Life Goes on Whether the Witchdoctor Comes or Not

Patrick Melson on December 5, 2011

Pray still, a village meeting is scheduled for December 6th, but it probably will not be the final one.

The sorcery accusations against our Christian brother Kure are still ongoing, "that he killed another Christian young man Lalo by working poison (sorcery) on him by looking at him in the mirror while they were together in our clinic ambulance."  Let me get this straight, you're thinking, they are claiming one Christian killed another Christian using sorcery while they both were engaged in a clinic ministry helping sick people get to the hospital?  That's correct, and "No, it doesn't make sense to a Christian."   When Christ was accused of doing Satan's bidding (casting out demons by sorcery), He denied it saying “Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?"  (Luke 11:15-17)  WE understand sorcery would have no power over a Christian, "because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4)."

But THEY are not Christians!  They are still demanding K10,000 ($4500) and two pigs to appease their anger at this murder, or they will retaliate with payback (revenge) killings.  The belief in sorcery and evil spirits is real, the threats are real, imbedded in their culture and the underlying tribalism, as natural to them as decorating a Christmas tree is to us.

There has been no violence since our last email, but it has not been peaceful for many.  The village itself has fractured into several groups, Lalo's family and friends, and then Kure's family including Samuel's family who was also accused of killing Lalo.  Each of these two groups has Christians which were part of the same church, but some are just following earthly customs and aligning themselves with their bloodlines, not according to the Bible.  They say things like "You whiteman have your ways and we Papua New Guinea have our ways," and we tell them "It is not about your ways or our ways it is about whether it is the Bible way to handle this…"  But much has seemed to fall on deaf ears.  The clasping and controlling tentacles of family run deep and strong, pulling sometimes to error and sin, unwilling to let one go or have a differing opinion.  Some are compromising because they must live with family after all this is solved, and it seems better to them to deny God rather than their earthly family.  This polarizes Christians on both sides, the accusing side and the accused, into those wanting to stand for Christ and those who are compromising.

Some have said "but the Bible is so STRONG about the family standing together, therefore we cannot separate from our relatives." What does that mean? I have asked.  What is family here?  It is something some will break and ruin and destroy when it suits them.  Over a year ago up the road a bit, two local brothers started a tribal fight within their own family that lasted for months with about 20 killed, some of them children, terrorized by their own kin.  But in this case, it is okay to align with family who are denying God's power over a faltering witch doctor, against a Christian brother?  How is it okay to support these allegations of sorcery because your family says so?   Again, what is family?  They say kandare, which means relative, a relative of almost any kind.  Tambu means an in-law, of any sort, they will add the appropriate name to give it its proper significance (tambu mama, tambu brata, tambu sista...).  Often they will say kausinbrata, cousin-brother, some sort of cousin but they are not clear the exact relationship.  One of the chief accusers in this case is a true cousin, but his group of thugs with bush knifes are mostly tambu relatives, by marriage, with no blood relation whatsoever.  Some are more removed than that, an in-law relative to another in-law.  Yet they are threatening lives and burning out a whole village over what?  A distant, non-blood relative?  Is that family? Apparently so in some minds, but it seems the greed for financial gain far supersede the family ties.

Contrast the Christian family, there are no cousins, true or distant; there are no general relatives, of any distance; there are no in-laws, no marriage ties, no uncles and aunts, no fathers and mothers.  We are closer than that, all brothers and sisters, with God as our Father and Christ as our brother (Romans 8:15-17; Hebrews 2:9-18).  And we are all blood relatives, purchased by the precious blood of Christ who died for us!  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers,  but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:18-19).  The Christian family is bound not by overt and hidden family manipulations but only by love, love for our good and powerful Father and love for each other (Matthew 22:37-39).  Therefore it is no surprise the Christian family is required to stand together in unity (John 17:20-23; Ephesians 4:1-16; Phil 2:1-11). 

We are praying the Christians will stand together against the sorcery charges. How can they support a customary cash settlement that would include paying money to a witch doctor?  It would also be a cultural admission of guilt, and a denial of God.  As long as there are sorcery allegations on the table, it is forcing Christians to either push their Bible and beliefs off the table, or to stand strong and deny the sorcery charges.  We praise God there is a core of Christians who are choosing to stand against these false accusations, ultimately from Satan," the accuser of the brethren" (Revelation 12:10).  Please pray more Christians will stand together for their faith.

It does not help at all that the government has a recognized system of mediation called "village courts."  Basically it amounts to a local level magistrate trying to resolve conflict between two groups, with peace considered the highest good.  If no agreement can be made, then it might go to the district court, or the national court, or start a tribal war.  Nobody wants a tribal war.  The police were present at the last meeting, better to settle, pay up, better to "preserve life," they said.  The police, the magistrate, and parties on both sides have said they know the accusation is false, but this extortion by force is such a part of the tribal society and the threats are real.  "Pay 4,000 Kina and one pig, see if they will accept that," said the magistrate.  Settle.  Give them what they want.  Preserve life and peace but not the truth, compromise your beliefs.   But what communion is there between light and darkness?  IF they give money, they are denying God's power and elevating the evil spirits God saved them from, giving God's money for a lie, standing for their family over God. IF they deny the sorcery allegations and don't give money, revenge killings could start immediately.  Pray for courage, for peace, and that God would show Himself mighty.

