In recent years, Christians are facing increasing persecution across West Africa, as Islamic extremism has spread. Countries where attacks had been infrequent are suffering at the hands of Boko Haram, Fulani militants and others. Often women are particularly vulnerable to the long-term effects of such attacks: even if they aren’t killed, they can find it very difficult to earn a living if they are widowed. In West Africa, a widow often faces social and economic exclusion. The spread of coronavirus adds another layer to the isolation persecuted believers in this region already experience.
Thank you for not leaving your brothers and sisters in isolation. Your gifts and prayers continue to have a significant impact on the lives of believers in West Africa. Open Doors is running integrated programmes in the region that provide vulnerable Christians with discipleship, economic training, leadership training, trauma care and training for preparing for persecution. With your support, these programmes are offering West African believers spiritual and socio-economic sustenance.
This post looks at some of the ways God is using your ongoing financial and prayer support to encourage and provide for your persecuted family – including oxen, crops and a medical clinic.
DAMARIS IN CHAD: “GOD HAS ANSWERED OUR PRAYERS”
Damaris lives in south-eastern Chad – part of West Africa that has seen a rise in Islamic extremism in recent years, including attacks by Boko Haram. She is vulnerable because of her faith and, because she’s a woman, has struggled to raise money for her family.
She and friends from church attended training, run thanks to Open Doors supporters. It helped Damaris understand a biblical view of work and economics – and, afterwards, she set up a self-help financial group with a few others. “We started a group where we meet and encourage each other,” Damaris says. “We contribute at least 1,000 francs [about £1.35] during meetings. If someone is in need, the person can borrow money from the group, and repay it later with interest.
“Now we see that there is a clear improvement because women who have started small businesses can help their families. Some pay school fees for their children and support their husbands with certain expenses.
“When we meet once a month for a time of edification and prayer, we share our prayer requests and burdens. I like my group because it doesn’t only end in meetings. When one of us has a need, we gather and support them. Sometimes during births or deaths, we each contribute according to what we can give. That is the greatest joy of belonging to this my group,” she says.
Damaris now runs a small business investing in crops. “I made good profit and I bought a set of oxen, so we don’t need to rent some for ploughing during the rainy season,” she says. “Now the task is much lighter. We can breathe a sigh of relief. God has answered our prayers. It is thanks to Him we have been able to do all of this. Your training and group have helped me beyond the financial benefits: I find joy, peace and love in communion with my sisters. Thank you for training us. May God give you a long life and courage to continue doing this good to others.”
MAMOUDOU IN CAMEROON: LOOKING TO A BIGGER HARVEST
Cameroon entered the World Watch List in 2020 at number 48: persecution is getting worse in the country. Projects to help vulnerable Christians are more important than ever – and two of those projects are helping persecuted Christians in the north of the country to generate income, through a soy farm and a maize farm.
“We encouraged participants of a small pilot project to start with something within their reach and to work together with people from different denominations,” says Open Doors’ socio-economic programme manager in the region. “This is not so much about individual achievements, but about the church working together, advancing together, and being strong to face any adversity or enticement together.”
In the first season, the group involved in the maize project harvested 50 bags, a portion of which they planted the next season. They hope to produce 1,000 bags of maize over five years.
Mamoudou, the coordinator for the group, explains how they kept going after some initial difficulties: “We forged on, and today we are thankful to God that we did! We are so thankful we started this project because it has been of great help to us. After the harvest, each member of the group was given a bag of maize with which we could feed our families.”
And it’s not just the produce. The group also see the microprojects as an opportunity to valiantly represent God’s kingdom on earth. Abba, the group’s secretary, says, “We need to alleviate poverty in our community. Some traders stock maize and, when prices increase, they sell it at inflated prices. We do not want our people to fall prey to this. We have to influence this practice because we are children of God, and things ought to be done differently when we are involved.”
DANIEL AND FATIMA IN NIGER: REACHING THE UNREACHED WITH A CLINIC
Niger also jumped several places into the World Watch List top 50 last year – increasing pressure and violence coming from jihadists in the Sahel region means it is becoming more dangerous to be a Christian in the country. Daniel and Fatima have been in their village for more than 40 years, pastoring a congregation. Recently, they wanted to see how they could meet a desperate need in the community and, with support from Open Doors, opened a clinic.
“We opened it because I witnessed how women suffered through the carelessness of hospital staff while I was working in a maternity ward,” Fatima says. “This troubled Daniel and me very much and when we shared it with our pastor, he challenged us that if we really wanted to help people, we could open our own clinic.”
“By the grace of the Lord, my wife and I were able to open a clinic in our village. It all started with a tiny single room,” Daniel says. “Within three months, the Lord blessed our work so much that we had to move from one place to another. Now people from our village and neighbouring villages, even from as far as Nigeria, attend our clinic. We really thank God for His hands in the progress of this place.”
Daniel and Fatima are very grateful to Open Doors for helping them in various ways toward the progress in this clinic, including income-generating loans. Combining medical help with their ministry has enabled them to bless their community.
“There are many poor people in the villages that don’t have the means to come to the hospital. We buy drugs and reach them at their home and treat them free of charge. And this is another opportunity to reach them with the gospel, showing them Jesus’ love,” Daniel says.
They also share the good news of Jesus with the unreached. “There was one Muslim preacher who was against our church. One day, his daughter fell ill. They went to different clinics, but they could not help her. Eventually he had her brought here. She was so weak she couldn’t walk. We found that she was suffering from ulcers and we were able to treat her. She recovered completely.
“The next day he called me to ask how we managed to heal her. I replied that we rely on the power of our Lord, for He is the only one who cures. Because of that, our relationship has improved. We feel that the gospel is reaching these people’s hearts and helping them to acknowledge the power of the Lord.
“We hope that soon we will be able to turn this clinic into a hospital. This progress is a source of pride for us – we know that it is the result of your prayer and the hands of the Lord upon this clinic and it really assures us the Lord is with us.”
Thanks to your support, lives are being transformed across West Africa. In this difficult time, our family still need your help to combat the dangers and isolation that come with following Jesus no matter the cost.
Source and photo: Open Doors