Meet the Neighbors


Yoana, his wife and two small daughters had journeyed through the forest for days. The packets of peanuts and manioc they had carefully prepared were nearly gone, but the people in the villages they passed through refused to sell them more food. Yoana and his wife were followers of Jesus, one of 10 national couples from the Maduda Alliance church in the Congo who had volunteered to move to an area on the Atlantic coast called the Banana region to spread the good news of Christ’s love. Tata Davidi Mato, the second ordained Congolese pastor, had traveled to the area with C&MA worker Bill Boyer and had testified to God’s protection from wild animals, poisonous snakes and angry villagers who wanted to stop them from telling the gospel story.

When they reached the village that they had chosen as their destination, Yoana and his family were given a hut to stay in but were forbidden to cut palm nuts or sugar cane to eat. Finally, the food they brought with them was gone, and the little girls cried from hunger while their parents cried out to God for help. One evening, a woman came to their door. “We have heard you asking your God to send you food, but we have not seen any coming,” she said. “I have pity for the children, so I have brought you some cooked food.” The young family praised God and gratefully devoured the first hot meal they had tasted for weeks.

Satisfied, they lay down to sleep but were soon awakened by sharp pains. Yoana and his wife realized the true nature of the woman’s generosity. “Lord,” Yoana prayed, “we have eaten poisoned food. Do not let any of us die, but let these people know that our God hears our prayers and keeps us.” Soon, there was no more crying or praying.

Just after dawn, the woman who had brought the food knocked on the door. When Yoana opened it, she was quite surprised. “When we heard no more praying, we thought you had died,” she exclaimed. “I put enough poison in that food to kill all of you, but your God must be very strong. We want to hear more about Him.”

The villagers not only listened to the gospel but also gave the family a plot of ground to call their own, so they could live among them.

—Adapted from archival material supplied by Mary E. Hess, whose husband, Enos Hess, hand built the Alliance church in Kinkonzi, Congo

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