I am writing from San Marcos, Texas where I am preaching for Pastor Jim Pena’s church. Pastor Pena has pastored in many different churches, including two missionary stints into Costa Rico and Mexico. He will be 60 years old this May 24th which is the 60th anniversary of the birth of modern Israel.
Back to Zambia. The next morning Joan and I were going to travel back to Lusaka to enjoy a part of our Zambian life: the vegetable market. This is a place where many local farmers sold their goods as well as marketers for spices and nuts from afar. Getting ready to leave, we were met by Thompson Phiri. Thompson was a member of a special group of men in Mazabuka. We fellowshipped and just enjoyed him enjoying us being here. The drive to Lusaka was a beautiful trip down memory lane, with the refreshing visit to the market with Day’s, an added bonus. After the market we went with the Day’s to a coffee shop where we ran into the Coventry’s, a white farmer family that had been more than gracious to us in our time in Zambia. We saw Fee Evans, as well as being greeted by Charmain, the Coventry’s daughter.
During this time I was mentally preparing myself for the preaching in Magoye. On the trip over to Africa I had started reading "Daybreak in the Dark Continent", a book I found for 10 cents. What a treasure chest of a book to read upon my return to Africa. The book was originally published in 1905, my edition is the “Livingstone Edition” and includes a special chapter on David Livingstone entitled “The Herald of the Dawn”. The book describes the early missionary successes and does a great job of giving Livingstone credit for those early successes (many writers try to downplay his influence). The 4-fold thrust of missionary work described in the book is still in evidence today: evangelistic, medical, industrial (vocational training) and educational.
It was the chapters on life and religion in Africa that got me thinking about Magoye. It seems that the forces of African witchcraft had achieved victory over our efforts in Magoye. One of my favorite men in the church was Benson Sitenge. He was instrumental in helping us establish the work in Shimungalu, a place where he bought fish to sell. We eventually sent Charles Tembo to Shimungalu to pastor and sent Benson to Magoye to start a new work at his request. Pastor Benson was doing a good work in establishing a church. All of my pastors would describe hellacious attacks upon their minds. I could only compare them to what I experienced as a pioneer pastor in Seattle, because I seemed to be immune to these things while in Africa.
One time Pastor Benson asked me to come out and pray for him. He was describing the effects of the witchcraft that he was sure was being aimed at his life. After talking and praying he asked me to pray for an ailment, a large cyst ready to pop on his side. We prayed and then he took me to his house where I prayed for his son Nathan. Nathan had the same cyst in the same spot on his body. You know this is not just a coincidence but evidence of spiritual forces attacking him and his family. Magoye is a step removed from Mazabuka. The time honored beliefs in charms, witches and witchdoctors is more ingrained among the people who live there. Benson needed to fight through these battles to establish the kingdom of God in Magoye.
Being surrounded by a culture believing in the power of charms, Benson needed to press forward the claims of the gospel. One of these battlegrounds was the area of hard work and tithing. Our church had helped Benson to do some farming. This was a minimal expense for our church. He rented a plot of land for about $20 and needed another $75 for seed and fertilizer. The local cotton company would even provide seed and fertilizer at a higher price to be repaid when the harvest comes. The point is that anyone can do this if they are willing to work. Benson is a worker and he made a handsome profit two years in a row. He even got two of the young men to follow suit and try it on their own and they made a profit also. Despite these obvious victories Benson labored under the constant cloud of spiritual darkness. I knew a turning point had been reached when we were talking about money and the future and he insisted that true way of prosperity lies in the charms you use. I was flabbergasted. I tried unsuccessfully to remind him of his own successes but at this point he was convinced in his mind. He had reached a tipping point to where the spiritual attacks had taken the needed toll on his faith to where the power of witchcraft was greater than the power of God. We would later talk about the problems in his ministry and he agreed to come back to Mazabuka. He would then change his mind and as I left Zambia he was still the wounded pastor in Magoye soldiering on.
Now on my return Pastor Benson had come back to Mazabuka and Pastor Happy Muntali had taken his place. After arriving in Mazabuka we took a trip to the church to drop off the equipment we had brought. We saw Nellie and stopped to chat, and along comes Brother Benson coming from the police station where he was complaining about a friend who sold his pigs that he had left with him for safekeeping. The black cloud was still over his life. I knew God needed to redeem him and I knew I needed to make my one service in Magoye count. I was determined to preach as pointed a sermon as I could on the entangling power of witchcraft in the lives of the people coming to church there.
We went our to Magoye where Pastor Happy’s wife Happiness served us catfish, nshima and vegetables. Delicious. Charles Chifuku and Timmy along with Pastor Tembo and Bette accompanied us and we all ate together. Happy had quit a good job at Sugar to take this post as pastor. He had let me know that when he took over the church he was having only 5 people come, considering the size of his family, it was a rough start. He ceased afternoon services and concentrated on evangelism. He was expecting 50 people tonight and he was right. There was a great spirit in the school building where they met. I would be preaching by candlelight again, and again the things I wanted to say were deep enough in my heart to where my notes would not be necessary. I was able to preach on witchcraft versus the promises of God. I was weaving Benson’s defeat into the sermon, stealing some thoughts from Pastor Aulson’s sermon on the idea of the limited resources of the devil being expended in trying to defeat the kingdom of God. The devil had won a victory in chasing Pastor Benson from this place but it was only a temporary victory and now the promises of God were in full evidence to everyone in Magoye with the rebirth of our efforts in the town. I finished with a call to repent and break the curse of involvement with witchcraft. It took a little pulling, I had to start with Mr. Lunge and remind him that I knew of his personal contracting with witchdoctors. He responded and everyone else followed suit. This is so part of the culture that most would just assume blend it into their church activities. But, we made a definitive break and separation that Happy will be able to cap on in the years to come. I felt like a victorious boxer after a 15 round fight. I know their will be rematches.