In the solitude of the dark forests, far away from the common huts, lies the village of the mighty priestess ‘the black goddess’. She lives alone, and is surrounded by the mighty spirits of the dead priestesses. In the eyes of the primitive inhabitants, the forest where her hut stands is holy ground. No one can visit the village of the goddess without being seen. Around her hut some distance away is a circle of other huts, in which the common priestesses live, and about them a circle of huts for the magic-doctors, rainmakers, and the tribal chief.

In a solemn, secret gathering it was decided by the tribal chief and the priestesses that all the inhabitants of the adjacent villages must bring an offering to the goddess, thereby to honor her. This command is made known to the primitive people by the priestesses. And, whoever does not come with an offering shall be cursed by ‘the goddess’.

The poor, superstitious people bring from their humble possessions an offering of cattle, corn, nice basket-work, or the beautiful hide of an animal, thereby to escape the curse of the goddess. The priestesses and the tribal chief observe very closely who comes and who does not come. Surely no one will dare to stay away, because the curse of the goddess would mean the end of his life. For many days the dark figures, laden with their offerings, march along the narrow path through the forests to the holy hut to honor their goddess.

Still, there is one man who does not go. He cannot and he will not do it. Deep in thought, he now walks over the open plain. In clear reflections his whole life's history is brought to his remembrance again. It is as if he is living it over once more.

As a little negro boy he attended a Methodist Mission school, which was situated farther south than this village. He had a great desire to learn, and after the primary school he was allowed to pursue more advanced studies. He became a teacher in the same school, and also considered himself to be a good Christian already.

A few years later a Scottish missionary came and established a new mission post farther north; and it was to this Scottish missionary, Rev. Fraser, that he went to listen to his preaching. During this service his soul was touched with much divine power, so that he felt he was yet unconverted and yet carried a heavy burden of sin and guilt. Weeping he traveled along his way. For some months he had lived in deep convictions of soul, and many a time after having heard the missionary’s sermon he had sought the solitude of the quiet forest, to bow himself there before God in his guiltiness, darkness, and bitter, lost state. Then the unforgettable day had come in which his guilty soul was brought to liberty, and Christ showed mercy unto him in the forgiveness of all his sins, revealing Himself as his King, by which he could yield himself completely unto His divine reign and direction. He could by the grace of God trust in Him for time and eternity. Joy filled his soul, having peace with God. At that place and in this experience he parted for good with all the heathen customs, and accepted the Word of God as the guide for his future life. Through contact with Rev. Fraser, he, Aaron Ndebele, became an instructor in the mission school of the Free Presbyterian Church at their mission-post, and, after some years, an elder also in the mission-congregation. The deep and true change in his soul and in his life was evident for all the people. He had to warn against the terrible lies of the magic-doctors and to speak about the riches of God’s Word.

He now stands still for a moment at the border where meadow and forest meet. Before him lies the thick forest in which the prince of darkness yet plays such a mighty and dangerous game with thousands of ignorant negro heathens. There also is the mysterious village and hut of ‘the goddess’, who demands that he shall honor her personally with an offering of two cows. His answer was firm and forceful when he sent the message back to her: ‘No, I will not come’. The messengers came fearfully back from the goddess and told him, that he, Aaron Ndebele, had to come, and if two cows was too much for him, she would be satisfied with two goats. The choice was now up to him. Bring two goats, or …. the awful curse of the goddess, whereby he and his family would die. Aaron stands still at that spot for some time, earnestly staring into the distance, before he enters the woods to send an answer to the goddess.

If he refuses, what then? Dark powers press themselves upon him with force. They try to shackle his spirit in the fetters of fear and terror – that fear which shall paralyze his strength and cause him to bow for the prince of darkness. His hands are folded, his look is directed to God in heaven, and his soul prays. His mind is not set upon himself, but upon the honor of God. In this inward conflict the flame of love is stirred up into such a blaze to fight for the honor of his heavenly King, that he could sing with David:


And in me came a blaze

Of great and holy heroism.


