An African evangelist’s death last month from COVID brought to light his tremendous life story for me, a story that highlights the transforming power of Jesus in a dark world of abuse, drugs, and violence.
Stephen Lungu, retired leader of the ministry African Enterprise (AE), died January 18 at the age of seventy-eight.
Lungu was born to a fourteen-year-old girl who was given in marriage at the age of thirteen to an older man. When he was five, his mother abandoned him, as well as his younger brother and sister, and he was taken to an orphanage where he was regularly abused.
By the age of twelve, Lungu was a drug addict and had two guns and a knife.
He organized a gang called Black Shadows.
The power of a testimony
At the age of twenty, he was on his way to a bank frequented by Whites to plant a bomb, which would be detonated the next day. He passed by a tent church and came up with a plan for his gang to set off bombs there then kill the Christians as they fled.
They went inside to see the people they would be killing and listened to a “beautiful girl” sharing her testimony.
Lungu said the more she shared about Jesus, the more she glowed.
The testimony was followed by a sermon, and the preacher kept pointing his finger at him. Lungu began ducking to try to avoid the pointing finger, but, as he said, “you can never hide from the finger of God.”
He invited Jesus into his life.
He was led to go to the police to confess all his wrongs and told them he had been forgiven by Jesus. After eight hours of interrogation, the police told him that if Jesus forgave him, they did as well.
That began a life of sharing the gospel with all who would listen.
Transformed into an evangelist
While sharing his testimony at chapel at Biola University, Lungu told the students he had never been in a classroom and that the Bible was the first book he learned to read. He said he had a BA degree: “Born Again.”
Moses did not believe he was equipped to be God’s messenger before Pharaoh on behalf of his people. He told God: “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue” (Exodus 4:10).
To which God replied: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (vv. 11–12).
What God did for Moses, he did for Lungu.
After his conversion, and with no education, he became an evangelist God used to reach thousands with the gospel of Jesus.
“I have known many preachers over the years in African Enterprise, and beyond it, but I don’t think I have ever known a more passionate and endlessly energetic preacher of the gospel than Stephen,” Stephen Mbogo, AE CEO said. “None of us could ever match his energy or his day and night sharing of the gospel, whether from public platforms or in shops and restaurants.”
He was often referred to as “Africa’s Billy Graham.”
In his testimony, Lungu tells about one of his converts.
A woman who went forward to pray and accept Jesus told Lungu that, from hearing his testimony, she believed he was her son. He led his mother, who had abandoned him years earlier, to Christ. She died last year, and Lungu preached her funeral.
At the funeral, four hundred came to Christ.
God had a plan
God redeemed a life that, to the human eye, seemed hopeless.
He took an unschooled young rebel and turned him into one of the greatest evangelists Africa has known.
He had a plan for the baby born to a teenage mother.
He had a plan for the young rebel who entered a tent church with the intention of killing all inside.
The words God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah could have been written for this amazing African evangelist: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).
Jeremiah was hesitant to be used because of his youth, but God assured him: “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak” (v. 7).
And Jeremiah obeyed.
So did Lungu.
So should we.