RailHope Darkness to light
Our stories of hope
Darkness to light
As a child, South African engine driver Charity (43) suffered poverty as a result of ancestor worship and belief in the powers of traditional healers. She experienced great need, nightmares and illness, and wanted to end her life. Then she understood that ancestor spirits are destructive powers that frighten and take increasing control over her. Today, she trains engine drivers at Transnet in Durban.
I grew up in a modern Zulu home in South Africa. With eleven millions of people, the Zulu population forms the biggest ethnic group in South Africa. I was one of eleven children. The first-born brother in my family passed away, in 1997 my other brother was shot dead at my mother’s house on Christmas day. My mother told me that one of my twin sisters before also passed away before I was born. My father was a Reverend in the traditional African church, since I was known him. We were a close family, respecting one another and obeying our parents. My father was a very strict man, keeping us in line with strict punishments.
My dad had outbursts of anger sometimes, and we were terrified of him. One year, he fought with his colleagues and was fired from his job. As a married woman, my mother was not allowed to work, so we suffered increasing deprivation. I had to walk a long distance to school because we could not afford the bus fare, and I had nothing to protect me against the cold and rain. Often, we had no food to take to school, and sometimes nothing for supper.
One day, I saw my father pray until tears ran down his face. I had never seen him cry before. That day, he repented and gave his heart to God. He went job hunting the next day and was hired. It was a miracle!
It was tough growing up in a small two-bedroom house with 10 siblings. We slept in every room of the house except the toilet. Sometimes, we would go out into the fields to pick herbs (imfino, similar to spinach) just to have something to eat. When my older siblings finished school, there was no money for further tertiary education, and they couldn’t earn a living. It seemed like we would never be able to escape the vicious cycle of poverty.
A song of hope
When times were hard, I often sang a Zulu song that gave me hope and allowed me to escape my situation for a while. The chorus goes “Maningakhathazeki ukhona ubaba, izinhliziyo zenu mazingakhathazeki ukhona ubaba”, meaning “Don’t let your heart be troubled, there is a heavenly Father.” When I sang it, my heart felt hope, peace and contentment despite my circumstances. I remember that in my final year of school I couldn’t go to school for two weeks because my school shoes were beyond repair. Fortunately, a friend of mine gave me some shoes belonging to her elder sister, who had finished school. Unbelievably, they were my exact size. I believe that God provided and made a way for me to complete school. I could write a whole book of stories telling how God’s hand was over my life, meeting my needs.
What I could not understand though, was that my father turned back to ancestral worship when we were in need, despite being a Christian. He would sacrifice animals to ancestors. Sangomas – witch doctors in Southern Africa, acting as mediators and considered obsessed by the spirit of an ancestor – would promise that things would be fine if we just slaughtered a cow, goat or chicken. When my father retired and held a retirement feast, he made sacrifices to my grandfather in the belief that he would bring us good luck. In three months, R30,000 (2,000 €) were used up, and we were back in poverty. Increasingly, I understood that the advice of the sangomas did not add up. They claimed to be helping us, but in reality they were leading us back into poverty. I saw this mixing of Christianity with ancestral worship as a deep contradiction.
In 2002, I got my first permanent job at Transnet as a Train driver’s assistant. I moved out of my parent’s house, got married three years later. My life seemed to be going well, but I lacked love, peace and contentment. Over time, I became involved in ancestral worship myself and started believing the promises of the sangomas. However, I noticed that these people never said anything good to me. I was always left more stressed and depressed, never content. I went to church occasionally, but didn’t pray and never really read the word of God outside of church. For some reason I still believed in the ancestors and sacrificed to them, but things were not getting better. In fact, they got worse, because I opened the door ancestor spirit in my new home. My marriage was not what I wanted it to be, and we struggled in most areas. My husband did not believe in the God of the Bible. I received no recognition or advancement in my job at Transnet. Over the time I did not enjoy my work as a train driver. I also had terrible nightmares every night. One of my nightmares was having a runaway train, seeing the father of my child sleeping with me in my dreams. This reminded me of the father of my child force himself on me when I was 18 years old, and I gave birth to his daughter. My daughter passed away of child seizures when she was four years old. Other nightmares of my parents were chasing me as if wanting to kill me. I knew that something was wrong, and things were even worse for my siblings. My self-esteem was very low and I was plagued by suicidal thoughts. I became increasingly apathetic and just wanted to end my life.
A shocking pattern
One day I felt the deep desire to seek God again. I started going to church where I practiced my life of faith, but I had no connection with God outside the church. Uncontrollable demonic emotions like deep sorrow, hate, anger and hopelessness took over. I could not understand why this was happening, as I was going to church again. I would often have near-car-accidents, faced misconduct charges at work, and people hated me for no reason. I was lonely, felt miserable and wanted to end my life again because everything had become so unbearable.
So, I went to a spiritualist, who told me, “I see a shadow behind you, like a woman covered in black, following you everywhere you go. This shadow wants to possess you. This spirit cannot stop you from going to church, so it comes and chases you in your dreams.” I started researching spiritualism and ancestor worship online, and was shocked at the pattern I recognised in my own life. These demonic spirits are destructive embodied beings and they were pursuing me. I realised that by engaging in ancestral worship I had opened my life up to God’s opponent, Satan, to whom the evil spirits are subjects. Now he wanted to claim and destroy my life and the lives of my family members. In the space of five years, four close family members died. My brother was shot dead in my house, and I lost my four-year-old daughter to an illness. Then my mother and I became very ill. I was getting thinner by the day, and the doctors could not tell me what was wrong. I was ready to give up when I was transferred to a new doctor, who diagnosed a lung disease. My mother was suffering from high blood pressure, with her heart threatening to stop every time she was upset or angry.
God answered me
I started seeking the truth about my sufferings by reading the Word of God every day, the Bible. Moreover, I was fasting once a week, praying as long as I needed to and looking for answers to my problems. I sought the Lord with all my heart, and in my distress He answered me. One day, my mother and I went to a pastor in search of deliverance. Before we could even say why we had come to him, he started sharing scriptural warnings and guidance about ancestral worship. It was a miracle! Although we were resistant to change, God used that pastor to reveal the root cause of all our problems. I started searching the scriptures myself, and slowly became convinced that I needed to leave the wrong ways behind. I remember reading Jeremiah 17:7: “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him”. This promise, and others verses like the first commandment (Exodus 20:3 “You shall no other Gods before me”), spoke to me personally, revealing that I should not rely on or serve other powers and gods. God the one true and faithful God who keeps his promises. He loves us so much that He came to us as God the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus gave His life to save us from destructive powers and bondages. He wants to have a close relationship with our Heavenly Father through his son Jesus Christ.
God is love and gracious, He gave me a new meaning to life. By God’s grace I have resolved to help my family escape the bondages and fears resulting from ancestral worship. My mothers’ life has changed since, she has received healing and no longer complains about high blood pressure and is healthier than ever before. Now, Jesus Christ is our only source provision, wisdom and living hope. I ask Him in prayer every day to show me how I can encourage others. Jesus is alive! He still saves, frees and heals if we believe in His promises. I am free of the dark shadow and the destructive powers that plagued me. My heart is full of joy, charity and the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding. All glory to Almighty God and His Son, Jesus Christ, who opened the way to the Father for you and me on the cross. God bless you!