My Persecuted Family in East Africa
By Nathan Johnson
03/24/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – The first half of December 2019 is a blur to me. I covered at least 1,750 miles in less than two weeks, visiting some of the most remote areas I have ever seen. I drove for hours into the jungle, eventually walking when the roads ran out. But all of this traveling was worth it to me, as I would visit those who have suffered for their faith. I was able to sit with them and hear their stories, suffer with them in their pain, and bless them as their brother in Christ.
After listening to dozens of testimonies, three stood out to me the most for the faith, grace, and love displayed.
Of the three, Charles’s story was the most surprising to me. Charles, a young Somali man now living in Nairobi, has been beaten, poisoned, kidnapped, and tortured by his family since he converted to Christianity in 2014. His father and uncle even planned to behead him, but his brother warned him in time for him to escape.
Despite these horrific attacks, Charles’s response is always, “The Lord has spared me once again. May His name be praised forever.” In 2019, Charles moved away from his family, who live in Mombasa, and started a new life in Nairobi with the help of ICC.
For many, what Charles went through would provoke a lifetime of bitterness and hatred. But, as I searched his face while sitting with him on the floor of his new apartment, I couldn’t find any bitterness. He looked at me and said, “I just want to share the Gospel with them. That is my calling.” He told me that he did not hate them; he wanted to see them be saved.
Charles continues to evangelize to the people around him. He travels daily into the Muslim-dominated areas of Nairobi as he spreads the Good News.
Losing Her Husband
Peninah Ngui’s story also stood out to me. In September 2018, she lost her husband to an al-Shabaab attack. Her husband, Frederick, was one of two Christians taking a bus to eastern Kenya. The bus was abruptly stopped and overwhelmed by the terrorists. When Frederick was told to deny Christ and recite the Shahada, the Islamic statement of faith, he refused. He was executed alongside Joshua, the other Christian. Since then, Peninah, a 26-year-old single mother, has been caring for her small family. To help care for her, ICC provided several goats and six months’ worth of food.
Despite her suffering, she is filled with immense joy.
“I have received immense support from the church and my family members. Fredrick’s family has been a pillar to my life and the welfare of my son. We have been cared for and loved. Although there is nothing that can fill the gap my husband left in our hearts, we thank God for the gift of a wonderful family and a church that has been praying for us,” she told me.
She not only feels this love, she also wants to share it with others, saying, “The same spirit my husband portrayed is the same spirit I have been living by since his courageous death. I will continue to stand for Christ regardless of the many challenges that can easily keep someone’s eyes away from the faith. He died in the hands of the merciless killers who never cared whether he had a family. The only way I can prove to the world that there is living hope in Christ is by lighting my candle and letting it shine as a testimony of God’s saving grace.”
Her response left me astounded, as I reflected on how such a reaction in the face of such tragedy could only be from God.
“If You Want to Kill Me, You Can”
Bwambale Sharifa lives in western Uganda, where he was raised in the Muslim faith. Until just a few months ago, Bwambale filled the role of the muezzin, the man who makes the public call to prayer five times a day. He was well known in the community because of his essential role in the religious community. This put Bwambale at great risk when he converted to Christianity.
When he converted, he stopped going to the mosque and making the calls to prayer. After missing three days in a row, the imam of the area came to his house. The imam asked him why he was no longer making the calls to prayer. Bwambale told him that he had become a Christian. That’s when the trouble began.
Bwambale was kicked out of his home. His motorcycle business was taken from him, and his family disowned him.
Even after his life unraveled, Bwambale is still just as open about his faith. He said, “I am open; I am a Christian. If you want to kill me, you can, but I will stay a Christian. Let everyone know I am a Christian.” He even reiterated that he would not leave his town. He said, “This is my home; these are my people. I will share my faith with them, no matter what.” He still receives threats to this day.
For those of us here in the West, it is not hard to stand for our faith. At worst, we will face ridicule or scorn. In some regions of Kenya and Uganda, standing for one’s faith can often mean death. God gives his children the grace, love, and courage to stand firm, no matter the challenges. For this reason, the Gospel is spreading more in heavily persecuted countries than anywhere else in the world!
Please pray for our brave brothers and sisters who continue to show love to those who hate them and kindness to those who hurt them. Their very lives display the Gospel better than any words.
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