Galmi patients colour Christmas
By Tianna Haas | Niger in África occidental
Advent is a time where Jesus followers reflect on the Messiah’s long-awaited arrival and look forward to Jesus’ Second Coming.
Modern-day churches practice a range of traditions to commemorate the coming of the Christ, from burning symbolic candles in a wreath to reading scripture daily. In some cases, there are even tasty chocolates tucked into commercialised calendars.
But anticipation is the one commonality that binds these customs together.
In December of 2018, electrical engineer and SIM worker Hannah Peterson began a new tradition with the same focus: She passed out colouring pages to patients at Galmi Hospital in Niger to share the story of Christ’s birth. They also sang “Joy to the World” in Hausa together.
Hannah led this colouring page ministry during a three-month stint at Galmi. She and her husband Nathan intended to serve in Cameroon, but security concerns prevented them going. The postponement of that move caused Hannah to serve in seven countries including Niger in the span of a year – but amid the constant changes, the Petersons found ways to glorify God.
Hannah started with a colouring page that had Isaiah 12:2 in the centre: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid.” She replaced the English words with the Hausa translation from a Bible app, emulating the same decorative-style letters. She also used other colouring pages depicting Christ’s birth. Hannah distributed about 75 copies of the sheets and met with the patients in smaller groups as she travelled throughout wards.
Hannah said: “So many had never heard the story before and never coloured, so they were very interested and grateful. The focus was on Jesus coming as Saviour.”
A chaplain at the hospital, Theodore*, who is fluent in both English and Hausa, came with Hannah to translate the colouring instructions and gospel presentation and participate in the singing. During the Christmas colouring, Hannah also had two other aids, David* and Esther*, who serve as family medicine physicians in Galmi.
As Hannah and her team celebrated God incarnate drawing near to humanity, they invited others into the family of God – but found themselves in a position of eager expectation.
During the presentation, one woman told Hannah that she would repeat the story to her children and grandchildren with the help of the picture. She also said she would consider whether she should believe that Jesus is the saviour of the world and could deliver her from her sins.
Hannah met the woman again a few days later, and she was overjoyed to present her finished colouring pages. However, Hannah still has not heard if the woman made a commitment to Jesus and continues to pray for her salvation.
Another woman impacted by the hospital ministry at Christmas saw Hannah and Theodore praying and talking with patients. She didn’t hear the gospel message in a group but noticed the festive singing and gift-giving from the other hospital workers.
She was curious about the excitement, so Hannah asked her if she knew anything about Christmas. The woman thought the holiday was to celebrate the end of the year and nothing more.
Hannah said: “It opened a door to share with her what Christmas was really about. This stands out to me because it illustrates how some truly have not had a chance to hear the gospel.”
While this ministry team planted the seed of the gospel, they wait on the Holy Spirit to stir hearts to Jesus’ story.
The Petersons have an advent of their own to look toward: They are returning to Galmi this December but plan to spend the next two years there. Hannah expects more opportunities to come from the Christmas outreaches.
She said: “I pray in God’s grace he will let me be some part of Christmas ministry again this year, but it is in his hands… I hope that I will be able to be a part of ministering to patients this Christmas at Galmi because it really is what Christmas is about. God came down to reveal who he was, the Prince of Peace and Saviour of the world! So, it is the best way to celebrate.”
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• the salvation of the Galmi Hospital patients who heard the invitation to the gospel but have not yet responded.
• the Petersons as they transition to Niger and start studying Hausa.
• Christmas outreaches at Galmi this year. Another ministry during Christmas that the SIM team in Niger hopes to see grow involves giving evangelists and pastors who live in Muslim communities gifts.