“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed nor shall there be any after me.” Isaiah 43:10

God is moving in Tonj.

There is a man living near us who is a Spear Master. Despite what you may think, this does not mean he is good at throwing spears. Instead, it is a term for a type of witch doctor; someone who can give blessings or curses on people. In a land where spiritual warfare and animism are very real and palpable things, someone who is a Spear Master holds a position of power. To leave this position, one is at risk of losing great prestige, financial security (in a land where there is none), and retaliation from any whom he has harmed in the past.

Very recently, this man came to Christ and we have had the immense privilege of watching his life change. We have increasingly become first-hand witnesses to his story over the past few weeks.

I will say it again: God is moving in Tonj.

After making a profession of faith, he waited for his family to be in town so he could be baptized. He had also been waiting for his son to be able to help him get to another village so he can burn the many idols in his possession. Among the items to be burned were his spears, as those were a symbol of his status as a Spear Master and used to curse or bless others.

His delays were not resulting from a change of heart, but because he was making preparations to burn his idols and be baptized. This week, his house burned down, burning his spears with it. Instead of despair, this man, with so few physical possessions left in his life, was rejoicing. He said that because he had delayed in burning them, God had done it for him and he was thankful.

A few days later, he was baptized. As I watched his baptism, I was deeply moved by this display of grace, as we witnessed God calling this man by name and giving him a new name.

Would you agree? God is moving in Tonj.

Today, Nathan and several others drove with their new brother in Christ to his home in a nearby village and watched as he burned his idols. Some idols were underground and had to be dug up in order to be destroyed. This was true evidence of how he has fully turned to God, by ridding himself of any temptation to turn back to the witchcraft he was involved in before.

It makes me think about the word “witness” and what it means to be a “witness”. The most common missionary context (and the context earlier in Isaiah) is that we are a testifying witness, as in a court trial. We are to speak of what we have seen God do or what we know of Jesus, our Savior. But, sometimes God does the moving and the speaking, and allows us to witness Him in a different way...to stand as a witness and simply see the hand of God move. What an honor!

As we watch this man step into a life of faith in Jesus, we witness the cost. This former Spear Master stepped away from a steady source of income in a time and place that is facing the most dire economic situation in the history of its people. He stepped away from the “security” he took in appeasing the spirits of nature (animism), so no harm would befall him. Jesus is worth it and he is joyfully handing over his life.

Are we willing to do the same?

Do we still hold onto things that are underground and unseen, things that are stealing our devotion and our joy?

Our idols are not spears, symbolic jewelry, or wooden gods, but instead are subtler and insidious, like our jobs, entertainment, “me-time”, money, or success. We talk about them often, acknowledging that they keep our hearts from being fully engaged, but are we willing to step away? Do we stand in witness next to people, fully turning from the things that hold them back from God? Could we?

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed nor shall there be any after me.” Isaiah 43:10