*This is a true story, but names have been changed and places have been kept very vague. The people in this story live in a part of the world where Christians are persecuted for their faith. Telling their story puts them in danger, but they want people to know what God is doing. God is using these brave believers in mighty ways, but they need our help. They need our prayers, and they need our support.
Romans 12:10-13 – Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Last week I shared with you the first part of Mariama’s testimony: How she heard about the Lord, and how He miraculously drew her to Himself. I told you about her Muslim family and how after she accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior they abused her, took everything from her, (including her two precious babies) and eventually disowned her. I told you how God provided for her through impossible circumstances and called her to serve Him as a missionary to her own people. I told you how her ministry began and how even as God blessed her through the love and support of other believers her heart still longed to see her children again and for them to come to know her Savior. That is where we’ll pick up now.
It had been almost an hour since we first sat down across the table from Mariama, but we had been so mesmerized by her story that it seemed like only minutes. We hung on every word, barely noticing the patience it required to wait on John to translate after each pause. I was intrigued by each detail, wishing I could communicate on my own so that I could ask questions, but knowing that even then I wouldn’t want to interrupt her captivating narrative. Mariama was a gifted communicator and despite the language barrier we found ourselves rising and falling with the emotions of her story. How my heart ached trying to imagine myself in her situation. A life separated from my children seemed unbearable. How could someone remain so devoted to God when the path He had asked her to walk seemed so hopelessly difficult? My pain and heartache paled in comparison and I found myself thanking God for my many blessings. Yet, how we rejoiced too as she shared the victories – the mighty miracles of God. At one point my love (who is a very reserved person) even clapped and cheered! This woman was our sister in Christ, the bond between us strong, so as she spoke of her prayer for her children’s salvation my heart sank. It seemed so impossible, but there was a glimmer in her eye, and I leaned in as she continued,
“One day a strange man came to my door. He worked for Ibrahim, my ex-husband, and he wanted to know if Ahmadou, our son, was with me. I said that I hadn’t seen him in over 15 years, and asked what was wrong. Why didn’t they know where he was? The man explained that things had been tense between Ibrahim and Ahmadou for some time. Ahmadou had grown bitter that he had been kept from his mother for so many years and wanted to find her. When he had come of age, he had left home to go search for her, and they hadn’t seen or heard from him since.
I was overjoyed by this news, but also quite concerned knowing he was out there somewhere looking for me, and no one knew what had become of him. I set out on my own to search for him, praying that God would help me. God led me to a hospital where I found that he had been admitted after getting very sick as a result of the terrible conditions he had been living in on the streets as he searched for me. It was truly a miracle that I had been able to find him before Ibrahim and his many contacts. I took him home with me and we spent the next few months getting to know one another. There was a constant edge, though, knowing that Ibrahim or one of his goons could show up at any time and take Ahmadou back to his father. Then we received news that Ibrahim had died. We were safe. The tension subsided and Ahmadou got to know the other missionaries on my team, he went to church with me, and he watched as I ministered in the villages. In time, Ahmadou, my precious son, accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior! God was answering my prayers and giving me the deepest desires of my heart.
My ministry continued to grow, but there were many challenges. The villages in which I held the Bible Studies for woman were many miles outside the town where I lived. I had to take a horse cart taxi early in the morning and travel for hours through the dessert to reach the villages. It was dangerous, and hot, and dirty, but this was all I could afford. By the time I would reach the village I would be filthy and sweaty and I would have to find someone who was willing to let me use their home to freshen up so that I could be presentable in order to conduct the Bible Studies. As the women grew in their faith they were eager to learn and full of questions, wanting me to stay longer and longer each week. But the longer I stayed the more dangerous it became for me to return home on the horse cart taxis in the dark.
The team of missionaries that worked alongside me in the town decided to work together to raise money to buy me a motorized four wheeler so I would be able to travel faster and more easily to the villages. Each of them went to their home base of supporters and told my story, asking for donations. God moved many people to give generously and the team was able to raise enough to buy, not only the four wheeler, but a house for me as well! I was so excited! These things would open so many doors in ministry. God blessed all of my efforts and I was able to start even more Bible studies for women in my home, and even some programs for children too! Last Christmas over 250 kids showed up to the program we put on in my home and each of them heard the gospel before they left.”
Suddenly Mariama stopped. The big smile on her face vanished in an instant replaced by a dark sadness. Tears immediately began to well up in her eyes once again and she dropped her head. We looked over at John with concern. What had happened? There sat our big, strong brother-in-law with tears spilling from his eyes as well. He and Elizabeth sat silently watching their dear hurting friend struggle to find the words to go on. The silence was deafening. My love and I still didn’t know what had happened, but we were so a part of her story by now that we found ourselves fighting back tears too as we waited.
