GOD WHO INHABITS OUR PRAISE
Our off-road capable Mitsubishi was fresh from the mechanic, who had checked all systems and tooled us up for the journey ahead. With a full tank of gas and the back full of supplies needed for several weeks of training and conferences, we began the long drive south out of Arusha to our “home” at the foot of Mount Hanang.
Nearly two hours out, as we climbed a rise outside Makayuni, the engine began choking out…and died just as we topped the hill. “That’s odd!” we thought. “The mechanic just checked this thing out!” We coasted down into the town, coming to rest in front of the village shops. Attempts to restart the vehicle were fruitless; so we got on the phone with the mechanic again. “Stay right there,” he said. “I’m coming to you. But don’t leave the vehicle.”
Hours later, the mechanic and his assistant arrived. After inspecting the vehicle on the spot, he remained baffled. Nothing seemed to be wrong! But even he could not restart it. Thus, with the shadows of late afternoon stretching long, he determined to tow it back to the city so that he could thoroughly look over everything.
I have to pause to explain the Tanzanian towing experience. Having no tow trucks available in the bush, our mechanic found a local minivan-taxi that was going toward Arusha. Though much smaller than our off road vehicle, the mechanic insisted that they “do this all the time.” Having no long tow ropes, locals scrounged up a 12-foot long pipe from the plumbing supply shop, and began to tether our vehicle to the back of the minivan with local sisal-woven ropes. “No way that this is safe! Those ropes cannot tow a vehicle this size. And if the rope lets loose while we are being towed, it can flip right into our windshield!” We were scared. However, having no other option, we reluctantly agreed. The dead engine afforded no power steering or brakes, which meant that we had to strain heavily to steer and to hold back the vehicle’s mass from overrunning the minivan on the downslopes.
The next day, the mechanic prepared to pore over the vehicle’s systems. He climbed inside to attempt to start the engine…which immediately revved strong. Though initially pleased, he determined to recheck everything before handing it over again. We were back on the road 24 hours later, running a bit later than we had hoped. But, hey!, that’s the way life is in Africa!
Imagine our surprise when our vehicle began the slow climb up the same rise and the engine began to sputter as we reached the top…and die. We again coasted down the hill into town, pulling to a stop outside the exact same village shop! What in the world is happening?! When the mechanic answered the phone, he could not believe it. “I’ll send my assistant out right away.” Frustrated and impatient, we waited for the mechanic again.
Several days later, the same exact breakdown…at the same exact location. Yes, 3 times! As we waited in the village, even the locals (pagans) reasoned that this must be a spiritual problem with the gods that we have angered. So during the long wait, we prayed. God began to prompt me to pay attention: Exactly where was this happening? At the entrance to this village. I didn’t know why that was important, but I could sense the significance and could feel the need to be watchful.
When the mechanic arrived, he felt guilty that he sent us out again with an “ill” vehicle. He knew that we were now desperate to get to Katesh so we could prepare for conference; so he told us to proceed with his vehicle, while he returned to his shop with ours.
Fast forward one week, the mechanic assured us that he had been over everything. When we explained that even the locals suspected a spiritual resistance, he shrugged, having no other explanation. As we headed out again…for the 4th time…we drove in silence, the atmosphere tinged with fear. We determined to be in prayer, and one team member realized that the village sits on the regional border! There were, indeed, spiritual entities that were refusing entrance to the territory to which God had called us! As we ambled across the plains, the team talked and prayed, asking God for His protection and strategy. Since He has called us there, and we are in alignment with that calling, those spiritual forces are opposing Him! As we approached the territorial boundary again, we prepared for “spiritual battle.” However, as we prayed and listened for God’s strategy, He encouraged us not to fear and not to give our attention to the enemy; rather, He gave us the strategy of praise. So we turned worship music up, filling the car (and our hearts) with musical declarations of God’s character and His power over the darkness! And…as we fixed our eyes on the Lord, we passed right over that boundary, without so much as a sputter! Our spiritual warfare was worship!
We realize that our enemies are spiritual ones! The problem appeared to be physical (vehicle trouble), but in reality the spiritual enemies harassed us to prohibit our entry and to limit the ministry impact God intended for Manyara Region. When we asked God what to do, He gave us what any strategist would deem to be a weak plan. Nonetheless, we have a commitment to do whatever He tells us to do, trusting that His plan is unstoppable! The result: the enemies of God could not stand against the praises of His people!
It’s now a regular practice when we travel that road: to worship the Lord, both as spiritual preparation for entry and as a rehearsed “stone of remembrance” of His protection and His uncommon strategy in the face of spiritual opposition. The village of Makayuni probably notices each time we come through—the large off-road vehicle cresting the hill, windows open, volume up, “Wazungu” (white people) singing out!