Articles from the July 1997 Unification News

Blessings Confront the New with the Old in Nigeria

by Michael Kiely-Lagos, Nigeria

Femi Martins is a twenty-year Nigerian member witnessed to by one of the original missionaries to the country. Darcy (Turner) Hovard approached him as he was preaching in a crowded city bus in Lagos. He joined in 1977 and has himself given birth to numerous spiritual children since that time. During the 1995 Blessing he was one of the first to pioneer community Blessings. He traveled from village to village introducing the Blessing to the chief and elders of each village and having them call their people together to be blessed. Now his main responsibility is to supervise all the Blessing activities in and around Lagos in an area within a radius of about 300 miles. It is a densely populated region where most people belong to the Yoruba tribe, one of the four main tribes in Nigeria and the tribe with the most Blessed couples in Africa.

Rev. Kevin Winter, the assistant to Continental Director Rev. Kathy Rigney, related the following testimonies by Femi. More will follow-reportedly he has many such stories to share.

New Blood for a Witch Doctor

In one Nigerian village there was an herbalist, more commonly known as a witch doctor, who was well known and feared by the population. People were afraid that if he simply looked at them or pointed his staff at them, something terrible might happen to them. He was feared even more than the Oba, or King. But his strong point of character was that he was a true traditionalist. He respected African traditions, hierarchy and rites. Particularly, he was absolutely obedient to the Oba. Also, he was unusual among witch doctors in that he had only one wife. Most witch doctors were polygamists with several wives.

One day Femi came to see the Oba and made a presentation to him about the Blessing. The Oba thought the Blessing was a good idea for his village and decided to call together all of his people. He sent out the town crier, or "gong gong," to hit a large cowbell and call his people to gather. When the witch doctor heard the gong gong, he had a premonition that something sinister was about to happen. He looked at the sky and saw dark clouds even though those around him said the sky was clear. So he hesitated to go, but his sense of duty to the Oba told him he had to attend because he had been called. He reasoned with himself, "After all, I am a very powerful witch doctor. People fear me. I don't think any evil force could possibly disturb me." Nevertheless, he took many beads, amulets and other sacred objects which he wore like a sash over his shoulder outside his clothing. He also took his staff which he employed in his rituals as well. Then he went off to the meeting with his wife in tow ready for spiritual battle.

At the meeting the villagers, including the witch doctor, listened to Femi's presentation about the blessing, then with the Oba's encouragement, they all participated, receiving the holy wine, the holy water and True Father's prayer. The witch doctor and his wife also drank the Holy Wine and participated in the Blessing. The villagers received the blessing joyfully, then when the festivities were over, they - along with the witch doctor and his wife - all returned to their homes.

When he arrived home, the witch doctor decided to consult the oracles at his shrine where certain spirits usually gave him guidance. The moment he bowed down before his shrine, however, he was startled to hear a loud voice from the shrine speaking to him as if someone were standing in front of him. The voice said in anger, "You are no longer my son because you now have different blood flowing in your veins! From this moment forward I will never speak to you again or answer your questions! Go away!"

The witch doctor was shocked and dismayed. His practice, which depended on this spiritual guidance and support, was his whole life and his source of power and respect. That guidance and support, and consequently his profession and position of respect, had all quite suddenly been taken away from him. With growing anger he concluded that the young Femi Martins had come to him with the Holy Wine in order to steal his powers from him. He wished out loud that there was some way he could purge himself of the holy wine so that he could recover his powers. Perhaps the only way to do that, he reasoned, was to kill Femi. Then perhaps his powers would return.

In a rage he picked up his machete and returned to the Oba's courtyard in search of the young man who had robbed him of all that was important to him. The Oba, seeing his witch doctor beside himself with rage, told him to sit down and asked him what was going on. Out of a sense of obedience to his Oba, the former witch doctor explained all that had just happened to him and declared that he intended to kill Femi in order to regain his former powers. The Oba empathized with him but told him that Femi had gone home and would not return till later that week. The Oba promised, however, to send Femi to him on Femi's return.

After the encounter with the Oba the former witch doctor returned home frustrated that he had failed to accomplish his plan and, as a consequence he presumed, had not been able to regain his powers that day. That evening in his sleep he had a vivid dream in which all the powerful ancestors of his lineage lined up over him looking down at him. They told him sternly, "You have been a powerful witch doctor until this day. But from today you must become a new person and start a new life." Then they left him. When he awoke the next morning, he realized that what had happened to him was much larger than the plan of some young man to steal his powers. It was nothing less than the manifestation of the will of his ancestors, of heaven itself, that he create a new life for himself from that time on. So, he quickly forgot his anger against Femi and felt, instead, grateful to have been called in that way. He returned again to the palace of the Oba to report his experience with his ancestors and his new realization.

