Personal note: I’m not a super-Christian. I’m not extra-special. I’m merely living an ordinary life with the gracious help of an extra-ordinarily loving God.
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”
– C.S Lewis in his book Mere Christianity.
Coming to birth
My coming to faith in Christ, when I did, would have to be attributed to several events that preceded my eternal dance with Him.
The first event would have to be my having been born to a devout Christian couple. While they never shoved it down my throat, watching my parents live out their faith under extremely difficult circumstances was an exciting inspiration to me though I delayed my hour of decision till much later.
While they both gave themselves to praying with and for us daily on anything and everything, it was dad’s decision to introduce me to some of the easy-to-read books he kept with him that baited me into investigating the Christian faith on my own. This disposition to reading would, naturally, lead me on into a life-long obsession with current affairs and the workings of the world information order.
My parents helpfully facilitated my attending several youth conferences around the country and while I could not understand how people could claim they were “saved,” I nevertheless was enthused by how some of them were living their lives following their decisions.
Those who were struggling to live out their faith became another inspiration for me to explore the Christian faith just a little more; I had devoured a good number of books, including the Bible, by the time I was 10.
The second event would have to be my having fallen into the hands of men and women in primary school whose Christian lifestyles – amidst much evil around me – were a sterling example.
I desperately yearned to have the Jesus Mrs. R and others like her had; she and at least 4 other teachers I had at that level further inspired me to read widely and stirred my continued interest in current affairs.
The third event would have to be my having fallen down from a tall tree on July 11, in my eleventh year. That I fell down head first, narrowly missing the two houses under the tree (leaving a gaping hole at my point of fall), passed out for several hours, got hospitalized for 3 days and cleared without any hint of internal bleeding or severe injury shook my young, sinful self to the core.
For the first time since birth, I had been confronted with the real possibility that I could become lifeless at any moment with an eternity spent apart from God looking not so remote a reality.
While, out of caution, I immediately limited my participation in games (soccer and long distance running) it never occurred to me that what I actually needed was to confront the God I had then come to know somewhat so as to process my present and eternity with Him.
And can it be that I should gain / An interest in the Saviour’s blood? / Died He for me who caused His pain? / For me, whom Him to death pursued? / Amazing love! How can it be / That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me!
Going to Canossa
My hour of decision came in my twelfth year when I found myself (with the rest of the family) in Eldoret.
One weekend in August (I do not recall the precise dates), we went visiting with some family friends in the nearby town of Ainabkoi. While there, I attended an open-air Christian meeting and – for reasons I later understood as having been mob psychology – found myself responding to the altar call that was made after the day’s sermon. I felt no remorse for my sins and was back to my old self as soon as the preacher was done.
I do not recall the precise date I made my commitment to Jesus, but I recall that it was the week following the Ainabkoi outing and during the same period as a prominent Kenyan politician passed on.
On that day’s evening, I was retiring home after an exciting match with kids from several African countries near African Inland Church’s Kao La Amani (anyone who lived or schooled near Kapsoya would know this place). I was an extremely happy youngman, having just helped my team sink our opponents with some beautiful goals (thanks to inspiration from KBC’s then Football made in Germany 🙂 …them days of Jurgen Klinsmann, Tony Yeboah, etc).
I got into the room I shared with my siblings, then suddenly broke down in tears, as my heart melted in a way that only a broken person will understand. Immediately my singleness (as an individual before God) and utter sinfulness (even at my best as a good boy) lay bare before my teary sight, the demand of God for such a reality not too distant either. It was at this moment that every step I had taken either away or towards God throughout my life was refreshed before me; I wailed in great awe, shame and need, – the depth with which the person I now believed was God was confronting me left me extremely exposed and helpless.
“I need a saviour! Somebody help!”
“Supper is only a few minutes ahead, so spare me the drama if you are hungry,” My mum said lightly as she walked into the room.
Upon realizing my true condition, however, she briefly explained the significance of what I was going through (I later learnt the big word for it is “conviction” 🙂 ) and led me into a simple prayer of repentance; I felt a peace and joy unconfined (thank God for the contributions soccer commentators make to our rhetoric 🙂 ) and there began my dance with God and eternity.
‘Tis mystery all! The immortal dies; / Who can explore His strange design? / In vain the first-born seraph tries / To sound the depths of love divine. / ‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, / Let angel minds inquire no more.
I spent my last two years in primary school as a young Christian, eager to live out my faith but still given to a quiet life, much of it as a result of my initially skeptic path towards my newly-found faith. My faith was very much ad hoc, even as I navigated my way around the ideas I was re-encountering both in the Scriptures as well as my then enlarging world.
That I would excel in my end-of-primary school exams and proceed to high school on a full scholarship was such an early witness of God’s commitment to my well-being on His earth, especially given my difficult background.
In my first year in high school, it became quite evident to me that I would be moving into a knowledge profession (a genre that generally includes journalism, teaching and law), what with my then increasing interest in the media.
I attended a high school that had no student newspaper and was light years away from having computers (despite having some of the best pure sciences’ lab in the country), yet found much divine favour in doing my cub reporting and pasting my stuff on the student notice board. While I left with some of my works, the school retained most of them.
I would win several awards for that effort, but also got constantly challenged to integrate not just my faith and learning but also my then growing passion for writing.
Nothing, however, prepared me for my eventual suspension from school in my last year owing to what the school authorities believed was my
stubborn dedication to needlessly incite students to violence during a soccer World Cup year (I still would sit through nights and watch matches at campus even if exams would be following a few hours or minutes later…soccer flows within me 🙂 ).