Pray for a village meeting on December 6th, that God's word will be upheld and peace maintained. The accusers are planning on bringing the witch again, but she may not come, since last time she was so ineffective.  We are praying the sorcery allegations and payment demands will simply be removed, abandoned, along with the accompanying fear and threats.  Peace could be restored, and maybe, eventually, some customary peace settlements could take place.  But how likely is this that the original charges of sorcery and murder will be dropped?  There are actually some good signs!  Two of Lalo's brothers have been the leading accusers, and one of them, Luis, has significantly softened.  He sees the trouble the accusation has brought to Christians, including the missionaries and two pastors in the village, and by himself, he is talked of dropping the charges.  Pray he continues to soften.  Yet his brother Matthew seems as hard as ever, determined to bring the witch again to the meeting.  Any discussion I have been present for has included outbursts of angry yelling, and sometimes even Matthew walking off disgusted, being yelled at by his own family.  Pray for a change of heart for Matthew, who is trapped by the results of his own choices as much as by his own culture.  John is a cousin, the main leader of the nearby village that is demanding money, and he has softened.  He has said he is only the messenger, but as this has progressed he is regretting the support he has given to these claims which he has admitted are false.  Pray he can stand up and truly lead his people to abandon their demands.    Of these three key leaders, Matthew is the one with the most influence, and has led them into increasing darkness.

It is a darkness we fight against here at the Bible College, where we are "Helping churches train workers for the Gospel ministry."  Our life and regular ministries are still going on despite this urgent spiritual battle in the nearby village.  Since our last update we have been finishing the school year, preparing for the three-day pastors conference, culminated in the graduation ceremonies of 18 more students on the 24th of November.  They picked as their theme verse Colossians 4:3 "Praying God would open us a door to speak the Gospel,"and so I ask you to pray for these who are leaving, some I may not see again until heaven.  They are:

Barnabas and Agatha Tangen, 4 children, Coastal, Madang Province

Charlie and Elizabeth Tumbiago, 6 children, remote, Southern Highlands Province

Gibson and Esta Hiria, 6 children, remote, Southern Highlands Province

Jack and Anna Aip, 4 children, mountainous, remote Simbai, Madang Province

Kari and Gomara Rabura, 2 children, Port Moresby, capital city, Central Province

Richard Bauai (and Rachel), 4 children, Mt Hagen, Western Highlands Province

Joshua Sevei, Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province

The following 6 graduates (2 men, 4 women) are from the Western Province, the ministry fruit of 1986 graduate Pastor Marlin Bagae: Gibbs Dorag, James Danny, Evelyn Matthew, Gindim Whanz, Pulyi Inkharm, Rose Augie.

Year end activities include sorrowful goodbyes as students leave one by one, or in 2 truck convoys like Charlie's and Gibson's family early Saturday.  They are expecting a three-day journey in rented vehicles, with transfers to other rented vehicles, for some 16 passengers and their family belongings, over mountainous roads, dirt roads, and through areas disrupted by tribal fighting.  It is a good distraction from paperwork to fellowship with them one last time…

And so life and ministries go on, another graduation, great fellowship and encouragement from the pastor's conference, and I return to my college paperwork, finishing one year, preparing for another.  Facing the new year, the Bible College is in need of regular support, having lost a faithful monthly supporter who passed away and into the presence of the Lord.  The students are also in need of scholarship funds.  If you would like to help, your gifts could be sent to ABWE, GBBC General Needs-account #774403-001, or GBBC Student Scholarship-account #774403-003.  For more information you could visit the giving page on our website.  Please pray for our personal monthly support (account #110273) as well, for in the last 2 months we found out we would lose support from three churches (one merger, two struggling).  This leaves us under supported by 871 dollars a month.  Pray especially in our family for Rachel, teaching in China.  Her computer died and she needs a replacement in order to communicate with family and friends, especially at Christmas.  Pray for Abi who is struggling to get caught up in school.  Life goes on and we believe God will provide for these needs.

Wednesday night, a late knock on the door, brought some friends from a couple of villages up the road.  A woman (Sina) is in labor and needs a ride to the hospital.  Our clinic ambulance is rarely running, being the place where supposedly Kure used sorcery to kill Lalo.  I took about twelve into town, and sat outside witnessing to one of the young men, waiting for the others.  The next night, about 10:00 o'clock, another knock, the same village, but a different expectant mom.  When I get to the village the first one to greet me is Sina, the lady who I took to town yesterday, she had given birth to a baby girl.  At the hospital, waiting, the same young man from yesterday tells me there are only two other pregnant women in the village.  He asks, laughing, "What are you doing tomorrow night?"

Probably not what I expected, but life goes on.