Tag Archives: Central African Republic

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!”


What Shall I Pray?


What shall I pray? Now…

John 12:27-32

Corcovado jesus

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?

What is your “now” today?

It may be happy, indifferent, busy, sad or troubled.

Jesus was confronted with heavy, difficult days. His heart lay hurting within as the crowds pressed in upon him wanting more. What on earth do you say today?

“Get lost everyone!…I want to hide!”

What do you pray?

“Father, save me from this hour?”

I feel happy with that prayer. It meets my very felt needs.

Jesus didn’t pray that prayer.


He looked beyond the visible, the present pain and turmoil, to the horizon of invisible purpose encapsulated in a significant “now”.

“it was for this very reason I came to this hour.”

To paraphrase Churchill, this was his “finest hour”, an hour when, like a grain of wheat, salvation would be sown into the soil of the universe.

We too have our “hour”. Everything in us wants to run away from the pain of the cross we may be carrying. The voice of our own self preservation and the safe, worldly advice of life’s commentators, encourage us to find a way of escape.

Dare we die with Jesus? Dare we sow our lives into heaven’s landscape? What do we pray?

“Father, glorify your name!”

Such a wild, senselessly extravagant prayer opens heaven. The passionate thunder of God’s heart accompanies sacrifice.

“Then a voice came from heaven, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again. The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.”

Before clinging instinctively at the prayer straws of “Save me”, find an inner grace and strength to throw yourself into a greater purpose, a greater glory. There is certain answer to such prayer…again and again. There is certain resurrection and multiplication in such a quest for the glory of the Father.

“Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”

“Now”, is also the time to see the ultimate victory of Christ, driving out the prince of this world. “Now is the day of salvation” 2 Corinthians 6:2

For every sacrifice in troubled hours a power of salvation is released into the universe.

I’ll finish with a little story from a recent visit to Central African Republic:

“On Good Friday, after fasting and praying for several hours, a mixed band of black African Jesus’ made up of Bantus and Pygmies headed for a local village known for its violence and powerful magic. They told me that a renown local witch doctor had been paid to come to the village. This so called sorcerer specialised apparently in calling up thunder storms in order to kill people with lightning bolts! So, armed with nothing more than my Bible as a lightening rod, I joined my enthusiastic black African band of brothers to join the anarchistic fray of the village. Around 11 o clock at night they asked me to speak to the gathered crowd of about 300 – more or less the whole village. So, depending heavily on my lively translator I improvised an impassioned plea for folks to see the love of Christ emblazoned on the cross. Speaking from the gospel of John, chapter 12, I proclaimed: “… now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”

Something seemed to grip the atmosphere, and on that Good Friday night, Jesus was indeed lifted up afresh and about 50 spiritually hungry men and women literally rushed forward, almost trampling me in their enthusiasm to receive Christ as Lord and Saviour into their hearts.

And then…the moonlit sky clouded over and great, thunderless and mysteriously silent bolts of lightning began to illuminate the village. While my Western theology and worldview was being shipwrecked on the ocean of African experience, my brothers and sisters rose to the challenge, breaking out in a wild crescendo of prayer, praise, shouting, dance, drums and singing. Lightening and rain drops rained down upon us as we stood our ground, proclaiming that now indeed the “Prince of this world” was indeed cast out.

Around 2-o-clock in the morning something seemed to give. A loud voice rebuked the evil in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and the storm receded back into the night. All heaven broke out amongst us! Rejoicing welled up as if from the very ground itself, using the polyphonic voices of the Pygmies, the warrior drums and the dancing of a beautiful African bride under the star filled night to celebrate the ultimate victory of this very African Jesus!

Find your own prayer and victory…now!

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