Africa is a land of beauty and amazing people.
It is also a land where many blend Christianity with spiritism and ancestor worship. Much in the same way we in the west try and blend Christianity and materialism. And in the same sense that a Christian who tries to live as a consumer/individualist is always going to live in tension, so do many African communities that try to mix the belief systems together.
I was talking to David, who is from Mozambique and his wife who is a missionary about life in Africa. I asked them if they had any interesting experiences.
And of course, they did.
David shared with me a story of his involvement in a youth group that reached out to non-churched kids. In the town he lived in there were many strange rituals occurring - cats being killed and offered as blood sacrifices to spirits in return for power and an increase in occult involvement and with it an increase in heavy metal/death metal music among the kids.
One night when David was not feeling particularly spiritual a young man was brought into the room. He had requested prayer as he felt activities he had been involved in may have opened him up to some unclean spirits. In Davids words "For five hours, this young man threw five of us around a room, we could barely hold him down as every time we mentioned the name of Jesus he manifested angrily and with amazing strength. Then the young man was delivered - he said the moment before he was so angru he wanted to kill us all and then it broke and the demon left him".
The couple also shared stories of the village witch doctors, whom were revered out of fear and wealthy due to their ability to curse and break curses. These witch doctors used to attend Church on Sunday and then practice their magic arts the rest of the week.
But the most interesting story was that of the Tokolosh.
The Africans in the region David worked in built their beds well above ground level so that the Tokolosh could not kill them as they slept.
This creature was like an imp, and renowned for it's large male appendage. It came into rooms at night and everyone lived in great fear of it because it's intent was not merely to create fear or rummage through belongings but to kill.
"So is it a myth or has anyone you know actually seen it"? I asked.
"My friend actually saw it, it was jet black and looked like a gremlin, just like in the movies, it moved across the floor of his room and he saw it in full view".
David, a multi instrumentalist, educated in London and from a great family is not prone to myths and legends. When he tells you the stories of his home country you believe his sincerity.
"Anything else" I asked?
"There was this Pastor who did not believe in demons or miracles. One night he was praying for a home group when one lady manifested. He had never done an exorcism so he said "In Jesus name leave her". But he had never done a binding so the spirit went into the lady next to her who started manifesting. So this time he bound the spirit, then cast it out. Next thing, there is a scream outside. A lady coming down the street had been pinned between two parked cars as she walked through them, they just rolled by themselves. Her legs were mangled beyond repair. In front of all the people in the group the Pastor prayed 'in Jesus name be healed' and she was completely healed. Now he believes in miracles".
What is it about Africa that causes it to be a land of blessings and curses. If you remember mid last year, when I was on crutches, an African Bishop turned up at my Church unannounced, prayed for my foot and I was instantly able to walk.
Until next week - God bless you - Pastor Baz.