Artist Fransisco Dinga grew up in Blantyre in a family of Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs), but found his religion was not enough to deal with the evil he encountered when targeted by witches. In desperation, he searched the internet for answers. What he found finally set him free from fear.
"I grew up believing that JW was the only true religion and that when Jesus comes, He will judge all religions except ours. We didn't have any meaningful friendships with people outside Watchtower. We were united in faith, and indeed I spent many hours preaching door-to-door," Fransisco remembers.
At 21 he married a fellow JW and they had a daughter. However, when the baby was 6 months old she died suddenly, leaving them heartbroken.
Later they heard a strange story from a cousin that a witchdoctor had said the baby had died as a result of a curse put upon her following an argument that Fransisco had with a relative. The relative had got a witch to cast a spell on the child.
Suddenly the reality and power of witchcraft became evident to Fransisco and he sought to protect himself and his family by seeking out witches himself and using charms and talismen.
Little did he know that all he was doing was opening the door of his life wider to demonic powers. The more he feared them and sought the help of witches, the more control evil had over him.
"The battle had just begun," he says. "I suffered migraine headaches for three months and was confined to bed." Medicine from the witchdoctors "healed" him but not before he suffered intensely and urinated blood for three days.
The power of demons and witchdoctors is real and they can heal people or curse them with illness or accident, however the purpose of their power is always to enslave people to evil and trap them in fear and hopelessness, never to truly help them.
At first, though, it may seem that dark forces will make you powerful. Fransisco felt the charms made him untouchable and that even pangas couldn't hurt him. He continued to go to witchdoctors and undergo strange black magic rituals.
"From these rituals spiritual senses were awaken in me," he tells. "Now my eyes were opened I could see witches even in the day. And at night I used to wrestle with witches in my sleep ... by this time, although I was a deacon in the JW organisation, I was growing very strong magically."
Then Fransisco's son was badly burnt in a fire at a neighbour's house, which he attributed to the war of witchcraft he was involved in. Once you join "it's a war that can never stop" he explains.
Despite all the talismen and the aura of demonic power he had about him, Fransisco admits "I still felt very empty. I needed God."
He went to the JW leaders to confess his sins and ask them to pray for him to get free of the power of the occult. "I told them that I was using Satan's power and I was afraid of the judgement day. I broke down crying, begging them to pray for me, to be set free."
However, he was horrified to learn that many of the leaders were themselves witches and were using witchcraft to protect themselves too!
Unable to find relief, Fransisco gave himself fully over to evil. "Satan became king of my life and I became addicted to pornography and loved to watch extremely violent movies and witchcraft films," he confesses.
Strangely, it was through Google that Fransisco eventually learned that there is indeed a force greater than witchcraft – the powerful name of Jesus Christ.
"I read Google testimonies of ex-porn stars, ex-witches, ex-Satanists, ex-witchdoctors sharing their stories. It made me begin to realise that there is a spiritual force that holds people in sin, but there is a more powerful force that is the name of Jesus. I learned that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and that those who believe in Him will cast out demons. I also learnt that if you can't stop sinning you are a captive to the devil but that Jesus frees the captives."
Fransisco realised there was hope. He could be free, he could be clean. "Now I knew that there is deliverance and that I had demons. Desperate for help I went to an old friend who was now a pastor and asked him to pray for me to be set free.
"He was surprised because he had known me to be a JW. I told him I now believed that a person has a spirit and that if I don't believe in the name of Jesus I will be sent to hell.
"He prayed for me and we went to my house I gave up all my charms. That was the beginning of my new life," says Fransisco.
Identifying the two biggest changes that he felt immediately, he says, "I now could hear the Holy Spirit of God speaking. And, instead of being afraid of death, I now had strong faith in Jesus Christ."
Fransisco was set free in February 2013 and since then has been to Bible college, read the Bible diligently and joined a strong church. His son, Eric, the one who was burned, is also a Christ follower.
However, Fransisco's new faith has cost him the relationship he had with his wife and JW friends and family, who have all rejected him as "an apostate". He and his son have made many new friends in the Christian church though.
He warns others, "We are created with a vacuum in us which will be filled either by the Holy Spirit or dark spirits. We are either the temple of the Holy Spirit or we belong to Satan. There is no middle ground."
As a man who has been controlled by both forces at different times, Fransisco knows who he chooses: "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15)
The Bible is clear about the spiritual fight Christians are in and that it is not against the witches themselves, but the forces behind them. In Ephesians 6:10-13 the Apostle Paul says: "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."•