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My Heart is At Peace, I Have No Regrets

July 17, 2013 by Open Doors in General

My Heart is At Peace, I Have No Regrets

When extremists attacked a Christian enclave in a Muslim dominated area of Northern Nigeria in 2011, “Daniel” (34), “Isaac” (22) and 16 other believers were plunged into a life-changing test of faith.

The dispute between Christian and Muslim men began over a snooker game (similar to pool), after which a Muslim youth reportedly refused to pay for a game he played because he would not pay an “infidel” (non-Muslim). The parlor owner intervened and the matter was apparently settled. The argument, however, presented an opportunity for extremists. The next day, armed with AK-47s, explosives and swords, the extremists attacked the Christian community. Facing such sophisticated weapons, Christians were nearly helpless to protect their families and properties. The extremists killed 15 Christians, including one pastor, and destroyed fifty Christian homes, three churches and two parsonages.

The next morning Daniel, Isaac and the 16 others cased the streets assessing the damage and identifying victims. Patrolling security officers rounded up the men and took them to prison, accusing them of planning a reprisal attack. The governor of the state had the men locked up without formal charges ever being filed. They were “guilty” of a nameless crime without even a chance to be proven “innocent”.

These Christians had never considered the possibility of imprisonment, and their faith was shaken to the core. To make matters worse, the Christians were placed in different cells. Each cell contained a small New Testament, a lifeline for which the Christians were deeply grateful. They desperately needed that comfort in the days to come, as blasphemous confrontations with Muslim inmates and overworked Muslim wardens led to threats and unreasonable beatings.

A daily one-hour respite from their isolation during which all prisoners socialized in a common area became a time for the Christians to gather for devotions, prayer and encouragement to face the day with godliness. “We accepted that our purpose in these circumstances was to speak and live the name of Jesus.” They chose to use their unjust imprisonment to bring the gospel to fellow inmates and began to boldly reach out.

Thursdays became a day of prayer and fasting for the salvation of inmates. Finding the most effective way to approach Muslims became a central focus, one that caused them to rely solely on the Holy Spirit for the right words to speak. They started inviting inmates to their meetings and a few joined them. As their songs of praise reverberated through the building, their boldness and patience grew. When miraculous healings occurred, word spread throughout the prison and more spectators gathered to hear the gospel. The Christians became a caring presence in a place that usually offered so little hope.

Puzzled by how these Christians remained peaceful and kind in the face of hostility and obstinate resistance, even some staunch Muslims began asking about their faith. “One day a Muslim cell mate asked me why I was always gentle and did not respond harshly to his provocations. I replied, ‘My God is a loving God who loves all people. He is the One who enables me to love friend and foe unconditionally,'” shared Isaac.

“Through the Spirit who strengthened us we persevered and shared the gospel with everyone,” added Daniel.  Through their steadfast witness, around twenty Muslims gave their lives to Christ. Some did so secretly, but others were eager to hear more and openly joined the Thursday devotions.

These conversions infuriated some fanatic Muslim inmates and wardens. When they were unable to force the Christians to recant their faith, the beatings became more severe. One day an irate Muslim prisoner decided to take matters into his own hands. He defecated on a Qur’an, planted the book in the courtyard and blamed it on the Christians. Though the Christians strongly denied the accusations, the Muslims were so outraged that the wardens would not listen to reason and mercilessly flogged the Christians. The believers stood their ground and refused to accept responsibility for the offense. After team of investigators was brought in to quell the explosive situation, the real offender was finally exposed and charged accordingly.  

In May of this year, after 27 months in prison, eight of the men were finally offered bail. They shared how their imprisonment became a great testimony of God’s faithfulness and power in their lives. The Lord not only shielded them and enabled them to stand fast, but also gave them favor and used them to bring the message of everlasting life in Jesus to convicts. He gave them the joy of seeing twenty Muslims came to Christ.  “None of us ever thought of recanting our faith and for that we give God the glory. We can declare without a doubt that God will never leave nor forsake His children,” said Daniel.

“When I found myself amidst my enemies, I rediscovered how magnificent Jesus Christ is. I stayed in a room with Boko Haram members, but the Lord protected me from their aggressive hands and their blasphemous mocking. Every time my heart got upset, His soft voice comforted me. I give God all honor who enabled me to share Christ’s love in prison. It was a sweet miracle to see 20 men giving their lives to Christ. My heart is at peace, I have no regrets about spending two years behind bars,” said Isaac.

Father, thank You for sustaining these men in prison, for protecting them, for strengthening their persevering faith, and for using them to bring others to faith. Thank You for preparing these men to be able leaders in Your kingdom work in Nigeria. In their new freedom, continue to preserve them and make the light of Christ seen through them. Use their testimony in our lives as well, so that we too might stand strong when our own faith is challenged. In Your Spirit, strengthen those who have come to faith through these men, and pour out your sustaining grace on the other Christians who remain in prison. In the name of Jesus who is just in all His ways, Amen.

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