Dimas, the headman of a small village along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, shares about the challenges of being a headman and Christian.
“Being a headman means you have to take care of everyone in the village,” explained Dimas. “First I just used my voice to make sure the village was at peace, but now God helps me rule this village (His way). I pray for the village, and there are no crimes, nothing. We never experience what we used to experience, like fights and things.”
Dimas is the headman of Mulima, a small village of about 50 adults and double that many children. Located along the Zambian side of Lake Tanganyika, Mulima's main industry is fishing.
Dimas was not born there. In fact, he did not live in the village until 2000 when his uncle died, leaving Dimas next in line as village headman.
With a wife and two children, Dimas moved to the village to take up his new role. Previously he had been a farmer, but the rocky ground along the lake was unsuitable for growing crops. Plus, without the proper fishing supplies—boat, line, etc.—Dimas could not go out on the water. Instead he and his wife, Evelyn, cut grass in exchange for fish.
From an early age Dimas did not like going to witch doctors and tried attending different churches, but he never felt that he got anything out of it.
Then Dimas met Aaron, an OM missionary living in Kapembwa, just over the hill from Mulima, on the local ferry. After hearing who Aaron was, Dimas invited him to his home to share and discuss the Word of God.
When the other villagers saw Dimas talking to Aaron, and later on Clement, another OM missionary, they warned Dimas, saying that “those people are satanists; don't fellowship with them.”
While acknowledging their worries Dimas replied, “If they are satanists, I am going to see for myself.”
Immediately, though, Dimas knew that what Aaron was saying about the Bible was true.
“When Aaron took me into the Word of God I felt that that is what I needed,” said Dimas. “He explained it very well, it touched my heart.”
“In the past we believed in witchcraft and witch doctors,” Evelyn added. “When Dimas was sick [with high blood pressure] we went from witch doctor to witch doctor to find help, but nothing changed. We went to the hospital, nothing changed. But after meeting the Word of God, everything has changed. Our lives have changed.”
“People are able to see a difference in me from [before],” Dimas said. “A lot of people follow me, even to church. They are coming to fellowship because of [mine and Evelyn's] lives.”
Being a Christian and a headman has its difficulties though.
“In every village, the headman is entitled to discipline a person who is misbehaving,” explained Dimas. “So what they usually do is call everyone in the village and beat that person. But for me it is a challenge because I am not supposed to judge anyone as a Christian, and not beat someone because of the wrong they have done. I would rather sit that person down and take them through their mistakes so that they learn. But to the villagers and elders they think that is not being a good headman because I'm not doing what I am 'supposed' to do. It's a big challenge being a Christian and a headman because you cannot abide in the village law and the law of God.”
Another example of this is when visitors arrive in the village. As headman, Dimas is expected to welcome them and let them stay in his yard.
“The villagers think I am not fulfilling my role as the leader of the village [when I turn witch doctors away],” said Dimas. “But the witch doctors have stopped coming to this village since they heard that I am a Christian.”
A testimony of forgiveness
One of the greatest moments of joy for Dimas and Evelyn was when their son, Bernard, became a Christian.
“The villagers used to call me a 'dead person' because what I did was so terrible,” said Bernard. “I used to sleep around with women. When one of these women got sick, the villagers believed it was because of what we were doing. They threatened to kill me.”
Dimas asked all the Christians he knew to pray for his son to know Jesus.
Aaron and Clement were committed to befriending the headman's son, walking over the hill sometimes twice a day to encourage him. Clement even offered to teach Bernard how to read and write.
Bernard moved to another village where he met his wife and returned to Mulima and started going to church. After two months Bernard put his faith in Christ.
“I have seen how God has brought back the relationship [between me and the villagers],” said Bernard. “For a long time everyone was scared of me, they hated me; when I was passing through they would even spit at me. Now they welcome me into their homes, they greet me like a normal person, and kids run towards me. For a long time they would run away.
“When I pass by they say 'Bernard, God is great for your life to be like this. You should continue holding onto Him.’”
Praise God for working in the lives of Dimas, Evelyn, Bernard and the villagers. Please pray that through them many more would know God. For more about what OM is doing in Zambia, visit the OM Zambia news page here.