During one of our training trips, one Tanzanian pastor-disciple, Lukas took us aside, asking our team to pray for him. It was a matter of great urgency. “They are going to kill me!”
“The village elder. He is also the witchdoctor in our village.”
“Why does he say he is going to kill you?”
“Because God told me to build a new church, right beside the satanic grove of trees in the center of the village. It is where they practice their witchcraft. They said I must stop building the church or they will kill me!“
Now, what do you do in a situation like this? Many of us would laugh nervously and promise to pray from a distance.
But we are a bit different,…
We have learned to put on our spiritual glasses, stop, and ask God “What is really happening here? What are YOU doing? What do you want us to do?”
So we briefly prayed together, and then told Lukas “We are in! We’ll come to pray with you.” We settled on a date and told him to gather together a handful of pastors from the area to join with us, and we would arrive early the morning of the agreed-upon day.
Leading up to that date, we earnestly asked God for a special team that He would assemble, even including our prayer team back home in Michigan. We took our Tanzanian friend Paul with us as translator; and on the way we prepared our hearts to do whatever the Lord told us to do.
We arrived in Semasi village and met the team of 4 pastors. First, praying together, we shared communion to lead us into a place of unity and spiritual preparedness. Their eyes looked curiously at us—what is our plan?! We admitted to them: “We do not have a plan; but we know the One Who does! Let’s pray together and listen to God, and let him show us what to do.”
We went together to the grove of trees. Parking our vehicle off the small dirt road, we walked directly to the “church.” At that time, it wasn’t more than a few tall posts in the ground and rough sawn boards tacked up, as they saved money to begin to enclose it. We stood together and encouraged the pastors to join us in asking God to direct us through whatever means HE wanted: through Scripture, through Biblical stories, through pictures and visions, or any way He wanted to lead us. These pastors had never done anything like this before, but they were full of faith that God wanted to show us a solution. As we prayed, we encouraged each person present to share what God may be revealing (and be willing to test every word or picture to ensure God was the source. See 1 John 4:1-2)
From the beginning, one person saw a hole in the earth running the length of the church. Quickly, another was reminded of the Biblical story of Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16), in which the earth opened up and swallowed many people. The entire group was moved to pause for a time of repentance, identifying with “our people” to repent for the grievous sins committed here over the many generations.
When we all seemed to be empty of tears and grief, we again returned to ask God how we should proceed. One pastor acknowledged God’s heart for this land and its people, and so we turned outward to face the surrounding community, offering forgiveness, even those who had threatened Lukas, and blessing them in Jesus’ name to come to know the One True and Living God.
As we drew to a close in the church, we realized that we had not yet addressed the satanic grove of trees. “Lord, what would You have us do?” A Scripture came to one of us: 2 Samuel 5:23-24--when you hear the wind in the tops of the trees, go up. We meandered our way back to the grove of trees, prepared to wait for God’s direction and timing. Quite a crowd had gathered, probably expecting a confrontation between us and the witchdoctor. But we were there to oppose the spiritual forces of darkness, not the people God loves. We simply milled around near our car, and ate a few snacks we had brought along and waited for the wind, as God had directed. The trouble was, there was just no wind that day. The air was unusually still! Then suddenly the wind began to blow, the treetops shimmering without a doubt. So we each walked around, praying quietly, and binding forces of darkness in Jesus’ name. When the wind stopped, we abruptly stopped. The pastors glancing to us, as if to say, “Are we done?” But then the wind started again; so we did too!
We continued with quiet (but bold) declarations, such as Psalm 24--The earth is the Lord and the fullness thereof! We know that much blood and sacrifices have surrendered this territory to the Enemy for many years; however, we declare the blood of the Lord Jesus over this sin. And this has been the Enemy’s grove of trees for generations, but this is returned to You this day, O God.” And the wind died down again. Peace.
Sensing that our prayers and declarations were complete, Pastor Lukas implored us to share a meal before we left. We followed him to a nearby shanty just down the road. We ate together reviewing the day’s strange experiences, noticing that as we dined there was a rather disruptive noise outside. We just talked louder, reasoning that some unusual farming equipment must be passing by. However, when our meal ended and our hosts blessed and thanked us for coming, we went outside and turned toward our parked vehicle…THEN WE COULD SEE WHAT THE NOISE WAS ALL ABOUT!
There was a man with a chainsaw cutting down a tree in that grove where we had just prayed not an hour before!
We clambered to Pastor Lukas’ side. “WHO IS THAT MAN?” No one knew him. No one had ever seen him before!
“THEN WHO WOULD GIVE PERMISSION FOR THAT TREE TO BE CUT DOWN?”
Lukas looked shocked as he answered, “Only the village elder, the witchdoctor--and he would NEVER give that permission in his grove!”
We quickly made our way to the vehicle, snapping photos out the window as we drove away. Only then did we spy the man with the chainsaw…wearing a green Michigan State jersey! (Was that a spiritual reference to our prayer team back in Michigan?)
We all departed, rejoicing in absolute awe of our God. On the drive home, one team member asked: “What was that passage again in 2 Samuel 5?” When you hear the sound of the wind in the tops of the trees, you will know THE LORD HAS GONE OUT IN FRONT OF YOU,…”
God didn’t call us to bring a chainsaw that day. He asked us to bring a prayer shawl.
Update, 2 years later: We learned that the witchdoctor left the village that next day, declaring in the village that there was nothing for him there anymore. The church building was finished soon, but shortly thereafter needed to be expanded because of the influx of new members, even requiring the purchase of more land! Praise the Lord! We had no idea what God was going to do that day, but our alignment and obedience to God was all that He required to bring mind-blowing results!