The bed where missionary Murray Brown lay was on the fifth floor of a hospital in Kumasi, Ghana. A pressure cooker had exploded, leaving severe burns on Murray’s hands, abdomen and legs. On his right hand the wounds were so deep that the muscles and ligaments were exposed.
“For burns as deep as these,” his doctor advised, “you will need skin grafts.”
Very early one morning as Murray lay awake, he saw a procession of African army ants creep across the floor of his room. In horror he watched them come toward his bed. Up they crawled until they reached his body and made their way under the bandages to chew at his burned flesh.
“Help!” Murray cried. But at that early hour there was no nurse on the hospital floor to hear him.
“Isn’t there anyone to help me?” he called. But no one answered.
Three times he repeated his anguished cry. But his pleas went unheard.
In Scottsbluff, Nebraska, it was the middle of the night. A friend of Murray Brown’s lay in bed, sound asleep. Suddenly he was awakened by a cry of distress. Thinking it might be one of his children, he got up and went to look at them. But they were all sleeping soundly.
After returning to his bed, he again heard a cry for help. Once more he went to look at the children, but they were still asleep.
This time when he returned to bed, he distinctly heard these words: “Help! Isn’t there anyone to help me?”
The man awakened his wife. “I’ve just heard Murray Brown’s voice,” he said. “He is calling for help.”
The man and his wife prayed for their friend. They had no idea what his need might be, but they wrestled in prayer until they were assured victory had come.
No one came to the missionary’s aid that morning in the hospital in Kumasi. But suddenly, to Murray’s amazement, the ants turned away from him and left his bed. They crawled across the hospital floor and disappeared, just as though someone had called them.
Later, when the doctor removed the bandages, he found new flesh forming over the wounds. Even over the exposed tendons on his right hand, healthy pink flesh had appeared.
Murray’s healing was so complete that there was no need to graft skin. Eventually, only a tiny scar remained on one thigh to remind him of his dreadful experience.
Many months later Murray learned how his friend in Scottsbluff had heard his voice from the other side of the world. At last he understood why the ants had turned and crawled away.
Murray Brown and his wife, Marjorie, were missionaries to Africa from 1939 to 1980.
After a year of working among the Barroba people of Liberia, my wife, Ruth, and I moved farther interior to live among the Pahn, a warlike people who had not yet heard the gospel and were reported to be cannibals. Except for a few Barroba Christians who went to help us get settled, we were isolated. The government had no outposts there; in fact, the last government official to visit the area had been killed and eaten!
One evening the Barroba believers found a dying woman lying beside a trail. At our mission, she eventually recovered enough to tell her story.
She belonged to a coastal tribe, and Pahn villagers had captured her two children as slaves. When she tried to rescue them, she was beaten and left to die.
At the mission the woman accepted Jesus. More than anything, she wanted to bring her children to the mission so they could be brought up as Christians. She begged us to help her.
Arrangements were made easily for her son, but her daughter was another story. She was living some distance away in a village that was hostile to outsiders.
I gathered a group of Barroba Christians, and we headed for the village. I made several proposals to the chief, all of which he turned down. Finally, I told the chief I would take the child with me to see her mother. If he wished, he could come to the mission in a few days to discuss the matter further.
Traveling as fast as possible, my companions and I went three villages away before we dared stop for the night.
About midnight I was awakened by the sound of drums, yells and screams. In the moonlight I saw a mass of warriors coming through the village gate, decorated with war paint and brandishing weapons. In anger, they had taken a vow to neither eat nor drink until I was dead!
My traveling companions and I immediately began seeking God. While in prayer, I felt impressed to go outside and face the mob.
“You have taken your vows and made your threats,” I said, “but I am trusting in my God to protect me.”
The leader rushed toward me, his knife raised to behead me. Bowing my head, I repeated the name of Jesus.
Suddenly the yelling stopped, the drums were still. I cautiously looked up. All around me the warriors stood with weapons drawn, but they were frozen in place. No one, including the man who intended to behead me, moved!
I stood still and waited. As if in slow motion, these angry cannibals relaxed and backed away.
A few minutes later their leader slowly approached me, grabbed my ankles in a show of submission, and begged me to spare their lives.
“I see your God fights for you,” he said. “We will accept your offer to settle the matter.”
We never knew what the warriors saw that night, but we never doubted that God performed a miracle on our behalf.
H.B. Garlock and his wife, Ruth, served in Africa from 1920 to 1943. H.B. was Africa regional director from 1943 to 1954.
Pythons writhed around the man’s shoulders as he glared at the missionary.
“You will go from here,” the man hissed. “Otherwise we will kill you.”
“I am here to stay,” Etienne Yameogo replied. “I don’t work for your gods. I serve a greater Lord, and He has sent me here.”
Etienne knew the threat was serious. Since coming to Ouidah, Benin, as a missionary from the Burkina Faso AG, he had received many threats. But he knew God had called him, and nothing would turn him back.
