His name is Surprise Sithole, and he is the happiest man I’ve ever met. It wasn’t just that he smiles a lot—this guy laughs pretty much all the time. He overflows with joy, and it truly is contagious. When filming with him, often I would just look at him, he’d grin back at me, and I’d start to giggle myself.
A few years ago,somewhere in South Africa, I sat with Surprise and I told him an idea I had. I’d like him to pray to God and ask Him where we should go. Once he got an answer from the Lord, we would hop in the car and just kind of see what happens when we get there. The plan was to walk around,pray for people and just see what God might have in store for us.
The reason I was asking Surprise to do the asking was simple. This guy had stories unlike anything I’d heard before.
For starters, this guy speaks 14 languages, most of which he received supernaturally. He’s been a part of at least 5 resurrections from the dead, including one person who had been dead for 4 days. His conversion to Christianity happened when he was a teenager and is a good example of the insanity of this guy’s life.
His parents were both witch doctors in their local village, and he was awoken one night by an invisible presence shaking the mat he was sleeping on. An audible voice spoke to him and said, “You have to leave this village right now or you’re going to die.” He crawled out of the hut, found one of his friends, and the two of them headed into the jungle where they summarily got lost and wandered around for the next two weeks.
After wandering for so long, a man found them and told them that the Lord had shown them to him in a dream and where he could find them. He told the boys about Jesus, and after a terrifying vision of hell, Surprise gave his life to God. It was shortly after this that he found out that his entire village was ambushed and slaughtered the night he and his friend fled into the night.
So if Surprise was telling me God was giving us a village to go to that was a 4 hour car ride away, I certainly wasn’t going to argue with him. Almost as soon as we arrived in the village, we met a woman who lived there who was willing to help us. We were in the middle of nowhere, so any help we could get was great. We told her we were looking for sick people to pray for, and she started taking us to various homes where we were able to pray for people and explain to them who Jesus was.
At one point, there was a delay and Surprise and the woman talked for a while as I looked on wondering what was going on. After some back and forth, Surprise turned to me and told me that she was going to take us to the local witch doctor’s house. Um, okay.
After a 10 minute walk, we entered a dusty courtyard and immediately met a very blind, very elderly woman sitting on a chair. Surprise told her we are going to dance with her today, and I’m wondering if that’s really the thing we want to tell a woman who is not only a blind witch doctor, but can barely walk without assistance.
Catch a sneak peek of this story in the trailer below
We began to pray for her legs and her eyes, and at one point Surprise told her to stand up and walk around, see if she can walk on her own. She needed a little help at first, but shortly she was walking completely on her own. Her family told us she hasn’t been able to do that in 5 years!
Surprise leaned in and asked her if she can see now. This witch doctor looked him dead in the eyes and said, “I can see. Yes, I can see now.” Apparently Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said the blind will see and the lame will walk! I was now certain this woman was going to do the thing that mattered most: repent of her sins and giver her life to Jesus.
But that’s not exactly what happened.
While the witch doctor admitted that she felt much better and that God had truly touched and healed her, she was hesitant to burn all of her witch doctor talismans. She was frightened that the spirits she dealt with might retaliate against her if she severed her ties with them in such a direct way. Surprise continued to talk with her, as did her daughter, who needed no such cajoling. She had just seen for herself that God was real, and she now became one of our primary preachers!
At a certain point, a young man stood up and told us that he wanted to burn his stuff. He had been sitting on a chair watching everything and he was convinced. He was also the woman’s grandson and the resident witch doctor in training in the village. So we burned his talismans while the grandmother looked on, and the young man gave his life to the Lord.
As we were leaving, Surprise walked up to the grandmother and started to sing and clap, and I watched in amazement as this witch doctor started to dance to the Lord, just like Surprise had said she would do when we first met her.
It was one of the most amazing, divine things I’ve ever seen.
Driving home from this encounter, I realized the incredible thing God had done. I was focusing on the big, showy encounter with an active witch doctor, yet God had his eyes not just on one person, but on an entire village. He moved in the heart of a young man, who would have perpetuated the darkness of voodoo in that village, and instead put him on the path to Bible training to become the first pastor of the first church this village would ever have.
God offered the same love and grace to the witch doctor herself, but her fear became a stumbling block. It was a perfect picture of what happens everyday in situations that are, admittedly, not quite as dramatic as this. God is offering the greatest gift in history to everyone, regardless of who they are or what they’ve done, and we either respond by saying yes, or creating an excuse.
Thankfully, God is tireless, and as long as we still have breath in our lungs, He will pursue us. Not because we’ve done anything to deserve it, but simply because He loves us more than we even love ourselves.
Darren Wilson is the Founder and Director at WP Films, a media company with a very clear mission: ask questions about God that no one else will. He has traveled the world since 2006 creating various feature-length documentaries, including Finger of God, Furious Love, Father of Lights, Holy Ghost, and Holy Ghost Reborn. Darren is also the author of the books Filming God and Finding God in the Bible.