Friday, April 12, 2013

some snapshots of the giants

Over the past month we have been talking a lot about the giants.  At a recent meeting of key church leaders, over forty of them committed to pray, fast and join the fight against the giants that oppress people here in Cabo Delgado.

During the two week period of prayer and fasting about the giants, I decided to keep a log of my interactions with the giants.  It was surprising to realize just how many experiences and conversations I wrote down.  In this post I will share a few examples, a snapshot or two, in order to help put each of the giants in perspective and reveal more about their impact here.

1. The giant of 'Unfaithfulness.'  This giant carries a sword that carves up confidence and keeps people from trusting each other.  Unfortunately, the culture here does not put much of a stigma on lying. 

One man from the church in Menhuene came and asked for help for his wife who he said was sick in the hospital.  I have helped him in the past, but something about his story seemed fishy.  He said that Chad had given them a ride to the hospital the day before and since Chad was working next door I checked and found out that this man's story was not true.  Chad and I confronted him and reminded him that people of the Kingdom of God are called to tell the truth.

Antonio from the village of Siwewe found a wallet at a church meeting and handed it in.  To the surprise of many people there was no money missing and another church leader and I praised this young man for choosing faithfulness.

Gracinta's husband asked for help to go to the hospital, I hesitated to give him money because he has lied to me in the past.

2. The giant of 'Magic.'  This is the system of Witchcraft/Demon possession/Divination that forms a dangerous three-headed giant that keeps people pinned down by fear.

On Easter morning, we climbed a mountain just outside of town to worship together with the kids in English and celebrate the resurrection.  On the way up the mountain we came across a recently constructed center for traditional animistic practices.  In the picture you can see two rattles, a mirror and some other objects used by an 'Onkulukano,' for divination.

I sat outside one afternoon and translated for Kara as Hortencia shared about family members who struggle with the occult.  One of her sisters suddenly lost her voice, did divination to discover the cause and was told that her deceased grandmother had caused the illness because she had been forgotten by her family.  That sister cleaned up the grave, made an offering to the dead family member, and her voice has partially come back.

Hortencia also told us about a neighbor who, because of spirit possession, has some unique food taboos she must follow.  This neighbor's uncle came to Montepuez recently trying to convince her to come with him to his village where he said a traditional healer there could help her get better.  She rejected his offer because she is afraid he wants to curse her, and through her death gain riches for himself. 

3. The giant of 'Alcoholism.'  Many are tempted by drunkenness as a way to temporarily escape their problems.
(pic of gin)

Two of our good friends, Napoleon and Goncalves both spent multiple nights at our house in order to visit the hospital here to treat injuries received in a car accident.  They, and some other pastors here in Montepuez, were on their way to another city to participate in a church conference.  The bus driver had been drinking and their vehicle rolled multiple times.  Amazingly no one died in the accident and the worst of the injuries were some deep cuts and broken or cracked ribs.   

On Saturday night, we were driving home and came across the body of a man laying in the middle of the road just a few feet from our gate.  At first we thought he might dead, but upon further investigation discovered he was just passed out drunk.

On Tuesday, I had been in the village of Ncororo teaching about the giants.  Albisto, one of the church leaders there had participated well in the animated discussion.  The very next day, I met up with him on the road.  He was leaving Montepuez and heading back to his village.  On the back of his bike was a sack of rice, some sugar and a case of gin.  I asked him about the alcohol and he said a friend had given him money to purchase it.  Exacerbated, I encouraged him to tell his friends that he would only help them transport good and useful things and reminded him about the conversation regarding the giant of drunkenness the previous day.  I asked him if he thought he was truly helping people back home by giving that giant a ride to his village.

4. The giant of 'Ungodly Leadership.'  The word 'aproveitar' in Portuguese means to 'take advantage of.' Many people in any level of leadership or power assume that they should 'aproveitar' their position for personal gain.  This kind of corruption severely limits development.

Danuni, our guard, was frustrated because he took his sick child to the hospital and the attending nurse refused to treat the child unless he gave her a 'tip'.

I had some conflict with a church leader who sent a message through a subordinate that he didn't like me talking about this giant because he thought I was referring to him.  I later had a personal conversation with him in order to encourage him to not hurt the church because of his own desire for personal gain.

A young man, Cruz, that we are helping go to High School in a nearby town, shared how this year it seems like even more teachers at his school expect a 'gift' in order for a student to pass their class, regardless of the quality of their schoolwork.

5. The giant of 'Poverty.'  Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world - click here to see a map of how 'hungry' different nations are. The problem of poverty is multiplied by the other giants as they take money that should be used for good.

This picture shows a political slogan for the ruling party in Mozambique asserting that the President will be able to defeat poverty.

Eight men showed up at our house before 5 am on Thursday.  A young woman in their family had come to the hospital in labor the day before and she passed away in the night.  They asked me to take the body back to their village of Chirepwe.  I arrived in the village to the sounds of crying and howling, as the family had already gathered in preparation for the funeral.  To me, if someone asked what poverty sounds like, I would have to say that wailing comes the closest that I've heard.

One of our friends, Londres stopped me on the way to another village.  He is practically blind and hangs out near the road.  He almost always flags me down and prays for me - he knows the sound of our truck's motor (and not many vehicles go that way!).   That day he asked me for soap because he had not been able to wash his clothes recently.

Rachel was touched by a conversation with a lady who made it all the way to our house on crutches.  She can't walk and can't work in a farm and was so grateful to receive even a little bit of food from us.

So, what can Jesus say about the giants?

On the last day of the fast, the day before Easter, Jeremy and I met with the church leaders in the district of Chiure.  All of us had started memorizing Jesus words in John 15 and we were all set to study the first eight verses of that passage together.  Before getting started though, I asked them how the fast was going and if they were seeing any initial impact in their churches and communities.  Here is some of what they told us:

The Church in Mahipa was gathering to pray and break the fast at sundown together each night.  Xavier mentioned that there were a number of new members that chose to participate in the fast that he did not expect.

Pinto shared about the Church in Milamba.  They were praying together each afternoon as part of the fast and going to visit sick people in the community.

Alfonso shared about the letter he received from a nearby village that doesn't have any Protestant churches asking them to come plant a church there.

In Namitil, ten new people who have started coming in the last couple weeks were to be baptized the next Sunday.

Rafael shared how in Chiure Sede, a number of members who had drifted away have come back and one new visitor, possessed by an evil spirit, came and asked the church for prayer for her liberation.

In Terra Branca, where the church building literally fell down when the Smiths were visiting a few ago, the church called leaders from nearby churches and told them about the poor leadership in their congregation and the sin issue in the life of that leader.  They shared their decision to move the church from meeting at that person's house to a different part of the village so it would have the good soil necessary to grow.

It was so encouraging to hear the way that the church was engaging all 5 of the giants in these communities during the period of prayer and fasting.

In John 15, Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches.

As we talked about that passage, one of the men commented on how meaningful it was to be memorizing those words during the fast.  It was good to remember that while so often we assume that food or the practices of this world will sustain us, Jesus promises to sustain us as we remain in him.  We also talked about how in these verses Jesus tells us that God is the gardener and we can have confidence that he will protect the vine and make sure it is well nourished, even as giants stomp all around it.  

May we always remain in the Vine and may the Gardener help us overcome the giants in Cabo Delgado!

Grace and Peace,

Special thanks to the Smiths and Westerholms for some of the pictures.

No comments:

Post a Comment