Understanding persecution in North Africa

by Guest Author on October 23, 2015 in Great Commission

We had been meeting with O and his family for a few weeks, they are Sudanese refugees. He has had contact with several followers, but we had not yet determined whether he was one, too, or not. His wife had already committed her life to the Son and had been on fire.

The Christian worker, J, who connected with them, had been mentoring her one-on-one for a few weeks by this point. However, they were (and still are) undergoing a lot of persecution. When her brother in Sudan found out she had switched over from his religion to following the Son, he threatened both her and O.

He traveled to our city to find them and take her home against her will and possibly kill O for his lack of stopping her. Instead of going back on her decision, they decided to move to a different apartment so her brother couldn't find them. She ran into him by chance getting off a bus, but luckily the people around her defended her and her brother ran off. We are unsure whether he went back after this or is still in the city looking for them.

She can't ask the government for help because she could be thrown in jail for her decision. So, they simply remain in hiding. Despite all this, she has still wanted to tell everyone she knows about the Son. O, however, discouraged her and got mad when she wanted to share because it was dangerous and everyone was already treating them bad enough.

J had been praying for a while about how to be able to mentor O, and if my partner and I could and would be willing to do so. In this case, J decided she would translate for us so we could sit down and talk with him. When she asked us, I could feel my spirit inside me leap. I had been praying for this opportunity since the first day we met O and his family.

For our first meeting, we wanted to talk about persecution because of all that was going on in their lives. We were unsure about where he was personally, but still felt led to discuss this subject with him. After some time thinking and praying we decided on four readings: Psalm 69, John 15, 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 and Philippians 4:1-9.

The intent was to show through the first two readings that there would always be persecution when we stand on truth and follow God. The third would be to show the expectation of how we are to act in response to this persecution, and the last was to give an example of one of the ways we can have achieve this attitude and mindset in the midst of persecution.

We started out simply spending time with him, his wife and their kids before we began our meeting with O alone. We first asked about what's going on in his life. He immediately opened up to us about all going on in his heart. He told us of his struggles and the persecution they were facing, which he called "bad weather." This started to make us question if he had really committed yet, so my partner decided to ask him who Jesus was to him.

His answer was that he loved Him and agreed with all He said, but that he has been holding back to fully committing. He was ashamed and embarrassed to admit that it was due to the "bad weather" in his life. He said he wanted to wait for "good weather" before he fully committed.

Despite the fact that he was not yet a follower we still felt led to talk about persecution. The difference was that now we were doing so knowing that it was talking to someone who was holding back because of the persecution we were addressing. He was quiet the whole time as he listened to (he and his wife are illiterate) and talked through the individual readings.

One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was to look into his eyes, with tears in mine, and tell him the truth was he may never get out of this "bad weather."

We finished going through the readings, and talked a lot about how to find peace in these times of trouble. I told him that when I am afraid or worried, I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture Jesus on the cross, and I see the blood running down his face, his arms spread wide and the love of our Savior in His eyes.

When I do this, I told him, all my worries and fear just fade away in the surpassing love found in this image. I told him to do this when he feels overwhelmed by this "bad weather." After we finished, I asked him if he thought there was one final step that he wasn't taking, one final step that was holding him back. He said "yes."

So, I asked him if he wanted to take the final step together. By the grace of God, he said "yes." We explained it is not the prayer that saves him, but a commitment to follow Jesus with his whole heart, and to make him Lord of his life.

We told him to pray to God however he wanted about whatever it was that he felt was holding him back and then to let go of whatever that thing was. He then prayed what J described as a miraculously, good news, centered prayer, admitting his brokenness and weakness and asking for God to deliver him as he confessed his faith in Jesus; the kind of prayer which shows the presence of the Holy Spirit within him; the kind where he prays about things he has never been taught. Afterward, he sat with his wife and told her about his decision and that he was not in agreement with her convictions before, but now he was. We could see the weight lifted off of his wife's shoulders. After this, his first question for J was this: how do we share this news now with people?

We finished by talking to them about now being baptized as a symbol of their decision and they were both very excited, but we wanted to give them the last couple weeks to understand the significance and hear for themselves why they are doing it. Sometime in the next week, I will get the incredible opportunity to baptize O and then see O baptize his wife. I have never felt such an incredible purpose in my life than I did this night. When we finished talking with them we all sat back and drank tea. We all felt the change in the feeling of that little apartment. There was a newer, greater presence residing there. If you ask me, there was a change in the weather.

George*, is serving as a Go Now Missionary in North Africa.

*Name has been changed

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