Jay Wicks - Cape Town II, South Africa - Wednesday Pre-Convention Evening Meeting, November 19, 2003

The last few years I've had the privilege of labouring in West and Central Africa; it covers actually 8 different countries where there are workers labouring in two different languages. There are the French speaking workers and then the English speaking ones. It starts on the West side with Liberia, then there's the Ivory Coast and Ghana, Togo and Benin, and then Nigeria and Cameroon and the country of Chad, and each of those countries have workers. They are labouring there now!

They say that that part of the world is one of the poorest parts of the world, and I can believe it's true.  But not everyone is poor. In fact, there are some very wealthy people there, too. They just don't share!

In Ghana, that used to be called the Gold Coast, there was an incident there where, just a few years ago, one of the old kings died. They have a government with a president and a prime minister, but they also have their old kings. These are tribal kings, of course, and they have responsibility and control over the goldfields, and so they are very, very wealthy; wealthy tribes, too. Now this particular king, when he died, was so wealthy and so revered, that they say that they actually sprayed him in gold - kind of gold-plated him, you might say, when he lay in state. After he had died, a new king had to be chosen. Well, there were two in the royal line, and they both wanted to be king, but of course only one of the two would be chosen. The competition between the two, or the in-fighting actually, or the rivalry between the two became so serious, and so distasteful that is was finally decided that neither one was worthy to be chosen king, and then another one would be chosen.

Well, it happens that one of our young friends is in the line of two royal families, and it was decided that he would be chosen to be king. When they went to get him, or find him, he had disappeared! They just couldn't find him - no one knew where he was; the friends didn't know where he was, the workers didn't know where he was, no one knew where he was - he had just disappeared. Finally, they had to choose someone else.  So, they had to choose between one of those two who were fighting so much to be king in the first place. After the one was chosen, our friend came back to work, he reappeared again, he came back. He's a teacher, so he was back at school, and began work again like before. And you know what he knew, or what he understood was that he couldn't be a Ghanaian king and be a child of God. Those kings are the guardians of the old ways, and the old traditions. This boy understood and he was willing to sacrifice a natural crown to hold onto a spiritual crown; he wasn't going to let anything take that away from him.

Those old ways are actually the main religion up in our part. The old traditions, ancestor worship you might call it, those superstitions, the superstitious ways that they serve their idols, and all that sort of thing, is all very, very common - even the nominal Christian religions blend in. too - and it would seem that our folks are among the very, very few who are able to separate themselves from those old ways.

We have a friend, who lives quite a long distance; this is in Benin - she lives quite a long distance from most of the friends.  She and another lady are living up in a little village - we used to meet with them often. She told me her testimony. She was very, very much a part of the old ways, and actually she was raised in a convent. The lady folks there didn't have the privilege of going to school but little children in that part, just attended this convent, and that is where they learned about the old tribal ways, customs, culture, the medicines that they use, and that sort of thing. All the little children are marked; they have three scars on each side of their face and that is where she had her upbringing - but that type of belief and everything, it has such a, well, it is a fearful thing, and this poor lady, at the time when she met the gospel, was just overwhelmed by this feeling that someone was trying to put a spell on her, and someone was trying to destroy her with this - and so she couldn't sleep at night; she had no rest, she was just a nervous wreck, and even despairing of life.

On this particular day she was on her way to - we say in English - a witch doctor, someone who could give her some kind of remedy which could help her to ward off this terrible spirit which was troubling her. She had her little goat with her - she was going to take this and offer it to the man - and then he would give her something that would help her. And she's on her way now, and in going, she passed by the home of one of our friends, actually this friend saw her; he lives in the city about 2 hours away, but this is his home town, his home village, and oftentimes he returned there when he had a vacation or time off, and this particular time he was there.  Now he comes from the very same background as she did. He went to the same convent and when he saw Vigio coming along this particular day, he called to her to come. She came, and he asked her how it was going and she told him it wasn't going good at all. She just laid it all out, and told him all, and he gave her his testimony and then afterwards, that dear soul turned around and took her goat, and she went back home, and she told me later that, "That night, for the first time in my life I prayed to one God." She said, "I went to bed that night and I had a good night's sleep," and she also said, "When I woke up in the morning, I knew I had hold of something."

When she was asked whether she'd like to attend meetings, gospel meetings, oh yes, she would be very interested, and she and another made their choice, and like I said, they are a long way from any fellowship but it has been almost 20 years now, and those two have been meeting together faithfully every Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings. Neither of them read or write so they cannot sing the hymns; in fact they don't even speak French - it's just their native language - and as for the Bible study, they would not have any idea what a Bible study is, but they come together for fellowship, and they've hung on to this that they have found. It's precious - they've been faithful all these years; and it is precious going to meet with them.

I was in that field some years ago and we made the trip over to be with them on Sunday morning. I'm just thinking of a particular Sunday morning, when one of our friends had come up from Cotoneau to spend the weekend with us. He is the only one of our friends that has a car! He came up by car and of course we were happy to have him spend that time with us, and on Sunday morning, he's going to take us to meeting, he's going to take us over to Covey for the meeting! Well, that's pretty nice to have a ride in a private car, and that means that you get a seat all to yourself!  Usually, we take the bush-taxi and that is not so comfortable or pleasant, but anyway, that is the only way we have to get to a meeting; but now this particular day, our friend would take us in his car over to Covey for the meeting, so off we go. When we get to the village there, instead of getting down and walking in to the home like we usually do, we could just drive in! We could drive and go down right to the house there where the meeting is held. Of course the road isn't much - it's kind of one of 'those' kind, but anyway we were going now - and there were lots of people on the road, coming and going, but now on our way almost at the meeting place, who should we see but Vigio, our friend, on her way to the meeting and so we pulled up aside her there and stopped. Of course first of all she was surprised to see a car on that road, and then she saw the brothers! And then of course we opened up the door and she got in and on to meeting we went.

Well - when it came time for testimony, Vigio's eyes were just flashing, and she was so anxious to have a word, she said, "This morning I had a revelation. Sometimes I've worried when thinking about the Lord's return that He would miss us - how would He find us here up in Covey, so far, far away from all the other friends?" She said, "This morning when the brothers came, they passed by all the others and they came and picked up me!" Then she said, "And I think that is just the way it is going to be when the Lord returns - He is not going to miss any one of us!" Oh, that just touched my heart and it is so true! Because we were coming from behind so we saw her, she didn't see us. And it's true, there were hundreds of others coming and going and we wouldn't have even thought of stopping and picking up any one of them, but when we came to Vigio though, it would have been unthinkable to just keep on driving. So those dear souls, they are very precious to us, and in spite of their situations which are not so very pleasant by this world's thought - they're very, very precious to the Lord, and they do well spiritually, and it's just so encouraging to think that there's more out there like them that are feeling distressed, that are feeling their need, and maybe have never heard of this truth of God which we enjoy so much. So indeed, it is a privilege to give our lives in those places in search of those who are in search of God.

** Jay Wicks is a worker in South Africa.