Ouidah, a town near Benin’s southern coast, is known as the voodoo capital of the world. Idols stand guard on the streets. Blood from pagan sacrifices stain the ground. A temple is dedicated to python worship. Protected by dark powers, worshippers can pick up the serpents without being harmed.
The man at Etienne’s door was a leader of this temple, but his threats did not intimidate the missionary. Etienne set about witnessing in the marketplaces, in the streets, and house to house. He found fewer than 10 Christians in the area. Most of the other people were bound by voodoo.
Eventually two boys received Christ as their Savior. When one of the boys, just 12 years old, told his family of his new faith, they ordered him out of the house. Etienne and his wife took the child into their home, where they treated him as their own son.
A few weeks later, members of the boy’s family came to the Yameogos’ door.
“We want you to come to our house,” they told Etienne. “This boy’s mother is gravely ill, and she is going to die. We understand that you pray and people are healed. We want you to come.”
“No, I won’t come with you,” Etienne replied. “But I will send the boy to pray for his mother. You need to know that God hears the prayers of people from Ouidah just as He hears the prayers of foreigners. The gospel is for you.”
But the family would not allow their “apostate” son into their home. Angry and helpless, they went back to the dying woman.
Two days later the family returned.
“The boy can come and pray, they said.
So the youngster, with only a few weeks of instruction in the Word, went back to his home and laid hands on his mother. Soon she was out of bed, preparing meals and going about her work.
Word of the healing spread, and the Holy Spirit broke the bonds of voodoo in many souls. The tiny, struggling church grew to nearly 300 members. In spite of continued harassment and persecution, the believers stand firm. After every service they join hands and place themselves under the blood of Christ, the One who has power to overcome any attack of the enemy.
Civil war in the Biafra area of Nigeria brought difficulty and suffering to the Ibo people during the late 1960s. Refugees flooded into jungle camps in search of safety. Most came with only the clothes they were wearing and the food they could carry.
As the war dragged on, food became scarce and hunger increased. A massive relief effort, coordinated by the Red Cross and various church groups, airlifted tons of food into the sealed region, but it wasn’t enough. Refugees, especially children, suffered malnutrition.
Caught in this tragedy were thousands of Pentecostal believers. Their faith was a testimony to other refugees. Churches, camouflaged with palm branches, overflowed with worshippers as a revival spirit dominated the services. Often the sounds of war rumbled in the background, and everyone was hungry, but worship continued unhindered. Animated, anointed singing ascended to the Lord as believers lifted their faces in joyous praise.
AG missionaries were evacuated at the beginning of the war, but Ken and Jeri Godbey and I were allowed to return after only a few months. We lived among the refugees, walked in the camps, offered help, and shared in the suffering.
In an effort to help the children, the AG set up three malnutrition centers. At each center, 400 children received a cup of high-protein food twice a week. Seated on the ground, the children slowly chewed each bite and then carefully licked their fingers to get every last bit of nutrition. This weekly ration of food, added to their jungle diet, made the difference in life or death.
As the famine worsened, believers prayed earnestly for a miracle—a miracle of God’s provision comparable to what Elijah experienced when he was fed by ravens.
Thousands of concerned Americans joined in that prayer. In answer to prayer, God provided, but not in the dramatic way we expected.
Biafra usually experienced two dry seasons each year—one wet, one dry. Yet during the war, the slow, quiet rains continued year round. The moisture caused the jungle to flourish with native foods. Mushrooms were available all year, orange trees yielded an abundant crop, and avocados produced the largest harvest anyone could remember!
The continued rains caused green leaves, rich in protein, to sprout daily. Palm trees provided an ample supply of coconuts, palm kernels and oil. Primitive foods, such as lizards, frogs, flying ants, snails and grasshoppers multiplied in the wet jungle. God provided an extended rainy season to help His people in a war-ravaged, famine-stricken land.
Even the children recognized it. In a service just weeks before the war ended, they held up oranges, coconuts, bananas, avocados, corn and green leaves as they sang a song of thanksgiving. They were participants in a miracle comparable to God’s provision of manna in the wilderness, and they gave back joyous praise for a jungle miracle.
Adapted from Rain of Terror, Reign of Grace, a book written by Jerry Falley. Falley and his wife, Maxine, have served with AGWM for more than 50 years.
The snake slithered noiselessly through the grass toward a group of men who had gathered in the village. One of the men, Nemgistu,* was telling the group about Jesus and was completely unaware of the snake’s presence. By the time he noticed, the snake had coiled three times around one of Nemgistu’s legs and was stretching toward the other.
The audience of some 30 men looked on, horrified. They knew the viper’s technique of wrapping itself around the victim’s legs to bring him to the ground. But Nemgistu paused only momentarily in his message.
Looking down at his attacker, he said, “In the name of Jesus, go!”
