Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Adventures of a Snake Phobe in the African Jungle: Part 2

Fear Factor: Church Edition 

The worship started up at this tiny village church in Doussala. I had come with Karen, one of the experienced missionaries who supported the church in this village. It had been an early morning- it takes about 2 hours to get to this pivotal village near the Congo border.
The church was small, meeting in a pavilion waiting for funds to be raised for their new church building. I was enjoying worshiping our God with the believers in this small church.

We moved to the time of teaching. Karen was giving the message and I marveled at her composure in the midst of the distractions surrounding us, the kids were restless, it was hot, the bugs were big and one little girl waltzed right over to Karen and looked up her skirt. Karen never missed a beat and kept sharing the Word. 
I was sitting next to a visiting Doc to Bongolo and next to one of my students Gautier who is known to be an expert hunter.
All of a sudden the kids start yelling and pointing, 
Startled, my gaze followed to where the kids were pointing. 
There, weaseling it's way up the papaya tree, was a Green Mamba.

The snake was climbing this papaya tree.
My heart stopped.
My eyes were fixated on at that Green Disgusting Mamba, so were the kids' too.
It was the most important part of Karen's message, and all eyes were on this legless, lethal killer.
I tried to focus but it was no use.
I was sitting in the very front row of the church, the closest bench directly in front of the papaya tree.
My gaze never left the snake.
I watched as it wormed it's way between each of the papaya's, slowly climbing the tree up towards the roof.
My heart started racing. 
I was trying not to hyperventilate.
Sweat was pouring from every pore in my body.
Then it reached the top of the tree and started reaching to climb inside the roof. 
Inside the church it came, inching it's way along.

The new doc leaned over to me and whispers, "at least it's not a dangerous one, right?"
"Oh yea, no problem," I replied, "it'll knock out your respiratory drive in 15 mins flat- and we're two hours away from the hospital- but you know, no big deal." 
I stared as that green snake moved it's way along the inside of the rafter, right in front of me and directly moving to where I was sitting.
He and I made eye contact -- and then began the stare down.
He started doing his head bobbing, push-up motion, his eyes continually fixed on mine.
I'm sitting there and everything in me tells me to get up out of dodge but I couldn't be that missionary who disrupted the whole service.
Stay calm.
Stay calm.
I start humming in my head, "my God is so big, so strong and so mighty...." and I'm thinking, "here I am face to face in a stare down with my worst fear."
It's like Fear Factor Church Edition, here we go.
I kept wiping my sweaty palms off on my skirt.

I was concentrating on controlling my breathing, sitting there like a woman in labor and thinking, "why isn't anyone killing this thing???? It's been wiggling it's way into the church for like the past 15 mins!"
I'm thinking about my student sitting on the bench with us and say to myself, "Gautier, you're a champion hunter, why aren't you getting up to get rid of this thing?!?!"

The snake started moving again now closer to me.
It was at this moment of desperation that Gautier suddenly stands up with great charisma.
It was like a scene out of an action movie, explosions could have been going off in the back ground as he turns to me and gives me this humbly, cool, assured look of, "Madame I got this."
His gaze turns to the snake.
He grabs a fallen branch.
And with one capable swipe, knocks that Green Mamba DEAD to the Ground!

Gautier getting up to save the day

By this time any hope of non-disruption was lost and I took my awaited opportunity to bolt to the back of the building as Gautier proceeded to bash that snake a few more times to make sure he was good and gone.

The service continued, but the pivotal point in Karen's message had all but been lost for each person in the distraction of it all.
We found out afterwards, that while snakes are surprisingly unsocial creatures, that same snake had come and disrupted the service each Sunday at the same critical point in the sharing of God's Word for the past 3 weeks in a row- and no one had killed him.

After the service this sweet, little old lady walked over to the bushes where the snake had fallen and aggressively began hitting it with a log.
"Mama, Mama"
Gautier came and touched her shoulder and said gently,
"it's alright Mama, - he's dead- he's gone."

