Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The History of Halloween

     We normally just blog about stuff that happens here in Abidjan.  However, in just two days the world will celebrate the day of the dead.  As Christians we have decided to not celebrate this day at all.  To understand why we do no celebrate October 31st, I decided to post an article written by my dad, Dr. James McAfee.

The History of Halloween
By:  Dr. James D. McAfee

Skeletons, ghosts, black cats, witches on broomsticks, and grinning pumpkin heads are blended in a holiday second only to Christmas as a child’s delight, the modern American Halloween.  Unknown to the children, and usually their parents, is that every detail of the festive games once had a genuine life and death significance.

It may come as quite a surprise to discover that this celebration predates the Christian Church by several centuries.  In fact, it goes back to a practice of the ancient Druids in Britain, France, Germany, and the Celtic countries, who lived centuries before Christ was born.  This celebration honored one of their deities (gods) Samhain, the Lord of the Dead.  Samhain called together all the wicked souls who had died within the past twelve months and had been condemned to inhabit the bodies of animals.  In Celtic Belief, the souls were incarnated as animals until they had expiated (atoned for) their own sins.  Fire rites and sacrifices were offered to this dreaded god.  Human victims, usually criminals, or captives taken especially for this rite, were enclosed in thatch or wicker cages in the shape of animals or monsters and roasted alive in the Samhain bonefire sacrifices (this bonefire eventually became bonfire).

The date for this celebration was the last day of October, the eve of the Celtic New Year.  It was a time of falling leaves and general seasonal decay, and it seemed the appropriate time to celebrate death.  That’s what this was—a celebration of death.  It honored the god of the dead and the wicked spirits of the dead.  The druids believed that on this particular night the souls of the dead returned to their former homes to be entertained by the living.  If acceptable food and shelter were not provided these evil spirits would cast spells, cause havoc and terror, and haunt and torment the living.  They demanded to be placated.  LOOK CLOSELY, here is the beginning of “Trick or Treat”.  Evil spirits demanding a “Treat”, if they didn’t get it you got a “Trick”.

The custom of living sacrifices on Halloween continued into the Middle Ages, with human victims being replaced by black cats due to their longstanding association with witchcraft.

But how did all this become associated with Christianity?  Part of the story goes back to Rome.  The Roman Pantheon was built about 100 A. D. as a temple to the goddess Cybele and various other Roman deities.  It became the principal place of worship where Roman pagans prayed for their dead.  After Rome was sacked, the Pantheon fell into disrepair.  In 607 it was recaptured and turned over to Pope Boniface IV.  Boniface consecrated it once again to the Virgin Mary.  This was part of the general policy, wherever pagan celebrations were well established, they would be continued and incorporated into Christian worship.  (See Ex. 34:12-14, Duet. 12:2-3, 29-32)

For two centuries the major celebration in the Pantheon took place in May and was called “All Saints Day”, in 834 A.D. it was deliberately moved to the first of November!  Why?  To coincide with those pagan practices that had been going on for centuries.  The Catholic Church wanted to accommodate the recently conquered German Saxons and the Norsemen of Scandinavia, thus it incorporated yet another celebration.  That’s the wedding of All Saints Day to Halloween.  Thoroughly, utterly, totally pagan; the worship of the dead, the placating of evil spirits, the honoring of the Lord of the Dead, the transferring to Mary the pagan esteem that was previously given to Cybele.

The Jack-O-Lantern began as a hollowed out turnip or potato in Ireland and Scotland.  The name derived from that for a night watchman or a Will-O-The–Wisp of the marshes, which is a false light that leads travelers astray.  The Native American pumpkin was soon substituted for the turnip in the United States.  This hollowed out pumpkin, carved into a demonic face and mocking grin suggest the throngs of hobgoblins that roam the dark on Halloween.

