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God confounds Maasai warriors; believers unharmed in attack

LONGIDO, Tanzania (BP)–“Black blood or white blood” echoed through Maasai land as young warriors grabbed clubs and spears in an effort to stop the spread of the gospel, which has been challenging parts of Maasai culture.
Christians in northern Tanzania went into hiding as large groups of Maasai “morani” (warriors) moved through villages, ransacking churches and threatening believers. International Mission Board missionary Tim Tidenberg’s home became a sanctuary for local Christians of all denominations.
After three weeks of destructive conflict, God opened the door for the gospel even wider than before.
The Maasai are among the most colorful people in eastern Africa. Known for their bright red clothes and beaded necklaces, their most important possession is cattle. A man’s wealth and status in the community is determined by the number of cattle owned. Though once completely untouched by the gospel, in recent years large numbers of Maasai have come to Christ.
The morani are unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 26. Their job is to guard the community as well as protect the cattle from wild animals.
Conflicts between the morani and Christians had been brewing for some time, but surfaced Aug. 1 when the young warriors stormed Olopuko Baptist Church with war cries. One Pentecostal church was destroyed in a similar attack.
“Most of the conflict deals with the very promiscuous practices among the warrior class as well as polygamy,” Tidenberg said. “The conflict has also come as many Christians are no longer seeing the need for the ‘laibon’ [witch doctor] and his powers. As Christians have matured, they have begun to stand firm in many of these areas.”
During the uprisings, a group of volunteers from Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., trekked through many of the villages praying and sharing. They covered much of Maasai land on foot — almost 100 miles — to pray for God to continue working among this people group.
Tidenberg said the volunteers saw many people saved despite vocal and physical resistance by the morani. One of the men who prayed to receive Christ was a very influential witch doctor.
The largest battle came the first day of the uprising when 70 men stormed Olopuko Baptist Church. The morani beat the unarmed church members with clubs and attacked them with spears. A cry went up from the warriors proclaiming that “black blood or white blood” would be shed.
Tidenberg and local Christians tried to fight back but soon realized God was more powerful than physical weapons. The group stepped back and prayed.
“The battle continued around us as a story from the Old Testament began to unfold — confusion of the enemy,” Tidenberg said. “The army Gideon fought against was confused and fought themselves while Gideon’s army stood and watched. That is exactly what happened.”
As the morani battled each other, the small Christian group stood at peace in the midst of the fight. Then, unexpectedly, the morani began to retreat. The Christians were left standing, unharmed and thankful for God’s protection.
After the battle, Tidenberg was able to speak to the morani. He met with the group for two hours, but they were determined the church was to be closed and houses burned down if the believers met in homes. They wanted no Christian witness in that area.
The missionary told the warriors that closing the church building would not remove the church.
“The church will grow stronger,” Tidenberg said. “I expressed to them that this is not a struggle with customs or culture. It is not that the world around them is changing, but it is a hardness of their hearts that has caused this conflict.”
The door for the gospel has been wide open in Maasai land and Tidenberg asked prayer warriors throughout the world to ask God for its continued openness. In an Aug. 12 meeting between Christians, village elders and morani, the missionary’s prayer was answered.
The elders testified about what God has done in their lives and villages. Several morani stood up and admitted they were wrong, asked the Christians to stay and asked for forgiveness. They requested the Christians share what Christ has done and help them fully understand.
“We had asked for prayers that the doors would not close because of this heated conflict between the Maasai culture and Christianity. We never expected such intervention,” Tidenberg said. “The main result of this meeting? The doors for evangelism and church planting in this area have never been thrown as wide open as they are now.”