"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."  (Matthew 5:7)

God Noticed Kenny (England)

By Kurt Erickson

I had first seen Kenny Ally as he walked continually around Victoria Square Park in London's East End. He would walk around this park for hours as part of his daily exercise. He had a very noticeable limp and a severe speech impediment; both of which were caused when he was struck by a car at the age of 19 and suffered a stroke as a result from the accident. He would walk for hours as a way to improve and strengthen his damaged body. The neighborhood children would make fun of him and mock him because of his speech and physical handicap. Kenny had a hard exterior and presented himself as a person who was mean-spirited and calloused. He became bitter toward the world and insisted to be left alone.

Kenny was born and raised in one of the most civilized cultures in the western world and yet at the age of fifty he could not read, write, or even sign his name. He was one of the many people who slip through the cracks of our social systems — a man, left to walk in circles around a park in the hope of improving any life he may have left. My wife, Asha, and I would watch him every day and pray without ceasing for wisdom and the right opportunity to approach him with the Gospel.

The right moment finally came while Asha was walking through the park with our newly born son, Wesley. They were distributing invitations to come to one our Thursday night outreaches to the homeless. She was assisted by another man from our church. His name was John and he also was a stroke victim; he was handicapped in speech and movement. John was always a wonderful blessing to us. They approached Kenny as he sat resting on a bench and gave him an invitation. When asked if he would like to come to a free meal and a time of singing and Bible study, he immediately growled back, 'I don't have time'. In one of the most amazing acts of evangelism I have every seen, John quickly responded in a complete deadpan, seemingly lifeless monotone, 'You better make time, brother', sounding more like a 19th century, horseback riding, doomsday preacher of the old west. That night Kenny came to our outreach!

Our outreaches always consisted of a meal, a time of singing and worship, a Bible teaching and prayer. At first, Kenny would only stay for the meal, citing that he had many things to do and had to leave. After a year or so, he began staying not only for the meal, but would linger around through most of the singing. Approximately a year later, we noticed him staying throughout the singing and most of the Bible study. He still remained very closed up and unapproachable. Yet he kept coming back week after week and we welcomed him like one of our own family.

After four years, Kenny was now staying for the whole evening including the meal, singing, Bible study and prayer. He would visit our other outreaches and eventually, our Sunday services. On many occasions, he would interrupt the teaching and ask the simplest question about what was just said. By this I mean, he would burst out, 'What do you mean by sanctification?' or 'What is a Pharisee?' and the like. He was also beginning to learn the songs of praise that we were singing as well. Kenny would sing and when he would, it would be loud! One of his (and our) favorite songs was entitled 'Lord, I Love You Forever’. The chorus is simply a refrain that repeats, 'Pour out your Spirit, pour out your Spirit, pour out your Spirit on me'. God answered his cry!

One day as Kenny was attending a special outdoor Sunday service we were hosting in the park; he interrupted the preaching again with the most profound question any one could ever ask. As I was ending my talk, Kenny raised his voice and as was his style burst forth a question that one doubt he had been pondering for a long time. He questioned, 'What does it mean to be born again? ' It was one of those times when, for that split second in time, everything seemed to stop. There was not a person at that service that didn't stop and catch their breath. Suddenly all eyes veered toward Kenny and as if instinct, back to me. All were waiting for the answer that every man, woman, and child needs to understand. I looked Kenny right in the eyes and began to explain fully with simplicity, of the nature, purpose, and power of the death and resurrection of Jesus. I explained once more about the grace of God available to all and the faith we need to apply it to our lives so one can be forgiven of all their sins and become a brand new creation. I asked Kenny if he wanted this truth applied to his life and if he was willing to repent. He told me he was. I helped him through a prayer of faith and his acknowledgement of Jesus as His Savior. That day I realized how important it is to never give up on anyone.

So many had passed by Kenny without even giving him a second look. Many were afraid to speak to him or approach him. There were very few churches that would even accept him. Those that did, treated him kindly, but always saw him as 'ministry'. We always saw Kenny as our friend and a precious person made in God's image, no matter how difficult he would become.

Three weeks later Kenny was baptized. What a sight to behold. The church was packed that day and many friends had come to share in our joy of seeing our brother's obedience. For the next three years, Kenny was faithful in everything he did for the Lord. He never missed a service. He weekly volunteered his services to help around the church. He attended every Bible study, prayer meeting, and church outing.

Kenny was so faithful in attending that if he missed just one meeting without informing us ahead of time, we would know something was wrong. That day happened on a Wednesday evening. It was time for our weekly Bible study. Kenny had not arrived at all. This was so much out of character for him that someone from the church went to his flat (apartment) after the study. There wasn't an answer so they immediately called the police. They informed us that a person must be registered missing at least 24 hours before they can do anything. After the 24-hour period the police went to the flat. After peering through the letter slot, they saw a leg hanging over the sofa. Upon entering, we found Kenny lying on his sofa motionless. He had suffered a heart attack and died quite quickly. His body, that had endure so much physical suffering had simply stopped.

The testimony of Kenny speaks to us today as a witness to the changing power of the divine grace of God brought forth in Christ. This changed life was possible for even one like Kenny. He was despised, rejected, and scorned at by those who walked by him; a social outcast who walked with a noticeable limp and a speech impediment. Yet it is these people especially that Jesus draws close to. Kenny could identify with others in their suffering — for he had suffered much. He could cut through every social class and could be appreciated and loved by young and old alike. Kenny remained thankful to everyone who helped him and, most of all, remembered and recognized God as the number one purpose of his life. His gratitude towards God was evident in his prayers and by his changed life.

A day after Kenny's departure, my wife Asha had a dream that saw Kenny in an Olympic size pool. He was competing with others in a swimming meet. He consequently won the race and was then standing on the platform to receive his reward. When the ribbon was placed around his neck, he was smiling as broad as one could. He no longer possessed his broken and discolored teeth; his slurred speech and bent body were now a thing of the past. Asha heard a voice concluding her dream saying, 'Well done, my son, you have run the race, you have finished the course, come now, and enter into your rest'. We know that Kenny is more alive today than he ever was here on earth. He has entered into the presence of the Lord with a new body and everlasting joy. His memory will always remain with us forever.

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