Rebe McReynolds

Worry, Witch Doctors, and the Word of God

By Bryan McReynolds, Jul 12, 2018

“My worry and stress never went away …. I would worry about many different things all the time, and it made me sick, both mentally and physically. I worried about money, food, if my crops would die, if my wife or children might die from sickness. I lived in constant fear.”

I was talking with a Sakalava friend from another village recently. I told him about my life: about the time the Holy Spirit opened my eyes and ears and I was able to understand salvation is a free gift of grace, not at all dependent on what I have done. I asked him what the Holy Spirit began speaking into his heart during the months that led to his conversion.

It was a glimpse into the worldview of the Sakalava people.

He proceeded to tell me that everything has meaning: a sick child, a huge net of fish, diseased crops, or an injured cow. They all are related to blessings or curses, either by neighbors or ancestors.

He explained to me that there is no wall between this world and the spiritual world. It is more of a curtain that you can pass through with ease.

A context of suffering and a reminder of truth
My friend’s context is overflowing with suffering. Last month two small children died: One drowned in a well, and the other just stopped breathing (there is no opportunity for an autopsy). Down the road from him a 30-year-old woman died one month after giving birth. My friend and the majority of people here in the Sakalava villages of Nosy Be, Madagascar, live on less than $2 a day. Prostitution is one of the few jobs available.

So, a normal life here is full of worry and fear. What will happen next? And since everything that happens is a result of an outside force, people do whatever they can to manipulate that outside force. This means consulting a traditional healer (witch doctor). There, someone can get something that will keep neighbors from harming him; get something to heal his family member; or find some other way to remove the curse they are receiving from their ancestors.

But often it does not work, which is always the patient’s fault. And it is expensive. And most importantly, even if it does work, it does not remove the worry; it does not relieve the fear and panic.

My friend told me that the Holy Spirit kept telling him to give it to Jesus. He said he began to realize he could take all of his worry and stress and throw it away, like trash. During this process one of his children became very sick, and he and his wife were going back and forth from the hospital to the witch doctor. Their money was gone, but most importantly they were exhausted. The weight of two worlds was on their shoulders.

“I decided one night that I did not care what anyone else thought, I was going to follow the path of Jesus.”

During the night he said he kept remembering Jesus’ words from the Bible: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Bryan McReynolds serves with MTW in Nosy Be, Madagascar.


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Give thanks for the maturing of the Sakalava church in Madagascar. Pray for the Sakalava believers who are now leading a congregation of people once steeped in ancestor worship and spirit possession.

Pray for the Sakalava in Nosy Be, Madagascar. Islanders have been hard hit by the shutdown of the tourisim industry. Many are new to faith. 

Pray for a band of young Sakalava men in Madagascar who have come to faith and are writing and recording songs from Scripture.

Pray today for Alexi and Mbotizara, new Sakalava believers in Madagascar. Pray they will grow in their faith and lead others to faith in Christ. 

Pray for women of the Mama Vao Vao sewing business in Madagascar. It's helping keep Sakalava women out of prostitution and introducing them to Christ. 

Pray for the Sakalava people of Nosy Be, Madagascar as they deal with harsh realities of death and poverty, and give thanks that many are coming to faith. 

Pray for the Church in Africa to deepen and for African believers to live holy lives in accordance with God's Word.  

Pray for missionaries adjusting to new cultures and new norms, forcing them to surrender the comforts they once considered non-negotiable. 

Pray that we would become more proficient at ministering to oral learners—those in cultures that learn best through the spoken word and storytelling.

Pray for a sewing ministry in Madagascar as it transforms into a business providing resources to a community plagued with sexual oppression.


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