“I would like us to pray for Saul. He is the chief fetisher in our neighborhood, but every night he comes to my house and asks me to tell him a story from the Bible,” said Jean, our local evangelist in the villages of Katayinga and Kouaba.
It was Monday morning, and we had just finished worship in our weekly leadership training. Now was the time to share prayer requests. Jean and his family had recently been evicted on very short notice from the house they were renting. They found temporary housing in another area of the little town of Kouaba, and that’s where his relationship with Saul developed. Jean told us Saul’s story:
“I met Saul about a year ago, and we started visiting occasionally. He is in his mid-fifties and is the chief fetisher of this area. One of his responsibilities is to maintain a big tata somba, the traditional mud castle of the Otammari people. Most families in this area still have a tata, but his is special. Some elements of the main initiation ceremonies take place there, and he has to make sure it is always in good shape.
“When I moved into his neighborhood, he started visiting me regularly in the evenings to listen to Bible stories. At first I wondered why this fetisher wanted to hear stories from the Bible. Then one day he said to me, ‘You know, I’m sick and tired of my job as chief fetisher. You may not have noticed it, but I have stopped making repairs at the tata. If I could just get rid of the fetish I’m responsible for . . .’
Saul’s eyes have been opened to the worthlessness of ancestor worship. He longs to make a change in his life, but he doesn’t quite know how yet. One day he said to me, ‘You know, your church in Katayinga is quite far from here. Can’t we build a little shelter in this neighborhood and start a church here?’ Another day he said, ‘I really would like to learn from you and do the same work you do. Can you send me somewhere and train me? If only I could leave this place, it would be so much easier for me to leave animism and become a Christian.’ In fact, he has already started to help my work. Every time I tell him a Bible story, he goes out and tells it to someone else.
“Yesterday, Sunday, I went over to the church property to clear some brush. Some people in the neighborhood saw me walking with my machete and started criticizing me in the market. ‘What kind of pastor is that, walking around with a machete on a Sunday?’ Saul happened to be there, and he told them that the real day of rest is Saturday, not Sunday, and that most of the churches just have it wrong. Strangely enough, he and I had never talked about Sabbath before.
“Saul is very bright and knows how to read and write Ditammari. He used to be a heavy drinker, but he quit drinking liquor and now only drinks tchouc, the locally brewed beer. Let’s pray for him that he will become a Christian and that God will use him.”
These villages are extremely resistant to the gospel, and the fact that we were able to start a church there is a miracle in itself. One reason why Jean has not been able to find permanent housing is that a number of families prefer to keep their houses available for the time of initiation ceremonies when people come from all over the country and even further away. Tradition is very important in this area.
The little church is growing in membership, but so far Jean has mainly been able to reach out to women and children. We need male church members in order to have a stronger impact. He has developed many friendships and is studying with several men, but so far none have made decisions for Christ. If Saul gives up his position as a chief fetisher and becomes a Christian, it would certainly cause a stir in Kouaba. Please pray with us that Saul may become Paul, a vibrant worker for the Lord. And please pray for Jean and his family who are working this extremely hard soil.