How the Rain Came

The Bemba tribe in Central Africa had been waiting for rain for over six months. The fields were prepared for sowing, but there was no rain. The land was so dry that the earth had large cracks in it. It was so hard that you could break your leg if you had the misfortune to fall into such a crack. In times of drought, people used to try to take prisoners from the enemy tribe of Vasanga, who were then sacrificed to the spirits. Now they tried to conjure up the longed-for rain by sacrificing goats, sheep, chickens, and other animals. But they were often unsuccessful. It was the same this time.

The chief, Mwashya, went to see his friend, the sorcerer, to discuss the matter with him. He told the tribesmen to bring him a few goats, sheep, or chickens. He wanted to ask the spirits to show him, by examining the animals’ entrails, why the sky was not giving rain. Someone had to be at fault.

A few of the tribespeople were appointed to bring the sacrificial animals. There was no refusal. It would only invite more misfortune for the tribe. What the sorcerer asked for happened, and a few days later he ordered the people to brew beer and invite people to the sacrificial feast. The spirits had shown him who was to blame for the lack of rain.

In Mwashya – as the village was called, after the name of the chief – we had a small group of Christians, a zealous missionary congregation. Our believing friends were also suffering greatly from the drought, which had now been going on for months. They prayed incessantly to the God of heaven and earth, whom they called their Father in Christ, to send them the much-needed rain so they could sow and reap.

The day appointed by the sorcerer approached. The whole village had gathered to witness the solemn act – albeit with inner trepidation – and to punish the culprit or culprits. Only our group of Christians stayed away.

Wearing ceremonial jewelry, his face and chest tattooed with white chalk, his whole body rubbed with oil, causing him to emanate an acrid smell, and his head covered with the fur of a leopard’s head, the sorcerer appeared before the assembled tribe. His dance began with small jumps and contorted limbs, then the movements became wilder and faster until he finally fell like lightning in religious ecstasy and lay as if dead on the ground.

The audience knew: Now the spirit was speaking to him. Soon they would hear who was to blame for all the misery. After a while, the magician rose, called his assistant, and sat down. The assistant brought the first sacrificial animal. It was slaughtered. After the sorcerer has rummaged around in the entrails for a while as if looking for something specific, he jumped up, pointed to a piece, and then gave his verdict: “It is the Christians who are stopping the rain! They neglect sacrifices and prayers to the spirits of the dead; that’s why the rain doesn’t come. But the spirits demand sacrifices.”

Now it was getting serious for our friends. They heard the verdict. Special prayer meetings were arranged. They pleaded with God; they asked for rain – but the rain did not come. The day appointed by the council drew nearer. It arrived, but the rain still hadn’t come. Should the Christians be unfaithful to their faith and return to the old cult of sacrifice? Or should they allow themselves to be chased away and then move to the mission station, as many before them had to do?

The evening when the sentence was to be carried out arrived. The Christians were still praying for rain. They did not want to sacrifice but wanted to stay with their fellow tribesmen. The chief’s warriors appeared to present them to the high council, where they would receive their sentence.

Now the moment had come for the verdict to be pronounced. Everyone rose. Suddenly – a flash and a crash! The floodgates of the heavens opened, and rain poured down on the assembled crowd, causing them to leave the square head over heels and hurry away. – Only the crowd of Christians was left alone. They had never enjoyed getting wet as much as on this day. They sang joyfully and gratefully: “Holy God, we praise Thy Name; Lord of all, we bow before Thee!”

Yes, God is a Savior in times of need! Glory to His great name!

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