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Cedric Kanana with Benjamin Fischer

I Once Was Dead

How God Rescued Me from Islam, Drugs, Witchcraft, and even Death

This book's riveting, action-packed plot, has one central message shining through: Jesus is stronger than death, than addiction, than Islam, than traditional religion, than curses. Trust Jesus alone! The miracles recorded in I Once Was Dead echo the book of Acts and give all glory to God – whether healing, deliverance, resurrection, protection from threats, or hearing God's voice.

This book covers many pressing issues in Africa. Cedric Kanana's addiction to marijuana and his later drug trafficking shows the desperation that can come from broken homes, youth despair, and life on the streets. The book demonstrates the interplay between curses, sin, and the demonic as traditional religion is woven in with folk Islam or contrasted with it. Other topics include:

  • The interplay between the colonial legacy
  • Tribalism and the extended family
  • The role of education level and how shame affects one’s family

While Cedric's story explores the extremes of these situations, the topics covered affect many people in Africa. Throughout this book’s riveting, action-packed plot, one central message shines through: Jesus is stronger than death, than addiction, than Islam, than traditional religion, than curses. Trust Jesus alone! This emphasis on spiritual power is the centre of a compelling testimony in many African contexts – as well as God’s deliverance from sin, guilt, and shame. The miracles recorded in this book echo the book of Acts and give all glory to God – whether healing, deliverance, resurrection, protection from threats, or hearing God's voice.

Kanana includes practical explanations of the struggles in his context, whether tribal tensions, challenges for Muslim background believers, or encouragement for how to witness to Muslims.

Cedric Kanana is a joyful evangelist and priest in the Anglican Church of Rwanda, where he is chaplain at Kigali prison and director of the Father’s Union. For the last ten years, Cedric Kanana has preached at university missions and evangelistic conferences all over East Africa. He often preaches to over 100,000 people a year at large crusade events in Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya, Cameroon, Zambia, Angola, Uganda, South Africa, and Congo. He has been a featured guest on Rwandan radio and television in a series of highly rated debates with atheists which have led to the conversion of several prominent Muslim sheikhs. He is also a speaker with the GoodWORD Partnership, RZIM in South Africa, and Africa Evangelistic Enterprise (AEE), and maintains connections with the Barnabas Fund.

He is ordained in the Anglican Church of Rwanda and connected to Anglican church leaders across East Africa. He holds a BA and MA in Theology from Uganda Christian University and is working on a PhD from South African Theological Seminary.

The co-author, Benjamin Fischer, is the rector of Christ the Redeemer in Nampa, Idaho, and Associate Professor of Literature at Northwest Nazarene University. He holds a PhD and MA in Language and Literature from the University of Notre Dame, and an MA in Church History from Emory University. He has been the editor of a scholarly journal, Nineteenth-Century Contexts, and has written numerous articles on mission in colonial and post-colonial contexts. He is ordained in the Anglican Church of Rwanda.

The coauthors have founded a university ministry with chapters at all the Rwandan universities as well as several branches in Uganda.

I Once Was Dead by Cedric [aka Swidiq] Kanana with Benjamin Fischer is like returning to the Acts of the Apostles. Here is the riveting autobiography of Cedric Kanana testifying to the power of the Lord Jesus Christ over Islam, African witch doctors, and even death. In the Lord’s good pleasure he took Cedric, a born leader, captive from his spiritual enemies to bring honour to the name of Jesus Christ. A serendipity of this stirring narrative is its insights into a gang of thieves, the drug culture, Islam, and witchcraft. The only flaw in this book is that it has a last page. I hated to put it down. Thank God for our authors for giving us such a spiritually revitalizing story. —Dr Bruce Waltke, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Studies at Regent College

All across the Global South, [God] is using his faithful people to speak and work in power – healing the sick, driving out demons, and reconciling mortal enemies. Rev Cedric’s story is distinctive in that it combines all of these marvellous works of God . . . Hundreds of people have committed to following Jesus through Cedric’s testimony and preaching, and it is my hope that this book will also be a tool for many others to place their trust in the Almighty God. —Most Rev Dr Onesphore Rwaje, Retired Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Rwanda, Bishop of Gasabo Diocese, and Member of the Global South Primates Council

Cedric’s story is one of the best evangelistic messages. It will bring many generations to know the truth of the salvation we have in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This book brings the gospel into reality and inspires me to do the work of an evangelist. God longs to see many young people in Africa, as well as other continents, experiencing the same grace Cedric has put it in this book. This is a book for all. —Emmanuel Kwizera, African Enterprise International Missions Director, Lausanne Movement Catalyst for Proclamation Evangelism

This book was edifying and riveting as well as very informative. I loved it – it was superb! —Prof Craig Keener, author of Miracles Today and the IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

This story takes us on an improbable journey, which gives hope for our own improbable journeys. While the details of our lives may be different, Cedric’s story of grace and transformation by Jesus will resonate with all who seek to know their true identity as a son or daughter of the King of Kings. —Rt Rev Kenneth Ross, Bishop of the Diocese of the Rocky Mountains in the Anglican Church of North America

Cedric Kanana’s remarkable story takes readers from the sordid depths of human darkness – the most brutal extremes of sin and even death itself – to the glorious, redeeming light of Christ. It is not an exaggeration to say that even the Apostle Paul’s conversion was not as dramatic as this. I was mesmerized and inspired as I read the book. —Dr James Spiegel, Professor of Philosophy at Taylor University and author of Gum, Geckos, and God

As I have seen when Cedric shares his story in ministry, I trust this book will be an important help for both Christians and non-Christians as a way to recognize that many of our problems result from how we misalign our lives and place our hopes in things that betray or destroy us. Only Jesus could have saved Cedric, and only Jesus can save any of us. —Rt Rev Emmanuel Ngendahayo, Bishop of Byumba Diocese in the Anglican Church of Rwanda

This remarkable testimony is a vivid demonstration of the depths into which sin and error can take us – and of the amazing grace of God, who can save anyone, no matter how low they have sunk. It will introduce Western Christians to an unfamiliar world, but it speaks of the same Lord, who is wonderfully at work on every continent to bring people from all backgrounds and faiths to himself. —Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St. Ebbes, Oxford, and Director of the Proclamation Trust, author of God’s Big Picture

I Once Was Dead is a testimony of a Muslim leader who experienced a powerful encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. This man’s story magnifies Jesus’s words in John 10:16: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them, and they will listen to my voice.” —Dr Lyle Dorsett, Billy Graham Professor of Evangelism at Beeson Seminary, pastor of Christ the King Anglican Church, and author of Seeking the Secret Place: The Spiritual Formation of C.S. Lewis

I first heard Cedric’s story by the shores of Lake Kivu in Rwanda and marvelled at God’s incredible rescue and powerful grace. Since then, it has been my joy to witness how God has mentored Cedric as an evangelist – standing by his side, giving him the opportunity to boldly proclaim the gospel for all to hear (2 Timothy 4:17). May this account of God’s work in and through Cedric be a further testimony of God’s faithfulness to Africa and the world. —Blair T. Carlson, Anglican Minister, founder of GoodWORD Partnership, and former Congress Director for the Third Lausanne Congress: Cape Town 2010

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