Barrenness, brawls and house burning



Last night I ran out of my house to see 100 foot flames of fire raging into the night sky with the whole village watching from the airstrip. I immediately saw that the fire was coming from one of my friend’s houses. My heart dropped. I grabbed my flashlight and ran over there as fast as I could. Everyone was saying, “BJ, it’s your Nyatmwe’s (meaning, brother) house!”

Nyatmwe and another young man in the village exchanged sisters in marriage a few years ago. Nyatmwe’s sister has already given the other guy children. But, Nyatmwe and his wife haven’t been able to have children. In Wantakia, this is not related in any way to science. It is relational or spiritual. Through their worldview (their lens through which they view life), her uncles or brothers have said or done something to somehow cause this barrenness. Therefore, many times these men have to be appeased, then they will reverse the magic talk or poison. However, if the husband pays them off and nothing happens (if the wife doesn’t get pregnant), the fighting begins. The wife beatings begin.

So last night all of this came to a head—the accusations, the arguing, the family drama, the fighting, the wife beating—and this young woman had had enough. While her husband wasn’t there, she grabbed a piece of firewood out from the fireplace, walked outside, and set fire to the grass roof. Then she took off as fast as she could.

After Nyatmwe saw his house burning down with all his belongings in it, he was filled with rage. He tried to track her down. Thank God he couldn’t. He ran back to the village and immediately starting yelling at his in-laws, “What your sister just did will have consequences! I’m gonna burn your house down!” He told his sister to quickly get out of her house, because he was about to come burn it down.

So, needless to say, last night pretty dramatic. I have never seen anything like it. Some of you who have been to visit have jokingly asked us, “Are you sure these people need missionaries? They are so nice! So hospitable! So friendly!” They are all these things, but they are also without “hope and without God in the world.” Their only hope is through Christ who is our “peace” (Eph 2).

I don’t know what will result of all this. Will they take it to the local court and settle it peacefully? Will more houses be burned down? Or something even worse? I don’t know. All of this makes me see the urgency of the message even more. They need to hear God’s story. His story of redemption and hope. Forgiveness. Peace. Grace.

Keep praying for Wantakia. One day, they will be around the throne singing with us, “Worthy are you…for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation!”