A dramatic novel that reaches from the heart of Africa… and Jerusalem… to your heart.
Soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity quickly spread from Jerusalem, east into Ethiopia, into India, along the Mediterranean into Asia Minor, Greece and Rome, Spain and further north, along the sea into what is today known as North Africa. A strong Christian church sprang up in Egypt and all throughout Cyrene and across the entire North African coast. This was almost immediately after the ascension of Christ and was brought about by men and women burning with a message to preach and to tell about a Person they knew. Just as Ethiopia was used to describe a certain area and all unknown that lay south of it, so also was Cyrene. This novel covers a period in history where little is known about the way of life in deep Africa, south of the Sahara. Known life extended only along the border with the Sahara by the Mediterranean traders and was crossed by caravan, and was generally not quite so hot and dry as today. We do not know who Simon was, except what is found in only two verses of the Scripture. But we know he was from Cyrene, meaning that local area and all south of it,-Africa. His two sons were mentioned by name so they must have later become well known to the local church after the time of Christ on earth. We also know that he was compelled to carry the cross-it was not voluntary.
Through my personal experience in Africa and in research, I have sought to present an interesting, historical novel as a means of conveying the eternal truth. Though written about a man’s search, struggle and experience 2,000 years ago, I believe it is entirely relevant to the present needs and interest of modern humanity and for the church today. Although a novel, this book is about someone else, whom when people meet, even today, they will never be the same again. This I trust will be the real experience of this book.
Written in Africa
“And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear the cross of Jesus”
It was a dark night along the banks of the Great River, the sky split by flashes of light. Deep thunder boomed. A slow chant could be heard, mixed with the beating of drums and rhythmic beads. The lightning showed the small village of palm leaf covered mud houses, nested along the river bank.
The crying wail of women’s voices was clearly heard through the jungle bush as they slowly danced and wailed their way into the village and around the open fire. Chief Ormo Ya was dead! His spirit must be fed, the evil spirits kept away. Surely the Gods were angry, as they split the sky and clapped their hands-there was no time to waste.
The chief medicine man stood erect and handed the bowl of secret mixture to the head of the chief’s family. They began to pour the liquid upon the ground in a huge circle around the village. The drums were echoing the sound of fingers upon the stretched skin and bamboo sticks were beating in rhythm.
Ayo Bu stepped into the circle-every sound stopped except the boom of approaching thunder and the sound of croaking frogs and crickets. Every eye fastened upon him as he lifted a long slim knife toward the sky. Below him the small baby lay quiet. SWOSH! The sharp knife driven by a mighty arm, sliced the child in two.
“Hear oh Spirit! We offer this tender one unto you, be pleased with the offering. Oh, God of mighty thunder and flowing rivers.” The blood was poured into the river and the lifeless body lay upon the open fire.
“The spirit of Chief Ormo Ya is pleased!” cried the priest who had stood by in silence until now. The drums blasted into rhythm, the voices of three hundred exploded in joyful sound and from the molded bottles they drank their fill of palm wine and danced through the night as water flowed from the heavens and light flashed through the sky.
Yet one man, Ayo Bu, sat alone on the high bank overlooking the flooding river below. His mind troubled, his thoughts confused. “Where has Chief Ormo gone?” “There are good and evil spirits but beyond the river and stars, is there more? In all of us there is evil! None of us escape it! Is this enough?” He looked at his hands covered with blood. For the first time in his life, Ayo shook with fear. The life of a child for a chief-is that enough? suddenly he leaped to his feet, ran into the village and grabbed a gourd of wine and drank it all. He stood for a moment then walked into his hut and fell asleep on the grassy mat.
“Wake up! wake up! We must be gone!” Ayo stirred slowly, sat up and said, “Meet you by the river bank!” He wrapped himself in the leather skin and slowly wiped the clotted blood from his knife. Strong and young, he was the leading hunter and warrior. He could well be the next chief. Tomorrow was feast day to celebrate the good harvest that the Harvest God had given. He must go today and get the food for the special occasion. It must be a crocodile! It was dangerous, yet the gods would be pleased.
