God redeemed one boy from his path of revenge and the shadow of prison to set him on the path to becoming a community leader.
Hilary was born in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, the eldest of five children. Their mother brewed alcohol to make money to support their little family. Technically, making alcohol this way was illegal, but it was good money, and she had to support five kids alone.
When Hilary was only 16 years old, he came home to find that his mother was dead. She hadn’t been ill, as far as he knew. As the increasingly distraught teen searched the house, he became convinced that someone had attacked and killed her.
Furious, he resolved to take revenge.
He knew someone who might have done the deed, so he acquired a weapon and began his hunt. Of course, he was quickly caught and arrested. The court sent him to jail for four years.
The Long Inward Journey Home
Jail is a hard place to be for a teen, especially one who has recently lost his only parent and doesn’t know how his younger siblings are surviving.
Hilary was hurting and lost when he met our partner, Pastor Philemon. There in the jail, he learned about God and how we are called to serve and follow him. Hilary decided to submit his life to this Christ. He had tried to bring justice into his life by himself, and it had failed badly. He was baptized, and then a couple years later he was released.
In many ways, Hilary didn’t know how to start life again. He had come into adulthood in prison, and he felt rejected by those who had known him as a child. Even with strangers, he felt shamed when they found out that he had been in prison so young.
He turned to Pastor Philemon who, in turn, brought him to their community transformation center to study the Bible and learn welding and wood working.
Rather than charging him for the classes, the center offered him the training for free and even gave him a small stipend so he could help support his siblings, whom he’d found again. “He’s a quick learner and has a prayerful, humble heart,” noted Pastor Philemon.
Through the program, Hilary became an expert in carving jewelry and ornaments as well as welding. He decided to make his life a testimony to the entire community to which he had returned.
Becoming a Voice of Hope
Hilary re-entered the community and began a business to sell his goods. His work brought in enough income for him to buy a home for himself and his siblings, instead of having to live in their mother’s small and dilapidated hut. He was also able to send his little brothers and sister to school.
In addition to his business, he also began working as a part-time instructor at the same center where he had once been a student. While he worked with the new apprentices, he also gave them life instructions, backed by the authority of his own rough start on the path to God finding him. He drilled into his students’ heads that learning to do something for a living is far better than begging or, worse yet, robbing others.
Hilary became a youth leader in his church and also their go-to handyman when they need a repair or something built. In many ways he is now a respected member of the community and frequently brings new people to the center or offers to instruct them himself.
The boy who wanted revenge has faded into the past. The man he has molded into by a love of God is always eager to share the reason for his own change and his future hope with the people he works alongside.