What Do I Give the Aja People?

by Richard Chowning

December 18, 1999


It is the holiday season, gift giving time.  The Aja people frequently ask us for help or gifts.  The Lord knows we can afford it.  We are so much wealthier than they.  And, they often give us what they have: oranges, tomatoes, corn, peanuts, beans and bread.  They do not know how much we agonize over what to do about their requests.  What do we give to the Aja?  


The events of the past week in the village of Numovihoue reminded me of the gifts the Lord gives the Aja and we who serve among them.  He gave the gifts through two brothers who have almost identical names: Antoine and Anthony. 


It all began Friday evening, December 3rd.  Anthony showed me the list of the people who wanted to be baptized.   He told me they wanted to be baptized on Sunday, December 12th.  Then he read the sixteen names aloud.  “Put my name on the list,” said his older brother Antoine.  Joy rushed into my heart, as I looked over at the forty year old man lying on a mat.  He was dying from AIDS.  Dry skin covered his skeleton.  The Lord had answered our prayers for the salvation of this suffering soul.  As I walked back to the truck, I felt moved to tell Anthony, “We can baptize your older brother the day after tomorrow, if he agrees.  He does not look like he has many days left.” 


He agreed.  Two Christians from Dandjihoue supported Antoine as he shuffled down riverbank to the edge of the water.  Komi asked him, “Why have you come to this river?” 


“I have sinned against God, many times.  But, God has not sinned against me.  He said he would wash away my sins.  That is why I have come here.”  Speaking those few words exhausted his energy.  When he came out of the water, the Christians steadied his body, but the Lord was now supporting his soul.


When I told Antoine’s story in several villages during the week, most people rejoiced.  It was difficult for others to accept that God loved Antoine enough to save him near the end of a life that was being ravaged by a sexually transmitted disease.  I told them, “His sin is evident on his body.  If our sins left visible scars, we would all look as wasted as Antoine.”  Praise the Lord for his grace.  I also shared the parable of the master who paid the workers who labored a few hours the same wages as those who worked all day.  Antoine’s reward is the same as everyone else: eternal life.


The Friday after Antoine’s baptism, we were again teaching in Numovihoue.  Afterwards, Anthony, the younger brother, asked Komi and I to follow him into his house.  He knelt down and opened a trunk that lay on the mud floor.  Komi gasped when he saw it was filled sorcery paraphernalia.  “I want to repent and burn these things.” Anthony said. 


We carried the trunk outside and spilled the contents on the ground.  There were pieces of wood wrapped with rope that had scissors or knives stuck in them; animal bones; leather pouches filled with smaller objects; and fragments of human skulls.  There were thirty or more objects that had been used to curse people.  Anthony poured kerosene on the evil stuff and set them ablaze.  The flames attracted a large crowd.  Anthony stepped into the light and told them, “This white man is not burning these evil things.  He did not even know that I would burn them, or that this was going to take place.  I am burning them because I used them against many of you.  I am sorry.  I ask God, and all of you, to forgive me.”


Two days later Anthony and twenty-one others from Numovihoue were baptized.  What a great beginning for a congregation.


The opportunity to witness all this is a gift from you.  Thank you very much.  God continues to work his wonders. 


PS.  Antoine died on December 17, 1999, the day after I wrote this article.  We bury his body today.  Praise the Lord that his soul is now resting with the Lord, eternally.