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Members of the Global Prayer Safari pray over the land where the Zika Virus originated Photo courtesy of Karen Lubbers

Often the Holy Spirit leads us to places we wouldn’t go by our own choice. That was definitely the case for members of CRWM's Global Prayer Safari (GPS) in Uganda.

From pristine sandy beaches to garbage-filled fishing villages, members of the GPS team saw many sides of Uganda’s capital region of Kampala. One place stood out for many of the participants—the Zika Forest.

The mosquito-spread disease that originated in this forest has recently made headlines for its spread across Central America, but its history in Uganda goes back much further.

Local pastor and member of the GPS team Musoke Kisule is well-versed in this history. He pastors a congregation right at the edge of the Zika Forest. Kisule says the place has been known as a “place of burial” since the 1800s.

“After the death of many people in a great battle, the king ordered a mass grave to be dug,” recalls Kisule. “Many people who died were buried in that forest.”

Decades later, when the virus started to spread, people initially blamed these deaths on the spirits of the people buried in this mass grave.

“People started consulting ancestral spirits, and the forest was dedicated to the devil,” said Kisule.

Even after researchers discovered the virus, the forest is still regarded as a spiritually dark place. People continue making sacrifices to these spirits, but God has been at work through people like Kisule.

“God has given us grace to plant two churches around the forest,” says Kisule. “We’ve been struggling to pull down the stronghold of evil powers from all these years.”

When Kisule and other local pastors heard that missionaries and volunteers were gathering in Uganda to pray with them at the Global Prayer Safari, they knew this would be a great opportunity to continue re-claiming this forest for Christ.

On the first day of the event this past February, the volunteers hiked to the Zika Forest with some reluctance. They had heard much of the history, and they had already had a full day of walking and praying.

“I usually consider myself a pretty flexible person, but that day I found that I could still be uncomfortable,” said Ken Koning, pastor of Calvin CRC in McBain, Mich.

In the forest, the group prayed for cleansing and renewal. They prayed that the evil spirits would leave and never return. They prayed for peace and safety for those living near the forest.

“As a missionary in Uganda, it was interesting to watch the spiritual warfare battle in action,” said CRWM’s Karen Lubbers. “The African men and women got louder and louder in their prayers, stomping the ground and punching the air. The Westerners took steps back to see what was happening,  watching with wide eyes. Everyone knew God’s Spirit was at work.”

“Praying together manifested the glory of Jesus in ways that we couldn’t experience in our one-on-one time with God,” added Kisule. “It brought divine intervention and breakthrough in the community and in the lives of everyone participating.”

This story is part of a series of articles about Following the Spirit. Read more articles on this theme:

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