Friday, June 1, 2018

A Successful Rescue

On Monday morning, May 7, during my morning devotionals, I (Adam) was struck by the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:9-10, "...we ourselves had the answer of death within ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us out of so great a death, and will deliver, on whom we have set our hope that he will also still deliver us..." In that passage, Paul is discussing the trials he faced in Ephesus and the fact that he was ready to die as he went about his ministry, trusting that God was able to deliver him, and that God will indeed one day raise us from the dead even if we were to die for our faith. For reasons unbeknownst to me at the time, this Scripture penetrated deeply into my heart, and I was praying that God would give me courage to put my life on the line for him, trusting that he would deliver me.

As the translation team and I have been working on a public service announcement to combat the terrible practice of falsely accusing women of practicing witchcraft and then torturing and killing them, we have been struck by the words of Jesus, who said, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mat. 16:25). Jesus makes this statement in the context of discussing the persecution that he and the disciples would face. The thrust of what Jesus is saying is this: If you deny your faith to save your life in this world, you actually will lose your eternal life. But if you give up your life in this world for my (i.e. Jesus') sake, you will find true life. I have been teaching the translation team and preaching in churches that we, as Christians, need to combat this practice of falsely accusing women of practicing witchcraft and then torturing and killing them. If we just stand on the sidelines and let it happen because we are worried about saving our own lives, then we have missed the point of what Jesus has taught us.

On Tuesday, May 8, the day after reading 2 Corinthians 1:9-10, I was at work as usual with the translation team. We finished up work at four o'clock as usual and the rest of the team left. But because of some unusual computer problems, my coworker Nete and I stayed after work for about thirty minutes trying to resolve the problems. As we were just about to leave, Frank, one of our coworkers, returned with the news that two women were locked in a small trade store just outside of town, having been accused of stealing the heart of a young child and eating it, thereby causing the child's death. It was now time to practice what I had been preaching.

We immediately decided to try to rescue the two women, knowing that accusations like this typically lead to women being burned with hot iron rods and ultimately killed. So we went to the police station and picked up a police officer (who was unarmed) to go with us, as well as a relative of one of the women being held, and then we drove my car to the market area where we had heard that the two women were being held. During the short two-minute drive to the market area, I was afraid. Yet I prayed and asked God to make a way for us to rescue the two women. I then called Martha and asked her to pray as I proceeded ahead despite my fear.

As we arrived in the market area, someone pointed out to me the trade store where the women were being held. As I looked, I saw that the store was actually not locked; rather the door was wide open. So I casually walked into the store and saw a woman sitting on a pool table with some men gathered around. One of the men was interrogating her. I asked her, "Are these men saying bad things about you?" She didn't reply, and so I took her hand and began leading her out of the store. I must admit that I was experiencing tunnel vision and did not see the other woman sitting on the other side of the pool table. Fortunately, the relative of the other woman did the same and took her by the hand and led her out of the store as well. We calmly walked to my car and put the ladies inside. Then I sat in the driver's seat and went to shut the door. As I shut it, a man grabbed the door to prevent me from shutting it. But I just pulled the door hard, and he let go. I immediately locked the door, which was good, because he immediately tried to open the door once I had shut it. We wasted no time and drove away, the whole event taking less than three minutes or so. To be honest, I was shocked that we had so easily gone in and retrieved the two women. Praise the Lord for making a way!

After we left, we decided to take the two women to our house for the night. We live about a fifteen minute drive out of town in another tribe, and so we knew that they would be safe with us. I called Martha to tell that we had gotten the women and were coming home for dinner. She was equally shocked that the whole event had transpired so quickly. When we got to our house, the women told us their story, and we prayed with them and ate dinner together—tacos! (I imagine it was the first time either of the women had ever sampled such food!)

