A pastor working with Samaritan's Purse in Niger experiences joy and hardships in proclaiming the Gospel
Amanda Patterson is a communications intern for Samaritan’s Purse in Niger.
Pastor Abdoul* lives in a small Hausa village in central Niger. He is Hausa, the predominant people group here, and counts himself like his neighbors in almost every way. His yard is scattered with a variety of livestock. He and his wife have five children with a sixth on the way. They eat all of the local staples, which his wife and a number of other women in their extended family prepare: macaroni with spicy beef sauce, fufu millet cakes, and the occasional chicken stew.
But Abdoul and his family are different from their neighbors in one life-changing way: they are Christians.
“We live in a Muslim country,” the pastor said. “Of course it is difficult to preach another faith.”
About 98 percent of Nigeriens practice Islam. It’s estimated that only 0.1 percent of the population is evangelical Christian. As a pastor with Samaritan’s Purse, one of the ways Abdoul evangelizes among his Nigerien brothers and sisters is through showing the Jesus film with a projector, which he transports from village to village on the back of his faithful motorbike, along with his worn Bible in Hausa.
“Sometimes it is quite difficult to speak with villagers,” he said. “There are those that go along with what I say about God and Jesus, even coming to communion and wanting to participate. But you can tell that they just don’t get it yet. The Holy Spirit hasn’t touched their hearts even though they pretend that they understand.”
He has had some success in sharing the Gospel, but the road ahead for new converts is far from carefree.
“There are those that hide their new faith because of the rejection from their brothers, their families,” Abdoul said. “They are a shame to their families, and when they die, the Christians are denied a burial. As is the custom here, the dead are to be buried before the sun falls. There is no one from their Muslim family who supports them. This needs a lot of prayer.
“My friend recently died in an accident near a well. He had become a Christian not too long ago. His wife had divorced him because of the shame it brought her in the community. She abandoned their young daughter, and now that he is no longer here, she is an orphan. Finally, his own mother took the young girl in. He was at first denied his burial, but finally the family relented, though there is still a lot of shame. He told me he wanted his daughter to start going to school soon to have a good education. Now this is not possible for her.”
Being a Christian and proclaiming the Gospel in an Islamic country has never been easy for evangelists. Along with Islam, many African Muslims also practice traditional animistic religion. I ask how he is able to shine a light when there is so much darkness.
“We try to be different by the way we act,” he said. “We avoid bad practices such as lying, throwing around insults, and we make sure that our own children do not fight back with other children. Many children fight here with their neighbors. My own daughter was caught in a fight one time and she came home with blood on her face. But she did not fight back.”
Despite the enormous challenges ahead of him, Abdoul has much to smile about. His children are all healthy, active, and smiling too. We share a big meal in his backyard. Hospitality is important above all in Niger. When I ask if he has any prayer requests to share, his eyes light up again.
“Of course, yes, please pray,” he said. “Pray that the new believers will have a peace that replaces the fear in their hearts. But my biggest request of all is this: please pray that the new believers will find work so that they can provide for their families. When they become Christians, they lose respect in their villages and then often lose their jobs. This is so hard for a number of my brothers and sisters. This is what I pray for the most.”
As the Samaritan’s Purse truck leaves, I can’t help but feel grateful for having met him and learning of his joys and hardships of preaching the Word of God in a place that feels so spiritually lost. This is my prayer for Abdoul and the ministry team in Niger:
“We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel … For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,” (Colossians 1:3-5; 9, NKJV).
*Name changed for security reasons