Benin | February 22

Serving God on Satan's Ground

Janvier Hownyemey

[Ask a man to present this first-person report.]

 

I called myself a Christian. My family and I attended church, but I sensed that I was not close to God. I watched as church members took part in the voodoo ceremonies that seep into every aspect of our culture and lives in Benin. One day I asked God to show me a better way to worship Him—in Spirit and in truth. 

I started worshipping with a charismatic group, but in time the members fought and the congregation split. Someone invited a Seventh-day Adventist to share his beliefs with the remaining members. What this man said made sense, and several of us studied the Bible with him. I became convinced that God had answered my prayer. Here was a church that based its entire existence on the Bible and rejected anything having to do with witchcraft. Some 25 people from the charismatic church were baptized into the Seventh-day Adventist Church, including my wife and me. 

Desire and Dilemma

My wife and I wanted to share what we had learned with my home village, so we moved back to the village. In five years we had established a group of 38 believers. 

Then my wife’s father died, and a huge problem arose. My wife was her father’s only child, and she was expected to be present at his funeral. But we knew that we could not take part in the voodoo ceremonies that would accompany the two-week funeral ceremonies.We went to her home village and buried her father, but we left before the dancing, sacrificing, and drinking began. The voodoo worshippers who came for my father-in-law’s funeral were angry when we did not stay and pay for the alcohol and take part in the voodoo ceremonies. They swore that they would get revenge by killing us. 

The Power of Voodoo

We knew by experience that the powers of voodoo were strong. Years earlier someone had cursed me, saying that I would never be able to cross the river without jumping in and drowning. We lived along a river and had to cross it often. Someone always had to hold me in the boat, or I would try to jump out and drown. 

But after becoming Christians, my wife challenged me to cross the river in a small boat. Nervously I prayed for God’s protection and crossed the river. Nothing happened. I realized that God was indeed more powerful than voodoo and could overcome these curses. 

This experience gave us confidence that we could pray for God’s protection. 

Soon after my father-in-law died, my wife became pregnant. When she went into labor, the baby could not be born. We went from one hospital to another seeking help. Finally we went to our country’s main hospital. There doctors performed a Cesarean section and delivered the baby. When they examined her womb, they saw that it was pocked with holes—the result of a voodoo curse. Doctors came from throughout the hospital to see the womb with holes. They did not repair the womb, for they said only God could heal her. We prayed, and her womb was healed. 

Wrestling With Spiritual Wickedness 

My younger brother and his family joined the Adventist Church. One day people in his community accused my brother of offending the voodoo chief. They demanded that he buy liquor for the entire community and apologize, but he refused. Some 30 people came to kill my brother and his family, but they fled to my house. We knelt together to pray for God’s protection. The angry villagers surrounded our house, chanting and yelling, but they could not touch us, for we were praying.

The crowd left, taking my brother’s canoe, which he uses for fishing and transportation, and carried it to the village. There they cursed it and left it standing in the center of the voodoo house. 

Church officials went to the mayor, who said the church had to provide liquor before he would consider the case. When church officials explained that we do not use liquor, the mayor dismissed them, saying, “Then go get your canoe at your own risk.” We knew that the canoe had been cursed, and we would be poisoned and die if we touched it. But we prayed for God’s protection and went together to retrieve the canoe. We took it to the riverside, where we washed it and rededicated it to God. The villagers were amazed that we Adventists did not die when we touched the canoe. 

Three days later the huge concrete voodoo meetinghouse crumbled as if a heavy hand had crushed it. Even the foundation was destroyed. “Who are these Adventists that they have this power over us?” some people asked. Some wanted to put more curses on the Adventists, hoping to kill them and burn their homes. The Adventists in the area fasted and prayed for God’s protection. This continued for seven days. Then one night three of the voodoo priests died of unknown causes. 

Some people came to our worship services to see where our power came from. But they found nothing they could claim. Finally the people, their voodoo priests, and the mayor asked forgiveness of the Adventists and begged that the Adventists not curse them.  

Some have seen these miracles and come to sincerely seek the power of God, and they are now worshipping with us. They realized that we don’t have any secret power except our faith in God.

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