When Ibrahim’s wife died, his Songhai community near Niamey, Niger, refused to bury her because she was a Christian. She, like Ibrahim and other believers, faced daily persecution from their Muslim neighbors. Most Songhai believers do.
“We’ll treat your wife like we would a dog or a donkey – she’s just an animal that should rot,” they told Ibrahim.
The Songhai people are primarily Muslim with many beliefs rooted in animism. International Mission Board (IMB) missionary John Smythe* and his wife spent three years sharing the gospel and discipling Songhai believers in Ibrahim’s village. One of Smythe’s greatest fears in leaving the village was that the Songhai church might crumble.
Soon after they left, Ibrahim faced the huge challenge of defending his faith while grieving for his wife. Determined to bury his wife, Ibrahim began digging her grave as Muslim villagers yelled insults at him. When his Christian brothers heard what he was doing, they came to help. That day was a turning point for the Songhai believers as they united to be His heart, His hands and His voice.
Ibrahim, a former follower of folk Islam, remains faithful to Jesus in the face of persecution. Ibrahim’s commitment, courage and steadfastness have become an example for the other few believers in his village.
One of Ibrahim’s close friends, Boubacar, commented that he greatly admired Ibrahim’s loyalty to Christ that day. The believers showed the inspiring power of a true family of Christ.
Boubacar is a follower of Christ who experienced a radical transformation. Once a gang leader who had demonstrated hostility toward missionaries in his village, he felt an internal struggle to accept or deny God’s Truth one night. He decided to become a Christian, and his past life quickly became history. After hearing God’s Word concerning marriage, he broke off an engagement to a woman who would have become his second wife.
He stopped smoking and drinking and started witnessing to other villagers in action and word. He realized that “anytime you go out, people will be watching you. … Do your best to do good, because sometimes you will even hear the Muslims saying Christians are righteous, that they are faithful.”
The Songhai church is small but full of dedicated believers like Ibrahim and Boubacar who cling to the gospel. Thanks to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Smythes helped lay a solid foundation for the church to grow in their village before moving on. They also left audio Bible recordings the church depends on to hear the Word of God as they meet to study and discuss the gospel.
“The church has continued to grow and understand what it means to be the church: loving one another, sharing what they have with one another,” says Smythe. “They have their challenges just as every church has its challenges, but they’re facing those with prayer and through God’s Word. … Their greatest desire is that all their village will know the name of Christ.”
Southern Baptists’ gifts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and through the Cooperative Program help Southern Baptist missionaries around the world share the gospel. Give to the offering through your local Southern Baptist church or online at imb.org/offering.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Rose Shephard served with IMB in sub-Saharan Africa for five months.)