Based on “I’d Rather Die on the High Ground” by Namani J. Nharrel

No one knew how the god claimed his victims. Whenever someone committed an offence against Magiro, their fate was sealed. Some would be fined or persecuted by Magiro’s secretive cult. But others vanished for ever, said to be “swallowed up” by Magiro. When the god struck, no one could intervene. Magiro’s unquestioned power cast a shadow of fear across the Kamuku people in northern Nigeria.

But though Magiro was strong, the Christians served a different God, a God who makes servants more than conquerors. When the gospel came to Kamukuland, conflict was inevitable.

Namani Nharrel, a Nigerian missionary to Kamukuland, shares the gripping stories of newly-converted Christians in northern Nigeria in his recent book “I’d Rather Die on the High Ground.” Nharrel testifies to the new believers’ incredible faith in the face of great opposition and to the amazing miracles of the all-powerful God.

One of these faith-filled Christians is an elderly man named Baba Dogo. Though Baba Dogo gave his life to Jesus in his youth, he twice fell away from the faith, and even became a high priest in Magiro’s cult.

However, God had not forgotten about Baba Dogo. After a visit from Baba Dogo’s “brother” missionaries and another elderly convert, Baba Dogo joyfully recommitted his life to Christ!

That year, the Christians of Kamukuland held a massive Christmas celebration, and Baba Dogo was invited to be present. The young Christians were delighted to see him—he’d originally given himself to Jesus long before any of them were born! They listened excitedly as Baba Dogo shared stories and wisdom from his many years of experience. Then a woman asked a question that would change Baba Dogo’s life.

“Is it true that the god Magiro kills non-initiates who cross its way?”

The room fell silent. Baba Dogo was trapped. Magiro’s cult operated in the utmost secrecy. Only males were allowed to join, and no one outside the cult could learn its mysteries. If he revealed the secrets of Magiro to outsiders, women, and children, his life would be forfeit. If he didn’t, he would show that he feared a false god more than the true one. Nharrel vividly describes the scene he witnessed:

“Silence settled over the congregation … The unbelievers held their breath. The womenfolk strained to know about this god of men who had terrorised them for ages. Everyone leaned in to hear Baba’s next words … Baba was quiet for some moments. Then he muttered some sounds that seemed to say, ‘Come what may, I will speak out.’ He must have also offered a silent prayer. He cleared his throat. ‘It is not true. Magiro does not kill. Rather, it is men who kill people.’”

Baba Dogo’s words spread like wildfire. Everyone was shocked that the truth about Magiro had been revealed. Women and children who had been persecuted by the Magiro cult suddenly gained courage. They weren’t being afflicted by an evil god, but by evil men!

But the followers of Magiro were furious. They knew something had to be done to silence the traitor. As rumours of vengeance trickled out, the people of Kamukuland began to ask—could the God of the Christians protect Baba Dogo from Magiro’s wrath?

Though Baba Dogo was advised to report the threatening cultists to the authorities, he refused. The people of Kamukuland would lose respect for Christianity if the Christians brought the attention of the often-corrupt police force. Baba Dogo was content to rely on prayer alone for his protection.

As Nharrel writes, “Thus it was that the man who once fled in the face of persecution now cared less for his own safety and more for the evangelistic work, the witness of Christians, and the suffering of the people. Though he had defected from the faith twice before, he refused to budge from it again. Though death itself fixed its gaze on him, Baba fixed his gaze on the Light, his fortress and his deliverer.”

Magiro’s high council agreed that death was the only punishment for Baba Dogo. But when they gathered to pronounce the sentence, they were stopped short by an unexpected problem. No one could confirm Baba Dogo’s crime!

None of the Magiro cultists had attended the Christian gathering. Though some of their wives witnessed Baba Dogo’s words, the council refused to accept evidence from a woman. They had no written letter from an authoritative person confirming what had happened. By the grace of God, no one could prove that Baba Dogo had actually done anything wrong!

A relative of Baba Dogo stood up and demanded an apology. The ensuing argument stretched on fruitlessly, with no end in sight. Disgusted, the followers of Magiro began to leave, one by one.

When Baba Dogo heard of the council’s confusion, he laughed and said “I wish I knew who wants me dead. I would buy salt and distribute it to their wives to show that I have no ill feeling towards anyone.”

Though the Magiro cultists intended to harm Baba Dogo, God honoured the courage of a man who was willing to glorify the Lord at all costs. Though we cannot control the outcome when we follow Jesus, God can use even the most unexpected people to bring great glory to his name. No power of darkness can stand against the light of Christ.

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