When a Witch Doctor Meets Jesus
Mark and Sidney Launder are living and ministering in a poor neighborhood in Soddo Ethiopia. This story, shared by Sidney displays the personal God who loves us all and graciously transforms us.
The story of Gopeeleo is one of magnificent change and a stunning picture of what it means to be a new creation in Jesus Christ.
It was 10 years ago that Gopeeleo came to this same compound where Mark and I now live. He came with a two-foot machete in his hand, walked up to our pastor friend, Tesfi, and said, “Why did you bring Jesus to this place? I keep hearing Jesus in my ears—I am going to kill you!”
The night before Gopeeleo’s visit, Tesfi had been praying and asking God to touch the people on this hill—Tesfi lived here for seven years amongst the thieves and drunks. Although Gopeeeleo had once lived in town, he moved out here to Otonna to get away from some evangelists that had moved into his old neighborhood. Ha! I smiled as he recounted the last time he stood on this same ground, despising even the Name of Jesus.
Now that same angry man is a believer, and he’s laid his machete down.
Gopeeleo arrived at our home with the sunrise. 6:30 a.m.
His eyes grew big as he came into our garden to be greeted by our dikdik, Tazo (smallest member of the antelope family). Gopeeleo stared in amazement and couldn’t believe Tazo was so friendly (dikdiks are usually eaten by Ethiopians whenever they can catch them). I told him Tazo was our dog, which made him smile. Tesfi, the praying pastor, was also with us as we sat down to talk about Gopeeleo’s new life in Christ.
Gopeeleo was so anxious to tell us how different he feels, evidenced by his sparkling eyes and the peace we now felt in his presence. We prayed over him as he stretched out his hands, sang songs to God and proclaimed his love for Jesus.
He is going to church with us tomorrow, and told us he wants to be clean physically as well as spiritually. He had already cut off his long grey dreadlocks (symbolic of his old craft) and asked for a razor to shave off his beard. Then Tesfi and I cut off his leather necklace (which was a symbol of worship to Mary). When he took off his purple turban (symbolic witchdoctor hat), Mark gave him the wool cap he wore on his climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Gopeeleo was delighted to have this.
These gestures were all physical aspects of repentance for him. He no longer wanted to be known by his old clothes or appearance. So later that day, Tesfi and I went to the open air market and bought him two pairs of pants, two shirts, a coat, some socks and shoes. His face lit up when he tried on his new clothes! He said “I feel like I have had a new birth…much better than the first one! Bravo! Bravo!” He is so excited about going to church with us tomorrow.
This is a new beginning for him in every way. As of today, he is done with selling tobacco, alcohol and “traditional medicine” (witchcraft) as well. He told us he does not want to make God angry, because God might pick him up and throw him across a field. I cringed inwardly, as I knew this had happened to him before when he was serving demonic spirits. It will take time for Gopeeleo to learn the love and gentleness of the one true God. This will all be a process.
Now he is wondering how he will provide for his family. He accepted Christ knowing that he would have no means to take care of them for awhile, but Mark and I have a couple of ideas for new work. If we can purchase a few donkeys for him, he can haul water (which is at a premium right now). It costs about $80 to a $100 per donkey.
Pray and ask the Lord if you would want to help him in this way. The day he gave his heart to Jesus, he told us how the demons were angry at him and killed his only donkey. His journey towards God has been full of intense spiritual battles.
The neighbors have been finding out that Gopeeleo has given his heart to Christ, and they are rejoicing! Some fall to the ground in thanksgiving. It is amazing to watch their responses. We will write you again soon and share about his first time at church.
Well dear friends, I cannot thank you enough for all your prayers God is FAITHFUL!
Amen and Amen.
Mark & Sidney Launder