Where does an aging witch doctor of a mountain village go when he needs healing? To a young Adventist medical missionary.
On a recent Sabbath afternoon, the grandson of Uncle Lawangan, a noted witch doctor, came to the village of Kemantian and asked me to go and examine his grandfather’s skin wounds. Uncle Lawangan was thought to have “pured,” a type of fungal infection that is very common here. Instead of traveling with him, I sent medicine for his grandfather to try and told him to let me know if it didn’t work.
The following Thursday, my neighbor Kildit was at my house very early in the morning. She told me that Uncle’s family said that the American had better come to look at him today, or they were going to leave him and all move away. Kildit said that she would go with me. At that point, we thought his issue sounded like a case of spiritual harassment or possession. Four of us decided to visit Uncle Lawangan — myself, Kildit, Koya Naphtali, who is one of the teachers, and Dyubin, a high-school student. We prayed before we set out on the three-hour trek to get to his village. We traveled across the river, up the other mountain and then around the mountain to the other side. His village is called Sinkub et Biyak, or the Cave of the Pig, and is situated over 3,000 feet high in a forest of trees perched on the top of a mountain, where clouds descend every afternoon and engulf the village.
It turned out that Uncle Lawangan didn’t have pured after all. He also wasn’t crazy or possessed. What he had was large blisters all over his bottom and legs. They would easily pop, spilling a yellow watery fluid and leaving behind a painful open sore. He had a fever, but other than that, he was perfectly fine. We could not carry him down that steep mountain trail, so Koya and all of the village men spent two days clearing trees to create a landing strip on the only flat piece of ground available. Finally, Uncle was flown safely to the clinic. We cleaned him up, since he was dirty from head to foot, and started him on medicine.
The rumor was that Uncle Lawangan, the witch doctor, was very powerful and could break steel with his bare hands. Some people even believed that one of their many gods or spirits gave him this sickness. Our care for Uncle has presented a huge opportunity for us. Not only can we continue to develop a relationship with him, but he is the grandfather of two villages — his own distant and closed-off village and the one for which we have been praying very hard. Praise the Lord!
This other village, Mampalem, was struggling earlier this year with spiritual harassment and people becoming possessed. Villagers believed that one lady became a god. She told all the people that they needed to walk incessantly and not feed their children. As soon as we heard this, we wanted to go and share Jesus, but the Palwanos felt that it would not be safe for white people to do this. So, we prayed intensely for them instead. God has tools at his disposal that we know nothing about, including a couple of men who are not Christians and do not attend church. However, they have a rudimentary knowledge of Christianity. The men hiked over to the village and told the people that what they were doing was wrong. They said the villagers needed to believe in the true God and start feeding their children. The people listened and tried to follow.
Please keep Uncle Lawangan, his family and both villages in your prayers.