Many believe the following:
Ancestors live on around us forever and they either protect us or, if we don't appease them, they negatively effect our lives by causing sickness, loss (such as crops, animals etc.) and we appease them by keeping the rituals handed down by the ancestors since forgotten times.
When a Shona person dies, there is a funeral after 10 days (when it is believed the body has "burst open") to try and cleanse the soul, giving the soul what it needs for its sojourn around the earth for the next year. Then, at 1 month, there is another service to "fully" cleanse the soul, meaning giving offerings to the ancestors to appease for any wrongs or remaining guilt that were on the deceased persons account. Then, after 1 year, there is a big ceremony to recall the spirit to find out whether it has found peace or torment. Then, the spirit is invited to come "back into the family" to protect and bless the family and to be appeased, should the spirit have any ill-will toward the surviving relatives. (This revealed to us which kind of funeral we were asked to speak at last year-the one year funeral). We also learned that some of the "christian" churches who are still syncretistic in their practices ask the soul if it got to go to heaven or hell, then ask the spirit back into the family.
The deepest revelation about the depths of Shona hearts, though, comes in their view of "the creator" and how we get to him. The Shona believe that we can get to god, but that we have to communicate to him through our ancestors... ALL of them! So, you have your life, tied to your father, grandfather, great grandfather, great great grandfather, etc. all the way back to the creator and you CANNOT communicate to god without being at peace and in good will with all ancestors. Many live in complete fear of the ancestors, as there is belief that they determine all things good and bad in the living relatives lives. With this in mind, most people live in perpetual fear of failing to keep ALL their ancestors unhappy. Furthermore, these ancestors are believed to be "buy-able." In essence, the family members use the fears of the ancestors to keep others in line, or to force them to do what others want done, threatening to anger the spirits (translate as put a curse) against those who disobey or fail to comply with family mandates.
We were also instructed that the Shona people believe that they have the blood of their father in their veins. For most, this means all the sins of the father, grandfather, great grandfather, etc. are in their bodies and that they are tied to the ancestors through this blood, thus they must keep the ancestors happy to get to the creator. They also believe that they are protected from the sins of their fathers and any ill in life by their mothers ancestors. So, they are bound, by mother and fathers former relatives. They are warned, if you fail to appease ALL the spirits, bad things will happen: sickness, demonic oppression, loss of crops, poverty, any bad thing is believed to be the displeasure of the ancestors! Basically, they believe, "evil spirits" are ancestors spirits who are upset with them, not a different piece of creation. These ancestors "require" an annual gift/sacrifice to remain appeased. This can only be given through a nanga-witchdoctor and must be done in the families "traditional home" no matter how far away the family members have gone. Members who are too far away to come back must send money or goods to contribute to the family appeasing process.
So, this is all extremely valuable revelation for those of us laboring to see Jesus lifted high in saving the lost souls of Shona people in Zimbabwe! We now have a little bit better picture of where our people are starting from! We now have a little better idea of the deep difficulties that our people face if they truly convert. Patterson and Mercy shared last night that, as they have completely come out of the ancient ways and given their lives completely into Yahweh's hands in Jesus, that their families have told them, "You are on your own." In essence, when the ancestors get angry with you for failing to pay them, annually to bless you, then don't come to us, we want nothing to do with your insolent arrogance in refusing to "submit" to the ancestors and show them honor. Patterson and Mercy shared that they were instructed in their home church, while growing up, that when you give you life to Jesus, you no longer have the blood of your physical father running through your body, but you have the blood of Jesus in you! You are LITERALLY a NEW CREATURE in Jesus and you are set free from all the sins, covenants, weaknesses and practices of the ancestors. They were taught that you no longer have to come to God through your ancestors but must come through Jesus Christ, the One true mediator between God and man!
We are overjoyed and humbled and encouraged today by this revelation! Brothers and Sisters, this is the cultural key which Yahweh God has hidden to communicate the back to Him through Jesus in this culture! Praise Him with us that He raised up Patterson and Mercy to be incredibly bold and brave to counter everything their parents and grandparents had accepted as true and binding and throw all their trust and faith in God through His promise to all who will believe in Jesus! Today, we realize that we must be the "family of God" to any and all who truly come out of the ancient religion because they will be severely persecuted by family, immediate and extended, for angering the spirits and bringing trouble on the family. Pray for the Stephanos as these incredible people are culture changers, world shakers, truly born again and empowered believers in Jesus Christ!
I pray as you read these words you are drawn closer to Jesus and that your hearts are encouraged by God's incredible power and might, greatness, grace and mercy in Jesus. I hope this blog inspires you to examine your own heart and find if you are following unBiblical practices and beliefs passed down from your ancestors that bear no life and only fear that you will cut those things out of your life. Jesus preached that we should "Repent, for kingdom of heaven is at hand." Let's strive to throw off everything that hinders and run with perseverance the race marked out for us by Jesus!
Hallelujah, we have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry Abba Father and not a spirit of fear! Please pray God will show us how to boldly and powerfully preach the Word of God with this new understanding! As I write these words, Heidi and I have 41 days before we return to America. Pray we will make the most of every opportunity to share Jesus in these culturally appropriate ways! We are so excited about this revelation. Ian's family has been praying for this for 15 years, as have all the members of our ministry team! Please praise God with us for revealing and pray that God will powerfully use us as His tools to bring lost souls back to their Wonderful Creator and Loving God!