Then he enters the forest, and his answer to the goddess shall be the same again: ‘No, I will not come!’ The people hardly dare to tell this answer to the priestesses. Tension rises in the village of the goddess, and a secret assembly is held with the priests. There it is decided that Aaron must come, he must bow. The goddess consents to a smaller offering: ‘Let him bring two chickens; if he only comes’. Again the message is brought to the instructor, and again he gives the same answer: ‘No, I will not come’.

Now even the Christian negros from the little mission-congregation begin to entreat him, saying: ‘Oh, do it, Aaron, take that little offering. We will pay for the two chickens, because we are so afraid of the curse of the goddess’.

But Aaron remains calm and steadfast. He says: ‘I cannot do it. The Lord has delivered me from the power of Satan and superstition, and my trust is completely upon the God of the Bible; I will fear and honor Him only’.

This answer is brought to the goddess. An unrestrained fury breaks loose within her, and she shall pronounce vehement curses upon the whole population if Aaron does not come. Now he only has to bring two eggs as an offering. This is the last choice for him. Two eggs …. or the curse…

Even the Christian negros are now filled with panic. They do not give him any rest; he must go and take the two eggs along as an offering.

Aaron Ndebele does not ask any counsel from the people. He seeks a solitary place and bows himself there before the Lord. The people are waiting tensely for his answer, and when he comes out of his earthen hut he says very calmly: ‘I shall go, but without an offering’.

A cry of distress is sounded from the group of waiting negros, and they cry out: ‘We will give the eggs to you!’

‘No’, replies Aaron, ‘money is of no importance in this case … it concerns our principle. If I only give the smallest thing I acknowledge thereby her power, that I must offer something, so that the spirits will bring no evil upon me; whereas the Bible teaches me that I must trust only in the Lord’. He then enters the forest, alone, and without an offering, but with a quiet confidence in the Lord’s protection.

The march to the goddess through the holy forest is quite a distance. After he has been strictly questioned by the priestesses, he is taken to the village of the goddess. Her appearance is very impressive, and there is a strange, mysterious atmosphere in her hut. The goddess speaks with a very deep voice which seems to be coming out of the ground, and asks about the offering of the eggs. But Aaron has not come to honor her, but to “show forth the praises of Him Who hath called him out of darkness into His marvelous light,” 1 Peter 2:9. The goddess feels her impotence against this man, and once more she tries to gather all her spiritual and bodily strength in that mysterious, compelling look of her eyes and the sound of her voice. Those eyes seem to be two springs of terrible strength which shall hypnotize the visitor, and with a hysterical sound in her voice she heaps upon him the most terrible curses and execrations, which seem to be coming out of an abyss, and she commands him to fall as a powerless creature before her on the ground. But Aaron stands erect, steadfast, immovable as a hero in the strength of his Lord. A wonderful boldness, liberty, and love for God’s honor opens his lips, and he warns her not to serve and worship the devil any longer, but to listen to the holy Word of God. And if she will not repent her future shall be to suffer eternal punishment in hell.

Then Aaron leaves the hut of the goddess. The priestesses from the foremust huts see him go and are astonished. His posture expresses no fear or distress, but is as of a prince, a conqueror. However, they cannot see how humble and quiet his soul is before the great God; his thoughts are filled with love towards God’s honor.

For a very great distance in the forest the negros tell each other that Aaron Ndebele would not offer to the goddess, and they fear the vengeance of the spirits. Aaron himself has a free access to his King, and his soul feeds in green pastures.

A week later his wife became very sick, and a while later a little daughter also. The people whisper that this affliction has come upon him because of the curse of ‘the black goddess’. Aaron now spends many hours in prayer. The Lord delivers him out of this trial, giving a very rapid recovery to his wife and child. Six weeks later the goddess dies suddenly. The faith of Aaron, having been refined as silver, shines forth brilliantly before all.


Delight thee in the Lord, and He

Will grant thy heart’s request;

To Him commit thy way in faith,

And thus thou shalt be blessed.

And He shall make thy righteousness

Shine brightly as the light;

And as the burning noonday sun,

Thy judgment shall be bright.


- Psalm 37.


The Mission in Africa


From: Van Zweden, J. The Wonderful Providence of Almighty God Seen in the Lives of Young and Old: Series No 10. Stickney, South Dakota: Netherlands Reformed Congregations in America, 1978. pages 87-91