Kenya and the Power of Almighty God
By Paul Lawler
I have had the privilege of spending time in many parts of the world. Most of that time has been in Asia with persecuted Christians. I recently spent time with Christians in East Africa. This is but one story of an evening spent ministering in a new church plant in Thika, Kenya.
Exotic aromas filled the air. A festive Choma, a Kenyan barbeque, was underway. As men butchered goats with surgical precision, fires were tended and vats of water were brought to a boil. Darkness fell and evening temperatures cooled, providing a contrast to the warm fellowship and laughter punctuating the arid East African air. This was a gathering of the men of Living the Faith Missionary Church of Thika, Africa; a new church plant in a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya.
The Senior Pastor introduced me to lots of people. Some spoke fluent English, while most spoke Swahili and required a translator. While I had the opportunity to meet numerous people, someone introduced me to a man named Pastor Paul. He spoke fluent English. We found ourselves amused that we both had the same name and were both pastors. Pastor Paul shared how he had come to Christ while battling alcohol addiction. In fact, in the course of our conversation, Pastor Paul shared how Jesus had saved him while he was inebriated.
I was scheduled to speak inside the church before we shared the meal. I had already seen God move in powerful ways in meetings earlier in the day. Because the evening gathering would include men from the community who were unreached for Christ, I decided I would share the gospel and give an invitation.
When I gave the gospel invitation, two men stood and expressed they wanted to pray to receive Christ. As the two men responded, a group of about ten men seated toward the back left of the sanctuary began to mock what was happening. There was cynical laughter, intermingled with a derisive tone in their voices. I would find out later that these men were drunk. They had come in from the community at the invitation of church members to enjoy the Kenyan barbeque. As they poured into the church, they had in no way curtailed their Friday night routine because a church was the sponsoring agent of the barbeque.
After we prayed with the two men who desired to receive Christ, I felt someone standing on my right. It was Pastor Paul of Kenya. He had asked permission from the Senior Pastor to say a word, and he began speaking directly to the ten inebriated men in the gathering. He challenged them as he shared his own story of coming to Christ. The more he spoke, the more I began to notice several of them coming under the convicting power of God. Within minutes, four of them were up front on their knees crying out to God for salvation. God met each of them in His power to redeem.
My western mind is prone to limit God in such circumstances. I have always believed one should never attempt to reason with a drunk. But I cannot deny what I saw. These four men, having come to faith in Christ, went out over the next several days and brought other men to the church to pray to receive Christ. Men who remain drunkards don’t behave like this. They produced fruit in keeping with repentance.
There were waves of prayer and fasting that took place weeks before these times of ministry in Africa. And somehow, in the sovereignty of God, the Lord would have a preacher present who happened to come to Christ while he was inebriated? God knew Pastor Paul from Africa would have the faith to stand for what he knew God could do; even when a seminary-credentialed western pastor did not.
We have much to learn from our African sisters and brothers. They pray with a white-hot passion. They know a God who is active and full of power. They are not tainted by enlightenment thinking that dampens faith in the power of what God can do.
May God raise up more like Pastor Paul from Kenya in the church, in western contexts, and throughout the world.
Paul Lawler is the Lead-Pastor of Christ Church UMC. He and his wife, MJ, have four children and one daughter-in-law. In addition to serving as a pastor, Paul and his brother, Dallas area businessman Patrick Lawler, founded two Patricia B. Hammonds Homes for orphans at high risk for human trafficking in Thailand. The homes are operated through the international ministry of the Compassionate Hope Foundation. Paul also serves on the boards of The Wellhouse and East Lake Initiative. He often tweets Kingdom thoughts at @plawler111.