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edited by Wendy Bytheway
When a baby achieves a milestone, it is often an occasion of joy. The first smile, a laugh, the first tooth are cause for celebration.
If a child's top tooth appears first in Northern Benin however, this is a cause of great fear. It is a sign that the child will become a witch or a sorcerer. This and other abnormalities are traditionally cause for infanticide. Killed by special medicine men or abandoned at the foot of a tree "discarded infants are a common sight in many regions of Benin".
When his 8-month-old baby son's top teeth appeared first, the father wanted the child slaughtered. A local pastor intervened and threatened to send him, along with any who would lay a hand on this child, to prison for life. While the father was warned off killing the child he did not want to keep him either and left him in the pastor's care. A GRN team member - adopted the baby boy. His name aptly means "God with us!" The boy's mother who had divorced her husband after discovering that he was involved in such despicable practices learnt that her son was not dead as she had originally thought and searched until she found him living with "the Christians". She herself became a Christian and changed her name to Tabitha. She took her son back to live with her and her new husband but maintained a close relationship with those that had cared for her son. When Tabitha's mother-in law died, the GRN team attended to present their condolences.
Fetish: objects regarded with awe as the embodiment of a powerful spirit.
Tabitha's mother in law was a well-known fetishist. Many visiting witch doctors and other practitioners of fetishism attended her funeral.
It was into this context that Tabitha's husband invited the GRN team to share the gospel.
They met in the sports field of a primary school. Their well-anticipated arrival had drawn a crowd of more than 150 people before they had even started the presentation. They projected the Jesus film in Bariba language to a group that eventually numbered 600 people. Through saving the life of this baby, many unlikely people involved in occult practices received the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
The funeral of a fetishist is not a likely place to share the Gospel but perhaps more unlikely is the Courtyard of a Mosque, yet this is where the team held their evangelistic meeting by invitation! The leader of this meeting understandably expressed some reluctance to hold a meeting in a place likely to cause antagonism at best and outright hostility at worst: "I asked if he had thought before choosing the courtyard of the mosque for a Christian evangelism?"
After hearing it was the village chief who had given them use of the place, he asked to see him: "Do you not know that Muslims could take our presence in the courtyard of their mosque for a provocation and pounce on us to lynch us?"
The chief answered: "This place belongs to me, Muslims themselves are there temporarily. I wonder how someone could hurt you where they do not belong. Go stand your evening there [sic] and if someone troubles you come and see me."
Shortly before the last evening prayers, the team began their presentation. Many stayed to watch instead of going straight home. The team counted more than 400 people.