A year in the life of a Faithful Witness family
By Amy Bareham Chapman | West Africa
SIM worker Umar* says, “You don’t feel the presence of Christmas in the air, like at home.” He looks at wife Lebechi*, whose face has broken into a wide smile at the mention of the holiday. For the Abdullahis*, home used to be a cold town in Nigeria, where the Christian population was far greater, and the celebration of Jesus’ birth involved lots of meat dishes as well as visits with family. But for the past year, they have been immersed in an entirely new environment, and Christmas is not the only thing that looks much different.
In late 2019, Umar, Lebechi, and their baby boy relocated from Nigeria to a city in Western Africa. Here, through their partnership with SIM’s Faithful Witness initiative, they began to learn French. They’ve studied hard and are almost ready to move again, this time to join their Faithful Witness team in a remote West African region. Their goal, like other Faithful Witness teams, is to share the gospel with communities which have never heard of Jesus and have virtually no Christian witness.
This preparation phase has come with a series of challenges. The intense heat of their new home took some getting used to. So did the food. Essentials cost a lot more, and the city is predominantly Muslim. Flooding during the rainy season caused significant damage. Then came the global pandemic. Several of the Abdullahis’ financial partners lost money and altered their giving commitments. COVID-19 also forced the region’s French institute to close. Fortunately, Faithful Witness found an alternative learning arrangement for the Abdullahis and several other Christian workers in the area, including Amyra* – an Indian woman on another Faithful Witness team.
Amyra often accompanies Lebechi to the market, where both of them try to practise their French. This can be a struggle, because the local people prefer to speak their native dialect. Lebechi also thinks it’s harder for an African to make friends in this setting.
She says, “From the way I see it, with Amyra and the others, it’s easier for them to build relationship. The people tend to have excitement and attraction when they meet, because she is foreign. They always want to get close to her.
“For me, really, it is difficult. I want to talk and relate with them. Somehow, their way of thinking is that I’m black and I’m supposed to speak their language, so why am I not talking? They tend to assume that I just don’t want to speak.”
The language barrier has impacted the Abdullahis’ supporters, too. “Back home, if people are going to support you, they want you to share how many people you’re preaching to and how many are coming to Christ,” Umar explains. “It was pressurising and discouraging for us because we don’t have the words.”
While the trials have been plentiful, Umar and Lebechi share every detail with unshakeable hope. God has strengthened their faith and provided glimpses of his lovingkindness. In one case, Umar witnessed a Muslim neighbour choose Jesus as her saviour. He says, “She was abused, which led to her having a son. The woman started working as house help for a pastor, and the pastor said he could take care of her son’s education.” Now, she attends the pastor’s church, and Umar helps disciple her when he has time. “We were glad that God used us to play a part,” he says.
As for what’s next, Umar shares, “We’re really, really excited. We’ve gotten to know lots of people here, but we know, of course, that this is not our final place of stay. So, we are anticipating our move. We’ve visited [there] already and had contact with the people. They are very happy to have us come and work. That is what we are looking forward to.”
For now, Umar and Lebechi are raising funds and trying to prepare their toddler for another big change. They do have some concerns regarding safety, since religiously-motivated attacks have increased in the region. On Umar’s most recent visit to their future home, he could see evidence of attacks on nearby security forces. He comments: “Our desire is that nothing happens to hinder us from continuing the task we are here for.”
Ideally, the Abdullahis will make this transition and journey west in January. Until then, they are working to fill their little neighbourhood with the news of Christ’s incarnation. It seems to be what they do best.
Pray with us
• Pray that God would provide resources for Umar and Lebechi. They require air conditioning for the extremely hot climate, and their Faithful Witness team needs a vehicle.
• Pray that God would protect the Abdullahi family as they travel to their Faithful Witness assignment.
• Pray that Lebechi would have peace surrounding the health, temperament, and safety of her son amid their current circumstances.