By Matt Morrison
It’s often called “the lost island.” Situated just off Tanzania’s Lake Victoria coast, Kome Island is a quiet and forgotten community of just 50,000 people where fishing is the mainstay.
Like many other men on Kome Island, Bahati Thomas would often sleep during the day and catch a fishing boat late at night to do his work. But he didn’t really blend into the community. He was nicknamed cha pombe, translated “the drunkard.”
After napping a few hours each morning, he would gather with his friends at the local bar and drink the day away. There was hardly a time he wasn’t drunk. His wife and family suffered. His home became nothing more than a camp to change clothes and sleep.
The debts were piling up and his wife suffered more than anyone else.
For more than ten years, I never enjoyed life in marriage. Beatings and insults were routine. I tried to ask for a divorce three separate times, but received no support from family and friends.”
Bahati was known to beat her and fight other men in the village. Hardly a week would pass without her being summoned to the Village Chairman’s office to pay his fines. The financial situation got so desperate that she turned her own home into a local bar just to make ends meet and keep her children in school.
The neighbors turned their backs on them. Their home became a disgusting hangout where drunks fought and hurled insults at one another. There was simply no escape.
THE “WAZUNGU” ARRIVE
Right as things seemed they couldn’t get any worse, some wazungu, (“white people”) and their Tanzanian friends visited the village in June. Bahati was interested in what they had to say, but was admittedly too drunk to understand them or even fully remember their meeting. But one thing stuck with him – the feeling of peace and joy he felt in his heart as they shared about Jesus.
Even in his drunken state, Bahati made the decision to surrender his life to him. He made Jesus his Lord and Savior. Immediately, he felt something like a cold shower over his body. His thirst for alcohol completely disappeared.
Bahati was so excited that he raced home to tell his wife and invite her to receive Jesus into her life too. He couldn’t wait for her to see the change he already felt inside. But to his dismay, she had her reservations. Could anyone or anything really change this hardened, violent man she married ten years ago? How could he really expect her to believe anything he had to say?
“I will believe in Jesus when you truly change,” she told him.
A NEW HUSBAND
Bahati immediately plugged into a new church launched by the e3 Partners mission team that summer. He devoted himself to studying the Bible and immersed himself in prayer. The entire village was shocked to see this drunk make such a complete turn in his life. The evidence was undeniable throughout the community.
Before long, even his battered wife recognized the power of Jesus oozing out of Bahati.
It was like I was living with a new person. My first husband had died and now I have a new husband. One Sunday, I asked if I could join him at church. I wanted this new life too.
In the short time since then, God has completely rebuilt their once miserable marriage. Bahati has reconciled with his children, neighbors, and friends. The money earned from fishing goes towards supporting his family, rather than his alcohol habit.
In Bahati, Jesus took one of the most notorious men in the village and turned him into a living example of the Gospel in action, using a small group of Americans to make it happen.
God is working aggressively in Tanzania and throughout Africa. Want to leave your mark on the region? Click here to check out the latest trips headed there and discover where God might be leading you!