The God of Pygmies
on the visit to the Central African Republic
13-28 April 2000, by Rob Reeve,
Centre Pour Les Nations, Thumieres, France
The build up to this trip held a number of unanswered questions for me. My own identity and future role in C.A.R.? After several years of visits I did not want to end up in a routine. Had the 'mission movement' "Nations En Marche" really been established in the nation? Had God truly sown this 'little seed' so that it may indeed grow into a large tree providing shelter for many? There were encouragements and set-backs. It was wonderful to welcome our first Central African worker into the Chateau Blanc team - Maguy and her french-basque husband Jean and little girl Elianaï. Their arrival brought a fresh impetus of prayer for the vision of "Nations En Marche" and the Central African Republic as well as being a great personal blessing to myself and Sylviane. They were unable to join me on the trip this year but gave much prayer back up and are preparing for a future trip.
A Scottish team member for the trip unfortunately had to pull out due to serious illness I had the privilege of being able to travel with a Swiss man Philippe Monod, who used to head up the French mission "La Porte Ouverte". He had originally pioneered the work amongst the Pygmies of Central African republic where he had spent 20 years of his life. We were sharing some of the ministry times. In the month leading up to the trip I had the conviction that I should write up in French all the 'revelation' God had given over the years for "mission building" in CAR. It would be a tool for the Polytechnic Anatole and the "Nations En Marche' team are launching in October. Sylviane helped type it all up. I ended up with a 100 page A4 document of book proportions! In our last 'prayer day' before the trip we sensed much warfare and the beginnings of breakthrough.
Through prophetic prayer we overheard the following, "I am the God of Pygmies and Presidents." This brought release and encouragement in praying for the "destiny" of C.A.R.. Armed with this promise and several teaching packs plus the originals, I left for Charles de Gaulle airport where I was to rendez-vous with Philippe Monod. Phlippe's plane from Switzerland was late so I decided to check-in anyway. Imagine my dismay when the lady at the desk kindly informed me that my passport was out of date! There was no way they would let me travel without a valid passport! I felt so stupid!
I then decided to get all the books and manuals I was carrying out of my bag to pass on to Philippe when he arrived. "At least they'll be able to arrive" I thought. As I opened my bag I saw clothes that were not mine. It slowly dawned on me. By mistake I had taken the wrong bag from the train! My bag, with the precious cargo of manuals, was probably lost somewhere in Lyon while I had the clothes of some unfortunate holidaymaker! It was about 11.30 p.m. My ticket was also non-refundable! I was informed that because of the delay of Philippe's flight that he had been "embarked" directly from the runway so I couldn't even get a message to him. Everything was closed. I began to feel depressed. I wandered into a vacant waiting room to share the floor space with a few lonely, homeless people. I felt so useless! The enemy shouted into my ear, "That's the end for you! God's confirming He doesn't want you in C.A.R.!" He mocked the word about the Pygmies and Presidents. "That's a joke now!... An impossibility..." he seemed to say. A host of other "failures" seemed to crowd in on me and I hit rock bottom. I just laid on the floor and cried out to the Lord!
It was mid night. As the hours passed I felt the Lord gently take hold of my heart. He lifted me out of the pit and raised me to a place of hope and faith. "Don't worry"... "I'll take care of everything..." He seemed to say. As it says in Genesis, "There was evening, there was morning", God always takes us from darkness to light, to new beginnings. And God did take care of everything. He led me to an incredibly helpful railway assistant. She did so much more than duty and phoned around to trace the missing bag, which they found in Lyon. Usually I would have had to wait and pay the costs of re-transportation but she arranged for the bag to be shipped back on the next train to C.D.G. without cost! It would be here by ten o'clock! Then there was the passport problem. I had two hours to get from the airport to the Swiss consulate in Paris (my passport's Swiss) to see if they would help. It took ages to get there but wonderfully they prolonged my passport in fifteen minutes! And the ticket... Having got my bag and passport sorted I went to Air France. For an extra £50 they were able to put me on another departure for Bangui (capital of C.A.R.) for the Saturday night. (My original flight was for Thursday night.) I would only lose 2 days. In the space of 3 hours, God has worked everything out in a most miraculous way.
