by Loren Entz
Abou Traore was not a traditional sorcerer, the kind who regulates daily events in a small traditional village. Rather he worked hand-in-hand with the Muslim leaders in larger towns of Burkina Faso.
Abou Traore was not a traditional sorcerer, the kind who regulates daily events in a small traditional village. Rather he worked hand-in-hand with the Muslim leaders in larger towns of Burkina Faso. As a Muslim, Abou knew the secrets involved in sorcery. He possessed names of five evil spirits, each written in Arabic on special individual papers. He had given the equivalent of hundreds of dollars to obtain these names. They were the source of his special power; he was a Muslim sorcerer.
Whenever the Muslim leader was approached by someone willing to pay for help in getting revenge, or perhaps desiring a certain woman, or wanting to make money, Abou was called to help "make it happen." Abou did whatever necessary to manipulate the evil spirits to do their work. Afterwards Abou and his Muslim colleague would split the profit. Both managed comfortable lifestyles in the Orodara area.
But one day Abou took those valuable papers, tore them to pieces, dug a hole with a hoe and buried all those fragments. Only three days before he had felt God calling him to follow "the Jesus road." He had listened to a cassette tape giving the testimony of an ex-Muslim leader who had experienced salvation in Jesus Christ. Abou found that the message "broke his heart" as well. He knew he had to give himself to Jesus. For five days he agonized. He felt he was being chased until he gave up and found peace with Jesus.
For a month Abou suffered from what he called a cleansing experience, one of repentance. Doctors would have called it hepatitis, but Abou saw it as a time of getting rid of all the evil he had done. All along Abou had known what was right and what was wrong. He had consciously been doing the wrong and now believed God brought this illness for a purpose. During the month of cleansing, missionaries from the Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission in Orodara came to sit and pray and read the Bible with him.
It soon became obvious that Abou wanted to share his faith with others. So the missionaries spent many hours teaching him, using audio-visual materials, or simply reading long portions of Scripture to him, all of which he loved and remembered. He began showing the pictures to others, playing the cassette tapes of messages and testimonies, and telling the Bible stories he had heard to his Muslim friends in town. He also experienced visions which told him how and where to share his testimony. He became an excellent evangelist, telling the gospel story with pictures and informally answering questions out of his experience. The radical change in his life was the most powerful witness. He was full of joy and everyone saw it.
Soon villages beyond Orodara heard of a changed Abou and asked him to come. He was invited to his own people, the Samogho people.
One night elders who were fetishers invited Abou in order to test him. Was the power of his Jesus greater than their fetish occult power? First they tried to poison him with food, but Abou found victory over that as he offered a prayer of thanks before he partook of the food. God showed himself to be Abou’s right hand and he suffered no ill effects.
Then the elders took him to their sacred grounds late that night. Abou was placed beside a huge gaping hole. The six eiders sat on the other side of the hole. Fire escaped from the hole. A special whistling brought poisonous bees from the pit to do their evil work against Abou, but again with no success. Abou could not be stopped.
They had one test left, a test which no one else had ever escaped. The old men whistled a second time and a huge snake about 18 inches in diameter emerged. It came toward Abou. It tried to push him into the pit as countless others before him had been pushed in and disappeared. But the snake could only brush his leg. The snake itself fell into the pit. There was no doubt whose power was greater, God’s power working through Abou or that of the fetishes through the village elders. The rest of the night Abou preached of Jesus to them until daybreak, when he returned to Orodara.
Later that day Abou received a letter from a powerful sorceress in the same village telling him one of the elder had died and the other five were sick. She asked Abou to come and preach to a group of sorceresses. Actually, she wanted to see if Abou’s power was greater than theirs. The women claim their sorcery powers to be greater than the fetish power of the men. They naturally thought Jesus’ power should be tested with the strongest force known to them, sorcery.
Abou shared this letter from the sorceress with his missionary friends in Orodara. Though the missionaries were very apprehensive, Abou was willing to face another night of confrontation. All three prayed together fervently to commission Abou to go and represent Jesus in the midst of great evil.
