I Was an African “Country Doctor”
AS TOLD TO “AWAKE!” CORRESPONDENT IN LIBERIA
AN AFRICAN “country doctor” is no ordinary doctor. I know because I was one of them.
Persons would come to me because they sought revenge on real or imagined enemies. I would determine the punishment and administer it by magical means. I specialized in divination and made “medicines” to protect one from “departed spirits” or those seeking to bring evil upon a person.
Years before I took up the practice of divination, I became a regular attender at one of Christendom’s churches and later went to a religious mission school. Why? Well, in my early teens my uncle took me to a church in Monrovia. He explained that those who did not go to church would go to hellfire, where first the fingertips would burn, then one arm, then the other arm, the other limbs, and finally the whole body. When finished, God would so fix it that the burning would start all over again, to be repeated to time indefinite, he said.
I was afraid of burning. So, along with so many others, I went to church. But church attendance did not change me very much. My real religion was still the worship of the “spirits” of my ancestors.
The efforts of my church to get me to stop worshiping the “spirits” failed. Why? The church did not teach that the dead were not alive to receive such worship. No, the church said otherwise. I was taught that each person possessed an immortal soul that survived the death of the body. This only strengthened my belief that my ancestors were alive and needed to be appeased. My non-Christian relatives, I reasoned, were not far from the truth after all.
I Learn How to Be a “Country Doctor”
Unfortunately I could not read the Bible for myself to see just what it said about God and his ways. Not until I was twenty years old did my guardian yield to years of pleading and send me to school. After three years, I was compelled to accompany my ailing guardian to the chief “medicine” town in my country. There I took a course in “country medicine.” This included the art of preparing and administering poisons made from the bark of trees, leaves or the gall of alligators. This knowledge was essential to the work of a “country doctor” whose patrons sought revenge on enemies.
Having heard a complaint, a “country doctor” determines if punishment is merited and to what degree. Learning how to become such a “doctor” did not bother my conscience, despite years of church attendance. I believed that God not only allowed the “country doctor” to do his work of administering revenge but also empowered him to do so.
Divining was another requirement in mastering my craft. Methods of divining included looking at the water in a pot or at a mirror. For protection against departed spirits or evil persons, I learned to concoct various “medicines.” Often such would be put in a bottle and buried in the threshold of a house, with just the top of the bottle showing.
One day all my possessions were burned up when fire gutted the village. My depression turned to astonishment when I was told that this was a sign from the spirits that I would receive more power. The next day the chief practitioner gave me a ring and confided to me: “If you put this on your finger and start rubbing it, you will be invisible to anyone standing by. Here are the laws of the ring: Don’t look at the sun when it is noon; don’t eat onion!”
The first time I tried rubbing the ring, people passed me by as if I were not there. But the second time I was greatly disappointed. My confidant explained: “It cannot work all the time, but it is a quick way of making money. I will show you how to do it.” Thereafter I would supply rings at a price to make one invisible, rings for ambitious men seeking power and position.
On one occasion, I made a ring for a clan chief, and he paid me $32, convinced that it had made him invisible and that he would be empowered as chief to time indefinite. But on an occasion when the ring did not seem to work for him, I simply told him that the spirit of the ring was temporarily visiting other parts of the earth.
Uncertainty and Confusion
When I was twenty-four years old, I decided that I wanted to return to school. My parents mocked the idea, but I was not to be put off. I enrolled at a religious mission school, and although the students, mere children, laughed at me, the teacher gave me encouragement: “Try your best. I was big like you and went to school. Now I am teaching you.”
During Bible class I was told: “It is wrong to punish anyone for his wrongdoing to you, or to harm him with country medicine.” Defending my conviction that the “country doctor” was actually God’s means for returning evil for evil, I countered: “Since God punishes people when they wrong him, then we are only following his example and punishing people when they wrong us.” But the teacher maintained: “We are not to do it. That is for God to do.” Nevertheless, I reasoned to myself that if that were true, then why did God make the “medicine” work? This was not explained.
But my uncertainty turned to confusion when I tried to reason out the Trinity teaching. In reply to my query as to how three gods could exist in one, I was told that I could not understand this mystery. Unsatisfied, I asked how it was possible for the “Father” to understand it but not the rest of us. “You will get your answer tomorrow,” was the reply. But on the next day I was simply punished and threatened with dismissal if I asked any more such questions.
I was taught in the mission school that war was not wrong, for Christians had defended themselves in the past and must continue to do so. From what I learned at this school God takes sides in fights and contests, and for that reason we were urged to pray to win in a football match. And when we did win we rejoiced, convinced that God had been on our side.
During those years I continued to sacrifice to my “medicines” by rubbing them with the blood of a victim, usually a chicken. I attended church services, yet I trusted in “medicines” and magic. Despite years of church instruction, I still thought that there was nothing like “African science” practiced by the “country doctor” for dealing with the problems of life.
