Photographer and journalist Tim Coleman was with Serving In Mission in Kenya until last summer. Soon after he arrived, he joined another SIM missionary, Michael, on a truly memorable trip into remote regions of East Africa where many people are still to hear the gospel. During the long road journey, Michael shared with Tim some of his experiences while visiting these regions over the last two decades. Despite incredible risks, Michael has been committed to these people who have never heard the gospel. Their conversation explores the dangerous reality and the motivation for what Michael does.
Michael: Do you see that bridge up ahead? Here I was held at gunpoint by bandits who blocked the road. When I asked them: "Why are you doing this?" one pointed his gun at my head and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed. He tried a second and third time but the same problem, after which he hit me over the head with the gun and I fell down on the ground. He then hit me with a stick while I was on the ground. They took all of our money and bags then left. I was angry, but God spoke to me as I lay on the ground. I saw Christ the passion. He was humbled, harassed and beaten for me. Then my spirit calmed and I surrendered. I realised my time is not yet.
In this one stretch of road alone Michael, has experienced 11 life-threatening incidences. I stare out the window, taking in the arid landscape as we eat up the miles of the long journey and Michael’s previous encounters in this region sink in.
Even the car we are driving has a bullet hole in one tyre that has been plugged. Undeterred by such events, Michael continues to visit these areas to share the gospel. It’s these places that we are heading to today.
Tim: You’ve been doing this for 20 years. Why do you keep coming back?
Michael: I have learned how to love the unlovable. The Lord put this supernatural love in me and I do not fully understand it. I sincerely know this is my call. I’ve tried to quit, but I can’t. I tried to reason, but then I find myself going again. Finally I surrendered. Now this is where my friends, my life and the scattered church are that I love so much.
I am not considering this as missions work but a part of my life. It’s where I belong. My unending joy comes when I go to this place. I even own camels in this region, which makes me a nomad. I was baptised by the community. I am no longer who I was but one of them.
Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-8 that despite Jesus being in his very nature God, He decided to identify himself with humankind - with me and these nomadic people.
The Christian worldview is that this place is a hard place, which is true. But flip the coin and it’s a great place for mission. These people are simple people. Really, they worship God sincerely.
Three weeks after I was attacked with a gun I returned and we did ministry in the village close to this part of the road for the first time. I encountered face to face one of the people who beat me and I had the opportunity to share the gospel with him. It was an amazing time of reconciliation.
Ever since we did this outreach in the village we have not been attacked on this dangerous stretch of road.
I have never experienced a miracle in my life but I see God performing miracles here. I never knew I had a gift of healing but have seen God perform healing. I never thought I could command nature to obey us, but where there is no rain we pray and rain comes.
We cast out demons. Witch doctors are scared to death when they see us. I feel like I am walking in the pages of the New Testament. Where else could I experience these things but here?
My fear is not out there where insecurity, danger, pain and sickness like malaria are. Fear, it’s in the mind, not there, and we need not fear because God is with us.
I decided to give God my strength and my years as a youth. I don’t have savings, but what I have I can give. So I continue to give so long as I have strength.
Over the last 20 years Michael has played a vital role in uniting and mobilising the church and believers in East Africa in ministering to the least reached in remote regions.
For Michael's protection as he continues to visit the region, sharing the gospel and connecting believers of all ages in this work.
For people who have never heard of Jesus, that they would be receptive to the gospel.
Words and pictures: Tim Coleman