The Cost of Forgiveness Part II

The Cost of Forgiveness Part II

Prologue: You may recall from Part I of this story (which you may read here), there was an intense political battle taking place at the time when Chief Flee was initially witnessed to by the evangelism team.  Valunia Chiefdom’s paramount chief had recently died an embarrassing, miserable drunk whom no one respected.  This office is for life so there was nothing to be done but wait.  His death spun the chiefdom into chaos and turmoil as all of government ground to a halt until a new paramount chief could be elected.  Our village of Baomahun is located in Valunia Chiefdom and was a major player in this unfolding political drama due to its wealth of gold and the mining activity it brings, both local artisan miners, but especially the modern international mining companies.  We keenly felt the spiritual tensions mounting as the battle for the office of paramount chief played out.

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From my journal, Tuesday December 20, 2016, 7:30 AM

A red full-orbed harmattan sunrise has just made its way past the eastern Kangari Hills.  At this time of year one can look directly at the sun, even at high noon, as the wind-driven sheets of sand and dust from the vast Sahara desert so choke the atmosphere that it acts as a filter.  The atmospheric effects are enchantingly beautiful yet otherworldly.  Tomorrow the sun hits the Tropic of Capricorn marking the winter solstice.  It will then start its long journey northward to again ride the equator in March.

Chief Flee with his wife and granddaughter.

Yesterday Moses brought urgent news to Stephen.  A burial in Mongeri and they must attend the vigil.  Our very own, very dear Chief James Flee, who just four weeks earlier had given his incredible salvation testimony: “Now I understand the cost of forgiveness.”  Who can ever forget that amazing statement.

But now his story becomes thrilling and frightening all at the same time.  His sudden death is shrouded in rumors, speculation, mystery, and staunch silence.  This always signals the involvement of witchcraft.

Stephen’s countenance upon hearing this news from Moses was that of stunned shock.  “He was silenced.  Not by man but devil,” Stephen quietly said to no one in particular, gazing out over the distant hills.  Our blood shivered cold while we sat on the veranda talking about it. 

To advance at all in politics in Sierra Leone, one must belong to the Wunde Secret Society, a dread African mafia, very evil, and connected directly to the powers of darkness through witchcraft and spirit channeling.  Chief Flee was not only a member of this society but also at one time had been the head chief of Wunde for all of Valunia Chiefdom.  The witchcraft involved during the current political campaign and perpetrated by the Wunde along with other secret societies, both male and female, ran the full spectrum from “witching spells,” seances, and channeling of spirits, to get people to vote a certain way; all the way to multiple human sacrifices to sway entire villages throughout the chiefdom.  The depth and amount of witchcraft being worked at this time churned a darkness which could be felt. 

Years ago, the Valunia Wunde bound themselves under a great oath that no woman would never again hold the office of paramount chief in Valunia Chiefdom.  A very wicked and feared woman had held a reign of terror for many years, and the Wunde decided they were not going to go down that road again.  But now, the daughter of this very woman was in the running for this fiercely coveted position.  Though having restated their vow early in the campaign, somewhere along the line many of the prominent Wunde had changed their stance due to heavy bribing, thereby influencing rank and file Wunde members to change as well.  And now, as a high ranking, influential Wunde leader, Chief Flee was being intensely pressured to change his vote.  He knew witchcraft was being worked against him, yet he reiterated that he would stand by his word and not break his oath.  Because of this unyielding stand on his word, it is quietly being said that he was “witched,” and I can well believe it.  He plainly explained this oath and his position to Stephen in Mende through Moses.  “I am keeping my vow despite the pressure they are placing on me,” Chief Flee staunchly stated, his facial expression matching the passion in his strong, authoritative voice.  

Then, the Monday before the election, Chief James Flee suddenly fell mysteriously ill.  The chief health officer at the government clinic in Mongeri could find no illness, no diagnosis could be made, no treatment was given.  The chief had not had a stroke, he could speak without difficulty and move his arms, but he could not walk.  He was declining very rapidly.  By Saturday, December 17, he had to be carried to the vote which was held in Mongeri because it is the chiefdom seat.  Due to technicalities, there was a second vote that same day to which the chief was again carried.  He barely mustered enough strength to vote this second time.  He was then carried home where, on Monday, December 19, he died and entered into the presence of the Chief of chiefs, his Savior Jesus Christ.

The burial, according to custom held the same day as his death, was shrouded in more mystery.  Because of his high rank in the Wunde society, only certain invited senior ranking Wunde men could be present at the actual interment, conferring secret traditional honors and society rites upon the chief.  His conversion testimony was made public at the vigil kept at the burial house that first night after his death, then again at the “seven-day vigil” held one week later, the testimony was publicly restated.  It was now broadly and openly known that Chief Flee had left Islam for Christianity, yea, for Christ!  People knew that Stephen and Moses had been spiritually ministering to the chief and that was the express reason they called Moses to inform Stephen of the sudden death.  It was very critical for them to attend this vigil at the burial house that first night.

After our brief but impactful discussion on the veranda, my twosome headed off to Mongeri, each sporting their best, brightest red Jesus Saves shirts.  This was an important burial and vigil so the town would be filled with prominent Muslims and high ranking Wunde.  Stephen and Moses made it out alive!  We joke a bit about it now but at the time it was definitely tense.

Stephen and Moses also attended the “seven-day vigil” at the burial house.  At both vigils, Chief Flee’s widow graciously expressed her sincere gratitude to Stephen in Mende, through the faithful interpretation of Moses.  She explained how happy the chief was.  She stated that he just kept talking and talking about their visits long after they had left.  It was so real to him.   

Such a treasured testimony.  Now Chief James Flee truly understands the cost of forgiveness.

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints (Psalms 116:15)

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Post Script:  And the winner was . . . the woman whom the Wunde had vowed would never be allowed to sit in the office of paramount chief!  Though rooted in evil and witchcraft, I have more respect for Chief Flee keeping his word and voting his conscience than for those who capitulated for the sake of a bribe.  But I also have no doubt they feared for their lives, knowing what was being worked against Chief Flee.  It was, of course, intended that he should die before the election.

It should be noted that secret societies are the warp and woof of West African cultural fabric.  It is no secret who belongs to which societies, indeed, it is intended that people do know.  The secret is what they do and where in the “sacred forests” they meet.  There are both male and female societies, and to advance at anything in life one must belong or be socially shunned, excluded, and hindered at every level, including employment, buying, selling, and marriage.  And as we have seen here, politics are also greatly influenced by this force of evil.

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