By Lyndsey Koh — Originally published in Mission Network News
Idris*, a staunch Muslim in a 90%-Muslim area of Nigeria, was so opposed to the borehole and other services local Christian missionaries provided that he ordered his wife not to drink of the new well water.
According to Christian Aid Mission, Idris had opposed the efforts of Christian workers for many years. A local ministry leader said Idris believed he had a divine mandate to stop all efforts to lure people away from Allah and his prophet, and he told local missionaries to leave the area.
Idris pressured landlords not to rent homes or facilities to them. He told neighbours not to listen to them or accept their help. When a local Christian donated land for a church building, Idris found a way to block its construction and built a mosque on the property, the ministry leader said.
“He was extremely hostile to all efforts and to our missionaries, leading to the persecution of all of our converts there,” the leader said. “Idris even promised to kill our missionaries if they would not stop reaching their communities and preaching the Gospel.”
Recently his pre-teen son was hit with rashes, vomiting, and pain in his eyes, joints and bones. Idris rushed him to a medical clinic but in that area of Nigeria, hospitals do not admit patients who cannot pay beforehand. At that time he had no Nigerian naira to his name, the ministry leader said.
“No one was willing to loan the money to him,” he said. “Our missionary heard the news that Idris was stranded and that his son was dying, and our workers went straight to the hospital and gave him the equivalent of about $40 (R687).”
That amount was enough for doctors to treat symptoms for a few days, keeping the boy alive until the illness ran its course. His son returned home and recovered after several days’ rest.
The genuine concern for him and his son’s welfare from Christians he had hurt changed Idris’ attitude, the ministry leader said – they would have no illusions about him leaving Islam, Idris thought, yet they had gladly helped an enemy.
As grateful as he was astonished, Idris began to research Christianity; he had to try to find out what was behind such bizarre behaviour.
“He turned into a Paul from a Saul of Tarsus,” the ministry leader said. “He has accepted Christ whom he so hated, and his whole family accepted Christ. Now he is so committed he wants to go to school as a missionary to his people.”
Healing and wholeness
Most villagers, whether Muslim or raised in traditional tribal religion, do not object when their Christian countrymen offer to drill a borehole.
In one area of Nigeria rife with the worship of idols of various nature gods, local missionaries installed two boreholes. People who once had to walk four miles for water, as well as students at a primary school that lacked water, no longer went thirsty.
“Today many people now have water, which saves them from diseases related to impure water, and their child mortality rate has dropped,” the ministry leader said. “We have started a church there and are training women in a vocational skills programme, including how to become traditional-birth attendants and health workers.”
Attendants for traditional (non-hospital) births are especially important as Nigeria’s infant mortality rate remains high at 75.7 deaths per 1 000 live births (the US rate is 5.8 deaths per 1 000 births), according to UNICEF. Nigeria’s infant mortality rate has improved since 2000 when it was 110.9 deaths per 1 000 births, and fewer women die in childbirth thanks in part to more traditional-birth attendants.
“Now the village’s women have traditional-birth attendants who attend to local women in labour to help prevent many women from dying in childbirth,” the leader said.
Local missionaries build goodwill through other services to whole communities. Seeing improvements from Christians’ efforts, a tribal chief recently called a meeting of all villagers and asked the local missionaries to tell them about their God, the leader said.
“They were extremely grateful and are all doing well,” he said.
The people of one ethnic group scattered across a large area did not have a single school until local missionaries established one last year. More than 200 children in grades one through four have learned to read and write, as well as improve their English-language skills, the leader said.
Workers also provided healthcare, including medicines, for the previously-unreached people.
“Without the work of the local missionaries among these people, there would have been no services and healthcare,” he said. “Now so much is happening among these people as they have reduced the death rate because of good water, healthcare and other services. The Lord has used our work to open their eyes and to transform them in many ways.”
Local missionaries in Nigeria are carrying out such work throughout the country. Please consider a donation to Christian Aid Mission today to equip and encourage them to bring physical and spiritual healing to the unreached.
*Name changed for security reasons.