What’s a Witch Doctor to Do?

For 70 years, as the face of world Christianity has changed, MAF staff have had the privilege of seeing local believers step up to the challenge of leading their churches. The rapid growth of Christianity in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) does not come without challenges. One of which is the danger of syncretism—the blending of other beliefs with Christianity.

MAF pilot Sam Wills and Dan C. flew Congolese church leaders to a conference that addressed a major problem plaguing the Congolese church: witchdoctors and prophecy. The result was pretty amazing. You can read Sam’s firsthand account below:

At the end of July (2014), MAF donated a flight to one of our local missions that had been invited to teach at a four-day conference organized by the local churches around the village of Moba. Both Dan (teammate) and I wanted to experience this conference, so we packed up to join the team for four days in this village on the coast of Lake Tanganyka (second largest lake in the world by volume, by the way).

I was very impressed as the four Congolese and two foreign teachers very systematically tackled the requested topic by the local churches: Prophecy. This word can conjure up all kinds of ideas for different people, and recently in the Congolese churches, “prophets” have been on the rise.

In the not-too-distant-past, by fostering fear into the culture, witch doctors would perform all kinds of “services” for the community that, for a fee, they said would protect them. As Christianity in Congo has grown up and opened people’s eyes to the Gospel truth, the need for witch doctor services has declined (though is still pervasive). So, what’s a witch doctor to do, but to exchange their caldrons for Bibles and become prominent in the churches? These ones are no longer witch doctors…now they are “prophets.” The method is the same: charge a fee to play on people’s fears; it’s just the language that has changed.

This issue is more complicated than the night and day difference between following witchcraft versus following the Bible. Now, these cunning “prophets” present themselves as being on the same side as God and, knowing the people are predisposed to superstitions, can disguise and blend the witchcraft into the language of the churches. The estimated 6,000 people who attended the conference represented seven regional church areas surrounding Moba from as far away as 90 miles. Most of these people walked here and they ate up the teachings about what prophecy is in the Bible. From prophecies in the Old Testament fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ; to prophecies in the New Testament concerning Jesus’ return and the end of this earth when God’s wrath is poured out, the resulting question was raised: “What manner of person should you be? One who is Godly and of holy conduct.” (2 Peter 3:10-18). There is a clear difference between the fear of God and the fear of man, and it is only through the Bible that we can have the correct, unchanging information for life.

The last day of the conference was Sunday when 269 people were baptized in a nearby river before the service began at 9:00 a.m.

There is an incredible need here for Bibles and discipleship. There are many, many Christians that don’t have a firm foundation for their faith and allow all kinds of cultural trends and traditions to manipulate what they think Christianity is. However, aside from maybe the shortage of bibles, is this any different from any other culture in the world, including ours? Just substitute witchcraft for anything else that infects our pure motivations to understand the Bible and to do ALL we do for the glory of God.

Story and photos by MAF pilot Sam Wills.

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