Have you ever thought of describing the Holy Spirit as ‘heavy’? That is the literal translation of the word used for ‘holy’ in the Mandinka Bible, here in The Gambia.
The original translation was Noora Senungo - Holy or Clean Spirit. This was sometimes misunderstood to be just one clean spirit among many others. The current version of the Bible therefore uses Noora Kulungo - Heavy or Weighty Spirit. This helps explain that God’s Spirit is mightier than all others.
The Gambia is officially 90% Muslim but culture is dominated by traditional, animist religions. There is a strong belief in the unseen spirit world and a general assumption that many spirits are at work in everyday life.
People wear charms and bracelets, consult with fortune-tellers and trust in traditional healers above modern medicine. The question ‘Is there a God?’ is not common.
Christians need to be reassured that God is sovereign over all other powers. At church we sing one-line choruses, repeated many times, such as ‘Jehovah, you are the Most High God’.
We see an urgency among Christians here, evident in the fervency of prayer. When a leader announces a time of prayer the room erupts. There is no hesitation or awkward silence. One Saturday some of the students at bible class were very tired. I had a list of possible reasons in my head but it turned out they had been at a prayer meeting together until two o’clock in the morning.
However, in the same way that culture infiltrates churches back home, we have been shocked to hear that Christians sometimes return to the Marabout when they face trouble or uncertainty.
When we read in the gospels that Jesus commanded evil spirits, we want people to understand that the power Jesus demonstrated then is the same power he has today. We praise God that he has seated Christ ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named’ (Ephesians 1:21), and that the gospel we knew in London perfectly addresses the different needs and fears of people in this nation.
Please pray with us that the light of the gospel of Christ would shine brightly in The Gambia and thank God that the darkness will not overcome it.
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