“Don’t worry, Junior,” he nudged his little boy. “Go ahead and greet uncle. He will not give you groundnuts again!”
My head whirled, trying to make sense of what this brother in Christ was saying. I was completely lost, trying not to think what I thought I should be thinking that he thought.
Then, we went to their church the next day. They had invited us to begin attending their church when we moved into the area. And we thought we loved it. (Until…)
My wife and I sat in front. As soon as the pastor mounted the pulpit, he read Galatians 3:1: “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you…”
Then he began: “Some of you here bewitch others. Spiritual enemies! You give others ‘spiritual’ groundnuts to harm them! God will fight you…!”
Well, I kind of started the story from the middle. Its one exciting piece of my life’s many stories. Let me back up a bit:
We moved to Ibadan in 1996, just a few months after our wedding in December 1995. The move was occasioned by my postgraduate studies at the University of Ibadan. We made friends quickly in the neighborhood. I’m a born connector. And we were particularly excited to meet this lovely Christian family who had reached out to us. Everything was storybook exciting. (Until…)
Things were extremely difficult, financially, at the time. So, we occasionally received lifeline from relatives who would visit with foodstuff and farm goodies. On one of those occasions, my wife’s sister visited and brought, among other food items, fresh groundnuts. Joyfully, in keeping with our family tradition, we shared these items with our neighbors. We cooked and ate much of it, as you would imagine.
For some reason, this particular family … I still do not know what happened … the time we shared the groundnuts happened to be just when they decided to fall sick! And the immediate linkage was… well, you guessed it … the groundnuts! We had used the groundnuts to attack their family by witchcraft!
It was during the weekend we went to visit them and I reached out to his little son that the conversation you read earlier ensued.
Trust died. Freedom to relate died with it. They fizzled out of our lives till today. Thankfully.
At another time, in my younger days, I drove through a narrow roadside fruit and vegetable market in a certain village. I had the humungous and intimidating brand new SUV – Nissan Armada. As carefully and slowly as I drove, I still knocked down an old woman’s tray of mango fruits.
I felt so saddened to have done this. These people were dirt poor. That tray of mangoes could have been the woman’s only chance to feed her family. The total worth of her merchandise could have been no more than N20-40 (about 25-50 cents at the time).
I parked the car and walked back. I wanted to pay her for all the mangoes in her tray. I brought out some cash and offered the woman but I was not ready for what happened next! She fled from me, shouting, “I cannot take your money o! You want to use me for money rituals! God forbid! I cannot take your money o! Get away from me, money ritualist!”
I was terribly embarrassed. And the fact that no one else came to my rescue or tried to persuade the woman to take the money meant that the crowd also believed what she believed.
So for me, that sad day began… when I can no longer share freely with neighbors unless the Lord literally forces me. You never know what coincidences would occur – and your act of kindness becomes witchcraft.
This next one is more recent, and I’m done:
You see, I am not a fan of fried rice and chicken. I hardly touch chicken unless it is the local free-range. So, about three weeks ago, at an event I facilitated, I was offered a take-away pack of fried rice and chicken. I did not eat it but I did not want to waste it either. I thought that someone – maybe one of the many hungry gatemen in the neighborhood – might need it.
When I drove into the estate, fear of being accused of bewitching did not allow me to give it to anyone. Who did this to us, Africa?
My wife, not a fan of fried rice either, kept the expensive food in the fridge, wondering who might want it. Story short, after a couple of days, she tossed the pack into the trash bin.
What’s the point?
Last Friday, as my wife and I took our morning walk within the neighborhood, we wondered, house after house, who the people behind the walls were and what they looked like. We’ve been in this gated estate for eleven years but we have no idea who our next door neighbor is. They do not know us either.
The worst is, you can’t even reach out to know your neighbors if you wanted to. The no-nonsense Rottweilers at some gates, the protocols, the what’s-your-business-pokenosing-around-here look you’ll get… you might as well face your own life. You already have enough hustle.
Now, I could meet these “neighbors” at London Heathrow, Johannesburg’s Oliver Thambo or New York’s JFK and have no idea that they lived right next to me in the estate!
This is the sad narrative of modern humanity, modern communities, families, and local churches. Broken koinonia. Broken social connections. Zero bonding.
One beautiful, very educated, single lady that I know is living like a tramp. Their retired father has houses and land. Her brothers are very well to do. But she is totally abandoned. I can’t describe it to you … it’s pathetic! Her own brothers physically threw her things out of their father’s house – that they want to rent it out!
Breakdown of relationships in families is scary! Many siblings are not in talking terms! I was shocked when I met a guy who hadn’t spoken to his brother in four years – and they’re all in the same Lagos! There was nothing to discus, he said.
Some siblings are immersed in deadly court battles over sharing their dead parents’ estate. I still can’t figure how people who came out from the same womb, sucked the same breast, ate from the same kitchen, could harbor such deadly malice against themselves! And many of them are church-goers!
A friend of mine in Abuja narrated how his own blood brother would visit his home and refuse to eat in the house – for fear of being “poisoned” or used for rituals by his brother.
As you may have already noticed, the enemy-based fall-and-die spirituality of today’s churches have not helped matters. In every corner, we have prophets, pastors and “men of god” whose only message is “Someone is after your life! Your uncle wants to kill you!”
The degree of suffering in the world today is the degree of our human disconnectedness. Man was never designed to be just self focused. We were designed to thrive by bearing one another’s burden. Too many people are left bearing their burden alone – sickness, poverty, depression, family troubles, failure.
The law of Christ is fulfilled ONLY when we bear one another’s burden. If this is not happening in your family, Christ isn’t in it. If it is not happening in your community or local church, Jesus isn’t there.
Humanity’s problem is not lack of technology. It’s not politics, economy, global warming, weather events, wars, threats of nuclear war, the Middle East, religion, or terrorism. ALL of humanity’s problems have one root: broken fellowship. Not loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Not bearing one another’s burden.
The “Parable of the Good Samaritan” remains the pillar of transformation for any person, family, community, local church or nation. Its message will continue to haunt the world burdened by cruelty, selfishness and greed.
There are millions of people going through hell who never should have if only their family, community or church reached out to them.
Are you one of them? I’m praying for you…today.
Be healthy, wealthy and wise!