Editorial

Last year, in the remote indigenous village of Capitee in the rainforest of Panama, a group of forty-five youth became demonized in a short period of time, leaving the village in a massive crisis.

Living Hope

Living Hope

Last year, in the remote indigenous village of Capitee in the rainforest of Panama, a group of forty-five youth became demonized in a short period of time, leaving the village in a massive crisis. The youth caused havoc at school, leading village elders to close the school’s doors temporarily. Teachers, parents and the elders were desperate for a solution. They invited social workers from the capital to come and help, but they soon left frustrated. A Catholic priest was brought in to perform exorcisms, which was also unsuccessful. Finally, the youth were bussed to Panama City where they met with the Catholic Bishop, but even his holy water and rituals were ineffective. The village elders lost hope.

In previous years, the village of Capitee, home to the Wounaan indigenous people, had been resistant to the Gospel and would not allow our workers in, not even for community development or youth ministry projects. But when our missionary in Panama, Einer Zuluaga, heard about the crisis, he brought together the leaders of our MB conference of churches there to seek God for counsel. In prayer, they felt prompted to equip a team of wise and discerning Wounaan church leaders to visit the village and discern the cause of this demonization. They believed that the Lord would then show them what to do. After they arrived into the village, the Wounaan church leaders took their time to visit with the youth individually, then with their parents and teachers. As they were told about the rituals that the young people were practicing, the leaders explained the seriousness and spiritual consequences of their actions. The Holy Spirit brought conviction and, one by one, the youth repented and were delivered. A spiritual revival broke out in the village as the youth testified to the blood of Jesus and his power over darkness. In turn, the revival spread as the youth began visiting other villages to share their testimonies. Soon afterward, Einer invited the youth of Capitee to send a designated leader to attend the discipleship training school that Einer and his wife, Girlesa, were hosting on their property. The youth chose a young man named Oberlin.

One evening, as Oberlin and Einer went for a walk together, Oberlin asked Einer, “Do you know who I am?” Einer responded, “What do you mean?” Oberlin confessed, “I am responsible for the crisis in Capitee.” Then he explained how he had discovered the satanic rituals online, downloaded them, and proceeded to lead the other youth into bondage. But Oberlin then declared, “Before I brought darkness to my village, but now God is using me to bring salvation and hope to my people.”

No matter how dark it gets in our world, we are never without hope. Testimonies like this remind us of the power of Jesus to set people free no matter how desperate their situation appears. All over the world today, Jesus is forging overcomers in the face of seemingly hopeless circumstances.

How are we living out God’s story of hope today?

Burundi

In Burundi, recent political instability and violence has driven thousands to flee the country (see page 10 for a story from our team leaders). Political assassinations are now a regular occurrence there. But in the midst of this environment of fear and tension, our team is standing in hope and investing in holistic community transformation. They are supporting peace and reconciliation meetings between Christians from various tribes who know Jesus as the Prince of Peace. They are overcoming the darkness with Christ’s light.

Whatever insecurities we face, if we have Jesus we can agree with the writer of Hebrews and say, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

Syria

The Syrian refugee crisis has now grabbed the attention of the worldwide media. This past summer, short-term teams serving with our ACTION program, led children’s ministry programs in refugee camps near the Syrian border. One refugee, formerly an officer in the Syrian army who fled the country with his family, grabbed our team leader as he was walking by and spoke the only two words in English that he knew, “Thank you.” Then he found a translator and shared his miraculous story of survival. He took our worker’s hand and put it on the bullet hole in his neck and said, “I should have died in the war.” He went on to describe the hopelessness that he and his family face as refugees. “But you are giving us hope,” he said to our worker about the team that had come to serve them in the camp. “You are showing us that we are not alone, that someone cares.”

In this issue of Witness, we want to encourage you with stories of hope. The Gospel continues to transform lives around the world today. Whatever challenges you face, be encouraged that a life of love will cause others to “ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

By Randy Friesen