Frank, my coworker, returned to the market area later that afternoon to assess the situation. We were slightly amused when he told us that the people were saying that I must be the chief practitioner of witchcraft, who had come to rescue my own, and that my coworkers were my minions. Such accusations reminded me of the fact that when Jesus was casting out demons and opposing the work of Satan, he was accused of doing so by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. And Jesus' words in Matthew 10:25 rang true to me in a way they hadn't before: "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household."

The following morning we drove the women back into town and met with the Provincial Police Commander, wondering if we should return to the market area to try to clear the names of these two women from any wrongdoing. His second-in-command is in charge of incidents of killings on the basis of false accusations of witchcraft, and he met with us as well. He advised us not to return, but to invite representatives of the tribe who had accused the women to come to the police station to hear our explanation of why we had come to rescue the women. Although we sent word to the people to come, nobody did, probably because they were afraid of getting arrested.

One of the women went to another village in another part of the province where she would be safe. But the other woman has two young grandchildren whom she looks after. So she was determined to go back to the village and get her grandchildren and then go stay in another part of the province where she would be safe. We were fearful that something might happen to her when she went back, but we have not heard any reports that anything has happened to her, and we assume that she is safe.

As the two women spoke with the police, we were able to ascertain the details of why they had been accused. A young child had recently been rushed to the hospital and subsequently died. As the child was being rushed to the hospital, his mother's cell phone had inadvertently been dropped or left behind. The younger woman of the two accused, whom I will call Nancy, went along with the parents of the child to the hospital, and a boy gave her the phone to take care of. Well Nancy had recently been in a car accident, and so she is suffering from memory problems. A friend of hers later asked if she could borrow the phone and Nancy gave it to her. Her friend later returned the phone to the mother of the child who had died. When the mother received the phone back, she asked the woman who had returned it to her where she had gotten the phone. When she heard that she had gotten the phone from Nancy, she accused Nancy of stealing the child's heart and eating it, thereby causing the child to become sick and die. That's it! That is the supposed evidence for which Nancy has been accused of eating the child's heart, thereby causing the child to die. By the way, the mother who made this accusation claims to be a Christian.

Later some other members of the tribe began interrogating Nancy and threatening to kill her unless she confessed to eating the child's heart. So, under duress and fearful of being tortured and killed, she made a false confession of eating the child's heart. Then they began to ask her whom she had been with that day. She mentioned that she had bought a sausage from the other woman who was later accused, whom I will call Patty. And because a sausage is an edible item, they assume that Patty was involved with supposedly eating this child's heart. And so the two were both being accused and interrogated.

This mindset is almost impossible for westerners to understand; indeed, it is hard for me to understand as well. The translation team and I have completed a public service announcement that will be played in market areas throughout Enga and, hopefully, on the radio. The announcement teaches people that sickness and death is not caused by women stealing a person's heart and eating it, but rather by things like bacteria, viruses, diet, etc. We also teach the people that those who makes false accusations are being influenced by Satan and are telling lies, and so people should not believe such things. And in the announcement we urge Christians to stand up and oppose this terrible practice, teaching that Christians who support this practice are not true Christians. (If you would like to read an English translation of our public service announcement, please click here.)

The week after we rescued these two women, my coworker Nete told me that people were accusing a woman in his village of practicing witchcraft. Fortunately, she has not been interrogated or tortured, but Nete invited me to speak to the village about such things, and so I went and urged them to recognize that they have no real evidence, that the accused is innocent, and that such accusations are lies from the devil.

We need your prayers! These false accusations are sweeping across Enga, and many innocent women are being tortured and killed. Please pray for this practice to end, and pray that people will listen to the public service announcement that we have prepared. Your prayers have power, and when you pray, you are directly attacking the enemy, who is wreaking havoc among the people of Enga. Together, let's put and end to his work.

Please know that we are now back in Ukarumpa, our home away from Enga, until September, so we are not in any danger. Also please know that the Police Provincial Station Commander has spoken with the leaders of the tribe that was holding the two women captive and explained that I am a missionary who is translating the Bible into Enga, and that these rumors that I am somehow the kingpin of witchcraft are completely false.