My understanding of the benefits of Christian fellowship was deepened after meeting Abdoullaye, a Samaritan’s Purse beneficiary who recently gave his testimony during morning devotions. Abdoullaye, a quiet elderly Fulani man, opened his talk by stating, “I am grateful for being here, and I feel fortunate to be in the presence of God’s people.”
To fully grasp the meaning of the genuine appreciation of this statement, it is important to understand Abdoullaye’s background. Abdoullaye is from a small village near Niger’s border with Burkina Faso. His village is extremely under-resourced. Very few of his nomadic neighbors finished secondary school or speak French. Further, the security situation in this region has deteriorated over the previous few months, which has further inhibited the community’s development.
Abdoullaye is also the very first Christian from his village.
Abdoullaye first heard about the Gospel through Pastor Chaibou, a Samaritan’s Purse evangelist, who was meeting with Samaritan’s Purse’s beneficiaries in the area. Samaritan’s Purse intervenes in Abdoullaye’s community through ALFARI (Assisting Local Farmers to Adopt Resilient Improvements), a program which provides agricultural, nutritional, and financial trainings for farmers. As the population of Niger is less than one percent Christian, the Samaritan’s Purse Niger office is frequently unable to employ Christians who can share their faith with our beneficiaries. For this reason, Samaritan’s Purse hires and trains local evangelists to provide spiritual and emotional counseling to those we serve.
“I want to share with you how I lived before knowing Jesus,” Abdoullaye continued. “I am from a village where no one understood the Word of God, and everyone, including myself, was very resistant to accept the Gospel… One day, the pastor shared the Gospel with me, and he taught me from the word of God, and he taught me how to live according to the Word of God, and how to lead my family, and how to live in the village.”
That day, Abdoullaye decided to follow Christ, and Pastor Chaibou began to mentor and disciple him. Abdoullaye’s wife and children peacefully accepted his conversion, and even began to join him in praying.
“After [my conversion], even the villagers began noticing how my life changed.” As a result, many of Abdoullaye’s neighbors expressed interest in the Gospel and began asking Pastor Chaibou to teach them. Together, they constructed a hangar to provide an area with shade for Pastor Chaibou to hold his meetings in.
|Pastor Chaibou teaching Abdoullaye and his neighbors.|
As expected however, these changes frustrated the local Islamic witch doctors, also known as marabouts. They began pressuring the new believers to leave the village if they would continue attending Pastor Chaibou’s meetings. In one incident, some marabouts urged a group of women to return home as they were walking to Pastor Chaibou’s Bible study. One of the women, obviously frustrated, lashed out, “We have been listening to your teachings for years and nothing has changed! You are not our husband. Leave us alone and tell your own wives how to live!”
Tensions also grew after the marabout attempted to burn down the hangar.
“Pastor simply told me to be patient,” Abdoullaye recalls.
“Abdoullaye was very discouraged when the community tried to kick him out,” recalls Pastor Chaibou. “But I told him, ‘Even though your community and family disown you, God has promised to give you a new spiritual family.’”
One of Abdoullaye’s family members, the village chief, was approached by the marabout to expel the new believers from the village. For weeks, the local marabouts had been sending community members to report on the content of Chaibou’s messages as evidence against the small Christian community.
Tensions between the two groups grew to the extent that Pastor Chaibou realized that he needed to speak face to face with the village chief before things would escalate further. Fortunately, the chief was curious to learn what exactly the pastor was teaching.
“So I preached the gospel to him, and he listened very carefully,” recalls Pastor Chaibou. “And he told me, ‘if this is really what you are telling people, there is no reason to expel any of them from the village.”
|(L to R) Pastor Chaibou, Abdoullaye, and Abdoullaye's wife.|