Across the border of Nyasaland to the south is Sena country. The land is a great flat plain, scorched by the tropical sun and dry except for the "Valley," where the Shire River, like a giant python, doubles back on itself again and again on its way to the Zambezi. The river dominates the plain, and is visible as far as the eye can see as you drop down out of the mountains of Nyasaland into the hot breath of the Sena flats.
There is peace and plenty in the "Valley." The river abounds with fish, and banana trees flourish on its banks. The thousands of Africans who live there work very little for their food and find plenty of time for dancing and beer drinking. It's a lazy river and a lazy life. But ask Phillip Chilemba, and he will tell you that it was not always so.
Though his hair is not yet gray, Phillip can remember dark days in Sena country ... when "Angum" cannibals laid wait along isolated paths, pouncing upon any unwary traveler who was foolish enough to walk alone. He remembers how, in his boyhood days around village camp fires, he and other children listened, eyes wide with fear, as the elders told of the dreaded " Anguru" and their liking for human flesh. It wasn't pleasant to think of, but it was important to know if you wanted to stay alive.
Phillip was thirteen years old when he first saw cannibals.
One of the villagers butchered a pig and sent Phillip and his big brother Miliyon to take a leg of it to a relative. Now this relative lived on the other side of Anguru territory, and that meant that they would have to travel right through a part of cannibal country! The very thought of it made cold chills go up and down the boys' spines!
But they were ashamed to show fear, so they started out, big brother Miliyon leading the way with little Phillip trudging behind, the pork wrapped in banana leaves on his head. Every load is carried on the head in Africa, and it's always the youngest and smallest person who has to carry the load for the bigger one.
As they came to the path that led through Anguru land, the boys quickened their steps and kept their eyes and ears open. Now it's hard to turn one's head from side to side, when the load on it is big, and the boy under it is small, but it's a lot harder to look straight ahead when there might be a cannibal in the bushes at the side of you! Phillip was taking no chances! He wanted a head start if they ran across any of them, and he wanted his head start to be a big one!
Then it happened!
They rounded a bend, and there they were, right near the path! Both boys started running, their hearts in their throats and the cannibals right behind them! They could hear their shouts, and they didn't need to look back to know that their enemies were gaining on them!
Poor Phillip! It never occurred to him to drop the meat. He ran like a scared rabbit, his bare feet pounding the path, one hand holding up his ragged pants and the other steadying the load on his head! He saw with dismay that Miliyon was leaving him far behind; then he heard the puffing of a runner right behind him and felt a heavy hand come down on his shoulder.
Phillip doesn't remember much that happened after that. He knows that he was beaten with knobbed sticks, and remembers vaguely that he was carried off into a banana grove. The cannibals whacked off banana leaves and spread them on the ground. They laid Phillip out on them, and then prepared to cut up their prize! Some held his legs while others pinned down his arms. Then the leader stood over him and drew his long knife. Phillip knew it was the end, but terror had left him numb, and without strength to struggle.
Suddenly there was a shout, and through the banana grove surged a band of warriors brandishing clubs and spears. Friends for Phillip!
The Anguru left their victim and fought for their lives! Miliyon had reached the river and had told the villagers of Phillip's peril! In the nick of time they had come, and though the unconscious boy knew nothing of it, the danger was past and his life had been spared.
Why? Phillip didn't know then, but Phillip knows now.
God had a plan for his life ... a plan that took many years to carry out.
He was a full grown man before he found Christ as his Savior, but when he did, he gave his life completely to God. He is now an ordained minister of the Assemblies of God, and if you'll come to Nyasaland today, I'll introduce you to a radiant Christian called Phillip Chilemba ... the Sena boy who escaped from the cannibals!