Excerpt from book “Fire on the Mountains” by Ramond J. Davis, published in 1980. ISBN: 0919470-03-3
The history of the beginnings of SIM work in Ethiopia from the 1920’s.
“While [Diasa] was sitting there, he noticed the chief of all witch doctors in Wallamo seated not far from him. This witch doctor was a peculiar looking fellow with seven bunches of long hair on his head, braided in seven parts. Everybody in the entire Wallamo tribe feared him greatly. He was believed to have killed hundreds of people through the curses and hexes he put on them. His compound was a great enclosure. Passing through the door of the first enclosure, one entered a second enclosure, then a third. No one but the witch doctor himself could enter the third enclosure—a narrow circle around the house where the witch doctor went to meet the devil when he wanted to call upon the spirits. This enclosure was surrounded by a fence made of speakers, and every spear had come from a man whom he had cursed. When a man died upon whom he had pronounced a curse, the relatives were duty bound to give the dead man’s spear to the witch doctor. It was no wonder that the people feared him and trembled in his presence.
Diasa, however, was not afraid. He continued telling the people that it was not necessary to weep as they were doing. He told them of Jesus Christ and His power to set men free from the power of satan. The people grew restless, fearing that this teaching would not please the witch doctor, and they began to try to silence Diasa.
‘Be careful,’ they said. ‘Watch out. Don’t say that any more.’
But Diasa would not be quieted and talked louder and louder.
Finally the witch doctor spoke. ‘Shut up!’ he commanded.
‘Who are you to tell me to shut up?’ Diasa replied.
The people were terrified at Diasa’s boldness, so fearful were they of this man. They did not want Diasa to be killed by his curse. ‘Be quiet,’ they urged again. ‘Don’t say anymore.’
But Diasa would not be stilled. ‘Who are you to tell me to be quiet?’ he continued to the witch doctor. ‘The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, told me to tell people this message everywhere, and no man can tell me to shut up. The Lord has told me to tell it.’
Then the witch doctor became very angry. ‘Do you not know who I am?’
‘Yes, I know who you are,’ Diasa said. ‘I know you are a witch doctor, and I know what you do not know Jesus as your Saviour.’
‘Do you not fear Gotcha Godo (chief of the witch doctors)?’
‘No, I do not fear. I revere Jesus Christ. You are the one who is causing the people to be bound in fear, who is giving them so much trouble. Jesus Christ is able to save. He can break your power, and He can give life and light and liberty to the people when they believe on Him.’
The bold words of Diasa enraged Gotcha Godo. ‘Before six months are up,’ he shouted, ‘before the next meskal (big celebration of witchcraft every six months) comes, one of the white men’s servants is going to die!’
‘There are many people that follow the white man’s teaching. Even so, it is not the white man’s teaching, but God’s teaching, and there are many of us here who follow God. It is quite possible that some one of them would die during the next six months. Now if you mean me, why don’t you call me by name?’ Diasa spoke calmly.
Gotcha Godo became even more furious. Looking directly at Diasa, he extended his thin bony hand and put the long fingernail of this forefinger down on the ground, pointing the other fingers at Diasa. His voice rasped as he spat out the words.
‘ Before six months are up, before the next meskal season comes around, you will be dead!’
There was a heavy silence as the people who heard the curse pronounced scarcely dared to breathe. They drew back and watched in wide-eyed wonder, expecting something evil and violent to happen to Diasa immediately.
Turning to the people and lifting up his arms to prevent any uproar, Diasa spoke. ‘You have heard what this wicked man has said. He is a liar, and his father is the devil, who is the father of lies. Now you have heard this, I want you to watch. If his evil curse upon me works, if I am dead before the next meskal comes, six months from now, then go ahead and worship the devil and follow him. But if I am alive, I want you to turn to Jesus Christ, accept Him as your Saviour, and come and worship God with me!’
What Diasa had said and done never happened before. He had no only challenged the chief witch doctor of the Wallamo people, but, in fact, the devil himself. There can be no doubt that he had been given courage and empowered by the Holy Spirit that day.
Yet even an Elijah experienced fear. that evening a trembling Diasa came to Mr. Lewis, before he went to work, to tell what he had done.
‘Teacher, did I do right?’