The Halloween masquerade has been traced to the festival of the dead.  Although the souls of the departed were welcomed home with a light in the window and offerings of food, (trick or treat) their visit was an uneasy one for the living and they were not encouraged to stay.  When it was time for them to leave the villagers, in costume, formed a procession to escort them out of town.  The masquerade was presumably a way of inviting the guests to depart without offending them, but it also served to disguise the identities of the escort and protect them from supernatural visitants.  Some masks were of saints but most celebrants costumed as ghosts, skeletons, demons, and witches.

Apples and nuts figured in divination customs of Halloween.  The game of bobbing for apples was originally a form of augury (fortune telling) in which apples and a sixpence were immersed in a tub of water and the success in capturing one in the mouth meant a prosperous year to come.  Nuts roasting in the fire prophesied the fidelity of lovers when they burned side by side, but if one of them burst or fell in the ashes the love would not endure.

Deut 18:10-14, Lev. 20: 6,27, Gal. 5: 19-21

This is only an abbreviated history of this demonic origin of Halloween.  As a Christian, it is a celebration that needs be left alone.  In the United States, the season of Halloween has become the second most productive in commercial sales, coming in second only to the Christmas Season.  It has totally supplanted the season of Thanksgiving and in most towns it is difficult to find decorations suitable for Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to giving thanks to God for the manifold blessings we have received.

Source of information: The Encyclopedia Britannica and the Britannica Library Research Service.  Various other Historical Books on Halloween.  This information was compiled and edited by Dr. & Mrs. Jim McAfee, 420 Ash Dr.  Baxter, TN  38544.

Also look on the internet for Halloween-Christian perspective.


Monday, October 28, 2013

The Slammer

I want to say up front that I am going to be as sensitive as possible and try to make sure everything I say here is respectful to the country I live and work in.  There are lots of differences in this culture that I might notice or bring up, but different is just that, different.  I'll also be cautious with the words I use.  I'm not attempting to be irritating of hide things from you, just trying to be discreet. 

Most of you are probably aware of the visit I made yesterday to the slammer.  I went with 23 wonderful ladies that are involved in our local Baptist churches and 3 of my colleagues.  Our women have the theme of LOVE for their national day of prayer study November 1 and they decided to do a project to demonstrate that love is more about actions than words.  Our women collected food and personal items to take in to the women and children that are detained in the slammer.  Somehow or another, I was asked to present a gospel message while we were there.  I was able to get a grant of $1200 to provide some gifts for orphans that are also detained there.  I think those are all of the background details you need to understand what we did.

The whole week was a long one.  In addition to my normal duties, I needed to spend some time gathering things to take to the prison.  Our vehicle has been in the shop for a couple of weeks, so hauling the load of goods was difficult.  I did a lot of paperwork for the grant and did a little bit of prep work (which mostly consisted of running around in circles and wearing myself out), then I got smart and grabbed my best buddy Viviane and my trusty colleague, Jen, and we headed out to start shopping in earnest.  A bad cold fogged up my thinking for the week and trying to do everything "just so" to ensure staying true to what was written up for the grant made me a little crazy.  I was so glad to have Jen and Viviane there with me to keep me on the right track.  I scribbled junk all over every scrap of paper I owned as we figured, refigured and revised the plan.  We had young men following us all over this warehouse looking building that sells things in bulk.  It was incredibly amusing to say, I would like 13 cases of this or 5 cases of that and watch them run off to make it happen.  When we finally ended our shopping spree, we had a mountain of goods to load and no vehicle. 

Our little entourage headed off to find us some taxis to load and made an 8 man line to throw things down to load it all up.  Too bad we didn't have those 8 men a few minutes later when we had to haul all of those goods up to the second floor of the church where the goodies were being packaged to take to the slammer.  WHEW!  I'm glad that's over. 

I really meant to drop those goods off and walk away.  I'd already gone over what I was going to do.  Even Viviane had given me a pep talk before we arrived, "We are going to drop this stuff off and leave," she said.  Well, neither of us had walked more than a block when we both came to the conclusion that we couldn't leave.  Our Baptist women's president was working all alone to make between 300 and 400 bags.  We grabbed a quick lunch on the street and went right back.  I called in some reinforcements and before long we were throwing around bags of rice and spaghetti, soap and toothpaste as we all packed bags.  One of the highlights of the day was when we were all sitting around a table trying to pour big bags of salt into little individual bags. 

