CAUGHT, CONVICTED AND CHANGED
A True Conversion Story
By Richard Chowning
Paulo Arap Lang'at
When Paulo Arap Lang'at, a tall, muscular African, stands before an audience and proclaims, "Jesus is the Savior of my soul and he can save you too," you would assume he had preached the gospel most of his life. Actually, for many years Paulo terrorized neighbors and embarrassed relatives. The Savior made the difference - all the difference in the world.
Thirty-two year-old Paulo has converted many of his Kipsigis tribesmen to Christ. Villagers crave his mixture of joy and conviction.
Paulo knows that his fellow Kipsigis search for answers to a life in fear of ancestors and the inability to cast the fear out. Paulo preaches the blood-stained Christ on a white horse and his own changed life.
The Kipsigis easily understand Paulo's lessons. They are a fine weave of scripture, traditional culture and personal experience. He talks of the culture's weaknesses and his own sinfulness. Then he reads scriptures that speak of fear turned to courage and weakness turned to strength.
The change is real to Paulo.
He has always been in the public eye. His father died when Paulo was in his early twenties. His uncles and mother found him uncontrollable. He dropped out of school early and took to the back paths of the village. He hid in bushes and waited for school children. When they walked home in small groups Paulo would jump out of bushes and threaten them. "If you want to pass, give me money or some clothes." Many of the children would take their shirts off and hand them to him.
He had been brought before the village elders on several occasions. Frequent fines were paid by his parents. When police were sent to catch him, he escaped.
It was the gospel that finally caught and convicted Paulo. When the church of Christ evangelists first walked into his village Paulo heard that one of his relatives was converted. He determined to go to the next meeting and pour his ridicule on the "message of weakness, only fit women and children." But as Paulo listened he soon found himself in the company of the Apostle Paul, and multitudes throughout the centuries, who were turned from scorn to salvation. Once he heard the gospel, his sinful life haunted him. He was only relieved when he told the preacher he wanted to have his sins washed away in baptism.
Villagers were fearful when he began to preached with power of voice and spirit. They expected him to violently persuade them to follow him into the Kingdom of God. As the months passed the villagers were convinced Paulo's change was true. "If these words can change Paulo, they must be powerful." Villagers listened and were converted.
Paulo, like all Kipsigis preachers, supports himself. He attempted many ways to gain income for his family. The family farm does well, but he wants his family to have better opportunities then his present finances permit them to enjoy. He has just opened a small restaurant. He spends long hours cooking and waiting on his customers. But he always finds time to preach.
Paulo's influence for the Savior has gone beyond his own village. He preached often in the beginning of the Arokiyet congregation. His persuasiveness helped that congregation grow faster than any in the tribe. He has planted congregations in the villages of two of his relatives.
Paulo's Most Rewarding Confrontation
One of Paulo's most rewarding confrontations with the unsaved came two years ago. He and three other evangelists visited the Tugen tribal area eighty miles from home. One of the men they talked to about the Savior was a young government chief. The gospel penetrated his heart. He was won to the Lord. The baptism was set for later in the day.
Paulo and the other evangelists ate dinner in the chief's home. While they ate the chief asked them questions about their village and past lives. Paulo recounted his changed life from steeling from children to speaking for the Lord. The chief was taken back. He smiled and said, "I used to work for the Central Intelligence Division near your village. I was sent to Kiptewit several times to look for this bully of children. Now you found me and changed my life."