That I had been sent away (alongside 13 other students – we were consequently dubbed The Manyani Fourteen) for merely asking that the we be allowed some time to watch the World Cup shook my faith to the core, for never before had I – as a Christian – fallen into the school’s bad books.
I returned a few weeks to my final examinations, dejected and despised by my teachers and peers, and to a rather low-key departure phase marked with the death of a desk-mate I had never witnessed to and less than perfect grades in my finals. Suddenly my faith wasn’t looking attractive or making sense anymore.
Ironically, the administration would afterwards write me a glowing school-leaving certificate which – for all intents and purposes – made nonsense of the grave and baseless accusations they had leveled against me previously.
He left His Father’s throne above – / So free, so infinite His grace – / Emptied Himself of all but love, / And bled for Adam’s helpless race. / ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; / For, O my God, it found out me!
Gradually, two Christian friends I had met in my first year in high school warmed their way back into my life again…at a very crucial moment in my life.
Both men and their families instructed and inspired me in personal discipleship as well as a life given to holistic outreach to the world beyond myself. One of them would later link me up with a certain NGO in Nairobi where I began my first job as an errand / tea boy (call it office assistant, if you may 🙂 ) with some Kshs. 1,500/- per month as my dues.
The other would, in conjunction with the former and one other fellow, help me work around joining one of the Kenyan universities for studies in journalism and public relations. I joined the institution in question with nothing in the way of finances…it’s a miracle I went through it at all…and also that I would later even manage to get to study across the pond as I traveled around God’s world.
Those exciting years when I witnessed God’s faithfulness in my moments of need as I wrestled with the new ideas I was encountering at such high levels of learning (including my stints at some media outlets) impressed upon my heart the reality that I was very much in God’s hands; equally important was the fact that I could now trust Him to remain faithful to me despite my faithlessness and unfaithfulness towards Him.
An important lesson for me from that phase was that while life could be (and still remains hard in some ways), I could still entrust my life to Him and also trust Him to grant me the means by which I could live the said life; it was at that point that I triumphed over Mammon, I believe, for no longer could I be enslaved by any rat race for it.
It was also during this phase that I would meet some other people who have remained my mentors in matters of faith, learning and profession; men and women who are not afraid to confront me on anything, anytime, anywhere even as they stand with me in prayer each new day.
Those whose lives or published works would influence me at that point included Uncle John Stott, theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, apologist Ravi Zacharias, journalist Phillip Yancey, apologists C.S Lewis and G.K Chesterton, theologian and “Christian hedonist” John Piper, culture vulture William Romanowski and media ethicist Mark Fackler.
I’m especially glad that I was able to develop life-long contacts with some of these people and others whom I haven’t listed here.
It was also during this time that – having thought out my faith a little more seriously – I came to accept the Lausanne Covenant as best capturing and expressing my statement of faith.
Long my imprisoned spirit lay / Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; / Thine eye diffused a quickening ray – / I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; / My chains fell off, my heart was free. / I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
Blaise Pascal would, in his Pensees, best capture my wonderment on the future thus:
“When I consider the brief span of my life absorbed into the eternity which comes before and after – as the remembrence of a guest that tarrieth but a day – the small space I occupy and which I see swallowed up in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I know nothing and which know nothing of me, I take fright and I’m amazed to see myself here rather than there: there is no reason for me to be here rather than there, now rather than then. Who put me here? By whose command and act were this time alloted to me?”
Deeply entrenched in such wonder is the intimate knowledge of God as a real and close friend as well as the willing acceptance that He has been my greatest achievement in life; I can think of no greater vision than to make my life a daily responsible answer to the question of His call on my life in my generation. Finding Him has been finding myself.
I do not know what tomorrow holds for me (and I honestly cannot promise myself or anyone else that I have it all together), but I know He who holds my tomorrow and He tells me that it is well with my soul; I remain very much in His peace each new day.
I constantly desire to exert a redeeming influence on people, ideas and structures in society; I particularly have an enduring interest in people, issues and trends in (local and global) media, politics and Christendom.
I’ll probably have more to say about my interest in and view of Kenyan politics in the coming days, including but not limited to the joys and sometimes quite personal and intimate pains I have already encountered in the same thus far.
It would perhaps be a grave understatement to say that my life in the other spheres (media and global Christendom) has not been any easier for I carry in and with me some scars, in themselves my badges of honour against that Great Day of His as well as a fitting testament to the Wounded Healer’s abiding presence with me through it all.
I feel very uneasy, yet excited to be living in Kenya and Africa at this moment in time, thinking the road ahead of me and fellow Kenyans / Africans will be taxing and demanding on one hand but also praying for God to rule over our land and continent to make it different on the other.
The creative tension of faith in God and fear of the obvious realities before me daily provide an unenviable yet still very much inviting environment for personal growth; I’m really thankful to God for the prayers He has answered, those He has delayed or not answered at all in my short life.
I keep in that tension of fear and faith in the life I live each new day, with the firm hope that my Redeemer lives and that someday He’ll stand upon the face of the earth; daily accepting – again in the words of Pascal – that “Jesus is a God we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” Even so, come, Lord Jesus! Amen.
No condemnation now I dread; / Jesus, and all in Him, is mine! / Alive in Him, my living Head, / And clothed in righteousness divine, / Bold I approach the eternal throne, / And claim the crown, through Christ, my own.