Book Review – Out of the Black Shadows

I knew I had to read Out of the Black Shadows after I came upon Philip Ryken’s brief review of the book. Ryken wrote, “The book is a great read for Christians of all ages. The members of our book club would put Out of the Black Shadows in the very first rank of spiritual autobiographies.” The book tells the story of Stephen Lungu, now an evangelist serving with African Enterprise.

Stephen was the oldest son of a Zimbabwean teenage mother forced to marry a much older man. When he was only three his mother deserted Stephen and his two siblings, leaving them to be raised by an unwilling aunt. At the age of eleven, like so many impoverished African boys, he ran away and began life on the streets. There he was eventually recruited into a violent gang known as the Black Shadows. They were little more than thugs, senselessly assaulting people and stealing what they needed to survive. They were recruited by revolutionaries who taught them that their poverty was the fault of the white man and the white religion. They were encouraged to take whatever they wanted from their oppressors.

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One day Stephen and his gang set out to firebomb an evangelistic tent meeting and then to gun down anyone who tried to escape. He entered that tent with every intention of wreaking havoc—but first, to heighten his enjoyment of the moment, he decided to listen to just a few moments of the sermon being preached that evening. And his life was forever transformed. That was in 1962. By 1965 Lungu was preaching the gospel under the banner of Dorothea Mission and in the forty years since he has not stopped. Today he serves as a Senior Team Leader for African Enterprise and is based in Lilongwe, Malawi. He travels around the world preaching the gospel.

I might hesitate to place this book within the first rank of spiritual autobiographies, but having said that, I cannot deny that it is unusually powerful. Lungu’s testimony is powerful; his love for the gospel and his joy in sharing it is inspiring and contagious. Also, I find great value in reading biographies of Christians from such different backgrounds. It reminds us of the important fact that our experience of God in North America is an experience within a particular context. While the message of the gospel remains the same throughout all of space and time, there is no doubt that God sometimes chooses to work differently in different contexts. In the story of Stephen Lungu, as in so many stories originating from that part of the world, we see God working in undeniable but unexpected ways.

Out of the Black Shadows is an autobiography that is well worth reading and one that will leave you praising God for the great work He did in this man’s life, and in your own.