It was a hot afternoon the day Joanna and I biked up to Gamba to visit Henriette (one of the girls who did the leader’s training). So, so hot. There was hardly a breeze to lift the limp mango leaves and yet the merciless sun continued to scorch everything in its reach. We found Henriette standing in the shade, and she pulled out stools for us. There was so much news to catch up on, and our happy voices rang through the still afternoon air. Henriette had been at a village with her sick grandmother. “So, how did you like your visit?” I asked.
“I do NOT like the village,” she replied emphatically. “There are too many witchdoctors there.”
“They’re here too, you know.” I remarked, dozens of stories I had heard, some frightening, some funny, rushing to mind.
“Yes, but here at least they don’t know me.” A few men trudged out of the forest and down the path we sat by, feet moving rhythmically as they balanced large sacks of charcoal on their heads.
“Do witchdoctors have music?” I asked, though I could guess at the answer. To reply, she told me a long story that her grandmother had told her.
One night when her grandmother was a little girl, she heard the sound of music coming from the forest. She asked her father where it was coming from, and he told her that witchdoctors were making the music. Neither the girl nor her brothers believed their father, and they kept insisting that they wanted to go see who was playing the music and join in the dance. The father finally gave in, and they began to walk. They walked for a loooong way and finally came upon the music-makers. All they could see was a ring of fires coming out of the witchdoctors’ mouths. The children began to be afraid and asked their father to bring them back. But he told them that since they wanted to see who was dancing, they would. They entered the circle, and all the lights went out. The leader of the witchdoctors came forward and asked why they had come. The father replied that the children had wanted to see who was making the music. Instantly all the fires were lit again and it was very light. The children could see clearly these people, and ran in terror all the way home.
I wondered how much of that story was true, then decided that the real question was how much was false. As Henriette talked about how the witchdoctors could fly on benches, I thought of the stories of witches on brooms and wondered how two cultures so separated could have the same stories…unless, of course, they aren’t stories. Now that she had gotten started, Henriette wasn’t going to stop. Somehow, it was easy to talk of darkness when the sun was blazing in all its glorious might and there were friends around. She talked of a man eating his wife and confessing to it when drunk. I was shocked at this, so she explained that he had helped eat his friends’ wives and if he didn’t offer his they would eat him. Whoever they name, you must give up. There is no choice. I shuddered at the evil of this hopeless tangle of darkness. Of people trying to find power and ending up enslaved to something greater and worse than they could ever know. Of others living in constant terror, not knowing who is sold to the demons and who is not. But my thoughts kept coming back to the question I ask every time someone starts talking of these things (which is often enough). The question I ask because I love the answer.
“Can they do anything to a Christian?”
“Oh no!! They are powerless against the Christians. That is, the true believers, not the ones only paying lip-service to the church. If the witchdoctors come near the house of a Christian, it appears to them as if it is full of fire, and they cannot enter.”
Praise be to Jesus who delivered us from death and the fear of death! How these people need to be introduced to the God who is more powerful than Satan. Pray for spiritual protection around all the girls involved in Bana Basi ya Kopela – Satan is real in this world, and his presence is felt strongly here.