Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: STAND UP FOR JESUS (don't write about the song) (04/09/15)
TITLE: Assegais and Shields
By Corinne Smelker
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My knees were having fellowshipping , and I don’t think in my 20 years I had ever been so bone-numbingly terrified. The sight of hundreds of men, dressed in traditional Sotho garb, wielding assegais (spears) and hide-clad shields, screaming war chants, and running full tilt down the hills surrounding the valley our little group was in, was not something any one of us planned for when we woke up.
Two days earlier our missionary group had set up camp in Lebowa, a small principality encompassed on all sides by South Africa. We knew the risks – women were warned not to leave camp on their own – the locals had been known to kidnap white women and ‘circumcise’ them. However, we wanted to share the gospel with the people of Lebowa, in the days when apartheid was still the law of the land in South Africa; laws which directly affected Lebowan citizens.
Word of our arrival got around to a violent branch of the ANC (African National Congress). Their motto was ‘the only good white man is a dead one.’ Unbeknownst to us, several hundred of these men gathered to attack and kill us all.
We were making lunch after a morning’s preaching when we heard the thunder of yells. We ran into the camp’s centre and looked around. We were surrounded! “Stand firm,” Brian hissed as we automatically moved into a circle, backs in, facing the adversary. “PRAY!!”
Oh dear Lord, what do I pray? I had no words. I was the ‘baby’ of the mission camp, and a fairly new Christian. I am a goner. Oh Lord, I have barely started my life and now it’s being taken.
“Protect me. Help me,” I whispered. Immediately a great peace descended – like when I was a child and my parents fought and I’d tunnel under my duvet to keep out the vitriol and violence. I knew then that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, was with me.
As we prayed these roaring invaders flowed inexorably like fast-moving lava down the tussock-filled hills. Yet none of us cried out, we all stood firm. I could not believe that at age 20, I might become a casualty of the violence that beset our nations. I hated apartheid with all my heart; it was one reason I wanted to spread Jesus’ love to all, regardless of race.
The men were closer now – we could make out individuals – see the hatred on their faces as the sun glinted off their assegai tips. As they reached our camp’s perimeter, they abruptly and rapidly dropped their weapons, and turned tail. They were still screaming, but now it was shrieks and roars of abject fear and terror.
Our little circle stood in absolute silence as we stared at the retreating backs of the now-weaponless men. “What just happened?” asked one.
“I have no idea,” Brian admitted, “Somehow though, I think the danger is over. But we’re going to stick close to our vehicles just in case.” As the afternoon wore on it became apparent that these marauders weren’t returning, either to attack us, or to retrieve their weapons.
That evening as we congregated in our dining tent, a young man hesitantly poked his head through the opening. Silence fell as we became aware of his presence.
“Baas (Boss), can I talk to you?” he asked Brian. “I’m sorry baas, I was one of the men come to kill you today, but I must ask a question.”
“Go ahead,” Brian said
“Where are the big men?” he enquired.
“What big men,” Brian asked. “Do you see them here?”
“No baas. The men were very tall – maybe twice as tall as you; and they had swords that were on fire! We were petrified because they shouted at us to go or they would kill us!”
Brian’s jaw dropped, and his was not the only one - it would be fair to say all of us were astounded. “Angels,” Brian murmured. “He saw angels. Angels protected us!”
That young man went on to become our lead translator and a notable pastor in Lebowa. His testimony led many of those young angry men to Christ. Who could argue with a man who had seen angels?
This is a true account of my mission trip in 1988. None of us in the camp saw the angels; but we saw what their presence did. I sometimes wonder what would have happened had we not stood firm.
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