Friday, February 13, 2009

Angels of Africa

By 1996, the war and genocide in neighboring Rwanda had spilled over to the Country of Zaire. It was the beginning of one of the bloodiest and brutal wars in history, and the deadliest multinational conflict since World War 2.

Zahirah lived in a small village near Bumba on the Congo River when in early 1997 the rebel forces of Laurent-Désiré Kabila started the deadly march westward down the river, leaving a wash of destroyed villages and dead corpses in their wake.

Luckily the news of the deadly march reached her small village before the rebel leaders did, and Zahirah along with her family deserted their home and escaped to the south.

But it was not long before the crimson tide of the ethnic violence soon caught up with them.

Less than a hundred Kilometers from their village they came upon a violent band of rebels attacking a small cluster of dwellings that could hardly have housed more than a hundred. Zahirah’s mother shielded her eyes from the brutality of the violence that the rest of the family beheld, but the screams and unanswered please for mercy painted a lasting image in her minds eye.

The people were being slaughtered like animals.

Quickly they retreated backward, but it seems there retreat was less than stealthy. A few of the rebels caught their movement and were soon on their tail.

Quickly the family of five ran through the woods as fast as they could, but in the hurried confusion they became separated. Zahirah and her baby brother darted right while her parents and older brother went straight along the path. Soon both stopped momentarily to see where the others had gone. Zahirah hid behind a fallen tree with ample foliage to cover her from the rebels that were quickly gaining on them. From her vantage point she could see her parents coming back along the trail to look for her and the baby.

She also could see the rebels were rounding a bend and soon would come face to face with her parents and brother on the path. All seemed lost. She dare not shout out a warning for then the rebels would find her as well. So she did all she could do.

She prayed.

Her family had been a family of faith for almost a hundred years, her great grandfather was converted by Missionaries and had become on of the first indigenous ministers in her village. She knew from experience that God did answer prayers, not always as she wished, but in this extreme circumstance she surrendered the situation to the only One who could rescue her and her family. In her heart, she cried out for help.

The rebels drew close to her family, and almost too late they saw their predicament. Quickly they dashed into the brush and hid. But even Zahirah could see them from her great distance and it was sure that the rebels would as well.

Then the miracle happened. Zahirah saw two large beings suddenly appear and stand in front of the foliage where her family haphazardly hid. They were human forms but made out of light. They had large swords in their hands and as the rebels turned the corner they crossed swords in front of the helpless family.

The heavily armed troops ran past them without notice and disappeared into the jungle.

The two beings of light then vanished and Zahirah ran from behind the log to guide her parents away from the path, lest the rebels should come back when they found nothing ahead.

For now the family was united and safe. It took them over a month to reach relative safety, a month of hiding, scavenging and starvation. But finally they made it to a refugee shelter in Burundi. The guardian angels never appeared again, and in fact only Zahirah had seen them. Her family told her they just saw the soldiers run past them without notice. But Zahirah knew the truth; God had heard her desperate plea and had sent supernatural protection.

After I heard this story a few years ago in a Missionary meeting at church my mind raced back to a similar story that I had heard from Missionaries returning from their four year tour in Burkina Faso way back in 1988.

In the summer of 1986 I had toured as a student Missionary to Burkina. The country was at that time undergoing drastic change under the leadership of President Thomas Sankara. Although he was a progressive, who championed health reforms and women’s rights the countryside under Sankara’s rule was extremely militant. I remember passing checkpoints throughout the country where the guards were children armed with assault rifles who were not yet into their teenage years.

The year following my tour of the country, on October 15th 1987 there was a coup and President Thomas Sankara was assassinated. It was told that he was dragged out of his presidential office in Ougadougou and shot in the head in a ditch behind the compound. The coup was quick and brutal.

I was told by the furloughing Missionaries in 1988 that President Sankara’s wife had avoided a similar fate at the time by angelic intervention.

The President’s wife, Mariam Sankara was a woman of faith and when the coup entered the capitol she was ushered away by some unusual strangers who warned her of the fate of her husband and her need to quickly flee the capitol with her children.

Over the years I heard two different versions of this angelic rescue.

In one she was at the office building just moments before the coup’s leaders entered in. It was there that these unknown strangers, who had a powerful and commanding presence, told the first lady that she needed to flee because her husbands assassins were on their way and it was his fate to die and her fate to carry on his legacy. So quickly they led her through the halls and miraculously they were not seen by and of the opposing factions. Then when she was safely in the hands of some sympathizers who could whisk her and her out of the country the strangers just vanished in front of them.

Another story has her in a residence on the outskirts of the city when the coup occurred. The strangers just appeared out of nowhere in the locked house and told her of the unfolding events. Again they escort her through perilous areas without her even being noticed and put her safely in the hands of others who could help. Again as in the previous version they vanished in front of all present.

I was the story of Mariam Sankara’s miraculous escape at the hand of Angels quickly spread throughout the Christian community at the time. But I could never verify it from sources outside the church.

Is it true?

I have no idea, I was not there. But the prophetic statement that the alleged Angels gave to Mrs.Sankara is certainly coming true. Her fate is indeed to carry on her butchered husband’s legacy. In 2006 she brought the plight of her family to the United Nations. Along with the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa (GRILA)brought the case before United Nations Human Rights Committee. That year, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled in favor of the International Justice for Sankara Campaign, and demanded that the government of Burkina Faso take action to shed light on the circumstances of Sankara's death.

Even today Thomas Sankara is viewed as a political martyr for justice and progress in many African countries, much in part because of the relentless campaigning Mrs. Sankara on her deceased husband’s behalf. She is resolute that her husband’s legacy is never forgotten.

God does not always intercede in such dramatic ways, and sometimes when we hear such stories we are full of doubt because of the untold suffering of others that have not been rescued in such a direct and miraculous way.

But it does not mean that it still does happen. Why not to all? That is in God’s hands, He certainly knows better than we do.

One thing is sure though, for people of faith such stories give us hope and courage in the rough times. Perhaps, if He wills, God will send a little intervention our way.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope


oolalafrenchgirl said...

Wonderful stories that convey hope. In some ways it reminds me of a situation that I encountered when I was a fairly young girl (11 yrs old). I definately believe in both miracles and angels. Thank you for sharing these stories.

Teresa Silverthorn said...

Interesting, very interesting. Thanks for sharing this story.

Anonymous said...

The 1st story (Rwanda) sounds more likely than the 2nd.

At any rate, I'm surprised you didn't comment on the 2005 report of a kidnapped 12-year-old Ethiopian girl who was rescued by lions. That has always sounded suspiciously like angelic intervention to me.

But what's really paranormal is this: Why hasn't Disney made a movie out of the story?

Anonymous said...

"GRILA believes that democracy and progressive strategies must focus on self-reliant and popular development in other words, Africa relying on its own forces, within a socialist and panafricanist perspective."

Is is wise to be associated with such a group considering the havoc Socialim has wreaked on Africa? I've volunteered with an organization that provides support and encouragement to persecuted Christians and wonder if it is wise for a Christian woman to join with such an organization when it may ultimately lead to more persecution and suffering.

cryptidsrus said...

Interesting stories. Thanks for putting these stories up . Very life-affirming and hope-inducing, Swope.

talthar said...

It's good to hear stories like this coming out of the horror and chaos of what has become modern Africa. It shows that no matter what God is still is watching. I wonder how many other lives have been saved by angelic intervention but the people involved never knew?