Mungiki. The very mention of that word evokes dread in the hearts of Nairobi’s slum dwellers. The Mungiki are Kenya’s mafia, a well-organized group of criminal gangs who intimidate, “tax” and extort people for “protection.” To refuse their services is to invite trouble—and even death.
When Margaret Wangui’s husband, Stephen, opened a small carpentry shop to manufacture furniture, the Mungiki were soon paying him a visit. Stephen believed that business owners needed to stand up to such criminals and put a stop to their extortion. He repeatedly refused their demands. Besides that, Margaret and Stephen were newlyweds, and they were expecting their first child. Stephen couldn’t afford to pay off the Mungiki and support his growing family.
One afternoon in January 2009, Stephen didn’t return home from his shop as usual. Margaret patiently waited for him. Hours turned into days and days into weeks. Having heard no reports of foul play, Margaret finally concluded that Stephen had abandoned her and their new baby girl. Her heart broke.
In her pain, Margaret found herself at a church in one of Nairobi’s slums pastored by a man named John Muchiri. She heard pastor John tell the biblical story of the woman who, by touching Jesus’ garments, was healed of chronic bleeding. Margaret ran to the altar with tears streaming down her face. The love and forgiveness she so desperately craved washed over her, making her a new creation in Christ. She had “touched the hem of Jesus” and began to walk with Him!
Eventually Margaret learned the truth about her husband. Some of her neighbors collected their courage to tell her that they had witnessed Stephen being abducted on his way to his shop. When people are kidnapped by the Mungiki, they are never seen again, so there was little doubt that Stephen had been murdered. Margaret cried tears of grief and relief at the news. She was relieved to know that her husband had not abandoned her, but grieved to learn that he had died at the hands of the Mungiki. It was time to start over.
Believing that Margaret had good business sense, pastor Muchiri, one of Heaven’s Family’s Widows & Abandoned Women Fund micro-bankers, loaned her $300 to help her purchase a pressure washer and open a car wash. Margaret worked hard. Today her business is doing well, and she is able to support herself and her baby girl. Beyond that, she now employs four men from John’s church at her car wash. In more ways than one, God has given Margaret Wangui a clean start!