What happens when one is in the middle of an unexpected storm?

By John Muhanji

It is written in the book of Mark 4:35-41 that Jesus calmed the storm when it appeared abruptly in the middle of the sea when they were crossing from one side of the sea to the other in ministry. This happened after the disciples and Jesus Christ had a very successful mission. When one reads this kind of story, it sounds great, easy to understand, and one would feel it is easy to apply when in such a situation. It is recorded as “a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat,..” Even after witnessing the great miracles of Jesus, whom they were within the same boat, the whole team of disciples was struck with great fear and panic because they saw themselves dying through the storm. However, they remembered they had the master on the boat deep asleep while they were almost drowning. So they called on him from his sleep and questioned him where he cared that they were drowning. Jesus woke up, and it is written that Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace be still!” Moreover, the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

How lovely and effortless it looks the situation was calmed easily by Jesus Christ. What happened when one is in a similar situation now? More and more raging storms are moving worldwide and affecting many people’s lives in different ways. Many calls on the name of Jesus, and others use different names describing God. Others call on their ancestors for rescue. Desperateness leads to calling on whatever name comes closer to your mind for rescue. Cries and wailing dominate the air, with many calling for help.

The Muhanji’ s connects very well with this story when we were overwhelmed by the storm of the motorbike accident of our son Allan. As he always commutes from Kisumu to his home in Kivagala using his motorbike, it was a usual ride back home from Kisumu town. On that fateful day. He encountered a storm that one would ask why it happened so suddenly that there was no room to call Jesus to calm the storm? It happened so suddenly that when Jesus was being awakened from his sleep (if at all he was asleep), the young man had already died in the raging storm of the accident. Would one say it was the will of God that this happened or the will of the evil one that this happened? We mourned and cried hard with many questions on our minds. Why did it happen to Allan? Why did Jesus not wake up from his sleep on the boat to calm the storm of the accident? These are typical questions one would ask in a similar situation when struck with such a storm. Thanks to those great friends who stood up with us to accept the situation. There are some seasons as a farmer when the weather is terrible, and the harvest is poor. Other seasons are good, and the harvest is what we call “bumper harvest.” That is how we connect with the situation.

How can believers be a testimony to the world about the power of Jesus after experiencing such a heavy storm that leaves one with a deep hole? How do proponents of the Gospel of Christ behave in such a storm? Do we assume all is well and continue with business as usual? Or do we accept as human beings and break down like any other person? Hence, Paul’s writing to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 4:9, “Hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted; struck down, but never destroyed.” (Amp. V). Therefore, coming along us with encouragements from the General Secretary (Kelly Kellum) and Colin Saxton as we go through the reflection of the storm that took Allan is an inspiration to our ministry and faith in Jesus. The AMO staff in Kisumu continues to be another support team as we gain the courage and strength to do our regular duties. Although we still have holes in our operations, we shall brave and work on filling them as we move forward. “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:30-39).

What lessons do we learn from the death of Allan?

Allan was our lastborn son among the three siblings. He was such a bright boy with many skills and highly intellectual. Besides his intellectual ability, he was good in Rugby games as a dependable player by his teammate. He started his Rugby game at Musingu Boys High School. He later transferred to Sunshine High School and excelled in rugby playing, but his academic performance went down, and we transferred him to Malava Boys High School, where he excelled in rugby and academics. He balanced so well that many boys joined rugby and performed well in their academics.

He joined the prestigious Kabarak University to take Computer Science. He also joined the rugby team of the university. He excelled in the college team and started playing for Nakuru Rugby Team. He did so well that everybody loved him. After his second year at Kabarak University, he never did any exams until the four years. During this time, he excelled in rugby while in college; he became an alcoholic and drug user and, in the process, did not follow through with career development. We never knew what was happening because he kept sending us fake transcripts that showed he was doing very well at college. We visited him at the college and would act as if everything were going on well. He was unquestionably an actor who lived on lies after lies until he reached the university’s fourth year. When we discovered it was very stressful to learn how much we had spent on him only to realize, it was a waste all these years. Paying fees and upkeep in the expensive private university was complex. Fortunately, he came out of these piles of lies and started a real life.

We later found out that he was deep into drug use, especially Marijuana. He had learned to use those substances through the rugby team, which affected his learning to completion. We organized and sent him for a three-month rehabilitation in Eldoret. He went through the process successfully and came out well and reformed young man. We took him back to college, but this time at Maseno University in Kisumu. This time he enrolled in the school of business. I did not allow him to stay at the college, but we stayed with him while he commuted from college to the house, and I facilitated the whole process. He started afresh in year one in 2018 and finished at the end of 2021, the year he died after going through all these struggles persistently. Allan built my spiritual life of perseverance, forgiveness, and love. He humbled my intellectual egos to a simple humility model of learning to live with people who have challenges in life. Allan deconstructed my parental hood ability from what I thought I knew to a new learning curve. He tested and pushed my faith to the end and made me rethink what I know about God in raising children. Allan pushed me to reorganize my role as a church leader, parent, a community icon of guidance and started taking lessons in cultural humility leadership. He will ever remain a genius in my life who made me go deeper into research about what it means to be good at parenting and raising children to be like you think you are.

Allan challenged my mission ministry at FUM as I continue reaching out to various mission fields. The lessons I learned from him changed how I handled my ministry work in the mission field. I looked at all young people as my Allan. When I visited Uganda Yearly Meeting with him, and his charm made everybody think the boy was very disciplined and obedient to the father. He will be like a father-like son. They admired him very much. Behind my mind, I felt that there was so much to be done to help him overcome the challenges he was having. How effective are we in our ministry with our family issues? Allan kept on challenging me, and he has gone still challenging me in my ministry work. Who can but speak to the condition of the many distressed parents?

Who was Allan Afanda?

Allan had a passion for God’s work in the church. He loved children, and even before we knew he was using drugs, he taught Sunday school very well, and many children he taught are solid to date. What was strange was why he would lead others well to Christ but was struggling with alcoholism in his life. Whomever he interacted with left a positive mark in their lives. He had a loving and caring heart but still struggles with drugs and alcohol in his life. He would still lead the family into devotions, and his interpretation of the scriptures was sound and deep understanding. We traveled with him to Tanzania and Uganda attending on mission work. He loved the missions on the field.

Allan loved sports, especially football (soccer) and rugby, and mentored and coached young people from his village of Kivagala in the sport. Every month of December, the community of Kivagala hosts a football tournament for both boys and girls to provide a positive activity for students during the long December break from school. Allan often participated in this tournament, assisting his father and other leaders in organizing the events.

To honor Allan’s life, we have initiated the Allan Afanda Memorial Tournament, which will continue Allan’s legacy through sports. We also have added a formal education program for drug and alcohol abuse which will also run concurrently with the tournament and throughout the year. Finally, we have set up a high school scholarship for a deserving student from Kivagala Primary school. This will be named the Allan Afanda Memorial Scholarship.

We hope this particular focus honoring Allan’s life will motivate the students in this region to avoid drug and alcohol abuse and focus their lives on positive activities within their communities.