After the Serpent . . .Hope!
My wife, Alice and our three children were living in a small village on the border of Cameroun and Tchad, Africa. We had been given new names by our friends in the village, ones they could pronounce. I was Ousmanou, my wife, Aisatu, and our children, Alium, Aminu and Jamilatu. We were deeply involved in the lives of villagers, sharing our garden, planting trees, helping dig wells and sharing Gospel portions in Arabic and Fulfulde. For, although the Quran encourages its followers to read all the Holy Books, most Muslims in this part of the Sub-Sahara had no access to the Gospels.
We found that singing the folk stories we learned and linking these to how the Bible speaks of hope in Isa bii-Maryama (Jesus, the son of Mary) was the most effective way share God’s word a place where a book was 1/3 of a year’s wages. I want to share the most listened to story of our time there.
There once was a man and a Serpent . . . He was tired of the city and its buying and selling and corruption for money. He was a Muslim man who loved the open spaces of the country so he would go and do his prayers in the open areas of la brousse. One day, after praying, he asked Allah for special help to understand his place in the world. The next morning, after prayers, he was shocked to see a Snake, slithering directly toward him. More etonnant was that the Serpent spoke! “Have mercy on me, in the name of Allah! My enemies are almost upon me and the man and his dog will kill me if they catch me!” “What can I do? I only have this mat to hide you under?” “No, the dog will smell me” replied the Serpent. “I am used to going into holes . . . open your mouth and I will slither down inside you.” “But, what if you don’t come out!” gasped the man? “Oh, in the name of Allah and The Prophet I will come out” he said. The man agreed for once the Prophet had been invoked, there was no way to refuse safety and hospitality to anyone in need.
Soon came the hunter and son chien, “Have you seen a snake—a very large and fast one?” “I do not see any snake, do you see one here?” the man carefully replied. Not wanting to disturb the man further, the hunters left. Now the Serpent moved up inside the man, and looking out through the man’s eyes, spoke from inside of him. “I am not coming out. I am safe here inside the disguise of your body. If you try to kill me, you will kill yourself” he said. “But,” the man cried, “You said on oath you would come out!” “So I deceived you” said the Serpent.
The man was horrified and went back to meditate and to pray. Soon, from another direction, came what seemed as man, dressed all in white, so white that his appearance seemed to shine like the sun from within! The visitor approached the man with the Serpent inside, offering him leaves of healing. The man thought, “I have prayed and asked Allah for help—I must not refuse this person who is sent to me.” He took and ate. The serpent was eliminated. The man gave thanks to Allah for sending a Deliverer when he needed it most.
When I inquired as to the origins of this story, the Fulbe only said, it was very old. When I asked about the name of the man with the bowl of leaves for healing, they did not know his name. I pondered this and searched for understanding in the Scriptures. We put the song to music, explaining that there is only one real hope for those who have been tricked by the Serpent, who is also called Satan, the Great Deceiver. In all the Holy Writings in all the world, there is only One who is without sin, only one who claimed to come from the Father with healing for the whole world. Only one who claimed to be Word of God (Kalimatu Allah) and always have the Spirit of God (Ruhullahi). This was Jesus, the son of Mary, the One anointed by the Spirit to be the Savior of all peoples of all times in all the world (Almasiihu).
Further conversations led to more conversations and listening to the story and one day, I was taken aside by a leading member of the community there and told that he had found his true hope in the name of Jesus, the one who can deliver from the fear of the night and the power of Shaytan (Satan), the one who causes mischief and desespoir (despair).
My friend, no matter what has gotten into us, the One who made us and purchased us with is love unto death, is able to raise us daily from despair by His glorious resurrection power! He is Hope that in daily faith and renewal, will not deceive.
stjamesrevrod on After the Serpent . . . H…