Beneath The Surface

Africa has a way of captivating our hearts. Its rugged bush, untamed wild-life and open savanna almost have a romantic quality that filters through every experience and moment. But behind the novelty of its people and diverse culture, there’s a darkness that lies just beneath the surface. 

I remember the first time I visited Africa in the year 1999. The adrenalin rush that it brought was out of this world! We were in the village and had the opportunity to visit many of the local, Zambian churches. The trip was epic. Having only spent mere days on the dark continent, we returned Stateside with sensational stories of commitment and dedication to the cause of Jesus Christ. We lauded the local people for their faith and for their desire to follow God even in the face of deep poverty. Testimonies were spoken on how the people had so little and yet their love for God was so great. 

It’s been many years since that first encounter with this land and its people. I love living here and I think the Zambian people have a rich history which I’ve spent the better part of my life learning. However, time has given me a different perspective. When I sit under a tree with the people, I can now see the things that were previously hidden.

Never could I have imagined the extent and hold that witchcraft has on this society. We can now see-

  • The charms on the local children that they’ve always worn for protection. 
  • The scars on their bodies that were made in an effort to ward off the spirits. 
  • The totems attached on homes to guard against curses.
  • The trails that lead to the witchdoctor’s house, knowing those en-route are looking for a solution they won’t find.
  • The dancing of the youth as they follow the lead of the witchdoctor in order to communicate with the dead. 

These are the same people who come to church and profess Jesus Christ as Lord of their life. 

Everyday we face this battle when we drive out to the village. It affects all aspects of life and how they even view life itself. It affects them not only spiritually but also physically in areas of commerce, social interaction, education, and development.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7

Witchcraft is so prevalent that it’s often blamed as the cause to some things totally unrelated. I was in the village and a man came to me about his wife. He said, “Mbusa Maliko, my wife has a devil and needs your help.” He was positive that she was possessed. His reasoning was that every time he approached her, she would get a pain in her chest. To him this made perfect sense and this was how the demon was manifesting itself. I inquired to their relationship and asked if everything was good in the home. He reluctantly confirmed that things were not OK and that they regularly fought. I looked at him and said, “Don’t you think she could be having an anxiety attack because of what is going on between you two?”  This wasn’t even a consideration and I had to explain that no demon was involved.

Our desire is to help people like this understand that true hope can only be found in Jesus Christ. He’s the only one that can change us for the better… inside and out. There’s no need for a deliverance service or performing an exorcism. Whether in the bush of Africa or on the streets of New York, the answer to this dilemma is the same. One must choose to accept God’s grace.

Sometimes there’s a lot more happening just beneath the surface. We would do well to open our eyes- to know the people we’re trying to help. Otherwise, if we’re only around to see what’s on the surface, we’ll never be in a position to affect real change in people’s lives.

Written by Damon