I chuckled to myself, "ditto, grandma."

Spiritual battles take many shapes and forms.
That day, my personal spiritual battle overlapped with a Spiritual battle for Doussala.
God is waiting to burst the flood gates open in this village, but the Spiritual oppression is great.
This attempt to quench the effectiveness of the preaching of God's Word was a tangible manifestation of that.

God pricked my heart that day for the village of Doussala.
Karen was soon to leave the field, and the ministry she had had there, but I was thankful for this opportunity, one of many, to learn from her wisdom and humble heart of service for her King. 

Karen and I after the service

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."
~Ephesians 6:12

Several months later, I wondered how God would use this burden He had given me for Doussala.
I did not have a car, and with it being a 2 hour drive out, it seemed pretty unlikely I would see this burden come to fruition during this term.
Then one night God reminded me of the burden on His heart for the people of Doussala.
The next morning I happened to run into one of the Pastor's wives who had ministered there with Karen. She echoed the same desires I had heard from the Lord the night before.
She said, "well we will just have to pray God will provide a car for you."
At that instant it was as if God said, "the green hospital vehicle is just sitting there on Sunday's you know."
Of course! Why had I not though of this before?
I talked with the hospital administration and sought the council of the Superintendent of the Gabonese C&MA church in our area.
Green Light and Green Light.
God had provided an open door.
We were going back to Doussala!


9 Months later, this December on Christmas Sunday, God provided that I might return to the believers in Doussala.
After providing through the use of a hospital vehicle, together with a couple of my students and some of the ladies from the Ndende church, we are now able to head back to this small village each Sunday- where we are acutely aware of the Spiritual battle taking place for the people of this village, and that God's presence is at work. 

Sharing the message on Christmas Sunday.
We talked about God sending His Son who saves, Emmanuel- God with us- and what that means for those who do not yet know Him and what Emmanuel means for us as believers.
We spoke of throwing off fetishes and other things in which we put our trust, either over or instead of Christ.
We talked of God's presence with us and how He protects and provides for us, He is the One who has the victory over any evil spirit.
Who is this God who is Emmanuel, what does this mean for us?
 - He is our Wonderful Counselor, 
Mighty God,  
Everlasting Father, 
Prince of Peace.

"And his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." 
~Isaiah 9:6

Mama Adele, the pastor's wife from Ndende holding the little boy as his mom cuts off her fetishes

This mom brought her 1 month old little boy forward, asking us to pray over him. He did not yet have a name,  and He had cords on his arms and legs, a fetish the mom had tied on him to protect him.
As we talked with the mom about the presence and protection of Christ in her life, she cut the cords off of her not-yet-named little one. 
Pray for this mom and her husband and children.
While it is a victory that this mom took this step of faith, the roots of her belief in the power of these fetishes are deep seeded. Pray that God would break these deep strong holds. 
And pray for this name-less little one, whom God already knows by name, that God would bring him up to be a strong man of faith.

Breaking Free

These women came across the border from the Congo (about 1 km away) to join us for church. One of them came forward after the service and asked for prayer for freedom from oppression.
"Each night" the woman shared, her head held low, "in my dreams a spirit comes to visit me. He attacks me sexually and when I wake up, I have physical signs of being sexually assaulted." 
This woman had been suffering in this way each night for 4 months straight.
This woman cried out to God in prayer and we joined her, praying freedom and protection over her and her home in Jesus name.
She left with her head held high once again. 
She was ready that day to claim the power of Emmanuel-God with her. 
She discovered anew Christ as her Counselor, 
as a Father who tenderly loves her and works Mightily on her behalf 
and One who brings Peace. 

 A new set of wheels!

