Every time I am in Togo, West Africa, I notice something in every village we enter in to.
They all look different. Some look like a blob of cement or clay and others are a little bit more detailed. No matter what, every village has one.
These idols represent a deity that the people in that area sacrifice to. It's like when you enter your neighborhood and there is a sign with the name of your neighborhood on it. This sign represents where you live.
The difference is, you probably don't give up the only meat that you and your family will eat that week, to this stone image.
You don't look at that sign for protection or peace.
You probably aren't concerned with your sign not being pleased with you and as a result becoming cursed.
This is a daily worry and responsibility that these people deal with.
It is so easy to see how the enemy works in this area of the world. I mean we all know the ten commandments, right?
"Thou shalt worship a stone image"?
Kids are born every single day in Togo and grow up thinking that they have to please this stone and the deity that it represents to have a prosperous life. They will worry about not having the proper amount of food to sacrifice to this idol and go without food themselves.
It is so easy to sit back and think, "wow! How could they live that way?". "How don't they see how foolish this is?"
I grew up as a pastors kid and am so thankful and blessed to have been brought up in Gospel centered family that shared the love and hope of Jesus. One day I made my own decision to follow Him and was forever changed.
The reality is, these people have not. They have grown up in a family that clung to the hope of an idol. They don't know about the One True God who created them. They don't know about His only Son who sacrificed Himself for them so that they will never have to sacrifice anything to find favor. They don't know that they can have hope, peace and freedom in Christ.
Romans 10:14-15 says,
"How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Can you imagine living a life trying to please someone and never being able to live up to the demands? Can you imagine living in fear and desperation, just looking for some hope? Can you imagine being so lost that you just didn't know what to do any more?
The answer to all of those should be, YES!
Because before you knew Jesus, that was you.
Maybe you were lucky enough to not grow up in the eleventh poorest country in the world. What a blessing!
Yeah, your life before Christ may have looked a little different than someone who has grown up in a voodoo culture.
But the result is still the same. You. Were. Lost...
Now, you're not! Now you have a hope! You have Good News to share with those who don't know!
Never take for granted the gift of salvation.
West Africa has a dark history of wars, colonization and slavery. The coast stretching from Ghana through Togo, Benin and Nigeria was formerly known as the Slave Coast. This area was conquered by the French, British and Portuguese all at different times throughout the salve trade. The countries of Togo and Benin saw over 10% of the entire western slave exportation.
It has been a dark past as you can imagine.
Years removed from this horrible past and there is a different bondage today. This area has become the birthplace of voodoo. Lomé, Togo is the leader of all fetish sales in the world.
Every year on January 10th there is a massive voodoo festival. On the beaches of Ouida, Benin thousands of people will gather together standing in the exact place their ancestors boarded crowded ships to be shipped somewhere to the west.
In their freedom today, they will commemorate their ancestors by sacrificing goats to idols and participating in other rituals led by voodoo priests and priestesses. People come to experience the supernatural and often to participate in it.
As I stood there on those beaches taking in my surroundings, I couldn't help but feel an incredible weight on my body. Things seemed to move in slow motion and those scenes will be etched in my mind until the day I die.
I saw free people celebrate their freedom by worshiping deities in the form of idols. They were seeking a supernatural power that would save them and were becoming enslaved to it.
In this specific area their main deity is the python. People, in service to this deity, will cut slits in their forehead and cheeks to mimic the breathing holes of the python. This is an act to signify that they are in service to the deity of the python.
Even today as I sit back and think about those scenes, I can sometimes feel the heaviness of that day.
These people have overcome years of exportation of precious human life and now choose to enslave themselves to a supernatural power in the form of an object or animal. It is so clear to see the foot print of the enemy here.
This is why I am going. I have been set free by the blood of Christ and I can now live freely! By the gift of grace, it cost me nothing! It is free and I am free in Christ. That is a message that needs to be shared with the people enslaved that have never known or heard. What an opportunity to bring the Good News that they can find freedom in Christ and be forever changed!