As a young man Stephen Lungu used violence in the struggle for freedom in his native Zimbabwe. Today, he fights on for a better life for Africans, but his methods and motivation couldn’t be more different, as GEORGE LUKE discovers
Much of Stephen’s childhood was spent on the streets. His mother was a teenage Zambian girl married to a much older Malawian.
The marriage was abusive, and eventually Stephen’s father abandoned his young wife and their three children.
When the pressure of single parenthood became unbearable, Stephen’s mother took her children shopping one day and vanished. Stephen was put in an orphanage, which was even more miserable than home had been. He ran away and began to fend for himself on the streets.
Soon he was leading a 40-strong gang called the Black Shadows. Restless and violent, they were drafted into Rhodesia’s Nationalist movement.
“What attracted me to the Nationalist Youth League was Marxism,” Stephen recalls. “We were marginalised in many aspects of life, and when I heard that in a Marxist state we’d all be equal, I became excited.
“We were told that the houses the white people owned would be ours. You don’t tell a message like that to a street boy who lives under a bridge; he’ll fight with his life to get those houses!
“When I was 20, I was assigned to plant a bomb in a local bank. On my way there, I saw this big tent. When I discovered that people were preaching about Jesus there, I decided to bomb that instead.”
But God had other plans.
Stephen and his mates went into the tent, planning to wait five minutes before throwing their bombs. Instead, Stephen ended up listening intently to the preacher and going up in tears to the altar halfway through his sermon. Meanwhile, all hell was breaking loose outside.
The next day, Stephen went to a police station and gave himself up. The police questioned him for eight hours, then said: “Jesus has forgiven you; so do we.” One officer even gave him money to buy his first Bible.
Today, Stephen lives in Malawi with his wife Rachel and 13 children (five of their own and eight adopted ones). Stephen joined African Enterprise in 1982. He’d first encountered them in 1980, whilst working as a translator for their founder, Michael Cassidy.
“Michael asked me to join African Enterprise because he wanted me to have a wider ministry,” he says. “Since then, I’ve travelled around the world preaching the Gospel.
“African Enterprise’s vision is to evangelise Africa’s cities in word and deed, in partnership with the Church. Evangelism and social concern go together.
“Let’s say a prostitute or a street kid becomes a Christian. You can’t just say ‘bless you’ to them! We train former prostitutes in skills such as dressmaking, hairdressing, or computer skills. Street boys we teach car maintenance, carpentry, upholstery and welding.”
African Enterprise operates in countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. This month (November) the organisation has a huge mission in the West African state of Liberia. It’s the culmination of three years’ hard graft and planning, with the aim of both evangelism and reconciliation in a country that was ravaged by civil war throughout the 1990s.
“We’re trying to bring reconciliation among tribal and political leaders,” Stephen explains. “Liberia is home to freed slaves from America. Those freed slaves became rulers over the indigenous people who already lived there; that’s how the conflict there began.
“We’re trying to show the descendants of the freed slaves and the indigenous people that they can be one.
“We’ve had three meetings with church and political leaders this year. In November, we’re aiming to reach every strata of Liberian society. We believe that if people embrace the Gospel, the Lord will become God of that blessed nation.”
We are giving away 10 copies of Out of the Black Shadows (Monarch, £7.99), the story of Stephen Lungu’s amazing transformation from a violent gang member in Zimbabwe to Senior Team Leader of African Enterprise. If you’d like a copy, mail us (UK residents only) by 25 November. The first 10 people selected at random from our entries will each win a copy.
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