Denis's Story

Deborah Jones, who labors in West Africa, shared with us the story of a man named Denis (pronounced Denny) from Benin. Denis worked as a carpenter at the docks, but he had another "profession" for which he was far better known. Denis was a sorcerer, a witchdoctor. Out of all Africa, Denis' country is the strongest in witchcraft, his city the capital of witchcraft, and Denis was the greatest of the sorcerers. When Denis was born, a midwife was present; later the witchdoctor came to see the baby and "bless" it. At this time, it was proclaimed that this child was destined to become a witchdoctor. Traditionally, this is the right of the midwife and the witchdoctor, the parents having no say in the matter. It is then the parents' duty to take their little boy or girl at age 3 or 4 to the witchdoctors' convent, where they are raised until their teens by the witches and witchdoctors and trained in all the secrets of sorcery and black magic. 
As a great witchdoctor, Denis was feared by everyone...everyone, he noticed, but three men he worked with. These men would eat lunch together, then read their Bibles together. One day Denis approached them and asked what they were doing. "We're reading the Book of God." "God? You mean there's another god beside the ones we worship?" "Yes. The Almighty God." "Oh. Tell me about him." "We won't tell you about him, but you can come to meetings like we go to and learn about Him." 
The following Sunday evening, the sister workers noticed a little man sitting in the back row of benches in the open courtyard where gospel meetings were held. He sat bowed over, his head down... and immediately after meeting, he left. Two days later, this man appeared at their bach with an interpreter. "I was at your meeting Sunday night." "Yes, we noticed you. We're sorry we didn't get a chance to greet you." Then Denis said, "In that meeting I felt a power greater than any power I've ever felt before...greater than any power I possess. As I sat there, I felt myself become smaller and smaller... until I realized I was nobody and had nothing." He told how after the meeting he went to the home where he lived alone, having sent his wife and children away ("They're no good.") He went to the room where he kept all his idols and grigri (charms), carried the grigri outside and started burning them. This attracted a crowd of neighbors, who begged him not to destroy them. "Papa, Papa, don't do that. Give it to me." "No. If it's not good for me, it's not good for you." Next he took all the idols outside and broke them to bits. "And they didn't even cry out. They are dead." Now he had only one grigri left in his room, a special one used only by witchdoctors...a vial of poisons so deadly that they can be touched in only one spot. Handling them any other way, the person will die. He, as a witchdoctor, was trained in the way it was to be handled. Very carefully, he picked it up, carried it outside and to a nearby stream, with the people following (no one asked for that one). He dropped it into the stream and watched it vanish. 
"And now, my sisters, I have a problem. When the other witchdoctors find out what I've done, they will kill me. I have gotten rid of all my powers; I'm no longer a witchdoctor. I need the power of the Almighty God. Tell me what to do." "You said that in that meeting you felt a greater power than you'd ever known." "Yes." "If you come to shelter under the power of that God, you have nothing to fear. It is a power greater than any you possessed, and you were greater than the other witchdoctors." "Oh...yes!" And with that he went away. 
A couple of days later, Denis appeared at the bach again. "My sisters, I have a problem. In that meeting, I saw many beautiful women. I want one of them." (Deborah said she thought his head was down...but his eyes must have been rolling! She also said that the West African way is very direct: you want something and you go after it.) They asked him again about his wife and children. "Yes.. but they're no good. I sent them away." Then they told him, "In the meeting we teach about the Almighty God. That God has a book, and we teach from that book. In that book it talks about forgiveness and reconciliation. Could you find it in your heart to forgive your wife for whatever it was that caused you to send her away? Could you call her back home and be reconciled with her? It might be she will want to come to these meetings too." "Oh...yes." Again he went away satisfied... and the next Sunday night, there he came to meeting with his wife and six children! 
