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U.S. Christian group ‘saves’ Zambian island locals from ‘witchcraft, polygamy and intoxication’

June 12, 2019 at 09:34 am | Opinions & Features

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Staff Writer

June 12, 2019 at 09:34 am | Opinions & Features

Residents of Zambia's Crocodile Island doing God's work. Pic credit: OM Stories

Historical accounts have shown that before the arrival of Western missionaries to Africa, the continent had its own rich religious and cultural traditions which were largely based on the concept of the Supreme Being.

However, when these missionaries arrived on the continent centuries ago, they chose to reject these cultural and religious traditions, and with their knowledge that Africans were uncivilized, they decided to impose their western cultural values on locals.

Through their desire of seeing the concept of Christianity dominating the continent, they weakened the cultural resistance of the natives and, in the process, left the field open for colonists and Western capitalism.

Today, even after colonialism, missionaries are re-building partnerships with several African preachers and seminaries to share the gospel and make sure their religion dominates, especially in remote areas.

In Zambia, Scottish explorer David Livingstone who explored the country in the 1800s under the theme: “Christianity, commerce, and civilization”, is highly praised by locals due to the legacy he left behind. Thought to have improved the lives of natives, his influence has made Zambians largely sympathetic to the message of missionaries, reports IMB.

That is why a U.S.-based Christian organization, Operation Mobilisation (OM), would be able to enter what has been described as one of the ‘most feared’ islands in Zambia where most natives allegedly practise witchcraft to solve their basic needs.

Over the years, it has been challenging for outsiders to consider living on Zambia’s Crocodile Island where locals are reportedly known to depend on witchcraft for protection, fishing and other businesses.

Consisting of four different fishing villages on the Lake Tanganyika, the island, which is shaped like a crocodile, has only one community school with no clinic. Crocodile Island, which is a half-hour public boat ride away from Mpulungu, the main town on the Zambian side of the lake, previously had churches, however, no pastor has ever been willing to stay.

The Christian missionary organization, Operation Mobilisation (OM), that would eventually survey the village, said preachers occasionally visited the island on Sundays to share God’s message, however, in the absence of strong Christian influence, the issues of witchcraft, drunkenness and polygamy remained in the churches.

Image result for Kelvin Chibuye and wife florence
Crocodile Island. Pic credit: OM Stories

In order to reverse this trend, OM, in 2016, partnered with a church in Mpulungu to send a local couple to the island as missionaries. Identified as Kelvin Chibuye and his wife, Florence, the couple were sent to share God’s love and truth.

They would eventually ensure that locals from all backgrounds were not only attending church services but were experiencing the love of God and being transformed in all areas of their lives.

“From house visits to youth and children’s ministry, leadership development to Self Help Groups, they make sure people on the island have opportunities to grow. Every night, there is Bible study and prayer time at their house that is open to all on the island,” writes the U.S.-founded OM. They did this while running a small business on the island to support them.

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Kelvin and Florence. Pic credit: OM Stories

But this was, of course, not easy from the start. Apart from the locals being uncertain about the presence of Kelvin and Florence, the Headman of the island was, initially, not willing to receive the couple. With the dangers that people had about his island, he wondered why these “outsiders” would choose to stay, just to share God’s word.

“The Headman said that he would beat us until we explained why we wanted to stay,” said Howard Sichilima, an OM worker who first surveyed the village.

Realizing that the situation needed a spiritual breakthrough, the OM team first went with Kelvin to fast and pray on the island before they officially moved in.

“I love people on this island so much,” said Kelvin, explaining why he decided to stay despite the challenges. When the locals began accommodating them due to the love the couple showed them, they started asking for prayers.

A young man, who had gone unconscious, was brought to the couple one night for prayers. “He was troubled by evil spirits and later on we learnt that he was practising Satanism,” said Kelvin. After the young man (who has not been named) had fully recovered, it turned out that he had tried to attack the couple in their home.

“When I came the first time with my group, we saw a wall of fire surrounding this house. We were not able to harm you,” the young man said while apologizing to the couple.

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Locals worship during service. Pic credit: OM Stories

Today, this young man has been baptized and is sharing his story with the youth on the island. He is among many other young believers who testify of being free from witchcraft and drinking, and are helping Kelvin and Florence to share God’s word.

Kelvin and his wife now work in town for a few days during the week, but go back to the island on Friday and remain there until Monday for a ‘packed’ ministry work that the weekend has to offer.

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