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Visit with a Witch-Doctor

by a Missionary in Africa

There is always a little apprehension when Thursday night rolls around. That is the night I take a few of the students and we drive across the city of Maputo in peak traffic. In the darkness we dodge the shoppas (trucks loaded with people, which serve as public trans-port) as they unload their people in the middle of the roads. There are thousands of pedestrians dressed in dark clothing who think that because they can see our head-lights, we must be able to see them. Keep in mind, most of these people have never driven a car.

We swerve around potholes and squint to distinguish if the one approaching headlight is a motorcycle or a car on our side of the road. It is difficult to distinguish the boundaries of the lanes because most have no markings. By the time we reach our rendezvous point to meet George, I am frequently “stressed.” On top of this I have been trying to have
conversations with the students, in Portuguese.

This night George, our Mozambican contact, was not at the meeting place but had sent his son to show us the way to the place where we were to speak. This is an additional source of stress, in that we never know where and to whom we are going to speak. As we drove down the sand roads, I got stuck. The students jumped out and pushed me through the thick white sand.

When we found George, he said that this night we were going to have a Bible study with a corandeiro. I wasn’t sure I had heard him right, but he went on to explain that the husband of this woman witch doctor had left her, and she was open to the gospel. The plan was to go to the house of George for prayer and then to walk to the witch doctor’s
house.

We were on a slight hill and miles away we could see the glow of the city lights. Here there was no electricity, and small fields separated the houses. Nearby were heard African drums being played. I asked, “Are the drums from a Zionist church?” (This is a group of churches here which still practice some O.T. rituals and sacrifices.) “I’m not sure,” came the response, “they may be the drums of the witch doctor.” In my mind,
this summoned up pictures of the witch doctor getting ready to encounter the missionary.

It was a very long walk to the house of the witch doctor. We could see millions of stars, but the moon was not in sight. From our vantage point, we could see the small fires families had built to prepare dinner and keep warm on this cool night. I followed George
up hill and down hill, my shoes filling with sand. We turned this way and that. It was so dark I nearly walked into a hedge of thorns.

George was pointing out holes in the path as the three students trailed along in silence behind me. Soon I was totally disoriented.

Thoughts began to race through my mind: “What on earth am I getting into here? What am I going to say to a witch doctor? I really should get more people to pray when we do things like this. I wonder if she will be really weird? What if a bunch of demons show up? What if they attack us and say something like, ‘We know Jesus, but who are you?'” I could picture myself running from the house, clothes ripped to shreds (like in Acts 19), trying to explain to the students what just happened. I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

My fears gained momentum, as though out of control. “If I got lost out here, I couldn’t find my way back. I’d have to spend the night under one of these bushes. I sure hope George knows the way back to the car. I wonder if there are many snakes here?

“Just how well do we really know George? Maybe he is in on all of this. He is leading us way back into the bush knowing we could never find our way out! He’s probably thinking, ‘There won’t be a trace of these sacrifices.'”

“OK, get a grip,” I thought, coming to my senses. “Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world. Satan is the father of all lies. It is Satan that wants to cripple us with fear. He has blinded the eyes of this woman. Is she lost? Yes. Does she need Jesus? Yes. Hey, there are worse things than dying because of a witch doctor’s medicine.
But I will not be naive. I will not eat or drink anything she offers. That way at least she can’t poison me. ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.’ (Why do I remember that one in King James?) ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the earth’ (and I’m pretty sure I can see it from here).”

Isn’t it odd the way our minds work given a little bit of stress, a healthy imagination and a dark stroll across the African bush?

When we arrived, there was candle light coming from an open door. Inside we were greeted by a woman, I’m guessing in her fifties, and her daughter in her early twenties. We were later joined by four young children. The house was very small, maybe two meters by four meters, and made of canessa reeds with a tin roof. Inside were several chairs and a small table with a relatively nice stereo setting on the table. One chair was occupied by a car battery that powered the stereo. The floor was dirt but was partially covered with a reed mat. On the wall were pictures cut from magazines and album covers of Bob Marley and Gloria Estefan. The lighting came from an oil lamp made from a beer bottle. The bottle had a wick feeding some flammable liquid through
the cap.

We sang a few songs and then the woman stood for a formal greeting. She seemed amazed that we would track to her house. When she said, “Welcome, to the sons of God,” the phrase struck me. We are God’s adopted sons, and He had sent us to this place, this night, to tell this woman about Jesus. The three students had been brought from
across Mozambique. I had been brought from America. This woman had an appoint-ment with God on this night. She would be asked to accept Jesus as Lord or to reject God’s invitation. I sensed we were not there by accident, but really — are we ever anywhere by accident?

We talked about the beautiful stars outside and how God had made them. We talked about how God had been here before the stars and the earth and the spirits existed. He made them all. He is more powerful than all. We talked about Adam and how he walked and talked with God.

Then we talked about how just one sin separates us from God like it did Adam, but God wants to restore our relationship with Him, so He sent Jesus. We talked about how God provided one way to be saved when the world was flooded. People were either in the ark, or they were lost. Today, Jesus says He is the only way to God. I asked if Jesus was a liar. She said, “No.” I said, “Then there really is only one way to God, and we must accept that one way, or we choose to be lost.”

That night in that small hut, she chose to follow Jesus.

A couple of hours later, the walk back to the car was not nearly so stressful as the walk to the house. I still hoped George knew the way to the car because I did not have a clue which direction to go, but there was not the former apprehension. The sky was still full of beautiful stars and families were warming themselves by open fires and getting the kids ready for bed, and God was (and is) still on the throne. O Lord, forgive my lack of faith.

We made arrangements to meet George next Thursday. Then I promptly got the car stuck up to the axles in soft sand. When we finally got out, the roads were mostly empty, and we had an uneventful ride home.

[The writer of the above article is known by many W&W readers, but prefers not to be identified.]




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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10