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The Friend Of The Senguele 

    John C. Wengatz was a missionary to Africa for 42 years, establishing many churches and schools in Angola, Liberia and the Congo.  In 1910, John and his wife Susan sailed to Angola where they began working with the Quiongua Mission in Malanie.  Both taught at the mission school and John preached.  In his book, Miracles in Black, John shares an account of one of their native students and an amazing work of God among a group of people that others had dared not try to reach with the Gospel.

    During the time John and Susan Wengatz were stationed in Angola, there was a tribe known as the Senguele.  This was a tribe of warriors and cannibals who were notorious for being hostile and vile.  They were a terror to every tribe around.  The government and tradesmen each in their own way had tried to engage the Senguele – one with military power and one with the lure of goods.  But in every attempt those who went were overcome and never returned.  The Senguele had a motto, “The Senguele never turns back” and they lived by it.   


    One day Niku, a young graduate from the mission school, came to see John.  Niku was quiet and obviously fighting back tears. John thought he was ill, but Niku, replied, “No, teacher, I am not ill, but for two days I have not eaten anything.  For two nights I have not slept, I have been wrestling with God.  God has called me to go and preach the Gospel to the Senguele tribe.”

    John knew the dangers to any one trying to approach the Senguele.  It could very well mean that he would never see the young man again.  The two went into John’s workshop where they prayed and wept together.  Niku was resolved to go and felt he should set out at once.  John gave him money for supplies he would need for his trip, then prayed that God would go before him and prepare Senguele hearts to hear God’s message of love.

    For days Niku trekked across the rugged landscape to the region where the Senguele lived.  As he walked, he grew bolder and even more determined in what God was sending him to do.  He met some of the savages as he crossed into the tribe’s territory and he asked where he could find their chief.  Fearlessly, he walked to the chief’s hut.  Calling to the chief, Niku said he had a letter from his Friend that he wanted to read to him.  The chief came out of his hut surrounded by his bodyguards who were well armed.  This could have been the end of Niku.  But God had answered the prayers of John Wengatz and had gone before Niku to prepare the hearts of the savages. 

    The chief was curious about this letter so Niku began reading to him and his bodyguards from a little Gospel of John.  The chief was pleased with what he heard and wanted to hear more.  After half an hour of reading and explaining the Scripture, Niku told the chief he was tired, but that he still had much to share with them.  They provided him a meal and a place to sleep, and when the warriors came home that evening they asked him to share more of the letter.  They liked hearing the letter, but they did not know this Friend Niku was telling them about.  The Senguele had no friends.  All those around feared and hated the Sengueles.  Niku told them about the Friend of sinners who came to seek and save the lost, and that this Friend was able to take all the sin and unhappiness from the Senguele and make them clean. 

    For months Niku taught them from the Gospel of John and songs about Jesus.  He also told them about the white teacher (John Wengatz) who lived by the coast and once a year put up a large white tent.  Many tribes would come together at the white tent to hear John read to them from a Book about their special Friend.  The warriors were very interested to know that other tribes were hearing the same message.

    Then there came a night when the chief woke Niku and called him out of his hut.  He wanted to know straight out if what Niku was teaching them was the truth.  Niku was able to look him in the eyes and tell him that there had been a day when he himself was as vile as any Senguele and this Friend of sinners had made him clean.  This settled it for the chief and he wanted to immediately take his tribe down to where the white teacher was.  It was not, however, time for the tent meeting.  Niku told him when the new moon was over the top of the trees then it would be time to go.  He encouraged the people to go back to their farms and prepare enough food for two or three weeks to take with them to the meeting. 

    Every night the chief would go out to check for the new moon.  He was just as eager as any of them to make the journey to hear the white teacher talk about the Friend of sinners.  Then one evening he saw what he had been waiting for.  Calling for the official drummer, he sent out over the silence of the night the message for all Sengueles to gather at the chief’s village ready to travel to the great white tent.  It took several relays from drummer to drummer to reach all of the tribe, but the next morning men, women and children carrying bags and baskets of food all met with great excitement and soon they started off. 

