Thousands of miles away from Christian American churches, there sits an ancient tribe known as the Batwa Pygmies, a population of people who reside in the jungles of southwest Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Many have referred to these ancient hunter-gatherer tribesmen and women as one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in the world due to their dwindling population size and the loss of their traditional homeland.
In 1991 the people were stripped of their land and life became unimaginably difficult for a population that has spent centuries on those parcels of land due to the creation of conservation areas, The Guardian reported several years ago. African governments did this to protect the gorilla, an endangered primate that lived among the people, The UK Telegraph reported back in 2011.
The small statured people typically shared the forest with the gorillas and called caves their homes. According to a man named Jovanis Nyirakayanje who identifies himself as a Batwa pygmy, many of them also practiced witchcraft. After living in the outside world for a number of years along with fellow Batwa “conservation refugees” he’s developed a deep passion for Christ.
He explained to CBN that in the past,”We smoked; we drank; we performed witchcraft,” and “We were devil worshippers.”
Adding that “We used to live like animals in the jungle.”
The records associated with one of the oldest tribes in the area are very hard to come by but when thousands of them were thrown out of the forest, they literally had no idea what they would be dealing with and many of them were given the label of outcasts because of this.
— George Thomas (@GTReporting) March 28, 2017
Tugume and Barbara Gerald, a husband and wife missionary team, felt led to help the Batwa after this news broke. They moved from the city center of Uganda to a small village located on the outskirts of the Ugandan jungle. Tugume Gerald explained how dire the situation was, saying, “People could not even give them work to do because they thought maybe these pygmies are like animals” due to the cultural differences between themselves and the rest of the Ugandan people.
The Geralds began preaching the message of hope to area residents, and many Batwa ended up finding it very relatable. Hundreds converted and became followers of Jesus Christ. Nyirakayanje was one of the first ones, according to CBN.
He stated that, “It was the first time anyone had ever told us about Jesus” and prior to that “We were servants of the Devil, but then we heard Christ died for our sins and that changed our lives!”
Now the Batwa tribesman is one of many evangelicals who preach the gospel to others along the jungle border.
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