Mr. Lewis replied, ‘Yes, you did right, but you have to remember now that you have challenged satan. But do not be afraid. The Lord Jesus Christ is more powerful than satan. But do not be afraid. The Lord Jesus Christ is more powerful than satan. Christ Himself has said, ‘Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.’ He has said, ‘All power in heaven and earth is given unto me.’ He is the All-Powerful One, and He is the One who has power over satan. You know, Diasa, since you are a believer and have trusted your soul to Christ, He will protect you. The devil cannot curse you.’ Together they read in the Word of God the promises of assurance and of God’s abiding presence, and Diasa was strengthened.
‘Let us pray about it and commit the matter entirely to God. You must be very careful where you go, where you eat. This witch doctor and all those who support him are going to try in every way possible to bring about the fulfillment of this curse he has pronounced upon you. If you sit down to eat somewhere, somebody might try to poison you. Therefore be very careful for these next six months, where you go, where you eat, and how you conduct yourself.’
Evening by evening as Diasa came to work they prayed together. God gave strength and courage so that he was relived from his fear and his heart was filled with peace. Only a person who had himself experienced the bondage of satan’s slavery and has been freed from it can fully appreciate what it meant to Diasa and the other believers to have challenged the hosts of wickedness– and now to be experiencing deliverance from satan’s awful power.
At the end of six months the time for the meskal celebration arrived. It was held out on the broad plains six or seven miles from the mission station near the home of Gotcha Godo, the great witch doctor. People gathered that day by the thousands. Mr. Lewis describes took place:
‘Diasa mounted one my horses. Desita, another of the believers, rode one, and I joined them. We crossed the valley to the witch doctor’s place. The plains were filled with horsemen, six hundred or more, playing games and throwing spears at each other. We approached the place where the witch doctor sat, and there were the devil dancers. The seven devil drums were being beaten incessantly. A huge tree, particular species use only for this purpose, had been cut down. The branches were left intact, and it was set in the ground so as to appear it was growing there. Little bunches of grass were tied to its branches. The people were dancing to the beating of the drums.
‘Then suddenly the drums changed beat. It was time for the people to assemble. They gathered in closely for the sacrifice of the great Passover celebration to satan. In the midst of this place with hundreds and hundreds of people gathered round, we stood near the old witch doctor himself. The drummers again changed their rhythmic beat– the dance took on a more portentous, ominous note. The people began to sing in the worship of satan as preparation was made to offer the sacrifice.
‘ Diasa sprang to his feet and addressed himself to the witch doctor. He said, ‘Gotcha Godo, do you remember me? I am the one you said would not be living on this day. I want to testify that your god has no power, that the devil is a liar, and that you are a liar! I am here, and I am in good health! You said I would not live in the time of the meskal, but here I am!
‘ Now’, said Diasa, turning to the people, ‘you remember what I said? I said, if I am dead, then go and serve satan, but if I am alive, then turn to God. There were many of you there that day who said you would do just this. Now here I am, well and alive. I want you to turn to Jesus Christ and accept Him as your Saviour.’
‘It was still as death. All eyes were riveted upon the witch doctor. No one dared to move or speak. Never before in living memory had anyone dared to challenge the life-and-death power of this priest of satan. Fear was etched deeply upon their faces. What awful thing would happen now? Surely Diasa would be struck dead on the spot. They dared not touch him. Those nearby drew back in cringing unbelief— it could not be that any man could defy the Gotcha Godo and live.
‘ The drumming ceased and the dancers stood motionless. The witch doctor glared in anger at Diasa. The silence was almost unbearable. Diasa and his companion stood alone, singled out from the crowd. The agent of satan and the child of God faced each other for what seemed an interminable interval. Bewilderment wreathed the witch doctor’s face and his hands fell weakly at his side. He turned and like a whipped animal retreated to his enclosure.
‘Pandemonium now broke loose as the spell was broken and the people fled from the place in terror. That was the end of the witch doctors meeting, and his powerful hold on the people was broken.’
In the first decade of missionary work in Ethiopia less than 50 people believed in Jesus, along with Diasa. However, in the 1930’s Italy, as part of a Nazi-Fascist attempt to conquer the world, invaded Ethiopia and all missionaries were expelled or killed. Upon the return of the missionaries after World War II, the little church among the Wallamo people had grown to more than 100 churches and more than 10,000 believers. Today the Kale Heywet (Word of Life) Church birthed during this time numbers as many as 8 million believers. The tribes of the Wallamo are nearly 100% Christian and are now sending missionaries into other countries.