The day before we arrived in Hewa a large family was evacuated to another village because two women and all the children were accused of being witches. One of the children was a five-year old nephew of the husband and father, though, and not the child of the accused mother. When I arrived in our village the next day, I was introduced to his actual mother. She is an older widowed lady and he was her last born child. She put him on a plane knowing she would never see her baby again. Naturally, I was really sad to hear this story, but the more time I spent with this sweet and very funny lady the angrier I got. Why? Why did she have to send her tiny child away? Because some dying person said his name (or at least something that sounded like his name)? Because some evil and violent people won't care that he is just a little boy, but will murder him out of their own fears and delusions? It is just so wrong. And I was just so angry.
A woman was killed a couple of days ago in a nearby village. She was one of the many marked as a witch in Hewa. We are shocked and devastated as it happened so fast and without warning for us to do anything to help her. Our co-workers tried earlier to convince her family to allow her to be evacuated to another village to protect her, but they refused. Her brother claimed that he could and would protect her if anyone tried to kill her.
But when a large group of armed men come in with guns and pretty much hold everyone up at gunpoint so they can chop your sister to pieces with axes and machetes there really is nothing you or anybody else can do about it.
These violent actions came from another village- another language group even- they are not Hewan. From what we understand, the Hewans who were visited and warned by the police about witch killings earlier in the year have held strongly to their commitments not to accuse or kill anyone as a witch, but the outside villages are another story. The police have already been contacted and are preparing to go in and see what they can do. Please pray for them. They have a very difficult task as their village is very remote and hard to get to and even when they get there the murderers can flee to the jungle and escape.
But now, I am no longer angry for my little widowed friend whose son was sent away. I am relieved for her. Because he is safe. She may not ever see or speak to him again, but she will hear of how his is growing up, going to school, learning to catch fish, and just simply living. Continuing to exist. She may live in grief, but she won't live in fear for his life. She may be lonely for him, but she won't ever know the horror of watching him be brutally murdered in front of her eyes.
So, I am no longer angry, but I am very VERY weary. We try so hard. We learn every name of every person accused. We prepare anytime there is sickness or death anywhere in Hewa territory. We evacuate, we call in the police, we raise awareness, we sell t-shirtsto raise money, and above all we pray.
And the raiders still come. Convinced. Consumed with this idea that an evil spirit possesses this woman and she has to be killed in order to protect themselves and those around them. Someone gets sick and dies, someone must be blamed. There has to be a reason, there has to be an answer. Because without a reason, without an action, then it will just keep happening. People will just keep dying and eventually their own day will come and it is just really hard for people to face that. So they have to DO something. But they have been blinded to the truth. They are perpetuating the very thing they are trying to stop. Their thinking has been shaped by generations of erroneous but wholeheartedly embraced teaching.
I know that the only real way to stop this horrific practice is through the truth of the Gospel. Through the Holy Spirit changing hearts and minds. But what if they just won't listen? What if their hearts are hard and their ears won't hear? Is it all for nothing? Will there ever be hope in Hewa?
The truth is, no matter how discouraged I get, I don't have to look very far to see that, yes, there his hope in Hewa. I can see Fato, who was once an axe-murderer himself, and is now the most gentle, sweet-spirited man I know. I can see it in Feyo who cries when he speaks of being forced to help kill his own cousin and who swears he will never be part of that evil practice again. I see it in Faimpat who said in his testimony of faith, "we kept killing women, and people just kept dying anyway, so I knew it wasn't the truth." I see it in every face in this village when they are willing to house marked witches to keep them safe before evacuation, and put their own lives in danger knowing that raiders could come at any time.
There is hope in Hewa. This tiny light in this very dark place. This little mustard seed planted under the towering ominous jungle canopy. But I know what God can do with this mustard seed. He can grow it. He may use the soil of trouble and the rain of suffering, but He will grow it.
It reminds me of James chapter one:
"…when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. SO LET IT GROW, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." James 1: 2-4
Grow us all, Lord Jesus. Grow this community of Hewa believers. Grow new Hewa believers. Grow all the missionaries. Grow me, Lord. Amen.