At Last the Truth
In 1956 I obtained literature from one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses at Voinjama. Therein I read that the practice of spiritism, which includes divination, magic, sorcery and binding others with a spell, is wrong according to Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and Revelation 21:8. For a further explanation I went to see this Witness. It was made clear to me that my relying on “medicines” was spiritism and condemned by the Bible. God, I learned from the Bible, was opposed to all forms of divination and magic. The next words of the Witness startled me: ‘All who continue to practice such things will not survive “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” called Armageddon, nor will they live in the glorious new system of things!”—Rev. 16:14, 16.
This Witness then gave me answers from the Bible to many other questions I had. I began to see for the first time that “the god of this system of things” is Satan the Devil and that even the so-called Christian churches had come under his influence. (2 Cor. 4:4) The real truth lay in the Bible. I needed to make a study of it to get free from Satan’s snares. I had really been serving the Devil and his demon angels.—Rev. 12:7-9.
The shock of all this—that as a “country doctor” I had been misled by the Devil—was so great that I could scarcely think of anything else for the next two weeks. At the end of that time I had made my choice. Early one morning before daybreak, I gathered all my “medicines” and my prized magical ring. After packing them all into a bag, I dumped it into the river. No one was around, but I knew that the true God, Jehovah, was observing.—Prov. 15:3.
As for the church systems, I was furious that I had been deceived into superstition and demonism by their false doctrine that man possessed an immortal soul. This false doctrine was the basis of my foolish fears of departed spirits. (Ezek. 18:4) And how glad I was to learn that the Bible does not teach the mysterious Trinity! From the Bible I could now see that Jehovah is one God, that Jesus Christ is truly his Son and that the holy spirit is God’s invisible active force.—1 Cor. 8:6; Matt. 16:16, 17; Acts 1:8; 2:2-4, 16, 17.
Arrangements were made for a Witness to come to my village and study the Bible with me. This provided the accurate knowledge needed to make my dedication to Jehovah. I chose to follow the fine example of Joshua: “As for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”—Josh. 24:15.
Serving the True God for Life
When news got around that I had made a break with magic and all forms of spiritism, I was summoned to the entrance of the local secret society “bush.” Thereupon the chief “country doctor” or zo asked me: “Are you the one who has said that you have no more time for Poro and Sande [native secret societies] and you have dumped all your medicines into the water?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Are you not afraid of all the gathering here, and to admit to us these things?”
To this I replied: “I will not allow fear of you to cause me to do what is wrong before the living God Jehovah!”
“Go and be for your Jehovah,” thundered the zo, “but you will know who we are!” This was clearly an intimation that I could expect to be poisoned by “country medicine.” Turning from them and walking straight ahead, I sought protection from Jehovah through prayer.
No calamity befell me. But later my uncle, the head of our family, officially disowned me with the words: “Any good that comes to you, don’t bring it to me, and any bad that comes to you, keep it for yourself!” Despite such opposition, I treated my relatives kindly, for I knew that serving Jehovah meant living up to the high principles found in his Word the Bible.
No longer being a “country doctor,” I found work as a cleaner of tractor parts for a very low wage. The man in charge soon observed that I would be working while others slipped away. One day the man in charge was drunk at the time a truckload of parts arrived. So I received the shipment for him, checking to be sure that all the parts were there. My coworkers ridiculed me for doing this job without pay. But the man in charge appreciated my saving him his job, and within a short time I was earning five times my original wages.
Though doing my secular work well brought satisfaction, I knew I would have even more satisfaction if I could spend more time in preaching Bible truths to others. So my wife and I agreed that after a Christian convention to be held at Gbarnga, I would enter the full-time preaching work. I left my job and brought all my possessions and savings with my wife and young son to the assembly. Unexpectedly soldiers disrupted the assembly and tested our faith on the matter of rendering a religious salute to a secular standard. For three days and three nights we were not given any food and water, as we were confined in an open field. After our release we found that every possession we owned had been stolen. But a number of my Christian brothers gave me some money, so I could return to my home. The first night at home I hunted and killed two deer and a porcupine. For the rest of the year I supported my family in this way.
Finally in 1964 I realized my heart’s desire to serve Jehovah as fully as possible. At that time I became a full-time proclaimer of God’s kingdom. Jehovah has wonderfully provided for us, and I am continuing in my chosen service even though my children now number six.
During the years I have had the joy of seeing my niece and one of my uncles accept the Bible truth, and other family members are now interested. An opportunity came to demonstrate Christian love when my oldest brother became sick and was taken to our town for treatment. He did not come to stay in my house because he had strongly opposed my serving Jehovah. Yet I went to him and brought him to my home, gave him food and treated him as well as I could. After a time others of the family came, saying: “Your way of serving God is very nice. We never knew it would be like that. You did not turn against us, but you have shown us consideration and respect in return for contempt.”
How different the ways of true Christianity from the ways of the African “country doctor”! Instead of returning evil for evil, I do as the Bible says: “Keep conquering the evil with the good.” (Rom. 12:17-21) How happy I am that I abandoned African “country medicine” and Christendom’s false religion and have come out of darkness into the glorious light to serve Jehovah!