Extra: Return Visits
by Tabitha Eckert, Nigeria
1 September 2006
A detailed report from Tabitha Eckert in Niger, regarding recent outreach trips by the Dakoro Youth Choir:
The next Saturday the youth choir headed into the neighborhood for evangelism again. Sam (a friend visiting for the weekend) and Stephanos, joined Team B. One of the members of Team A, Bango, isn’t in town—he’s gone to a nearby area to look for his and his brother’s camels, which were stolen last week—so instead, Moussa (Rabi’s uncle and adopted father, a Bible school student) accompanied Yakubu this time.
When we arrived in the neighborhood, we split into our teams, agreeing to meet at the rendezvous point at 5:00 p.m. Almost immediately Team B was called over to join five young men sitting just inside the doorway of a house. Fatima, Rabi, and I continued on down the street. We visited four different compounds and were able to share the Gospel with 10 people.
When it was almost time for us to return to the rendezvous point, we stopped to greet people at two houses where we’d visited before. We found the women we’d spoken to before friendly but noncommittal. Two of the girls told us they’d been reading the religious tracts we’d given them, but found the tracts very hard to understand. I wish we had more time for return visits, and Bible studies with those who are interested. Pray that God will send full-time Christian Hausa and Fulani missionaries to the field of Dakoro.
Returning to the rendezvous point, we found the four members of Team B waiting for us, but there was no sign of Yakubu and Moussa. We waited for a while before concluding they must have already gone home.
“Maybe they haven’t gone back yet,” Oumarou commented. “Maybe the people they’re sharing with have refused to let them leave.”
“Not a chance,” said Stephanos confidently, “no one will try to hold them back.”
Teams A and B returned to the church and prayed together. Then everyone went home. That evening, as my family was sitting down to eat, Dad came in said, “Tabitha, Yakubu and Moussa are here and they want to talk to you.”
Pray that God will send full-time Christian Hausa and Fulani missionaries to the field of Dakoro.
"We Were Held Back"
I went outside into the growing darkness. Yakubu and Moussa were talking to Dad. Their eyes were shining. I heard the last words of their conversation. “At least 40 people, if not more.”
My heartbeat began to speed up. I knew something important must have happened.
“Tabitha,” said Yakubu, “we’ve just come back from the neighborhood. We wanted to come by and tell you that we’d come back.” There was a hint of suppressed excitement in his voice. Moussa, who is very self-restrained, nodded, his mouth twitching at the corners.
“We waited for you, and thought you must have gone home already,” I said.
“No,” said Yakubu, “we’re just going home now.”
“Yes,” Moussa broke in, the smile he’d been holding back spreading across his face. “We were held back—they wouldn’t let us go. When we tried to leave they even grabbed us”—he illustrated his words, grabbing Yakubu by the arm—“and said, ‘No, don’t go!’”
“What? Tell me what happened!” I said excitedly.
Moussa and Yakubu had gone into one of the adjoining neighborhoods to visit a Hausa evangelist. On their way back, they stopped to talk with some men who listened with apparent interest. A crowd of other men gathered, and women even began to come out of their compounds to hear what Yakubu and Moussa were saying. Moussa counted at least 40 people listening. While Yakubu talked, Moussa prayed silently for him.
A head malam arrived on the scene. Angered by Yakubu’s preaching, he declared, “If this were the gate of my house, I’d kick you out and tell you never to come back!” To the Christian men’s delight, the crowd around them spoke up. “What have these people done to you that you should talk to or treat them in such a way?” they demanded of the malam. That the people spoke up to the malam is very significant. It takes courage for a citizen to speak up against a head malam—because they are older men respected for their position and learning. In Hausa culture one does not oppose an older man, even if he is being unreasonable or unkind.
The malam left, and Yakubu and Moussa continued to preach until dark fell. Every time they tried to say goodbye and leave, the people grabbed them by their clothes and said, “No, stay a little longer!” (Thinking of Stephanos’ confident words, “No one will hold them back,” I wanted to laugh in delight.) When at last the crowd let Yakubu and Moussa leave, it was with entreaties to return and share their faith again.
We continued to go to this particular neighborhood for two more weeks. Yakubu and Moussa went back to the place where they’d been so warmly received, but they found the people rather shy and cold. Very likely the malam had put fear into them somehow. It takes us girls much longer to share our faith going from house to house than it takes the boys going along the road from one group of men to another. Although we girls never left the neighborhood during those four weeks, the guys shared their faith on all its streets, and then moved on into adjacent neighborhoods.
