“All my life I’ve lived in fear. Finally I now know I do not have to fear. For the first time in my life I have peace. Thank you!”
Those were the words of a high school student shortly after a program I did standing in the back of a pick up truck as my stage (one of the images above). In Africa, superstition and ancestral spirit worship is at the very heart of the many cultures there. South Africa is no exception.
I remember the first time I toured in South Africa during Operation Sunrise Africa in 2002. Many thought that to bring an illusionist there was a bad idea. “People here are too superstitious,” some would say. “They’ll think you’re a witch doctor”, others said.
On the contrary, my experience has shown me that this is one of the best ways to reach students living in these more superstitious cultures. I performed at several South Africa universities that first tour. When the national campus director for Campus Crusade for Christ, who was a bit skeptical, saw the program for the first time, his response was, “We need to have this program in every college in the country!” Why…?
This year has been one of the busiest. I’m currently in route for the last segment of a seven country tour. I began the year in Kyrgyzstan, then Albania, Turkey, Israel, and most recently completed my 4th tour in South Africa. I can’t wait to begin assembling all the images, video’s and stories to share for you! Please pray for the hundreds and thousands of individuals that we’ve been privileged to reach with the Gospel. Pray for the local follow-up teams who are continuing the work with those individuals who have responded to Christ in faith.
Exposing the Lie
In my program, you might assume I need to keep the effects simple enough so as not to reinforce any beliefs in the power of the local witch doctors (also called songoma in South Africa). In my years of experience performing in so many “superstitious” cultures I have found the opposite to be most effective. I do the most “magical”, mind blowing effects that I can. At home in the USA its just good show. In South Africa however, I had students running for the door thinking I just performed miracles!
As much as my colleagues in the art of illusion would frown on it, after I present these effects, I would always take my audience through a simplistic explanation of the how I (and the SONGOMA!) create these effects. Then, the most amazing thing happens. It’s almost as if my entire audience and I were sitting in a pitch black room when all of a sudden the lights are switched on illuminating every person sitting there.
It’s so powerful… words do not even begin to capture what I see in their eyes or read on their faces and body language. It’s that total “ah ha” moment of realization that they have been getting duped their entire lives.
In much of Africa there is a tremendous sense of fear in many people’s lives. Especially those who have ceded power to witchdoctors who have deceived them for their entire lives. As I would say in each program, “if a person (i.e. witchdoctor) tells you a lie and you believe it, does he not have power over you?” Usually I would get lots of yes nods. “If he has power over you, do you not have reason to fear that person?” Again, yes nods.
“But… once you know the truth, and a person lies to you, do they now have power over you?”
Keep in mind, I’ve just presented several “effects” that would give the illusion that I have great power. Greater than perhaps anything they have ever seen or perhaps even heard. And I’ve just explained how those effects can be done using science, slight of hand, and trickery.
As the audience nods “NO” to that last question… I finish the segment by asking, “Do you have any reason to fear a witchdoctor who lies to you now that you know the truth?” Again, a resounding no as they audience begins to vocalize with great enthusiasm their confident answer.
Sharing the Truth
This would all be a nice humanitarian effort if I stopped right there. But, at this point, I’m only about half way through the program. The next segment, I perform some “for fun” effects and then begin to transition to ask and answer the question that is already on all of our minds… why do we search for the supernatural?
Clearly, in each of us is written upon our hearts to seek what nature has made plain… that which is beyond what we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell… the invisible, the divine… the one true creator God. In a fallen state and with the father of lies prowling about, how can anyone know Him personally unless we go and tell them the truth?
What a privilege and thrill it is to conclude the program by sharing God’s love and plan for the life of every human being as well as the active demonstration of that love in history through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Meeting students afterwards, hearing how the Gospel has touched them brings a whole new dynamic to Jesus’ words, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free…”.
Saturday, I’ll begin my first day of programs in Egypt. Next I’ll move on to Bulgaria to work with Operation Mobilization once again on a street evangelism tour primarily focusing on Turkish communities. And finally, due to the response from the tour earlier this year, I will be returning to Albania for the remainder of my time before returning.