As I boarded the flight on Saturday night I felt it was "Resurrection Day!" Imagine my delight on arriving in Bangui on Sunday morning to discover that the congress actually began Monday for a week and not over the week-end as I had wrongly assumed. I had lost nothing by the delay! After the morning service at "Fondation Jerusalem" we made 'hectic' preparations to travel to the Pygmy conference which was to be held in the equatorial forest some 3 hours from Bangui. For the last year the N.E.M. team have been working on establishing an autonomous indigenous outreach to the unreached Pygmy peoples in the area, as well as co-ordinate the work already established among the people by other denominations and missions. The convention and the mission work is totally funded by the Africans themselves. This was the first time such a self-funded conference has ever happened in C.A.R. The delegates either walked or took precarious bush taxies to the conference. About 150 folk were regular attendees at meetings with a total of 360 being present.
The convention split between the Pygmy peoples themselves and those seeking to work amongst them. It was encouraging to see the site the African missionaries have set up, all built by hand from natural resources costing practically nothing. Several 'mud huts' and a meeting hall made up the complex. This was probably as far as you could get from the Western mission convention. (Kings Park -eat your heart out!) Various Pygmy clans gathered around their fires as 'delegates' arrived from different areas of C.A.R. I'd brought with me a 'manual' tape player equipped with testimonies in the 'Baka' Pygmy dialect. Although the language wasn't the same as theirs it was a great "ice breaker" and the Pygmy families had great fun guessing where the guy on the tape was from. As usual the millions of mosquitos, flys and other creepy crawlies also turned up for the convention no doubt inspired by the promise of fresh "white" blood, a change from the usual routine of Pygmy corpuscles.
The congress began with an all night prayer meeting! Each delegation took an hour, with every session trying to outdo the others in noise and passion. I don't think there was much hope of sleep for those who retired to bed! Monday began at 5 a.m. with the morning prayer meeting of one hour (night and day tend to blend in such an environment!). A couple of hours was given to breakfast and wash (best described as "hole and bowl") before beginning the first service at 8. Various meetings and workshops took us to 12 am when a delicious meal of 'boule' and 'coco' (green weed) was served. Siesta till 3 when proceedings resumed till 5.30. Another dose of 'boule' before an evening session in Pygmy style including testimony and dancing around the fire. Needless to say all this together made up a beautiful symphony of worship to God and the week among the Pygmies was truly a glimpse of heaven on earth. A small corner of paradise (bar the mossies!)
A few highlights. The centre is led by a great guy called Benjamin Lessy. He explained that in January one of the Pygmy ladies died. A famous witch doctor (feticheur) proclaimed that by his spells he would raise the lady back to life. It was all bluff and he failed. Benjamin felt that this was now an opportunity to challenge them that God could raise the dead. He moved out in faith and prayed over the lady asking God to bring her back to life. The Lord heard his prayer and resurrected the lady! Another Pygmy man testified that he had come to the Lord because of the kindness the missionary team had shown him. He had found a wild-boar in his animal trap. He thought it was dead by as he touched the animal it was very much alive and seriously injured him before escaping. He lay bleeding in the forest. Maggots began to eat away at his wounds. The Pygmy's wife alerted the mission team who went out to look for him. By the grace of God they found him and nursed him back to health. He would have died without their intervention.
