True Religion in Samaru
by Anna Beth Wildman
16 March 2009
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
Joy* lost her husband in a car accident. Her in-laws made her move in with them for a week. While she was there, they took everything out of her house. Then the relatives told Joy to give them the money from her bank account. “No,” she responded. They poisoned her children—not enough to kill them, but enough to make the children sick and let Joy know they meant business. She gave them the money.
Mercy’s husband was stabbed in a drunken brawl with his uncle and later passed away while in surgery. The uncle was put in jail, and the relatives sold all Mercy’s grain and chairs to pay his bail. Mercy was left alone to pay the hospital bill for her husband. Mercy’s son was about three years old—her relatives had chosen another relative for her to marry, but she refused because of his character. They tried to force her to leave the compound, but she would have had to have left her son there, and everything else she owned. One relative forced her to sleep with him, hoping she would become pregnant and be “as good as married” to him. When Mercy became pregnant, however, she aborted her babies. When Mercy’s son was five or six, she finally left everything and returned to her father. Mercy’s son had to stay with the in-laws.
Nigerian widows face grim futures because their in-laws have the right to their sons’ possessions. Grace and her husband served as Nigerian missionaries under the Evangelical Missionary Society (EMS), the missionary arm of ECWA (Evangelical Church of West Africa). The couple had six children. Noah, their oldest, attended the EMS boarding school. Grace’s husband suddenly got sick and passed away. EMS gives widows a one-time pension, so she and her brother-in-law traveled to Jos to pick up the money. But when Grace returned to her house, another in-law was waiting. The two relatives faced her down. “Give us your money. Everything that belonged to your husband is ours.” When Grace returned home this past May, she found her house swept clear of everything—her nephew had sold her clothes, pots, and everything else. Grace was left with nothing except her husband’s clerical collar, which had been slashed to bits and dropped on the bare, chipped cement floor.
At the Samaru Widows’ School, Grace and other widows—as young as 15 and as old as 55—have a safe place to call "home." The school provides a safe community for them to begin new friendships and to learn together. They study the Bible—including the Old Testament, New Testament, and homiletics, and they also learn practical skills like knitting, sewing, cooking, and soap-making.
In order to increase awareness about the widows’ plights, professors write books, preachers preach sermons, and the church observes a “Widows’ Week” to pray for widows and educate church members. The goal is to encourage the widows. Donna and Cheryl Pridham, SIM missionary sisters on staff at the Samaru Widows’ School noted, “For [this] to change, it’s just going to take some time. And in the rural places, change takes longer than other places.” The Samaru Widows’ School encourages change by providing a way for broken lives, like Grace's and Mercy's, to be restored through education. God’s Word is restoring broken hearts and changing widows’ lives for eternity.
GiveYou can help reach these widows with the grace of Jesus also with your gift to project 96708.
*Names have been changed.