After a few months of meetings, Denis made his choice. Some time after that, his wife came to the sisters' bach and told them she wanted to make hers. Afraid she would profess just because he had, or because he had commanded her to do so, they questioned her, "Why do you want to make your choice? What will it benefit you?" She told them how her husband had sent her and the children away to her home village; when he sent a message to return to him, she didn't want to. She knew what a violent man he was, and they all feared him. He had beat her and beat the children. (When an African man beats his wife, he ties her hand and foot with cords, kicks her to the ground, then beats with a whip till blood runs, the woman screaming and begging for mercy. Eventually someone hears and comes to intercede. Only then will he stop the beating.) Her relatives told her she must return to her husband. "He has paid the price. You are his. You must go." So she returned. To her surprise, when she reached the house, the front yard was swept...a woman's job. It was quiet. Denis came to the door, and instead of slapping her, and screaming curses at her, he quietly asked her to come in. Inside the house, he pulled out a chair and asked her to sit down. Usually an African man sits and the woman serve him. Then he asked her and the children to go to the idol room. This room had always been locked, everyone…but Denis forbidden access to it. She didn't know what they'd find... perhaps he meant to sacrifice them. When they entered the room, to her surprise, it was empty! "Now...come, and I will tell you what has happened to me," Denis invited. 
He told his family about the meeting he had gone to (one!), the power he had felt, and what he had done. "I am no longer a witchdoctor. I have destroyed all my idols and grigri, and they will never be in this house again. None of you are to ever bring one into my house." Then he said to his wife, "I called you back to tell you I forgive you and ask you if you would be reconciled to me again and go to these meetings with me." Her reply? "Yes!" 
Then she said to the sisters, "My husband, is a good husband to me now; he is gentle." (This is something an African wife never says!) "He loves the children, and they love him. We have peace in our home. I want to be a good wife to my husband, and I know I need this power to be that kind of wife. We have peace in our home; but if I make my choice, we will have more peace. I want to contribute to that peace." So she professed.... 
Not long after Denis professed, he came to the sisters again. "My sisters, I have a problem. The children you have met are not all of my children. I have another, my oldest son. He was a rebel, and I sent him away. The other day, I saw my son on the street. He fell down at my feet and begged my forgiveness. 'Papa, please forgive me. I am sorry, for all the trouble I've caused you. I am tired of the life I am leading, and I want to come home.' My problem is this: When I sent my son away, I sent him with a curse. The curse was: 'The day you return to this house and set your foot across the threshold of this door, you will die.' When I curse a man, he is cursed. What can I do? Can you tell me how to break a curse?" 
Deborah said they couldn't tell him how to break a curse, but they could tell him how to bless. "Since you've come to shelter under the power of God, He has blessed you. These blessings are from above. Go now and bless your son with the blessings from above, for they are more powerful than any curse a man could put on another man." Again he went away satisfied...and the next Sunday night appeared at the meeting with a young man at his side. This son eventually professed, but when his father sent him to another country to find work, he again fell into wrong company and returned to his old way of life, ending up in prison. Denis told about his last visit with his son. "I have tried to teach you, the servants of God have tried to teach you, and God Himself has tried to teach you...but you wouldn't listen. The world is a hard teacher, but now the world will teach you." 
Denis loves this truth, having known the depth of evil in this world. He said that Satan and God both ask the same...our best. But when we give it to Satan, it brings death, and all leads to a curse. When we give it to God, it brings greater life, and all leads to blessing. 
Steve Peirson referred to this man in his June 5th letter: "It seemed a special privilege to be in the home recently of Denis, the former witchdoctor. As we visited... Denis commented on how many have responded to the Gospel in Benin, ... and yet our country hasn't yet produced a messenger." It is his fervent prayer that God could send forth a messenger from his home, and he said, "We have a saying in our language that the cooking pot that has become blackest can still produce the whitest "akassa" (white corn dough). Only the Lord knows just how black my life has been with sin, but I still pray that He can send forth a life that is pure and clean from within my home." And then he broke down and wept....