December 15, 2016 by Open Doors in Asia

*representative image used

Gabriel, in his 50s, is from a Muslim-dominated area in rural East Africa where persecution and poverty intersect. Christians here are generally poorer than their Muslim neighbors, and the economic sidelining they face because of their faith in Christ worsens their situation even further.

Before Gabriel became a Christian, he used to be a Communist and Atheist. But the Lord changed all that through a dream he had in his late 30’s. It convinced him not only that God existed, but also that he had to submit to Him.

After, Gabriel had a growing desire to serve in full-time ministry, but before he could make the transition, there was a big cost to consider. Evangelists earn no salaries, and it was believed they couldn’t raise income through business or employment either. “People believed one’s calling was confirmed only when you suffered and endured. If a full-time minister was seen working in his backyard, church leaders would rebuke him.”

Still, the sense of calling was too strong to resist. “I gave away my secondhand clothing shop, and for five years, worked without any income. I suffered a lot. There were times I went without food for three days at a time. I wore the same pair of shoes for those five years. I walked everywhere (sometimes up to 12 hours) to minister because I could not afford public transportation.”

But after attending an Open Doors’ holistic ministry training, Gabriel’s worldview changed completely “The training was an eye-opener for me. After understanding the truths, I didn’t want to waste a moment. I immediately went to my father and asked him for a plot of a land where I could start farming. He was amazed because I had earlier refused his help, and he wanted to know what changed my mind. I explained that previously I had a distorted perception about spirituality but that I had come to understand the Bible doesn’t forbid people to work.”

Gabriel immediately planted tomatoes. “My church leaders were not happy at first because they thought I had stopped ministering. But I showed them from the Bible that God is a working God who honors those who work.”

The profit from his first harvest enabled him to buy a horse and cart so he could get his produce to the market faster. The second year, he extended the farm and planted maize. Government subsidized fertilizer helped Gabriel produce 2.5 tons of maize. Eventually, he bought a water pump so he could farm during all seasons.

But the benefits are not only financial, they are also spiritual. The success has helped him continue his church ministry without the constant pressure of financial worries. And he can now offer a good example of work and its rewards to those who come to Christ and can help them withstand the social pressure they endure after coming to Christ.