Editors commentary: Josiah

I was going to write something about the current fad for TV shows which take the tack ‘women are good, men are bad / idiots’.
ITV’s detective series Scott & Bailey is a classic of the genre. In the cauldron of discussion over the redefinition of marriage, such propaganda is hardly helpful. The truth is ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3.23). That includes both men and women.
But then, on May 4, a phone call came from Kenya to tell me that my great friend Josiah Ogalo Agengo had died of cancer. I felt I ought to mark his passing in this column.

Josiah was a senior pastor in the Africa Inland Church in and around Kisumu. Like many poor Africans he did not know when he was born. His parents had split up when he was very young and he and his sister had been left to grandmother. He was converted to Christ as a boy, I think, at his grandmother’s funeral. Without clothes and hungry he walked a great distance to get to a Bible College. Arriving destitute he begged to be allowed to do work to support himself. Over time he ended up as the college principal. He was a man who immersed himself in Scripture and of great insight.
He was very different from many other African church leaders. Knowing the failings of some of his brothers, he always steered clear of the temptations of money and seeking high position. He influenced many simply by his godly character. He was over in Britain visiting me this time last year and leaders from Pastors Training International had asked to meet him. I remember vividly them talking together in our house and one of the PTI brothers feeling so blessed by Josiah’s transparency and humility that he just couldn’t stop himself getting up and hugging him. It was very moving.
Josiah was used by the Lord to plant many churches around Lake Victoria, to train men for ministry and to open up a small Bible College furnished which books provided by the Banner of Truth, Evangelical Press and IVP. As part of his community he was prominent in establishing the Rae School at Kajulu for the local children of his beloved Luo tribe. Our own congregation in Guildford, along with Little Hill Church, Leicester, had the privilege of being involved in rebuilding the school from a group of mud huts to a compound of proper brick classrooms.

Josiah was a man of prayer and he leaves behind his wife Salome, a woman with a deep prayer life. I believe it was through prayer that he and I were led to each other. Back in the late 1970s while Ann and I were living in Liverpool, I remember being at home one Sunday night taking my turn to look after the children while Ann went to church. I was spending time in study and prayer and I remember being led to pray an unusual prayer. I found myself praying that God would give me a black friend. I just felt convicted that largely the evangelical church in our country was so white and middle-class. Just a few months later I met Josiah at Bryntirion (now part of WEST) in Bridgend, as he had been subsidised to come for a year’s theological training. I often reflect how that one prayer led to such a long association which opened up so many doors for ministry. Prayer really does change our lives. Do you pray prayers that challenge your status quo?

John Benton

This article was first published in the June 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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