Seven of the men set off through the jungle, a small path that was well used as their trail for a while, they then turned and began making their way through the dense forest. It was dark and so hot even with the tall trees as a shelter above them. A family of monkeys swung in the high trees and chirped at them. Soon they made their way to a huge rock with the sun shining on it. Below the sound of rushing water could be heard. Ayo leaped to the top and stood gazing down, first to the splendid falls, then a flat lazy marsh below it, and on the distant rock lay the crocodile. He clutched his knife and moved on. The men followed behind with spears and ropes made from vines and peeled bark. They would attempt to throw the mesh of rope over the crocodile, then attack and kill it. They could not afford to miss and also there was the danger of others attacking once blood was spilled. He slipped the knife into a cut on his leather belt, took one side of the rope net with another of the men on the other side, and slowly eased forward with a big rock hiding them from the sleeping crocodile. They must throw the net while the others tried to drive the other crocodiles off if they attacked.
The rock was slippery from splashing water and each step had to be made carefully. Finally, Ayo carefully looked over the rock where the largest crocodile lay. This one was huge and very near the water. He must be killed before he reached the water for if he got in the water the stream would carry them into the marsh where they could never escape from others attacking them. The men would have to stand up, run about twenty feet, throw the mesh rope trap and attack, all before the animal either ran or attacked. They both looked at each other, then Ayo rubbed the leather pouch hanging around his neck. The witch doctor had made for him a strong mixture for strength and it had been very good.
Then they both leaped to their feet and ran forward across the slippery rock and approached the crocodile, arms outstretched to throw the net. Suddenly, Ashie, his partner, slipped on the rock, falling into the edge of the flowing water. He screamed as he hit the rock with his head, then fell quietly asleep, half in, half out of the water. The other fellows rushed to pull him out, but the huge twelve foot crocodile was now awake and charging toward Ashie!
Ayo grabbed the net, it was heavy and part of it had fallen into the water. He could not leap and throw the net at the same time, but he must do something! With a scream he charged toward the on-rushing crocodile. Holding one end of the net high, he leaped just over the open mouth of the enemy as its mouth clamped shut. He landed on its back but half the net was over the powerful crocodile. The animal’s attention was now turned to the man on his back as he swung around and beat his heavy tail. The tail crushed down upon Ayo’s left foot and pain shot through his body, but the net was doing its job. Both front feet and its mouth were caught in the net. Three of the men attacked with screams, thrusting their spears into the sides of the animal. Ayo crawled upon the back of the clawing, raging crocodile and thrust the knife into its neck and then to the heart. He rolled off the fighting animal as the huge tail swung again, hitting his arm and sending the knife flying into the center of the swirling water just at the bottom of the waterfall. The crocodile soon lay dead but the most important thing, the knife, was gone! It would be impossible to get it and it was the only one of its kind, made from steel and with an ivory handle. It had come from somewhere to the north where strange people lived beyond the great waters of evil spirits. He had taken the knife in a village war with the nearby tribes. How would he get another? As they made their way back to the village with the prize, he was still troubled with the loss of the prized knife and pained with his injured foot. Ashie was fine and the crocodile was the largest in years.
Ayo had always wanted to see what was beyond the river. This was his chance to see from whence the knife came and where the skin was brown and some even white. He reported the loss of the knife to the tribal council and said he would go and get some others, not just one but many, enough for everyone. The council said, “We’ll send someone else, the trip is dangerous, we are counting on you for our chief, you are the strongest bravest among us. You must stay here and lead us!” Ayo was hurt, his dream, his excitement gone. “No, I have questions in my mind I must find answers to, there is something more, I must find the truth! I will find it, then come back with something more powerful than a knife or an army! I must find the truth!” The council was shocked. Ayo was trembling inside. How could he have said that? It just came out. He bowed before them and slowly walked away. “How could I have said that,” he thought, “to refuse power, honor, wealth and the opportunity to have many wives. Yet somehow those things truly were not as important as finding out about the truth about life and God.
After about an hour a messenger called Ayo to the council meeting. The “old man” stood to speak, “Young son, you seek the truth. It is your desire, more than wealth, power and fame. We seek the truth also, go and find it and bring it back to us. We shall send two men to help you. Go now and prepare to leave!”
Ayo was numb with surprise, then filled with excitement. Before him was a mystery, a darkness, yet the light would shine through.