Let me tell you something about Mama Africa. She is a HARD parent. She will force you to do certain things; whether you yield to those things willingly or are beaten into submission is up to you.
By all means, YOU WILL WALK in Africa.
Certainly, you WILL adopt one of her of local vernacular and employ it in your speech.
Whether you like it or not, you will believe in God. Take your pick: The Holy Trinity, Allah, Tsenku or a bronze lizard with ruby eyes – you WILL believe in and encounter the spirit realm at some point.
The thing about America is that it allows you to be very casual about your Christianity. I mean, when your faith is watered down to “What shirt and feathery hat shall I wear this Sunday?” why should you fear principalities and powers? Better still, does such a Christian even know what a principality is? I have never given much stock or regard to stories of voodoo and juju until this trip to Ghana. When you grow up in Ghana, there are certain stories of lore that we all knew as children:- Kebewie, the man with the boflot head that tapped small children on the shoulder as they slept and invited them to take a bite of his head. My favorite was the girl who went to boarding school and always had neatly cornrowed hair. When her classmates asked how she managed to get her braids so neat, especially since she was doing them herself, she never gave an answer. Once evening, one of the girls in her dorm got up to use the toilet, and there sat the girl braiding her hair…with her head in her lap. Now how could this even be??
As I sat on a bus headed for Takoradi, I heard a radio program that got my blood boiling. The presenter had an 8 year old girl on his show who said she had been practicing witchcraft since she was 5. When she does her witchcraft, she transforms into an eagle. He had a pastor on the line to pray for her as well, but said he must keep his prayer short “because they were on radio”. What tosh! And why would he pick on this 8 year old girl and coerce her into confessing witchcraft? Belief in juju was absurd, as far as I was concerned. It is the stuff of idiots and illiterate villagers. I have been fast heading in the direction of watered down faith myself, until I read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and talked to a number of friends back home. Here are their stories (insert Law And Order *gang gang* sound here):
Demons and a skipping rope
At a church convention last year, a guest pastor began to prophecy about 2 deaths that had occurred the year earlier on the Tema motorway.
“Look at them,” he growled. “They are two. One holding a rope on this side, one holding a rope on the other. The car has somersaulted. 2 people died.”
He was talking about 2 church members who had died on the motorway the year before on their way to a business trip. As car after car splashed through the slick roads after a heavy rain, it was only THAT car ferrying the two people that flipped over and killed the passengers upon impacting the ground. He said two demons were holding a rope at either end of the street and had caused the demise of those passengers. The pastor called out a man that was a colleague of the deceased, and told him that the devil had an assignment against him as well, and that he should be careful concerning certain things. Everyone in the audience was amazed.
I was amazed that my friend was repeating this story with such sincerity and belief. Victoria was my classmate from GIS and was in the audience when this story was being told. She has 2 degrees and is an intelligent, resourceful woman with global exposure. I sat there looking disbelievingly at her. She read my face.
“You don’t believe the story, do you?”
“No,” I replied. I almost sneered. “I don’t.”
“Hmmm. OK! It’s only Christ that keeps up from these things. It’s the only reason I don’t have fear.”
Gimme a break!
A week later, I met my friend Khadija and she told me about:
The disappearing goat
A white girl who had attended the university of Legon with of Khadija came back to campus shaken by something she had seen. She was in a car/taxi on her way back from a day trip, and the driver hit a goat that was in the middle of the road. The goat appeared to be dead or dying. He and one other passenger got out of the car and put the goat in the trunk. By they time they got back to Accra and opened the trunk the goat. was. GONE.
“Okay, so there was…”
“There was no hole in the trunk!” Khadija exclaimed, cutting me off.
“Ah.” I was confused. “Okay…so maybe the trunk popped open while they were driving.”
“The truck was locked,” she reiterated.
“Ah.” I still couldn’t wrap my mind around it. a white girl had come back and said she had seen a goat disappear from a trunk! Why would she do that? Was she insane? Or perhaps on pills? They like pills, y’know. I decided to leave that one alone, because Khadija carried on with:
The housegirl that was a witch
My friend Khadija is from Compton, as some of you know. They don’t have juju in Compton – they have crack infestations, drive-bys and aggravated robbery. When she first came to Ghana, she had a housegirl who would bathe her kids in the morning, and then leave them standing in the bathroom naked and wet…while she went back to sleep under the bed.
“What the hell did she do that for?” I demanded.
“Hmmmm. She said she had to sleep under the bed so that she could go to the village.”
“Go to the village?” I wracked my brains. I recalled from stories of old that witches would convene in trees in the “village” to decide what their next evil task would be, or to ‘top up’ on their powers.
“Yes. Indirectly, she was telling me she was a witch. I just didn’t know it at the time. It was a woman in the area who told me I must sack her for being a witch!”
This was almost too much to take. But the last straw was when I was told about:
The cat in the car engine
After suffering a period of abuse, Khadija had decided she was going to leave her husband. He, being a proud Ga Adangbe man, also decided that it was not going to be that simple. Once the customary period of begging and coercion to make her stay had run its course, he decided on his final mode of action: to cast a spell on her.
One day, she was about to start her car and noticed white fur all over her dash board. Then she heard a strange sound coming from her engine. Upon opening, she found a cat entangled in the engine block. Whenever something juicy is about to go down in Ghana, a Ghanaian will magically materialize in the vacinity offering conventional wisdom.
“Madam!! It’s a human being 000! It’s not a cat. It’s a witch. It’s a witch!!”
Khadija summoned a mechanic who untangled the cat from the engine. In my mind, I could see her husband lurking and looking out of a window.
He started doing the juju for her to see…like doing crazy things like wearing her panties around the house. She decided that she must fight fire with fire and went to see a mallam. He told her that her husband has gone for heavy juju on her, but his was stronger (isn’t it always?). In fact, her husband was trying to kill her!
“You have to take car with your car,” he said. “He has done some juju on your car!”
Again. she was driving and one of her tires burst. She took the car to a fitter, who proclaimed that God loved her. She was lucky she made it to the shop.
“Madam! All your tires were coming to burst today,” he said after his inspection.
Just then, her car slid off the iron BLOCK it was resting on and slid forward while her kids were sitting inside.
“Khadija. In FACT. If you were not from Compton, and not an American, I would have dismissed all these stories as crap,” I confessed.
She just smirked at me.
That night, I heard a rustling outside my window as I slept. It sounded like the ruffling of a bird’s wings. Why was a bird ruffling it’s feathers at 3 am?? All the birds should be sleeping by now! I saw Khadija’s face rotating in my imagination. Hei! Come and see me! I started pleading the blood of Jesus all over the house, my kids, myself and my dad.
Then I quickly darted to the living room where he slept. I startled him.
“Malaka. What are you doing here?”
“Oh. I heard some stories today, so I’m uneasy.” I quickly told my father about them.
“Ho. So you are scared?” he scoffed.
“I didn’t say I was scared,” I retorted. “I said I was uneasy!”
You. You are sitting there laughing at me eh? Everybody believes that they have an angel watching out for them. In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis asserts that everyone has a demon assigned to them as well. The devil is after every soul on the planet. Make sure you guard yours!