Earlier this month, writes Ralf Schlegel, a tragic event occurred in the Dinangat village where they live and minister.
A woman named Wiwigere was walking from her home there to a nearby village where her mother lives. Along the way, she had to cross a large river. Sadly she fell into the raging river and drowned.
It took days before her body was finally found, writes Ralf. Immediately she was buried, leaving her relatives and friend intensely shocked and grieving.
“We know that tragic things like that happen,” Ralf writes. “This was a terrible death, but that doesn’t mean it was mystical or devilish.”
He says the Dinangat people have old traditions of telling terrifying stories about death and the spirits of dead ancestors. Even little children are manipulated by parents with stories of the devil.
“Both the kids and the grown-ups are … afraid to go out of their houses at night,” Ralf explains.
But God’s redemption story has begun to impact Dinangat culture. Many Dinangat people have been freed, by the truth of the Gospel, from old fears and dark lies. “For them to hear that the Holy Spirit lives in them when they believe in Jesus as their Saviour is a revolution for them.”
Ralf says that Wiwititne is the younger sister of Wiwigere and that she is a great example of the difference it makes to know Jesus. “She knows that her sister believed in Jesus … and that her sister is therefore now in Heaven. She knows that God is bigger than any other power and that even the death of her sister is part of His good will and plan.”
Wiwititne is very sad to see the huge fear that some of her relatives live with. She tells the Schlegels that some of her people are afraid to visit her because they believe her sister’s spirit is around her house trying to do bad things to them. They believe that bird calls are the sounds of spirits stalking them. These long-held beliefs have been part of the Dinangat tradition for generations.
Ralf continues, “We talked about how the devil is loving those stories; how he loves it when people are afraid of him and how he is getting a big name through all that.”
And Wiwititne observed, “But when we talk about God and how God is bigger and how God is in control of everything, then we glorify God and then God gets a big name … We need to talk about God much more.”
Ralf and Ellie Schlegel rejoice in the Dinangat believers who God has released from the paralyzing fear of death and who He has brought into His Kingdom of truth and light.
Pray with the Schlegels that God’s Word will continue to powerfully speak to lost and hopeless Dinangat people who are starving for hope and joy and a message of triumph over the terrors of death.