In a small, rural town in Liberia, two men with painted white faces and rattan skirts swept a path for the bush devil. The “devil” walked on 10-foot stilts and wore an elaborately colored costume that totally covered his body. Long black hair hung from his skull-shaped mask, and he spoke through a long wooden tube that distorted his voice into bloodcurdling sounds.
Behind this evil figure were adolescent boys, who followed him to a sacred place in the forest for their initiation into adulthood. During this ritual, the youth are symbolically eaten by the devil and, weeks later, reborn as men. In the symbolic transformation process within the devil’s stomach, the boys are circumcised and their bodies slashed with knives.
As the adolescents heal, the elders of the Poro Secret Society pass on spiritual mysteries and the ways of native witchcraft. The boys’ bodily scars signify the spirit’s teeth in this rite of passage. The welts confirm membership into the Poros and guarantee community acceptance. Through fear and intimidation, the Poros hold substantial influence in politics, culture, and religion in traditional African society.
God’s Man: Amos Jackson
As a Poro elder, Amos Jackson held much power in Sacky Town, where he lived. He openly proclaimed he had the cooperation of special evil forces to curse anyone who divulged Poro secrets or challenged his decisions. However, most people’s dread and anxiety in Sacky Town did not scare local ANM partner missionaries. They quietly conducted church services and ran a Christian school. Instead of trembling when Amos walked by, these church leaders smiled and engaged in conversation.
Over time, the Christians learned that Amos’s home still lay destroyed from Liberia’s 14-year civil war. Led by the Holy Spirit and using donations from ANM, these believers rebuilt his house. Over the next three years, the church ministered to Amos and his family and shared Christ’s love and the truth of salvation in Jesus. End result: Amos accepted the Lord and was baptized.
Evangelism came naturally to him, and new believers in Sacky Town and from two adjacent localities flocked to his church. Pastor Amos also speaks the dialects of two unreached people groups in the region, with whom he shares the gospel of love, grace, and hope.
Then in December 2020, Pastor Amos aimed to do something that had never before been done. Loving God and hating evil, Amos boldly initiated discussions with area Poro chiefs and traditional elders to close and demolish the evil forest. Amazingly, with intervention from God, they all agreed to cut down the devil bush and to farm the cleared land for the community’s benefit.
They plan to turn the trees into charcoal, Liberians’ main cooking fuel. The whole endeavor is nothing less than a miracle! Our partner ministry wrote, “We are grateful to God for the financial support from ANM that helped win Amos to the Lord and made it possible for these marvelous achievements.”
Light and Life
Now, as Pastor Amos walks the semi-cleared woods that once harbored darkness and death, he hears the sound of axes thudding against hardwood trees that groan and crack, gradually falling to the ground with jolting vibrations and loud booms. He sees smoldering conical piles of wood covered with straw, leaves, and dirt burning slowly to make charcoal. The pungent smoke fills his nostrils as men rake out the masses of black fuel. “This is good,” he affirms, thanking and worshipping the Lord.
While the biblical Amos was a pruner of sycamore fig trees (Amos 7:14), Liberia’s Amos has taken on the whole forest. He’s turning darkness into light. In Hebrew, Amos means “carried by God.” God has certainly carried Pastor Amos from darkness to light, which he now shares with all those near him. The transformation continues.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.
– Romans 12:9 (NKJV)
*Header image: Stock photo