Friday, November 09, 2007

Praying for the Aja People: 3rd of 4

Rule #1: never start a series of blog posting by titling the first one “Week #1”…this places the author into a nonsensical predicament of having to actually follow through on a weekly basis with Weeks #2, #3, etc. So I apologize for all of you who have been sitting on the edge of your seat ( ha ) waiting for this next installment.

After a brief overview in the first post, a few weeks ago I encouraged you to pray for the BELIEVERS in Benin West Africa. In a few weeks, I’ll focus on the present/future African Christian leaders. These guys are amazing men of faith and will need your prayers for perseverance (and yet don’t take that as a signal of weakness…these brothers and sisters will often usurp me in the faith department!)

Today I want to encourage you to pray for the non-believing populace. As Christians, the Bible teaches us that, before we were “in Christ”, we were deceived, enslaved, blinded and basically incarcerated to whatever our own selfish desires dictated. But when we surrender ourselves to the Lord Jesus, we ask God to forgive us for all of our failings, trust Jesus to have paid the appropriate sacrificial price for our errors, and we begin to learn to allow the Spirit of God to give us the strength to be as God intended and bear the fruit He had in mind when He created us.

My friend Murphy Crowson has some excellent insights into West African religion as he works with a specific people group in Togo. His website is so cool and an excellent resource for understanding the role God’s missionaries have in communicating His love. I have drawn much of the descriptions below from his site. (Thanks MC for doing all the work!)

Like so many similar people groups in West Africa, the Aja people of Benin are animistic in their beliefs. God is Creator (powerful but distant), but aided by a host of lesser spiritual beings (powerful and close). Alongside this pantheon of power are departed ancestors (influential and close).
- Pray that as God demonstrates His intimacy with His created people, that these non-believers will have the blinders lifted to witness it!

When crisis happens, unbelievers rush to the witchdoctor to divine the cause of the tragedy. These persons divine the source of the problem, which often has little to do with what we might determine as non-personal impacts (such as diagnosing a near-death child with some sort of medical verdict). More often than not, someone in the family has committed a grievous action against someone else, thus invoking the “effects” of their actions onto the present situation. I know many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been targeted as the reason other family members died or their crops failed. All because these familiy members rejected the traditional family religion to follow after this “apostate named Jesus”. In addition to the power of sorcery and the muscle of all those gods, the pagan world wrestles with one another in intense jealousy and envy. Curses can be placed upon others, even loved ones or family members, who might possibly be interfering with their lives.

- Pray God will speak clearly His sovereignty in the midst of a seemingly perpetual state of crisis (so many sicknesses, pains, troubles, deaths, and other calamities that visit these people almost every day!) Without reducing it too simplistically, I might say that fear is the prevailing barrier to coming to Christ. Not just a “fear of what my friends might say” (for those of in the West, we value our reputation), but a “fear of what my friends might do”. They live in a state of fear that their actions will have a domino-like effect on the lives of others and fear being blamed for it all.

The people’s concern for spiritual security and safety from evil are primary. Their ideas of God do not include viewing him as a particularly loving God or one who expects his creatures to love him. The relationship between father and child is more often one of distance and severity based in obedience rather than closeness and forgiveness based in love. The emphasis is upon proper behavior rather than upon right thoughts and motives.

- May the minds of the unbelievers be opened to the freedom we have in Christ, when we realize that it is not because of any righteous thing that we have done that we are saved, but we are rescued and redeemed because of the intimate love of our brother and friend, Jesus.

These nonbelievers are more immediately concerned about power over evil spirits and protection from sorcery than pardon from sin or right relationship with God. Their ideas of morality are centered around outward prohibitions and have very little to do with inward attitudes. In general, they fear magic which is a body of techniques used to control the universe. This body of belief and methodology is based on the assumption that if certain procedures are followed minutely, certain results are inevitable. They also fear specifically imitative (homeopathic) magic which refers to the belief that one can be harmed by destroying something that belonged to the victim such as nail clippings, hair clippings or clothing.

- Pray that the love embodied throughout the writings of our God would penetrate their hearts and bring them to a strong conviction that reconciliation with God is foremost and the key to finding peace and hope. Pray that they may have opportunities of various kinds to see, hear and experience the tangible love of God.

OK – so I’ve oversimplified West Africa religion way too much, reducing it to a single blog post. Volumes have been written and there are numerous places to go on the web to learn more details. Honestly, it can be overwhelming to think how these barriers can be overcome. But having lived there for almost a decade, I can say that God DOES show up in the lives of non-believers and he DOES arrest their minds with His power and compassion. God is able and in spite of an overwhelming battle in the minds of unbelievers, our Lord is faithful so that none should perish but that all should enjoy abundant and everlasting life!

Thanks to David Ker for encouraging us to thinking globally and praying for the world! Thanks DK for encouraging us to voice these perspectives so the Christian world can pray!

1 comment:

Becky Reeves said...

Thanks Randy! We will be praying for the unreached Aja. We love you guys!