Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: BEAT AROUND THE BUSH (05/25/17)
- TITLE: Man in a straw hat and Jesus
By Francie Snell
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Danga awoke to see the outline of her husband’s lithe form in the moonlight. She whispered. "Why are you up so late Tonga? Why must you stand watch night after night? Did you hear something again?"
Transfixed, eyes focused on the dense foliage that surrounded the village he murmured. “The spirits are angry.”
After she had pleaded with him to lay down and get some rest, Tonga laid down on the mat next to her and drifted off into a restless sleep. Yet after just a few hours, again he was up standing vigilantly in the doorway, like a guard, watching and waiting.
As the hours passed and dawn began to break, he stepped outside and squatted down by his hut and waited for the others. One by one, men from the neighboring shelters emerged and crouched down on their heels, waiting for the ritual to begin.
With the signal of the first drum beat, rigidly they all stood and looked towards the cluster of branches laid in an open space in the center of the village. It was a large pile the witchdoctor had meditated over the night before, pleading with the good spirits to bestow protection over the people. A war cry echoed through the village, then they all shouted in unison. Then they ran, like a frenzied herd, into the clearing where each grabbed up his own tree branch.
Quickly, they spread out around the perimeter of the village and took their assigned places. Then, Methodically, they slapped the branches on the ground in and around the bushes and trees to the slow rhythm of the drum. With each beat every branch hit the ground, with dust flying up in all directions. After a while when the drum finally stopped and the commotion ended, every man stood exhausted in a cloud of dust, blinking their eyes, and covered head to toe in dirt.
Watching the ruckus from a distance was a light-skinned man wearing a large hat made of straw. He was a stranger new to the village. He wiped his brow and took a deep breath as he stepped into the clearing and faced the men. Raising his hands high into the air, he called out in their native language loud enough for all to hear.
“Friends, you don’t have to beat around the bush like this. You do this out of fear I know, but you don’t have to be afraid of evil spirits any longer. There is a God who loves you. He is mighty and strong and has all power over all spirits. He wants to protect you. JESUS is his name. Would you like to know Him? I can tell you more about him if you will just listen."
A mumbling went out from the crowd of men as they gazed at the man and then at each other.
Tonga stepped out from the crowd and called to the man. "I would like to hear more about this Jesus." He looked at the ground and threw down the branch from his calloused hands. "I am tired of battling against the darkness with sticks and dirt. And I'm tired of the sleepless nights. I want to live a better way."
The man smiled. "Then I will teach you."
The next day Tonga stood in the doorway peering out from his thatch hut pondering what he had learned the day before. Early in the morning after a restful night, he listened to the sounds of the jungle welcoming in a new day. All seemed calm in the sleepy little village, and he felt safe for the first time in his life, thanks to the man in the straw hat and Jesus.
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