May 18, 2012
This particular story is very moving to me. Last year while in Kisumu, I had the privilege of visiting a client named Romanos Okello who was in the CFA program at Central Baptist Church, Kisumu. Romanos shared his story with me.
Romanos Okello was born into a poor family in the slums of Nyalenda. His parents could hardly afford to raise him and his siblings, so he was forced to live on the streets at a very young age. While on the streets, he sold used bottles to make a living. He grew up this way in the slums for many years. After he was married and started having kids, he decided to start dealing marijuana or “bang” as it is called on the streets. For twenty years he was heavily involved in the drug business. He became a very well known and successful dealer in the community.
During this time, Romanos lost both his parents, brother and wife from sickness and disease. It was then that he was tested for HIV. And amidst struggling with the death his loved ones, he had to deal with the status and stigma of being HIV positive. Although his business continued, his life was spiraling downward.
By the grace of God, Romanos decided to join the CFA Center at Central Baptist Church last February. For the first time he heard about Jesus in a way he understood. Lazarus and Elizabeth poured time and love into Romanos, despite his prominence as the community drug dealer. One morning in April, Lazarus and Elizabeth visited his home on a routine home visit. But this time was different. After hearing the gospel and experiencing the love of God, he gave his life to Jesus Christ. His desire for change was immediate. That very moment he left the room and came back with all the marijuana he owned, totaling 150 kilos. Right then and there he burned it all. It was a declaration for Lazarus, Elizabeth, to himself and most of all to God that he was done with his former life.
Romanos decided to be baptized in the river by the pastor of Central Baptist Church. Soon after, he was given two bags of charcoal by CFA staff to start a new business. It was a brand new start for him. Romanos used those two bags of charcoal to buy several more and that business is still supporting his family today.
Romanos is now an active and dedicated member of Central Baptist Church. He comes early and leaves late. He attends the Bible studies and mens gatherings. He is so excited about his new faith that he brings his family every Sunday and frequently shares his faith boldly with neighbors and friends. His neighbors, knowing his past very well, can testify firsthand to the dramatic change that has occurred in his life.
After accepting Christ, Romanos had decided to take his eight children to be tested for HIV, for fear of loosing more of his family to sickness. He prayed fervently for the Lords favor on his family. Miraculously all eight children were tested negative. Romanos gladly shared his new faith and testified to Jesus working in his life. Prior to knowing Jesus, Romanos had also suffered for many years with a serious hemorrhage as well. Recently he was reading in the Bible about the woman who suffered from bleeding and reached out to Jesus’ cloak to be healed. So Romanos, led in faith, reached out and grabbed a nearby curtain in his home as if to be the cloak of Jesus. And when he did, he was healed from his hemorrhage.
As Romanos told these stories in his home, there was a peace and joy about him. He had finally found what he had been searching for his whole life: Jesus Christ. He held up a painting a friend made for him while he was a drug dealer. With a smile on his face he said, “they used to call me ‘Rasta man’, but now they call me ‘Man of God'”.