Much is required
Published 4:00 pm Sunday, August 21, 2022
There was cause for reflection — much reflection. The words describing a faraway place in conditions I had never even imagined were hard to read. My selfish self would have tossed the unpretentious magazine into the garbage, but I couldn’t. It was like the words were addressed to me.
The article was about Christians serving and living in hostile territories. This particular territory is in Nigeria, Africa. The town is called Gashua, in the Sahara Desert near the border of Niger.
God called Elijah and his wife, Felicia, to move to Gashua in 2017 to a church that had once had 100 members. When Elijah and Felicia joined, there were five men, three women and five young people. The other members had been frightened away by a fierce Boko Haram attack and ongoing violence throughout the area they would call home.
The area is 99 percent Muslim, and “many people there are hostile to Christians.” Market vendors often shamelessly charge Felicia double what they charge others. However, that daily issue doesn’t compare to the daily ongoing threats.
A neighboring village just twelve miles away has suffered recurring attacks by the Islamists, but so far God has protected Elijah and his family from harm. Elijah knows that he is the main target because they look for pastors first. “As a pastor, I fully expect to suffer persecution,” he says.
Even though the faithful couple knows persecution is always a threat, the natural environment of Gashua is the greatest challenge. They constantly live with malaria, typhoid and kidney problems because of the poor water. They have chronic eye problems caused by the pervasive dust. The extreme desert heat and erratic electricity conditions make keeping medications at the required temperature impossible.
Then the article described a condition I couldn’t imagine. The mosquitoes fill their home when they open the windows. Elijah described it, “When you spray insecticide, they die and cover the ground like ants, but they come back again after three hours. Before you can get treatment for malaria, another mosquito bites you. But we thank God that we are still alive until today.”
Then the article quotes Elijah again, “We have made up our minds that it is better to die in battle for God than to die as a coward.”
I laid the magazine aside with heaviness in my heart. Conviction spread through me as I remembered how often I wished we lived closer to our church that I drive to in an air conditioned vehicle to worship in a safe, tastefully and comfortably equipped building. Security is nearby each entrance and mask-wearing has been the only recent preventive safety measures I can remember.
Jackson continues to have its problems with clean water, but there are alternatives, and I realized recently that I had never prayed for solutions to the problem. I have regularly scheduled eye checkups and drops to alleviate any eye concerns. Dust-free air is all I have ever known in places I’ve lived or visited.
My phone alerts me to daily heat conditions in August, and I stay sheltered in our home with a\c. Still, I mention the rising temps way too often. Our electricity was interrupted during a recent storm, and I monitored my watch, wondering why it was taking so long for the repairs. I have to “wonder” about those kinds of repairs approximately once a year.
I know about mosquitoes, the few that try to harass our back porch gatherings. That’s why we hire the mosquito crew to spray our backyard.
I groaned audibly as I compared the lifestyles of the Christians in Nigeria and the kind I experience. Why has God allowed me to live with none of the persecutions so many Christians experience? Why did God plant me in Mississippi instead of Nigeria? Why did God introduce me to the tiny magazine, The Voice of the Martyrs? I thought of the verse in Luke — “Much is required from the person to whom much is given.” Sometimes “much” is a painful, convicting blessing.
Letters to Camille Anding may be sent to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS, 39602.