WITNESS OF THE FORSAKEN IDOL TREE
A forsaken tree shrine, in the wilds of the Shangani River country, bears witness to the God who sends His rain upon the just and the unjust. When a mission outstation was planted in this region, the ground beneath that idol tree was beaten bare by the feet of the worshipers. Now the grass grows rank about the shrine.
“Tell us about it,” the writer, visiting Matabeleland, said to Missionary John de Beer, who was the first to go into that region with the gospel. “Well,” he replied,
“that experience brought courage to our hearts in the beginning of the work here.” And this is the story:
“It was a very dark place; and it seemed hard to win the hearts of the people. We told them of the true God, but they still came to this tree to pray to the spirit that they supposed dwelt in it. One day there was a great crowd at the tree, and evidently some unusual worship in progress.
“ ‘What are they doing?’ I asked my head native teacher.
“ ‘They are praying to the tree for rain,’ he said; and he added: ‘Now that they see rain in the sky, they have come to ask the tree-spirit to send rain; and if it comes, they will say the tree gave them the rain.’
“True, it did look like rain; we ourselves had prepared for the expected shower that very morning. The sky was dark and overcast.
“It seemed to come to my heart, however, that God, in His mercy, would give a sign to those poor people to turn their hearts toward the truth. ‘The Lord may take away all the clouds to prove that He is the true and living God,’ I said to the teacher. And we had a season of prayer, asking God to bear a witness to those darkened hearts gathered about the tree.
“Shortly the mission boys said: ‘Mfundisi [teacher], you were right; the Lord has taken all the clouds away.’ I felt in my soul that truly the Lord was bearing witness to the people.
“Next Sabbath nearly all these people came to the meeting, which was held under a big tree near the mission. I made a special effort to point them to the Creator, who had made all things. I told them that He it was who sent rain and gave all the gifts of life; and that He only could hear us when we pray.
“Rain was badly needed; and we knew that the people expected now that we would pray to God for rain to come. We were fairly driven to it by the situation. So we were led to pray to God to send us the rain if it was for our good and to His glory. I shall never forget that meeting. I noticed that numbers of the heathen took a deep interest in what was said. ‘We should be glad to know of a God who could do these things,’
some said. It was an impressive hour in our new mission.
“There were no clouds in the sky as we gathered for the meeting, no signs of rain; but, while we were gathered, the clouds began to come up. And two or three hours after the meeting, there came a very heavy shower.
“The next morning the headmen came to the mission and said: ‘It is true, there is a God in heaven. You have brought us the news. Now we believe it, because we can see what He has done.’
“There was a new interest in our meetings, and the people began to forsake the idol tree. They said to me:
‘Mfundisi, we have said salaguhla [good-by] to the tree.’
And now the grass has grown up about it. It is a witness to the true God. And some of those people have been baptized.”
Thus still, as of old, the living God is bearing witness to those who are in heathen darkness.