Fatimata, the chief sorceress, met Abou when he arrived. The whole group of 46 sorceresses accompanied him to their sacred place by the stream where they, too, tried to kill Abou. Again Abou was the victor in Jesus’ power, and again the rest of the night was filled with preaching. Abou shared his testimony, told Bible stories, and showed pictures telling the gospel story. God’s Word reached the most powerful people of the village that night.
One week later Fatimata became very ill and was rushed to the hospital in the city. Through her sickness and the willing help of a total stranger, she realized that God was calling her. God wanted her to live. He had work for her, the most influential person in the village, to do. She gave herself to Christ and began reading the Bible.
Meanwhile in a neighboring Samogho village, a woman named Makoura heard what happened. She heard Abou’s power from Jesus was greater than that of the sorceress. So she invited Abou, supposedly to preach, but in reality to destroy him. Her power was not simply sorcery power. Her source of power was that of a special evil spirit which had enabled her to kill hundreds of people through the years.
Abou did not know Makoura was the most powerful person in the region, nor was he afraid to go meet her. So again Abou was sent to represent Jesus to Makoura. The AIMM missionaries prayed for him and sent him on his way.
This trip was made on a borrowed bicycle. Abou carried a tape player, cassette tapes, Bible pictures, and a change of clothes. Suddenly, with an explosive noise, the bicycle burst into flames. Abou miraculously escaped with the Christian teaching materials but everything else burned. Even sand wouldn’t put out the fire immediately. So Abou continued on foot to his destination.
On arrival, Makoura exclaimed, "What are you doing here? You are supposed to be dead."
Abou answered, "You invited me, and I’ve come with the power of Jesus." Abou was invited to share this source of power with Makoura. He spent the night in the house of the evil spirit which was no longer able to live there. It had not been victorious in the power encounter with Abou’s Jesus.
Several days later Makoura got news that her evil spirit which normally took on the form of a snake had been sighted dead in the bush. On Makoura’s arrival the snake’s corpse accused her of giving it an assignment that was too difficult to do. Makoura lost control of herself. She was going mad and started confessing all the evil she had done, which was considerable. Her family quickly made arrangements for her to be removed, fearing she would reveal too many secrets. At great expense they sent her to a distant village far to the north where her oldest son lived.
Thirty years earlier Makoura had been instructed to sacrifice her first-born son in order to gain the power of the evil spirit. When the boy learned of this evil plan, he ran away to Bobo Dioulasso and later went to school at Tougan. In the meantime, his mother completed the occult compact by sacrificing her co-spouse’s child to receive the power.
Makoura’s son had become a Christian in the intervening years while separated from his mother. Now he was the pastor of a Christian church. Here she was in his village, where she regained her senses. Together with several others from her home village, Makoura made a commitment to Christ. Extensive teaching followed in the Samogho mother tongue as son taught mother, as well as the other relatives who had come.
When Abou become a Christian he thought he was the only Christian from his ethnic group, the Samogho. He gave himself to learning and study as well as sharing his faith. God chose to confront the spiritual powers and spiritual authority structures in the villages, working through Abou. Little did Makoura’s son know that he, too, though isolated as the first Samogho Christian, was being prepared through these many years to share the Christian faith with his mother and eventually with the rest of the Samogho people.
Abou continues to need the prayer support of other Christians. He faces great pressures from those engaged in the occult activities. For the persons abandoning sorcery to "follow the Jesus road" it means the loss of their livelihood, since the practice of sorcery can also be quite lucrative and prestigious. With limited resources and shortage of missionaries with adequate time for discipling, the adequate training and grounding in the faith for persons like Abou is difficult. How tragic it would be for the church in Burkina Faso if the power of Christ, already demonstrated in the life of Abou, were to be diminished, not by the spirits but because Christians were too busy to pray and to make Christian nurture available.
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