A walk into the village of Kapenta was a common occurrence growing up in the Rukwa Valley. Most of the time it was to visit our friends that lived there, and doing this happened more often as I entered my high school years. This was because my local friends started getting married around the age of 16 and they no longer had the freedom to come to our house to hang out and “play” like they did from the time we lived there until they got married. One of my dearest friends, Esther (now Mama Mishak) was someone I especially enjoyed visiting. We could sit and talk or walk to her garden outside the village until it was almost dark and then say goodnight before the sun set so I could safely make it back to my house.
On one particular walk to Esther’s house I saw a lady carrying a 5 gallon bucket of water on her head with a young child tied to her back with a cloth (the normal way to carry a baby). We greeted each other and then went our separate ways. I didn’t think anything of it, because that’s as normal of a sight as seeing a mailbox at the end of a driveway in the USA. What I had missed was the witch doctor that had passed right before I came to the path and whom this lady was following.
Upon arriving at Esther’s house and after some casual conversation, she asked if I had seen the lady being led up the mountain by the village witch doctor. I said I had seen the lady and Esther went on to explain what was going on. This story is heartbreaking but as you read the following think of the bondage of fear these people live in. Satan has a stronghold in every culture that needs to be brought into light, and one of those in Tanzania is fear. Fear and the bondage of darkness causes so much heartache. The light of Christ is so beautiful in contrast to these things but when the darkness seems strong, the heartache runs deep.
You see, the woman was about to take part in a ritual led by the witch doctor, in fear of disobeying him and in fear for her child’s life. Her young boy was very sick, running a high fever among other things. Normal “dawa” (medicine) wasn’t working, so she went and surrendered herself to the ways of the witch doctor. They were now on their way to a special site on top of a local, worshiped mountain where, Esther explained to me, the mother would have to collect sticks and they would make a fire from those sticks. They would then heat “special” water and poor this hot water over the child to wash the sickness from the child’s body. When the deed was done, the mom would have to leave the mountain without looking back. If she looked back, or ever returned to that spot she was told, and believed, that the sickness would return to her child and possibly take his life. My heart ached, and I wish there was some way I could have stopped what I knew was happening as it was being explained to me.
The sun began to set and I said my goodbyes to Esther for the day. At the same time that she walked me to the path from her house the mother was returning down the mountain with a screaming little baby re-tied to her back and her child in only worse condition than before. Oh my heart cried inside. Why does she believe these lies? Why does she do these things?
Lies and darkness and sin. That is why. In many places throughout that culture witchcraft is a real and serious issue that many live in bondage to and in fear of daily. It is just one area where the missionaries fight a spiritual battle in their daily work. I tell you this in order to raise the awareness of the need for prayer in these cultures and lands that our missionaries are serving in. Pray for the spiritual battles that are fought every day. Pray for the people affected so intimately and painfully with this darkness, shame, pain, and fear. For in Christ there is light and freedom and joy and he came that we might have life and have it to the full.
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12
This post is written by Erin Kemper. The editor of this blog, GMI’s social media coordinator, and a past MK whose parents served with GMI for 14 years.