Another Pygmy man testified with his son. A few months back his son had broken his leg. The Pygmies have no resources to care for such things and usually the child ends up crippled. However the team were able to send the boy to hospital in Bangui where he was well cared for. He can now walk perfectly. The Pygmies were the earliest inhabitants of Africa. There is something very special about them. From Matthew 25, which speaks of honouring "the least (or smallest) of these brothers of mine," we sensed that the pygmy people offered some kind of REDEMPTIVE OPPORTUNITY (or condemnation!) for the Central African Nations. Their very VULNERABILITY was an opportunity for blessing or curse. As we worshipped together it became apparent that the Bantu people of Central Africa had badly treated the Pygmies and needed to put things right. A number of folks representing the various Bantu clans, knelt in tears as they confessed their own sins and the sins of their fathers towards this people. Something seemed to 'break' in the heavenly realms because of these prayers. The Pygmy worship took on a new dimension and the songs of this "particular" people seemed to pour blessing and healing afresh on the land.
Over the next days the presence of the Lord was very real. He wanted to lead the nation into a measure of greater healing. At the end of one powerful meeting, unbeknown to many of us previously, a young man stood up. He introduced himself, "My name is Jean-Serge Bokassa, the son of the former Emperor of C.A.R." He explained a dream the Lord had given him. He had seen folks wanting to crown his father. However the crown, although sparkling, was fake gold. His father's reign had 'ruined' the nation and been violent and repressive. He explained how difficult it was for him. He wanted to honour the memory of his father (his farther was himself an orphan after witnessing the murder of his own father - whipped to death by the colonial rubber barons! He had also seen his mother hang herself.) Serge, the son, wanted to ask forgiveness for all the wrongs and evil perpetrated by his farther and family.
The atmosphere was electric. Then gradually, as the Lord led, representatives from each tribal group stood up and forgave - hugging Jean-Serge and exchanging prayers. One man explained that he was the actual President's cousin, representing the Patassé clan which was traditionally divided with Bokassa's. The two men embraced weeping forgiving past hurts. Another was struggling to come forward. He finally managed to stand in front of Serge. "Your father killed my father" he wept. Some supernatural force at work gave him the strength to forgive. As he embraced Serge the Holy Spirit came down on both men sending them to the floor. Everyone in the hut was touched and in tears. It was a very profound moment. A brother from Cameroon felt led to annoint the very soil with oil as a sign of the deep healing that the Lord had done through the prayers of reconciliation. As this was going on a mighty thunder storm tore open the heavens and the rain came pouring down. It was a moving, majestic moment. Words alone do not do the scene justice. As the rain washed the land I was reminded of the prophetic word God had spoken. "I am the God of Pygmies and Presidents." I felt so privileged to have had some part in it all.
Anything that followed could only be an anti-climax. The weekend missions conference planned in Bangui was cancelled due to various confusions "à l'africaine". This was actually a real blessing for me as I had managed to pick up malaria. I was able to spend real quality time with the key Nations Leaders. It was encouraging to see the new centre - a lovely spacious house in the "Cattin" area of Bangui, which will be the headquarters for the Polytechnique launched this October. Cyriaque will soon be moving to Benin and Faustin Sambollit to Burkina Faso. Although a blow to Anatole (who needs more collaborators) these moves will expand the vision of "Nations en Marche" into these nations.
Key contacts with quality men from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo also hold forth hope of future expansion. Tchad also beckons along with Cameroon, which Anatole has already set up. It was good to pray with Pastor Yerima who is seriously thinking of giving up his post as President of the Co-Operation church to concentrate more on prayer and intercession. He is so committed to the "Nations En Marche" vision.
On a more tragic note Anatole lost two family members during the time. Firstly his brother's first son died of a long term illness and on the last day of my trip his cousin's first born son died only several month's old. They buried him in Anatole's garden. One little Central African who will not have a major say in the country's future development. God knows all about 'first born' sons dying and my prayer is that some 'hidden' destiny will be at work for the good through these losses.
Business for mission ventures are underway concerning agriculture and taxi services. I am looking into shipping Toyotas over from Brussels. In spite of all the political, social and spiritual challenges, there is much hope. I enjoyed meeting up with Claude and Jeannine Pettmann as well. Claude is well on with his pioneer mission school in the North, Ndele. Along with 3 other denominations they will be training folk to reach out to the unreached Zunga Muslims.
Yours in Jesus,
Robert Reeve, T humeries, France,
May 6th, 2000
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