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Tired of the devil’s lies, witch doctor turns to Christ

KWAARA TAJI, Niger (BP)–The men dance in the firelight. Their writhing bodies obey an intense rhythm beat out by a weathered old woman who stands to one side, shaking a shovel-shaped instrument ringed with bells.
The pace intensifies. When the woman — a witch doctor — chants magic words, demon spirits possess the men, who stop to channel the instructions they receive.
The old witch doctor smiles. Tonight the seekers got the advice they wanted. Perhaps she will actually get paid.
“Before I came to know Christ, I sold charms and potions and curses,” Jima recalled, sitting on a mat in front of her round thatched hut in Kwaara Taji, a village on the outskirts of Niamey, capital city of the West African country of Niger. The gathering dusk deepens the lines in her leathery face.
“I prayed to Allah that he would allow the devil to bring his power into the things I was making and selling. It is Satan who gives power to the fetish.”
Her witch doctor’s life was hard, Jima said.
“Life was difficult because people were dishonest with me. They would promise to pay me, maybe a goat or a chicken, but they would never bring it.
“I was always hungry and had many, many problems because of the work I did. And I never had peace in my heart. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t know how to change.”
Sally Womble, a Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionary who ministers through the Bafuney Taji Windo (House of New Life) community center in Kwaara Taji, was aware of Jima but had not approached her.
“I had greeted her when I passed her house, but I didn’t know her,” Womble recalled. “Then one day in my quiet time the Lord said to go witness to her.”
Womble called Adamou Zumari, one of the young men who lead the Kuruko Hanna Church in Kwaara Taji, and they paid a visit on the witch doctor.
The pair introduced themselves and told Jima why they were working in the village. They were taken aback by Jima’s candid reply.
“She told us that since we had come to the village and started telling the Bible stories, she knew what she was doing was wrong,” Womble said. “That showed me the Holy Spirit was already working on her.”
Jima remembered: “She told me the story of Jesus Christ and promised to come back next week and answer questions. This touched me very much. I wasn’t able to sleep.
“When they came back, I told them I had no questions. I knew in my heart what she was saying was true. I decided to ask Jesus into my heart as Savior.”
Jima told Womble to burn her fetish instruments. Zumari began to disciple her, working through a 12-lesson series on the life and ministry of Jesus. She was baptized a few weeks later in the Kuruko Hanna Church.
“Since I came to know Jesus, I know forgiveness and eternal life. That’s not possible in the fetish,” Jima said. “My life before was very sad. Now it is very happy. Now I am content in my heart with life and I will get to go to heaven to be with Jesus when I die.”
Turning her back on the fetish, however, complicated Jima’s life in several ways.
For one thing, evil spirits would return to her house to torment her, she said. She learned the power of prayer as her Christian friends gathered to pray for her protection.
And as a widow, Jima’s decision to leave witchcraft deprived her of her means of support, meager though it was.
“That was a growth experience for the church, to take on the responsibility of caring for her needs as a widow,” Womble recalled. The church gave her a little kerosene, which she sold as lantern fuel. With the profits she bought more kerosene, and her business now provides enough income to buy vegetables.
Jima values the prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Pray that I would grow as a Christian. I served Satan for so long, and he was not happy when I left.”

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  • Mark Kelly