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Ferreiro
20th century
Missão Evangélica
Guinea-Bissau


Ferreiro was a very important man in Uno. He was an old man and had completed all the ceremonies. He sat on his throne and owned a large number of cattle. The very first witch doctor in Uno, he supervised the initiation rites for both the men and the women. When he was young, he went south to the Nalu country to learn how to be a witch doctor. He used to hide a sea urchin in a sack to deceive people when they came to him to enquire of the spirits.

The word of God had already arrived in Uno. Ferreiro had heard the testimony of Omaris and the others in Ancarave. He also wanted to accept Christ. He had even stopped enquiring of the spirits for people. When they came, he told them, "I've stopped. I am going to become a Christian."

One day during the rainy season, Gene McBride and Pedro da Silva were passing the village of Angodigo on their way to the village of Ancarave. Pedro said to Gene McBride, "Let's stop here to greet my uncle."

Ferreiro was really pleased to see them and called the whole village together. There, under the mango tree in front of his house, they preached the gospel. When they had finished Ferreiro said, "Tomorrow I will become a Christian. I'll burn my idols." Gene did not really believe him. He thought, "Tomorrow belongs to Satan. Why is he waiting?"

The next morning Ferreiro called the entire village together again, and he told them that he was going to become a Christian. He collected all his idols, some from the idol house in the village and others from the bush and said, "These belong to me, I bought them. I am going to burn them. These others belong to the village. Take them. They can no longer stay in my idol house." He collected two and a half sacks of idols and burned the lot. That day it poured rain, there was a very strong wind, and it thundered. It was August 7, 1954.

Everybody opposed him. They were really angry. People came to his house, as if he had died and it was his funeral. His colleagues from the initiation rites asked him, "What have you done? Why have you become involved in this white man's business? You've lost all respect. You've lost your name. Aren't you going to enjoy sitting on your throne, now you are old?" He replied, "What is all that to me? I have enough rice in my rice store. What do I need with the tribute due to the elders? I want Christ."

Sometime later, one of his colleagues from the initiation rites came to visit him. He was surprised to see him alive and well and said to him, "Now I know that your God is powerful! We did a ceremony with a white cock in these recent initiation rites so that you would die. Your God has power!"

Ferreiro had a new idol house that he had not even used. He dedicated it as the very first church building in Angodigo. It was not long before his sons and others in his family also became Christians.

Hazel Wallis


This article is reprinted, with permission, from Light Shines in the Darkness, The History of the Church in Guinea-Bissau (1940-1974) (Bubaque, Guinea-Bissau: Missão Evangélica, 1996). All rights reserved.