Plague of alcoholism and poverty in one Kenyan village led to despair, but Jesus brought freedom and hope

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By Mark Ellis

ELI anti-alcohol program staff in Kenya
ELI anti-alcohol program staff in Kenya

In Chepkorio, about four hours northwest of Nairobi by car, one chieftain’s heart was burdened by the curse of alcohol and poverty that racked his small village.

“The chief is a Christian man who has been burdened by the plague of alcohol in his village and the poverty that has driven hundreds of women to brew illegal and dangerous alcohol which they secretly make and sell in their homes,” according to Samuel Teimuge, Kenya director for Empowering Lives International (ELI).

The illegal brewing and alcoholism had been devastating to families. The women said, “We will quit this brewing, but Chief, please help us know how we can feed and educate our children,” Samuel reports.

When Samuel spoke at a meeting the chief organized, he did not expect his audience would number almost 200 people.

He challenged the men and women to choose a new course in life and told the chief to let him know if a few of the women might choose to leave brewing and attend a few days of training at the Ukweli (Truth) ELI Training Center in Ilula.

Three days later a surprised chief called and said, “Samuel, there are more than 100 women who want to come for training! This is a miracle!”

When they arrived on a bright Monday morning, they did not realize that dozens of lives were about to change. “We were expecting 40 women, but there ended up being 44 women and two men. These ‘extra’ villagers made a pleading request, ‘Please do not send us away! We are looking for hope.’”

Their training took place at a 40-bed facility, so several women slept two-to-a-bed rather than miss out.

The first morning Samuel asked them what they were hoping for or expecting. A young woman named Anita raised her hand and said with sincerity, “This week I hope to find salvation.” Several others nodded their heads as well.

Toward the end of the devotion the Spirit of God moved and all 44 women and 2 men gave their lives to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

“The rest of the week was amazing! There were times to pray individually for their needs and hopes, give counseling and inspire them every morning and evening with the Word of God,” Samuel recounts.

ELI staff, who had once been alcoholics themselves, led several of the sessions on how to change and gave practical steps on how to remain strong when tempted while changing their course in life, and how to reconcile families and neighbors in the community.

By Wednesday, a few days into the training, a Christian radio station and newspaper came to interview some of the participants. When their testimonies were aired the next day, several other TV news channels made arrangements to arrive on Friday and broadcast the final days’ events to every television in Kenya.

Government officials and dozens of villagers witnessed certificates given, songs of celebration sung and heard first-hand what God had done in these newly changed lives.

Gladys, 29 and a mother of two, joined the brewing business because of her destitution and became a manager of her own “brewing den.” She produced and sold over 25 gallons every day. Her “success” attracted hundreds of customers and even the police.

Apparently, the authorities wanted bribes to look the other way. She said, “The claws of the government have pinched deeper, we can no longer survive the cat and rat game.” She was looking for a new life.

For Anita, the guilt she felt from brewing made her stop going to church. She was eventually arrested and spent three nights in a jail cell. Several times, she took group loans to boost the business but this brought greater trials and distance from God.

“What has happened over the past two months can only be described as the hand of God,” Samuel says. “We are seeing a revival that is only at the beginning stage! We have followed up on the first group and all of them are still standing strong. In fact, they formed their own group now recognized by the government so that they can apply for funding for future projects.”

The former brewers chose as their name “The Exodus Self Help Group.” When asked about the name, they said, “We chose this name because we are leaving the slavery and bondage of the past! We are leaving the life we knew and heading together to a new place in life. Though there will be times of trial and desert, we will not give up because we know that God is with us! We have chosen a new course in life and we will not go back.”

How you can help:

Support the work of ELI in Kenya here

Pray for Kenya: Pray against legalism, divisions, materialism and personality clashes, which dim the fire of revival. Pray for unity based on biblical truth that transcends culture and personalities in the church and that church leaders may live exemplary lives. Pray that Christians will take the lead in ministering to HIV/AIDS sufferers. Pray for effective outreach to the pastoralist, animistic peoples of the north, the largely Muslim Oromo-related peoples of the northeast, the Mijikenda people of the coastal hills, the coastal Swahili and Arab population, the Somali in the northeast and cities, and the Asian community. (Operation World)

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