There have been multiple events in the last few weeks that have reminded me that our battle is not 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.” (Eph 6:12)
I recently learned a new cultural maxim: a broken plate brings a death curse on the entire family. Christopher ha already written eloquently about this particular event in his latest post. The summary is that one of our workers informed us that while she was away, her daughter had entered the home of her father-in-law and broken plates when she was challenged as to her claim on the plates. Our employee was later told the story and commanded to bring a ram for reparation and as a sacrifice in order to remove the death curse. Our employee is a faithful Christian woman who immediately felt uncomfortable with the demand. Sacrificing a ram, meant entering into the world of witchcraft which she had denounced with her Christian faith. On the following day, a small group of believers returned home with our employee to approach the village about finding another method of reconciliation. In the end, peace was made without a sacrifice.
The next day, our lunch hour was disturbed by a woman running onto our compound. This woman lives in a village near the clinic, a neighbor to many of our employees. She caused a commotion by chasing one of our employees (not the same one in the above story) around the entire compound. Apparently, she had been sick for some time, possibly with cerebral malaria. She often became violent and hysterical during her sickness. It was obviously affecting her mind. Her reason for chasing our employee was because she thought that the flesh of her friend would cure her illness. This particular phrasing struck all of us as malicious and satanic. She was finally ushered out of the gate where we could discuss next steps without fearing for our employee’s life. As she explained, she picked miscellaneous leaves grinding them with her teeth, sometimes spewing fragments as she spoke. The woman shifted her phrasing to say that she merely loved our employee and that her company was what she needed. We all watched with trepidation as our employee wrapped her baby onto her back and left the compound. The two women left hand in hand heading toward home. A following conversation revealed that there is a whole list of women in the surrounding villages who are suffering from a similar illness.
The third event occurred when a former employee and friend showed up on our doorstep in the midst of a bipolar episode. This particular woman was diagnosed with bipolar some eight years ago. With the help of the mission she has been able to find a medication that quells the episodes. While taking her medication, she is an incredible translator, energetic mobilizer, enjoys singing and is always welcoming. Her episodes are most often triggered by getting off her medication or bouts of malaria. During her episodes she has been known to call herself the Immaculate Virgin Mary and has an uncanny ability to know information she had no way of learning. This time she was mostly amiable, except when confronted about her condition. I pointedly asked her whether or not she had been taking her medication or recently had malaria, at which time she fixed me with a demanding stare and challenging eyebrows and declared that she had been healed. The proclamation broke my heart since before me sat the very evidence nullifying her claim. Thankfully, she finally agreed to take some medication. She fell asleep within minutes of reaching home.
These events have ranged from the surreal to the intimate for me.The first was a reminder of the culture our brothers and sisters live in here, which constantly influences how they view life and the world. The second is an illness apparently prevalent, possibly caused by eating undercooked cassava which contains cyanide. The third is a disease that permeates even into suburban America. Although science, anthropology, and biology may have explanations for all of the above, my recent reading on God’s sovereignty over suffering reminds me that the ultimate cause of these events is God’s ordaining hand for the good of those who have called on His name and His own glory. My mind will ever struggle to reconcile those truths. The only way to do so is to take up the whole armor of God, including the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:13-17). Lord, teach us how to fight.