When the big day finally arrived we all met out front of the slammer.  We had to wear a special tshirt to show who we were with because the residents just wear street clothes.  This was my very first visit to such an establishment, so the whole thing was a big learning experience.  I'll have to say that I got a little nervous when we were all asked to remove our necklaces just before going in so that they wouldn't be "ripped off of us".  The little frisking incidents that soon followed stole the courage of our youngest teammate.  I was negotiating the loss of Jen's ID while I was being searched and was fairly oblivious to what was going on as I was trying to convince a slightly irritated guard not to throw her ID into a cardboard box.  I lost the argument, but was saved a little trauma from frisking as I was totally involved in my own argument.  Within moments, I saw the traumatized face of my youngest charge, as she muttered to herself, "I can't believe she did that."  I suppose it is good to know they are thorough. :)

We went on to the church service where we had a fairly normal time with those that gathered.  I managed to blunder through what I had prepared as schedules were changed and microphones howled each time I tried to approach my notes.  After the second attempt to look at them, I decided to wing it!!!  After seeing some of our slammers on TV, I was a little surprised at our freedom and everyone else's to move around.  We walked through the recreation yard which must be where they come and go as they please.  We went near the housing, but never inside.  We passed out gifts to the leaders of the women's groups in an outdoor pavilion.  They weren't exactly well behaved kinds of ladies, but that is sort of what I expected. 

The time I was most worried, aside from when we were brushing shoulders with the men in their recreation yard, was when we were in the boy's section.  They were slightly unruly and it seemed that order was kept by the blocks of wood and electrical cords that seemed to be used as switches in the hands of some of the men with us.  I never was sure if they were guards or what.  That was an area that our president was able to speak for a few minutes about why we were there and how we hoped that our gift would show them our love and the love of Christ.  Shortly after we passed out their gifts, mass chaos ensued, I led the line headed for the gates.  I did push my youngest charge out of the inner gate first, but then picked up my pace in my search for freedom.  I figured that once we were all out of immediate danger, it was every woman for herself! ;)

All in all, it was a good learning experience.  The gospel was shared a couple of times, that is certain.  I don't know if we'll ever know what any of that came to.

I appreciate all of you that prayed for us.  It meant a lot to know that you were standing in the gap. 

With love,

Friday, October 4, 2013

Normal Life

Parading through the streets of Abidjan to announce a revival service!

Ben and his chameleon in Kenya

Ben loved to hold the chameleon on the stick, but holding it on his hand was a little scary!

My friend Viviane having a wonderful time leading the parade

Missionary work requires nerves of steel for many different occasions.

Sweet Friends

With Mike traveling in August and September, things around here have been anything but normal.  We are now all back under one roof, so everybody is happy.  Mike spend a good chunk of September in South Africa for a meeting.  He sneaked in a few days of fun at the end, so maybe he'll post a little about that. 

We have enjoyed having a team from Calhoun, LA with us this week.  They are doing a great job of sharing the gospel in conjunction with a local church.  Many have heard and some have accepted Christ as Lord.  May He get all the glory always!

We are looking forward to seeing our Parkwood buddies next week.  We don't yet know the guys that are coming to work in Abobo with our national friends, but we are church family!  Pray for much success and that these guys can see what they need to see to cast vision for the future work.

I stuck in some photos from our summer.  Ben was especially interested in the chameleons that live in Kenya.  I spent a good portion of my week looking for little friends for Ben.

It was really funny to me how important and exciting parades are here.  I posted a few pictures of my friends parading to announce revival services that would go on for the week.  We walked/danced for miles and the women had a great time. 

There doesn't seem to be much to say about what's up around here.  We are just plugging along with what we do.  My mom says that I haven't told you about my new adventures in playing soccer, so I'll try to get around to that soon.  Let's just say that the event is more of a comedy than a sporting event! ;)

With love,