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Witch Doctors, Church Planters, and the Sovereignty of God

By Jordan*

“A witch doctor?” I ask again, trying to clarify this story that made me marvel anew at the strange ways in which God chooses to move. A young pastor and I were sitting together in the shade of a large rock, pausing for a moment as we followed a small trail up the side of the mountain. We had spent much of the previous day riding together on a motorcycle and the sunburn on my neck was a constant reminder that sometimes, every once in a while, my wife does have valid packing tips. As he drove through places that would give a dirt bike pause, I held on, vowing that when I returned to America I would never again drive on a highway without giving thanks for the smooth ride. As we bounced along, I tried to focus on praying for the villages and vast areas that he would point out to me. Areas where the church was not – at least, not yet.

In the last 50 years this small Himalayan country has seen many changes, not the least of which is the incredible growth of Christianity. Although the government estimates the Christian population at around only 1.4 percent, the church here is growing rapidly and stories resembling the book of Acts abound. Stories about sickness, stories about persecution, stories about the power of prayer, and stories like the one my friend Jiwan* was telling me.

“Yes, a witch doctor,” he answers. I chuckle at the sheer absurdity of it all and ask him to continue. 20 years ago, when his father, Amin* was a young man of about 25, he was very sick. Amin was an only son and his sickness was getting worse. Although his parents were the leaders of their small village, there was nothing they could do. His parents took him to see many different witch doctors, every time they would trade something (vegetables, a chicken, or some goats) for the witch doctors to do their work. No matter the influence of the witch doctor or how much Jiwan’s grandparents paid them, Amin didn't get any better. They even had to sell some of their land in order to pay the witch doctors, but nothing made a difference. Finally one of the witch doctors gave a recommendation for a change of treatment. The witch doctor told them, “What we are doing isn't working, take your son to the church and see if they can heal him.” The nearest church was a day-and-a-half walk away. There were, at the time, no other transportation options.

They took their son there and the church prayed for him. In a few months he was completely healed. After his healing, Amin became the first believer in his area. They started a small fellowship. Believers from the church who had prayed for healing started to come to disciple them. They would send a few people at a time; have fellowship with the new believers and then walk for another day and a half back to their own village.

“All of this transformation because of a most unlikely evangelist – a witch doctor—being used by the power of God. ”Persecution began. Others in the village got together and decided they must kill Amin. They waited outside the church planning to murder him when he came out of fellowship “only to escape by the grace of God.” He would hide in the jungle and sneak back to get meals or have fellowship. Slowly the village began to change. More healing occurred; more people came to faith. Jiwan indicates that “today, every house in my village is Christian. There are some individuals who don't believe, but every house is Christian.” Jiwan’s father no longer lives in the village, but is working in ministry and has preached the gospel in almost every district in the country. Jiwan's uncle is now the pastor in his village. They have also helped start a number of churches in the nearby villages. The man who led the persecution against Jiwan's father died without accepting Christ, but his grandson has become a pastor and is now in the process of planting a church. All of this transformation because of a most unlikely evangelist – a witch doctor—being used by the power of God.

Before I left the country, I spent some time with my friend Moses* and we discussed ways that the American and Himalayan churches could help each other. We talked about the American church's need for boldness and excitement, and the Himalayan church's need for training, a strong infrastructure, and the development of strategic outreach. He told me something that I won't forget: “Mark 4 talks about the farmer going out and sowing, but nobody goes out to sow in the jungle. The only way that the jungle can become fertile ground is through intercession.” Moses was a part of the church that prayed for Amin. He would make the day-and-a-half hike just to encourage and teach the believers there. He has seen jungles cleared, he has experienced the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:11: “For as the earth brings forth its sprouts and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all nations.” A seed can be something so small and insignificant but when it’s planted in prepared land, God allows it to become something so much greater. Just like us.

Please join me in praying with the disciples in the Himalayas. Join me also in looking for God's movement through the unexpected. Through witch doctors, sicknesses, miscarriages and unfulfilled expectations, God is showing his power and drawing the nations to himself. God is using even us: the weakest, the lowest caste, the despised, “so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord’ “(1 Corinthians 1:31).

*Names changed and last names omitted for security

Jordan and his wife Megan went to the Himalayas on a short-term team in 2010-2011. They are planning (if God wills) to return to the Himalayas as long-term workers in a few years. They hope to help equip believers to go to unreached areas with the gospel and plant new churches. Jordan currently works as the Property Manager of the RIC in Columbus, Ohio. Jordan is also co-founder of The Himalayan Partnership – an initiative that is focusing on helping American and Himalayan churches be involved with equipping and sending out church planters to new areas in the Himalayas.

If you are interested in getting involved with this partnership contact Jordan at (614) 795-5113.