SOUTHEAST ASIA (BP) — Most instruments need musicians to play them. But others, as two Christian workers once learned, don’t need any humans at all.
David and Regan York*, nine years ago, moved with their two children to a Southeast Asian city rich in artistic culture. The city itself looks like artwork, with buildings adorned in murals and graffiti paintings, but residents especially prize the complex melodies of their traditional music.
York, who holds advanced degrees in music, planned to use his knowledge to create opportunities for sharing the Gospel. But when the Yorks purchased a number of instruments — bronze kettles, gongs and slabs set in beautifully carved wood — they experienced firsthand the spiritual world connected to the culture’s artistic expression.
Not long after moving into their Asian home, the couple placed the purchases in their living room. Then, one night after the family had gone to bed, one of the instruments began to play itself.
“We thought … ‘Maybe I was still half asleep — maybe a million things,” Regan said. “‘Maybe it’s some other instrument that somebody else has in a neighborhood that’s close by. Maybe it’s not ours.'”
David and Regan didn’t talk to each other about the music, each thinking that the other might not have heard it. Yet the same song played night after night. David got out of bed, checked the house and locked all the doors. No one had entered but he could see the bronze slabs still vibrating from the music.
After several nights of worry, the Yorks finally admitted to each other they heard the song. They also admitted the only thing that could cause an instrument to play without a musician was spiritual warfare. When local craftsman make instruments, the couple soon discovered, the men fast and pray over their work, asking spirits to inhabit and enhance the instruments’ sound.
The couple stayed calm at first, but when Regan learned that Esther*, their oldest child, could hear the song as well, she began to fear for her family.
“I remember praying and telling God, ‘This is scaring me to death,'” Regan said. “‘I have no idea what’s going on and I have no idea how to make it stop. … We live all alone where we are, and I have children. I don’t want these things scaring my children.'”
Though David tried to comfort his wife, he simply felt baffled. Self-playing bronze slabs did not fit into his worldview.
[QUOTE@right@180=One night after the family had gone to bed, one of the instruments began to play itself.]”My theology didn’t allow for a lot of this,” he said. “I basically thought it was impossible for demonic forces to actually [dwell] in inanimate objects, or I guess I never thought it was possible for them to hold sway or influence people through objects like this. But once we came to the field, we realized this is a reality.”
Faced with spiritual forces in their own living room, the Yorks had no recourse other than prayer. The couple knelt before the Lord together and dedicated the instruments to God.
“These are Yours,” they prayed. “Do what You would do to defend Your own property. If this really belongs to You, then we trust that You will just clean house with it. And anything that we use it for will be for Your glory. This is not ours. It’s Yours.”
After the prayer, the instruments never played by themselves again.
David and Regan believed they had made a breakthrough. They hoped to use the story to show the power of God over the spirit world and lead people to freedom and security in Christ.
The couple’s local friends and neighbors, however, didn’t find the tale very compelling. In a world where spirits always vie for power, they believed God had simply conquered one individual demon, but in another battle, the results could change.
In fact, some villagers grew angry, believing the couple had neglected to take care of their possessions by casting out a spirit that had supposedly blessed the music. A few days after the exorcism, the Yorks’ house helper confronted Regan.
“Your instruments are bad now,” the woman told her. “There’s nothing special about them. They used to play by themselves before, but now they don’t play. What did you do?”
Regan explained that she and her husband did not have the instruments made for a spirit they didn’t know. They dedicated the instruments to the God they worshipped so that no other spiritual being could take possession of them.
The helper didn’t listen, continuing to believe the Yorks had foolishly ruined a treasure. The couple found themselves with a unique tale of God’s power that convinced no one to follow Christ. Then David realized they didn’t need a new story of the Lord’s awesome works. Neither ghost stories nor even His work through traditional music could replace the testimony of Christ’s death.
“The most powerful, effective witness isn’t through this grand, creative strategy where we’re using traditional music, where we’re doing power encounters, where we’re doing prayer strategies,” David said. “… [T]hose things have their place — but the most effective witness is just someone willing to sit down face-to-face with a lost person and explain to them the love of God expressed in the person of Jesus Christ.”
While David realigned his thoughts on ministry, Regan thanked God with relief. The Lord had saved her family during one of her darkest moments. Though she feared for her children, God protected them. Regan says she will always remember this spiritual encounter as an example of His strength and love.
Since the instrument stopped playing, the Yorks have had several other encounters with the spirit world, but the family grows bolder with each encounter. They know that God holds power over demons and that He has never failed to protect them. When faced with spiritual warfare, they only need to ask and the Lord will cast out whatever spirit scared them.
“[The experience] makes us feel secure, not because we are in control or because we know the formula to follow in case something happens,” Regan said, “but it makes us feel that we have a God who really is more powerful than [spirits] and we don’t have to be afraid.”
*Names changed. Shiloh Lane served with the International Mission Board in Southeast Asia for two years. For more stories about this ministry and others in Asia, visit http://www.asiastories.com.