One of the worst places in the world was Kiambu, Kenya, a suburban district nine miles north of the capital, Nairobi. Up until 1989, it was the armpit of Kenya, a hellhole of 65,000 citizen-victims that became a shooting gallery at night. Besides the well-armed muggers, there wasn’t a lot of foot traffic after dark.

Kiambu had the full suite of city horrors: murder, robbery, rape, alcoholism, corruption – and grinding poverty. Nobody would put any money into Kiambu, so it was crumbling. Civil servants would bribe their bosses not to transfer them to Kiambu. On slow news days, Nairobi newspapers ran hand-wringer stories on the latest disaster in Kiambu.

But the most hopeless dimension of Kiambu was the spiritual. It was a stagnant pool of quicksand where souls sank without a trace. Christian leaders in surrounding towns had written it off: “We preach, but people there don’t get saved.” Despite valiant efforts, no church had ever hit three figures in attendance. In such an atmosphere of unrelieved gloom, they might as well have erected a sign: “Welcome to Kiambu. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Into this civic Inferno, God called a quiet young couple named Thomas and Margaret Muthee. In 1988, He led them back to their native Kenya, interrupting their graduate theological studies in Scotland. They were more than a little annoyed, but when God says move, you pack.

After a few months of itinerant ministry in Kenya, their stress level increased considerably when it became obvious that the Lord was calling them to settle in the very last place they wanted to be: the graveyard of every ambitious pastor, Kiambu. With more than a little trepidation, and on a half-shoestring budget, they moved into one of the many abandoned apartments.

Their first priority was to figure out what on earth was the source of the trouble. After six months of research and prayer, it became obvious that it wasn’t economics or politics, but a person – one oversized, 40-something woman named Mama Jane.

She was a witch. Forget pointy hats and broomsticks, she was the real thing. I’ll concede that the majority of “witches” are cranks and dabblers who possess no special powers at all. But in dark places worldwide, there are millions of exceptions, and she was one. Typically, witchcraft is evidence of evil, but there it was the source of evil.

Three factors convinced the Muthees of her powers. First, the top government and business leaders visited her continually, afraid to do anything without her approval. The keyword: fear. Second, at least once a month, someone would die in a horrible traffic accident on the dusty little road right in front of her divination house, called Emmanuel Clinic – though it wasn’t a clinic and had nothing to do with Emmanuel, the Christ.

Third, she would come by the Muthee’s little church room at night and do her rigamajig, leaving ashes and cock feathers in the street. At times, the struggling congregation of a few dozen were so demoralized that their singing would die out mid-song!

The prayer battle raged for months. Finally, one day, they raised their hands toward the “clinic” and prayed that God would either save Mama Jane or remove her from Kiambu.

A few days later, it happened. After yet another “accident” at the clinic (three teenagers killed), the townsfolk rioted. “Stone her!” they cried. The police were called and barged into the clinic. Just past the reception room, they were startled to find themselves face to fang with a huge python. They pulled their revolvers and blew it to smithereens.

Mama Jane’s powers evaporated along with that snake. A few days later, she left town, and everything changed. In the next four years, there was not a single accident. (See the “Transformations I” video.)

Today, crimes in Kiambu are uncommon, especially rape and murder. You can walk the streets at night. Money is pouring in. Tall buildings are going up. People are happy, the population is up a third, and workers now bribe their bosses to transfer them to Kiambu.

The last time I saw Thomas, he told me his main problem was the need for an even bigger building to seat his many thousands of new Christians.

Moral: While big-bucks government programs may help some cities, we must stop pretending that religion is a peripheral luxury to real life. Real life is faith-based because reality is God-based. Real solutions start with the spirit.

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