Later that week, Femi returned to the palace and met with the Oba. The Oba told him everything that had transpired with the former witch doctor and sent him to meet him. When they met each other, the former witch doctor told Femi all that had happened. Then the former witch doctor smiled and said, "You are a lucky man that I did not find you right after the Blessing! Otherwise you would be dead now! But I have come to understand that these events were the manifestation of heaven's will and not just the fruit of your machinations, as I had at first imagined." Word of these happenings spread quickly throughout the region.

After their meeting, Femi worked in the area with a local pastor who had a small church in a nearby village. Femi suggested to the pastor that he set up a branch church in the former witch doctor's village because there was no church there and that he make the former witch doctor the head pastor. The pastor followed his advice, and everyone was amazed at the results. Because of the former witch doctor's fame and because of his dramatic and widely publicized conversion through the Blessing, in the first week over 500 people assembled in his new church. Virtually overnight he had gathered a large congregation. How many church founders would be delighted to find 500 members in their first week! This new congregation was the direct fruit of the Blessing.

Miraculous Homecoming

On another occasion, Femi was performing Blessings house to house. For a person whose spouse is absent to receive the Blessing, his or her marriage must be intact and the absent spouse must accept the Blessing. In rare cases when the spouse who is present is considered trustworthy and is absolutely confident that his or her spouse will accept the Blessing, then he or she may receive the Blessing. In one home, a man presented his wife's picture for the ceremony, claiming that she was simply away. He was able to convince Femi of his story, and Femi blessed him. After the ceremony a neighbor revealed to Femi that the man's wife had abandoned him and his two children and had not been seen at all for two years. She had simply disappeared. So, their marriage was not at all intact.

Femi was angry with the man for having deceived him about his wife's status. But the man begged Femi to forgive him saying that until the present he had always prayed for his wife's return. He felt strongly when he heard Femi's presentation that this could be the event that would answer his prayers and bring his wife home. When Femi heard the man's words, his anger left him and he admired the man's faith. All he could do was to wish him well and go on to the next home.

About ten day's later Femi came back to check on that household. The man's attitude had changed completely. While before he had been depressed, now he was beaming. He told Femi he had good news to share. Exactly a week to the day after his Blessing he had returned home from work quite tired and had sat down in the sitting room. Suddenly he heard a quiet knock on the door. He got up, casually opened the door, and without even looking up, turned to sit down again. When he did look up, he was shocked to see his wife whom he had not seen in two years.

She was fearful that he would be angry at her for abandoning him and their children for so long and that he might even want to kill her. As a result, her first words to him were a challenge. "Don't I have the right to visit my own children?" she asked with nervous defiance. The man was startled by her tone and said, "Oh, of course. You can see your children. Please go on in." She rushed into the bedroom to see her children. Shortly afterwards she came out, but instead of leaving, she went straight to the kitchen. There she prepared the man's favorite meal and set it on the table for him to eat. The man was so astonished by the whole scene taking place in front of his eyes that he had no appetite and told his wife when she called him to eat, "No thank you. I'm not hungry."

The wife, once again, mistook the man's refusal to eat and his silence after her long absence as anger and decided she should leave. As is customary when a guest wants to leave, she asked her husband, "Won't you see me to the door?" The husband felt deep disappointment that she was going. He did not realize that she also felt disappointment that she had to leave. So, he sadly escorted her to the door and opened it for her. After she had gone out, he closed the door, went back to his seat and began thinking about what had happened, wishing he had said something to stop her. At that moment the door slowly opened again. His wife poked her head inside and said timidly, "It is very dark outside. If you would allow me to spend the night here, I will go first thing in the morning."

The husband happily assented. That night the wife spent the first night at home for more than two years and did NOT leave the next morning as she had proposed. The two of them have been together ever since. Because of the Blessing, their long separation ended and their marriage was healed.

When Femi gives his testimonies, he always asks brothers and sisters, "Where would these people be if someone had not knocked on their door to offer them the Blessing? The witch doctor would still be bewitching people. The man would still be lonely without his wife waiting with his children for her return. Because we get out and offer this grace of the Blessing to people, their lives really do change. The Blessing is so powerful in the way it can alter people's destiny.

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