Good morning, friends.
I am Davis Rhodes, and we are a team of 4 Tanzanians, 1 Mexican, and 3 Americans, making disciples among the Kuria people here in Northern Tanzania. We are QuadW Missional Skunkworks Tarime, hosted by Wesley College and located at Wesley House in the neighborhood of Songambele B, in Tarime.
Witchcraft is common in Tarime. In Tarime, “witchcraft” refers to attempts to persuade or manipulate the spirits of those who have passed away, as well as fallen angels, in order to receive help and favors here on earth.
I’ve heard many different things about witchcraft in Tarime, and I won’t be able to do justice to them here. Briefly, most Tanzanians believe that when an older woman or man dies, they remain active here on earth, and especially active among their children and grandchildren. They are believed to have great power over almost every aspect of one’s life, and are generally similar in behavior to how they were during their life. Tanzanians also believe that there is a separate class of spirits, often called “jini” or “mapepo”. These are fallen angels; evil spiritual beings of incredible power, who often appear in human form on earth. A recurring theme in Tanzanian folk stories, for example, is a man who looked only for physical beauty in a wife and cared about nothing else. This led him to marry a jini who had incarnated herself as a beautiful woman, and then she kills him shortly after the wedding, or works great mischief among his extended family, etc.
In Tarime, witchcraft falls into two categories. “Uganga” is cooperating with these spiritual forces to do generally beneficial things, and it is legal. “Uchawi” is cooperating with these spiritual forces to do generally malicious things. Uchawi is illegal, and kept secret. There is also herbal/traditional medicine, “tiba asili”, which does not make use of spiritual forces; this is not a form of witchcraft.
Of course, “beneficial” things depend on what the user perceives as beneficial; one very common use of uganga is for men to put spells on their wives to make them docile and obedient. Another common use of uganga, for men and women, is to put a spell on a member of the opposite sex that will make him/her agree to a marriage proposal.
In our everyday work of loving our neighbors and making disciples here in Tarime, we met a practitioner of uganga who I’ll call Salome (not her real name). Shortly after meeting her, she invited 3 members of our team to her house; Mwita, Raphael, and Tucker.
She knew that they were followers of Jesus, and she really enjoyed talking with them about spiritual things. She got excited, showing them all of her tools, herbs, and lotions, talking about where she got each of them and what they were used for. “This lotion was made from a lion’s carcass that I found; this one, from a crocodile.”
After a while, Mwita asked her about how her life was going, and the mood suddenly became more somber. “To be honest with you, I am really suffering”, she began. “Many years ago, my grandfathers came to me in a dream and told me to start living this kind of life. At first, it was good, very good. So much power, and easy money. But the grandfathers, they want more and more. I cure people of sickness, but I can’t cure myself. I help people to conceive pregnancies, but the grandfathers have stopped me from conceiving any more pregnancies, myself. And my husband left me. I used to have another business, selling clothes, but they have forbidden me from doing any other kind of work. They come to me in dreams, wake me up, and tell me to climb mountains, or to travel far away, on foot, even to the Serengeti. I’m so scared of what might happen to me if I say no. These days, my grandfathers even forbid me from taking payment for my work sometimes, and that makes us so hungry, me and my children. I have so many patients who come to me. They tell me about their problems, and I heal them, but me! I am suffering more than my patients, and there is no one to heal me! I want to go to church to see if Jesus can free me from them, but when I decide to go, I find that my feet and legs won’t move on Sunday morning. I sit in place, unable to move, until evening, until all of the worship services are over. They threaten me, too, that if I seek Jesus, they will take my mind, they say I’ll become like a wild animal. To be serious, I do not know what I am going to do.”
Mwita’s own mother had been a practitioner of uganga, and he responded with compassion and understanding. “I know it is scary, mother. It is obvious that you already know what you need to do, but it is difficult. I know. We will be here with you. We will be your friends, and we won’t leave you. Today is Saturday, and we will pray for you to be able to attend the worship service tomorrow.”
On Sunday, we were all surprised to see Salome at Rebu UMC. She said it was her first time at a worship service in years.
Over the weeks that followed, Mwita, Raphael, and Tucker continued to show patient, persistent love to Salome. They visited her over and over, talked with her about her fears, her suffering, and what Jesus was like. She really enjoyed their visits, and one Saturday she told them, “Wait, let me get a little faith, and I will gather all of my things of witchcraft and I will burn them, and then I will tell the spirits to leave. And then, I want to be baptized! I’m telling you, I am ready!”
The following week, Salome, Mwita, Raphael, and Tucker began meeting for prayer every morning at 7 a.m.
And on the next Sunday, October 23rd, she showed up to the worship service with a backpack bursting with gourds, charms, oils, and creams. She was shy, but determined, as she emptied the contents and asked that we helped her to burn them and break her ties with the spirits who had been persecuting her.
Then we all went down to the river to celebrate her entering into a new life.
The following Sunday, October 30th, the pastor asked if anyone had any testimony to share. Several people shared, and then Salome stood up. She couldn’t contain her smile as she said, “To be serious, I have become a new creature! I am free from the spirits of my grandfathers. I don’t have many things to say, but I feel so much joy!”
The title means, “I have become a new creature”. If you could pray for her as she steps into this new life, as she begins the hard work of starting a new business, and as she begins to make disciples herself, she would really appreciate that.
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