This elderly gentleman spent many months with us at Bongolo after having been caught in a fire on his plantation, severely burning his legs. He received many skin grafts to cover the open wounds and then was ready to return home- yet still fairly immobile. The church at Ndende provided this wheelchair that we were able to deliver to him in time for Christmas!
His response upon sitting in his new chair for the first time: "Now I can get out and serve others in sharing the Gospel and go to church again."
 The students were happy to see him again, after spending so much time daily changing his dressings at the hospital. One of the students who comes with me, Christian, is standing beside him. 

Opening the gate for us on the bridge to the Congo border
This is my student Rickyxe, another student who is coming with me on Sunday's to Doussala. 
I have been touched by the response of my students to the work God is doing in Doussala. It is exciting to see their eyes being opened to the need, the spiritual battle and the opportunities that are there. God is working in the lives of Christian and Rickyxe through our ministry in Doussala. After church we often come back to my home to share a meal and talk about our experience that day. I am impressed by their enthusiasm and desire to jump full on in service of our God. 
One Sunday after we were all back at the station I thanked them for coming with me on Sundays.
"Thank you Madame." They said smiling, "we're your little missionaries in training."

My heart smiled.

These dear ladies served us a delicious meal before the 2 hour drive home to Bongolo

Ways to Pray

Pray for completion of the new church building in Doussala.
Pray for the prayer walk we will have throughout the village on January 5th. 
Pray that God would break down strongholds and grant us insight in how to move forward in reaching the people of Doussala.

The new church building in progress

Pray for safety on the roads as we travel each week. 
It is a 4 hour drive round-trip on mostly dirt roads and I'm the one who can drive in the group. 
 We make a good time of it. Somewhere between driving through flooded roads, wildlife scurrying across the road and passing fresh signs of elephant (piles of dung on the road, paths of trampled trees etc) it hits you- WE ARE IN AFRICA!

Headed home- turned the land cruiser into a boat-it was deep enough you could feel the water slosh underneath your feet.

 I learned the word for "flat tire" in French this week... 

Christian used to change tires for the logging trucks- he jumped right in and a couple guys from Bongolo stopped to help us out. 

We were thankful we were just a couple km from Bongolo

Making Sense of it All 

So what do I take away from all this?
This is my "struggle not against flesh and blood."
There's pretty much an understanding around here that if there's a snake- Amanda will find it.

I think I may have had the most snake encounters in the shortest amount of time on our team. 
My team sometimes joke, "you could post a picture of a different snake every week." 

When I was in the States this past August, I was struggling a bit about coming back to the field and leaving family and friends and Christopher again and going back to the whole jungle life again, but I knew that Gabon is where God has lead me and I left encouraged by that knowledge. 
I arrived back to Bongolo and was greeted by my roommate Rachael. 
We were talking in the kitchen, when all of sudden I see a Green Mamba in the back sitting room of our house.
 I had not even been home 30 minutes. 
Rachael said there had not been one snake the whole month I was gone.
It fueled my desire to be here and to stay. 
Satan's threat was empty. 
This fear no longer had power over me. 
I refused to be discouraged in being back at Bongolo. 
I refused to turn around and leave. 
I was here to stay. 

This past week, ironically as I was posting Part 1 of this blog post, I found this unexpected addition in my pantry: 

It's a struggle for me to post this picture as I write. 
But I am no longer a Snake Phobe. 
Perhaps these tales would be better entitled, "Adventures of a Recovering Snake Phobe..."
for I have victory in the One who is Emmanuel- God with me. 

I have known him as my Counselor. 
I have seen His mighty hand protect and provide for me amidst these lethal creatures. 
I have experienced His tender and steadfast patience and love as my Father. 
And in tremendously overwhelming circumstances- He has been my Peace. 

This Christmas and New Year, these truths ring fresh, anew and alive- a reality in my very being. 

 It is my prayer this season, that you may also experience the reality of His Counsel and His Peace He has brought to us through Christ- Emmanuel.

"And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

~Micah 5:4-5

the Recovering Snake 
Phobe in the Jungle, 

*This post is dedicated to Karen Fitch and the loving example she has been to me as I've begun  service overseas in Gabon.

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