A Difficult Journey

    The journey to the camp meeting was a difficult one.  A large swamp was between their village and the meeting site.  For several hours they walked through water and mud, sinking all the more into the muck because of their heavy loads.  But even through this battle, they sang to keep each other encouraged.  The chief would call out and remind them, “The Senguele never turns back; he always accomplishes what he sets out for.”  By afternoon with their feet tender from being in water so long and cut from unseen branches and rocks in the mud, they had reached the other side of the swamp. 

    Farther along they came to a stretch of sand that had gotten so hot from the midday sun it burned their feet when they tried to walk across it.  Many cried out that they could not go further.  Again the chief called out, “The Senguele never turns back” so they bravely ran out onto the hot sand.  Going as far as they could tolerate, they would then stop and dig down to cooler sand for brief relief and then strike out again until they had reached the other side.  By this time their feet were swollen and blistered. 

    Then they came to hilly country covered with sharp stones.  Some of them became so discouraged they sat down and cried ready to give up.  Again the call went through the ranks, “The Senguele never turns back.” 

Arrival of the Senguele

    Preparations for the tent meeting had been going on all year.  Much prayer had been given by the missionaries and the native Christians.  John had finished putting up the large white tent and was sitting watching the natives come from their various villages.  Groups were singing as they entered the camp area.  When they arrived, they dropped their heavy loads and began building their booths where they would sleep each night. 

    A stream of people coming slowly down a path off to his right caught John’s attention.   For a while they were hidden from his sight by bushes along the edge of the camp.  Suddenly people began dropping what they were doing and fleeing, yelling out a warning, “Senguele!”  The group he had been watching emerged from the bushes, and at the lead was his friend Niku!  Niku was calling to the other tribesmen as he walked in with the tribe saying the Senguele were there for peace and not war. 

    Having arrived, the weary Senguele dropped their loads and fell to the ground headlong trying to get the weight off of their swollen and bleeding feet.  The other tribesmen did not know what to think of the situation, but soon one of those watching called for water to be brought.  Those whom the Senguele had fought for years now ministered to them by giving them drink and then pouring water upon their wounded feet. 

    Food was brought to them, but it was refused.  One of the Senguele explained, that as they were coming down the hill, they could see the others building booths and could hear them singing.  They also could see the big white tent.  Once they crossed the stream to this side, their feet told them that they were on holy ground.  They decided then that no one would eat until he had found Jesus in his heart.  As “The Senguele never turns back,” they could not eat yet, and the others understood. 

Meeting the Friend of Sinners

    The next day the Senguele had recuperated to where they could join in the meetings.  On the third day, John talked about Jesus, the Friend of sinners.  He then asked if there was any who wanted to come and find this Friend.  No one stirred.  There was not even a whisper.  The camp leaders were in silent prayer.  Then the Senguele stood and began to come forward.  John recalls, “The moment the tribe of savage warriors started for the altar I think their Friend and Redeemer started from heaven to meet them at the altar…for as soon as the Sengueles were on their feet a deep conviction fell on the whole crowd of people such as we have witnessed nowhere.  When the other tribesmen saw their old-time enemies start for the altar of prayer they broke down and wept like children.”  Other unsaved people convicted of their sin came and joined the Senguele at the altar.  It is estimated that close to five hundred gathered at the altar – the educated, the civilized kneeling next to savages, all praying in their own dialects to the One who could save them from their sin.

    The whole group remained in prayer for two hours.  John stepped aside and let the Holy Spirit deal with them.  From here and there one could hear people singing or giving testimony of what Christ had done for them.  One of the Senguele leaders opened his eyes and looked at John and then around the tent.  His eyes got bigger and bigger.  Then he jumped to his feet and shouted out, “Jesus has come, Jesus has come! Senguele is all clean now!”  The whole tribe joined him jumping to their feet and shouting that the Senguele were now clean!      

A New Chapter for the Senguele

    As the tent meeting came to an end and people were heading back home, one could hear singing, testifying and praising God from all directions.  The Senguele were the last to leave.   Coming to John they shared, “Jesus has come into our hearts and we the Senguele are now clean, there is no more war in us, all hatred is gone and we belong to God.  We want to thank you for sending Niku to bring the words of Life.” 

    John further notes in his book, “On their way home, at every path they crossed they divided and went out into the villages to tell the other tribesmen what Jesus had done for the Sengueles, and to assure them that there was no more war left in their hearts.  They testified, sang and shouted their way back to their own country, telling everyone they met of the power of Christ to make a Senguele clean.”