I was born and raised in the Kawangware slums of Nairobi. Rusted corrugated iron avenues, where life is tough. Few could understand this existence without experiencing it. There is very little work in the ghetto, especially for youth. Drug addiction is rampant. By fifteen I was addicted to bang and alcohol which eventually led to a chronic heroin habit. The need for heroin fuelled a life of violent crime – consisting mainly of mugging people.
I am naturally a big man. Due to my size, I quickly became a gang leader. I was the front man in muggings. At over six foot four I was able to intimidate people and quickly developed a reputation in the area of Sodom. So named due to its sheer sinful nature. I remember many near death experiences. Often we would be shot at by police, one night I witnessed a close friend die and another receive fatal wounds which caused his death later in hospital. That night I was the only survivor. On another occasion after mugging a young woman, I was running from “Mob Justice”.
In the slums police can often be bribed and so justice is often not served. Perpetrators of crime can be released for money. The community, therefore, takes the law into their own hands. Their ‘justice’ is merciless. Many of my friends have been killed or maimed by Mob Justice. Looking back at a photograph of myself with five others, I am the only one who remains alive. At the time I had no idea why I seemingly always escaped death. I thought I was lucky.
On one occasion an angry mob had caught me. They were armed with machetes, guns and iron bars. It was obvious I was to be killed, after mugging the young woman and beating her- I almost expected such vengeance. Yet at just the right time a man intervened, one that knew me. He pleaded with the crowd for mercy and it was given. Again I had seemingly miraculously evaded death. These ever increasing near misses made me start to contemplate my wasted life. I started to want off heroin.
A man began coming into the ghetto to preach. His message was anti drugs, spoke of freedom from addiction and how God could help. God had never been a topic I had considered before. My life didn’t involve God. He didn’t exist to me. Yet this man of small stature had a big voice that spoke to me personally. He offered a drug rehabilitation program for those that would initially visit their outreach program (held each week in the slum) and who would willingly come and be counselled. At first I was resistant, but over the following weeks his words played over and over in my mind. It gave me hope. Something I never had.
I would visit each week, often given some food and then hear their message of the gospel. The forgiveness and freedom that Jesus Christ offered. Within a month I had prayed to receive Jesus as my savour. My addictions reduced, however, I would backslide and end up taking again. Yet I kept coming to the sessions. After six months I was accepted into their addiction centre for a four month live in program. It was here within the then Uzima Addiction centre (now Harvest of Hope Kenya) that I finally was released from drugs. I also came to know God through the Bible, prayer and the many devotions, sermons and services we attended. The first month was difficult. Kicking heroin is not easy. Yet it was as if God reduced the cravings and by the second month I started to experience real freedom and peace. I had never felt such peace inside before.
As I continued in the program I made many new friends. Mature Christians who offered me loving support. Many of them ex addicts themselves. I started to truly see a living God at work in my life. It had to be – so much was changing – including me. I was less fearful in my heart. I no longer needed to be outwardly intimidating. I suppose I became ‘Gentle Gentry’. I remember how my mother used to have recurring nightmares about me. Dreams where she would see me dead in the gutter. After giving my life to Christ, her nightmares ceased. I was able to reconcile many broken relationships.
I remained in the program and immediately got involved as a volunteer. It is now three years on since my old violent life of drugs and crime. In that time I have been given literally a hundred new friends. Brothers in Christ who share God’s Word and help people in need. I read the whole Bible within a year of coming to the program. I learnt to pray and to help others. Yet God continued to use me even more. The old networks I had in the past were now utilised to help me reach out to other addicts. Like Saul becoming Paul, I was a new man no longer hurting people, now I was sharing my testimony and encouraging other ‘gangsters’ to join the program. Everyone listened to me – potentially out of their old respectful fear – yet one by one many saw that I had a new inner peace about me – and I could finally smile.
Today I am a married man with a baby boy. God blessed me with a wife and a child. I continue to work for Harvest of Hope Kenya. Each day I thank God for this hope and freedom He has given me. If God could so change me – I believe He can change anyone.