Answers for Kapembwa

Rebecca Rempel | Zambia

When things go poorly, people want an explanation as to why. With the fishing season going poorly in Kapembwa, Zambia, the people want to know why, and to find the answers they seek, they’ve called in Kongolo. 

The most famous witch doctor in the area, Kongolo has said that to perform a ‘village cleansing’ it will cost Kapembwa $1,300 USD--an exorbitant sum for a village that relies solely on fishing for income. 

It is against the law in Zambia to do a village cleansing because of the violence that accompanies the process. Village cleansing involves the witch doctor conducting rituals to discover who in the village has been cursing the fish supply. Whoever the witch doctor reveals as the culprit is then beaten and sometimes killed. Kongolo himself has admitted that some of the charms he uses are not real, but people continue to seek out his help.

Despite village cleansing being illegal, a committee was formed to collect the fee from everyone. Those who refused to pay were beaten and belongings were taken and sold from those who did not have the cash to contribute. 

OM Lake Tanganyika has been working in the village for the past three years. Five missionaries have planted a church of about 50 members and run a preschool for more than 60 children. Slowly they’ve formed relationships with people and shared the good news. 

When the committee began going around the village collecting money, the OM team stood their ground and said that they would not pay. Church members similarly took a stance. Knowing the OMers are missionaries, the headman understood their refusal to pay but thought the church members were getting their courage and strength from the OMers. The Christian villagers told the headman and his committee that they were not bold because of the missionaries, but rather because of the God they serve. 

Now when the committee goes around asking for money, they do not knock on the doors of church members. “It’s like Passover,” said OMer Clement. “They will not come to our homes and force us to give money.” 

Despite recent trips by committee members to fetch Kongolo, he has not gone to the village, as he feels there are people in Kapembwa who are against him. In January 2017, when the headman’s youngest son died, a witch doctor told the headman that it was because the headman had taken people’s money and yet Kongolo hadn’t come. When his second son became sick, the headman bought charms to protect him. People are beginning to say the problems the village is facing are because of the headman, and that he should fix the issues himself.

Prayer in the evening

Every evening, the OM team worships together and prays for their village. All are invited to join, and the team has found that the children come the most frequently. At first Clement assumed the children came because they had nothing else to do, but one night he overheard parents telling their children it was time to go for prayers. Clement feels that people want to attend the gatherings but are afraid what people will say about them, as they were previously so outspoken against Christians themselves.

People continue going to the OM team for prayers and deliverance--some secretly in the dead of night. The team tells each visitor they need to turn from charms and witchcraft and believe in the one true God. Recently, some of the headman’s relatives went in the middle of the night for prayer.  

“God has allowed [this situation with the witch doctor] so that He can reveal himself in it,” said Clement.

Free at last

One night a man stayed behind after prayers. 

No stranger to the missionaries, Williamson* had come to them for prayers of deliverance before. Not long after each time he was prayed for he would visit the witch doctor for one thing or another and be tormented by spirits until going to the OM team for prayers. 

However, this time when Williamson came for prayers it was different. With him, he brought the objects he had been using to communicate with spirits. A small bowl called a caracash, a root and a little wooden boat and paddle. 

Other villagers would visit and give him questions to ask the spirits. While Williamson slept, the spirits would tell him the answers, which he then told the villagers. His father and older brother had both done this service for the village before him. 

Tired of living this way, Williamson went to the OM team and said he no longer wanted to communicate with spirits; instead, he wanted to give his life to Christ. In all his previous visits, Williamson had never asked what he needed to do to become a Christian or confessed he used witchcraft. That night they burnt the witchcraft items, and Williamson prayed for salvation. 

The next day Williamson attended church for the first time. OMer Clement remarked how much happier he looked now that he had turned away from witchcraft.

Please continue praying for the village of Kapembwa. Pray for strength and wisdom for the OM missionaries as they continue spreading the good news. Pray that people will recognise that a village cleansing is not the answer to their problems. Pray for each person who goes to the missionaries for prayer, that they will see the light and boldly go for worship and prayer during the daytime.

*Name changed

Published: Tuesday, 05 September 2017
Credit: Rebecca Rempel
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flag-zm Zambia and Lake Tanganyika

Zambia is a landlocked country that is exceptionally peaceful, considering that it is surrounded by countries which have experienced major political struggles. Zambia has been declared an official Christian nation with 87 percent of its people proclaiming to be Christian. However, the number of immigrants from the Middle East and Asia has increased in recent years, and more people now proclaim themselves to be either Muslim or Hindu. When the OM Zambia leaders saw the spiritual desolation and the inroads other religious groups were making around Lake Tanganyika, the first OM team was sent to the area in 2005, establishing their base in the harbour town of Mpulungu. The team was called the ‘Good News II’, after the vision of Dr. David Livingstone.

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