Pygmies, prayers and “papillons” – Central Africa 2001


 Early man found himself in a beautiful garden with trees, fruit, steams and the perfect presence of God. ………………..Paradise.

Caught up in the heavenly songs of a hundred polyphonic Pygmy voices, a forest for our Cathedral, and dozens of multicoloured butterflies gliding on the wind of prayer, I heard an echo of that distant garden.

God gave an authority to early man to reign, and, in a realm way beyond human strategy and modern machinery, I discovered an ‘authority’ amongst the ‘early’ peoples of this Central African Republic. An ‘authority’ of life in harmony with earth, but as redemption works its purpose, an authority in prayer to usher in the chosen destiny of a nation. It is the pursuit of this ‘hidden’ destiny in the heart of Africa that has led our brave brothers in C.A.R. to give their all to this pioneer work amongst the Pygmy clans of Bobelé.

For those linked to ‘Nations’ the Chinese word for ‘New Beginnings’  – a buried seed with a long root beginning to sprout fresh green shoots above the ground – has been an inspiration. The pygmies also have a word for ‘New beginnings’ or ‘New thing’ : ‘To Yé’ (Tow-Yeah). It’s the word they use to describe God calling creation into place.  A new beginning.  A new thing.

  “See, I am doing a new thing ! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it…”

God is working a quiet miracle in the secret of the equatorial forest. Benjamin Lessy and his team have won over 100 of these ‘unreached’ peoples to the Lord over the last year and are involved in the delicate task of discipling them.

Total joy emanated from the evenings of worship, dancing in a circle around a huge fire sending myriad sparks up into the star filled african nights and bringing memories of God appearing in a flame to the shepherd Moses, or speaking of a multiplied family to nomadic Abram as he contemplated his own ‘African’ heaven.

It’s hard to evaluate the worth of a little basket weaved with wise dexterity at the hands of a young Pygmy girl and then carried with effortless grace on her head, or the greeting of a grey haired elder, honouring a visitor, his muscle bound frame and noble bare feet, speaking of years of dignified labour on the earth. Western clothes are not well adapted for the natural wear and tear of forest life, and maintaining a minimum of dignity with the coverings the forest provides, the more hidden clans teach a long lost secret about lack of shame and self consciousness.

Spending 2 hours a day ‘teaching’ these peoples has to rate as one of the deepest privileges… and challenges I have found over the years. You can throw away every  book and prop of Western thinking and theology! Whose teaching who ?

Leaning heavily on the crutch of grace, every step being a prayer for help, I discovered that mime, theatre and song were the means of communication rather than ‘preaching’ words (albeit though a translator) at them. The best times were ones of ‘group’ activity where everyone got a say in creating the ‘word’ God was giving. I was absolutely amazed to see that they could compose a ‘new song’ -usually the word in their dialect that the Lord was giving – within five to ten minutes and then sing it joyfully together for the next 15 minutes! We acted out their own ‘creation’ mythologies before going on to make a mime and song of the true creation story. My greatest joy came when I realised that they had grasped the ‘secret’ of prayer as I listened to the joyful ode they had composed from John 14.14.

“You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it.”

I’m sure that part of Jesus’ “joy set before him”– even through  the sheer suffering of the cross, was to see the nations of the world owning his word in their cultures. Pygmies rejoice the heart of Jesus!

New beginnings are also the fruit of suffering and even the most hard hearted atheist would confess, along with the poem of Milton, that this world is now a “Paradise Lost”. One can also hear the echo of sin and suffering amongst the now “fallen forest”.

 The “little brothers” shared how some of their oppressors (nearly every other African tribe!) forced them to  sell their blood cheaply to them so they could then sell it on for profit to the hospitals! The grossly enlarged feet of elephantiasis, the swollen bellies of little children – the legacy of malaria, and horrendously infected wounds also testified to the curse of illness. People here die for lack of medicine costing a mere hamburger in the west!

The missionary team pulled a little girl back from the brink of death caring for her and sending her to hospital, at their own cost, in Bangui. She got well, bloomed under the care and I met her smile a number of times during my time. Amongst her early problems had been syphilis in her blood. Shocking, and yet the reality of the demonic infestation of paradise. Healing and redemption, a real possibility with some acts of selfless love… and yet. On return to the clan her family, not yet belonging to the Lord in the fullest, wanted her back in the ‘old ways’ and exposed again to the old dangers.

A number of different groups from other African tribes in Central African Republic made up the number for the ‘consultation’. We spent the whole time in a 24 hour prayer chain interrupted only by the teaching sessions!

I’m always amazed at the grip of ‘prayer’ and ‘prophetic’ statement that comes from these ‘forest’ consultations. At one session God seemed to be cleansing and healing the “conscience of the nation” as we prayed for 3 generations of leaders. The old, the now and the future ‘Joshua’ generation that will rise in pure intercession to lead Africa into its destiny.

At another session a ‘prophetic’ mud brick was laid and anointed as a sign of a ‘Joseph’ (missionary movement) being birthed in the forest. Anatole Banga (the leader of Nations en Marche) had been praying about basing his training in the forest, and the ‘brick’ may well be a sign of a 24 hour prayer house and ‘Centre for the Nations’ being established here in the future. I couldn’t think of a ‘better place’ for pioneer missionaries from around the world to be ‘trained’.

Four hours a day in Anatole’s ‘Polytechnic’ in Bangui finished off (or finished me off – 40° Centigrade in the shade !) the time in C.A.R. The students are ‘a new generation’ of self-help, praying african missionaries.

We ended the teaching sessions with a night of prayer. At about 2 in the morning an anointing came on the praying and I heard the ‘sound’ of ‘nations’ on the march! It is a new, non-western, energetic, vibrant, wild and powerful sound! It is the sound that lies in the hearts of this ‘new generation’ in the polytechnic and no doubt in the heats of multiplied thousands from the new missionary armies around the world.

“Each nation will bring its ‘sound’ to make up the redemptive harmony of a new world.”

“To Yé Bobelé!”


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