From birth, David Ole Kereto’s life was marked out. He was to become a witch doctor, like his father, but God intervened.
I was born to be a witch doctor in Kenya. As the eldest son, I was expected to follow my grandfather and father into the family business. As part of my training, I saw how my father dealt with the community problems that were brought to him and how even snakes could be called to do his bidding. He was revered in our Maasai village and I wanted the same for myself.
But my friend Daniel had other ideas. Daniel was a Christian. Badgering me to see things differently, he eventually persuaded me to attend a Christian seminar in our local town, Narok. I very reluctantly agreed as long as two conditions were met: I must sit at the back and no one must know that the son of a witch doctor was present.
THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE
Attending wasn’t easy. On the long walk to town, evil spirits threatened me with death if I entered the building. I was also scared of being chased out by the Christians. Once inside, the battle continued to rage. Told again I was about to die, I heard in the other ear that without God I would be lost forever and that, though a sinner, he would receive me.
Amid the spiritual warfare, I had a decision to make. Sensing that the power of God was silencing and overpowering the evil spirits, I raised my hand when the appeal was made. Those who knew me couldn’t believe it. Someone shouted ‘Hallelujah’ and I was filled with peace.
Walking home, Daniel told me not to fear my father, as God would protect me. But when I told him my training was over, my father gave me two weeks and then a month to change my mind. When I refused to accompany him to the river to pick out stones and burn snakes for ashes used in witchcraft, the problem became clear.
In Maasai culture, only the oldest living son of a witch doctor could inherit the mantle. If a younger son was trained, the father would lose his powers. The decision was made at an elders’ meeting: I must be killed.
PUT THE GODS TO THE TEST
My death was to take place through cursing and the application of charms. Surrounded by my family, I heard my father curse me to the sun. ‘As you go down, let David die so that when you rise tomorrow, he will be no more.’
My mother started to cry and begged for a blessing instead, but he refused. I told her, ‘Let’s put the two gods to the test.’ That night I had much joy in my heart as I knew who I believed in. Nevertheless, I awoke five times in the night to check that I was still alive!
The next morning, I asked my mother whether I was dead or dreaming. Then I said, ‘So now agree that my God is stronger than his god, and tell the rest of the family.’
Furious, my father raised his sword to cut my neck and kill me, but I shouted, ‘No, in Jesus’ name’ and his arm froze above my head. Unable to move or breathe, it was my father who was dying.
Local young men began to complain that their witch doctor was dying. They said that I must also die, as they believed my God was ‘a bad god’. Sensing danger, I simply said, ‘God, let thy will be done.’
My father recovered, but with everyone against me I ran away from home.
ON THE RUN
Tired and hungry after walking for a whole day, I sat down and cried. A man stopped and listened to my story. He was a pastor, and one of his church members was looking for a shepherd. In the days that followed, I read the Bible and sang as the sheep grazed. God revealed to me that I would become a preacher and that he would take care of me. But he didn’t tell me how or when this would take place.
Sometime later, I was accepted into a Kenyan theological college. Fees were a problem as soon as I got there. Reminded on many occasions by the principal that they were overdue, I told him: ‘I talk to my God, I praise him, I tell him my needs and I depend on him.’ But neither he nor I foresaw how God would act.
A white lady had spent two weeks walking in Kenya looking for me. Given my picture and my full name by God, she arrived at the college, pointed me out and, having been instructed by God what to do, paid all four years of my tuition upfront. I never saw her again.
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Newly qualified, God sent me back to my Maasai community. This sparked a conversation with the Almighty. If I died young, how could I tell others about him? Again, he reassured me of my protection and as I reflected on what he had already done, my trust was complete. But practical questions remained. Having been away from home for six years, some assumed I was dead. It was difficult to find a room as I had no money for rent, furniture or food.
When I started my ministry under a tree, there were just the two of us: me and the tree! I began with prayer, sang and preached, and always took an offering from my empty pockets. One day, I found some money there. A passing man saw me preaching to the tree and, assuming I was drunk or mad, he came nearer but hid in a bush. As I gave the appeal, he came out of the bush and responded. A week later his whole family followed. My ministry had begun.
Elsewhere in Maasailand, things weren’t so easy. My preaching was resisted in one village and I left. Faced with crossing a busy river ahead, violent people behind and wild animals in the forest around, I prayed a short prayer, reminding the Lord of his promise to take care of me. Immediately, I found myself on the other side of the river. I told him, ‘You are my God, there’s none like you,’ and my ministry continued.
My family have since become Christians, but sadly my father – influenced by evil spirits and under pressure locally – has reverted back to witchcraft. I attended Bible school in the UK during the mid-90s. I now lead Covenant Church International in Kenya, which has planted and oversees nearly 300 churches in south-west Kenya. My right-hand man, Ben Koikai, is the son of the church member who first employed me as a shepherd.
Dr. Richard Scott is a GP, author and lead evangelist with Through Faith Missions