“I do not follow my pastor. I follow Christ.”
*representative image used
Gabrielle is a Christian in Eritrea. She has a petite frame, and a tender and gracious manner. That can easily cause one to underestimate her inner-strength. But as a follower of Jesus Christ and active member of an underground church, she faces constant danger of imprisonment, isolation from family members and forceful attempts to get her to recant her faith in Christ. There are Christians in Eritrea for whom this dedication meant martyrdom.
A few years ago, she attended a secret gathering for Bible study and prayer at a private residence. There were 25 other Christians at the meeting. Suddenly, security officials invaded the meeting and arrested everyone there.
Security officials had been looking for Gabrielle for a while, since they knew her as someone of influence within the underground church.
At first, Gabrielle was kept in solitary confinement. Officers interrogated and tortured her in an effort to get her to recant her faith in Christ. They also wanted the names of other Christians belonging to underground churches.
Despite the agony she was going through, Gabrielle refused to deny Christ or to betray her brothers and sisters. She made sure her interrogators understood that she considered it an honor to encounter “all the consequences” for her faith in Christ – she was willing to die for Him.
Her refusal infuriated her captors and the torture continued. But when they realized that their tactic was not working, they decided to find ways to trick her into denying Christ.
Their opportunity came along when Gabrielle’s pastor visited the prison. They told Gabriella, “We have your pastor here in prison. Without any physical punishment, he denied Christ and expressed great regret over following Him in the past. If he then, as your pastor, realized his great mistake about Jesus and agreed to leave Him, what are you waiting for?”
Gabrielle replied, “I do not believe that my pastor would deny his Savior. But even if he did, I will not deny my Lord and Redeemer. I do not follow my pastor. I follow Christ.”
As punishment, Gabriella was moved to even harsher incarceration circumstances. She stayed there for one year.
A few pastors visited her after her release. “When we visited Gabrielle at home, we could see that she had suffered much. But despite the weakness, her joy was very visible and quite overwhelming. We asked her to tell us what she had gone through. She simply said, ‘It was a honeymoon with Jesus!’”