An elderly woman collapsed while out in the bush. She was found many hours later, severely burned by the searing sun. The family took her to a hospital, where staff said they couldn’t help her. The family then took her to a local church, where she received treatment and prayer. There was no improvement. She was taken back to her village so a traditional healer could perform a ceremony for her. Two goats were sacrificed, and the healer determined that the woman was being punished by the ancestors.
According to Lutheran Bible Translators’ missionary Tim Beckendorf, this is not a unique method of dealing with hardship among the Khwe people of northern Botswana. “When someone has troubles or needs help, they try traditional healers, ‘modern’ healers such as clinics and hospitals, or they may try a church. Not necessarily in that order.”
Perhaps one of the most difficult things we need to do as Christians is to learn to trust in God. It’s hard to give up control. We like to think we have influence over people and events that are really beyond our scope. Think how much more difficult this is for those raised in a society that believes in omens, fetishes, and witchcraft. For those who spent a lifetime convinced they can be harmed by the malevolence of their neighbors or affected by the whims of the spirit world, placing their sole trust in God takes faith and courage.
“Our culture is dominated by the ancestors who bless us or curse us,” commented a Khwe man. “As Christians now we must not anymore go to the traditional healers who communicate with the ancestors to bring healing. On Sunday people are Christian but then they go back to the village and behave like non-believers, still going to the traditional healers. This must change!”
Things are changing as translated portions of Scripture become available in Khwe communities. Those who previously had no use for church are attending services, hearing and understanding God’s Word for the first time. Audio Scripture is reaching people in remote areas. There is a growing interest in literacy. The Khwe are slowly coming into a Christian relationship with God.
It’s hard to deviate from tradition, especially if you think your health and wellbeing—perhaps your very life—depends on it. For those newly come to faith it is an everyday struggle to break with the past and embrace Jesus Christ as the one true all-powerful Lord, our protector, healer, guide, provider. Click here to learn how you can pray for the Khwe and other language communities as they begin their faith journeys.