Saturday, September 16, 2017

Magic Charms and Contingency Plans

A few nights ago, Mama F came to me terrorized, begging and screaming for a certain plant in our backyard. 

I've lived in Tanzania for almost 14 years now, but there are still stories that blow me away.

I have a good friend, Allison (name changed), who has lived here as long as Gil and I have.  I don't get to see her often, as she and her husband live several hours away in a remote village in Tanzania.  We may be living in the same country, but her life is very different from mine.  While visiting us this week, Allison told me this incredible story.

For a long time now, Allison had been sharing the gospel with Mama F, one of her neighbors.  And just a couple weeks ago, Mama F declared faith in Christ and started attending a Bible study led by Allison and her team.  They all praised God for this, not knowing that the story was just beginning....

This is how Allison tells it:

"A few nights ago, Mama F came to me terrorized, begging and screaming for a certain plant in our backyard.  Of course, I let her in to grab the unknown plant she named.  I soon saw that something had taken hold of her precious four-year-old daughter.  She was writhing and gurgling, clenched in her mother’s arms, and foaming at the mouth.  

Hearing Mama F’s cries, other neighbor women were coming to aid and we all followed as she ran back to her house while smearing my basil plant all over little F’s head.  The father had run for the witchdoctor to buy emergency witchcraft to ward off the attack.  Mama F would not accept my westernized offer to take them to the hospital.  

We women entered into her home, trying to be of help in any way we could.  One woman shook and rubbed a live chicken over little F -- spraying who knows what all over her.  Another brought a pouch with herbs to burn and handfuls of a certain type of dirt to make a mud mixture to smear over her disrobed body.  Mama F frantically gulped a liquid from a cup and spewed it onto her daughter.  Then she placed knives under her armpits and behind her neck, wrapped F in banana leaves and tied a new black cloth charm around F’s wrist to join the others that fruitlessly encircled her body already. The ladies began to burn the weeds gathered so that smoke filled the room.  All the while, F was writhing and foaming, enveloped in darkness.

A long time ago, the Lord compelled me into these neighbors' lives and now--as I walked that night with these women I love who were so fear stricken, so desperate to save this child in the only ways they knew of-- I prayed silently and out loud for His Light to shine in the living nightmare.  Then He enabled me to speak simple, childlike words in this dark chaos of fear and despair.  
'God is able to help and heal F.  This witchcraft will not work.  May I pray for her in Jesus’ name?  May I hold her in my arms and pray for God’s healing?  I can ask for help from Almighty, Holy God because I believe Jesus shed his blood to pay for my sin so I am forgiven. Please let me pray for her.'

Miraculously they agreed!

But I knew there was more needing to be said.  'Mama F, because God is holy and only He deserves glory, you have to stop this witchcraft.  He wants you to see it is by His power and grace alone that F is healed. Please remove the knives, the leaves...'

Miraculously they agreed and placed her in my arms!

I squatted down on the dirt floor, holding that precious, terrorized little girl in my arms and I prayed.  As I prayed, I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit that this was not just a physical need for healing, but spiritual.  So, in Jesus name, I prayed against the powers of darkness over this little one.  In Jesus' name, I rebuked satan and told him to leave.  In Jesus' name, I entrusted F into God’s arms of healing and protection.

And God heard and answered!  As I prayed, the convulsions and foaming and gurgling ceased and F laid peacefully in my arms.  I heard the women’s voices declare,  'Wow!  The prayer is working!  God Heals!  Jesus Heals!  God hears the prayers of Christians!  Let’s go find more Christians to pray for her!'  So we returned to my house where my teammates had been waiting and they too surrounded F with prayer and praise to God for her healing.  And with F still in my arms exhausted, but at peace, my teammates and I lingered with our neighbors in our front yard and on our front porch, praising God for His healing in word, prayer, and song."

But the story is still not over. Allison sat in my kitchen Wednesday evening, telling me what had just happened the night before.

She continued:

"Mama F had attended the ladies prayer group in our home again and gave praise to Jesus for his healing in her child.  Then a few days later F came to our home to play, wearing her charm necklace again.  

I spoke to her Mom that God does not share His glory with another and F does not need the charms for her health and protection when we cry out to the one true God through Jesus Christ.  She agreed, but the necklace charm remained.  I also shared that with believing in Jesus Christ as her Savior, she is now a daughter of the King and she herself can ask her Father God for anything in His Name!   There is no need to fear, nor appease the forces of darkness. But the necklace remained.  

Tuesday evening, the terrors came again to F.  Since we were here in Dar when the attack came on, little F's family sought the help of our team (Tanzanian and American) who together prayed and read Scripture over her, but this time she was not responding and they agreed to take her to the clinic in the neighboring village.  

When I received word of this, I asked if she was still wearing any charms.  And she was still wearing her charm necklace.  My husband called Baba F and exhorted him to remove the charms as God will not share His glory with another.  Meanwhile the doctor was not able to help F and so they brought F to our local evangelist where they cut off her charm necklace and began to pray for her again.  She was immediately restored to normal!"

Glory be to God!

It is, indeed, truly a remarkable story--especially for those of us who assume that this kind of thing ended in the New Testament.  But it would be a shame for those of us from westernized cultures, who scoff at magic charms and witchdoctors, to think that God isn't trying to teach us the same lessons that he was teaching little F's family.

He wants the glory alone.  

And his glory is never evident in contingency plans.

I've thought about this constantly since I heard Allison's story.  How often do I have a contingency plan?  How often do I say the words that God is faithful and God is good, but in the back of my mind, have my own little plan of what I'll do if God doesn't show up?

Sure, I say I believe in heaven and that it's forever and that life here is only a shadow of what's to come.  But really, I want to enjoy that shadow with as much comfort as I can muster and as much pleasure as I can hold onto--just in case heaven doesn't come.

Sure, I know that God is the rightful king and sovereign over the universe.  But I'd also really like to be under a government that is just, safe, powerful, and holds to all of my values--and I'm distressed if I don't get that. 

Sure, I believe that God is the source of all peace and healing.  But my first instinct in times of pain or sickness or fear is to turn to doctors and medicine, not to prayer.

Sure, I believe that Scripture tells me that God will provide for all my needs.  But I want that savings account to be steady and that income to be regular, just in case.

I know there's a balance here, because I need to be wise and prudent and God's gifts to me include homes and medicine and savings accounts.  But where is the source of my trust?  Am I really trusting in God, or in my contingency plans?

And sometimes, God might just be waiting for us to cut off the magic charm.  Because He will not share His glory with another.

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