To the astonishment of the men, the snake immediately uncoiled and disappeared back into the grass.
Nemgistu continued his message about Jesus, and every man listened. The demonstration of the power of that Name had captivated them.
Nemgistu, a second-year Bible school student, felt God directing him to spend his vacation time ministering in a predominantly Muslim area of his East African nation. As he went from village to village teaching about Jesus, his ministry was confirmed by signs and wonders. In one village, so many men opened their hearts to Jesus that the local mosque was turned into a place for gospel services.
One day as Nemgistu walked to yet another village to preach, the clouds opened in a downpour of rain.
At first Nemgistu kept walking, but as the deluge grew heavier he stopped at a house and asked for shelter. Inside he found a group of men visiting. Nemgistu also noticed one man who sat in a corner and said very little.
As the rain continued, Nemgistu requested permission to speak. The men agreed, and Nemgistu told them about Jesus. When he finished, he asked if he could pray. Again, the men agreed.
As Nemgistu prayed, he began speaking forcefully in another language as the Holy Spirit came upon him. Immediately the man in the corner leaped to his feet and lifted his hands in the air.
Later the man asked Nemgistu, “How did you know my tribal language?”
“I didn’t,” Nemgistu replied. “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me.”
“You told me to stand up,” the man said. “One of my legs was shriveled, and I have been unable to walk. But when you spoke, I obeyed. Now I’m standing, and my leg is fine.”
Outside, the rain ended, but inside, spiritual blessings continued to flow. When Nemgistu went on to the next village, he left a group of new believers worshipping Jesus in the house beside the road.
Nemgistu took the story of Jesus into an area most older evangelists would have considered unreachable. God used a retreating snake to open a door, pouring rain to keep an audience captive, and the power of His Word to bring healing.
*Name has been changed.
Information was supplied by Duane and Sylvia Stewart, missionaries to Africa from 1971 to 2002.
My wife and I worked at a medical clinic during a time of civil war in an East African nation. At our small compound, 10 armed guards watched over us on the roof, in the garage, and around the front yard. Without their protection, we would have been helpless victims of those who wanted to steal our vehicle, loot our medical supplies, or kidnap us for ransom.
Whenever we ventured out, three gunmen rode with us in the car. This was not exactly what we envisioned as an ideal situation for proclaiming the gospel, but we trusted God to open doors.
One day I was riding out of the compound when a local man approached the car and asked to speak to me. I didn’t know him, so I told him to return that afternoon. In the crush of other activities, I forgot all about him.
That afternoon the guards called for me, saying someone outside wanted to see me. The man had returned, so I led him to a seat on the veranda and asked him his business. As I listened, he related this strange and awe-inspiring tale:
“Several years ago, my wife and I were blessed with a son. He fell ill, and we took him to the hospital. Even so, his sickness grew worse and he died. My wife was inconsolable at the loss and became so depressed that she left me and moved back to the countryside to live with her parents. After losing my son and my wife, I too fell into a deep depression.
“In the midst of my pain, I had a dream one night. I saw my son, alive again, sitting on a couch. He spoke forcefully to me and insisted that the problems of my life were caused by my sinful condition and the bitterness and unforgiveness I felt. The next morning I remembered this strange dream, but I could not understand its meaning.
“That night, I had a second dream. In it I saw my son again, sitting on the same couch. This time he explained that the solution to my sin problem could be found in the Christian Bible. He told me that a man named Mr. David worked for an international relief and development agency in town. This man would teach me the words of the Bible and I would find relief from my grief and anguish.
“When I awoke, I remembered my dream and was filled with fear. I knew where the office of this organization was located, but I had never been inside the gate. I had never met anyone named Mr. David, and I knew armed protectors guarded the gate. I decided the possible consequences weren’t worth the risk.
“That night I had a third dream. Once again, I saw my son sitting on the couch. This time he was very angry. ‘Why didn’t you go and speak to Mr. David?’ he chided.
“In the morning, his words nagged at me. Surely Allah was speaking to me through these strange and powerful dreams. I decided I would try to see Mr. David.
“I was very nervous as I walked to the compound, and my courage began to fail. Yet as I waited in the street nearby, the gate suddenly opened and a car appeared. As it entered the street, I saw you sitting in the back. I knew you had to be Mr. David.”
The man then looked at me. “I have come to you in answer to my dream,” he said. “Will you teach me the words of the Christian Bible?”
My years in that nation had taught me to be very cautious. The man might have easily fabricated the whole story as a test to see whether I would engage in proselytizing. Yet I knew I couldn’t risk turning this man away if God had sent him. I told him that I would indeed teach him the words of the Christian Bible if he was truly interested.
As we met together, the man came to understand God’s plan of salvation. With joy I led him in a sinner’s prayer for forgiveness.
We studied regularly together for a year and a half until my wife and I left for another assignment. But I will always remember the opportunity God gave me to share His love in a seemingly closed country—all in answer to a dream.