“Unfortunately,” she choked out, “one man on the team began to cause trouble.”
There was another long pause, accompanied by many tears. When she started to speak again it was very strained. She would get out a few sentences and pause again, each time she continued her words were more broken. This woman had shared an unimaginably difficult story with us over the past hour and she had done it with strength. She hadn’t teared up even once after she got going, but had, instead, spoken with fire and passion. The broken woman who sat in front of us now, weeping and dejected hardly seemed like the same person. Eventually John began to ask questions and fill in some of the details that they already knew. We asked questions too. As we listened to what has been happening to her over the last year or two we became angry, heartbroken, and frustrated. We were desperate to find some way to encourage her; some way to help her. What’s happening is unacceptable, and I believe it’s the responsibility of the church – the body of Christ – to right this wrong.
Mariama has come under attack from another believer. Another missionary! A brother in Christ and a team-mate in sharing the gospel with the lost people of western Africa. It’s a tragedy like no other tragedy she’s experienced, and it has broken her. The enemy is gaining a foothold. It was very difficult to get the details of the story because Mariama was so hesitant to share anything negative about this man. She would tell us about her pain, but didn’t want to tell us about what caused it. Tragically, she has lost her four-wheeler and her home as a result of this situation. Long story short, they weren’t put in her name and have become pawns used against her in the game this man is playing. In addition to that, the rest of her teammates have moved their ministries to other areas of western Africa leaving her relatively alone in this struggle. The ministry has suffered greatly.
Through tears Mariama choked out at one point, “I don’t understand why God is allowing this. I’ve already lost my home. I’ve already been kicked out of my family; first by my husband, and then by my parents. Now I’ve lost my home again and feel like I’m being kicked out of my family all over. I’ve already lost my own children, forbidden to see them or help them grow, and now I feel like I’m losing my spiritual children in the same way.”
My dear friends, this nonsense has to stop! We can’t continue to allow the enemy to divide us. We’re all members of the same family – His dearly loved daughters and sons. We have to start building each other up, and refuse to tear down! Like Mariama, I don’t know why God allows some of us to be hurt over and over again by the same kinds of betrayals. I don’t understand why He allows men like that other missionary to remain in a position where they can hurt the Kingdom with such intensity. But I do know that He is God and we are not. I know that He has called us to be obedient no matter what others do. I can’t make this man stop it. I can’t remove him from his ministry. But I can do everything within my power to build up my sister. I can pray for her every day – every time she comes to mind. I can pray that God will protect her and bless her and that He will remove this man. I can write notes of encouragement to Mariama and send her Scripture passages to build her up. (She’ll find someone to interpret them.) And I can do this:
We have set up a fund for Mariama. We believe that she needs a vehicle – a four wheel drive small SUV this time. She’s getting too old to ride a four-wheeler around the desert. It needs to be four wheel drive to get through the terrain, and we would like it to be big enough for her to be able to take others with her. Her ministry has reached a point where the women she is discipling want to be able to work alongside her but she’s never had the means to transport them from one village to another.
That’s the first goal, but what we’d really like to see is for enough money to be raised to buy her a house too. A house she will use to further the Kingdom of God here on earth. And for goodness sake, we’ll put these things in her name so that no one can take them away from her. These requests do not come from her, they come from us. She has asked only for prayer, but I know it would be an encouragement to her to find out that believers from all over the world joined together to stand beside her and say, “We’re family. Followers of Jesus Christ – the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. God is the Father of us all and the Holy Spirit indwells each one. We will all spend eternity together worshiping the Lord God Almighty whom we all serve. We will not sit by and let our precious sister be torn down. We will join together and sacrifice with the same willingness that she has had; sacrificing EVERYTHING for the cause of Christ. We won’t let the enemy win this battle! We won’t watch her walk away from such a thriving ministry when we could do something to stop it.”
My love and I will be giving, many in our church will be giving, (although we’ll all be doing it directly and not through the gofundme program.) and we’d like to ask anyone who reads this to prayerfully consider giving as well. Seek God and follow His leading. At the very least would you all please commit to praying daily for Mariama? (the Lord knows her real name) Pray God’s blessing and protection upon her ministry. Pray that His will can be done in this tragic situation. Mariama has personally requested that we all pray for this other missionary too. That God would bless him, and lead him in his ministry as well. (That’s from Mariama, I would have asked you to pray that God removes him, and stops him from doing any more damage.) Pray for the lost people in western Africa. There are so many obstacles already in the way of them receiving the gospel – Muslim persecution being at the top of that list. Finally, would you pray for Mariama’s children? I know that her deepest desire is to spend eternity with them. God bless you all. May we each have the courage and faith to live as Mariama has – surrendered to the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, no matter the cost!