Monday, February 18, 2013

Power Encounter (in Congo)

Power encounters are common in the Bible.  One of particular note is Elijah’s confrontation with the 400 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.  The abbreviated version is that Elijah and the prophets erect an altar, seeing whether Baal or the God of Israel has power to torch it from the heavens.  The prophets of Baal call on the name of Baal from morning until noon.  Nothing happens.  Elijah then cries out to the LORD, praying that “these people [Israel] will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”  With immediacy, fire falls upon the altar and burns up the sacrifice.  The people are convinced, falling prostrate and crying out, “The LORD – he is God!  The LORD – he is God!” (1 Kings 18).  From Old Testament accounts of God’s power right through the life of Jesus and the early church, God’s power and demonstrations of God’s power bring forth fear and belief. 

In Christianity with Power, Charles Kraft writes that most of the world’s people are seeking greater spiritual power to deal with life’s problems.  Thus, he recommends that Christ followers use spiritual power as a means of blessing and communicating with those whom God loves.  Cultures in the developing world have a greater sense of the spiritual world than do western cultures (Kraft, 1989).  There is no doubt that this reality is true in Congo, and we perceive that people here recognize spiritual power, who has it and who doesn’t, and how spiritual power affects everyday life. 

Last month Kristi and I visited the Honorable Mbueshi in Kinshasa, a regular worshipper at one of our CPC churches in Kinshasa.  He is a humble Christian man who serves the Kinshasa government as senator.  The Honorable Mbueshi is also a traditional chief; actually he is the Grand Chief of the Bakete tribe.  During our time with Chief Mbueshi, he told us the story of how he was coronated Grand Chief.  He explained how some rival chiefs who coveted his ascendancy to being Grand Chief of the Bakete worked all kinds of charms and magic to make it rain that day, thus ruining the festivities.  However to their chagrin, there was not a cloud in the sky that day.  We were spellbound by his testimony.  He then told us that on the day of coronation the chief-to-be is not allowed to speak.  However, Mbueshi arranged for songs of praise and worship to be sung.  Violating traditional custom, he sang, giving thanks and praise to his Creator and Chief.  Also, the rival chiefs were humbled when an unexpected wind swept up and caused one of the rival chief’s tribal dress fell to the ground, while the other chief’s traditional tribal head-piece also fell to the ground.  Both chiefs were publicly humbled and humiliated by this demonstration of God’s power.  In their quest to discredit Mbueshi, a humble servant of God who was being exalted and honored by his tribe, they were themselves humbled.  This ‘power encounter’ lived out in Congo reminds one of Biblical accounts.         

P1160987 Grand Chief Mbueshi (right-center) holds us all spellbound

Indeed, our western culture and mindset has trouble accepting such stories.  However, I suggest that African cultures’ worldviews are in many ways closer to a Biblical worldview than our western mindset, which often credits the human sphere and the natural sphere above the supernatural or spiritual sphere.  Indeed, for those who believe, there is a God of power and glory who seeks to exalt Himself and lift up those who trust in Him.  What do you think?  What do you make of Honorable Mbueshi’s story?  Does God continue to work through his servants in power?  Is our western cultural mindset missing something?  Has the Enlightenment and our modern technological world blinded us to supernatural realities?  Tell us what you think.                     

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