would change, quite dramatically, in a plastic chair in a dusty hospital room in Emali, Kenya.
It was mid-afternoon on the first day of our vision clinic there and, to be honest, I was quite exhausted. Our morning had been busy and I was in triage (sitting down with vision clinic visitors to discuss their spiritual health and vision while sharing the Jesus story one more time in Word and prayer) the entire time. I was enjoying a short respite and talking with one of our other volunteers about Seventh Day Adventists and never knowing what to expect in triage.
Then in walked Michael.
A slightly older man, thin, with piercing eyes that bore the faint cloud of failing vision, he was, according to his registration card, a Seventh Day Adventist. I asked him, "Michael, what did you think of the Jesus story you heard after you registered…the one with the Evange-cube?" He responded with a smile, "I liked it."
This is usually when I relax a bit. Phew, Michael is a Christian. No scary evangelism work to be done here. I nonchalantly inquired, "What was your favorite part?" as I made a mark under the column "Christian" in my personal notebook of records. Michael said, "the part about our grandfather's sin and father's sin being my sin!"
Are you some sort of masochist Michael? Who, in their right mind, enjoys the narrative of original sin and human concupiscence?
Knowing that dialogue would not translate well, I instead asked, bewildered, "why is that?"
Then the shoe dropped. Michael said, "because on my father's deathbed he asked me to take up his trade. His trade was witchcraft. I was raised to be Christian, but since then I've never been to church, I've never known anything but darkness. I haven't practiced the trade, but many people expect me to and I am trapped in this darkness of witchcraft. I want to get out. I want to live in the light."
Fumbling with my pen, leaning forward, my heart rattling in my chest like a pocket full of loose change, I pushed, "and what did you hear about darkness and light from the evangelist? Did he tell you how you can step into the light?"
Me: "How do you live in the light, then?"
Michael: "Jesus is how I can live in the light."
I reached out for Michael's hand. The work was already done. The Holy Spirit, the Helper, had already taught Michael's heart about Jesus, had already brought to remembrance the catastrophic, precious, soul-saving, in-breaking illumination, of Jesus and his Word (John 14:26). Michael knew that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness, no matter its source or its power or its stubbornness, cannot overcome it (John 1:5).
Knowing this, we began to pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to do its work in Michael, that Jesus would continue to drive out the darkness and that by the Father's sending of the Holy Spirit Michael may no longer walk in darkness, but instead walk in the light (Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:8; 1 John 1:5-7).
As Michael repeated the words about the Holy Spirit and prayed, "Mungu, kutuma Roho wake Mtakatifu…," which means, "Father, send your Holy Spirit" there suddenly came the blowing of a violent wind from the surrounding plains that slammed the doors of the room around us, blew over tables and chairs and knocked down the registration tent, bending its metal poles and rolling through in one, tumultuous, moment.
I looked up. I expected tongues of fire on Michael's head (Acts 2: 1-3). Here it is, I thought, my very own Pentecost moment. Alas, no flames of fire on top of Michael's head, but there was one in his heart.
Michael needed help with his eyes, so I marked what he needed (reader's and distance glasses), and sent him on to the doctor. However, I promised him that he needed to talk to our local evangelist. As he walked out of the doors he said he wanted to skip the doctor and talk to the evangelist immediately. The Holy Spirit did its work that day…and gave us a bit of a confirmation to boot!
Later that evening the evangelist went to visit Michael's home. Just as the Holy Spirit had blown through that day and removed all the darkness and powers from Michael's heart, so too the evangelist and Michael went through his home and rid it of all the talismans and idols that were the tools of his family's trade. They lit them on fire and watched them burn. There was fire after all. Michael's son saw the flames and rushed to see if his father was alright. Michael told his son the story and then, at that moment, as the fetishes were aflame, the Spirit brought his son to faith as well.
God has a vision for Kenya. He is already at work there. His Spirit is on the move. Will you join our Triune God in his work? Will you see what Jesus is up to in Kenya and watch him, feel him, manifest his mighty presence and as he brings light into the darkness - not only in the lives of those in Kenya, but in the lives of those who may go skeptical, but return with confirmation that the Holy Spirit is present in the proclamation of the Word - will you?