Forgiveness in a Tribal Group

Posted on Posted in Mixed Nuts

By Norm Weatherhead

“While living in our remote village in Papua New Guinea, a child suddenly died due to cerebral malaria.  The natural response for the animistic tribal people was to attribute the death to evil spirits and black magic practices.  The father of the child accused an older man in the village of being a sorcerer and set out to kill him with his axe.  The old man ran off into the jungle until he had been promised that a village court session would decide if he was a sorcerer or not.

At the court session, witnesses spoke up about personal grievances they had with the old man’s family group which led to mistrust which could be enough to accuse him of sorcery.  Nothing substantial was brought forward, but the meeting kept going on with both sides arguing.  Finally, I asked if I might be allowed to speak.

I reminded everyone that when the child was sick, he was brought to our mission house and we (plus some young interns with us) kept a prayer vigil over the boy for the next few days until he died.  We had also sent messages to our mission office by radio, and they sent out a prayer request to people around the world via email.

So I told them that the child was under God’s protection during the sickness, and even after death was in God’s care.  So I challenged them to consider that no evil force in this world could be stronger than the hand of God, even in death.  I left the meeting soon after this as both sides considered what I had said.  And about 20 minutes later an elder came to my house and told me that both the old man and the father had shook hands.  They forgave each other.  And he finished by saying, “It was because of you and all your people around the world praying, that these men could come to the point of forgiveness.”  I still am amazed at what God can do when we pray and put the situation in His hands.”

Norm is a Bible translator and consultant based in North America.

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