Opposition in New Neighborhoods
At the end of four weeks, we prayed again and drew names of neighborhoods from a hat. We drew the name of a place on the opposite side of town from where we had been, and which is a subdivision of the larger neighborhood.
There, for the first time, we experienced antagonism. Some young men Yakubu was sharing the Gospel with called him a kafir (pagan) and said Jesus Christ was only a prophet. When Yakubu pointed out that the Qur'an itself speaks of God glorifying Jesus (the implication is that Jesus is receiving more glory than just a prophet), one of the young men burst up from his chair, enraged.
“Get out of here!” he shouted, glaring at them. “Go! Go away! You’re all kafiri!” They got up without protest and moved on down the street.
As it turned out, the house that Fati and I had just entered was that young man’s house. We had been happily received by the six women of the house and half a dozen children, who gathered around and listened intently to our message. I had just finished leading up to a proof that Christ was the Son of God, having proved by references from the Qur'an and Bible verses that Christ was from God and spoke the truth. Suddenly two young men came quickly in through the doorway and began speaking very harshly to the women.
“What do you think you’re doing?” the young man barked at the women. “Why aren’t you doing salla (prayers) right now?”
“These young women have come to tell us about Annabi Isa (the Prophet Jesus),” said the oldest woman, obviously the “grandmother of the house.”
“Get up! Go do your work! Go do salla!” he ordered.
Speaking to older women as this young man was doing is culturally inappropriate. And to get up and simply leave “guests”—into which category Fati and I fit—when the guests have done nothing rude to you, is very rude in Hausa culture.
“Well? Get up!” growled the young man, glancing at a woman in her 40s who was probably the first wife. “I’ll speak to the man of the house. Do you want me to do that?”
She got up with an apologetic glance at Fati and me, and left. The young man and his companion, grabbed the children by their hands and shirts and pulled them to their feet.
“We were telling these women the story of Annabi Isa (the Prophet Jesus),” I said calmly. “If you’ll listen, we’ll tell you too.”
“Go!” they ordered. “Go to Qur'anic school. They’re already studying without you. Go now!”
The kids obeyed quietly. All this time Fati and I sat looking at them without a word.
“You, what are you doing just sitting there?” demanded the young man’s companion, a teenager in a green shirt.
“We were telling these women the story of Annabi Isa,” I said calmly. “If you’ll listen, we’ll tell you too.”
“Get up!” stormed the young man. “Go on! Your men have already gone away down the street!”
I glanced over at Fati. She looked at me. We got up from the mat, slipping on our flipflops. “Till later,” I told the women, smiling and speaking softly as though nothing had happened. “May God cause us to meet again.”
“Be patient,” they both entreated (the Hausa form of apology for someone else’s behavior).
“There is no problem,” we reassured them, and left.
A little ways down the street we met Yakubu, Barade, and Peter. Yakubu thought we should turn around, go back to the church, and spend the rest of our time praying.
“The time for salla is soon,” he said. “The men are less friendly to us because they are thinking of doing salla. We can come back at a later time next week.”
I understood, but I didn’t feel right about doing as he suggested. “What do you think?” he asked, when I didn’t respond.
“Well ... I feel like we should keep going—like Satan is using this to try and discourage us. I think there is someone who needs to hear our message right now, and Satan knows and wants to keep us from reaching that person now. You men can go back to the church if you want, but the women won’t be as closed to us as the men may be to you. I feel like we need to keep going.”
The others all agreed and Yakubu conceded. “We men can just find a place to sit and wait till salla is over, and share our faith after that.”
"There Is Someone Who Needs to Hear Our Message"
Fati and I walked for two blocks. When we saw three girls standing outside a doorway, we went to them, greeted them, and told them that we’d like to tell them about Annabi Isa if they would listen.
“Come in,” they replied, and drew us into the yard. At the house we found a young wife—a new bride, I could tell, because the wedding henna designs had not yet faded off her feet—sitting on a mat embroidering a sheet. Two younger girls were with her. On the mat beside her I saw several books in Arabic, which she had been reading. I felt immediately that she was the one God wanted us to share with.
She agreed to listen to our message, and Fati and I shared our faith with her. She listened quietly and so did the six other girls with her. When we finished, we asked if we could pray, and they said yes. We prayed, thanking God for the time we’d had together, and asking that He would help the girls understand. They thanked us for our visit and walked us out graciously.
Although we probably won’t attain our ambitious goal of sharing the Gospel in all the unreached neighborhoods of town, I am encouraged at how God has enabled and allowed us to share with many people who had probably never heard the Gospel before. In the seven times we have gone out to evangelize, we have shared our faith with a total of 285 people.