Friday, March 1, 2013

Taking on the Giants

There is something about the David and Goliath story that captures the imagination (1 Samuel 17).  Whether it happens on a court during March Madness or on the ancient battlefield, something in us roots for an irrationally confident youngster going up against an obviously superior foe.

I love watching the way our Mozambican friends get wrapped up in the telling of that story.  They empathize with a hopelessly overmatched David.  They marvel that even though Goliath was much stronger and better equipped than David - he still lost.  And all of us are challenged by the way David put his total confidence in a God that was bigger than any giant.

This story has led naturally into many conversations about the different giants that we face here in Mozambique.  Out of these exchanges names have surfaced for five giants that tyrannize the Makua-Metto people the most.   These giants are alive and well, stomping around the province of Cabo Delgado, wreaking havoc on families and villages. 

One of these giants is 'Unfaithfulness.'  Being true to one's word is uncommon and this trait stains and strains marriages, friendships and business relationships.  People lack confidence in each other and unfortunately this is often for good reason.  This giant keeps communities as a whole from moving forward because individuals don't trust each other.

The second giant is the 'System of Witchcraft/Demon possession/Divination.'  This one has been the hardest for me as a Westerner to understand.  The occult practices form a dangerous three-headed giant that keeps people pinned down by fear.  This giant turns people against their own neighbors and families. Many, many people look to this giant in a vain wish for a blessing or in trying to figure out a way to minimize their suffering.

A third giant is 'Alcoholism.'  Drunkenness is a huge challenge here.  In villages all around us people distill their own drink from sugar cane.  High levels of unemployment and cheap alcohol are a dangerous combination that pull people down.  One of the brands of mass manufactured gin is named Rhino, and I often remind our friends here that if someone saw this animal out in the woods they would keep their distance, but when they see Rhino on a bottle they forget that it is a dangerous animal best left alone.  This giant staggers around destroying the people and livelihoods in its path.

The fourth giant is 'Ungodly Leadership.'  In a previous post I mentioned that a common saying here is "the goat eats where it is tethered."  This saying is used to express resignation that leaders will use whatever authority they have been given for their own advantage.  Few follow Jesus' model of servant leadership.

And lastly we come to the giant of 'Poverty.'  This giant teams up with his colleagues to keep people down - often people waste their hard earned money on magical amulets or booze.  Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world (ranking 172nd out of 177 countries on the 2007/2008 Human Development Index).  In 2003, Mozambique ranked as the 10th worst country in the world according to percentage of population suffering from undernourishment (45%).  And the province we live in, Cabo Delgado, is Mozambique’s worst.  According to the World Bank’s numbers from just a few years ago, the province of Cabo Delgado ranks dead last in comparison with the rest of this countries’ provinces in terms of chronic malnutrition among children 0-5 years (56%) and in percentage of children underweight (34.2%). When you worry about what your next meal will be it is hard to think about much else.

These Giants work together to stomp out hope and life where they find it.  Like old Goliath, their voices rumble through the valley striking fear in the hearts of the people. 

Wow - that's depressing.

So, how can we stand in response to that?

We've formed a modest plan with some Mozambican church leaders for engaging the Giants.  Just as David went down to the river and picked out some smooth stones, we've selected a few ways to respond to these giants.  

1. Speak openly about the Giants.  Satan is the prince of darkness and he doesn't like it when we shine a light on what he is up to.  These giants have more power when we don't speak their name.  So, we are committing to speak openly about them and call them out when we see them slinking into our houses and churches.

2. Live the abundant life of the Kingdom of God - Following the giants' ways of living would give them power over us.  Our lives are the some of the most powerful testimonies/weapons in the battle against the giants.  By living a Christ-infused-life we reveal the giants as cheap shadows of the way things were intended to be.

3. Fast and pray for victory against the Giants. Once upon a time, Jesus' disciples ran out of power -  they tried to cast an evil spirit out of a child, but were unable.  Jesus healed the child and told his apprentices that certain evil spirits only come out by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:19-21). Our team and a number of other Mozambican church leaders are going to fast and pray for God to bring down these giants.  In my mind, I have an image of hundreds and hundreds of Davids launching their stones as these five giants cower in fear. 

Another time Jesus guaranteed that if we have faith and don't doubt, we can say to a mountain, 'Jump!' and it will hop into the sea (Matthew 21:21).  We're not asking to move mountains - we are just asking Him to take down some giants.  We're trusting that He's done it before... and He can do it again.

We'll be praying and fasting from March 17 to March 30.  March 31st is Easter Sunday.  It seems appropriate to end the fast by remembering the power of the Resurrected Lord. 

So, let me invite you to join us in prayer and fasting against the giants in this part of Mozambique.  There is a saying here - "União faz a força."  which means In "Unity there is strength."

Please join us in prayer about the Giants.  And, if you feel called, give up some meals as part of your petition to defeat these enemies.  We'd be happy to have some more Davids taking up their slings and joining us with God against the Giants.      

Grace and Peace,

(Special thanks to Abby and Ellie for the David and Goliath drawings!)

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